A Family Outing at Stanley Park

Saturday, July 11, 2020

No, this isn’t the famous 405-acre Stanley Park you can walk, bike, or drive through in the heart of Vancouver. That Stanley Park is perhaps one of the coolest places on earth, with all the western red cedars towering above you and the enjoyable biking wrapping around the whole of the park.

No, this is definitely not that Stanley Park.

It has been awhile since I did a photo dump here on The Newsprint, so why not.

I should take delivery of the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 RF-L zoom lens this coming week and am very excited to put it through the paces. This may be the most boring lens one could possibly purchase, but I’m grateful to have an ultra-versatile lens that I can use for portraits, wide-angle shots of the kids, and product photos in my home office.

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The Importance of Meeting Together

Thursday, July 09, 2020

I absolutely loved this blog post from Chris Bowler, which was written as a response to a few of my friend Drew Coffman’s tweets. First, Coffman’s tweets:

A real bummer about not attending a church is that when you tell that to Christians they assume you’re a burnout. What if you just…don’t…like church? The fact that we’ve so intermingled the concept of “person of faith” and “church-goer” is troubling

Bowler’s response is fantastic. First:

Now I don’t know exactly what Drew means when he says church. There’s church (the building you go to, or the event that happens on Sunday (sorry, Adventist friends)), and then there’s the Church. This is why words are so important, and I so wish I could visit Drew in person, maybe at the café he built a couple years back, and we could discuss this face to face. But the internet does ok in a pinch.

But I’m pretty sure Drew means little c church. I’d bet he really likes big C church, the fellowship comprised of the children of God spread across the globe and across time. It’s a pretty important group if you are a follower of Christ. It’s not a place, but the spirit of God indwelling in hundreds, thousands, millions(?) of people.

And the Bible is pretty clear that if we are a follower of Christ, we’re to spend time with others like us.

Bowler’s first comments about growing up outside the church echo my own experiences.

I grew up in a Christian home — one which read Bible stories and discussed Bible stories for hours every Sunday; one which prayed before every meal, before bed, and during major Christian holidays; and one which held differing points of view, but always strove to put God at the pinnacle of all creation and one that believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I hold all these beliefs near and dear to my heart, to this day. More now than ever before, I’d say.

Growing up, my family didn’t attend church because of a terrible life event before I was born — one of those bad events that would cause any family to turn away from church, or perhaps turn away from God entirely. There are those inside the church who use any power possible to hold leverage over others. My family ran into one of those people.1

As such, I strayed away from church until my mid-20s. It was only after my wife and I had our first child that I entertained the possibility of going to church on a Sunday morning. It took even longer still to find a church I was comfortable attending.

We found that church, and we eagerly await the chance at a re-opening.

These are all little “c” church experiences. I’ve always felt part of the Big “C” Church, even if pushed to the fringes because of the effects of individual little “c” churches.

All of this to say: I was with Drew for a very, very long time in my life. I didn’t believe you needed to attend church to be a Christian. I didn’t believe you needed to be a Christian to be a good person (though I still don’t believe in this type of exclusivity — just the exclusivity of the rights and privileges afforded someone who believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ). I didn’t believe the pastor or priest had all the answers to all the questions. (I definitely still don’t believe this.)

I still don’t know if I believe you must attend church to be a Christian. I was a Christian before I regularly attended church and I believe I am a Christian now, through the pandemic, without attending church.

But I have experienced, without a doubt, a major benefit in sharing time with those who want to discuss the Gospel, in sharing time with those who want to pray.

And as Bowler points out, there are many hints of these benefits in the Bible itself.

It’s very easy to see the power that groups provide for a person’s assurances. Just take a look at the world around us right now — the modern social culture feels increasingly skewed toward large segments of characteristically-like groups, while the singled-out individual who finds themselves on the fringes of society is powerless and infinitely vulnerable. One dares not to question or provoke the group right now, for fear of one’s core beliefs being attacked and brought back in line with the mainstream.

I mean, this is one of the core tenets of baptism, is it not? A public display of devoting your life to Jesus Christ and a proclamation of your believe in the resurrection? A group of people must be at a baptism to witness it, and subsequently play the role of fatherly accountability should the believer stray away.

So, is it a good thing to attend church if you are a Christian? I believe the assurances and genuine compassion of the Big “C” Church is one of the most amazing things I discovered after I began attending church a few years ago. Where before I fought to tear down pastors and their work because of their inability to answer life’s hardest questions, I now see an individual attempting to do God’s work here on earth, albeit with the individual, earthly, fleshly flaws we all carry.

