Entries from November 2005

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Monday, 21 November 2005 [23:20 CST]

Today I missed 8th period because of a district AP/IB data day. All the AP teachers in LISD get together to look at our collective test data for the previous year and compare notes, set goals and plan strategies. It was about as efficient as such things could be, and I didn't have any trouble coming up with something for the CS-3 kids to do in my absence.

I'm particularly proud to have made it to work on time, by the way. I didn't get to bed until nearly 1:30 last night and got out of bed this morning at 7:40. I unlocked the door to my classroom at 7:58. So that's literally 18 minutes to get up, dress, get out the door, drive to school, park, walk up to the building, and walk up to my classroom. Perhaps a personal best in bed-to-classroom speed.

I'm heading home to East Texas for Thanksgiving; I'll leave tomorrow evening. But I thought I'd throw a thought out there first. I've been thinking lately about the differences between things we Christians believe because they're Biblical vs. because they're cultural.

My question is this: is smoking a sin?

If your answer is 'yes', then is eating a Big Mac® (at 560 calories) a sin? Is there some interpretation of scripture that makes the occasional Big Mac okay and the occasional cigarette not okay? I challenge you to find one. Have you watched Super Size Me?

I should disclaim that I have never smoked a cigarette. Not even a puff. Not even once. Whereas I think I've had a Big Mac. I know I've had a few McDonald's hamburgers at some point. I'm just saying.

And while I'm meddling, which is healthier: drinking one (and only one) 20-ounce Mountain Dew every night with dinner, or having one (and only one) 12-ounce beer every night with dinner?

Discuss. Or discus. See if I care.

Oh, and I made the navigation menu on the right stay put again. The moving around was interesting, but I don't think it was an improvement.

Thursday, 17 November 2005 [22:38 CST]

I've got this thing going with God right now where I spent some time with him first thing when I get home from school. Otherwise I get to checking my email and reddit and slashdot and I end up sitting in front of the computer all night just reading articles and generally being unproductive. And before I know it, it's time for bed and I'm up too late and too sleepy to study my Bible.

I've only been making it a priority just this week, but so far I've done it every day, including yesterday when I was at school catching up on grading until almost 11pm. (That's what missing two days of school will get you.)

So tonight in reading about Aaron's staff budding I just got a wild hair and decided to go back through the first few books of the Old Testament and so if I could figure out what was going on with Aaron, brother of Moses and priest of Israel.

So I wrote up a fairly long, relatively exhaustive examination of the tragic and inconsistent life of Aaron, first priest of Israel. I put it on my devotions page, so you can read it if you're interested.

This weekend I picked up a copy of The Jesus Record by Rich Mullins and have been listening to it. It's a very compelling portrait of the Jesus people sometimes gloss over and is worth obtaining.

Thursday, 10 November 2005 [23:56 CST]

Most of you will recall my bout with anaphylaxis ("severe allergic reaction") to a fruit juice smoothie a little less than a year ago. I'd thought it probably was the red algae that did it. Well, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that red algae is probably off the hook. The bad is that I had another severe allergic reaction on Tuesday night after eating a nice big bowl of Uncle Sam Cereal, which contains a substantial amount of flax seed.

I'd had the cereal around 11:45 and then gone to bed. A little after 2am, I woke with a lump in my throat, swollen lymph nodes, and palms and feet itching like crazy.

Like before, I tried to just treat it myself by taking several antihistamines and biking to get my adrenaline pumping. All these things helped, but only for a half hour or so before things would start to get worse again. It was nearly 5 am (and almost three hours after I'd started the battle) when I decided to give up and just drive to the emergency room at St. David's hospital in Round Rock.

I'd heard good things about this hospital, and there was virtually no wait, and I was treated well. They soon had a little I.V. plug in me, and pumped me full of epinephrine and benadryl (and Pepsid, which is a different type of histamine blocker). The intravenous epinephrine was quite a ride, since within about 10 seconds of the injection my heart rate rocketed up to nearly 180 beats per minute, where it stayed for a full minute. And it didn't return to near normal for several more minutes.

I can certainly see how mothers can lift cars off their children in times of crisis: folks, I was lit up. Anyway, the effect of the epinephrine was pretty dramatic, opening my sinuses and reducing swelling quite immediately.

Over the course of that morning, I got two more epinephrine injections (both merely subcutaneous, thankfully) and about 50 mg of benadryl and occasional steriods every six hours for the remainder of my stay.

By 8 am Wednesday morning, I was moved out of E.R. and just into a regular room on the third floor. My symptoms were almost completely gone, though my face was still a little swollen, I still had a hard time swallowing, and my speech was slurred because of my thick tongue.

They decided to keep me around for "another day" for observation, so I slept in spurts inbetween nurse visits. My brother drove down from East Texas to spend the night by my side (not that I needed much but company at that point), and he'd brought his Playstation 2 and PSP and Nintendo DS.

