Thursday, August 16, 2018

Visiting The Ark Encounter & Why You Need To Encounter It As Well

Photo Credit: Marie Barton
In early July 2018, my family went to Kentucky, to see The Ark Encounter; a full size, precise biblical dimension recreation of Noah's Ark.

Photo Credit: Marie Barton
Inside, there is an extensive exhibit detailing the plausibility of Noah's journey - from why it happened to how it happened.

The Ark Encounter is an extension of Ken Ham's Answers In Genesis ministry which also includes the nearby Creation Museum.

As with the Creation Museum , I was most interested in going to see The Ark because of criticism from atheists on social media.

Small aside relating to this; I am perplexed at how unhappy those that criticize the Answers In Genesis outreach are. My personal belief is that  AIG is a great ministry that adds credence to faith. In this review, I will try to put aside any bias and review the The Ark Encounter objectively.

Once you've seen it, you have to admit that it's a site to see. If you are a believer, it's some of your favorite childhood Bible passages come to life - no longer a cartoon drawing, a silly song, or playset. As an adult, we, in modern times have had the chance to see depictions in film and on TV, but truly, this iteration is inspired. But, even as a non-believer, you must give Answers In Genesis at least some credit for the building, the beautiful grounds keeping & landscaping, and even the presentation of materials and experience. The entire area is maintained with cleanliness and order. It's truly beautiful.

As a believer in the unerring words of the Bible, it was an inspiration of my faith to visit The Ark Encounter. The thing that critics seem to be missing is - well - faith - which is what the Bible passages about Noah are about - longstanding faith in God. If you lack faith in the message of the Bible - which is salvation - then you will likely miss the full experience of visiting.

By Answers In Genesis estimates, upwards of 2.2 million guests have visited since the opening of The Ark Encounter - more this year than its opening year. On average, the park receives 5000-7500 visitors per day. When I went, on July 4 (The US Independence Day  Holiday), I would estimate there was somewhere in the mid-range of that daily attendance figure. My mother-in-law, who was making her second trip with our family states that when she visited the previous fall - it was shoulder to shoulder all day and that 7500 may be a low estimate of the people that were there.

When you read about The Ark Encounter on social media, or see youtube videos with atheists visiting to poke fun - you have to take into perspective several things.

1) The park was designed to accommodate large church groups visiting. Parking, line cues, and ticketing are all designed to move large groups through efficiently. These areas seem blank or unused on average days.

2) The estimates for park attendance by atheist websites and by critical commentary don't consider any factual information. At current levels - a fair estimation of attendance is 1.2-1.5 million visitors per year.

The surrounding area doesn't have near the capacity for the amount of visitors coming through the park, thus, limiting to a small degree, attendance. Nearby Cincinnati (40 miles) is not a cheap area to stay. Nearby Lexington, Kentucky also isn't on the economical end to stay. Not considering my discounts achieved - the 10 members of my family spent $1000.00 on two nights hotel stay at the Cincinnati Airport area in a Hampton Inn. Outside the park, we spent an additional $600.00 on meals (The Hebron Grille is a must try). During the trip, we visited a local Walmart and spent $130.00. Between the 10 members of our family, we spent greater than $400.00 in the gift shop of  The Ark Encounter. In 48 hours, I think it would be fair to say, our family, considering all expenses, had greater than a $2500.00 economic impact on the Kentucky tourism business.

3) As evidenced above, the economic impact of The Ark Encounter cannot be understated. If my estimations are clear, on property revenue is close to $100.00 per person - with some being much higher and some being about a minimum of $70.00 per person spent at the park in one day. All 10 members of our family ate at The Ark Encounter restaurant called Emzara's Kitchen (which was arguably one of the best buffets I've ever had the pleasure of eating at). Extrapolation of these numbers would indicate the The Ark Encounter has pulled in well over $200 million in revenue. With cost estimates at $100 million to build, and most businesses losing money their first 5 years, I'd say the experience is doing quite well.

Getting to see the Museum Of The Bible exhibit was a definite bonus and gave my family extra inspiration to travel to Washington DC next summer to see it.

Some cons of my experience:

- This isn't a completely inexpensive thing to do. Worth it? I'd say, "yes". And I'd even contend that it's a better alternative to the tourist traps of beaches or other theme parks.