But, must you attend church if you are a Christian?

John wrote the Revelation while in exile on Patmos.

Paul (arguably) wrote multiple epistles while in prison.

John the Baptist came out of the desert to proclaim the news that the Messiah was coming.

Sometimes, human beings get in the way of God trying to speak to us.

(Conversely, Satan himself tempts Christ only at the very tail of his individual 40-day stint in the desert. On our own, thirsty, and hungry, surely we are at our most vulnerable.)

I sympathize with Drew immensely here. I also (now) strongly believe worshiping in the midst of others has powerful impacts on one’s faith.

As always, I believe one needs a little of both to properly walk the path God wants us to walk.

  1. These people are few and far between. Rare, even. The rarest, even more still. They make the news because of the positions of power they’ve been put into. And, of course, as Jesus’s brother James so eloquently put in James 3:1-2: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 

The Newsprint’s New RSS Feed

Monday, July 06, 2020

It appears I ran into Father Time when it comes to my RSS hosting service of choice. The Newsprint’s RSS feed has been hosted by Feedpress since day one, all the way back in 2014 or sometime around there. Since then, Feedpress has gone one way and the blogging industry has gone another.

As a result, my grandfathered RSS account expired with Feedpress in the last few weeks. And nobody has been receiving any RSS updates since.

Today, The Newsprint is debuting a new RSS feed hosted by Feedio. Feedio has loads of neat features, and the free tier may be one of the most generous free tiers around.

One of those neat features is the ability to subscribe to this site via email instead of RSS. With my newfound love of email (specifically, HEY email), I thought this was a feature worth having. And it indeed has me pondering what a Newsprint Newsletter would look like.

You can find the new RSS feed right here and you can subscribe any way you’d like.

I anticipate I’m going to lose a plethora of subscribers by having to do this. But there’s nothing quite like a fresh start!

My First Impressions Review of the New HEY Email Service

Thursday, July 02, 2020

HEY Email on The Sweet Setup

HEY Email has become the most revolutionary app I’ve ever tried.

I don’t always link to my work on The Sweet Setup, but HEY is too important. In two short weeks, HEY has proven itself to be the most revolutionary app or service I’ve ever used.

Seriously. I tried to steer clear here of hyperbole. But I mean it.

I had to write an exam this past Monday. It was one of those exams I was supposed to write back in December (but we had a baby) and then in April (but COVID), so the result was the first exam I’ve written in my own basement. It was quite the experience.

Do Not Disturb worked wonders to keep any devices at bay during the exam. But after I was done writing, it was clear I had missed the-day-before-the-tax-deadline-day-of-work in terms of messages and phone calls. I’m very glad Do Not Disturb works as well as it does.

But email?

Normally, there’d be at least 30 spammy marketing emails pestering my inbox that I’d have to comb through to find the important work or personal emails.

HEY flipped this experience on its head.

So while I expected to have 4 or 5 missed phone calls, 10 or 11 missed messages, and 35 missed emails, I instead had 4 or 5 missed phone calls, 10 or 11 missed messages, and only 2 missed emails.

This has been revolutionary for me. I can only imagine how revolutionary it would be for someone with double, triple, or 10 times my amount of daily email.

To drive the monumental change home for me: I’ve switched more correspondence to email in the last two weeks, I’ve subscribed to more newsletters in the last two weeks, and I’ve checked email less often in the last two weeks than ever before.

Email is finally great.

HEY costs a cool $99/year, which is more than $0.00 if you’re used to doing email for free, but which isn’t all that far off from Gmail or Exchange if you normally pay $10 or so per month.1 I think anyone used to paying for email will look at $99 like it’s a steal, while those who are used to free email may balk, but will feel instantly happy if they purchase the annual subscription.

I have many, many more thoughts about HEY over at The Sweet Setup. I do warn you though: I’m going to have to seek someone out to write a follow up piece that is substantially more negative just so the coverage is more balanced.

  1. Though, of course, in the case of both of these services you receive far more than just email. I will still be paying for Exchange through a Microsoft account when HEY debuts its business-specific email service. 

Apple Announces Mac Transition to Apple Silicon

Monday, June 22, 2020

A few of my close friends have noted, year after year, how dramatically far ahead the iPad’s hardware is in relation to its software. Year in, year out, the iPad’s pure processing power jumps through what seems like an impossible ceiling.

