bookmark_borderHomeschool 2022

This picture captures a few of our homeschooling values fairly well. Alice already knows more about excellent homemaking & housewifery than most girls twice her age.

I forget what this tower of ingredients turned into, but she’s made so many delicious things lately that I lose track!

bookmark_borderEvery Man Needs a Sharp Blade

At the dump today Jill found me a grindstone just sitting neglected in the dumpster. Now it has a new home. I paired it with a small piece of rubber and a drill bit:

Then I attached it to my drill and went to town on some hard-to-sharpen blades, like my two machetes and Jill’s whittling knife.

They’re not quite “easily cut through paper” sharp but they’re plenty sharp for what I need them for 🙂

bookmark_borderAmbient Generator

I was poking through my audio plugins and discovered that somehow I had installed Cardinal Synth. It’s a “free and open-source virtual modular synthesizer plugin”. It acts like a virtual synth rack and has hundreds of built-in modules to arrange however you want. In this one plugin there’s a whole world to explore!

So I started exploring. I know only the basics of building synths but was able to come up with this:

It looks complex but that’s the magic of it, you build one thing at a time and just patch ins and outs. Before long you have created a monster. This whole thing uses about 5% of my processor. I ran it all night just for fun, no memory leaks or performance hiccups.

What does it do, you might ask? It’s an ambient music and ocean sound generator. Here’s some sample audio of what it does forever:

Not perfect, but for a first effort I’m proud of it. I’ve learned a bit about VCOs, VCAs, and oscillators – far more than I would have if I had to buy all this stuff! The only thing that isn’t actually generated is the seagulls (you did hear the seagulls, right?).

bookmark_borderSpeed Archery 2022

I know a ton of you were asking about how my archery practice was going. And by “a ton” I mean “not one”. But still, I’ve made a short video of my progress. I keep tweaking my technique slightly with new information, and each change requires practice. I noticed that in the video I’m looking at every single arrow, and I’ve stopped doing this to rely less on sight and more on the feel of the nocks.

I’ll be working more on it this winter. I practice indoors at close range with cardboard boxes. This does nothing for accuracy or power, but is conducive to speed practice!

bookmark_borderFriend of God

As with most of my little theories, this topic has been discussed between Jill and I for a while now. Most of our conversations end with her telling me, “Will you puh-leeze turn this into a blog?” So I’m doing this partly for her.

As with most theological issues, the way we understand God’s character and personality deeply affects our interpretation of other things. Consider these lyrics and quotes:

I am a friend of God
He calls me friend

Israel Houghton

Jesus is a friend of mine!

“Friendship with Jesus” by Joseph Ludgate (1898)

…intimate friendship with Jesus results in men becoming like Him.

Harry Fosdick

Jesus is God but he humbled himself to walk with us. He is our friend, our brother.

Pope Francis

The more I seek to know God through the years, the more these kind of lyrics and quotes make me uncomfortable. I fully acknowledge that I’m the odd one here, because they are very common and popular. I also realize I’ve already lost half my readers. To those that are left, let’s explore the issue more deeply.

First of all, being a friend of someone is different than being a friend to or for someone. English can be weird. “Bob is a good friend of mine” is not the same as “Bob has been a good friend to me”.

I don’t have a problem with the latter in reference to God, i.e. “God has shown Himself a friend to sinners,” but I do have a problem with the former. To call oneself a friend of anyone implies equality, and in regards to great or famous people we rarely talk like this unless certain conditions are met.

Moreover, when people do make claims of friendship with famous or important people, or those higher up in status, they are generally doing so to elevate themselves. I find myself often doing this even in the church, to my shame – “humble bragging” about who I talk to, hang out with, and who my mentor is. Somehow it always turns out these people I name-drop are more popular or influential than I am.

