Archived news items from September 2005
Since this is old news, some links may be broken.
newer old news from October 2005
It turns out I was wrong about the temperature yesterday. I'd thought it to be a scant 103°F. It turns out it actually reached 108°, the hottest autumn day in Austin ever and smashing the previous daily record by ten full degrees.
Today it got as high as 107°, as well. I'm still a little short of breath but I feel much better than yesterday at this time.
Whew. I did ride my bike today, at least.
Actually late Sunday night....
Well, you know about this hurricane thing. Well, a lot of the evacuees from Houston came to Austin, since we were supposed to be well out of the way. We got the word at school on Thursday morning that our campus was going to be used to house evacuees over the weekend, and that they might be getting here early, so we were only going to go half a day on Friday.
Thursday night, around 10:30 PM, I got a call on the emergency phone tree call list thingy saying that evacuees were already there and so we were cancelling school altogether on Friday. Good news, and I had some grading to do.
Friday I slept late and got my haircut. I didn't grade. That evening was small group: we'd been planning a football game but that had also been cancelled. So we had hot dogs and played volleyball in the park instead.
Saturday I got up fairly early and met some folks up at the church at 9am, and we carpooled up to Corsicana to attend a friend's wedding. The roads were fairly deserted, probably because we were travelling north and then east just as Hurricane Rita was travelling north and then east. She was a hundred or so miles to the east of us, however.
We got some strongish winds but weren't even close enough to get any rain. The church was creaking in all the wind, though, and it created the impression that the wedding was happening in the hold of a very large pirate ship or something.
Bad directions notwithstanding, the ceremony was nice, and the reception in nearby Kerens was also nice. I ate more barbecue at the reception than probably the previous six months combined, as my digestive system would later angrily remind me.
I got home just before 9pm, making this wedding a slightly-more-than-twelve-hour affair. We listened to William Shatner's new CD Has Been on the way, but otherwise it was pretty uneventful. I was wiped once I got home and pretty much went straight to bed.
Music went really well at church this morning, with me pinch-hitting passably on electric guitar. We had a few Houston evacuees present at the service, including a couple of dancers from a Christian dance troupe there.
After church I went to the last day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. I know I can't afford such things, but a guy from church has a daughter from out-of-town who was going and she didn't know anyone here in Austin to go with and he'd feel safer if she had a male with her. So I got a free ticket in exchange for being a bodyguard of sorts.
We arrived a little after 3:00, and so we saw the following bands, in this order: The Bravery (6 stars (out of 10)), Jason Mraz (8 stars), The Decemberists (6 stars), Franz Ferdinand (5 stars), and Coldplay (7 stars). There were close to 60,000 people present. It was quite hot. (103°?). But the worst part is that the ground was very dry. By about 6:30, the people walking to and fro had kicked up enough dust that it was literally difficult to breathe. This dust storm lasted over an hour, and if it hadn't died down somewhat by 8:30 I was strongly considering dragging my "charge" home early.
We didn't get a chance to hear The Arcade Fire, and everyone who'd seen it said we missed one fantastic show. Even Coldplay commented (more than once) about how good they were.
The last show was over a little before 10pm, and then we trudged back through the crowds and headed for home. I finally rolled into Block House Creek at 11:30, dirty, tired, and with dust-filled-lungs. I've showered, and once I upload this I'm off to sleep. I'm not going to proofread, so let me know if you have spotted any errors.
The word via email is that most of the evacuees are gone from the school, so we have class as normal tomorrow. Oh, well.
A couple of days ago I was complaining about the annoying yet ineffective copy-protection on Switchfoot's new CD. It seems I'm not the only one who noticed. Tim Foreman, bass player for Switchfoot and the brother of lead singer/songwriter Jon Foreman, apologized for the fiasco:
"We were horrified when we first heard about the new copy-protection policy that is being implemented by most major labels, including Sony (ours), and immediately looked into all of our options for removing this from our new album. Unfortunately, this is the new policy for all new major releases from these record companies. It is heartbreaking to see our blood, sweat, and tears over the past 2 years blurred by the confusion and frustration surrounding this new technology."
He then goes on to list some ways Windows users can work around the copy protection. It's good to see that they're not okay with things either.
I stayed after school grading for a while today and then went to the first FCA meeting of this year in the evening. A kid from my church who also attends FCA asked me if I could lead some singing for "See You at the Pole" on Wednesday morning. So I wanted to get some song ideas from the students. I know a whole lot of songs, but I don't always know which ones they're doing at other churches.
So I've got my discipleship triad tomorrow morning at 6am and SYATP at 7am Wednesday morning. I guess I need to start going to bed earlier.
So, I've been to the optometrist as many times in the last two weeks than I had in the previous decade. It's hard to bike to school when you've got to hightail it out of school to make it ten miles to the optometrist before they close.
