Old News

Archived news items from December 2001
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Saturday, 22 December 2001 [23:45 CST]

Friday's testing went as expected and I was able to get a good percentage of my grading done that afternoon. My car repair also got finished; it turned out to be a dead battery (which I expected), a bad distributor (explaining the poor performance) and a warped right front wheel hub (explaining the "shimmy"). Fortunately Cliff had all three on hand and was able to get it repaired without exorbitant cost, and I was able to pick it up that afternoon.

The singles group then had dinner at Chuy's (the shrimp tacos are great) and went to go see the Trail of Lights. It was nice and the weather was beautiful, probably 65 degrees. After that we went to the Schlotzky's near Zachary Scott theatre and all just talked for a while.

The downside was when Bob got a phone call from his family; his grandmother had an aneurism. So he left today to drive to Florida, meaning I'll be leading worship in the morning. I never mind leading worship, but I certainly wish it were under better circumstances.

Today I finished up shopping and wrapped everything. I also installed Mozilla version 0.9.7, which was released yesterday. This version has several nice features for disabling pop-up ads and the like, as well as finally supporting the shortcuts icons that I.E. has for so long. Let's hear it for Open Source.

Thursday, 20 December 2001 [22:30 CST]

Lately the indicator light for my front passenger-side door being open has been basically coming on and off at will, even though the door stays closed. I'd been putting up with it for a while. I turned off my dome light so it didn't come on too and didn't really worry about it. Well yesterday that light randomly came on and stayed on all day while I was at school (over ten hours). Since it was also cold, the drain of that little indicator light was too much for my old battery, and it was dead. Fortunately there were still a few teachers there grading and I was able to get it jump started. However, it barely cranked this morning.

The car also hasn't been running normally since about Thanksgiving, so I figured it was time to take it in. After my first period class I left at the beginning of my conference period and drove my car down to Bluebonnet Auto Repair in South Austin. I dropped it off, explained to Cliff about the battery, the door indicator and the funny running. He said he could probably get it back to me tomorrow. He also loaned me the sweet Celica I've borrowed before, and I went back to school, just in time for the faculty chili lunch.

Spent a bit of time at school programming on a version of the laser game (which I think I may have my students do after the break) and then drove home. I played some more Unreal Tournament and then went to practice.

Tomorrow I just administer one test first period (technically "fifth", but that's neither here nor there), then have my conference period. Teachers aren't supposed to leave until 4pm, but I think if I stayed that long the place would be deserted. I may take off during my conference period and finish up Christmas shopping. Or go pick up my car.

Then I plan to head up to see my folks after church on Sunday and spend a week there. We'll probably watch Lord of the Rings, which I hear is good.

Tuesday, 18 December 2001 [22:20 CST]

Sunday was spent playing Unreal Tournament some, but mostly Christmas shopping. I think I'm pretty much done now.

While shopping I decided to buy The Black Crowes' Greatest Hits, which I knew was good from it being on the jukebox last year. And the Nirvana CD I'd bought has been growing on me more.

I also bought myself Instant Immersion French (a 2 CD-ROM set) on a lark. It was only $10. Lakeline is sending a group to Haiti in October, and I may go. Haitian is a creole of Spanish and French, and I already know some Spanish. So... theoretically if I learned as much French as I know Spanish, I could probably make up enough Haitian to get by. Or so the theory goes.

I saw no less than five former students who came back for a visit on Monday. I also stayed up at school writing the Computer Science II final until after 8pm (some of the aforementioned students were still hanging around, slowing me down a bit).

I finished up the CS-I final today after school and did the AcaDec final. I did some thinking about the CS-III final (which also has to be ready for tomorrow); I'll write it up during my conference period.

Tomorrow we review in first period and test in third and fourth periods (the last time I'll see them until after Christmas). Then two half-days and we're out.

Saturday, 15 December 2001 [22:56 CST]

Last night I went down to the South Austin Kuk Sool Won dojo to watch their black belts do a demonstration. (My friend Tony trains there, though he wasn't demonstrating as he's "only" a black belt candidate.) I foolishly took 360 instead of Mopac, and traffic was pretty bad everywhere, so I missed the first forty minutes or so (which turned out to be 35 minutes of giving out certificates and five minutes of action). Afterward they had a potluck and I ate quite well. I think if I had the money and free time, I might consider doing such a thing to get some excercise.

