Monday, August 30, 2010

To Crack Or Not To Crack — Does It Really Make A Difference?

To Crack Or Not To Crack — Does It Really Make A Difference?

Reprinted with permission from UMCDF Today, August 24, 2010

Numerous studies have been conducted and have confirmed something we all already knew — during the summer, the inside of our car gets, well, as they say, "just plain hot." However, other facts that we might not have been aware of have also been discovered: How fast does it get hot in a vehicle?

One study showed that within 10 minutes, the inside temperature rose 20 degrees higher than the outside air, 34 degrees within a half an hour and 40-50 degrees within an hour.

Another study showed the inside temperature hitting 116 degrees within an hour with an outside temperature of only 72 degrees. And in one more study, with an outside temperature of 93 degrees, the inside temperature was recorded at 125 degrees after 20 minutes and 140 degrees after 40 minutes.

Windows "cracked" — yes or no?

Three vehicles were used to look at whether "cracking" your windows had any cooling effect. One car was left with all of its windows fully closed, one had four windows open to 1 1/2 inches and another had two windows opened 1 1/2 inches.

The car with the closed windows showed an inside temperature of 115 degrees at an outside reading of 94 degrees. The car with the four "cracked" windows showed an inside temperature of 113 degrees at an outside reading of 95 degrees. The car with only two windows "cracked" had an inside reading of 109 degrees with an outside reading of 99 degrees. So it doesn’t look like it makes a significant difference whether you leave your windows "cracked" or not.

Dark cars vs. light cars

A study using a dark-colored car with windows closed and a light-colored car with two windows "cracked" 1 1/2 inches showed that after 40 minutes with the outside temperature reading 93 degrees, the dark vehicle had an inside temperature of 140 degrees and the light vehicle had an inside temperature of 138 degrees. As in previous studies, it appeared that "cracking" the windows were ineffective at keeping the car cool no matter what the color scheme.

What does this mean?

Just think, a can of spray paint can burst if exposed to over 120 degrees for a period of time. Not only are people and pets at risk, the heat will affect other items as well such as food and medicines that need to be kept cool. The main thing to remember? It doesn’t take long for the inside of your car to turn deadly hot in summer.

Try these tips:

• Take your vehicle to a mechanic to have its air conditioning system checked ahead of time to be sure the refrigerant level is OK and that there are no leaks in the system.

• Invest in a good, reflecting windshield sun shade (the silver foldable type). It will keep the interior temperature lower and keep your dashboard looking good longer.

Reference Links:

UMCDF Today, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Social Me-dia, Splintered

Social Me-dia, Splintered has posted a pivotal, insightful analysis of the state of social media. Read it here: social-me-me-me-me-me-media.html

I cannot add anything to his message. But I also cannot hold back from echoing it in some way.

Here are some highlights:

Social media sites change, but people do not.

The driving motivation for creating, using, reading, retweeting, and joining social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google Buzz is one human desire: the desire to feel important and interesting.

People measure success by how much attention they receive.

Yet the internet superhighway has allowed social media streams to multiply beyond quantification. The voices seeking attention vastly outnumber the the mind's ability to hear - we begin to shut down, ignore, or simply miss most of what's being shared.

Louis points out that many blog posts are getting fewer and fewer comments. Tweets get no replies. Conversations lag, photos repose unviewed.

"With so many streams flowing by and so many sources and people demanding my attention, even the strong soldiers that fatigue during battle are left behind in our own self-directed charge up the mountain."

He's reduced the number of Twitter accounts he follows. Other social networks he's also trimmed back. but inanity and disjointed conversations still make it tiresome to try to follow.

"One of the hardest things to do for anyone is to find real value amidst the noise, and the massive volume means that people can get missed."

Louis concludes by focusing on blogging as his foundation. He calls blogging a "searchable, indexable, discoverable entity with longform, permanent content, not an ephemeral short-time share that adds to the minute or the hour, but not much longer."

The "longform" quality of blogging allows permanence and authenticity. It's a history and it's about me personally, even when writing about others.

I appreciate Louis' strong encouragement for engagement. Whether on Twitter or Facebook or a blog, if I initiate a conversation, I have a responsibility to respond and engage with readers who reply.

It's a damaging addiction to base my identity and worth on counting reactions. "Top dogs get dozens or hundreds of retweets, comments and shares." If my posts go unnoticed, I feel a loss of worth and purpose.

