Entries from August 2005

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Sunday, 28 August 2005 [22:07 CDT]

Well, much has happened since the last update, but I'm don't feel like writing up long details. So I'll just run through.

First, both songs are up at our "band" website:

Download 'em. Listen. Vote.

Next, I've had a busy week and been sick to boot. Monday night was Open House. Tuesday night was recording the song. Wednesday night I worked on the brothersfrail site and felt sick. Thursday night I cancelled practice to get more sleep. Lots of assignments and grading at school.

I'm feeling better now after sleeping as much as possible this weekend, but I'm still not 100%.

I should point out that I'm currently unhappy with Fedora Core 4. First, it broke my sound recording subsystem, which is not okay. Secondly, OpenOffice Impress, which is presentation software akin to Microsoft's PowerPoint, lulled me into a false sense of security by opening an existing PowerPoint document, but then proved buggy and crashy and then, after over two hours of fighting with it, proved to not be able to export to PowerPoint the very file it had imported from PowerPoint not three hours earlier. Goodness, I was displeased.

I should also mention that last week I got to see some friends of mine have the public debut of their band at a smoky blues bar: the Texas Bar & Grill. The "Grill" part is a bit optimistic, currently, though.

It's the lack of sleep that got me sick, by the way. The PowerPoint fiasco and the smoky bar were the first two nights in a long string of staying up until 1am or later while still getting up on time for work.

I have been very good about riding my bike, though. Both last week and the previous week I biked Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. And I feel good about that.

Um, the projector is working fabulously. I use it hours a day, which is how often I ought to use it.

Anyway, my illness (which started as a cruddy throat and now has mutated into a more normal "cold") has addled my brain, so I want to start heading toward bed.

Days attended school this year: 13
Days biked to school: 7
Bike commute percentage: 54%

Tuesday, 23 August 2005 [00:04 CDT]

Actually late Monday night....

Days attended school this year: 9
Days biked to school: 4
Bike commute percentage: 44%

The songwriting deadline arrived this morning, and both Paul and I made it, though him moreso than me. He got his song written and recorded. I hadn't bothered to check if upgrading to Fedora Core 4 had broken the sound subsystem such that Audacity wouldn't record any more. It had. Therefore, my song is written, but not yet recorded.

Barring Audacity suddenly starting working again, I'm going to record it tomorrow (Tuesday) evening on my regular cassette-based 4-track mixer, and then take the 4-track somewhere to mix it down to digital. So I might have both songs uploaded Tuesday night, but it might be Wednesday.

And then you all must vote.

Wednesday, 17 August 2005 [23:37 CDT]

Just a brief update before I get to grading: I've had one class period each with all of my classes. I seem to have a lot more girls than usual this year, which is refreshing. Hopefully I can keep the numbers more balanced, and not rehash the situation a couple of years ago where I literally had more boys named "Josh" than females in my classes. Ouch.

I've used the projector quite a bit, and I'll be using it a lot tomorrow, too. Hurrah for technology!

Days attended school this year: 6
Days biked to school: 2
Bike commute percentage: 33%

Monday, 15 August 2005 [21:23 CDT]

The projector is done. I went to Fry's yesterday and bought 150 dollars worth of cables, and this morning I strung them. Everything works and it looks pretty sweet. And so my ceiling tiles are back in place for the first time in a few weeks, my room is clean, and I'm pretty much ready for the first day tomorrow.

Once more into the breach, dear friends. Once more, or... aw, heck. Something bad, I suppose.

I should mention that due to procrastination on both our parts, Paul and I have agreed to postpone the deadline of our "Blue Like Jazz" song writing competition. Songs are now due by 8:00 A.M. on Monday, August 22. This is because we'd both rather be thought of as slackers than inflict two terrible songs on our collective listeners.

Once I've got his, I'll upload both somewhere you guys can get to, and you can vote by emailing your preference to both Paul and I. That way we can each keep a tally independently and both agree on who the winner is.

Saturday, 13 August 2005 [18:07 CDT]

Not much change in the last few days. I did some more work on getting the projector set up in my classroom. I borrowed an old PCI video card from the tech department, who had several in a box. The one I chose was a Diamond Stealth S220, with 4MB of VRAM. Yeah.

