Old News

Archived news items from July 2001
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news from August 2001

Saturday, 28 July 2001 [22:16 CDT]

Today we moved everything that wouldn't fit in my car. Using Bob's SUV and my friend Anthony's truck, and with the additional help of Lee, Brad, Alicia, and even their son Kieran (who helped with moral support), we got things moved in three trips.

Our last load involved moving the evil hide-a-bed sofa which originally belonged to Lee's parents, then Lee, then me and Chase, then me and Anthony and Brad, then just me. I think everyone except Bob has moved that thing at least twice before (including the time Lee and Chase and I carried it by hand half a mile from Lee's apartment to ours, crossing under I-35 in the process). Anthony and Brad and Lee played Roshambo (that's rock-paper-scissors) to see who'd have to help me move it. Lee lost. Though getting it out of the apartment (and down a flight of stairs) wasn't nearly as hard as getting it in, as I recall. Then once we got to the house, Brad and Anthony unloaded it.

After it was all done, we went to Double Dave's for pizza. So since there's no hot water or phone line at the house (and since all my furniture is in the garage until we can get the place professionally cleaned), I'm still at the apartment for another few days. I've sleeping on the cool Army cot I bought a several years ago, in a sleeping bag. Plus my computer is precariously set up on a tiny end table. There's no other furniture of any kind in the whole apartment, which seems to upset the cats. I've got them some bedding to sleep on, though.

Friday, 27 July 2001 [23:24 CDT]

Well, everything went through as expected, so we signed the lease yesterday and got the keys last night. Now that it's really ours, I can tell you about the place.

The back yard isn't much bigger than the pool, but it's big enough to let the dog out there, and there is a bit of a front yard. We're obligated to water the grass, but Austin water restrictions limit how frequently we can do that, anyway, so we'll be only watering as often as we're allowed.

My new mailing address is:

1319 Piney Creek Ln.
Cedar Park, TX 78613

My phone number will be the same but it won't be on at the new house for over a week.

So, after getting the key Thursday evening, I laid seige to H.E.B., sitting at a table in the cafeteria and reading Dirk Gently, waiting for the overnight stock people to empty boxes for me. Despite the "eleven o'clock to eleven thirty" estimate I'd been given by a manager early in the day, I didn't get out of there until nearly 1:30. I did get lots of nice boxes, though, and in doing so saved myself a lot of money.

Today I tried to move everything that would fit in my car. It's been a long day, but I got a lot done. All my books are in boxes. All the furniture has been cleared so that all people have to do tomorrow is grab things and take them outside. In fact, the only things left that aren't furniture are: the things on the shelves in my closet, the stuff under the bathroom and kitchen sinks, most of the closet by the entrance, and pretty much the whole kitchen. But all that stuff is probably only two or three car loads, and I can move them Sunday afternoon.

Tomorrow I've asked some friends to show up here at noon (two of the friends are bringing pickup trucks). Then we'll move all the big things that wouldn't fit in my car (plus the boxes of books I haven't taken over yet). I can't imagine it'll take more than three or four trips, and since it's less than three miles from here to there, hopefully it won't be a long day.

Bob and I still need to do a walk-through of the place to record all existing damage so we won't be blamed for it whenever we leave.

Since phone lines will be changing around, my internet access (and thus ability to update this page) may be spotty for the next few weeks.

And that's about it. I'm pretty exhausted, so I'm going to maybe finish Dirk Gently and get some much-deserved rest. Fun heavy-lifting tomorrow!

Wednesday, 25 July 2001 [22:46 CDT]

Goodness. How much has changed in the last week!

Friday I wrote a longish blurb for the next church newsletter about the upcoming Haiti trip and prayer. Then I went up to Jerry's house (our global outreach guy) for dinner and to talk about prayer for the Haiti trip. Then afterward I went with some other folks from Lakeline on a photo shoot for a slide show to accompany the song "Two Sets of Joneses". One of my former students was leading worship at The Rock (a contempory Methodist church just up the road) and was going to play that song. That was fun.

