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Archived news items from December 2003
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Saturday, 27 December 2003 [03:49 CST]

Actually late Friday night....

I'm in East Texas through Monday or so visiting my family. I just got back from the hospital here in Longview. I'm an uncle again!

Owen Conner Mitchell
7 lbs., 2 oz.
19-1/2 inches long
born at 10:57 pm, December 26

Both mother and child (and husband and uncle) are well. Pictures when I get 'em.

Monday, 22 December 2003 [23:46 CST]

Well, last week I spent nearly every night staying up until after midnight (and sometimes 2:00 or 3:00) creating semester exams. Though I was arriving later and later to work, I will still having to be up after only a few hours of sleep.

Then on Friday after the last exam was given, I began some of the grading. I had almost all of the normal daily work graded, and every exam except for CS-3 done before I went home on Friday.

Then I had a spectacularly unproductive weekend, except for playing some more Advance Wars. I still managed to stay up late and not catch up on sleep, however.

Music Sunday morning went pretty well with David leading, and then I spent Sunday afternoon making desserts for our church Christmas party slash cookie exchange slash first annual caroling event. Of course, I was also fairly responsible for the singing part of the caroling, and spent a bit that afternoon getting a handout with the words to several carols on it.

Then once I got home I stayed up late playing video games again.

This morning the sleeplessness came crashing in on me, as I didn't get out of bed until after noon. I had a slow "morning", and finally sat down in the late afternoon to grade the Six-Weeks projects from Computer Science I, which I knocked out in a couple of hours. And then watched a divx of Boondock Saints, which my students had recommended that I watch and they'd burned me a copy of on a CD-R. I thought it was pretty good.

So all I have left to do school-wise is grade those CS-3 exams, which won't take me long once I start. I'll do that tomorrow, and then make sure there are no other straggling grades to do.

I'm going to try to get to bed relatively soon, because otherwise I'm going to shift my bodyclock back to its summertime schedule, and when you've only got two weeks off, that's a bad thing to awaken.

Sunday, 14 December 2003 [22:16 CST]

Well, it's the end of the semester, and my life is full of grading, creating semester exams, and the like. Just one more week, though.

We had a very excellent drama at church this morning: S.W.A.T. Shop, which took a lot of work from a lot of people and turned out very nicely.

Some of you know that over the Thanksgiving holiday I played some Advance Wars with my brother. And since then we've both downloaded emulators and have been playing via email: he'll take a turn, save the state, email the savegame to me, and I'll then take my turn. And so on.

Well, playing on my computer isn't super fun because hunching over my keyboard for an hour at a stretch (in the single-player game) aggravates my suspected carpal tunnel. So I finally got around to pulling out my gamepad and figuring out how to get it working under Linux. It was easy! Just a little

$ modprobe joydev
$ modprobe gameport
$ modprobe analog
$ modprobe ns558

...followed by a download and install and then a little writing down the settings after running

$ ./SDL-Test

...and then editing VisualBoyAdvance.cfg to change the following lines:


...and it works like a charm! And you wonder why more folks don't use Linux....

Thursday, 4 December 2003 [00:07 CST]

Actually late Wednesday night....

More fun with tires. Yesterday as I was driving home from school, I noticed that one of my tires was making a strange sound. Another teacher, who happened to be behind me, flagged me down to let me know that my right rear tire was completely flat. So I pulled over into the parking lot of the Catholic Church and proceeded to try to change the tire. But I soon discovered that one of the four lugnut had been crossthreaded (but powered down tight anyway) and was nearly impossible to turn.

I continued working at it, and slowly but surely it was coming off, until about two-thirds of the way there the bolt snapped, leaving a chunk in the lugnut (and thus making it useless even to put back on the section of the bolt that remained). Well, at least I was able to get the flat tire off. I put on the spare, securing it with the remaining three lugnuts, and drove nervously home.

Today, I had seventh-period conference (which is a little over two hours long), so I took off immmediately at noon to make the half-hour drive down to Discount Tire, where I'd bought four new tires three weeks ago. I told them about my situation, and they happily agreed to patch or replace the tire, and replace the broken bolt (which I have learned is called a "stud" in this case), all free of charge. In fact, they even sent a guy to walk a couple of stores down to Auto Zone to buy the part, which they don't normally stock or service.

I told them I was a school teacher, and needed to be back in my classroom for eighth period at 2:15, which meant needing to leave there by probably 1:45. They said it'd probably be tight but they thought they could make it (note that it was a bit after 12:30 that they were telling me this).

Well, after sitting in the waiting room for an hour and ten minutes, my car still hadn't even been moved from where I'd parked it. I went up to talk to the manager (who I'd been talking to earlier), and it turns out they'd been slammed by an unusually high number of cars about half an hour before I got there, including a gentleman who'd been having four new tires put on his Lexus, who upon getting it back to drive off, declared that "the whitewalls are facing the wrong way" and had them pull the car back in to redo all four tires (and probably the spare, even). He'd been sitting near me and was a weird guy chewing (but not smoking, since there's no smoking in any building in Austin city limits) a huge cigar and reading a textbook on Nuclear Safety, muttering to himself.

Anyway, that backed up everything, so the manager suggested I leave my tire there and just head back to school, and he promised that if I came back after school that I'd be first in line. Then he'd just replace the stud and put on the already-repaired tire, and I'd be off in a jiffy.

So I went back to school and got there literally as the bell was ringing, did eighth period and then took off again for Discount Tire. True to his word, they immediately attended to my car, but the stud proved harder to replace than expected, so it took about twenty minutes. He also reported that it was a sheet metal screw in the tire, which I blame on the sloppy construction workers still doing things around the parking lot at the high school.

But just as the manager was replacing my spare tire in the trunk, he happened to notice a nail sticking out of it, which had apparently gotten in there between 2:00 and 4:00 P.M. today! So he repaired that tire as well, which took another ten minutes.

I have this to say about the whole experience:

  1. I'm going to start parking in the front parking lot at the school, which has slightly fewer construction vehicles moving through it all the time.
  2. Discount Tire has excellent customer service, since they really went out of their way to fix everything. Now, the broken stud was due to their mistake, so it's only right that they should fix it without charge, but I can imagine other car repair places that would try to weasel out of it. And they even repaired the punctured spare tire for free, even though it wasn't technically a tire they'd sold me and thus wasn't covered by their warranty (it was the best of my previous set of four, which I replaced three weeks ago).
  3. Discount Tire, though with excellent prices and service, isn't for those in a hurry. It took me nearly ninety minutes of driving and an hour and forty-five minutes of waiting to get my free repairs. If you need to be in and out during your lunch hour, you might look elsewhere.

In other news, I should mention I recently picked up the rare Mother Love Bone CD used at Half-Price Books for a seriously low price, which isn't that great musically, but is worth having for historical reasons. I also picked up The Very Best of Sheryl Crow at Wal-Mart, and it's pretty good. She's written a lot of nice songs over the past decade.

And in the last couple of weeks, I've seen the following movies:

I also saw X2: X-Men United, which I'd seen in the theaters back in May but my parents hadn't. It's another nice one, and I recommend it if only for the Nightcrawler's special effects. In fact, the only thing that bothered me was that he didn't pray in German, which would be much more in character.

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November 2003
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