Then, once everything was over, I went back to Tony's apartment and we watched The Whole Nine Yards, which I enjoyed. Got home late and got to bed later.

Today has been a productive day. First, I slept in, which is really quite important. I can really tell the weeks I don't sleep in Saturday mornings. Then I spent an hour or two working on the semester exam for Computer Science I, which the first batch of kids will be taking on Wednesday. Since tutoring is cancelled this week, I'll probably finish CS-I and work on CS-II Monday night (as well as some tomorrow).

Then I finally burned CDs of RedHat Linux 7.2, which I'd downloaded months ago. I installed it, and was able to do a simple upgrade install which didn't mess with my home directory of custom software at all. Everything just worked pretty much exactly like before, but better. That's how upgrades are supposed to work.

In addition, because the new KDE had OpenGL pre-installed and configured for my video card, I was able to download the Linux version of Unreal Tournament and get that running under Linux. Which is one less thing I'd need to reboot into Windows to do. It plays fine, though the performance is not as smooth as under Windows (I suspect this is a driver issue).

While RedHat was installing, I practiced my guitar for the music tomorrow morning. As a lark, I tried playing the riff version of You're Worthy of my Praise, and I think I can actually play it and sing at the same time. That's another barrier crossed on the "hands/voice dissocation" route.

I've been reading Lord Of the Rings to try and refresh my memory on everything before the movie comes out. I've read the book before, but not since 5th grade, which has been a bit.

The meeting at school was good. We talked about student motivation in Computer Science classes and I got some good ideas, as well as helped out the other C.S. teachers in the district.

Otherwise students have just been rocking along on the project, which is due Monday afternoon, and then semester exams begin. School's out at noon on Friday and then my two-week paid vacation begins. Yeah.

Tuesday, 11 December 2001 [20:46 CST]

Let's look at the last week point by point, shall we?

Sunday, December 2, I did go to see The Gospel Accordin' to Texas, which was very funny. The script was great, the songs and choreography were well-done and the acting was fun. Unfortunately, I saw the last production of it this year, but I'll recommend it for next year.

That Monday I left tutoring late and drove home in some serious fog. On Lime Creek road I was incredibly reminded of Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, a short story in Stephen King's Skeleton Crew. T'was spooky.

Of course, unless you've lived in a hole you've heard about inventor Dean Kamen finally unveiling his much-speculated-about New Thing. On Monday morning "Ginger" was revealed to be the Segway, a cool transportation device with zero emissions, which is self-balancing, and having a super-intuitive interface. It's not the world beater that some folks had thought it was going to be, but I'd sure like to have one. I'd probably take one of those to school instead of my car.

Then on Wednesday evening I had probably the worst service of my life at H.E.B. First, the checkout conveyor belt you're supposed to load your groceries on was wet, so I tried to put my groceries in the dryer spots. Finally, when the checkout guy noticed it was wet, he made a half attempt to dry it a bit. He never said "Hi" to me or even really acknowledged my presence. He didn't ask me "Paper or plastic?" or anything. Then my receipt got hung in the cash register, and he ripped it to get it out. He handed me the two pieces. I noticed that the rip had lost items 9-11 on the receipt and I said so. He replied, "It ripped." as if that explained everything. On top of all that he packed my groceries poorly, including putting motor oil in the same bag with actual edible things. Not a satisfying experience, though I guess it just goes to show you how good my service normally is that this stood out so much.

Saturday night the singles' group went to Burnet to see Christmas Town, a permanently set-up Bethlehem. It's probably 30,000 square feet and has live actors playing the parts of bakers, prostitutes, centurions, tanners, etc. There's an inn, a jail, a tax office, half a dozen shops and live camels, sheep and goats around. It was cold, the line was long, and there were probably twice as many visitors as should be allowed at one time, but it was good.

We also ate at a cool caribbean place on the way up there. I can't remember the name, but I had some good cajun catfish on a bed of pasta with butter sauce. Mmmmmmm.

