Archived news items from February 2001
Since this is old news, some links may be broken.
news from March 2001
Today was a nice lazy workday at school, with no kids and lots of free time to get caught up on stuff. I met with the principal and found out they are in fact hoping to hire a second computer science teacher for next year. Whether or not we get one hinges mostly on our ability to find a qualified teacher who's also legal allowed to teach. For whatever bone-headed reason, the state is not administering the computer science certification exam right now, and may not for a couple of years. I can't imagine the sense behind this.
I also spent some time learning how to spend the school district's money. Since this year I'm my own department (no longer lumped in with the business department), I also have my own budget. I plan to buy some technical books (including several to learn Java) and a white board, but I haven't spent any of my budget money so far because I didn't know how to fill out a purchase order. So I talked to the budget manager and got her to explain it to me and then spent an hour or so deciding what books I wanted and filling out the forms. They're really not bad. Hopefully I'll be done with the book one tomorrow.
Then, at 5:00, I met with the missionaries. This time a friend of mine we there as well, so it was the two of us and the two missionaries. We talked about some of the things I'd thought were interesting from the church service and clarified some more our differences of opinion about theology. By the end of the meeting it became clear that our differences were fundamental enough that further meetings wouldn't help. So basically we agreed to disagree and they went on their way. I'm a bit sad that we couldn't find some sort of resolution.
After the meeting, I went up to the church to help the child care workers manage the little ones. Since the singles ministry has transitioned from a small-group focus to more of an event-based focus, when everyone meets in their fellowship groups, we don't. So I'm now free to help out where I'm needed on fellowship group nights. It was a lot of fun, and I got to be Paul in a little drama on "Paul and Silas in Jail". I also had tons of kids sitting in my lap, pulling on my arms or otherwise hanging off me the whole time. (This was first through fifth grades.)
Tomorrow the students come back, after being out of my class for a minimum of six days. They'll be rusty.
Just a quick update before I hit the hay. (Pow!) Today was the second and last day of the C.I. Conference. Today's sessions were better than yesterday's, and the closing speaker at the end gave some moving admonitions. The whole thing even made me cry, and that's saying something.
Feeling a bit under the weather today. Hopefully I won't be sick tomorrow, as I'm meeting with the missionaries for what may be the last time (depending on if they get transferred out of this area) tomorrow afternoon.
Tomorrow I hope to talk with the principal to get the skinny on hiring a second computer science teacher. I heard more today that it's looking like something they want to do if they can find someone qualified.
Today was the first day of Leander I.S.D.'s annual Continuous Improvement Conference. I attended several nice sessions, and hope to pick up some more tomorrow. I also found out there's a slight possibility that they may be able to hire an additional computer science teacher for next year, so I wouldn't be teaching all the computer science classes for a change.
I resumed tutoring Jesse today, and I promised him I'd mention his abnormal crooked finger. Okay so it's not really that abnormal. You had to have been there.
Upon looking at my calendar yesterday I discovered I'd missed a dental appointment on Thursday. Normally that's not such a big deal, but my dentist is so popular that you have to book appointments nearly eight months in advance. Don't confuse "popular" with "good", however. I can't say I'm very upset, since I've been trying to get around to changing dentists for a couple of years.
The fourth anniversary celebration was cool. We had put up blue and yellow balloons and streamers everywhere, including a huge balloon arch that our bass guitarist made behind the stage. The theme was "Get Out of the Boat", referencing Matthew 17, where Peter steps out in faith and walks on the water toward Jesus. To that end we had an actual boat on stage (a small johnboat, but a real watercraft nonetheless) and the front of the stage was draped with blue tie-dyed fabric. We'd put oscillating fans under the stage so the cloth rippled. It actually was quite reminiscent of water. There were also a couple of fish-shaped helium balloons on stage.
Continuing the theme was an actual sail hung on one of the walls, a business card on each chair reading "Get Out of the Boat" and a white Lifesaver candy reminding them that when we step out on the water by faith, even if we sink, the Lord is there to grab our hand and pull us up. We sang a lot of celebratory worship songs, too. The harmonica solo went pretty well. It wasn't very good, but the crowd liked it, anyway.
