Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ready to Feast in 2012?

With 2011 coming to an end, I am wrapping up my reading plan for the year.  I'm a few days behind, so there will be a little overlap.  Of course, this means it is time to decide what I will be doing for 2012.  I happened to run across a Facebook post by Logos asking what people were planning for 2012 and one of the responses proved intriguing.

It was a post from someone indicating they were going to try the 3650 Challenge.  I looked that up and found that Tim Challies was inviting others to join him in doing Professor Horner's Bible-Reading System.  It is a system where you read 10 chapters each day, one chapter each from one of ten lists. So if one sticks with it, they will read 3,650 chapters from the Bible in the course of a year (and yes, I realize 2012 is a leap year, so I'll really get in 3,660 chapters if I succeed).

As Challies explains it, if you follow Horner's plan, in the course of a year you will read (or you could listen):

  • all of the Gospels four times each;

  • the Pentateuch twice;

  • Paul's letters 4-5 times;

  • the OT wisdom literature six times;

  • the Psalms twice;

  • the Proverbs twelve times;

  • Acts twelve times;

  • the OT history and prophetic books about 1.5 times.

I have found a few variations of the plan, such as this one by Pastor Brett Maragni, in which he wanted to focus more on Romans and threw in Galatians and Ephesians for monthly reading.

I have found a few tools scattered about - mainly spreadsheets, checklists, etc., for keeping track of where you are.  At this point, I just have some tabs to serve as bookmarks in my Bible.  I'll probably put the lists in the front of the Bible (or possibly download the Logos reading plan file to use Logos to help me keep track).

Of course, like everyone, I'm full of excitement as a new year dawns.  Hopefully I can keep this going for at least 30 days for the habit to really set in. Should just be a stretch from my current daily reading to really feasting on the Word every day.  I invite you to join me in the challenge.  If you'd like the support of others, and you are on Facebook, you might want to check out the 3650 Challenge group.  I know when I first started working on reading plans it really helped to have feedback and encouragement from others.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

MINIs on the Dragon 2011 Recap


Well, it has only taken me four and a half months to start writing this and about six months to finish it.  But finally I have completed my recap of MINIs on the Dragon 2011.  This was my first time going to MOTD (but not the Dragon) and could be my last for quite a while.  Since my wife's birthday usually falls on the same weekend and soccer is in season for my daughters, getting away for MOTD is a challenge.  The stars aligned themselves this year though and I was able to make a last minute “GO” decision.

Day One

My MOTD adventure started on Thursday.  After dropping my son off at school, I was off, heading down the Interstate to the western tip of NC.  Once past Asheville it was not long before I was off the Interstate onto smaller and smaller roads.  After a bite to eat in Bryson City, it was on up Hwy 28 (aka Hellbender) to Fontana Village to check-in.  Of course, upon arriving at Fontana Village I was greeted to the sight of MINIs everywhere!

From Fontana Village, I headed back down 28 to the Tuskeegee Motel.  While I probably could have found a room at Fontana, the last time I stayed there I found the walls to be paper thin (which I figured would lead to some tough sleeping).  Plus, the rates at the Tuskeegee were quite a bit better.  That was good since I was trying to minimize costs.  The Tuskeegee itself is an old roadside motel – maybe 15 rooms with a little general store/gift shop and a couple gas pumps.  The room was dated, the TV small, no phone, and no Internet.  So roughing it a bit.  But it was in the middle of the country (OK, I guess everything in that area is in the middle of the country), there were cows and horses across the road, I could sit out front and watch MINIs go up and down the road, and the bed slept good.  While maybe not for everyone, it suited me just fine.


After unloading, I decided the first order of business was to head to the Devil's Triangle.  Up 28 to Deal's Gap where I stopped in the parking lot to see what the crowd was like.  Things took on an ominous note as I was preparing to pull out as a couple SHP cruisers came by lights and sirens going.  As I soon discovered, there was a wreck right up on the Dragon – literally the first curve after you turn out of Deal's Gap.  Seems a car and a motorcycle had tangled, much to the detriment of the motorcycle rider.  After waiting a few minutes, the road was cleared and I was on my way for the first of many Dragon runs.  This one would turn out to be rather slow thanks to the Ford Fusion in front of me.

Once I was done with the Dragon, I headed on west on 129, then turned southwest for some country driving.  Took this route so I would avoid an out and back to the Triangle – instead, it was more of a loop.  As I traveled the backroads of NC and TN, I came across quite a bit of storm damage and instances where trees had been cleared from the road.  This was the day after some of the killer tornadoes had struck in Alabama and they had traveled through this area as well.

Upon reaching the Devil's Triangle itself, I hooked up the video camera and feasted on some twisties.  I found the DT to be a fabulous run.  It consists of Hwy 62, 116, and 330, going up through the community of Petros on the way.  Very rugged country.  As I discovered, the warning on the DT web site is accurate:
BULLETIN: The Devils Triangle is not a place for the squeamish or beginning rider. There are sections with difficult steep switchbacks, poorly patched asphalt, heaves in the roadway, broken pavement, gravel in road, steep dropoffs, and coal/logging trucks to dodge. Other that that it is a great road. RIDE WITH EXTREME CARE .....

The road itself had a nice variety – some switchbacks, some nice esses, sweepers, etc.  But the description above was accurate as there were a few areas where I had to dodge some broken pavement, loose dirt/gravel or potholes.  But in general the road surface was in pretty good condition.  One thing that was interesting were some of the drop-offs.  These usually occurred in the esses  where you'd come to a curve to the right.  The pavement would go out to an edge and then there would just be an almost straight drop down the side of the mountain.  Probably a good 20 feet or so before you'd hit anything.  And no guardrails.  It was really quite stunning to run across those spots.  It certainly made me want to ratchet up my concentration (as if cranking it up any higher were possible).

With the end of that run, I began the journey back.  After a quick bite to eat, I made my “return” Dragon run just as dusk was starting to fall.  This brought out a bit of wildlife as I spotted a wolf crossing the road and heading up the mountain shortly after I started the run.  I guess it was a wolf.  Since I drive the MINI WUF and I'm a Wolfpack fan, I'm going with it being a wolf.  By the time I got back to the Tuskeegee, darkness was upon me and it was time to settle in for the night.

Day 2


For the second day of MOTD, I started out with participation in the Dragon Parade.  A nice bonus I discovered to this was that since I had donated some food for the Graham County food bank, I got a CD (pretty sure put together by Xiek).  Scored a few good songs off of that.  The parade itself was maybe half the MINIs in attendance?  So a couple hundred at least?  Not sure, but the access road we lined up on was a long string of MINIs.  This access road was just up from the entrance to Fontana Village, on the other side of the bridge.  We headed up the Hellbender, then a right onto the Dragon.  This was a nice, medium-paced run.  At the end of the Dragon, I pulled off and just watched the rest of the line come by.  Once it thinned out, I headed back up the Dragon at a little better pace and got to see some of the stragglers headed the opposite direction.

When I got back to Deal's Gap, I pulled and parked.  Ran into several THMMC folks and enjoyed breakfast with them at Deal's Gap.  A couple of us decided to do another Dragon run.  It was still early and with the parade over, traffic was very light.  We got in a very spirited run – probably the most spirited run I'd made on the Dragon.  I even had a bit of brake fade by the end (which I don't recall using my brakes that heavily).  Coming back was almost as good, though a little more traffic in a couple spots to slow the pace down a bit.

From there, we headed on down the Hellbender to Fontana Dam to cross that and take in the view from the other side.  Very impressive.  From there, we split up as I ran on down 28 to Bryson City to get some gas.  The others went back to Fontana Village for some lunch and the plan was for all of us to meet back up for a run on the Cherahola Skyway.