- I was a bit disheartened by the exhibit containing a criticism of children's books and toys based on the story of Noah. The point of the exhibit was to say that teaching children in this manner was making the story of Noah into a fairy tale. I think this part of the exhibit is misguided and shouldn't have passed board approval. There's a very high likelihood that those creators and authors were Christian and worked hard to bring their creations to younger audiences to expose them to biblical teachings in a relatable way. I think you could even argue that revenue received by the creators of Children's material has been tithed to churches and other ministries.

- I was not that pleased with the parking fees. Non English speaking visitors seemed confused and remembering to get "an exit ticket" was cumbersome and annoying. I've since learned that parking fees were added mostly to pay bills associated with Freedom From Religion Foundation litigation and associated greed from the local town of Williamstown.

Whether you are a believer or not, no picture or vivid description from a friend or family member, and no article or brochure you read can put the size - outside or inside - into perspective. Even without the story being real to you, it's inspiring just to see the outside. I highly recommend a visit.

For another review, please read:

Photo Credit: Marie Barton
* My social media posts have inspired several of my friends to visit with their families, including the photograher of the photos included. All of my photos included family so I reached out to friend and photographer Marie Barton to share hers.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The truth about lies ...

You cannot inform someone with a lie. A lie is the opposite of information. It is, by definition; misinformation.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Why Yes Virginia, It IS Illegal, Norfolk Says So

For reference, it’s illegal to take a picture on a railroad track - even if abandoned - so as to give an illusion it is safe. I see many politicians taking glamour shots on rails.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The problem with the problem ....

You cannot solve a problem in which you have not identified the cause. 

You can say, "Love it" "Hate it" "Avoid it" all you want ... But, until you say, "This is it. I'll change it." ... The problem will remain.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


In 9th grade College Prep Science our first test had small font instructions at the top

"Every answer on this test is A; regardless of whether it's correct or not. Example: A) 2+2=5 is the correct answer. Any other answer will be counted wrong even if the answer is right. Example: B) 2+2=4 will be counted wrong."

The instructions in large print were:


It was to teach us to read instructions. 

Me and my best friend tapped the top of the page - we were among the few that got a 100.

The teacher repeated the test the following Spring. Not everyone made a 100.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Eliminating some discount apps ...

As part of my transition and disconnect with social media, I ended my connections to several savings apps yesterday ...

Never, ever just delete an app. 

Make sure you end your membership, sign out of social media, and delete the social media connection that ANY app has.

Plenti ...

This program was a disaster from the start and while I saved over $150 with it - it was difficult to use and as partners left the program - it became more difficult to earn with. It is officially ending June 1.

Savingstar ...

I had earned over $100 with this program in the two years that I had it, but last week they increased the threshold for payout from $5 to $20. It takes me 4-5 months to get that much, so it’s just not worth the effort.

Checkout 51 ...

I earned over $300 in the 3 years I’ve had this savings app. Sometimes it’s good, other times it’s got nothing. Most all of my money has come from 3-4 items in this app. They also mail a physical check to you that takes 3-4 weeks to reach you. It’s just not worth my time. Once I cash out a last time, I’m getting rid of this app.

Coupons Dot Com ...

I never liked this app, but then I found out that they sell your phone number to marketers. Each time you print coupons from this app (or the website or a portal) you are instantly put on a telemarketer hot list. Later last year, a Chinese company bought them out and now the service is nothing but a data harvesting and telemarketing hotbed.

I kept iBotta. I have saved over $2500 since I started using this app.

I also kept Fetch Rewards. I don’t earn much from it, but it’s a nice bonus. I’ve gotten a few free movie tickets out of using it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

See the difference?

I realize that this knife was only $1 at Dollar Tree, but advertising is advertising.

I called Greenbrier International (parent company of Dollar Tree) yesterday and told them about their stainless steel knives.

I got a funny response today.
Dear Customer Philip,

As you know we Chinese. You buy a Chinese product for $1. It came long way to get to you. $1 claim has to be not close to truth. Stainless steel mean not solid stainless steel. See the difference?

Yours truly,

Pho N.
Fair enough!

I can actually accept that answer & get a good moral out of it.

♫ Our love is like a knife, it cuts both ways, it cuts both ways ♫

Friday, May 04, 2018

TPMS Sensors ...

Get better fuel efficiency and a cool gauge with a Tire Pressure Monitor System ...

