Old News

Archived news items from November 2000
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Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 [22:49 CST]

Today has been my day for receiving gifts. First period a student who'd been hunting this weekend brought me a deer steak. He brought it iced down in a little cooler, and I forgot to freshen the ice all day. When he came in last period and found that out he cautioned, "Be sure you cook it." Not that there was much danger of me eating a deer steak raw, but I know where he's coming from.

Third period a student walked in and handed me a CD. "Happy birthday," he said. (Though of course my birthday is in July.) He wanted me to have it and put it on voter. It's not a band I've ever heard of: Living Sacrifice. I've just listened to the first track so far, but it sounds like death metal. Scanning the liner notes reveals Christian lyrics. So I'm sure not about that, though I certainly will put it on the jukebox.

Then, later that same period another student invited me to monthly Christian music venue her mother hosts: the Blockhouse Concert Series. Apparently Christian artists come and jam. From 8:30 until "whenever". So I'm going to check that out.

To cap things off, when I got home from rehearsal just now I had a message in my inbox from a friend giving me a URL where I could buy a prayer book I've been searching for. And just when I was beginning to think I'd have to travel to England (it's published by Holy Trinity Brompton, a large contemporary episcopal church across the pond there). So I purchased that just now. Yippee!

Tuesday and yesterday I set up a table finally to sell CDs at church. With the Christmas shopping season starting I was starting to feel pretty guilty since we still have over 100 CDs left just sitting in a box in Bob's office. We're about $600 shy of breaking even on them, so it'd be nice to cover that deficit before the year's up.

And speaking of the CD reminds me about the funeral I mentioned last time. The father of the drama director at Lakeline has been battling cancer for about a year now, and he passed away about two weeks ago. In the last stages, the cancer spread to his brain and was inoperable. So he moved from the hospital into a rest home and asked them to not feed him intravenously or anything, but just to try to make things as painless as possible. At the end he went ten days without food or water before he finally passed.

How I enter the story is that the last two days of the vigil, the family was pretty worn. The room in the nursing home was too quiet and depressing and just emotionally difficult, as such things always are. So they put on the Lakeline worship CD and just played it continuously. They tell me the effect on the mood in the room was dramatic, and that it really ministered to him and them and helped them to get through it.

So, they asked if I and another lady who had sung with us on the CD would come sing a couple of worship songs at the funeral service. So I was honored to do so, even though it meant missing about two hours of school and trying to find someone to cover my class on the day before Thanksgiving break.

At the service, we played Sanctuary and then Amazing Grace during the viewing. Many people came up to me and told me how much the music had meant to them those late two days. And then later I heard that almost everyone had approached our drama director at the private family service later that day to tell her how much easier the viewing had been because of our playing.

So although the funeral was not fun by any means, I feel very blessed by the whole thing, and honored and totally humbled to be used by God. Although when I think about it, this was the sort of thing I was hoping for when I prayed over the CDs at the release party, that God would use them for His glory and to draw people closer to Him.

Whew. That's longer than usual. I've got a nice comic strip, which I'll save for the next update.

Sunday, 26 Nov 2000 [21:46 CST]

Lots to mention, little time. Went home for Thanksgiving and took the cats with me. They did fine. Spent three days with Mom and Dad and saw little brother Paul. Played Chrono Cross. Taught Paul all the new songs that Bob brought with him. Went to the annual family Thanksgiving get-together and ate too much. Saw grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides. Watched UT beat the Aggies on Friday and was pleasantly surprised by how well UT played. Watched Gladiator on Friday night, and enjoyed that. Got back home yesterday. Spent some time at school today getting the averaging thing working again, so now it works 100% of the time but requires a bit of extra work on my part.

Played at a funeral on Tuesday, which I'll write about when I get more time.

Sunday, 19 Nov 2000 [21:04 CST]

Church went well this morning. The drama (our take on the Monty Python skit "The Four Yorkshiremen") went well and was enjoyed by all. Worship went excellently, probably because half of the worship team was sick and so we had to let God handle things.