When I got back to Fontana Village though, no one was in sight at the designated meeting place.  After waiting a bit, I figured they had perhaps headed on out.  So, off I went.  Of course, the one time I wanted to get in a speedy run on the Dragon, I couldn't due to the traffic.  After waiting at the end for a little while, I decided to head on.  Heading out on 129 I came across the second wreck of the weekend.  This time, I could see one or two motorcycles in the ditch on the side of the road.  I can't imagine it was good news for the rider I saw that they had stabilized on the ground as the ditch was pretty much full of big, sharp, nasty looking rocks.


The ride down to Tellico Plains was enjoyable with splendid views.  And I spotted a sign for a Friends meeting.  I always like seeing those.  The Cherahola Skyway was a nice drive.  Traffic was light, though I did get stuck behind an very slow car at one point.  They finally pulled over to let me by.  That said, I wasn't “wow”-ed by the Skyway.  I see may people posting about how it is one of the better roads in the area.  Maybe if I had been with other MINIs I would have enjoyed it better.  As a final note, I discovered later that the group I had planned to meet had actually decided to leave later than agreed upon.  So the whole time I thought I was chasing them, they were actually behind me.

By time I got back to the hotel, it was dusk, so it had definitely been a long day.  And once again, I came upon a wreck.  This time, in a sharp corner on the Hellbender, a motorcycle had to lay it down and ended up sliding into a MINI in the oncoming lane.  The next day I would see the MINI being taken home on a rollback.  I also figured out that the motorcyclist was staying at the Tuskeegee Motel.  As bad as it looked and as bad as he felt about taking out the MINI, he was glad he had hit it as he probably would have gone over the guardrail and down into the water had he not hit the MINI.  So the MINI saved him from a (probably) worse result.

Day 3


Saturday would bring an early start as I did the Sunrise Drive Through the Smokies.  It was interesting as I had to “trade” a spot with another THMMC member in order to get in on the drive.  Of course, once there, probably only a third of those who signed up actually showed up.  Which made for a good size group – about 12 or so MINIs.  We left in the dark from Fontana Village and headed out on the Dragon.  The turned right to head up the Foothills Parkway to take in the sunrise.

We then headed into Townsend for a stop at a combination gas station, grocery store, small restaurant/deli for a quick bite of breakfast and coffee!  We then looped back through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This included Little River Road which was a wonderful twisty road that followed a river.  About the only downside was even this early in the morning, traffic was already heavy.  From there, we took 441 which included a “spiral” that did a complete 360 (someone was thinking outside the box to design that) before a stop near the road up to Clingman's Dome.  We then headed back down through Cherokee and Bryson City before heading back up 28 to end at Fontana Village.


That was just in time to get back for the panoramic photo.  Really it was more than just in time as we actually had to wait a while to get lined up in our spot.  That did give me some time to talk with agranger and look at his radio setup.

After watching the panoramic photo, I hung out at Fontana Village for a while with some other THMMCers.  But, while watching Twister apply some decals, I missed a group headed out for a run on Wayah Road.  So once again, it was time to take off in pursuit.  Leaving Fontana Village, I saw the aftermath of yet another wreck – the fourth one for the weekend.  This one involved a MINI and a small red car at one of the entrances to Fontana Village.  It was clearly a bad wreck and I later saw some video of the wreck.

I did know they were planning to use Upper Tuskeegee Rd (which started close to my hotel) then Yellow Creek Road before coming out on Hwy 129 (near the large water line that crosses 129 for those familiar).  From there, it was down through Robbinsville (where I topped off my gas again) and on to Wayah Road.  Wayah is a nice twisty road, especially the southern part that climbs then descends a mountain in the area.  When I got to the end, I ran into a couple motorcyclists and chatted with them for a while before heading back.

After catching a bit to eat in Robbinsville, I headed on up to Deal's Gap and decided to take in another Dragon run.  Had fun on that one following a group of Mazda RX owners that were in the area for the weekend.

I got back to the motel and caught a few winks before heading back to Fontana Village for the final event – Midnight on the Dragon.  Heading out from Fontana shortly before midnight, we headed up to Deal's Gap to stage there.  From there, it was time to run the Dragon in the dark at midnight.  For the most part, this seemed to be a pretty hard core group of drivers, so the pace was definitely on the quick side.  Between the pace and the darkness, probably the most adrenaline rushing motoring I've done in my MINI.  Really not sure how my nerves made it, but it was a great way to cap things off for the weekend.


After getting back to the Tuskeegee, I was definitely wore out.  Got a good night of sleep and in the morning, headed home.  Since I made the decision to go to MOTD so late, I didn't really get a chance to participate in some of the non-driving events that are held.  But that was ok.  It gave me the opportunity to make up my own schedule.  As far as the driving, the Devil's Triangle was a great run, Midnight on the Dragon was a truly exhilarating experience, and the Sunrise drive was some nice fellowship time.  It would be nice to go again or to do MINIs Slay the Sleeping Dragon.  I guess one day the dates will fall right and/or the soccer season will not be in conflict.

As usual, there is a photo gallery with many more photos from MOTD 2011.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 04, 2011

New Galaxy Tab Triggers Updates, Changes

A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase a new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. I had been waiting a while for a good 10" Android powered tablet and finally things have worked out. Thus far the tablet itself has been wonderful.  I've been especially impressed with the battery life.  That could be because I haven't pushed it really hard.  I'll give it a workout when I watch the latest episode of Falling Skies (since I missed it this last Sunday and failed to setup the DVR). However, Honeycomb still has some rough edges (most noticeable to me are issues with the mail client). No worries as I am sure improvements are just around the corner.

With the new device, it meant getting apps installed so the tablet would fit in with my EVO and other tools. First up was Got To Do, the app I had been using for GTD. As I was visiting the app market, I noticed the tablet recognized a few apps from my EVO.  I guess the market is able to track that kind of stuff to help you stay synchronized between devices. The apps included Got To Do, yet it wouldn't download it. With some further research, I found the app had effectively been abandoned by the developer. So I decided to go with the second choice from before - Ultimate To Do List, at least partly because they have a tablet version available. Since I use ToodleDo for the backend, a couple installs and syncs and I had both devices up and running with new GTD software and all my info intact and up to date.

With the new apps, I decided to go ahead and try to incorporate some of the Do It Tomorrow/Superfocus method into the system. After using the moleskine notebooks for a while, I liked how I could move the top stuff from my GTD to Superfocus in order to stay on task. However, I didn't like the impact on my efforts to live a paperless digital life. So I am now tagging items and I've built a custom view in Ultimate on the superfocus tag. This effectively creates a pretty good replication of the right hand column, yet still within my GTD framework.

Another change I made with the tablet is the installation of Friendcaster. This is a replacement app for Facebook. The need for this is due to Facebook itself not having their own app ready (or apparently able to run on) for Honeycomb. On my EVO I didn't really like Friendcaster, but it is ok on the tablet. It does have the advantage of letting you post to pages you manage. I do have Seesmic and Hootsuite installed for that purpose as well, but haven't used them much yet. And in the process of writing this post, I've discovered they are working on a tablet version of Friendcaster.

While Friendcaster rates just average imo, I do like Tweetcaster by the same company (Handmark) for Twitter. They have a new HD version in beta that is designed for tablets. Very nice.

Amongst all the changes, I have also dropped Dropbox for a file synchronization solution.  They just had too many problems and issues with security and privacy.  I have now transitioned to SpiderOak (or use this link to sign up and we'll both get some refer-a-friend credit).  I have it running on my laptops and PCs.  For my Android devices, they have an app as well.  The only shortfall relative to Dropbox is I cannot (yet) upload files from the devices to the SpiderOak folders and have them sync so they are available on my computers.  That feature is supposedly on its way though.