Saturday I took another student driving (training in driving a standard) and had coffee with a friend. Then in the evening there was a singles' party where everybody brought photo albums to share. That was also fun.

And I had lunch with another friend Sunday after church. And coffee with yet another friend Tuesday at noon, and we talked for nearly four hours.

But none of that is the big news. Some of you know that Bob and I have been kicking around the idea of getting a house together. Nothing seriously came of it, and I had been meaning to sign a lease for another year in this apartment for weeks now but hadn't ever got down to do it. Which turns out to have been a good thing.

Thursday night after rehearsal, Bob and I hung around outside the church and had a big long talk about housing. We decided the maximum we could pay and basically decided to go house-hunting on Monday. Surprise!

At this point I began to pray specifically for:

Monday, we met up at the church at 9am. He had all the housing sections of Sunday's paper and I had a fair idea of the area I wanted to live in. We drove randomly around for over an hour, writing down phone numbers and addresses when we saw "For Rent" signs. Then went back to the church where we looked in the paper and tried to cross-reference listings with houses we'd seen. (We matched one, the "two-story house.") Then started making calls.

One of the early calls ended up being a realtor, who gave us MLS listings for half a dozen other houses in the area, including the "Piney Creek house." We drove to view those from the outside. Then we made some more calls.

We went to lunch and had "the roommate talk". We set some ground rules and discussed several potential issues. It looks like we agree on a lot of areas (e.g. females may not spend the night) and will probably be a good personality fit.

Then we called the realtor again and were able to get a walk-through of the Piney Creek house. We really liked it. Came back and made a few more calls.

By the end of Monday, we had narrowed it down to a short list of four houses, only two of which we'd seen inside, and only two of which we knew the prices of. (And only one with both.):

Here was the original short list:

And by the time I went to bed on Monday, that shrunk to three since I passed the Roanoke house on my way home from tutoring and noticed the "for rent" sign had been removed. (Though we'd left several messages, the owner of that house had never returned our calls.)

Tuesday we got to see the inside of the two-story house, and although it was nice and would certainly be acceptable, we didn't like it as much as the Piney Creek house. And by the end of Tuesday the Hard Rock house was pretty much off the list as well, since we'd being playing phone tag with the owner for two days and still hadn't been able to find out how much it cost, much less get inside it.

So on Tuesday we put in an appication and forked over a security deposit for the Piney Creek house. Today the applications were accepted, so unless something surprising happens, we'll sign a lease tomorrow at noon. We'll get a key Friday morning, and I'll start moving stuff. If for some reason something does fall through, the two-story house would do fine (and would be quite a bit cheaper).

Assuming we do sign a lease for the Piney Creek house tomorrow, I'll tell you all the cool details about the place. Let's just say God answers prayer.

By the way, Linux is still running well. My bad RAM arrived back at Allstar, but I haven't heard from them yet. And all my shipments of books arrived as expected. I read So Long and Thanks for All the Fish pretty much in one day. By now I'm done with the Hitchhiker's Guide series and just started on Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

I'm off to get some boxes from H.E.B., and then to bed.

Thursday, 19 July 2001 [16:23 CDT]

I'm getting reports that the IE favorites icon doesn't look like it's supposed to. So I'm looking into that.

Still waiting on mail-order stuff. My bad RAM is en-route back to Allstar, and should arrive on Monday. That means unless they dilly-dally I may get the replacement next weekend. Until then I'm forced to "get by" with only 256MB of RAM. Horrors.

Also most of the rest of my Amazon.com shipment is supposed to arrive tomorrow, so I've got more stuff to read. And the third and final shipment (containing one solitary book) is due sometime next week.

I read "The Prayer of Jabez", which was quite good and as far as I can tell, theologically accurate. In fact, I didn't find anything dangerous about it at all, unless someone didn't read the whole book and just took selected sentences or paragraphs out of context. But that's always a possibility.