We apparently had a power outage right around midnight last night for nearly an hour. Of course my clock didn't go off, but fortunately I woke up naturally in plenty of time. Thanks to my early bedtime last night, of course.

Today was also productive. After church I did my laundry and then bought groceries. Then after a late lunch (around 4:30) I went to school again. It took me about thirty seconds to integrate the module I'd written yesterday with the web page the students use to check their grades. Of course, that was no fun, so I spent another three hours redesigning that page to use a cool table with check-marks and what-have-you and also reorganizing a few things to fix the average lookup, which was failing from time to time.

I won't know if I've fixed everything until tomorrow when my students increase the load from one hit every five minutes to twenty-five hits in thirty seconds. So we'll see.

An excellent black bean salsa last week has put me on an alternative salsa kick, so I just finished a bowl of peach salsa. It was good, but maybe not good enough to buy it over my normal brands.

And the RealAudio sermon last night was very interesting as well, so I'm going to listen to the next one in the series tonight.

I got lots of compliments on the haircut today at church. I guess that's what happens when you let a French "stylist" at your head.

Saturday, 18 Nov 2000 [20:52 CST]

Today was productive. First thing was dress rehearsal for the drama tomorrow morning. Since it was the first event of the day, I was ten minutes late. Practice went well, and it should be a lot of fun tomorrow.

Immediately afterward I stopped by to get my hair cut. Several of the stylists were out sick, so the wait was long, but I got a good cut. Very nice.

Then home for lunch. Then off to school, where I spent about five hours programming and reworking my automatic grade-averaging program. I got a lot done and now the module I have can be fairly easily integrated into the web page the kids use to check their grades. So it will show them not only which assignments they are missing but what their overall average is.

Hopefully I'll get a few hours to do the integration tomorrow afternoon, since it makes the students more aware of their standing in my class but doesn't require any additional effort on my part. (Not on a daily basis, anyway. It did, of course, take maybe seven hours of programming time, but I like programming.)

Had dinner when I got home, ran through the songs for tomorrow morning, and I'm about to call some folks, maybe listen to a RealAudio sermon, and then hit the hay.

And tomorrow's a short school week (only two days) and then I'm off to Mom & Dad's for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, 16 Nov 2000 [23:29 CST]

Worship team rehearsal got out uncharacteristically early tonight; we were done by 8:35. Of course, what did we do with the free time? We sat around the church talking (and dubbing rehearsal tapes) for nearly an hour and then went out to IHOP, where we ate way too much and stayed until after 11:00. And so I'm just getting home. Can't win for losing, I guess.

Wednesday, 15 Nov 2000 [22:40 CST]

Had the last session of my prayer class today. We listened to a very excellent taped sermon on how the tabernacle models how we approach God and thus how we should approach Him in prayer. Overall the class went well. Plus, since I've gotten the base material written now, I can teach the class again in the future only having to refine the material rather than generate it. So though it was important and a lot of fun, it's nice to have one less thing on my plate.

After church tonight I spent about half an hour practicing on the drums. I've decided I'd like to be good enough on drums to fill in as an emergency backup. So I've been messing around and practicing for a few minutes here and there as I got the chance throughout the past week. It's amazing how much I've improved in the first week. I'm still pretty bad, but I can do enough to see there's hope, anyway.

Christmas is coming up, so any of you who really love me can feel free to send me stuff off my wish list, updated regularly.

Monday, 13 Nov 2000 [23:11 CST]

Saturday night I went to see Among Thorns play at a youth rally in Lampasas. They were very good, and I'm always pleased to see bands who are more concerned with leading worship than putting on a show. I bought their first CD and got to talk to the band members briefly, and then gave them some copies of our CD. It was a late night since Lampasas is nearly a two-hour drive, but it was nice.

Worship was excellent Sunday morning. Gives me chills just thinking about it. After church we all went out to eat at the Lone Star Cafe, where I'd never been before. The food was good. Then Sunday night was our first "new" Gathering. One of Bob's friends J.J. Plasencio played cello for it, which was cool. It turns out he's a worship leader at a church in Austin similar to ours and has done studio work on bass guitar (usually upright bass) for several well-known Christian musicians, including Among Thorns. Small world, I guess.