Unfortunately, Diamond Multimedia hasn't been making video cards for a long time, and so the newest drivers for that card were for Windows 98. And Windows XP uses a different (albeit improved) driver model.

Fortunately looking around on the Internet yielded a workaround. The Diamond Stealth is the same physical chipset as a card from another (still solvent) manufacturer: the Verite Rendition 2200. So I was able to download a BIOS image for the Verite card, re-flash the Stealth's BIOS so that it now thinks it's the other card. Then I installed the Windows XP drivers for the Rendition and everything worked.

In fact, the hardest part was finding a floppy disk that'd actually still work after formatting so I could boot off the floppy to flash the BIOS.

So now I've got dual desktops set up, with the second one running at 800x600 (which is the native resolution of my projector). And I've decided exactly how I'm going to cable everything, so all that's left is for me to make it to Fry's to pick up the parts and then to run them through the ceiling. And then hopefully I'll be done.

Tonight Lakeline is having a summer pool party, complete with some baptisms. It should be a lot of fun, and one of my students is one of the ones getting baptized. That's always a good feeling, because it means I'm doing something right as a teacher.

And I'm supposed to be providing some of the music for the DJ to play, so I need to get on that before I have to leave.

Wednesday, 10 August 2005 [22:06 CDT]


I'm back at school. It's just meetings (no students for now), but that'll change on August 16. Due to misreading the letter from the district, I showed up at 8:00 A.M. Monday morning ready to meet, but teachers didn't start back until Tuesday morning. So, at least I got a head start on the day....

I biked to school today, but forgot I had a meeting at another campus (ten miles away) after lunch. So during lunch I quickly biked home and traded it for my car. However, it was raining pretty hard, so I was drenched by the time I got home. It was fun, though, and being at home I was able to change into something more dry. Anyway:

Days attended school this year: 2
Days biked to school: 1
Bike commute percentage: 50%

I got an old LCD projector for my classroom towards the beginning of last year, but I scarcely used it since I couldn't easily project my computer screen (the video cables weren't long enough), and there wasn't a place to keep the projector set up that wasn't quite in the way the rest of the time. So, all last week and some this week I've been working on mounting the projector in my ceiling.

Four trips to Home Depot and about $50 in parts later, I've got the thing mounted. My progress was sped up considerably once all the other teachers were back at school, because I got to ask the CAD teacher, Herb Wasson, for advice. Once he got into my room to take a look at it, he spent about forty-five minutes to finish up what would have taken me at least another day and maybe two. He's got a good head for visualizing 3D solids, as you'd expect.

Now I'm trying to figure out the best/cheapest way to get the signal from my computer run up there. This is where my $200 Fry's gift certificate (still unspent) will come in handy.


In non-scholastic news, I'm in a bit of a musical growth spurt right now. Two Sunday evenings ago, we were having an ordination service for Clifton Wise, our administrative pastor. He's also soon leaving, having taken a job with a big church in Missouri (if I recall the state correctly).

So, I wanted to give him a good gift at this service. I felt compelled to write a song on his behalf. So, I dug out the sermon notes for the last three messages he's given (one per year) and tried to pull out common ideas, figuring that since the teacher learns the most, whatever he'd preached about would capture well his passion.

The writing proceeded fairly quickly, and I was able to play the song that night, to much appreciation. It turned out well. I may post a digital audio file, but it'll probably be Ogg Vorbis, since I'm mean like that.

One week later (this most recent Sunday evening), I performed at Celebrate!, the annual fund-raiser slash variety show slash coffeehouse put on by Good Shepherd Lutheran Church that I've played at for the past five years (I think it's five, anyway). The theme was "The Rhythm of Life". I played my recently-written song, but I also felt like Steven Curtis Chapman's "Lord of the Dance", would be a perfect fit.

Now, I've been trying to learn that song for maybe seven years, off and on, and I've never been able to pull it off. Chapman is a heck of a guitarist and the main riff in the song is something I just can't play cleanly. Not to mention the guitar needs to be tuned down a whole step (DGCFAD), and then the lowest string tuned down another whole step (CGCFAD). And after all that, it's in the key of Eb or something. And if you try to play it with the same fingerings but up in normal tuning (or in drop D), then it's too high to sing.