After the second service I rushed home and then off to visit the Mormon missionaries' church, which had a meeting at 1:00 (though not for the ward the missionaries go to). The missionaries had said they'd look for me and stay after their own service to sit with me, but I didn't give them much reason to believe I was actually coming, so I didn't see them. I guess they figured I wasn't coming and didn't look for me very hard. This is the second time I've been to an LDS church service, and it was pretty similar. I took lots and lots of notes on everything that was said and gathered a fair list of ways in which their theology differs from "mainstream" Christian theology. We probably spend some of the next meeting talking about that.
For dinner, the fellowship group leaders met up at the church and had pizza. Then we had our monthly leadership meeting, which was broken up by a impromptu sketch performed by various leaders of the church. I was a kazoo player who had to hum ominous music once in a while. It was funny. Stayed there for a while after the meeting just talking to some men in the church I don't see very often.
When I got home I called the missionaries to let them know I'd been to church. I found out they'll learn sometime between Monday and Wednesday of they're going to be transferred, and if they are they'll leave on Thursday. So I rescheduled our next meeting (which may be our last) for Wednesday, and this time I'll be meeting with a friend of mine.
I had dinner after the missionaries left: a kiwi, a pear, a banana, a can of pink grapefruit sections ("in light syrup"), and a V-8. If I'm not mistaken, that's all five daily servings of fruit in one fell swoop. Of course, I make up for that most days not having more than one serving a fruit (if that). Anyway, I just thought that was cool and should be mentioned.
The wonder of the web. Dozens of people, reading about what specifically I had for dinner.
Today was an excellent day. I slept until 10:00, giving me close to twelve hours of sleep, which was blessed. I got up and went for my usual Saturday walk of just less than three miles. When I got home, I took a shower and then went up to the church for decorating.
Tomorrow is our fourth anniversary celebration, so we spent from noon until 3:00 putting up stuff. I'd go into more detail, but I'd like it to be a surprise on the off chance that someone reads this before they come to church in the morning.
Afterward, I spent most of the afternoon preparing my questions about Joseph Smith for the missionaries and otherwise getting ready for the meeting.
The meeting went very well; I was able to present most of my difficulties with Joseph Smith and they're going to try to answer them. Our next meeting is planned for a week from now, but I also found out that the missionaries get moved around every six weeks and that they're due for a change on March 1 (Thursday). So if they're moving then, we may try to reschedule for Wednesday. We shall see what happens.
I'm looking forward to getting another good night's sleep. Then I may actually be caught up, which doesn't happen very often.
I got done meeting with the missionaries about half an hour ago. Basically we skipped most of the normal introductory material since I already know more about the Latter Day Saints and their basic theology than most people would know after being in the church for six months.
We ended up with the agreement that everything hinges on Joseph Smith. If Joseph Smith was really a prophet of God, then any other theological nitpicks I might have can be reconciled. If he's not really a prophet of God, then no amount of "burning in my bosom" or testimonial evidence will help. So we're going to meet again tomorrow night at the same time, and I'll probably get a chance to tell them the things about Joseph Smith that bug me. Then we'll see if they'll be able to answer the questions where others haven't.
We're also coming up on the fourth anniversary of Lakeline Church. This Sunday is going to be a celebration, and it should be a lot of fun. Assuming my practice goes well tomorrow, I'll be doing a harmonica solo during the band jam, which is always a pleasant change.
Still no word from anyone for whom the new design is unnavigable, so I'm pleased about that.
Oh, and I forgot again to take digital photos of anyone, so I'm going return the camera to the library (since we're supposed to only have it for a week at a time). Then I'll check it out again once we have students back next week. Monday, Tuesday are the days we're having our annual Continuous Improvement Conference, and Wednesday is a teacher workday, so we won't see the kids until Thursday.
Today was the last day of TAAS testing for our sophomores. They tend to finish the reading test pretty quickly, so we all sat around and played Set. I'm not very good at the game, but they had a lot of fun.