Within the last couple weeks, I was also greeted with news that Logos Bible Software has finally released the beta version of their Android app.  I managed to get in on the private beta testing, though it has now gone public.  Still has a lot of work to be on par with the iPhone/iPad version.  But it is nice to at least have access to my library.

Speaking of reading on the tablet, I installed the Kindle app and downloaded a book I used to study for my recent CAPM certification renewal.  Not sure impressed is the right word, but I like the form factor and reading on the tablet more than I thought I would.  So now I'll have to resist the urge to buy ebooks through Amazon!

I am also testing an app called Slashtop Remote HD.  This lets me control/view my PC through the tablet.  I have tested it and it works great when running on the local network.  I have not yet attempted to punch a hole through my firewall to see if I can establish a connection external to the local network.  But if that works as good as it did on the LAN, it will be sweet.

I think the only other tablet app of note at this point is the Accuweather app for the tablet.  While still buggy (as I find all the weather apps for any mobile device to be), I find it works well on the 10" tablet and is relatively stable.

And in case you are wondering, yes, Angry Birds works on the tablet!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Working with Garmin gpx files

(Note - a pdf version is available)

As some folks know, a “skill” I've managed to pickup over the past couple years is the creation of routes for the GPS unit I use in my MINI. This is useful since many of our runs and rallies do not consist of the shortest route from A to B and being able to preprogram the route helps (mostly) avoid missed turns. One of my goals when I started doing them was to be able to share the routes with others in the club so they too could load them on their MINIs. It always helps to have more than one person know where they are going. So I frequently put together route files and post them on the THMMC site.

However, on occasion I find fellow motorers who need some help on the process to get the file from the Internet and onto their GPS. Especially since some care has to be taken in how you save the file. This guide will hopefully help those trying to use my routes (or anyone else's routes).

Some Basics

Before getting into the whole process, let's talk a little bit about what we are dealing with and what one needs to use the files. First up – hardware. To really make use of the route files, you will need a GPS that can load it. The routes I put together are for Garmin GPS units (alas, one day I may be able to invest in a good TomTom (which an Ease is not what I would consider a “good” TomTom) to figure out how to do a conversion). Specifically, a Garmin that can do “multi stop routing” is what is needed. You can find the models that support this on the Garmin web site using their product search function. If you already have a Garmin that does not have this feature, the files may still be useful to you as they will load as a bunch of Favorites and you can call them up as your destination (or manually create the route, which would not be too terribly difficult with my naming schemes).

The other thing I will note is that the files produced are .gpx files. If you open one, you will discover that it is really just a text file containing an XML schema. So it is not something magical. The biggest problem I see with this though is it makes working with the files a bit of a challenge. Browsers, because they see it as nothing more than a text file, like to just open them in a new window/tab if you click on the link to them. And depending on how your operating system works, it may want to automatically append a .txt file extension.

Finally, the screenshots below were all done on Windows Vista using Firefox 5.0 or on my Garmin, which is a 755 unit (a bit dated, but reliable). If you are using a different OS, browser, or Garmin model, there will obviously be differences. Hopefully you can figure out what you need to do using this.

Saving the File

The first step is to find the file and save it. Below is a screenshot of the post I made for the Blue Ridge Parkway Tour gpx file. As you can see, I have right-clicked on the link to the file and I'm ready to do a “Save Link As...”


Upon doing that, I decide where to save it. You might notice my browser thinks it is a Text Document (which is ok), but it is saving the .gpx extension (and only the .gpx extension). Remember where this directory is for later.


Getting the File Onto the Garmin

Now that we have saved the file to our computer, the next step is to copy it over to the Garmin. To start this process, plug the Garmin into your computer using the USB cable. This should cause the Garmin to power on as a USB device and on most computers, after a few seconds of waiting, will result in something similar to the Autoplay dialog box opening as shown below:


When that opens, select the option to open the folder to view files. Once that is open, you need to navigate to the Garmin/GPX folder. That is the location where you need to copy the file to. For this guide, as shown below, I've opened a second window where I saved the file initially, and I then copy and paste it into the folder on the Garmin:


Once copied over, you can close your windows and disconnect the Garmin from the computer as that ends the part of the process that involves the computer.

Importing the Route on the Garmin

The rest of our steps occur on the Garmin. The first step is to navigate to the tools area of the Garmin and scroll down to find “My Data”:


Select that to bring up the next screen:


On that screen you select “Import Route from File”. If everything has worked as planned, you should be presented with a list of the routes that are in the file. May be one route, may be several. In our example here, you can see there are several routes included. I've gone ahead and selected all of them to be imported:


Then hit the “Import” button and watch the magic progress:


Until the unit reports the import was successful. If you then back out from there, you'll eventually get back to the screen where the “My Data” icon was. You should have another icon there (technically it was there all along, I'm just now mentioning it) for “Custom Routes”. If you click on that, you will discover the list of routes:


Select one of the routes to go to the next screen that gives you some basic info about the route and options to “Go”, “Edit” or “Preview” (and I suppose “Back” is an option as well):


For now I'll just Preview the route and I see that it is in there (and for now, without zooming in to check things out, I'll assume it is accurate):


And that is it – you are ready to motor following a pre-programmed route

Hope this helps anyone have trouble. If you still experience problems though, please feel free to contact me. And if you want to donate a good TomTom that supports their version of routes to me for testing...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

R56 MINI Cooper S Bumper Replacement DIY-ish

I know I still have an MOTD recap to post, but I still have too much writing on that to hold this up.  Those following the tale of the MINI WUF know that last summer during an event at VIR, I spun off the course and thanks to heavy rain that day, the grass was like ice, sending me off into the Armco barrier.  I was extremely fortunate in that enough speed had scrubbed off that the blow was not too hard and my angle was such that the only parts damaged were the front bumper cover and some trim pieces.  (OK, technically there are some under hood cracks in a couple places, but nothing of note or a problem.)  Besides the obvious, this meant that for the past year I've been driving around in what looks like a beater MINI with a messed up front bumper, ala the photo below I recently took on the Devil's Triangle:

Bumper damage

Since it was coming out of my pocket (no insurance claim on this one), and the quotes to have someone do it were quite high, it was looking like a DIY.  The first step was to find a replacement bumper.  For that, I searched on the NAM Marketplace and found someone selling the bumper off an MCS up in the DC area.  So a road trip later, I had the bumper.

The next step was to find someone to paint it at a cost I could afford and then save up the money for it.  That included not having to drive too far.  After some searching, I found a little place close to me called Car-Art, Inc. They gave me a really cheap price.  As I discovered, it went with the motif of their shop which was along the lines of "hole in the wall".  It wasn't much to get it painted and if they do a good job, I could overlook their orderliness-challenge.


The bumper came out looking pretty good.  Hard to tell off the MINI how the paint match was since the guy basically did it from scratch.

The final step was to order some additional fasteners, as the "word" floating on the Interwebz was that you would inevitably have to destroy a couple in the process of removal.  I looked up the front bumper on and ordered all the fasteners listed from ECS Tuning.

With all the parts finally in hand and painted, it was time to tackle the job.


First up was removal of the front grille (something I've done many times).  Then the two screws right there obviously holding the bumper on.  Next I went over to the front wheel well, took out a couple fasteners and pulled back the liner.  One of the fasterners, right near the edge near the bottom is attached to the bumper, so it definitely has to come out.

Behind that there is one of the little plastic pop rivet fasteners holding the wheel arch to the black trim that runs along the bottom of the bumper.  Tough to get a grip on those to get out.  The biggest challenge was a screw in the end of the bumper that is up behind the wheel arch.  So you have to get that loosened up enough to get a T20 bit (the only tool specifically needed) on it to loosen it.

This was a pain to get to.

There are two slots/tabs from the wheel arch that go into the bumper, so those have to be undone (not difficult).

