Thursday, January 25, 2007

The kingdom of heaven

I teach at a Christian high school in the mornings, and on Wednesdays we have a Chapel service to start the day. Last week Eric F. taught from Matthew 13:33

Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

This parable is very convicting. If we, believers, are the leaven, and the meal is the people around us, then Christ has "hid" us in our neighborhoods, in our jobs, in our walks of live. It does not take much leaven to affect a huge batch (possibly 22 liters) of meal. Are we affecting all "the meal" around us?

Purpose ...

Having been at SEBTS since the Fall of 2002, I have run into many people and have had many conversations with them. It is not uncommon for me to talk to some who are at the end of their time here and who unfortunately feel like this has been the driest spiritual experience in their life.
How could one feel dry at seminary, you might ask. Well the following conversation will probably answer the question for you, as it usually does for them ...

"So why are you here at seminary?"
"To get prepared for the ministry!"
"So God has called you to minister?"
"Have you been doing that these last years?"
"Well, no, I've been too busy with school and work."
"So, what you are saying is that you were created for a purpose, and you are not fulfilling it. Can you understand why you are miserable? "

Are you fulfilling your purpose in life?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Kitchen tiles ...

Tile work is progressing in the kitchen ... the plan is to be done by the end of the week. We put down a brown tile border (shown in the top part of the picture) before we moved in. I have currently been installing the lighter tiles in the middle. They are rotated diagonally and have 12 accent tiles interspersed throughout the room.

Friday, January 19, 2007

New Camera

Yesterday I mentioned that we had purchased a new camera. Actually, it was a combination of Christmas gifts from la mamma e papà, mamie monette, & the mama, that allowed us to purchase it. Thanks y'all!

As with the saw, I figured I'd share with y'all what I learned in our buying process. Unlike the saw, though, I did find a site with a 5 part, all inclusive, buying guide, so I'll refer you to it and will not try to distill all that information into this post (happy Margaret ... no bla bla bla). What I will share is how we ended up deciding on the Sony α100 digital SLR.

Background: I have been shooting with SLRs for now 15 something years. I started with an all manual Yashica FX-3 Super 2, which I loved and still have (I keep black and white film in it). Then several years ago, to make it easier to take action shots and to make it easier for Cindy to take pictures, we bought a Minolta Maxxum XT. We have no beef with the Minolta and plan to keep on using it, but with the house renovations and the blog, it was going to be more convenient to have a digital camera.

The decision process: So, we saw our options as follows: small cheap digital, medium grade digital, digital SLR.
If digital was not up to par then the SLR was out of the question. It was probably going to be a the small cheaper camera or it was going to be the medium digital. What's the difference? The main one, for us, was that the small cheap digitals do not have good zooms and Cindy is addicted to zooms. We would use the Minolta for all important shots, and the digital for all the keeping track of progress on the house and blog shots.
So the main question was: was digital technology up to par for Cindy? (Ok, I'm picky too ... but she is the pickiest ... I think it is all those years of working as a database publisher) We were hoping that stores would have sample pictures taken with various cameras, but they did not. We thus decided to go to Wolf Camera and try two cameras out against our Maxxum. Cindy took two shots of me (one against a light background and one against a dark background) with a medium digital, the Sony SLR (the only camera which will accept the α mount lenses we had with our Minolta Maxxum SLR), and our Maxxum.

The Verdict: we looked at the results and had friends look at the result. The medium grade did not compare with the DSLR or the Maxxum, and was thus eliminated. As for the others, our friends correclty identified one digital picture shot with the DSLR, but missed the other. Bottom line ... they could not tell the difference. Thus we went with the Sony α100 digital SLR.
Why Sony vs. the other brands: it's the only one which could use our α mount Sigma lenses.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

First snow of the year ...

It is snowing! So I took the opportunity to go out and take our new camera (Sony α100 digitlal SLR) out for a test spin. This picture is not full resolution: I am at home with dial-up and I did not want to upload a 10Mpixel picture. I will write more later.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A new table saw (part II)

So, it’s been almost a month since I’ve bought the new table saw (DELTA ShopMaster TS350), but believe it or not, I have yet to try it out. We have to do some furniture re-arranging before we can put it in the dining room: the room that was selected for me to make some saw dust in. I think God is continuing to teach me patience and self control because I’m like a little kid not able to play with his new toy and it is torturing me inside. The other day I did scratch that itch a little by turning on the saw (I was very surprised at how quiet it was - see the induction motor comment below), but that is as far as I’ve gone. Oh well, I’ve got to be patient.

In the meantime I wanted to compile thoughts about saw options and why I’ve learned that they are important (or not).