And I did listen again to Prolonging the Magic, which it turns out is totally clean. Perhaps it's the first track, "Satan is my Motor", which contains the line "Satan is the only one who really understands." Or maybe that recorded phone conversation in French after the second verse in "Let Me Go" is incredibly obscene. If I could speak French, maybe I'd consider it "explicit". Or perhaps it's the use of the phrase "sex acts" in "When You Sleep". I just don't know.

I took in my bike for a tune-up on Tuesday. It's free due to the "free year of tune-ups" that came with my bicycle purchase, but I had to drop it off, which I didn't expect. It's supposed to be done sometime this afternoon. They recommend getting a tune-up once a month or so and I'll probably do that for the first year, especially if the bike continues to see fairly consistent use.

RenaissaUce on Tuesday was cool because several people brought something they'd been working on to share. Plus Bob set up the cool Fender Rhodes he'd bought and we messed around with that. Afterward, several of us went out to Kerbey Lane Cafe, and I finished my food for a change (they just give you way too much). I saw a former student there, who didn't recognize me at first.

Yesterday I spent all afternoon writing up the handout for the prayer workshop that night. I wrestled with KWord, the word processor that comes with KDE, but I just didn't like it and it wouldn't do some simple things easily (like let me indent sections of text). So I rebooted into my barely working Windows partition and got it banged out under Microsoft Word. Of course, I didn't like having to use my Windows partition (especially since it's so flaky right now), so I spent today downloading, compiling and installing Wine, which allows you to run DOS/Windows programs under Linux. Just now, I was able to run Word 95 from Linux and it worked well enough to read the Cue sheet for this week. I haven't tried creating a new document yet, but at least there's some initial success.

Anyway, the prayer workshop went quite well, and a small group that hadn't been praying very well in the past was able to pray for over thirty-five minutes. I was able to see a few things I'll do differently next time as well. So that's a success, and since I've got the materials written now my todo list is that much shorter.

Most of last night and today I've been emailing various people trying to nail down my social calendar. I'm having breakfast or brunch or lunch or dinner or otherwise meeting with no less than six different people one-on-one over the next five days. Having to juggle seven schedules is tricky. I think I've got things whittled down to specific days for each person at this point, and times of day (morning, afternoon, etc) for most of them. Two even have specific times (Friday at 10 and Tuesday at noon).

What a strange summer. Some days it's nothing but reading for fourteen hours, and others it's a veritable hotbed of social activity and planning.

Monday, 16 July 2001 [23:15 CDT]

The bats were cool Friday night. Since there's not much moon, they were fairly hard to see, but it was still a fun evening.

Saturday I finished off editing my quasi-legal plaintext version of "God's Debris", so that's done now. My books still hadn't come in, so I was reading "Just For Fun", Linus Torvalds' autobiography. Since Bob had had a gig Thursday night we held rehearsal Saturday afternoon.

In the evening I went for coffee with a friend. Because we're nerdy we labelled the states on the newspaper weather map on our table. We forgot about Connecticut, but I think we got everything else correct, including the right two-letter state postal abbreviations.

Sunday morning there was again a larger-than-typical crowd for summer. Everything went well, though we played better during the second service. I spent the rest of Sunday afternoon in meetings, the first a lunch meeting for Ministry Team leaders and the second the monthly meeting for people going to Haiti.

I got home around 4:30 and was home for less than half an hour when one of my former roommates invited me to a barbecue and swim thingy at his apartment. Well, I for one am not the sort of man to turn down my second free meal of the day, so I headed down to South Austin. I think that's the first time I've been in a pool for several years. The food was good, and I knew most of the people at the party, which is nice.

Once everyone else had left, we played guitar a bit, and I was actually able to play some lead for a change. I'm not sure what got into me, but I was feeling it. We talked wistfully about "getting the band back together." I got home late and read more of "Just For Fun".