Up underneath, there are two screws like the ones up top behind the upper grille that just screw out.  There are also three of the plastic pop rivet things along there.  At least for me, I could not remove them without destroying them.  Since I knew I had replacements, I wasn't worried to take the Dremel to them.

There are three screws holding the fog light housings onto the bumpers that require the T20 bit to remove.  With most of the fasteners removed, it is not too difficult to get to them.  Along the front passenger side there is a sensor in there held with a couple clips (thermometer maybe?).

So in total, holding the bumper cover on are a total of six screws, three pop rivets, two screw fasteners, and six screws on the fog lights.  There are another couple pop rivets holding the lower black trim piece to the wheel arches.  With all of those removed, the bumper cover assembly was free and I only broke a couple tabs under the wheel arches trying to pull them out of the way.

Broken bumper gone!

Once I had it removed, I took off the lower black trim pieces (just some tabs and slots holding it on) and installed it on the new bumper.  I did have a replacement piece that had come with the bumper I bought, but I wanted to re-use mine since it has aged with the rest of the black trim on the MINI and I wanted it to match.  I also had a replacement lower grille to put in since the one I had was destroyed with the bumper cover.

After that, it was merely a matter of putting everything back on again.  I used to the two upper screws to hold the bumper roughly in place (didn't want it to fall on the floor and get scratched).  Then I worked on getting the fog light on one side reconnected and got the sensor re-installed.  Then the screw up under the wheel arch, get the tabs back in, and a new pop rivet.  Do the same on the other side, tighten up the top screws, then I put in the screws and pop rivets on the bottom.

New bumper installed.

With that done, I took care of some items before finishing up with the reinstall of the upper grille.  Overall, not a hard job, especially with the peace of mind of knowing I had plenty of replacement fasteners.  At least in the garage, the paint looks to be matched quite well.  I'll be able to tell better once I get it in the sunlight.  Unfortunately, once I had it on I could see where the paint shop left an area not quite polished completely.  Not enough for me to take it off and redo it as I have to get it at the right angle to see it.  While the price was good and they were easy to work with, not sure I'd be able to recommend the body shop.  Also, the chrome on my hood (that goes over the upper grille) still has some of the Armco paint.  Think I may leave that as a battle scar.

Anyway, another project complete and accomplished.  Total time was about 4 hours, but could probably be done much faster.  It would be interesting to know if the body shop people know of any tricks that make it easier to get the pop rivets out and to get the wheel arch out of the way.  The MINI WUF is ready to motor once again.

Ready to motor again!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fontana Dam to Incorporate

Was doing some research on the General Assembly web site and I happened to run across a bill winding its way through the process that would incorporate the Town of Fontana Dam.  Kind of hard to tell from the description, but I gather it is basically the Fontana Village property and some adjoining land (288 acres per the description).  For those not familiar with municipal corporation in NC, this basically makes it an official town.  The bill specifies they will have a Board consisting of a Mayor and four Board members (total of five including the mayor).

The bill also specifies they will have a council-manager form of government, so they'll have to hire a town manager at some point.  Since I have past experience as a town manager, I'm thinking I would be the perfect candidate.  I certainly wouldn't object to the (probable) residency requirement - sure would be tough to have to live there. Wife might have something to say about that though. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

2011 Reading Plan - Part 2

Back at the beginning of the year I posted about my plans to read the entire OT during 2011.  The plan was to divide the OT into three sections - the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  The first phase involved reading the books of the Law by the end of March.  I did accomplish that (think I actually finished a day early).

The regular reading plan has been on hold for a few weeks now while I catch my breath and prepare for the Prophets.  This also gave me a chance to finish reading Dr. Craig's book On Guard.  Last week I sat down and prepared my reading plan for the Prophets.  I have it scheduled to start on Easter Monday and to finish on July 4th.  The books included for this phase include:

  • Joshua

  • 1 Samuel

  • 2 Samuel

  • 1 Kings

  • 2 Kings

  • Isaiah

  • Jeremiah

  • Ezekiel

  • Hosea

  • Joel

  • Amos

  • Obadiah

  • Jonah

  • Micah

  • Nahum

  • Habakkuk

  • Zephaniah

  • Haggai

  • Zechariah

  • Malachi

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bullfrog Run 2011 Recap

In lieu of my normal written recap, this run's recap has been completed as a video blog.  I clearly have much to learn about making videos, but I had to start somewhere.  Hope you enjoy.  If you are interested in looking at some of the still pics, there is a gallery for the run.

THMMC Bullfrog Run 2011 from Jeff Causey on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

R56 MINI Cooper S Spark Plug Change DIY

Note: A PDF version is available.

Another DIY for me. This time a relatively simple job – changing the spark plugs on my R56 MCS. The spark plugs on an MCS should be changed every 60k miles (so I am overdue by quite a bit). On a MC the interval is 100k miles. With the way life has panned out for me, I don’t think I’ve ever changed spark plugs on a vehicle, so this was something new for me.


First up was to find the proper spark plugs. I was fortunate to find a couple threads over at Motoring Alliance on the subject. First up was a post – A Basic Guide to Spark Plugs – which helped me get up to speed. The second was a thread about what spark plugs people were using in their MINIs. I’ve gathered at this point that there are basically 3 choices (4 I suppose if you get them from the dealership) – Brisk, NGK, and Beru. NGK is what comes installed in the MINI (at least in mine they were). However, I decided I wanted to maybe notch things up just a bit compared stock, so I ordered some of the Brisk plugs - MR12YS – from Alta Performance (a Google shopping search will yield some other sources, but I couldn’t find anything cheaper than Alta, although per piece I could if I ordered six at one time as packaged for a Mitsubishi Evo 10).


Before you get started though, you will need one other special item. The stock spark plugs require a 14mm 12 point spark plug socket. This is probably not something you are going to find at the local parts store. Fortunately, BMWs require this as well, so it was not hard to find an Assenmacher (ASSSP1412) 12 Point Thin Walled 14mm Spark Plug Socket on And kudos to Tooltopia who had it to me in only about 3 days.

My final pre-install step was to gap the spark plugs (may not be necessary if you go with NGK or Beru). The Brisk plugs come with a huge gap and I had to get them down to .018”. That took some patience to do it without messing up the tip.

The installation itself took maybe 15 minutes. One tip I picked up was to remove and install one plug at a time so as not to get wires crossed up (which may not really be possible with a MINI, but better safe than sorry). So I worked right to left looking at my engine from the front of the car.

The first step is to remove the ignition coils. These are the four connectors you see along the top of the motor. There is no trick to getting them off – you just pull them straight up. Go ahead and really pull up on them!



Once you have them loose, pull them on up and out. They are about six inches long. The bottom part is rubber, so it is flexible if you are worried as you pull them out – with the wires connected, the angle gets a little sharp. Looking down, you can see the spark plug down at the bottom.



Put the socket on an extension and unscrew the spark plug. Then screw a new spark plug in. For an MCS, the spark plugs should be torqued to 14.5 lb-ft.


One issue I did run into is that the socket had such a strong grip on the spark plug, that I could not pull it back out without it coming off the extension bar. That was solved by using some electrical tape to hold the socket and the extension together:


I did use some tape and marked each of the spark plugs as I took them out (using the right to left numbers). Since the plugs I’m using required me to gap them myself and are a little different from stock in the material they use, I wanted to be sure I could revert things if something doesn’t work out. I know the plugs I’m taking out work, so if needed I can re-install them. It may not matter, but I’d want to put them back in to the same place they came out of.


Finally, below is a pic showing one of the plugs taken out and the Brisk plug next to it. The plugs that came out looked to be in pretty good condition to me. Obviously used, but no unusual discoloration.