The more important or “high status” someone is, the more obvious it is that he who claims friendship with that person is dropping names. And conversely, the truly humble people I’ve met avoid these claims, focusing rather on praising or promoting their “betters”. A great picture of this is the classic master-servant relationship, seen in beloved characters like Batman/Alfred, Wooster/Jeeves, Frodo/Sam, Robinson/Friday, or Sherlock/Watson (notice that all these are male). Despite the obvious “friendship” borne out of years of working together, neither party would speak of the other as anything else besides “master” and “servant”.

And if one party was to break this “rule”, it would always be the master in the relationship who, in order to show favor to his loyal servant after years of service, condescended to call him “friend”.

The truly humble servant would of course be extremely flattered, not being able to fathom this “equality” with his master. Even in this moment of happiness the master/servant relationship is never lost – and even after the servant would never claim friendship. It is a badge of honor he treasures in secret, but would not proclaim in public.

Keep this pattern in mind, we’ll come back to it shortly.

Our culture has lost this relationship. We are so obsessed with “equality” that we cannot stand the idea of a servant in any sense. This ignores reality and (worse) attempts to create a false reality. We are not, can not, and should not all be equal.

Kung-fu movies (and the culture of martial arts) really show an understanding of the master/servant relationship. So does any good army. So do the Jedi. Hierarchy and discipline are primary; any mention of friendship is either non-existent or takes years to appear. For men, this kind of relationship can exist in perpetuity, and is even desirable, because each party knows his place.

The church must encourage these types of relationships, because men hear phrases like “intimate friendship with Jesus” and run the other direction.

On the other hand, this type of relationship is difficult for most women. Sam Gamgee was modeled after the “batmen” of WWI, the loyal “errand boys” of their commanding officers, but I know of no female counterparts (the family mentioned Ruth & Naomi, a great exception). I’m sure this can happen in a good marriage, and indeed the Bible indicates that it should:

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.

1 Peter 3

When is the last time you heard a wife call her husband “lord”? The more feminist a culture gets, the more shocking and offensive this becomes, because “we’re equal now”. Women have a hard time even understanding why this is good, preferring instead to call their husbands “friends”. This is not a commentary on marriage per se, but the sentiment has certainly worked its way into our churches.

Ben & Jill if we lived in the middle ages

Now let’s turn to a few biblical arguments. The old testament features literally one man who is called “friend” by God Himself – Abraham. No one else. Think about that. One man gets this incredible honor.

Keep in mind that the OT is replete with allegory and imagery. God has no problem referring to himself as King, Lord, God, Father, even Husband. But never “friend”. He speaks face to face with Moses, but never bestows the title “my friend”.

In the new testament, even Jesus did not claim friendship with the Father:

Christ Jesus… did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant

Philippians 2

I can’t even imagine Jesus referring to the Father as “my friend”, because this would imply equality. Rather, Jesus took the attitude of a submissive servant to show us how it’s done.

This is why I see so much Jesus in characters like Sam Gamgee (the books of course, not the movies). Humble and loyal even to pain and death, all they seem to care about is pleasing their master.

Then there’s that time when Jesus is called a “friend of sinners”:

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

Matthew 11

Jesus is quoting an accusation from his detractors. He does not confirm or deny anything, which I love. He doesn’t need to defend himself. He does not confirm or deny being a “friend of sinners”, he just states the charges to make a point. Yet we tend to acquit Jesus of the charge of drunkard and overstate the “friend of sinners” part.

The idea of being an enemy of God is quite a bit more common:

For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.

1 Corinthians 15

Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

James 4

When someone chooses to obey God, they cease being God’s enemy and become His servant, not friend.

Now I know you’re all thinking, “Well why did Jesus call his disciples friends then, huh?” Yes, I was about to open that can of worms:

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15

People like to hone in on this verse, and we love to think that it’s one of those that applies to everyone throughout history (including us, of course). I’m not so sure. This large section recounts the final meal Jesus shares with the Twelve (minus one) before he is arrested – the Last Supper. These guys had been taught, corrected, and trained by Jesus at this point for years. Up to this point, the relationships more closely resembled the Jedi/Padawan or Sensei/Disciple or Master/Apprentice than what we would think of as a “friendship”.

