The cartoon church

Dave Walker is a terrrific cartoonist who works with Christian themes. He’s launched a new site, The Cartoon Church, to showcase his work. You can view it online or purchase it for use in your own church publications. (Prices are in pounds UK, so check the exchange rate first.) There’s also a blog associated with the site. Check it out, won’t you?

Personal Energy Transportation

This morning, Freddie Brown from Blackman UMC in Murfreesboro spoke to our United Methodist Men’s club about the Personal Energy
Transportation project.

Personal Energy Transportation model

This program creates hand-made, hand-cranked wheelchairs especially designed for use in the developing world, where terrain may not be suitable for traditional western wheelchairs. Volunteers make parts for the wheelchairs, often in their own home workshops, and then there are various assembly centers around the country where the chairs are put together and shipped overseas (packed in clothing, and including maintenance supplies such as wrenches and a tire patch kit).

The program is based in Florida but has satellites around the country, including Murfreesboro.

Saponification ho!

Last weekend’s soap-making, as I posted, was a good introduction to the basic technique, but the resulting soap was softer than it should have been because we did not have a scale with which to measure our ingredients by weight. I haven’t thrown it out; I’ve kept the block wrapped in paper towel, in hopes of wicking away some of the excess moisture. But it’s still soft and slightly squishy. I could, once it’s cured, probably dilute it and use it for liquid hand soap or something.

Well, I tried again — this time, without Carolyn Schussler to advise me — this afternoon. So far, so good. I got a trace after about an hour and a half. The “trace” stage, in soap-making, means that the lye-and-fat mixture is thick enough that when you pick up your spoon and drizzle a stream onto the top of the mixture, it stays there.

I’m still kind of paranoid about the lye; I even took off my normal glasses and donned safety goggles from my tool box. And I didn’t think to pick up any essential oils. Homemade soap is usually scented with essential oils, not perfumes or extracts. At the time you add the scent, the soap is still chemically quite active, and it often kills the scent of perfumes or extracts by the times it’s finished curing. Also, I think the alcohol is supposed to be bad for the soap-making process somehow.

Still, I didn’t want my soap to smell like lard. I took a little peppermint extract from the cupboard and nuked it for a few seconds to evaporate some of the alcohol. I added it at the trace stage, just before pouring the mixture into molds. We’ll see how it works.

I should be able to see tomorrow whether this batch is firmer than last weekend’s. However, it will take a couple of months to cure before it can be used.

(In case you want to know about the post title, “saponification” is the process by which lye and fat react to create soap.)


I’ve always wanted to visit the U.K., and during the Kenya trip last year it was really quite frustrating to be there — we were flying British Airways, and had layovers at Heathrow in both directions — and not be able to leave the airport.

This time, we’ll be on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and so this year’s City I’ll Miss Actually Seeing will be Amsterdam.

Sibling pride

My sister, a single mom with three kids, has been taking some online courses from a community college. One of them was a speech communications class. She asked me for advice several times while putting together presentations, but I was really impressed by how much work and thought she was putting in — and that’s in between her job and a busy sports schedule for all three of the kids.

She got her final grade today; she was expecting a C but hoping for a B.

What she got was an A.

Speaking as her big brother, I am very proud.

The good, the bad and the ugly

John, Paul and Frank
I’ll let you sort out which one is which.

Seriously, this is me, Pastor Paul Mbithi and Frank Schroer tonight in Tracy City, where LEAMIS threw a surprise American-style birthday party for Pastor Paul before he and Grace return to Kenya later this week. My parents and I drove up for the party so that they could meet Paul and Grace (and some of my other LEAMIS friends). A good time was had by all, and we watched a terrific DVD that Kylene had made up for her partners of last year’s trip photos.

I’m excited about Kisii this fall, but I will really miss being able to work with Paul and Grace, who are two remarkable servants of God.

Hitchhiker’s followup

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyGeorganna, a fan of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” books who doubts she would enjoy the movie, expressed some puzzlement at my previous comment about Zaphod Beeblebrox’s two heads. She noted no two-headed actors in the cast list, after all.

I’ve only seen snippets of the old BBC TV series of “Hitchhiker’s,” but if I recall correctly they used a crude physical special effect to put a second head on Zaphod’s shoulders. The new movie handles things a bit differently. Zaphod appears normal most of the time, but when his second head is referred to, he leans his (primary) head back and a second “head” — little more than a face — appears about where his throat should be. The effect is annoying, and doesn’t ring true to what’s being referred to in the dialogue, even for such a bizarre and whimsical concept. However, Zaphod’s second head is removed and held for ransom at one point in the movie, and so we don’t have to worry with it after that.

Phisch, meanwhile, has the opposite problem. She asks if the movie would be at all accessible to someone with no knowledge of the books.

To be honest, I have no way of answering that question. I’ve read and re-read the books so many times since 1981 that there’s no telling how much I took for granted while watching the movie. I know the story so well that it’s hard for me to even imagine watching it from the point of view of a novice.

On the other hand, I think you could get much of the humor even if some of the plot twists left you scratching your head on first viewing. And the special effects will be much more effective on the big screen.

So I guess I’m not being helpful at all.