Upon completion, I did test things out and started up the MINI. I’m glad to report that I did have fire with the successful start! And a quick drive down the road seemed to be a smooth run. I’ll keep an eye on how the MINI runs the next couple weeks to see if I notice any stumbling, misses, or major changes in fuel mileage.

The spark plug change itself is pretty easy. Hope the tips in this DIY are helpful!

Enjoy motoring!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

RMHC VIR Charity Laps Recap

MINIs join Ronald and his Clubman

This was no April Fools joke.  On Friday, April 1st, VIR partnered with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of SWVA and NC to hold a charity laps events.  For at least the past three years (and I think longer), these events have normally been held in November for the benefit of the Salvation Army.  So a spring time frame for one of these events was a new twist.

Before getting to the track, I donned my blue PUMA driving shoes in support of Autism Awareness Day and wearing blue was a sign of support for that (you'll see in one of the pics, I had on my blue shirt and hat as well).  Been a while since I've worn them, but apparently they have finally stretched out to fit my feet.  Normally they border on being too tight for me (they tend to run narrow).  Maybe because it had been a while, but I could certainly tell I had on some thin-soled shoes as I could really feel the pedals and feedback through them really well.

Ready to go for my first session

Got to the track about 9:30 in the morning and I was still in Group 2.  So it didn't look like it was going to be nearly as crowded as it was this past November.  That proved to be the case as the day panned out.  Of course, I would have thought that with the numbers down, it might be a little easier to get in some quicker runs.  That was not the case though.

For this event, they were just running it on the North Course (Bertil Roos had the South Course).  This was my first time running the North configuration.  The turn off the esses to head up into the infield was a nice corner and the additional esses are probably a lot of fun at speed.  However, there were several slow cars mixed in with the group which kept speeds down.  I noted in my second run that we were only going 20 mph through the Carousel.  For the first session, my top speed was only 83 mph.  Second session didn't exceed that.  In the third session, I managed to get up to 95 mph on the front stretch one lap.

A group of MINIs

In between sessions, we discovered that the RMHC had a Clubman that they use for getting around to events.  We managed to strike a deal to get our MINIs on pit road with the RMHC Clubman for a group photo.

So a little slower compared to the full course, but still a lot of fun.  That was helped in part due to all the THMMC MINIs who showed up.  I think we had around a dozen that attended the event.  Much better than last fall when there was only a small handful of us.  Here is the link to the page of photographs.  I also have some video that I grabbed with my new GoPro.  Still learning how to use it and how to process it into a decent video (along with the differences between vimeo and YouTube - used vimeo for this).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Direct from Japan

One of the members of the Tar Heel MINI Motoring Club has a friend who is in Japan right now.  He posted this message on our club forum giving a first hand account of what life is like over there.  Thought I would pass it along so folks could get a little more insight as to what is going on in Japan as opposed to what we hear through the news channels.
Dear friends,

Thank you again, everyone, for your thoughts and continuing pray. It's almost 1 week from last Friday.

For many of those who have been asking me update, I will some.

Nuclear plants issues we hear each hour have been unbelievable and shake my heart. There was another really big earthquake last night near Mt.Fuji that we also felt a lot even in Shiga, and that area also has nuclear plants. Weather has been also absolutely unusual these days. It's snowing here over the last couple of days as we had about 10cm snow this morning (in the middle of March!!), so this means the devastated area have more snow and cold. This unseasonable coldness put people inside of their houses/buildings where they would use so much electricity to stay warm. That makes much huge scale of blackout. Can't provide enough power to the damaged area... Vicious circle... Everything is just completely unexpected and scary.

Thank you also for sending hundreds rescue teams & specialists from all of your countries, They have been wonderful support.

After that biggest earthquake, hundreds of bigger aftershocks in whole norther east parts (Tofoku) & Tokyo area -> bigger 3 and more in Nagano -> many here and there includes a smaller one but heart-shaking one in Shiga -> a couple of in Gifu where is just east next to Shiga -> a really big one near Mt.Fuji -> another bigger one in Nagano -> A big one in Tokyo area yesterday -> many smaller but really close to us... Just too many aftershocks everywhere and too scary. Next one can be at any time anywhere. When you open the earthquake record in Japan, you see over 200 aftershocks each day still now. So, in whole nation, people tends to feel like "It's coming this way!!!!!!!", you know. It has been making people get crazy as they go and buy anything before something happens around them, any kind of food, water, drink, battery, candle, gasoline, blanket, tissue, toilet paper, under wear, spare outfit, just anything to live!, as if they are forgetting all the victims have been in much MUCH MUCH needs of those things for further looooong time. Absolutely chaos we have never ever seen before, in all over the country. With this speechless & measureless fears, thousands of foreigners living in Japan are leaving for their safer home. Can't complain at all.

These too much craziness are shame, but on the other hands every single people personally and most of Japanese companies are supporting the victims and the disaster sites and the rescue teams in many ways they can, like saving unnecessary electricity at any buildings(so that we can assist the damaged electric power company in Tokyo), reducing all kinds of power, raising donation money/goods, stopping unnecessary/non-urgent business trips then send the saved-money to the devastated area instead, etc.

Also I am very proud of Japanese people and being a Japanese. Tears come down unconsciously with many of these sweet messages.
Yes, we all Japanese will cope with, helping caring each other as we are always.

Scheduled blackout has been done in whole area in Tokyo and several major prefectures around. It's been making more chaos with million people. However, it is not as much as we expected. Surprisingly but as we could imagine, people have been caring each other very well. No car accidents with no traffic lights-on with million cars driving by in such major cities. This is impressive. Yes, people's kindness and caring are shining through in this crisis.

My brother's LakeStars has been doing great as well in this time. All their games were canceled this past weekend by the league decision as other all pro sports events were same, but instead, they had charity at a gym near here where they were supposed to play games, in order to raise donation money & goods. Since I have been so irritated not to be able to do anything for the victims and the damaged places, I grabbed my sister and collected as much money & new practical goods as possible we could get from our houses, then went to the gym. Guess what? Almost 5000 fans came up and LakeStars raised 5,300,000yen($53000)!!!! and a gym-full donation goods over the weekend. (they raised 1,500,000yen more during this past Mon-Wed!!!, so they totally did over 6,000,000yen($60000)). All of them were sent to the damaged cities today. Best team! Best fans! Again, yes, I am so proud of Japanese people and being a Japanese.

Some of you asked me if I could get through my friends in Sendai yet, where is one of the most damages cities. Thank you for your thoughts. I tried to call them many times since then, during lunch time from work, at night from home. But phone line had been too busy, and it took me 5 days, and I finally was able to hear from them last night!!!!!!! What a great relief... They live very close to the local airport where was sank by Tsunami & rubble but fortunately the flood didn't reach their house. Thank God. However, they lost many friends and relatives and neighbors, have no water, no gas, no gasoline, yet, though only electricity is back from yesterday. They say their area looks like a hell (TV shows only "nicer" issues...) but people there will never give up and carry on. Please keep praying for their further future. Other our friends in Tokyo area are all safe.

Many of you asked how you could help Japan. Maybe one of the ways is donating to Japanese Red Cross.
That would be so much helpful.

My family and myself have been doing well. Everyone is terrifying to see any videos about the devastation, but we have been saving any kind of power and money and goods to send them to the victims again. It's been extremely cold for March, roads got icy and bumpy, but we don't complain at all thinking of all the victims evacuating in much colder air.

We feel all of your thoughts and that make our hearts so warm.
Thank you so much. We truly appreciate.