Earlier in the same dinner conversation, Jesus says this:

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am.

John 13

Jesus was first their Lord, Teacher, and Master, and that was never lost. How do I know? Keeping in mind our pattern from earlier, none of the followers of Jesus ever make a pretense of calling themselves Jesus’ friend. It was simply not something to be claimed. It’s never mentioned again, although the disciples must have treasured the words.

What does Thomas say when Jesus shows himself to the disciples?

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

John 20

How do the other writers of the new testament letters sign their names?

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James

Jude 1

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ

Titus 1

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ

2 Peter 1

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus

Philippians 1

I agree that Jesus calling the disciples “friends” is an amazing graduation ceremony. They have “grown up” in a sense and have become “like their master” in many ways, knowing the business of the Kingdom. Even so, friendship is conditional – if they love Jesus, they will first obey him.

Obedience and respect always come first. This officer gets it, though he never met Jesus personally:

And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him

Luke 7

This guy’s attitude impressed Jesus, and that’s saying something. He not only deeply understood authority and hierarchy (and himself was master over 100+ men), he humbly acknowledges that Jesus is above him in it. The idea of this soldier singing “I am a friend of God” is ridiculous.

This turned out longer than I thought, sorry. I think claiming friendship with God is very dangerous, and that we should not “put ourselves forward” like that. Instead, we should focus on our position as servants.


The type of family life we have is becoming rare these days. We homeschool, love spending time with each other, have a happy marriage, and each of us has several hobbies. We are not that “productive” in an economic or worldly sense – we have zero debt (and therefore pay no interest), don’t buy a lot, and don’t work full-time.

But we are blessed and thankful. Not because we deserve it, but because God “richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment”. We are simultaneously under the poverty level and exceedingly rich, because we have what the rich want and cannot get.

We are rather “productive” in our own way. If all wives were housewives like Jill, our country would see a renaissance of delicious, healthy, home-cooked food (and better education than the public schools). And if husbands worked less at corporate jobs and more at their hobbies, perhaps we’d see more innovation and fine craftsmanship come out of homes everywhere.

But I digress; this wasn’t meant to be a discourse on family life 🙂 Here’s some things we’ve enjoyed making in the past few months.

Homemade “mounds”, these are way better than the store version. Dark chocolate shell over coconut filling. Delicious.

Fruit leather, like the “fruit roll-ups” we ate as kids. These are 100% fruit (unlike the originals) and can be made with almost any kind of fruit. The ones in the picture are peach. Chewy and good.

Fudge is tricky to master. This particular batch is perfect, one of my go-to desserts.

Made from scratch, like most of our food, this is homemade “cracklin oat bran”. It’s not in a baked “O” shape but it tastes better, and has no artificial flavors. I can eat large bowls of this stuff, and it doesn’t need sweetening.

After years of making bread, Jill has finally stumbled on a recipe for the perfect white bread. It’s far better than the store, especially hot out of the oven with melted butter. Light and fluffy and even good for days, with no preservatives.

This past week Alice and Jill made butter. It’s delicious and we can’t tell a difference from store butter. The second batch was made just now. We intend to make all our butter from now on, Alice says it’s easy!

Alice and I made these together. They came out so good. The second time we dunked them in a boiling solution of baking soda and water – that is the secret to delicious soft pretzels. I like slathering them with spicy mustard.

Alice made these homemade “donuts” using a makeshift deep fryer. She’s become quite the cook, I do not know any girls her age who can make just about anything in the kitchen.

Jill borrowed a dehydrator from our friends, this delicious beef jerky went quick.

On the left, a lavender-scented true “castile” soap (100% saponified olive oil). On the right, a coconut oil soap with 20% superfat and rosemary/clary sage blend of essential oils.

My latest batch of strawberry wine, bottled today. These 23 bottles of wine took 18 pounds of strawberries and 10 pounds of sugar to make, but it’s amazing. Wine in its purest form – no sulfites or flavors – just fermented fruit.