I've also borrowed a digital camera from the school library so I can take photos of all my students and test them on one another's names. Hopefully I'll remember to actually take as many photos as possible in class tomorrow. I took a picture of each of my cats to test it out, and was able to get them off the camera onto a computer without too much difficulty. So maybe I'll be able to get those more recent pictures up on the kittens page in less than a year this time.
Not much else to report. I'll be having my first meeting with the missionaries tomorrow, and I'm excited about that. I do enjoy talking to people about God.
Well, I showed up before a judge today at the Cedar Park Municipal Court to plead my case. It was a busy day in court, so I waited about an hour and fifteen minutes, watching mostly youth come up to enter pleas of "no contest" for either having alcohol as a minor or being in possession of drug paraphernalia. There were a few different types of cases, but mostly just kids (there with their parents) who'd done something stupid.
When he called me up, I briefly explained the situation. He sent the bailiff to check my car to confirm that it was now inspected, and looked at my receipt from the car repair place. He then dismissed the inspection charge, much to my relief. I then entered a plea of "no contest" for the speeding. When he found out I wasn't eligible for driver's education (only once a year, and the last time was in March), he put me on deferred adjudication, and ordered me to attend the driving safety course anyway.
Because the fine is so low I won't have to post bail. I do have to pay court costs of $55, but the $65 fee for the course is waived since taking it is part of the judge's order. Then on May 21, I must return to the court, provide proof of completion of the course and also prove that I didn't violate any traffic laws in the meantime.
So overall I'm pleased, because it looks like I'm just out $55 in court fees, $6 for the driving record at the end, and the $25 for the course itself. Plus, my record stays clean. I can't say things turned out better than I expected, but it could have been much, much worse.
Now I'm off to church for the "Behind the Left Behind Hype" class on end times.
(This is another one of those late-Tuesday-night-but-technically-Wednesday updates.)
I've gotten lots of little bits of feedback about the site, so I've been busy polishing things here and there. I added links to my class web page and the church on the links page, because a student couldn't find them linked elsewhere. I moved my picture around on the bio page, as suggested by my brother. I fixed the broken link to the archives (stupid Windows backslash); thanks to fellow AcaDec coach Jo Peters for catching that.
Also, I haven't heard from anyone who can't view the site properly in their browser, so that's good. If any of my readers are having trouble, please let me know so I can fix things. I like my page to look nice, but never at the expense of usability, even for old browsers.
My friend Wayne Hall sent in several anagrams of grahammitchell.net to commemorate the move. Here are a few of my favorites (the comments in parentheses are his):
|Halt! I'm gentle charm.||(you know, "halt" isn't very charming)|
|The calm lighter man.||(well, you ARE light...)|
|The man might recall.||(no really, he might!)|
|The charming mallet.||(Bash them over the head, Mr. charming!)|
|Light male merchant.||(You selling something, lighty?)|
|Might harm neat cell.||(stay away from the cell-harming, Graham)|
|That cell hammering.||(here we are again with the cell-harming)|
|Mean, tight cell harm.||(stop harming those cells!)|
|Thermal camel night.||(mmmmm. thermal camels.... mmmmm)|
|and, the best one of all....|
|The magnetic Mr. Hall||(stop using my name!)|
Also, I should mention a link I saw on Blue's News. This is a Flash movie based on the intro of Zero Wing, a shoot-'em-up game for the SEGA Genesis. The English is so poorly translated it's funny, and apparently sparked a firestorm of editing images to feature the quintessential line from the intro: "All your base are belong to us."
Here are all the relevant links I can muster, all taken from the past two days on Blue's News:
My court date for the ironic speeding/inspection ticket is tomorrow (well, technically today). I'll let you know how it goes.
Well, as you can see, I've been rather busy this weekend. My tutoring session for today was cancelled, so I was able to put the finishing touches on the transition. I'm rather proud of myself for being able to keep this a secret, since I've known this was happening for over a month, and the domain name has been live since February 6.
Anyway, the basic content of the page isn't much different, but it's gotten a facelift, some very old pages have been updated (kittens, anyone?), and some new pages have appeared (like the bio page and the site map).