Cast Iron vs. Stamped Iron Tabletop
According to two articles written by American Woodworker, cast iron wing have “four valuable benefits that are worth the extra money.” The first advantage is the ruggedness of cast iron wings: you will not risk bending them as you might with stamped iron wings. The second is the added weight which dampens vibrations. The third is that they provide a great “dead-flat” surface which can be extremely useful for furniture assembly and more. And the fourth is that the table top, due to its solid flat nature, can be a very convenient surface to sharpen tools.1, 2

Belt-Drive vs. Direct-Drive Motor
The general consensus is that belt-driven motors are a preferred option. By connecting the motor to the saw blade with the use of a belt, stress on the motor shaft bearings is reduced, vibration and noise are decreased (if the belt is healthy or if you have a segmented belt), and shaft elevation in less impaired.3 The motor is usually hanging in the back of the saw, on contractor models, or inside the cabinet, in cabinet saws. For contractor models, this decreases the mount of saw dust that the motor is exposed to, therefore causing the motor to last longer.4 It also makes it easier to replace the saw motor with more generic models instead of having to buy overpriced replacement motors for the original manufacturers.
On the other hand the advantages of direct-drive saws is that they are more economical3, they require a little less preventive maintenance (no belts and pulleys to check), and they transfer more of the motor’s power to the blade. Thus allowing a lower horsepower motor to do more work4.
Of interest is that fact that when American Woodworker in October 2002 published an article entitled “Small Shop Table saws”1 in which they explain what they consider to be important features a saw should have, they did not mention the belt-drive vs. direct-drive issue.

Induction vs. Brush Motor
In case you were wondering what the difference was, an induction motor is a brushless motor.
Induction motors have a longer life time and are quieter, more efficient, and heavier than brush (or universal) motors. In addition induction motors, apparently, are “more of an "off the shelf" item.” The main advantage of brush motors is that they are cheap, lighter, and usually smaller.5

Evaluating the DELTA ShopMaster TS350
The TS350 has two great cast iron wings, definitely a plus. This makes the saw weight over 170 lbs, which makes it a pain to move, but more importantly, it makes it nice and solid.
The TS350 is a direct-drive motor saw. This is probably the one feature that I did not like on this saw because it decreases that the cutting height, possibly adds more vibrations, and might decrease the life of my motor. I think I read somewhere that it might actually be a belt driven motor, but that the belt is encased in the motor housing. Even if that is the case, blade height is not improved, vibrations might still be an issue, and if there is a problem with the belt, DELTA only sell the motor as a unit, so it only helps with a possible decrease of stress on the motor shaft. Again, I am not sure this is the case with the TS350, but I think that I read that somewhere.
The TS350 has an induction motor, which is a great plus.
The TS350 also is very enclosed with a dust port at the bottom, ready to be attached to a vacuum system. Dust collection was an important criteria for the American Woodworker1, but I’m not sure if this was what they had in mind.
I’ll be honest, the ultimate keeping point for the TS350 is that I bought it for $270. I saw many saws that might have had a belt driven motor, but were twice the price and had stamped wings.

I look forward to testing this saw out and writing more about it in the future. BTW - I did download all the needed manuals and drawings directly from the DELTA website.

1. American Woodworker, October 2002
2. American Woodworker, September 2004
4. Lowes Home Improvement
5. Ridgid Forum “Can’t decide on the saw” discussion

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Our week-end off - part IV: so what did we do ...

While in St. Simons we rested (mentally more than physically). We ate some seafood. We took bike rides (including one which concluded with a wet ride home). We climbed to the top of the light house. And we walked (and sometimes ran) on the beach. As you can see below, the dogs loved the beach: so many birds to chase ...

Our week-end off - part III: honoring a pastor

At the center of this trip is the fact that our church wanted to honor its pastors. This is quite a "hot" topic in our community of believers. What does it really mean to honor a pastor?[1] I have much to say on the topic, but for this post let me focus on how this trip honored me, much more than a salary ever would.

Scripture states: Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine - 1 Tim 5:17 (NKJV) From this passage, it seems to me that this honoring comes as a response to a job well done.

This is exactly how this trip was honoring to us. It was given to the pastors to thank us for all the work we have put into pastoring this family of believers. It was a gesture of appreciation and honor for the work that we did, not a way to hold us accountable or to free up our schedule. In addition, before we left, we were presented with gifts for our trip. The neat thing about these items is that they were the result of people knowing us. You see, this part of the honoring was personal. Just as Paul told Timothy to honor (personally) elders, so these people honored us in a personal way beyond the corporate gesture.

I do want to thank our body for honoring us in such a way. It meant so much to us.

[1] For some great throughts and conversation on the topic see:
*Theron's Honoring Elders post, posted on December 13, 2006 at 11:19 AM
*Alan's On Being Honored ... post, posted on December 16, 2006 at 10:52 AM

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