Since I now have so much homemade wine, I’ve been making it into brandy. Above are my masterpieces, I’m rather proud of them. Strawberry, peach, and grape brandies from fine homemade wines. Aged in toasted white oak. No preservatives, flavors, or colors. They taste amazing.

Not my first foray into woodworking, but my first major furniture project. I met a guy at the dump getting rid of some nice 2×4 because he was moving, so I took it home and looked up some project designs.

I borrowed some tools to make this happen – a table saw from my nephew, a shop vac and belt sander from my brother-in-law. The top is made from cheap pallet wood my nephew was going to throw away. Alice and I trimmed, sanded, and glued it together to make a nice seat. She had fun sanding and using my small circular saw.

The joinery is all dowels, which was quite time consuming since I don’t have a dowel jig. A lot of the dowel holes were imprecise, so some pieces fit together badly. But woodworking seems to be largely damage control – making mistakes and imperfection work for you.

The end result feels sturdy, and with a ton of sanding it’s not even that badly aligned. It’s something we can all enjoy. Jill’s using it as I write this for quilting!

bookmark_borderHuman Optical Illusions

Let’s open with a verse that often gets dismissed, discussed, debated, and sometimes even defended. Lately I’m intrigued by what the Bible says to men and women individually because it helps us understand the differences between us. This one is to wives specifically:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.”

1 Peter 3

There are many interpretations and understandings of just this one verse, let alone the context. It raises many questions. Is it an exhaustive list? Does it apply today? Why no restrictions on men? Is silver jewelry ok? What does “elaborate” mean in terms of hair? Does this include makeup?

I have opinions on all of these, and I’m sure you do too. But what gets my goat recently is the reason that this is addressed in the Bible in the first place, nearly 2,000 years ago. Women have been augmenting their natural beauty for all of recorded history. Today’s average US woman will spend over a quarter million dollars on beauty products in her lifetime.

Why? Why do women wear makeup at all?

Makeup is a kind of mask. It’s essentially faking youth, beauty, health, and sexuality to appear more attractive. It works, too. For instance, blush works because it imitates how a woman looks in a state of sexual arousal. To men she looks more sexually available, and to women she looks more promiscuous.

A woman’s desire to appear beautiful is so strong that she will spend a lot of money to visually distort reality. But it goes beyond this. Beauty is a woman’s currency. Appearing attractive gives her influence and the ability to manipulate others. It’s about power.

Women rate other women as more dominant when they wear cosmetics. In other words, your place in the female pecking order goes up. Women dress up for each other. Men view women with makeup as having more social standing. In both cases, women over the ages have learned that beauty is power and they crave more and more, just like many men.

This is why some women have such a hard time with aging. They become less powerful and influential every year. Some become accustomed to the power their youth and beauty brings, and it’s hard to have that slowly taken away. Many women let perpetual jealousy consume them – coveting the beauty/power of other women.

I’m not going to offer a ton of solutions here, because we all know women aren’t suddenly going to even the playing field, dump their makeup, and dress modestly all of a sudden. But I will share a bit more of the section I posted earlier:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.”

1 Peter 3

Now you can see how powerful this verse is. For women, especially those lower on the beauty totem pole, this is an attractive option. You can “opt out” of the game – the only winning move is not to play. This kind of beauty does not fade and can even grow with age. It does not require daily application of costly cosmetics. And it is beautiful to God, that’s pretty great.

So what about men?

Are we caught up in this same conquest for power? Why isn’t that verse directed to us?

Men are mostly immune to the allure of cosmetics and jewelry because that’s not our game. There is a similar dominance hierarchy thing going on, based not on beauty but on competence, money, and athletics. Women are prized for their beauty, but they are attracted to mastery, money, and strength.

“I don’t even have any good skills. You know like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!”