Let me know how you like the new design. I've tried to do some cross-browser comparisons, and this page looks fairly identical in Netscape 4.x, Netscape 6, Mozilla, and IE 5.x. Due to an incomplete implementation of style sheets, the navigation bar is hard to read in IE 3, but surely none of my regular visitors are using a browser that old. I've even checked it out under the text-based Lynx browser, and it's navigable.
Average page size is up a bit from the old design, but the news page (which is the only page people visit frequently, anyway) is actually smaller due to moving the "introduction to this site" text to it's own page.
The clever reader will notice that I now have some new email addresses. Check the contact page to see them all, since which address you should use depends on the reason you're contacting me.
I just got home from going to see Guy Forsyth with Bob and Bob (the worship guy and the lights guy, respectively at church). It was very nice, and Carolyn Wonderland made an appearance at the end. Though Guy's not as good as guitarist as Monte, I think his show is more entertaining.
Leading worship went well this morning. I did a soulful rendition of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn at Bob's request. Very nice.
Anyway, I'm up way too late for a school night. I'm off to sleep.
It's been an interesting week. I spent some time up at the school this past Sunday afternoon and beginning grading the projects that were turned in "early". Then I'd been invited by the parents of some of my students to have dinner at their house. I'm currently teaching three of their seven kids, but I'd never met them. They are Mormon, and invited me to come have dinner with "the missionaries", so I did. It was a bit crazy with so many people running around (seven kids, two parents, two missionaries and me) but the food was good. The missionaries (female "sisters" rather than male "elders", much to my surprise) asked me about my previous meetings with other missionaries and I told them basically about my conclusions about the things they'd said. I also told them all about my own missionary experience in inner-city Houston back in 1995. When the evening was over they asked if I was willing to go through the sessions again. I didn't think there'd be any harm, though I was a bit surprised since I'd already made my thoughts on the truth of their claims pretty clear. So that should be fun. We're currently planning on meeting on Sunday evenings at the Brights' house, though due to scheduling conflicts our first meeting probably won't be until March.
I'd also like to mention Casey Bright, who's one of the seven kids and a freshman at Leander High School. I've never taught him, but his older siblings report that he reads this page fairly regularly. Thanks, Casey. If it weren't for people like you I wouldn't have an audience.
After dinner I went back to school and finished grading the remaining early projects. I got done in a few hours and so was home by 11:00.
On Monday evenings I've been tutoring Jesse Bertron, the little brother of one of my former students. The Bertrons are quality people and pleasant to be around, and they feed me, so I'd probably be doing it for free, but they are paying me some, too. Which means I have more cash than I'm used to. Anyway, Jesse has been home schooled for several years and is very intelligent (at fourteen he's already doing college-level English work), but due to some difficulties with math at an earlier age and a dislike of math more recently his math scores on standardized tests are way below his intelligence. So I'm trying to help him get back up to speed. I also may teach him some programming if we can make a compiler accessible to him. So that's also a lot of fun.
This Monday after finishing up with Jesse I went back to school to finish grading the non-early assignments that'd been turned in that day. This kept me up at the school until just after midnight. But grades were due on Tuesday by noon, so they had to be done. It was incredibly foggy when I left for home, and driving home in the thick fog was eerie. It was pretty disorienting because the fog prevented you from getting any sort of speed cues from the landscape. I guess I was driving more slowly than usual (surely a good thing), because it seemed to be forever between landmarks. All very strange.
The rest of the week was pretty typical. I've had trouble getting to school on time because I've been behind on sleep, but we're just beginning a new six weeks, and so things have been fairly light. Next week is the always awkward TAAS testing and COOL week, and the following week we have three days of our "Continuous Improvement Conference", so I don't anticipate getting much material covered until March. It's a nice change of pace, though.
