Archived news items from September 2001
Since this is old news, some links may be broken.
news from October 2001
Today we got full access to the new church location and began demolition after church. We were extraordinarily productive today and are already about half a day (maybe more) ahead of schedule. This is very good as we're trying to compress three months worth of finish out into one month, so the sooner we can get our part done and get the professionals in there, the better.
We also did a really cool walk-though of the space, praying for everything and for God's blessing upon the building and the future of our church.
I'm beat, though, having put in eight hours today when I'm not used to physical labor. Plus, it's a school night. :)
Well, despite my cautionary tone in the last update, I did commit to something just yet. I went to Best Buy and got a Nokia 5165 phone and signed up for AT&T's Digital Advantage Calling plan. I get 400 anytime minutes, 2000 nights and weekends, and free nationwide long distance for the low price of $40 a month.
I've got 30 days to change my mind and cancel (which, knowing me, isn't likely to happen), or, if I like it, I'll cancel my "land line" at that time. Now I'm no longer the only one I know without a digital leash.
Spent five minutes adding a few lines to Voter so I can keep names and passwords of Ms. Pittman's students in a separate database from my kids. That's because I use my database for more than just Voter, and I don't want to get birthday announcements for her kids or have them taking my semester exams.
Oh, and I made the last half of the Homecoming game against Marble Falls (I had been misinformed about the starting time). We beat them 42-7.
The field test of Voter went swimmingly. There were no glitches as far as I could tell, so it's ready to go for Monday morning.
I spent the last couple of hours researching various calling plans for various wireless phone providers. I'm thinking about getting rid of my normal home phone and switching to a mobile as my main phone. So I've got a lot better idea what to expect. I'm hoping to go tomorrow and visit several of the local stores to talk to "representatives" about them. I don't think I'll commit to anything quite yet, but I figure I'll be much more informed and can mull it over for the next month.
I was able to successfully test the new version of Voter today in my last period Computer Science II class, and the part I had worked. So after school I sat down and was able to hammer out the last little bit, so theoretically it's now ready to go. I'll give it a trial during seventh period tomorrow (Computer Science III and a handful of highly motivated CS-1 kids) and hopefully shake out any remaining bugs. Then hopefully it'll be ready to go for real by Monday.
Yep, I'm up late. Some of you know that the voting portion of my jukebox at school has been broken since the network got reconfigured over the summer. So I've been rewriting those parts, and trying to add some features I've wanted for a long time. Of course, the weight of having to implement those features has kept me from really doing it, so Monday I decided that I'd just get something at all working and then add those features later.
I got the ballot-generating part (which is now on a web page) working yesterday (well, Tuesday, anyway. Since this is just after midnight it's technically Thursday morning but my frame of reference is "late Wednesday night") and stayed late after school today (until after 7) working on the ballot-counting part. I went home and had a shower and some dinner and then got back to programming. I "finished" a couple of hours ago, but some nasty bugs were preventing the code that I had from working and I didn't want to give up. So here I am.
I've got to add one more crucial feature to this version (making sure people can't vote more than once), which I'll do tomorrow, and then it'll be ready to roll out.
Dressing up for Homecoming has been fun as usual. Monday was Hawaiian Day, the lamest IMO, but my costume (replete with "surfboard") was much better than in previous years. Tuesday was Hillbilly Day and my costume was that of a Charles-Mansonish, white-trash, auto mechanic. Today (well, technically yesterday....) was Way-Back Wednesday and my 70s "pimp" costume was quite well-received. Tomorrow is Camouflage Day, and unfortunately my costume will probably be the same as previous years since I don't really have that much to work with at home. And also since I'm not putting my costume together tonight since I'm already up way too late, so it will probably end up being another skip-breakfast-and-throw-something-together-while-running-late-in-the-morning kind-of thing.
Been a busy week at school. The end of the six weeks means writing, administering, and grading assessments of various kinds. I didn't grade any today but elected to hang out with friends. I don't regret the decision.
Next week is Homecoming, which means "Spirit Days", a.k.a. dressing up every day of the week to generate spirit. Our football team has been doing very well, which is a change from previous years. It seems likely we'll have a win at Homecoming this time. Mostly I'm just looking forward to dressing up, since my tutoring gig will keep me from the game.
Had coffee with a former student Wednesday evening and got to talk about all kinds of "living as a child of God" stuff. Talked about how I knew I was supposed to teach instead of go into industry, the implications of following orders from an omniscient, omnipotent God that has my best interests at heart and "works all things together for good", and the basic idea behind spiritual disciplines and why Christians should train to be more like Christ and not just try.
Oh, and Wednesday morning was See You At The Pole, and there was a pretty big group there. Unfortunately the "group prayer time" is a bit of a stretch when there are just 150 people in a huge circle, they aren't used to praying in a group, they can't hear each other. It typically breaks down into just a few brave, loud people praying and everyone else trying to hear them and/or pay attention. I think next year I'll try to get a few suggestions in to make it more praying and less just a show of allegiance. (Not that there's anything wrong with a show of allegiance, but prayer is more important and way more effective.)