Napoleon Dynamite

How does this relate to makeup? We already know that makeup fakes a higher level of beauty in order to increase social standing. For men, therefore, analogous things would be:

  • Faking mastery or competence
  • Faking assets or standard of living
  • Faking physical strength or athletics

Actually having these things is one thing. But faking having more is inherently dishonest, just like makeup. It’s telling the world that you have more in order to obtain more power and influence.

Ironically, some women who wear makeup would also condemn a man for faking his income – bragging about assets or pulling up in an expensive rented car.

Here’s a verse (again, we’re talking 2,000 years ago) that condemns Pharisees:

“Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.”

Luke 20

The Greek word translated as “flowing” or “long” robes is where we get our word “stole” and it was clothing worn by the rich. These guys faked being part of the upper class with their clothing to gain more prestige, and then flaunted their social standing at parties. Beware, says Jesus.

Both men and women can be power-hungry. Both can fake their way to the top of the social ladder in their lust for power, status, and influence. It’s good to find ways to not play their games, to opt out altogether.

I’m thankful that my wife doesn’t wear any makeup. Now that I understand these things better than I used to, I don’t like any makeup on women. It’s fake, plastic-looking, even dishonest. I know it’s not the real person, but a mask. Even subtle makeup application seems to be a sign (to me) that the woman is obsessed with her own beauty. I know I’m far from the only one.

bookmark_borderMassachusetts Law

Many people don’t realize how odd our state laws can be. But then maybe you try to get a gun license here, or buy flavored tobacco (gasp!). Then you realize how convoluted, restrictive, archaic, and arbitrary our laws can be.

I’m no lawyer, but it was actually fun reading law today and chuckling at it. Part of the fun comes from the fact that there are lots of older laws still on the books – from very different times. Like this one, which is still on the books:

“Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars…”

That’s just hilarious if you live here and know the culture. I doubt this has been enforced in the past century. If you live in MA, just imagine calling the police on a blasphemous neighbor. At best, they would laugh, and at worst they would fine YOU for wasting their time. Yet this law is still on the books in MA!

I’m not even going to bother going over gun laws, but I’ve talked with a bunch of gun experts in this state – instructors, people who carry daily, people who have been shooting for many years, military and ex-military. Any of them will tell you how stupid MA is when it comes to firearm laws.

To be a lawful gun owner is an expensive hassle, and you are always wondering if you are doing something illegal. If you don’t believe me, just look up “open carry in MA” and see if you can figure out what the laws actually are, which license you need, which guns you can carry, and how much the cops will mess with you for doing it correctly.

They really don’t like the 2nd amendment here. Shotguns are actually legal, but it’s off to prison for life if you even hold one with a sawed-off barrel:

“…whoever owns, possesses or carries on his person, or carries on his person or under his control in a vehicle, a sawed-off shotgun… shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life…”

Here’s another fun one. Remember, these laws are all currently in effect in MA:

“A subversive organization is hereby declared to be unlawful.”

“The Communist Party is hereby declared to be a subversive organization.”

“Any person who becomes or remains a member of any organization knowing it to be a subversive organization shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than three years”

You are reading that correctly – any organization MA deems “subversive” can fall under this.

“Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with a beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years.”

Homosexual marriage is legal in MA, but absolutely no crimes against nature! When was the last time they enforced that one?

I’m no lawyer, but I feel there should be some changes made here. I dislike when laws:

  • Are unfairly/unevenly enforced (such as cops never getting speeding tickets even when off duty)
  • Make it difficult to exercise rights afforded by the Constitution
  • Are left on the books even when outdated, leading to a huge body of convoluted/conflicting law that makes it easy for the State to go after people for just about anything – to literally throw the book at them.

A great book to check out is Everything I Want to Do is Illegal. It’s enjoyable to read, and you will find yourself frustrated at a government who makes it impossible for a well-meaning and competent farmer to make a living.

Finally, this law just gives me all kinds of nefarious ideas 😀

“Whoever sells or offers for sale a stink bomb shall be punished by a fine of not less than ten nor more than two hundred dollars.”