For the past month I’ve been testing this device as a way to maximize my fuel efficiency. Keeping your tires inflated is critical to good gas mileage. I over-inflate because I don’t need great traction. I get decent traction already due to the short wheel base my car - a Scion iQ.

Inner rim valve stem monitors can only alert you if the tire is changing pressure constantly (meaning you are 5psi or more off spec)

The valve cap style measures actual psi to the ½ psi measurement.

The best price can be found on eBay for about $50 shipped.

Retail and Amazon is $80 + shipping.

My research indicates that this particular setup, four tire stem caps and a car 12V cigarette plug called “Carchet” is the best setup with the most reliable readings.

These have a special tool (that comes in the package) required to take them off.

You also must have the reader/display - as these won’t work with any other system - for added security.

Lemons ...

If life gives you lemons, make someone's paper cut really sting.

Friday, April 20, 2018

An odditty about the gas tank in a Toyota/Scion iQ

An oddity about the iQ ...

Not only does it have one of the few flat gas tanks in the auto industry, but it has a very odd capacity of 8.5 gallons / 32.2 liters.

This makes it very difficult to estimate how much gas is left in the tank.

Each of the 6 “marks” for capacity represents 1.41 gallons

One remedy for this is an OBDII device that indicates “Miles left to travel” fuel efficiency.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

LED Lighting Replacement For A SCION iQ

These are the LED replacement light bulbs you’ll need for a Scion iQ - all model years.

Research has shown me that replacing the incandescent bulbs with LEDs could extend the smaller battery in the iQ by 8-10 months.

Parking 194/T10

Brake 7443

Tail 7443

Reverse/backup 921

Front turn 7440 x2

Rear turn 7440 x2

Plate 194/T10

Low beam H11

Monday, April 02, 2018

Scion iQ oil change tips ...

I bought 40 spare oil filters from Rock Auto on clearance for $1.15 each.

At retail, you can buy them:

Oil filters for SCION IQ:

FRAM CH10358 

The Toyota/SCION OEM Filter is:

Toyota Part #: 04152YZZA7

These filters will also fit a 2015 and under Toyota Corolla.

Many forums say to use synthetic OW-20 oil, but 5W-20 is recommended.

It is a very high likelihood that your oil change mechanic won’t have these filters in immediate stock.

I can do it myself or take it into a shop and I get a $4 discount (sometimes more) even if shop is running an oil special. 

Remember that iQ filters also do not require a mandatory recycling fee. Just ask for your old cartridge back and throw it away. Also remember to remind your mechanic that they take 3.5 quarts of oil, so you are on the low end of cost to your oil change mechanic for the oil.

Items needed:
Four quarts of 0w-20w synthetic oil (that weight is always synthetic)
One oil filter (I use the Toyota brand)
14mm wrench
1/4" drive rachet
64mm oil filter removal tool
Drain pan
Rags or towels

The iQ manual says to use 5W-20 conventional, but Toyota dealerships put OW-20 full synthetic in them.

Toyota’s “shop/dealer” oil is a custom Mobil brand blend.

Technically, unless the car is marked with a specific sticker in the door stating that you should use synthetic, you’re supposed to use conventional, but the dealerships can squeeze another $50-60 out of you if they use synthetic.

Your iQ asks for an oil change every 5000 miles by a maintenance required light, and is never ever go past that and I’d make sure the iQ has a consistent “full” on the engine pull.

Here's a good video for changing it yourself:

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Modding a Scion IQ? RIMS & TIRES

Stock from factory: 

wheel spacers/converters
Steel 16" rims
5" wide
4 lug pattern
4x100 spacing
weight: 38.5lbs with stock 175/60R16 tire
Tire height: 24.26”

The ranges of possible values for tires and rims for a Scion iQ 2013 

Tires for Scion iQ 2013

Diameters: 15.0'' - 17.0''

Width (mm): 175 - 205

Tire aspect ratio (%): 45 - 65

Smallest tire size: 175/65R15

Largest tire size: 205/45R17

Rims for Scion iQ 2013

Bolt pattern 4x100

Diameter: 15.0'' - 17.0'';  

Width (inches): 5 - 6.5;  

Offset (mm): 38 - 45.

If you are wanting to reduce the weight of your iQ wheels significantly, you'll most likely have to move to 14 or 15" rims with a 185/70/14 bigger tire for instance. Just make sure the tire height/diameter is still close or your odometer and fuel economy will skew. Your turning radius was significantly reduced as well. Not to mention that it’s much easier to bend rims because of the short wheel base.