Stay safe.
Thinking of you all,


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

BSM Colossians Study - Wk 2 Pt 3

OK, so time got away from me this past week and this final entry is late, late, late.  But it was worth it as I went ever so slightly off on a tangent that was quite rewarding for this final part.  I actually started this last post of this week's study last night.  It started out addressing the question of what Paul is needing clarity about in v4 of our key passage for the week (Col. 4:3-4) -
3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison — 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

The question really goes to what "it" is referring to in the sentence.  But before I get into that (hint - covered in the first two parts), I took a look at some translations to see how the word "clear" came out.  For this particular passage it tended toward one of two words:
Col. 4:4 (ESV) - that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak

Col. 4:4 (ASV) - that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

Col. 4:4 (TNIV) - Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

Col. 4:4 (NKJV) - that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

We have clear/clearly or manifest.  I decided to look up manifest.  My initial thought is to define manifest as making something tangible, but that doesn't really fit in this context.  The definition I found was "easily understood or recognized by the mind".  So by this, Paul is indicating he wants to make "it" easily understood.  That makes sense and it works if we use the translation of "clear" as well.  So looking up a word I thought I knew pays off!

Oh, but I wasn't done yet.  I decided to do a search on the Greek lemma for φανερόω.  This returned 49 hits in the ESV (and I decided to search for it in the NKJV as well and got 49 hits there as well, although the verse count differed - 44 verses in the ESV and 43 in the NKJV).

There was quite a bit of variation in how the Greek was translated as well - manifest, appear, reveal, seen, show, display, known, visible, plain and a few others.  Although there were lots of different translations for this one Greek word, I think we can see the concept is very similar.  And if I kept the definition of manifest in mind - making something easily understood - it added some richness to the reading of some other passages.

For example, in another passage from one of Paul's writings, Titus 1:2-3 -
2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior

we see the claim that God "made clearly understood" the hope of eternal life through Paul's preaching (and note how this is similar to the ideas I am studying in this week's Colossians passage).  But it was not just Paul who used it in this way.  Check out these passages from Peter and John -
1 Peter 1:20 - He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

1 John 1:2 - the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—

At least for me, if I read those passages and use this idea of something being made easily understood or known in place of manifest, it helps me understand a little better what the writers were trying to communicate.  I even found a passage where Jesus used the same word (John 17:6) -
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

We see Jesus in this prayer indicating that he has made God's name easily understood and known to the people.

It is not without some sense of irony that I note how much studying I've had to do to get to where I understand things are to be easily understood.  I tend to think this is probably due to all complications we humans bring to the table.

Building on my earlier work, the "it" refers to the mystery of Christ - that is, God's plan for us and his creation as revealed through Jesus.  And if we each believe in Jesus as our savior, God's plan is with each of us.  We are not cut off from it nor do we have to go through others - all we have to do is turn to God's Word in order to understand it.

The BSM study asks a couple concluding questions for the week.  First, how can we experience the mystery of Christ more often?  Second, what would change about our current circumstances if we experienced the mystery of Christ of more often?  The answer that immediately comes to my mind is to spend time reading the Bible, some time in prayer, and some time thinking about (and doing!) how we can follow the model revealed to us through Jesus.  I suppose everyone's circumstances are different so the change will be very different for everyone.  I think at the very least everyone would experience some more peace in their lives no matter what circumstances they are dealing with.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 14, 2011

BSM Colossians Study - Wk 2 Pt 2

A short post this evening to follow up on Part 1 of the second week of my Colossians study.  When I left off, I was exploring the concept of Christ as mystery.  The BSM study guide concludes the study of mystery with the question of what Paul's understanding of the mystery of Christ prompted him to do and helped him to understand.

I think the answer to that question is probably found in Eph. 1:10 in which God's plan includes "unite all things in him".  Paul is able to see that this includes Gentiles as well as Jews.  In taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, Paul was willing to go to prison and suffer persecution to try to help "all things" become united with God.  In my next part, I'll take a look at what we may be able to do now with this understanding.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More GTD Mods - Adding Superfocus to the Mix


One of the recurring topics here on the blog is my attempt to improve my productivity.  My main method for staying on top of everything I have to get done is the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology.  My last mention of it was when I got my new HTC EVO a couple months ago and the search for a replacement app for ToDo by Appigo.  After some testing, I ended up going with Got To Do.  It has served as a more than capable replacement.

Outside of the digital search, something else I had done was introduce a new context - Actions - Urgent, for things I really needed to get to during the upcoming week.  In general, I felt like that was a positive change.  For the most part, the things that need to trickle up to the top of the list do so.  And it has caused me to be much more diligent about conducting my weekly reviews. The only problem is that over time the line has been blurring between items that are really urgent and need to be completed in the upcoming week and those that are just next actions.  This has resulted in some frequent adjustments to the tasks.

One of the mailing lists that I am on is a GTD list and a recent discussion had to do with a comparison of the Do It Tomorrow methods with GTD.  So I did some research into this methodology created by Mark Forster and just finished reading Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management.  There were some interesting concepts in there, especially on tips and techniques to stay on task and to avoid the effects of procrastination.  Also some interesting bits about two "parts" to our brain - the rational part and the reactive part.  The reactive part is what wants to avoid work, so the rational part has to use some tricks to get past those defenses.  Can't really say there was a whole lot as far as a methodology.  I'll probably be able to use some of it in my work.

Of more use has been something I found on Mark Forster's web site about a concept called SuperFocus.  I gather from some of what I've read, this is a successor to another methodology he created called AutoFocus (maybe up through version 4?).  You can read the web site for information on how the system works.  One downside to it is that there is a dearth of apps for SuperFocus.  I did find one for Android - ActionFocus - but I still haven't fully tested it.

The system seems to be much more centered on a low tech paper and pen approach.  And here I am on a paperless digital life list as well, introducing a paper system into my life.  Anyway, I invested in a MoleSkine pad and a dedicated pen.  At this point, I am basically taking the items from my Actions - Urgent context in GTD and moving them over to the first column of the SuperFocus pad.  I've been using the system for about a week now and I do think I managed to complete more than I normally would have.

The strength of the system seems to be in helping me to focus on the activities and tasks that I really need to get done instead of them getting lost in the relative noise of the GTD system.  Combined with some of the techniques from DIT, I think I can squeeze even more productivity out of myself.

Of course, there are some weaknesses to the system as well.  First, the aforementioned low tech approach.  That leads to the second weakness - I can really only use the Moleskine for one folder.  In this case it is work.  It does not really seem suited to adding in tasks and actions from some of my personal activities without introducing a new Moleskine (ideally, one per folder, but I could possibly limit it to a second "Personal" folder and combine stuff from GTD).

Early indications are that the SuperFocus technique will be an effective extension of my GTD methods and will help me get things done once they have trickled up to be at or near the center of my focus.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

BSM Colossians Study - Wk 2 Pt 1

Clearly I'm late in posting anything this week, but I'll still have at least a couple posts as I continue my study of Colossians.  This week started with another reading out loud from Colossians.  This week it was Col. 1:1-4:4.  Our main passage of focus this week is Col. 4:3-4 -
3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison — 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

The first question to address as we reflect on this passage is what should we be praying for.  I could possibly go into the answer being an ability to "declare the mystery of Christ" - that is, sharing our testimony and our faith that others may receive the Word.  I think the more immediate answer comes from "for us", in which Paul is asking those in Colossae to pray for him.  I would suppose by that extension, "us" also includes those who may be in prison with him or elsewhere "on account" of their preaching.  So one possible group we should be praying for are those who are persecuted for their faith.  The second possible group would be those who are "leaders" in the church.  Paul recognized that, even in his position, he still needed the prayers and support of others.

The second question is "who opens doors".  The answer to that should be pretty obvious - God.  I was a little surprised the BSM study guide didn't ask what was meant by "a door" in v3. (Note - add that to my GTD someday/maybe list of items to study).