I finally got the network cable connecting Bob's room and the study, so there's no more cable strewn about through the hallway. The cable modem may be acting up a bit, but there are so many variables it's hard to tell if it's the remote site in question, Road Runner's connection, the modem itself, my router, the "wiring", the network cable, or the individual computer. Anyway, it's working at the moment, which is good enough for me.
Tomorrow is Hawaiian Day, so aloha!
The retreat was nice. I spent all day fasting (except for a glass of watered down o.j. and five wheat thins around 5pm) and praying, reading my Bible, reading "With Christ in the School of Prayer", hiking, and just generally spending time with God in silence and solitude. He spoke to me several times, which is more uncommon than it used to be, which shows how much I need to start doing things like this more often.
We got up at 4:45 and left by 5:30. Broke our fast (and our silence) at Denny's and talked about what we'd gotten out of the weekend. It was good all around.
We got back to the church at 9:28, two whole minutes before I was supposed to be on stage. So I got a chance to pray with the band and that's about it. My voice was surprisingly strong for having been silent for a bit and the services were great. The place was packed (around 300 people in both services) and Brian delivered one of the best messages I've heard in a long time.
After church I went to a lunch at the house of one of the singles and ate way way too much. My body's a bit in shock now with a low grade fever and sort of a cruddy feeling in the back of my throat. I've felt this way before when "coming out" of a fast too quickly; you'd think I'd know better by now. Anyway, I'm running out of steam fast, so I should go ahead and get to bed soon.
I'm currently reading The Bad Boys of Computer Science, a nice web comic. It's mostly just college student humor, which is pretty good, but occasionally he'll throw in a computer science joke which people that haven't taken C.S. classes at college probably won't get. Of course, I think those are hilarious, but it's worth the read even for non-computer-scientists.
Tomorrow morning I'm heading off to a unique one-day retreat. We'll leave at 8am, and once we're in the car, we become silent. And stay that way until we get in the car to come back on Sunday morning. Many of us are also fasting.
Specifically this is a retreat to practice several of the spiritual disciplines from Dallas Willard's Spirit of the Disciplines that I read and that one of our pastors has been using to teach a class. I'm quite looking forward to it.
The family whose son I tutor (now on Friday nights) was kind enough to make me fruits and salad for dinner tonight, so I'm easing into what will probably be a water-only fast. Anyway, it should be excellent. I'll let you know how things go.
Okay, here's the crux of the explanation about how evil and suffering can exist if God is truly good. This is a mere thumbnail of the argument, for more details email me directly, or come to Lakeline this Sunday. If you're not in a hurry, you can get sermon tapes of the whole "Where's God" series once it's done.
The difficulty is based around five foundational "beliefs":
That God is all-powerful implies that everything that occurs happens either by His will (intention) or by His permission.
Many try to resolve this apparent conflict by trying to dispute one or more of these points. Bertrand Russell said that God wasn't good. Others discount His power or ability. And some religions teach that suffering and evil are an illusion.
The existence of Free Will, however, resolves this apparent conflict. The Bible teaches that we were created to be in a loving, personal relationship with God and to glorify Him (John 17:3). However, we must choose to love God, or to say that we love Him is meaningless (Josh. 24:15). If love is not freely given and freely received, it ceases to be love.
Unfortunately, free will is abused. From Adam and Eve up to you and I, everyone chooses to use their freedom to rebel against God's authority and His plan at least occasionally. We are all guilty in this regard.
Thus, there are consequences for our abuse of free will, and evil and suffering are the result. Though evil is not God's intention (Psalm 5:4), it is by His permission. Two types of evil exist.
Thus the question is this: which is better?
We know which alternative God thought best, because we are living in it.
Free will is incredibly valuable, because it allows us to love God. Thus God's desire for love to exist is a morally sufficient reason to allow for free will even though it can potentially result in evil and suffering.
So that's the idea. Again, for the full scoop you'll want to be at Lakeline for the next several Sundays, or get the message series on tape. Or email me directly; there's a bit more in my notes that I didn't type up, and a few more things Brian said that I recall even though I didn't write them down.
By the way, my dad reports that the new colors rendered the text unreadable on some older browsers. I've put in a hack that will probably fix this page only, so apologies to anyone who was unable to read the news since yesterday.
Certainly all my readers have heard this by now, but this web page sometimes serves as my journal, so this bears repeating.
This morning at least four commercial jet airliners were hijacked. Two were crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York, which eventually crashed to the ground. A third crashed into the Pentagon within an hour, setting it ablaze. Minutes before, the FAA halted all flight operations at all airports in the U.S. Within half an hour, a fourth plane crash landed in a deserted area southeast of Pittsburgh, presumably by the pilot to prevent a similar crash at Camp David. Thousands are dead. The color change is to mourn their loss.
