Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Just Got Volume 1!

After some fairly significant publishing delays I just received Volume 1 of Dr. Joe Morecraft's 5-Volume series on the Westminster Larger Catechism, entitled Authentic Christianity.

"Not since 1731 has the Reformed world seen a comprehensive commentary on its most detailed standard of faith, The Westminster Larger Catechism... Culminating a lifetime of learning, preaching, and pastoral care, this five-volume work incorporates the most stalwart of Reformed theology from recent centuries as well as past masters, and exegetes the teachings of the Catechism through potent insight, consistent application, and relentless recourse to God’s Word. In a time when the Church faces many doctrinal challenges, Morecraft’s Commentary calls her back to the foundations of the Reformed faith, directing her to the spiritual power of God’s Word as taught in the Larger Catechism."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone!

HDR in the backyard

I did some HDR this morning in the backyard. The sun was shining through the trees and fog, glistening on the grass creating a really high-contrast situation which I thought would be perfect to try my HDR technique.

These photos were generated with a program called Photomatix, but I'm currently using the trial, hence the watermarks.

Which version is your favorite?

A Great HDR Tutorial from Trey Ratcliffe!

Yesterday I came across Trey Ratcliffe's website and found this really great tutorial he wrote on HDR photography. He recently authored a book called "A World in HDR" which also looks amazing.

In case you don't know what HDR photography is, it's essentially a technique where the photographer shoots multiple images of the same scene at different exposure settings (1 at the regular setting, another under-exposed, another over-exposed - usually 5 images total) to capture the full "dynamic range" of light in the scene. He then uses special software to create a composite image which brings out the best-exposed sections of each of those photos, creating one single photo which represents a much fuller range of light.

That was probably confusing...

Take a look at some of Trey's photos to get a better idea of what I'm talking about.

I tried this technique on one of my photos of the Roebling suspension bridge in Cincinnati, and got some neat results.


HDR Version

Go through Trey's tutorial (it will only take 30 min. to an hour), download the trial version of the software he recommends and give HDR a try. I think you'll really like it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Out in the Swamp

Yesterday morning Zach, Mike and I got up at 4:00 a.m. to go out in the swamp and hurt some ducks with Jonathan. We arrived at the agreed-upon location around 5:30 a.m. and, after a fairly long walk along the levy, met up with Jonathan who had been waiting since 4:00. We claimed a nice little patch of logs and reeds which had been engineered to work as a blind, and after adding some additional camouflage and setting out our decoys, we sat back to wait for shooting time.

Since I'm only back for a week it wasn't worthwhile for me to purchase a license, so I didn't go along to hunt. I was their driver and photographer, joking that I shot more than they did and got better results...probably because I was using a Canon instead of a shotgun! :)

Jonathan did some "live-tweeting" from the blind.

The guys had a few opportunities throughout the morning, and Jonathan and Mike came away with a hen Mallard each.

As the sun came up the action died down quite a bit. We kept going on the calls and occasionally would make some of the smaller flocks interested, but they wouldn't get close enough.

We had a really great time together, as these shots demonstrate.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sufficiency of Scripture Conference - Part 1

A few weeks ago I was privileged to attend the Sufficiency of Scripture Conference sponsored by the NCFIC. It was held in Covington KY (just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati), and was an enormous success in so many different ways!

First of all, it was the first conference put on by the NCFIC (National Center for Family Integrated Churches), who's staff did a remarkable job pulling together all the details and ensuring that everything ran smoothly. Secondly, it attracted around 2,600 attendants! This is almost unheard of for a conference of this nature during what is arguably the busiest season of the year. The Lord really blessed the whole event, and it was clear that many people's lives were impacted and changed as a result of some of the things they heard.

I worked the Vision Forum booth with a co-worker from Texas, so I didn't have much of an opportunity to listen to the various speakers. But the vendor hall was directly adjacent to the main auditorium, so whenever a speaker delivered a message in there the sound was piped out to the vendor hall. Even though I got to hear only a fraction of the messages, I really enjoyed the fellowship with customers at the booth, as well as the other vendors I got to speak with.

And the cold weather was fantastic too! The first few nights it lingered anywhere between 15 and 20 degrees, but when you factored in the wind chill it was more like 7-10 degrees. In my book that's pretty cold! We even got some light snowfall the first morning (I happened to be up at 6:30 am to photograph it).

I'll follow up with some more pictures and thoughts later on.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Posts are on the way...