This past Sunday, Bob, Kristin, Calvin, Andrew and I led worship at The Bridge, an alternative church that meets at the Capital Area Comedy Club just behind Northcross Mall. It went really well and was a lot of fun. On the way there, however, the odometer in my car turned 66,666.6 miles. In fact, it did so just one-tenth of a mile from stopping at the Bridge. The odometer was replaced when it had 120,000 miles on it, so the mileage is really over 186,000 miles, but it was creepy just the same.

Other than starting the six weeks projects in Computer Science I yesterday (and today), I've not been doing much else except playing this stupid laser game. It's quite addicting. I'm currently on level 19 out of 25, which is no mean feat. I was bummed when on Monday I noticed they'd added a "hint" feature. Well, I got as far as I did without hints. They also added a copyright notice, explaining that they had basically completely stolen the game from one called Aargon, which they link to. I've decided that my computer science kids (II and III, probably) are going to try to implement their own version of the game, since it's pretty straightforward. In fact, I've already begun coding.

Oh, and we tripped a breaker in my room twice today, both times during Ms. Pittman's class. I really need to check into getting another circuit put in there. Two circuits is just not enough for twenty-four machines with monitors, my server and monitor, two switches, a stereo, a good-sized laser printer and an overhead projector.

I've updated my wish list for Christmas. I did buy some albums at Half-Price Books: Bush's Sixteen Stone and Nirvana: Unplugged in New York. I already knew the Bush album would be excellent because I hear it a lot on the jukebox at school, but the Nirvana one wasn't as good as I'd been led to believe.

Several meetings tomorrow at school. Hopefully the next update will be sooner than next week.

Sunday, 2 December 2001 [16:36 CST]

Thursday it was cold here. I had to scrape the ice from my car before I could drive it to work. Of course, the heaters at the school triggered the fire alarm, so we all spent the first fifteen minutes of school out in the parking lot while the fire trucks checked everything out. At least it was dry.

I also finally got most of the kids' pictures taken and up at school for them to study for the names test.

Friday was our bi-annual blood drive, and I gave my ninth pint since I've lived in Austin. That's almost a pint a year, which is far fewer than the six to eight one could give in a year. It looks like I'm not going to make it in the 50-gallon club at this rate, unless I live to be 426.

My high school friend and former roommate Chase was in town this weekend also. I called him up Friday night and we played Team Fortress Classic (a modification of Half-Life) until nearly 3 a.m. We used MSN Messenger so we could do real-time voice chatting using our soundcards over the net, and I set up a server which he and his brother Wayne connected to. It was all pretty fun. It took a while to get all the right software installed on my Windows partition (which I hardly ever boot into), but now it's installed and presumably works.

Much to my surprise, I woke up just in time Saturday morning to get to the monthly Men's Theology Coffeehouse. Our topics of discussion were "What does it mean that the Bible is the inspired word of God?" and "Is the United States a Christian nation?" The discussion was quite lively and we brought up lots of good issues and points of view.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon writing college recommendation letters for students. I like doing them, but they do take a while.

That evening, I went to Wayne's house to watch the University of Texas play Colorado for the Big-12 championship game. It was good to see Chase and Wayne, and the food was good, but the game itself was frustrating. Chris Sims just basically self-destructed during the first two quarters, and thus Colorado got 26 free points from turnovers. They put in Major Applewhite, who's a good guy but a bit rusty and certainly not very mobile. He did well, and Texas almost came back to win, but some crucial penalties at the end cost us the game. I don't mind so much that Colorado won, it's that the Longhorns lost. As I say, it was frustrating.

One bright spot of the evening was the betting pool I unwittingly participated in. Immediately upon arriving I was asked for $2.00, and told to pick a number. My number was 6. I eventually found out it was a pool: at the half and at the end of the game, the person whose number matched the last digit of the sum of the scores would win $10. The halftime score? 29-17. The final score? 39-37. So I went home $20 richer.

Service went well this morning, despite a rough practice and some nerves before. Then I went to the first Haiti mission trip meeting for next year. This time, the trip isn't scheduled for the first couple of weeks of school, so I may be able to go.

And in half an hour, I'm leaving to see a couple of friends in The Gospel According to Texas, a retelling of Luke's gospel with a local flair.

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