This week for me personally has been a perfect example of this counting-reactions-addiction. I posted a how-to article on It struck a chord with the DIY crowd, and I earned a (temporary, very temporary) place on the Featured and Most Popular pages. It felt good.

But fame dissipates quickly. I did make a point of trying to respond to each comment. I subscribed to several users as a way of returning the favor of being noticed.

But the Internet Superhighway was built for speed, not settling down. The thrill is in the journey, not the destination, so those who take the exit ramp to visit me stay only a moment, and they are back on the expressway quickly, on to the next attraction.

So the writing is really just for me. Me alone. I write to make myself clearer to myself.

And that pleases me.

Christian. Muslim. Love. Unconditional.

Christian. Muslim. Love. Unconditional.

Rachel Held Evans is right on target.

Rachel posted a thoughtful response to the Islamic community center planned for New York City.

Read the article here: Loving our Muslim neighbors unconditionally

Here are the highlights and some comments.

Rachel quoted Tony Campolo as he warned against persecution of Muslims and Arab Americans:

"As Christians, we can’t let this happen. These are our neighbors, created in the image of God. They deserve our love and respect."


It seems a harsh word. But it seems to fit the tone of some of the comments and opinions I'm hearing from Christians.

Islam is offensive to Christianity?

Islam threatens the American way of life?

Rachel asks a rock-solid, convicting question:

Have these Christians forgotten that our first allegiance is not to our own interests or to the "American way of life," but rather to the Kingdom of Heaven?

Think of the culture in which God placed Himself as a man. Jesus the Man was born and grew up in perhaps "the most oppressive and cruel empire in history." He preached to people who had every fleshly right to fight the government - every right to be bitter and offended. Yet, what did Jesus preach?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5)

Rachel describes a "tragic disconnect" from the way of Jesus when Christians say,

"We will respect your faith when you respect ours" or "You can build a mosque in New York when we can build a church at Mecca."

Regardless of Muslim's motives or allegiance to American ideals, we have a mandate from Christ to love unconditionally:

Love our neighbor.
Love our enemy.
Pray for those who persecute.

At least one of these applies to every person we meet or read about.

Our identity is in Christ - crucified, risen, and exalted. Not in any "American Way".

Rachel ends with two conclusions that are without argument:

The constitution guarantees that Muslims should be able to worship when and where they please.

Compassion compels us to reach out to those who are hurting...on either side of any divide.

Who Speaks and Why?

Who Speaks and Why?

I am stymied by the global climate change discussion. The need for dramatic, negative social change could be real, or it could be orchestrated. For me to accept the need for change, I must trust scientific and political decision-makers for conclusions that I lack the time and ability to research for myself. To reject the need for change, I must reject solid historical evidence that technology has had harmful, devestating effects on our earth.

I just read an article posted by the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Wildlife Federation, Larry J. Schweiger. His thoughts coalesce my frustration.

"Scientific findings can be just as contentious today as in the 17th century."

Schweiger cites several scientists who suffered for their discoveries and conclusions:

Galileo endured a life-sentence "house arrest" in 1632 for the heretical idea that the Sun, not the Earth, was at the center of our universe.

Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962, warning of the harm that DDT was bringing to bird life. Manufacturers of DDT attacked her relentlessly for the rest of her life.

Dr. Herbert L. Needleman discovered the harmful effects caused by the lead in vehicle emissions and paint. His research was attacked by oil and chemical industries that sold gasoline and lead-based paint.

Dr. Needleman reflected back on his experience, saying "If you find evidence that a compound worth billions of dollars to its manufacturer poses a public health risk, you will almost certainly find yourself in the middle of a contentious battle that has little to do with scientific truth."

Schweiger sees the same profit-driven fight to obscure research happening today in the climate change arena.

Hackers gained access to private email accounts and managed to cut and paste forged messages that appeared to show that two leading scientists were falsifying evidence and manipulating data concerning climate change. Investigation by the British House of Commons has found no credible evidence for the charges.

This affair caused Schweiger to quote Rachel Carson as she responded to her critics: "I recommend, that you ask yourself: Who speaks? And why?"

Every editorial, every news article, every forwarded email chain message should be evaluated with this question: "Who speaks? And why?"

There seems to be tremendous financial incentive to be the winner in the climate change debate. But money should be at most secondary to the larger priority: clean water and air, and healthy land. I would much rather err on the side of being too green than too sick.