Today I slept late and then spent some time working on my computer. My RAM did come in on Friday, but one of the two SIMMs is bad. Plus, Windows 95 has decided that it just flat won't run with 256MB of RAM, which doesn't make any sense. So I've been using Linux, which runs beautifully. I sort of limped through things this weekend but tried to get programs downloaded and installed to handle most of what I do on a regular basis. Email seems to be working, I got Mozilla 0.92 installed and even an AOL Instant Messenger Client for Linux.

I also created a little IE favorites icon, so those of you using IE (or Konqueror) to view this site should be able to get a little '-g-' with your bookmark.

My first shipment of books finally came in today, just before I needed to leave to tutor Jesse (who accomplished his best one-week turnaround this time, improving his score from under 67% last week to over 90% this week). Here's what I received:

I've heard both good and bad about The Prayer of Jabez, so since I'm basically the prayer guy at Lakeline, and since it was only $6, I figured I'd get a copy so I can give an informed opinion to others who may read it (or want to).

Plus, I didn't hear any explicit lyrics on my special version of Prolonging the Magic. I'm going to go back and listen to it more carefully, but it makes one wonder if the sticker isn't just a joke or marketing gimmick or what have you.

I heard from the other AcaDec coach today, and she has gotten a different job with the district, so I'm going to be without a partner (until we find someone, that is). Luckily my schedule this year has space for it, though my classroom is booked that period. On a related note, some of the AcaDec materials have arrived, including the CD, the novel (Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton) and the "study guide", which is just an overview of the subjects.

The plan for tomorrow is to write up material so I can teach one of the small groups how to pray on Wednesday night. I'm going to be visiting all the small groups, hopefully, over the next month or so. Once I get the material written, though, it'll just be a matter of presenting it, which is the easy part.

Friday, 13 July 2001 [00:06 CDT]

It's been a week for worship. Sunday I led worship and the service was splendid. I spent a lot of time Saturday getting prepared to lead (both spiritually and mentally, plus a little rehearsal time), so I think I was hearing God better than usual. I felt exhausted the rest of Sunday, took a two-hour nap in the early evening and then went to Momo's to hear Crape Myrtle, a band our sometimes bass player is in and with whom Bob is filling in on drums. The guitarist was having some equipment problems, but it was entertaining, anyway.

Afterward a few of us went downstairs to Katz' (where I'd never been) and ate and talked for a long time. We probably wouldn't have talking quite so long if the service had been a little faster, but it was still nice. It was after midnight when I finally got home.

Monday I didn't do much but sleep late and read, and then head up to Leander to tutor Jesse. Since I hadn't seen them in two weeks there was more math than usual to grade, plus it took some time just to catch up and hang out.

Tuesday I spent some of the morning reading God's Debris, an electronically-distributed novel by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. It was nice, but I hate reading books using crappy proprietary "secure" e-book readers. So, I spent the rest of the afternoon with a screen shot utility, an OCR program, a text editor with a nice spell-check feature and a keen eye. After four hours of work, I now have a copy of the novel in plain ASCII text. I'm not finished yet; I basically need to read it again top to bottom to catch any small OCR errors that have slipped through my mostly-automated process thus far, which should take an hour or two at the most. I'm fairly certain that someone up the food chain would consider what I've done to be illegal but I don't care. If I want to read it again in ten years, I surely don't want to have to dig up a copy of Digital Owl's "TitleVision" to install. And just look at the way things are phrased on Digital Owl's page to download a Palm version of the reader: "TitleVision™ Device Extensions allow content to be legally migrated to mobile devices." Legally migrated, eh? Yuck.

Legal hassles notwithstanding, the novel was quite worth the $5 download (and having a text version is worth the six hours of work that'll end up having gone into its "production"). And no, I won't give you a copy of the plaintext version. I paid for it, and I think Scott Adams has a right to be paid for his effort, even if I disagree with the means he uses to ensure that he does get compensated. Download your own.