The coincidence with the beginning of the "Where's God" series is just too strong not to mention. In fact, tomorrow when I have more time, I'll probably list the meat of the explanation of how evil can exist in a world with a loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God.
We've put the scheduled second part of the series ("What is God trying to tell me when I'm in pain?") off for a week, so this Sunday we'll specifically address the events of today and the next few days. We're expecting a packed house.
In fact, I just got back from a prayer vigil up at the church, which was excellent. Many people just wept before God and asked for His peace for the grieving and that this event was cause many to seek His face.
Went to go see Bag Of Stephens at the Saxon Pub tonight. They played well, though the lead vocalist and guitarist had a sore throat and some equipment trouble. It was still worth the cover.
Started some preliminary coding on the new version of Voter today. I think I may be able to get some cool new features in there without too much work. More importantly, though, is the just get it working again with at least as much functionality as I'd had before. Hopefully I can find time throughout this week to get it going.
You'll notice this page loaded much more quickly. That's because I finally archived off the old entries from June and July (reducing this page by 53K), and in the process renamed all the archives from names like "Sep99.html" to ones like "1999-09.html". Of course, the renaming means nothing to you, but it certainly makes my life easier.
My Internet access has been spotty all week, but things are nice now. I finally got my router running, so Bob and I are sharing the cable modem. It's a bit of a mess, with computer guts and CAT-5 cable everywhere, but it works. I'll be spending the next week getting everything cleaned up and nice-looking.
The adventure began with a trip last weekend to Fry's, an electronics/computer warehouse that had it's grand opening in Austin on Friday. In addition to routing, we want the machine to be a file server, so I bought a Linksys 10/100 NIC for $20 and an IBM Deskstar 7500 RPM, ATA-100, 40 GB hard drive for $109. Then when I got home I backed up all my files on both computers (my main computer and the router) for both operating systems (Windows 95 and Linux). I reformatted all the drives, swapped them around, and started installing Linux. Of course, the router decided it wouldn't read disc 2 of the installation CD, so it was hosed for several days. Also in the mix there I killed a motherboard by pushing a bit too firmly trying to seat some RAM.
Things mostly sat idle all week, but yesterday I finished installing Linux, copied all the rpms to the hard drive, downloaded and compiled the latest kernel with all the IP masquerading options turned on. And today I set up the iptables rules and dhcpd and actually got it routing packets.
Bob and I also spent a few hours yesterday turning the garage from a store room into a coffee house, since we'd pretty much gone through all our boxes and repacked stuff for storage. It still needs a few things, but overall looks much nicer.
What else? Open House was Tuesday night, and I had a smattering of parents as usual. Our landlord was in town this weekend, so we got to meet her briefly. The lawn is quite green and a foot high from all the rain. I actually got a letter in the mail yesterday warning us because we are in violation of our "deed restrictions". Not that we have a deed. Or a lawn mower, actually. They'll just have to wait until the lawn mowing service gets back by, I guess.
Been programming a bit up at school, and relearning assembly with Computer Science III is fun. I plan to completely rewrite Voter this week, too, since IP address/subnet changes over the summer have made my old solution no longer viable.
Oh, and we started a new series at Lakeline this morning: "Where's God?" This week's topic was "Why is there so much suffering in the world?" And Brian explained excellently how because of free will, evil can exist even if God is perfectly good and all-powerful.
Finally, my tutoring night has moved to Friday. After the lesson and grading were done, we watched A Hard Day's Night, which was pretty funny.
Has it really been this long since I updated? Wow. It's been raining all week, which is good for the lawn but causes Pepper to have muddy feet sometimes. Bob moved in last weekend; we moved all his furniture on Saturday. Since then we've both continued to slowly unpack.
Today we finally got the kitchen under control. Between us, we have a lot of kitchen items.
Probably the most drastic change this weekend was the installation of the cable modem on Friday afternoon. I've been using the same 33.6 modem for maybe six years now. The lines are real dirty here, so I sometimes connect as slow as 9600, and the connection drops frequently. Even when everything is working well, I only get 23 Kbps, and when the line noise is bad, that drops to 12 Kbps or less. The cable modem, on the other hand, gets consistently over 2100 Kbps and bursts up to 5000 Kbps for small files. In the average case, that's roughly 95 times faster than my download speeds for the past six years.
Now, I'm not using the cable modem yet, because I haven't finishing setting up the little Linux router that will allow us to share the connection. But you can believe I've got some incentive to get that going pretty soon. And the best part about it is that I'm used to paying $40 a month for Internet connectivity ($20 for the dedicated phone line and $20 for dial-up). My half of the cable bill will be around $45 a month, which ain't bad for a nearly hundred-fold speed up and several dozen cable channels to boot.
I finally got around to booting into Windows to fix the little favorites icon that didn't look right. The old icon is typically cached for a long time, but it should change in the next few weeks. Of course, new favorites to this page should show the updated icon.
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