After the last benadryl injection at midnight, I actually got a long eight hours of nearly uninterrupted sleep. It wasn't until after noon that the doctor came back by to declare me free to go, and it was 1:30 before all the papers were signed and I got to walk out the door.

I should also mention that as a precaution they didn't want me eating anything, so from midnight Tuesday until 1:30pm Thursday I ate nothing but chips of ice, glasses of water, and one 4oz container of apple juice that one of the nurses smuggled in for me.

I feel back to normal as I write this, and I've got a prescription for an "epi pen" (an epinephrin auto-injector) and a command from both my Mom and the doctor to see an allergist within the next couple of days to figure out what I'm actually allergic to.

I should mention that friend and faithful reader Mackenzie texted me while I was in the hospital to see if I needed any company, and "to make sure the Graham Foundation didn't need to post anything." No thanks, Mac. I'm still alive, so I've taken care of this update myself. By hand, and all that.

Sunday, 6 November 2005 [00:24 CST]

Actually late Saturday night....

Unusually, when I left school for the weekend I was caught up on grading. Friday was the last day of the 2nd Six-Weeks, and I went to the football game that night with literally everything graded. It's been a nice feeling, since all I'll have to do Monday afternoon is take care of the few assignments turned in that day and then turn in my grades for the term.

I finally got some down time to try out DDR: Mario Mix on Wednesday evening, so I played through the single-player game on the normal difficulty. It took me a little over an hour, and had a good twenty different "levels", which were either regular dances, dances with special features, minigames, or boss battles. I didn't ever "fail" a dance, though a couple of the ones toward the end were due to luck rather than skill.

I really like some of the special features in some of the dances. In one, you fight one of the Hammer Brothers from the original Mario Bros. game, and he's throwing hammers at you while you dance. The hammers swing into your playing field full of arrows in a slow, arhythmic arc, eventually landing on one of the arrows at the top of the screen in a gap, and coincidentally falling right where a normal arrow as part of the song should have been. It's a nice touch.

In "beating" the game, I unlocked many songs I can now practice at will, and now have access to two more difficulty levels: hard and very hard. There appear to be several more minigames to unlock and about nine more songs (I've already got 21). The graphics are great and the songs seem fine to me, at least. I recommend the game to any dance-happy Game Cube owners, to be sure.

I've also now had a chance to listen to both the Jason Mraz CD and the David Crowder CD several times. The David Crowder CD is incredibly diverse, ranging from poignant reflections with just one voice and a piano, rowdy bluegrass-style romps, quirky drum-machine-driven grooves, and plain rock and roll. Some tracks end abruptly just as they seem to be getting going, and that's a little disconcerting. Overall I like the CD fairly well, though.

It seems a shame to say that the Jason Mraz CD has less variety, though it does, relatively speaking. He does wander through several different styles himself, from his signature folksy hip-hop to love ballads. I think I like it better, but it may be just because it's so much more accessible after only half a dozen listens.

Today I slept in until nearly noon, had a lazy morning with a big bowl of oatmeal, and then ground some Whole Foods coffee beans and brewed a mug of very tasty coffee using my currently favorite method. I grind the beans and put the grounds into a glass measuring cup (just for convenience for the next step). I boil some water in my kettle, let the water sit for 30 seconds or so, and then pour 10 ounces of it directly onto the grounds in the measuring cup. I stir everything just a touch, and then let the grounds "steep" for four minutes. I finally pour the grounds mixture through a Melitta Perfect Brew Filter Cone with a regular brown paper cone-type coffee filter in it. The pure coffee drips through, straight into my Barnes and Noble coffee mug I bought years ago for our monthly men's theology coffee discussion group. The sludgy grounds are left behind in the coffee filter, when I then throw away. The Melitta cone and the measuring cup are easily rinsed out, so there's very little clean-up, and the resulting coffee tastes like it was made in a french press but has the clean texture of regular drip coffee. And, since the coffee cools slightly during the five minutes it's steeping and then dripping through the coffee filter, it's nearly cool enough to begin drinking immediately without burning yourself. And since my mug is insulated, it usually stays warm enough to the finish.

Once my mug of coffee was brewed, I set out to get some posters laminated at Teacher Heaven and then to get my oil changed and car (hopefully) inspected. At Groovy Lube I can do both at a discount, though this time there was a bit of a wait, so I went to the little coffeeshop next door and had a toasted bagel and read the latest Paul Graham essay on my CLIÈ using their free WiFi while I waited.

I hadn't honestly expected to pass inspection because Travis and Williamson counties (as well as counties in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, and El Paso) now have an emissions testing component to the yearly inspection, and my car's been driving much more loudly of late, so I thought I probably had a hole in the muffler somewhere. Everything passed, though, so either they didn't really check well or I just need a tune-up.

We've got a cool "unplugged" set planned for church in the morning, with no less than nine people on stage: Latin percussion, djembe, bass guitar, piano, two acoustic guitars, and four vocalists. Assuming we can keep everything together, it should be a nice change of pace and a lot of fun. Which means I should get to bed, even if I have only been up for about twelve hours.

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