Also on Saturday I finally bought Rage Against the Machine's most recent album, The Battle of Los Angeles. Since Zack de la Rocha left the band about a month ago, I guess it will be their last.

Sort of as a by-product of buying those albums, I've been putting a lot of new music on my jukebox at school. Sunday afternoon I sat down and had a big edit-fest with my sound file editor and most of the songs off the two Rage albums which weren't yet on there and some random other albums. I edited out all the dirty words and then was able to add them to the playlist. I'm still missing three songs from Rage Against the Machine (their first, self-titled album), two of which I think I'll ultimately be able to add. However, editing takes a while and since they both had multiple words to be removed I didn't have time.

As a case in point, today once I got home to stay, I edited a single word from Weezer's Undone - The Sweater Song off their self-titled album. It took me one hour and fifteen minutes. On the other hand, editing Judith from A Perfect Circle's Mer de Noms took only nine minutes. So it's hard to guess how long it will take in advance, but it averages about fifteen to twenty minutes per word.

Hopefully that will clear my editing backlog for a bit, though. Most surprising artist to get censored in the past week? James Taylor (for his live rendition of Steamroller).

Thursday, 9 Nov 2000 [22:29 CST]

Okay, I heard this on the radio today and just had to share. The D.J. actually said "everyone gets their own personalized PIN number." That's right. Their own personalized Personal Identification Number number. This is from the same Department of Redundancy Department that brings us "SAT test" and "ATM machine". But "personalized PIN number"? Goodness.

Wednesday, 8 Nov 2000 [22:25 CST]

Grading is done. In a fit of passion, I also finally threw in a few lines of code so that the page students use to check on their grades also now can figure out their percentile on the project grade. This saves me about ten minutes of each class period because every six weeks I have to reexplain how to figure out a percent grade from their project score.

I also foolishly stayed up late last night hoping to hear something final in the election, so I'm behind on sleep. Of course, it looks like it'll be a few days yet, so I'm wishing I'd slept for the extra hours I was glued to the television.

Mom and Dad finally received their copy of the CD, and the report is good. About 260 sold at this point, if I remember correctly.

Saturday, 4 Nov 2000 [21:43 CST]

Yesterday after school I went to Schlumberger and was wined and dined and recruited. It seems they've just started a program trying to improve their connection with college computer science, electrical engineering and geology faculty (and thus with graduates in those fields), and they invited the University of Texas and some other nearby colleges to attend an "All About Schlumberger" evening, with presentations and food and giveaways and such. Apparently, they also contacted Leander High School, since I was invited. I didn't know this was what it was going to be about when I went, but it was fun. The food was quite good, and it was neat to see what a state-of-the-art high-tech research facility looked like on the inside.

I've been considering taking a month of my summer break to work at some local tech business just to touch base with the real world and increase my skills. Schlumberger might be the one for this year. We'll see.

Not much else productive happened so far this weekend. I finally remembered to send Mom and Dad their copy of the CD, and did laundry, but that's about it for today. Which of course means that tomorrow I get to grade all the projects. Much fun.

Thursday, 2 Nov 2000 [22:43 CST]

Six weeks projects got turned in today. I'm glad it's over because simply being in the same room with all that anxiety is rough. So basically I'll spend this weekend grading them. If I get free time I'm going to rework the algorithm that queues up a playlist based on winning albums. Currently a few popular albums play way more often than others, so I hear the same songs all the time.

Also made some progress on the C++ compiler in CS-3 yesterday. My original "working" code had some rounding errors for very long numbers. We've spent the last several days figuring out how to to prevent those errors, and we were able to fix most of the problem cases. Just a few situations left which can cause it to occur, but of course they're more difficult to prevent. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

I also made it to early voting today, and voted against light rail and for Bush. I think Gore is a talented statesman, but we just differ ideologically in so many ways. And the fact that whoever is elected will possibly get three Supreme Court nominations is also a big deal.

AT&T called me back on Tuesday, and I'm supposedly signed up. If I'd thought about it before now, I'd call someone long distance to see if it's working. I guess I'll know by next time.

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