Well, I pulled it out on Sunday after church and gave it another try, and for some reason I finally discovered I could play it in the key of D (rather than Eb) and in standard tuning and still hit the high notes easily enough. And though putting it in D makes the main guitar riff much harder even than it was before, I figured out a way to play a different riff that evoked at least a similar feeling to the original.

I rushed to try to learn it, and was able to pull it off. It went pretty well at Celebrate that night, and now I've added another cool song to my repertoire of covers.

I should also mention that my brother and I are in the final stages of a songwriting contest with each other. The challenge: write a song about the book Blue Like Jazz. It must have two verses and a chorus. The deadline: before school starts (defined as before 8:00 A.M. on August 16).

I've read the book, but otherwise haven't done anything. I hear Paul's picked a topic, at least. Once we're done, both mp3s will be posted here for family members and other interested parties to listen to and vote on. Winner gets bragging rights until the next contest.

My final musical conquest of the last couple of weeks has been covering the song Heaven by Los Lonely Boys. Our new series at church is called What's Next and is about correcting the misconceptions of modern culture about what we'll really be doing in heaven (and who will and won't be there, incidentally). So, Pastor Brian asked the band if we could cover Los Lonely Boys and we did. I'm playing the electric guitar for the opening riff, but our more experienced guitarists are playing the solos throughout. And I'm singing, of course. This past Sunday sounded pretty nice, and the guys on this coming Sunday have had more time to practice, so it may sound even better!


Speaking of spiritual things, I have decided that I'll do a better job of spending devotional time with God on a daily basis if I make my devotional musings public, because people will notice if I haven't done it in a while.

Also, writing them up less informally forces me to process what I've read more, and not just read a passage, smile, nod, and move on to something else.

I'm working on reading my Bible straight through, which is something I've done before. The first time was in 1988. I think I may have done it again in 1993, but I didn't write that one down. I'm certainly moving much more slowly this time; in 1988 I used the Gideon's Bible-reading plan, which covers roughly three Old Testament chapters and one New Testament chapter each day. At the moment, I'm covering one chapter every day or two, period.

At this rate it'll take me a lot longer (several years), but I'll also get a lot more out of it. Having done it before means I already know the basic outline and most of the stories pretty well, so I'm looking for the less-obvious things now.

[note: Dad emailed to remind me that I also read through the Good News version of the Bible in a year at age "8 or 9", motivated by the healthy sum of 5¢ per day!]

The version of the Bible I'm currently using (which is a recent purchase) is the TNIV, Today's New International Version, which is by the same group that did the NIV back in the 70s. It's a nice translation, and even more readable than the NIV (and translated from better and better manuscripts, as Biblical archeology and history continually discovers little clues to help translate difficult passages more accurately).


And before I head off to my room to do this day's devotion (and then back here to write up my thoughts, I gotta tell you that I really dig having WiFi set up in this house. I can check IMDb on my PDA while sitting on the couch downstairs watching a movie. After I've gone to bed, I can check the current temperature on the mobile version of Weather Underground to see if opening the window behind my bed will cool my room or not. And the other day I was reading an interesting article on What Business Can Learn from Open Source by Paul Graham (founder of Yahoo, though he does more interesting things now, having left them once they became a faceless corporation rather than a cool place to work). I was most of the way through my read when I felt an urge to attend to my needs. Thanks to my WiFi-enabled PDA, I was able to continue reading the article even while I was occupied. (His site is very PDA-friendly, by the way.)


Oh, and I got $480 back from my apartment complex, $150 of which was the outstanding teacher-supply gift cards. There'd had been a misprint on my lease for the past two years, so I thought I had put in more deposit than I really had. It said I'd paid $300 back in 2002, but it was really just $100. And looking at my cancelled checks proves it, even.

I was looking forward to having nearly $500 cash to spend, but I think I've already gone through most of the $330 in miscellaneous moving expenses. I'm not sure, though, since I haven't balanced my checkbook in way too long.

Okay, off to spend a little time with God.

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