Tuesday night was rehearsal for the gig I'll explain in a bit. Afterward I went to a birthday party for one of the guitarists on our rotation. We watched The Princess Bride on DVD, played and sang some worship songs, ate pizza, played pool and just generally had a good time. I stayed much later than I'd expected, leaving just after one o'clock.

Yesterday the praise team packed up and headed down to New Braunfels to lead worship at a retreat for FWC. (I can't remember what the acronym stands for, except that the 'F' is for "fellowship".) (Update at 11:05: CC tells me it stands for "The Fellowship of the Way of Christ") We unloaded all our gear into a smaller-than-expected conference room at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch. Technical difficulties and a late start contributed to some frustration at first, but once we starting to lead worship, things rapidly improved. We played very well, especially considering we hadn't had a chance to rehearse several of the songs, and the group responded in worship a lot more readily than we're used to at Lakeline. You could really sense God's presence there. They all prayed for us afterward, which was very nice.

Of course, once we were done there we had to break down everything, pack up the trailer and head back to Burnet to unload the speakers, mixer and amp we'd borrowed from Bill, then to the church to unload everything else, and finally back to our bass player's house where I'd left my car. All in all, there was a lot of heavy lifting once the worship was done, and I didn't get home until after 1:30am.

Today I basically did nothing but read and was able to finish the last book in the Otherland series. It was very good and worth the read, but since the four volumes are really just one novel totalling 3023 pages, I'm glad to be finished at last. It takes me over sixty hours to read that many pages, so it's really consumed my reading time over the past six or seven weeks.

Last weekend I ordered over a hundred dollars' worth of books from Amazon.com, which should arrive tomorrow, so I won't be without something to read for long. Not that I am now; I still haven't finished Celebration of Discipline.

Tomorrow the singles' group is going to see the bats at the Congress Avenue bridge, which I've never seen despite it being a particularly Austin thing and me living here for close to nine years. Plus involving lots and lots of bats. (Yeah, that last "sentence" was just a fragment. I figure if I can correct typos and spelling errors in a book by a famous cartoonist, I'm allowed a sentence fragment now and again. Not to mention the typos in Otherland. Not dozens, mind you, but there were a few.)

Oh yeah, and my contact lenses finally arrived Tuesday afternoon; I picked them up first thing Wednesday morning. It's so nice to have fresh contacts again. Without them, I don't think I would have been able to still see by the time I had to drive home Wednesday night.

Friday, 6 July 2001 [22:54 CDT]

Ran lots of errands today and spent even more money. I listened to Renegades, which is good but not as impressive as RATM's first two albums. Also listened to Revolver, which, except for "Yellow Submarine", is great.

I ordered 512 megabytes of PC-133 SDRAM from AllStar Microelectronics, my current favorite computer parts vendor. It cost me just under 13 cents a meg, down from $1.40 a meg three years ago and way down from the $27.50 per megabyte I paid for RAM in late 1995.

I also called up Onramp and signed up for ADSL, which may increase my download speeds by a factor of fifty or sixty. They're going to try to install it in the next fifteen to twenty days, so I've got my fingers crossed. You know how dicey DSL installation can be.

Also gave blood today. You know they're low on your blood type when an actual human being from the blood center calls you on the phone to ask that you please donate... with two calls in a month! Things went well as usual, and apparently this was my eighth donation with the Central Texas Regional Blood and Tissue Center, so they gave me a coffee cup proclaiming my arrival in the Gallon Club. Though I did give blood once in high school (in a different county), so technically I'm at nine pints, not eight.

Also just picked up some odd and ends: a new contact lens storage case for the lenses that still didn't come in today, safer sunglasses for bike riding, a new razor and fog-free mirror (since I'm no longer sporting the full beard, for the many of you that read this but haven't seen me recently). The fog-free mirror cost more than I was expecting, and I had to trek all the way down to The Container Store to get it, but it'll sure make shaving a ton easier.

Also noticed a stupid, stupid bug in antisort, so I got that fixed and a new version up on the code page. Plus I added a link for a student on the links page.