Days attended school this year: 27
Days biked to school: 13
Bike commute percentage: 48%
Wednesday was my one-week evaluation, since I'd changed my prescription, the brand of contacts, and the type (from traditional to disposable). I'd been having some double-vision up close with the new contacts, and so the optometrist checked my eyes again and decided to go back a power from -2.25 to -2.0 on the contacts to see if that would help. So I got another trial pair, and in a week if they've done okay I'm supposed to call them to order the rest. And so far I like the newer ones better.
I'd also decided to get some glasses as well, and there was a chance that those would be ready by my follow-up on Wednesday. They weren't but someone poked their head in where the glasses-making guy hangs out and discovered that my glasses were only about two people down the pile, and so surely they'd be ready Thursday.
So I left early again on Thursday, missing the Anime Club watching a downloaded version of Advent Children, the as-yet-to-be-released Final Fantasy movie from the same people that did The Spirits Within. I showed up at the clinic, they found my glasses, and we started into the "fitting" details. It didn't take long for us to figure out they were the wrong ones, and we eventually figured out that I'm not, in fact, Nathan Mitchell. He's far-sighted and one of his eyes is worse than the other, for the record.
They looked up the real Graham Mitchell, and discovered that I was still a bit down the list. "Had we called you to tell you your glasses were ready?" they asked. No, indeed. "Maybe tomorrow, then. We'll call you."
I got the phone call Friday morning, and thus went back again Friday afternoon (missing an encore showing of the same anime); this time all was in place. The new glasses fit just fine, and initial feedback from humans with better fashion sense seems to be generally positive. It'll be nice to have the option of not wearing contacts once in a while, that's for sure.
I did succeed in watching one movie this week: Heathers, one of my favorites from high school. Lots of quotable lines, though most of them I can't do in mixed company.
On Tuesday Switchfoot's new album Nothing Is Sound was released, and I'd already paid for it in a pre-buy promotion. So I went to retrieve it that evening, but was unable to escape the store without buying two other CDs on sale: White Flag by fellow East Texan Shaun Groves, and the David Crowder Band's Illuminate. I've actually been too busy to listen to any of them except Nothing Is Sound, and that only once. So no reviews yet.
I should warn you that the Switchfoot CD is heavily copy-protected, and that's fairly annoying. It actually says on the label: "You will not be able to play this disc or make copies onto devices not listed as compatible." This is known as DRM or "digital rights management": the attempt to enforce certain aspects of copyright through technological means.
Well, under Linux, it turns digital copying is fairly simple. They've screwed with the table of contents on the disc so it looks like there are more tracks than there really are, and one of the tracks isn't listed. Further, the TOC lies about the length of the last real track (12). I told my ripping program to extract only tracks 1-12, and then when the ripping kept going past the actual end of track 12 and it starting coming up with sector errors, I terminated the process, opened up the "partial" track 12 in Audacity and edited off the couple of minutes of white noise at the end.
So now I've got tagged FLAC copies of all the tracks on my hard drive, just like I've done with nearly every other album I own. And with a single command, I can produce tagged Ogg Vorbis files or mp3s from the FLACs without even having to touch the original CD.
Unfortunately for all of us, my ability to copy the disc so "easily" means the record labels will continue to research more and more egregious copy protection schemes so they can attempt to control how we listen to something we've legally purchased.
In related news, Jon "deCSS" Johansen released version 1.0 of SharpMusique, so I got it compiled and working (and much more easily than before, I should add) and used the new version to download a song off the iTunes Music Store to celebrate. Hurrah for DRM-free digital audio singles under Linux!
I had a request for an RSS feed from a rather random visitor to this site. Not wanting to be behind the times, I spent a couple of hours this afternoon figuring out how to do it. Since my site is created by hand rather than some template, I needed to write a little custom site scraper in Perl and add some HTML comments to tell the thing what the titles should be. That's done now, and it appears to work. If you don't know what an RSS feed is, then don't worry about it. It's not for you, anyway.
It's good to be writing headlines again, since it's something I was once the best in the state at. I'd put a link to my glory days, but the UIL champions archives are currently "down".
I could only bike two days last week, what with all the holidays, morning meetings, and afterschool appointments. My percentage dropped a point, but I hope to bring it back up next week.
Days attended school this year: 22
Days biked to school: 12
Bike commute percentage: 55%
You know, I actually washed my car yesterday. The car was a little dirty, and I'd had way too many random bird-dropping attacks. So since I'm now in a house with a driveway and a garden hose, I added a bucket, sponge, and some soap and was off to the races.
It had rained earlier that morning, and was going to rain again, so I just did a quick job, but it does look nicer.
About the only other thing I did yesterday was try and try and try to get my soundcard recording under Fedora Core 4. Now, this isn't a Linux thing per se, since Linux has been able to record successfully using the very same soundcard for years and years.
I'm about to decide that either my soundcard has died partially (though it still plays music just fine), or some obscure driver that used to work is currently broken, and the rest of the Internet doesn't know about it yet.
You Windows users should be used to this. "It *used* to work," you say. "I don't know what happended, but it doesn't work anymore." And yeah, you probably do say "happended", you poor Windows users. It was a typo, but I think I like it better that way.