Moving on, the next point to study is the term "mystery" that Paul uses to describe Christ in v3.  A search on the Greek μυστήριον resulted in 27 hits in the NT.  Pretty consistently, the word is translated as either mystery, mysteries, or secret.  Paul uses the word earlier in Col. 1:26 -
the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

and again in Col. 2:2 -
that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

Again we see in this second passage that it is pretty clearly indicated that Christ is the mystery.  Not Christ is a mystery - Christ is the mystery.  So what is this mystery?  A word study indicates mystery usually refers to some unknown that can only be discovered through some divine revelation.  In the OT, this was usually accomplished through some designated intermediary (Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans).

This quality of the mystery being obtained only through revelation is reinforced in the NT in Eph. 3:3 -
how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

where we see Paul indicating that the mystery was made known to him through revelation.  The BSM study guide included that passage along with others in Ephesians (Eph. 1:9, 5:32, 6:19) that may help us understand Paul's use of the word mystery.

Another quality frequently associated with the idea of the mystery is that it is eschatological in nature.  That is, it has to do with end times.  Not in the sense of us knowing when the end may occur, but more in the sense of what God's ultimate plan may be.  We find a clue to this in Eph. 1:9-10 -
9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

We see here the plan is to unite all things, both in heaven and earth.  Trying to piece this together, we get a sense that the idea is that the mystery has to do with how God will ultimately reconcile his creation back to a state of holiness with him.

While we now have some understanding of what the mystery is, I suppose the question still remains as to how Christ is the mystery.  According to Opening Up Colossians and Philemon, (McNaughton, Ian S. Opening Up Colossians and Philemon. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), Christ represents the mystery in that Jesus can now dwell within each of us.  So within each of us, through our faith, we can access the "love, joy, and peace" of God.  Note the difference between this and the earlier note about the OT mystery only being accessible through intermediaries.  There are no walls or veils to separate us from God.  Christ provides each of us access to God.

Quite a bit to ponder with this post.  There is a bit more to this particular topic of the mystery of Christ, but I think I will leave that for the next post.  Until then, enjoy pondering these questions yourself!

Monday, March 07, 2011

BSM Colossians Study - Wk 1 Pt 4

This is the final entry for week 1 of the BSM study of Colossians.  Unlike the last three where I had to do some actual research and writing, this is a pretty quick post.  Really it just consists of some questions to ponder and a challenge for the upcoming week.

First, name four things to be thankful for.

Second, name three things to watch for.

Then consider how your life might be different if you were to focus on these things and even make changes in your life based on them.  Would things be different?  Would you be a different person?

BSM suggests doing/considering these seven items for a week to see if any habits develop (way too short a time for a habit to develop imo).  Reflect and pray not only on these questions during the upcoming week, but think about some of the ideas I've written about in the first three parts.

Be on the lookout for the week 2 postings to start in a day or two.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

BSM Colossians Study - Wk 1 Pt 3

Our next step in this week's study of Colossians is to consider the idea of "being watchful" as found in Col. 4:2 -
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

My study guide mentions it doesn't mean "worryiing".  I found that a little odd as I wouldn't have thought of that as the meaning anyway.  A search on the Greek word (really the lemma) used in the passage (γρηγορέω) resulted in 22 matches in the NT.  A search of the ESV resulted in 37 matches.  The Greek meaning comes back to four primary ideas - "stay awake", "watch", "be alert", "wake up".

Should be pretty clear this is a word that may be of particular note in the context of this blog (see Mark 13:34-37) which uses the same word that Paul uses in the Colossians passage.  Besides the Gospel use of this word, I found a similar usage in Rev. 3:2-3 where the church in Sardis is given a similar warning about waking up so that they will not miss the return of Christ.

The BSM study guide suggested reading Gal. 5-6 regarding this word, which did not pop up in my search on the Greek, but it did when I was searching the ESV.  In Gal. 5:15 we read:
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

and in Gal. 6:1 we find:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Both of these passages seem to focus more on watching out for our own actions and attitudes so as not to fall prey to earthly problems and temptations.  Not so much watching for the return of the Master.  So it is a different spin.

I think one reason the BSM study guide is connecting these Galatian passages with Col. 4:2 as it seems to fit the context of Paul's writing.  As you may recall from my previous post, when writing this letter Paul was aware of divisions in the church at Colossae.  So we have two passages that have to do with watching our brothers (note - in a spirit of gentleness).  This is for the purpose of helping avoid temptations.

If we were to take that concept and apply it to prayers being done while watchful, we might be able to conclude that Paul is urging those in Colossae to use their prayers in a way that will help them not fall into the false teachings and in a way that will support each other.  This might also serve them to avoid approaching prayer from the perspective of supporting their own position - that is, avoiding the trap of division that Satan may be laying for them.

Se we have two possible ways to engage in prayer in a way that is watchful.  One is to help us avoid the temptations of this world.  The other is to help us remain ready for the return of Christ (which might be an extension of avoiding the power of this world).

Ponder on this and the previous postings.  I'll have one post related to Week 1.  Until then, reflect and pray on what I've covered so far.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

BSM Colossians Study - Wk 1 Part 2

Yesterday's post laid out the start of this Bible study I am trying to pursue for the next eight weeks.  Yesterday's post described a quick survey of the words thankfulness and thanksgiving in the NT, keyed off of Col. 4:2.  Tonight we continue to the focus on thanks, but limiting it to three passages in Colossians. They are the previously mentioned Col. 4:2 -
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Col. 1:3 -
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,

and Col. 3:15
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

The study guide asks us to ponder Paul's view of thankfulness, when he is thankful and why he is thankful.  A couple "setting" issues may be helpful to our understanding.  First, Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this letter.  And we should probably keep in mind that not only was he in prison, he was in prison because of his faith in Christ.  The second item of note is that the church at Colossae was having some trouble as well.  The commentaries I got through all indicate this was due to a faction that was perverting the Gospel, some specifically calling it out as Gnostics doing this.  By Gnostics, the reference is to some believers who believed in a dualism between the spiritual/heavenly world and the material world.  Probably most concerning to Paul were some of the teachings of these Gnostics that one had to achieve a special knowledge in order to be "saved".

So, Paul was located in a bad place physically (prison) and dealing with the hardship that entailed.  And he was trying to deal with a group of people who were causing all sorts of drama and strife for a church (to put it mildly).  It seems to me it would be easy for someone in that situation to "write off" the people at the church.  I know sometimes when I have to deal with people causing problems, especially when it is not something directly affecting me, it is very tempting to treat them as "out of sight, out of mind".  Why waste my time on them, right?  And for someone in prison or some other difficult situation, it becomes even easier - "hey, I have my own problems to deal with."

But in v1:3, we see Paul still giving thanks for those in Colossae when he prays.  In v3:15 we see him urging those he prays for to also be thankful.  Note that being thankful is included in this passage along with letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.  It is not just having that peace - it is being thankful also.  And finally, we see in v4:2 that he urges believers to include thanksgiving when praying.  And since prayer is a continuous action, thanksgiving is a continuous action as well.

I will note that the commentaries I reviewed mentioned one of the concepts I noted in last night's post - the idea that prayer and thanksgiving go hand in hand with each other.  And as we see, always praying and giving thanks, includes those times and situations when we think we are burdened and it should include others who are struggling.  As one commentary put it, giving thanks is:
a biblical world-view that God is with us and for us even amidst the difficulties and circumstances of this fallen world!
Utley, R. J. D. (1997). Vol. Volume 8: Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians). Study Guide Commentary Series (45). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

As I close out this installment, I think the one issue that could use a little more reflection is why Paul is thankful.  I think I may sleep on that and see if something makes more sense to me tomorrow night.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

BSM Colossians Study - Wk 1 Part 1

OK, I really have no idea of what I am about to write or how this is going to pan out.  As you might have figured out from the title, this is not only the first of what I anticipate to be several posts on this subject, this is the first week of several weeks.  Is that how it will work out?  I do not know.  But I am just going to start writing and maybe this will turn into something that actually requires multiple parts.  And rest assured, for this particular entry I have a few notes put together, but I haven't really given any thought to structure, so who know how disjointed this will be.