So, for me, the burden of providing evidence is upon those who say that technology is NOT causing global climate change. The consequences of future, irreparable harm to the earth are too dire.

Reference Link

Tools of the Trade: Watercolor

Tools of the Trade: Watercolor

I'm a beginner. I don't paint often, and so I don't paint as well as I'd like. But to the extent that my skill, and patience, allows, here are some thoughts about the tools and techniques of watercolor painting.

This are my painting tools. From left to right:

  • Brushes
  • Ruler (six-inch plastic)
  • Pen (ballpoint)
  • Pencil (#2)
  • Paints
  • Jar of water to clean brushes
  • Jar of clean water to add to paints
  • Mixing palette
  • Water brushes
  • Small bottle of water
  • Watercolor paper (fairly heavy, to resist curling)
  • How to Watercolor book

Experienced painters will immediately pick up on my innocence...I don't have a clue what type/size/style/quality my brushes are. I don't buy expensive brushes, but I do throw away any that shed their hair.

I especially like the small water brushes.

The water brush has a small, refillable water reservoir, making it easy to add water to color, create washes, and clean. Gently squeeze the barrel to exude a drop of water, before/after/during dipping brush into the paint. I use a medium and fine point.

I made my own traveling watercolor paint kit, following an article found on

I only have six colors. The limitation is a help for me as a beginner. I don't feel overwhelmed by choices. I have the three primary colors:

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Blue

plus, a brown and a dark gray.

I also have a green, even though I could mix yellow and blue to get a decent green. But the pre-mixed green seems better. The other secondary colors are okay when mixed:

  • Orange = Red + Yellow
  • Purple = Red + Blue

It's good to keep in mind a simple color wheel while painting. The illusion of distance is best obtained by adding a bit of the color's opposite.

For example, if I'm painting a red barn, and I can see two sides of the barn, I'll paint the two sides slightly differently. The side nearest me, the one in the foreground, I'll paint with basically a red tone.

For the side away from me, the one further in the background, I'll add a bit of red's opposite into the mix. The opposite of red is green (yellow + blue). Just a bit of green added to red will reduce the red's intensity, giving the illusion of distance.

  • Opposite of red = green (yellow + blue)
  • Opposite of yellow = purple (red + blue)
  • Opposite of blue = orange (yellow + red)

Mix all three together, and you get...MUD!

I've got three containers of water:

  • Brush cleaner
  • Clean water
  • Water supply

When I travel, I can fill the small bottle with water. To paint, I'll fill each of the two jars about halfway.

One of the jars will become the brush-cleaning jar. A good way to clean a brush before using it to paint a new color is this:

1. Gently squeeze the brush with paper towel or a cloth. This takes most of the paint out.

2. Dip, but do not swish, the brush into the brush-cleaning jar of water. Don't wipe it, swish it, or shake it. Just dip once and immediately squeeze with the paper towel or cloth. Repeat this until you no longer see color transferring to the cloth.

3. Now, swish the brush gently in the brush-cleaning jar of water. Your brush is clean, ready for a new color, or ready to be stored away.

This method of cleaning the brush keeps the rinse water fairly clear of paint longer, making it easy to clean the brush. When the rinse water gets dirty, dump it and add fresh water from the water supply bottle.

Before placing the clean brush into storage, I like to form the wet hairs into a nice-looking point. My preferred method of doing this is to stick the clean bristles into my mouth and gently pull it out, forming a lovely point. For the fastidious painter, I suggest you gently form the point with your fingers!

The second jar of water is kept clean. Try to keep paint out of this second jar. Use it for water that you add to your paint to thin it. You can dip a clean brush and then squeeze a drop or two of water out into the paint, or use the water brush. The blue rubber syringe which looks suspiciously like a nasal bulb syringe is perfect for transferring clean water to a jar, a waterbrush, or directly to the pans of paint.

My watercolor paper is not expensive, but I try to get fairly heavy stock, 140-pound. This allows me to paint freely with little curling or distorting of the paper. I don't need to stretch my paper, even when covering it entirely with a wash.

All that remains to discuss is the instruction book in the background:

I Draw, I Paint Watercolor

This gem of a book was published in English by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. in 1991. It was originally written in Spanish by Isidro Sanchez, with paintings by Miguel Ferron and Jordi Segu.

Before finding this book, I collected several different how-to books. I found them all interesting, and somewhat helpful, but they all lacked something basic: How do I learn to paint if I know NOTHING???