You could move to 17" rims and smaller tires, but your curb weight is likely to increase and thinner walled tires are not recommended on the iQ.

You can also convert your rims from a 4 lug pattern to a 5 lug pattern with spacers. (Spacers do add weight though)

Spacers are two piece conversion wheel adapters that are used to convert a 4 lug nut wheel with 100mm bolt pattern to fit wheels with a 5 lug 4.5" (114.3mm) bolt pattern. They will also space out your wheels for 1.75-inch to help you get enough clearance for wider tires and rims.

A size 175/60 R14 tire weighs between 13 lbs and 14.5 lbs. 

A size 185/70 R15 tire weighs between 16.5 lbs and 18 lbs

A 16” tire usually weighs between 18lbs and 22lbs.

A 17” tire usually weighs between 20lbs and 24lbs.

1) Tires should be the same diameter, but can be different widths - often vehicles will have wider tires on the rear axle.

2) Having a different diameter than factory will throw off your speedometer calibration, as this is dependent on rpm count of one of the wheel hubs.

3) Larger is generally better as a rule of thumb, within normal limits. Larger diameter = less revolutions of the wheel to cover a given distance OR cover same distance faster. Wider = more traction, but too wide can result in interference, especially with steering set wheels.

It is technically illegal to resell your car if you know the odometer and speedometer are incorrect.

You must put on your title that your car exceeds its mechanical limits.

The math showing just 1” in tire size difference is as follows:

 4 miles per 100 if you are just 1” off. 

1” under and you’re traveling 104 miles on odometer reading but really only going 100 miles. 96 miles per 100 the opposite direction.

If you’re wheels are more than 5 pounds heavier than the stock 38.5lbs you’re adding significant stress on the engine. 

The iQ is a CVT (continuously variable transmission) so extra weight is a killer to the transmission.

The lightest weight wheels I've found are made by Konig - called Helium. I ended up purchasing 4x100 lug pattern, 15” diameter, 6.5”width,  10.55lb per rim, wheels for $320 shipped. This reduced the total weight, after adding a tire by 26 pounds per axle. My acceleration truly is better and it appears as if I have gained 1-2 miles more per gallon. My tire height is the exact same as the stock 16” rims (24.27”) using 195/60/15  tires.

I used Bridgestone Ecopia Mileage Plus 70,000 mile tires.

I found this page particularly helpful in deciding what I wanted to do and achieve:

I will continue to update this post over time as I discover and learn more about this topic.

I am currently investigating speedometer and odometer calibration in regards to changing tires and rim sizes.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

viRus ...

This morning I woke up to no WiFi ...

I tried resetting my router. ❌

I unplugged everything for 15 minutes ❌

I tried a different modem. ❌

I thought, it couldn’t be the WiFi router because it’s brand new. 

It’s also their most expensive model and  guaranteed.

I called Linksys anyway to see what was wrong.

After nearly an hour on the phone, I ended up going back to factory settings. ✔️

That worked! Sort of. 

Now I had a message on all my devices stating that I needed to call Comcast to reinstate my account.

I googled that message and the error code to see if the message was legit and make 100% sure my router had not been hacked (which is a common recent issue by the way.)

Comcast stated that they had deactivated the access to my WiFi router after ...

1) Pinging it to find that the name of my network was “viRUS

2) Getting a complaint that there was a Comcast guest network named “viRUS” on my node/ in my area

I said, “Yeah. That’s me.”

I was told that Comcast doesn’t allow networks by malicious or offensive names because anyone with a Comcast account can login as a guest on any Comcast network. I was told that my tier of service/pay didn’t allow for changes.

I inquired, “But that’s my actual name.”

Service Rep: (sarcastically) “Your name is ‘virus’??? It says here your name is xxx xxxxx.”

Me: “Yeah but I go by Rus, which is short for Rusty which is my nickname that I’ve gone by since I was too young to remember.”

Service Rep: “But your nickname isn’t “virus”!!

Me: “Not too long ago I had a politician call me a virus in the community. So, yes I’m a virus and that’s what I go by. V-I-R-U-S.

Service Rep: “Well Mr.Smith, that name is one of the names on the unacceptable list of names for networks under Comcast’s terms and conditions.”

Me: “Could you email this list?”

Service Rep: “To the email on your account?”