Now that you've been warned that you may be wandering in circles in the forest if you try to follow along with me, onto a description of the content.  I recently started receiving Bible Study Magazine.  Each issue (well, the two I've received so far) has an 8-week Bible study plan in it.  I'm going to give this issue's study plan a try and I figured I would share the journey via some blog posts, maybe some Twitter and FB updates.  With this being the second day, I'm already seeing I could spend a whole lot more time on each topic, but I'll try to keep the pace BSM has established.

This particular study plan is titled "Being Like Jesus" and is a study in Colossians.  The first week is on Why We Pray.  The first step is to read the entire book of Colossians in one sitting.  But there is more.  It should be read out loud (that is how it was originally meant to be communicated).  I did that last night after giving my wife fair warning that I had not lost my mind (after all, how many times do you hear anyone read more than a couple sentences of anything out loud).

On this second night, the first item to address is Colossians 4:2:
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

I did compare this text from the ESV with some other translations.  A frequent translation for "continue steadfastly" seems to be "devote".  Watchful tends to be the same although I found a translation that uses "alert mind".  Thanksgiving is kind of all over the place - thankful, thankful heart, thanks.

BSM indicates the ideas of thankfulness and watchfulness are key concepts.  So the first stop is to do a little more research into the idea of "thankfulness".  I did a search of the NT on thankfulness (which also returned hits on "thanks") which yielded 56 results in 53 verses.  A few common threads seemed to emerge:

  • Thanks was used during the miracle of the loaves and fishes;

  • Thanks was used during the institution of the Lord's Supper;

  • Throughout the NT it was frequently used to express thanks to God;

  • It was also used when urging believers to give thanks for each other;

  • Many passages use wording similar to Colossians 4:2 in that thanks are given as part of prayer and that prayer should be an "always" activity.

A coupld passages did stand out to me.  First was Romans 1:21 -
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Here Paul was describing unbelievers and I noted that they failed to do two things - honor God and give thanks.  Combined with their foolishness, they are headed down a dark path.

The other passage was 1 Corinthians 14:17 -
For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.

I found this interesting in that one of the results of giving thanks should be to build up others.  To me, this starts to touch on the ideas of mission and the Great Commission - part of our duty to call others.

With all of these passages, I noted that Philippians 4 did not pop up and BSM had specifically mentioned this as a chapter to consider.  Looking at it, I decided to do an additional search on the word "thanksgiving".  This yielded 13 results.  Of these, once again two passages seemed particularly noteworthy.  First up is 2 Corinthians 4:15 -
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Here we see that an increase in thanksgiving is connected to the glory of God.  That probably struck me after studying the doctrine of Soli Deo gloria last year.  The other passage is Philippians 4:6 -
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

This passage describes how our prayers are to be done with thanksgiving, echoing the same idea found in Colossians 4:2.

And that is where I will leave things at the end of this night.  If all goes well, I suppose I will have another entry tomorrow night that continues this study.  If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

What Do You Mean, "Throttle back"?

Seems so much effort is put into doing things faster, more efficiently, with more power, etc., it is an oddity when I have to seek out a solution to a problem that requires slowing things down.  But I just had to do that recently with my laptop.  Seems I have a fan that has gone bad and when the cpu gets used intensively, it heats up to the point the laptop will shut itself down in an effort to save itself from turning into a molten pool of electrical bits (and possibly burning down something like say, our house, in the process).

I have a challenge though with some software I run - Logos Bible Software - that I use for Bible study.  Whenever the indexer runs, it will peg the cpu at as close to 100% as it can get.  Only a few minutes of this will raise the cpu temp to a critical level.  This is normally not much of a problem as once the indexer runs the "first time" it doesn't have to do much after that.

However, the "first time" occurs after the software is updated in a way that requires a new index to be built.  That happened this week.  So now the indexer is starting from scratch.  I figure it would normally be about a 2 hour job to index everything if the fans were working properly.  No telling how long it would take if I had to sit here and keep pausing and restarting it.  In about 30 minutes last night I made it through about 7%.  But killing the indexer causes it to start over.

This led me to look for something to help control how many cpu cycles are being consumed by the indexer process.  My first try was to just try to set the priority lower (to the lowest level available).  That worked a little bit, but eventually it wound itself up into the 80%+ range which is enough to raise the cpu temp to the critical level given enough time.

A search of the web led me to Battle Encoder Shirase (aka BES), a small utility that let's you place a limit on a process.  I put that on and set it to limit the indexer to no more than 60% cpu usage.  Thus far it seems to be working well.  cpu usage is limited as it says it does and the cpu temp is holding in an acceptable range.  The drawback is the indexing is a lot slower.  In roughly 45 minutes it has completed about 15%.  But at least I can step away and work on some other stuff.

So nothing really amazing, but just wanted to report on an issue and a solution.  Never know when it might help someone else.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

MINI Cooper S - Three Years of Ownership


Today is the three year anniversary for ownership of my MINI Cooper S.  I've updated the list below that I posted on the THMMC forum last year when I hit the 50,000 mile mark and my warranty ended.  There are a few new items added to the list.

  • 74,900 miles (will hit 75k tomorrow)

  • been to 15 states plus Washington, DC

  • two out and back runs on The Dragon

  • one Blimey Tour of Terror

  • three End-to-End drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway

  • three days spent on VIR as part of Holiday Laps events

  • one day spent on VIR in the rain where I managed to spin into the Armco and effectively destroy the front bumper cover (repairs still pending)

  • one The Great Ice Cream Run 2

  • one not a Bar Harbor Invasion invasion

  • one MINIS ON TOP event

  • three Bullfrog Runs

  • two Turkey Strut Rallies

  • two Covered Bridge Runs

  • forever connected to one legendary U-turn

  • one set of Goodyear runflat tires, one set of Yokohama S.drives, now running Continental ExtremeContact DW

  • one set of brakes and rotors all around, now running Hawk HPS pads with Centric rotors

  • one manual transmission fluid drain and refill

  • several oil changes done in my garage

  • replaced hood, headlamp, trim courtesy Bambi

  • replaced malfunctioning boot latch under warranty

  • replaced thermostat under warranty

  • replaced heat exchanger under warranty

  • replaced chain tensioner under warranty

  • fixed squeaking clutch pedal under warranty

  • installed stripes on my own (bonnet and boot)

  • installed and hardwired Garmin Nuvi

  • installed automatic Sport Button On mod

  • average speed of about 45 mph

  • about 12 MINI related t-shirts

  • 6 MINI related ballcaps

  • about 3,500 pictures

  • visited the two highest peaks east of the Mississippi

  • several meals at Brown's Restaurant in Sparta, NC

  • picture next to a giant roller skate

  • picture next to a giant Indian statute

  • like thousands of twisties

  • lots of THMMC events

  • many, many new MINI friends

Overall, the MINI has been a reliable car.  Even the couple times I've had to take it in for repairs at the dealership, the folks at both Flow MINI in Winston-Salem and Flow MINI of Raleigh have excelled in their customer service and made sure I had a loaner to use if needed and really helped keep me motoring.


Besides the very light mods I've done, this year I undertook to replace my brake pads and rotors on my own.  That is a job that I normally would have just had a brake shop do in the past.  But the MINI has awakened the inner shade tree mechanic in me.  Which I find a bit ironic given all the electrical/computer wizardry that is used in modern autos compared to the cars of my youth.

And of note have been the folks with the THMMC along with MINI enthusiasts I've met from all across the country and from many other clubs.  The friendships I have formed have been a nice bonus.