I'm leaving TX for home tomorrow morning, so I hope to finally make time to post some photos and updates from my recent trip to Cincinnati as well as a variety of other things. You can expect some new content in a day or two!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Playing with fire again!

This is how I spent the majority of my Saturday. I also made some time for house cleaning, shopping, and a little reading, but the barbecue was definitely the highlight!

Let me introduce you to my new grill. Yes, it's charcoal, not gas, so it takes longer, but boy does it do a good job! It's a Weber of course - when it comes to these kinds of grills they're definitely the best bang for your buck. I got mine off craigslist for $25 after a few months of patient searching.

I use a chimney starter to get the charcoal going. There are two main reasons for this: 1) to avoid the chemical taste which comes from using lighter fluid and 2) it concentrates the heat and causes all the briquettes to light evenly, ensuring that I will have consistent heat across the grill.

I set up the grill for indirect medium heat. There are a few chunks of hickory in there too.

The hickory gave me some nice smoke to work with.

Here's my setup.

Here are my fully-assembled "pork fatties" (no, I didn't name them). I didn't have enough light inside the house to get photos of me putting them together, but basically they're just a plain round of pork sausage, stuffed with some veggies (i.e. onions and green bell peppers), and wrapped in a sheet of "woven" bacon. If you want to see how they're made, check out the BBQ Pit Boys show on Youtube.

They're about half-done in this photo. Notice the drip pan - I had to put it down there because these things started dripping like crazy midway through the cooking process!

Look at that golden, crispy bacon!

Here's the grill being prepped for the tri-tip steak. First I do direct high heat to sear the steak, then move it off to cook indirectly for a while.

There it is! The cajun makes a great seasoning, and it turned out pretty much perfect. The final stage for these tri-tips is wrapping them in foil with all the juices, and placing them on low in the crockpot overnight. Talk about tender!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Praise the Lord! My friend and co-designer Justin Turley and his wife are celebrating the birth of their firstborn son! Visit to read about the arrival of Calvin Blair Turley.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm 20!

What more is there to say?

Actually, now that I'm 20, I'll try to post more. I know, I know, what does being 20 have to do with blogging more often?

Absolutely nothing... But you can expect some more posts, I promise. Especially things related to cooking (like my recent key lime pie experiment, and my Dr. Pepper pork roast!). Stay tuned.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Texas Coast

Even though I live in Texas, and the sun is out nearly every day (yes even in October!) I don't get to enjoy it very much. Sometimes I compare myself to a cave fish...but that's another story.

Last Saturday I decided it was time to go find the sun. What better place than the beach!

You know you're in Texas when there's cactus growing on the beach!

After a week of anticipation and checking the forecasts, I decided to make it happen. The night before I packed everything I would need - flip flops, towels, folding chair, water, sun tan lotion, and bananas (seemed appropriate being so close to Mexico). At 5:00 a.m. the next morning I was on the road making the 2.5 hour trek down to Padre Island on the Texas Gulf Coast.

If you're not familiar with Padre Island, it's a long stretch of land along the TX coastline which is divided into several different sections. On the northmost end there's the Port Aransas wildlife refuge, directly below that is Mustang Island, then below that is Padre Island National Seashore (where I went), and just south of that is South Padre Island which is disconnected from the upper island - it can be reached from the mainland. Look it up on Google maps to get a visual.

The grasslands on the coast

I arrived around 8:00. The sun was already up and the sky was overcast, but the weather looked promising. The forecast predicted a high of 80, and it was pretty much spot on. Between noon and 3:00 the sun was out almost constantly, making for a very pleasent afternoon.

I made one big mistake, however. Since I've never been to the TX coast, I failed to remember how much closer it is to the equator than the beaches back home. That doesn't necessarily make it "hotter" but the sun is certainly more intense. In hindsight, it would have been nice if I had worn some sunscreen.

But then again, if I had worn it I wouldn't be able to look like an Indian for Thanksgiving! Seriously, I'm more burnt now than I've ever been in my entire life, and it's not too fun. Aloe vera has become my close friend over the past few days.

Another thing I should mention is that there was a phenomenon known as "red tide" going on. It's basically an algae bloom which kills a lot of fish and produces a muddy reddish tint in the incoming breakers. From what I read it's not necessarily dangerous to swim when red tide is happening, but there's the potential for skin irritation and other side effects. I got wet and it didn't seem to bother me thankfully. Of course, even if there were no red tide, the deeper you go the greater the chance of encountering sharks, so you have to choose your risks carefully.