Last night I went up to see the Leander High School/Cedar Park High School combined talent show. I was sitting in the audience a few minutes before it was scheduled to start when the choir teacher grabbed me and said one of their three judges wasn't there yet and asked if I could fill in if she didn't show. I agreed, and so fifteen minutes later I became a talent show judge. Basically I got to write out comment sheets for them and score them. It's always interesting when you've got a computer scientist judging artistic people, but I guess I'm more equipped for such things than most computer scientists. Though I didn't get my $5 ticket price refunded, I did get a certificate for dinner for two at Bennigan's, so I guess that's fair.
Then, once the talent show was over I went to Antone's with a friend to see Monte Montgomery play. It was excellent and he's now dethroned Guy Forsyth as the best guitarist I've even seen in person. I'd called about it Thursday and been told that he would go on at midnight, so we arrived at 11:15 expecting a bit of a wait to get in and then to have to wait for the show. However, Monte was already playing and the place was pretty packed, so I'm not sure when the show started. He played until nearly 2:30, though, so I feel I got my money's worth even if we didn't catch the whole thing.
I got home just after 3:00, and I guess I was behind on sleep because I never woke up this morning until noon, and didn't get out of bed until closer to 12:30. Went for a three-mile walk and then ate breakfast. I'm leading worship tomorrow (Bob is teaching), so I'm planning on spending the rest of the day practicing my guitar and otherwise getting ready for the morning. I'm a bit inspired by Monte's incredible acoustic guitar prowess, as well, so tomorrow morning may be pretty fun.
Tomorrow evening the Mormon missionaries have invited me to attend a baptism at their church. I have many students who go to that church, so I'm considering it, but I don't know what time it will be, so I'm going to have to call the missionaries to find out.
I was beaten in a game of You Don't Know Jack on Thursday, giving me a lifetime record of 3 wins and 1 loss. It would have been nice to remain undefeated, but it was a clean loss and it's not like I was cheated.
My brother responded to my call for car-wreck details, saying, "Your write up was actually pretty good, there's only one detail that you got wrong. It wasn't actually a 'head-on' collision. She ran a yield sign and crossed in front of me causing me to broadside her." He also found out that the insurance company is going to pay more than he was expecting, so he'll probably be able to afford a better car than the one he'd been driving for several years. Proof that every cloud has a silver lining, I suppose.
On Friday I got the results back of a voluntary health-risk assessment the faculty had done at school. We'd filled out a brief questionnaire asking us about our age, height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking habits, driving habits, diet, etc. The upshot is that my lifestyle is generally so healthy for a person my age that the highest potential causes of death on my health risk appraisal come from national averages of generic things that weren't asked about on the survey. Here are the top five:
|Number of deaths in next ten years|
for 1000 men age 26
|Cause of death||My group||Target||Population|
So my greatest risk of death in the next ten years is from HIV, with a whopping 0.4% chance. Of course, the survey didn't ask any related questions, so I'm sure that figure would change if they knew I'm not, ahem, sexually active. The results page mentions "For causes of death that are not directly computable [perhaps because they didn't ask questions about such things], the report uses the average risk for persons of your age and sex." In fact, only three of the twelve listed factors come from my actual answers: motor vehicle crash in sixth place (0.1%), diabetes mellitus in eleventh (<0.1%) and pneumonia/influenza in twelfth (<0.1%).
The only recommendation that came from the survey was that I exercise more, which I've been trying to work into my routine for years. So though I didn't find out anything earthshaking (except perhaps that I'm realistically more likely to die of homicide than anything else in the next ten years), it confirmed that generally I have a healthy lifestyle. For my trouble in filling out the form I also got some cool pamphlets about nutrition and exercise, and a nice 350-page book ("Healthwise Handbook: A Self-Care Guide For You") about prevention, home treatment, and when to call a doctor for various things.
Another recent pleasant surprise was a thank-you listed on a former student's web page. The student is Tim Yip, who graduated in the top ten from Leander High School last year and is now attending Cornell. In his update of February 8, 2001, he writes:
"I guess I'll also take this time to give some props to a great teacher, coach, role model, and all around really cool guy, Mr. Graham Mitchell."