Me: “Yes please”

(a few seconds pass)

Me: “Just for the record ... I’ve also called my network ‘FBI SURveillance’ in the past. That network name also contains my nickname. I see it too is not allowed”

Service Rep: “You’ve also gone by the nickname FBI surveillance?”

Me: “Capitalize the first three letters of SURveillance.”

Service Rep: “Clever, but still not allowed.”

Me: (kind of in a Forrest Gump voice) “Ok, I want to get off the phone now, how do I fix this?”

Service Rep: “Simply change the name of your network to something that’s not on the list I sent you.”

Me: “Done, I just changed my network name to “Rusteeze Bumper Oil

Service Rep: (laughing) “Ok”

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Tale Of The Egress ...

Phineas Taylor Barnum was a strange looking man. He had nothing going for him. He was from a relatively poor family. He lacked higher education, but was well read. He was was baby faced and beady eyed. He was short and top balded at an early age. The only thing he had going for him was his smile. He was always able to appear to most as a friend.

He said of himself, "If I can display myself publicly as a friend, people will consider me trustworthy, and at that point, upon close inspection, I can point out the quality construction of their purse."

In his 20's, he managed to become owner of a newspaper by chance and charm. The original owner had no relatives - as managing typesetter and editor, he took the paper over but was criticized often for embellishment or sensationalism. 

He decided to sell the paper and go on tour with an eclectic troupe of people he had reported on at his former newspaper.

He later took his money and opened a museum ~ displaying curiosities such as mermaids with "documented proof". While history records that he went through bankruptcy and later emerged, this account of his struggles has its only mention in his own autobiography- which in his day - was second only in publication to the Holy Bible. <~ True Story.

The actual reason he faced financial struggle was because of his swindle of cities and their resulting lawsuits throughout the North, the economy and the general morale of time period (The War Between The States), and bad investments, mixed with opulence.

Towards the latter part of his life ~ he moved into politics - claiming to live a life of "profitable philanthropy" - a term he coined. While in office, he raised Connecticut taxes significantly to, in his own words, "do the good that people refuse to do as individuals, but also to make a name for the individual. The individual in my mirror that is."

The areas around Bridgeport, Connecticut now revere Barnum as a legend, a hero, a wonderful human being. In actuality, he was just a bizarre man, with a bizarre, narcissistic view of life.

It's strange how people are remembered. 

Here's a little known story about P.T. Barnum to exemplify his philosophies ...

Days before his traveling show would come to a town - he paid a local corner lamppost caller to shout out to passersby about the terrible "Egress" that P.T. Barnum was bringing into town. Barnum would also place ads in the local papers ...

         "Come see the terrible Egress!" 

Patrons of his traveling sideshow would tour his oddities of science and nature ~ all the while, seeing flyers and news clippings laying on the floor that read such words as ....

"Biggest Egress on record visible at Barnum's show" 


"Egress Escape? Barnum not prepared for such tragedy!"

Sometimes, the ushers or even the sideshow bearded lady would show a scar and say, "Be careful at the end ... The Egress did this to me last year."

Finally, patrons, who had paid a hefty 15¢, got to the end of the winding maze of exhibits. A large mouth with a dark inside with the words "This way to the Egress". Occasional screams of terror could be heard. Sometimes, women collapsed and passed out were being drug out on stretchers back into the light while medics fanned them and gave them smelling salt. Sometimes, an usher would be standing by the "entrance" to the Egress with eucalyptus saying, "Smell this, it helps your fear."

The Egress was the exit. Sometimes Barnum himself would be at the end offering each patron a nickel refund to keep the Egress a secret. Others, he'd offer a full refund if they promised to tell a friend how terrifying the Egress was but that it was worth the money to see the rest of the show.

Friends, I told you this story to warn you. Today, P.T. Barnum's are born every minute. There are lots of people trying to take advantage of you - telling you they are doing good - but really - they are out solely for their own personal gain or glory. There are others that may offer you something to cover up a lie - it may be friendship, it may be money, it may be a gift, or even an occasional "hello" that makes you feel special. There are few kind people left ~ if you find a genuinely kind soul ~ cherish and reward that person with your kindness.

Note: P.T. Barnum is credited with one of the most famous quotes in history ...

"There's a sucker born every minute!"

He didn't say this, it was actually about Barnum written by a Boston Newspaper editor David Hannum.