I watched the first half-hour of Hitch on Thursday. I had to attend to some business and ended up missing the rest of it, but I'd like to re-watch it sometime in the future when I have time to see the whole thing.
Oh, and Mom and various others in my life who are concerned about my welfare will be happy to know that I went to the optometrist on Wednesday. Yeah, it's been over two years. As Mackenzie would say, "That's just the way I roll."
Anyway, my prescription had been -1.5 diopters in both eyes, which isn't great but not bad for someone who's been wearing glasses for two decades. Well, this time it was -2.25 in both eyes, which is a pretty big shift. Of course, I think I was on the edge of -1.75 before, and that I'm on the edge of -2. So, the shift may look bigger than it is. I also now have a slight astigmatism, which is new.
At the recommendation of just about everyone who cares about the condition of my eyes, I've switched to disposable contact lenses, so I've got in a trial pair right now, and I go back next Wednesday to make sure everything's fine (which it has been so far) and to check out maybe getting some glasses as well. It's amazing that I've lasted so long with only a single pair of non-disposable contacts for years at a time with no "back-up" like glasses.
Oh, and over the Labor Day weekend, I went to check out the new house of my high school friend and college roommate Chase, now a doctor. It's a cool house, and he and Steve (Foster) and I just hung out, cooked hamburgers on the grill, and watched the Longhorns win (easily) and the Aggies lose.
We plan to get together again in the near future, along with some other former bandmates when there's less distracting football and we can play more music.
You know, I've basically biked every day that I could the past three weeks. And I define "being unable to bike" as "I have a 6:00 A.M. meeting at a restaurant, and the meeting doesn't finish in time for me to bike from the restaurant back to school." Dig it:
Days attended school this year: 18
Days biked to school: 10
Bike commute percentage: 56%
This past week, I did something for my classes which I've been meaning to do for years: teach a lecture on social skills. My computer science boys are not always rife with social aplomb or anything, so it was well received. I called the PowerPoint "Don't Be Creepy".
The fun part was that after I'd showed it to all my classes, I had a couple of kids that aren't students of mine approach me in the cafeteria during my duty. One said, "Mr. Mitchell, a friend of mine told me you have a PowerPoint that I need to see." Ouch. So I showed it to the Anime Club as well, and that covers most of the needful audience.
This past week was homecoming, so I went all-out for the costuming as usual. Tuesday in particular I had a blast: it was "camo day". Typically I get up in all my military camoflauge, which looks impressive but gets old year after year.
So this year, I decided to go for real public school camoflauge: I dressed as a high school student. I shaved my facial hair. Let my bangs dry down in front of my face. Wore baggy jeans, a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt, and some black velcro tennis shoes. Wrote on my arms with a Sharpie, and borrowed a black leather wristband from a student.
Then I shuffled through the halls listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers on my headphones, and sat down to read "American Gods" whenever I got the chance.
Since 1) none of my students have ever seen me clean-shaven, and 2) they were all expecting my usual get-up, it was a roaring success. I walked into my own classroom in front of all my second-year students, sat down in the back, and read for several minutes, completely undiscovered.
An assistant principal told me to take off my headphones in the hall, since it's against school rules. I mumbled, "Yes, sir," and complied.
During my conference period I went into another teacher's classroom and sat down among her students. She took attendance and began reviewing the homework assignment, never noticing I was out of place.
I must say, I haven't had so much fun during homecoming in many, many years. Of course, now that I've done this costume, I won't be able to get away with it for a few years, but it was worth it. And my facial hair is growing back nicely. Some folks took pictures; I'll post them if anyone gives me a copy.
I saw Sin City early in the week (lent to me be a student) and Saved with some friends from church this weekend.
Sin City was excellent, and perfectly done. The cast was perfect, the cinematography was perfect. In fact, the only thing I disliked was the underlying story. I've read a couple of really deep and interesting graphic novels, but Sin City's story was sort-of banal, to be honest. It's just about people fighting each other, and so didn't have the depth of, say, The Watchmen. If Robert Rodriguez and "Quint" were going to do such a perfect job adapting a graphic novel, I'd have preferred them to pick one with a little more to say.
Saved, on the other hand, was less "perfect", though still very good. It was annoying to watch, since I know full well that there are "Christians" out there like that, but I don't have to like it. Anyway, it was funny and the actors did a good job. Though I'll admit to being annoyed at some of the summary logic in the movie's climax: "Why would God make us so different if He wanted us to all be the same? So obviously, then, homosexuality is okay!"
I enjoyed being able to sleep late this holiday morning, and I cleaned up my half of the house (which sorely needed it). And I got a chance to get my finances back in order: I hadn't balanced my checkbook in any form or fashion since about May, and things were in ruins.
After downloading some data files from my bank, keying in the rest and generally just massaging things for a couple of hours, I now know how much money I actually have in the bank for a change. Driving without a gas gauge is fun and all, but three months is far too long to go.
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