This is what hit me today when watching Apple’s secret underground computing lair show off the seamless transition to Apple’s own ARM chips. In short, we saw an iPad Pro chip inside a Mac running Adobe Lightroom on a Pro Display XDR, all without skipping a beat.

I’ve chosen to edit photos on an iPad for the better part of 18 months now. Which is especially due to how smoothly Lightroom runs on an iPad (at least in comparison to how it runs on a Mac). If you want to compare the two, take any Mac and make a selective edit in Lightroom with a mask overlaid on top of where you want to edit the photo. Now make that same edit on the iPad with the Apple Pencil.

Yes, now you know how bad things have become in Adobe land on the Mac.

Now that the iPad’s ultra-smooth editing performance is coming to the Mac, you can bet I’ll be buying that ARM iMac as soon as it’s available.

Being Mortgage-Free is Over-Rated

Friday, June 05, 2020

Another point-of-view of mine that will either result in my wrist being slapped or will result in some more logical decisions: The quest to be mortgage-free is completely over-rated and, often, a detriment to improving your personal net worth.

This is for two reasons:

  1. Mortgage payments generally don’t take up too much of an individual’s after-tax net income, and so the idea of there being a cash windfall upon payout of the mortgage is mostly a myth.
  2. Mortgage payments, late in their amortization schedule, are made mostly of principal payments and act as a forced savings greater than an individual’s own sheer will.

Let me explain.

The Mythical Cash Windfall

Banks are specifically regulated to ensure they do not give out too much of a mortgage for a borrower to handle. The calculations lenders go through are fairly extensive (or, rather, the computer goes through extensive calculations while the lender punches in the numbers — take your pick), pretty onerous, and pretty eye-watering. The onerous calculations and ratios are there to ensure you do not have more to pay back than you can reasonably handle.

As such, a mortgage payment, more likely than not, will only take up $XXX of your overall disposable income on a monthly basis. At the end of the year, if you add up your mortgage payments, I personally doubt they’ll amount to a sum you’d consider a cash windfall.

If you make $1,000 monthly mortgage payments, mortgage-free life would leave you with $12,000 of extra cash in a year. It’s easy math.

I’m not saying $12,000 is nothing. There are many folks who would love to have an extra $12,000 each year.

But I also know that $12,000 doesn’t change anyone’s life. You can spend $12,000 on a 10-day trip to Hawaii. You can spend $12,000 on a camera and a couple lenses.1 You can spend $12,000 on a down payment for a relatively nice vehicle.

As a whole, the required cash outflows for a mortgage will likely not change your life when you finish paying off that mortgage.

Forced Savings

I love forced savings. If, at the end of my financial writing here on The Newsprint, you don’t understand that forced savings is the kingly method of saving, then I’ve failed.

Forced savings are the best savings.

It’s pretty logical to understand that the last few years of any mortgage carry less of an interest burden and more of a payback on principal. If you have that same $1,000 mortgage payment, more than $900 of that amount will go as direct pay down of the principal of the mortgage in the mortgage’s later years.

Ultimately then, once the mortgage is paid off, will you save that same $900+ each month? Or will you divert it to consumption and other less-productive spending?

Debt payments, in the early years of a loan or mortgage, are an expensive way to introduce forced savings into your life (essentially, you’re paying an interest premium for the sake of forcing yourself to save). But in the latter part of any loan or mortgage, they are fairly cheap ways to force yourself to save.

My thought: As soon as that mortgage is paid off, get another mortgage and buy more property — but this time, rent that property out. You may not see any extra cash in your bank account, but rest assured, someone else will effectively pay your mortgage for you.

Or you could borrow against your newly paid-off house to invest in dividend-paying shares — if you can find monthly or quarterly dividend payments that are enough to make interest and principal payments on the borrowed money, you’re able to take part in growth of the share price for free. Plus, the interest is deductible for tax purposes (which, in Canada, the mortgage interest on your principal residence is not deductible for tax purposes), ensuring the tax man pays for at least 25% of your borrowing cost.

Wrap Up

So my thoughts, in short, are: Being mortgage-free is over-rated because banking regulations require your mortgage payment to be a small amount in relation to your overall income and because mortgage payments are a great way to force yourself to increase your personal net worth on a scheduled basis.

Obviously, being mortgage-free and debt-free at some point in your life before retirement is a healthy goal — I certainly don’t want to be going into retirement with a mortgage. But, debt payments can be a great tool for forcing yourself to improve your personal net worth, especially when those debt payments are for assets that grow on their own.

  1. You could buy a Leica M10 plus half a Leica M lens for that money.