A big ole' dead fish.

A Western Sandpiper - he had a broken wing, and there wasn't anything I could for him (the park rangers apparently couldn't either), so I picked him up and placed him out of the reach of the waves, then took some photos and left the poor little guy alone.

Well that pretty much sums up my first experience on the Texas coast. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Next time we'll go camping over the weekend, make a bonfire on the beach, and I'll grill up some shrimp!! Can't wait.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I miss you Kaylee!

I can't wait to see you in a few months!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

From the Thundercloud

“Behold, these are the fringes of His ways, and how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?” - Job 26:14

I saw this spectacular sight this past week on one of my evening bike rides. I just had to pause to take this shot as this massive thundercap caught the last glowing rays of the sunset, and as I continued riding I could even see streaks of lightning within the cloud! It was incredible.

On a related note, we had a massive thunderstorm last night. It went on for hours and every once in a while I would wake up to hear the roar of thunder, the downpour of rain and every few seconds flashes of lighting would illuminate the room. We woke up this morning to find the floor of our little house flooded! It seems that there were leaks along the patio (which happens to be tile just like our floor), allowing a bunch of water to flow in overnight. In some of the corners it was nearly an inch deep! Thankfully, not too much was damaged.

The local park was a swamp too. Normally there's a little trickle running through the creek into the culvert, but last night it rained so much that the creek not only overflowed its banks but also the road and covered nearly the entire park in several feet of water! And we're supposed to get more rain this coming week...

But praise the Lord for His goodness! We've been needing the rain for a while. Now we just need to figure out how to deal with all the water we've been given!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our New House!

Well, now that our VF internship is over we had to move out of our previous rental to make room for the new guys. I left for a two-week vacation on July 24, not knowing where we'd be living when I came back. Brantley and Tyler, with the help of our former landlady found a neat little guest house that we're able to rent at an INCREDIBLE monthly rate. God has blessed us so much with this little place (and I do mean "little").

I believe it's around 550 sq. feet total, complete with a little kitchen, bathroom, walk-in closet, "bedroom," and a living area where we have our sofa. I'm still working on organizing my stuff inside, so I haven't taken pictures of the interior just yet. But here are some shots of the outside, and the best part...the pool. We have permission from our landlady to swim whenever we want, so I dove in this afternoon and it was amazing! Warm, clear, refreshing... But I don't want to make anyone too jealous, so I'll leave off the description right there.

The house from the alley way. There's room to park there, but as for me and my Honda we will park on the driveway out front. Don't want to compete with the garbage truck in the morning you know...

Same view from the alley. There's a walkway up to our landlady's garage. The "front door" of our place is on the right.

The back patio area. It's got room for a grill, some tools and our bikes. Who could want anything more?

Another view of the back patio.

And the best part of all - the pool. It's sooo nice to have one of these in TX, and we have it almost all to ourselves!

Friday, July 31, 2009

We played Psychiatrist tonight

If you've played "Psychiatrist" before these will make more sense. Here are a few of the best quotes from the game, in no particular order.

Patient (trying to help the Psychiatrist) "What would cause your hair to change color?" Psychiatrist, "Do you drink too much?"

Patient (discussing what our "problem" should be), "We could all be the Platonic ideal of a living yo-yo!"

Patients, "We're all phone numbers."

Patient, "I'm an integral!"

Psychiatrist, "Is this a medically classified condition?"

Psychiatrist, "Why am I even asking you questions?"

Psychiatrist, "Are you the Federal Register?"

From my journal

I found this in my journal from about a year ago. It seems we had recently entered some stuff into competitions at the fair, so with that for context:
"Katrina was sitting by me this afternoon, and commented on how much she loves me. 'You’re almost my best big brother.' Really, what does it mean to be almost the best? 'Well, you’re first place, but Christopher is Best of Show.'"

Tip for viewing pictures on my blog

I've found with my browser that, when I click on an image to view it larger, it displays the image smaller than it was before! So my recommendation is to right click and select "View Image." It should display full size.

City Views

Looking down Charles St. toward the Park Place Church.

Across from the hotel, next to Stuart St.

Valet parking, and seafood... :)

On Stuart St.

Don't remember the names of these streets. I think one is Stuart St., but the important part is the iPod Touch ad.

The Smith and Wollensky "castle."

The hotel entrance next to the valet parking.