I Draw, I Paint Watercolor meets that need. It is obviously written for children, but it's just what I need as a beginner.

The explanations and illustrations are very easy to understand, and the pace in which each technique or step is introduced is perfectly suited for my need. I STRONGLY recommend this book!

The first ten pages are solidly basic:

  • What paints to use
  • What brushes to use
  • What paper to use
  • Containers, towels, sponges, supplies
  • Adding water
  • Brushstrokes
  • Background washes and gradations
  • Primary colors, color wheel, and color value

The book ends with twelve exercises, with each step carefully illustrated and explained. The exercises start simple and gradually mature in technique and style toward the last exercises which are worthy of framing.

I really enjoy this little book! For me it has made watercolor painting enjoyable and successful.

That's All!

That's the extent of my watercolor tips and techniques. It's a hobby, one that I enjoy doing once a month or so. Actually, it's probably less often than that. I really enjoy writing and blogging, and I find myself gravitating toward the computer more than my paints. Painting requires a dedicated space and time, whereas my laptop can be grabbed quickly and used to fill any empty time, from ten minutes to several hours.

But painting allows me to express a different part of me. Watercolor, especially, is less linear, more creative, more freeing, than writing or coding.

I need that freedom more and more.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Creating a Watercolor from a Photograph

Creating a Watercolor from a Photograph

Mother's Day...

I decided to try to paint a couple of pictures for my mother, and for my wife (she's not my mother, but she is a mother, and a great one!)

I've collected quite a few photographs, postcards, calendar scenes, magazine pages and newspaper clippings of scenes I'd like to consider painting. Most are way beyond my beginner-level skills, but I found a couple of flower images that I thought, just maybe, perhaps, I could translate into a watercolor painting.

I set out my tools, a cup of coffee, and found a comfortable, well-lit place to work. I add a few drops of clean water into each pan of paint and allow the paint to absorb the water, becoming liquid. For strong, bright colors, I'll dip my brush into the pan and paint directly on the paper. For lighter colors, or a wash, I'll swap my brush into the pan, and then wipe it into an empty, clean pan and add more water, or another color to create a different hue.

My first step was to lightly draw a pencil sketch of the main areas of color. I knew I'd not want to try to reproduce every detail, so I drew just the larger, more prominent areas. I often squinched my eyes, allowing just the brighter areas to show through my partially closed eyelids. This helped me to isolate the stronger focal areas, the parts that are in the foreground, the areas I want to emphasize.

This step helped me decide what colors and areas I'd be painting first. I decided that I'd paint the bright yellows and reds first, and then fill in the background greens, grays, and browns later.

Now I had my finished pencil sketch. I'd keep the photograph near so I could frequently refer to it for color and necessary detail.

My next step was to start painting. I started with the yellows.

The yellow seemed too bright, so I mixed up a reddish-orange blend of color in a separate pan. I painted this directly over one of the yellow flowers, but it was too orangish! I said to myself, "Oh, well!" and thinned the orange with more water and added some of it lightly to the remaining yellow petals.

The light greens were next, followed by darker green for the shadows and depth, and browns and purples. It seems to work best to paint the lighter colors before the darker ones...watercolors don't allow me to easily make a dark area lighter.

And here's the finished painting!

I followed the same process for a different picture:

For this one, I painted the light pink color over the blossoms, adding darker pink for shading and depth. Then I painted the light green, followed by dark green. Lastly, I painted the dark brown background, helping to define the shapes.

I like them!

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Start of a New Website, Part 4

The Start of a New Website, Part 4

Here's how the coding has turned out so far.

From this... this:

And, from this... this:

One other version that I developed:

This version is almost identical to one of their brochures. It demonstrates how a design meant for printing on paper can be translated into a webpage. I scanned the images, resized and added text. Each image is an active link to a different section of the website.

I posted the different version to the client's website, using a private URL address, so that the organization can see them on the web, but they are not yet available to the public.

I hope to find out in a couple of weeks which versions most appeal to the client, and then I can start adding content!

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Politics of Meriwether Lewis

Do you long for the good old days, when politics was kinder and gentler, with high integrity? Kind of like when Tom J. was president? When different parties got along and worked together?

Think again.

KidWash Mister

KidWash Mister

Another must-make for this summer!

Selah, get ready to get kidwashed!

Complete plans at