You can read the whole paragraph on his web page, which is a pretty good read even if you don't know Tim. I wrote back to him that I was honored and also that "anything you've learned from me is the fruit of my obedience to God to teach rather than go into industry, which He made it clear I should do."
I got more evidence of that when another class of 2000 graduate came back to visit. At eighteen he's the head Internet developer for DuPont Photomasks, Inc., and is on salary that works out to more than $20 an hour (and nearly is 50% more than what I make). He also credited his success with them to things he learned in my classes (I taught him HTML and programming through Computer Science III).
I guess it's things like that that help one with deal with the pain of being a loser in You Don't Know Jack and the ever-present fear of death by homicide.... :)
Got some mail from my brother:
Subject: This email is a flame.... Graham, This is a flame.... I can't believe that I almost died in a car accident and you don't even mention it on your web page! There... that's my flame :) Paul
The truth is I was trying to remember everything that'd happened in the last week when I was making the update and it slipped my mind. And I'd even told him on the phone the day before that I'd be sure to put it on the web page. Well, consider me shamed. Here's the scoop.
My brother was in a car wreck Monday morning. Head-on at about 60mph. The car's totalled, but he's fine. A bit of a sore chest from the belt, scrape on his knee from hitting his keys, and a sore neck, but otherwise fine. Several eyewitnesses peg the other driver as completely at fault, and she had full coverage, but he's still out a car for a while.
He told me more details about how the wreck occurred, but since I'm not a very visual person I couldn't really picture it. And so I can't recall any more than I've told. Maybe if my fire-breathing brother wants to type up an account, I'll post it here....
In other news, my students started their six weeks projects today. This one's a bit shorter (two class days instead of three) and the general stress level seems to be lower than usual.
Well, I got my car back on Friday, with a repaired light, a fixed oil leak and replaced axles (which were pretty worn). I'd told the mechanic to give it a once-over anyway, so it wasn't like they tried to spring extra stuff on me. It drives as well as ever, and I was able to get it inspected on Saturday. I've yet to drop by the courthouse to see about the ticket.
Sunday evening I went to Momo's to see Bag of Stephens, a band that a friend of mine plays drums for. They had a sort-of Ian Moore / Big Head Todd and the Monsters bluesy texas rock sound. It was pretty good. The lead singer had soul and played lead guitar well. Plus, they did Faith No More's Falling to Pieces (a random crowd-pleaser that wasn't much like the rest of their set), and Seeing Things, my absolutely favorite Black Crowes song ever. I sang along loud with both of those.
Most of the people at the club were just church friends of the band members, and since it's not my church, I didn't know anyone at all except my friend. Fortunately he's the first person I saw coming in; he was sitting at a table with a female friend of his. So I sat down with them and was introduced. Over the next ten minutes three other female friends of his (he's pretty popular with the ladies, I guess) come by and I was introduced to them. Then he left to go play, and I was sitting at a table with four ladies I'd just met. So we made small talk between songs and during their break. Then yesterday I got a mail message from my friend telling me that at least one of the ladies had taken a shine to me. "I also wanted to let you know that my friend thought you were cute, and she was sorry that she didn't get to say bye to you...."
I thought she was cute, too, but I don't think I'm interested. Anyway, that's not something that happens rarely enough that I figured I'd mention it.
Today in AcaDec we played You Don't Know Jack (since competition is over we've taken a little break). I played in two games and won both, making me undefeated (with a lifetime record of 3/3). The second game I was really far behind until the last few questions (with a negative score, even). Then the last regular question was an "impossible" question, worth $20,000 (most questions in the second round are worth $1000 to $6000). And as luck would have it, I knew the answer instantly (and would have even if there hadn't been multiple choices). So I lunged into the lead. Then in the "Jack Attack" final round I also did well and so ended up winning by a comfortable margin. It was beautiful. I think I should retire while I'm ahead.
Earthsuit played a free concert in town Sunday evening. I'd already committed to see Bag of Stephens, so I couldn't make it, but Bob reports that it was incredible.
Another new CD on the changer is the Ill Harmonics, which is just plain rap. I'm borrowing the CD from a student to decide if I like it well enough to buy one.
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