Friday, 6 July 2001 [00:52 CDT]

I got off later than I'd hoped this morning but not too late. The drive was uneventful and I arrived in Austin a little after 1pm. I stopped by the church to drop off my guitar and the optometrist which is downstairs on the way home, but my contact lenses still haven't arrived. Once I got home and had unpacked and cooled off a bit I took off to start spending birthday money. I went by Lowe's and got some 16-gauge lamp cord to use as speaker wire. Then I went to Best Buy, where I bought two bookshelf speakers (Sony SS-MB100H) for $20 less than they'd been one week ago. I also picked up several CDs: Rubber Soul and Revolver by The Beatles, The Beastie Boys' excellent instrumental jazz album The In Sound From Way Out!, and Rage Against the Machine's final album (with singer Zack de la Rocha, at least), Renegades. I listened to the B-Boys up at church while setting up the stage for rehearsal, and I heard Rubber Soul a time or two over the last week (and maybe a time or twenty more growing up).

It's sad to say, though I'd planned on buying Cake's Prolonging the Magic, I held off because I wasn't sure if the version being sold was the "clean" one or not. Apparently there are three versions of this disc one can purchase: the original "EXPLICIT LYRICS" version, a "Clean" version, and an "EDITED" version. I'm not sure what the difference is between the clean and edited versions are, but the edited version costs $3 more. All three versions have the same cover art, except that the original version has more of a greenish tint, while the other two have a yellowish tint. Anyway, the disc on sale at Best Buy seemed to have a yellowish tint, and it didn't have an explicit lyrics sticker, so I didn't buy it. The funny thing is, I've heard the album all the way through, and I don't remember there being any explicit lyrics on it anyway. Maybe I heard the "clean" version and didn't know it....

Today's purchases account for just over half of my birthday money. Left to buy are a bunch of books (mostly books about prayer) and the RAM.

Worship rehearsal tonight went well, though due to a complicated chain of events our drummer didn't have any cymbals for the first half hour of practice. We tried rigging up some other objects to behave a cymbals, but the insulated stainless steel coffee mug we were using as a ride just kept making us laugh. Fortunately, our bass guitarist has a drum set at home with lots of cymbals, so she had her husband bring them up. Things went a lot more smoothly after that. We hung around talking about lots of stuff afterward, so even though we were done before 9:30, I didn't get home until more than an hour later.

When I did finally get home I set up the speakers, which sound fine. They don't sound as nice as the ones I've got in my classroom, but there's about a $100 per speaker price difference, so that's to be expected. And I listen to more music at school on the jukebox than I do at home, anyway, but at least now home listening is an option.

Wednesday, 4 July 2001 [23:11 CDT]

Let's hear it for a relaxing week with the Mitchell clan. I've been sleeping late, eating well, reading a lot and just hanging out. I finished the third book in the Otherland series and am now 250 pages into the fourth and final volume. We hooked up Dad's receiver and have been watching DVDs: What Lies Beneath, which was very spooky, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Perfect Storm, Pitch Black, and finally Vertical Limit, which was horrible. I enjoyed all the movies except Vertical Limit, but especially What Lies Beneath. There's something to be said for my isolation from pop culture; except for Perfect Storm, I knew literally nothing about any of these movies, including which actors were in them, and that made them a lot more fun to watch.

I've been riding my bike a bit. The terrain is a bit more hilly around here than in Austin, so it's been a real workout.

And I didn't get any more birthday gifts, just some money (which is always nice). My mom did buy me some new denim shorts because mine were in bad shape, and a cool sprayer for cooking oil. Once I get back home I'll order some CDs and books from amazon.com, probably buy myself some RAM because it's so cheap, and a pair of bookshelf speakers (I "inherited" Dad's old receiver).

By the way, Paul's belated birthday gift was a new sound card, a Creative Soundblaster Live! Value.

In the morning I'll leave for Austin and hope to be home by noon or so. I'll probably spend the day up at church getting prepared to lead worship this Sunday, which I think will be really cool.

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