Category Archives: Journal

Walking Her Home

As referenced in the previous post “Engagement Story“, I proposed last Friday to Jamie, my girlfriend of 5 years, by way of re-written lyrics to the Mark Schultz song “Walking Her Home“. I may someday share the actual recording I made, but for now… here are the lyrics. Enjoy!

Verse 1:

Looking back, they see it all

from the nights they fell in love in those college halls.

From setting sun, to dawns first light

friends gathered, learning, growing through the night.

At the end as crowds disband

They were standing hand in hand…

Chorus 1:

He was walking her home, holding her hand.

Oh the way she smiled, it stole the breath right out of him.

Down that old road, with the stars up above.

They remember were they were the night they fell in love.

He was walking her home.

Verse 2:

Five more years, they’ve become best friends, seen thick and thin.

They find themselves on those college grounds again.

He takes her hand, drops to one knee

with tears in eyes, he asks “will you marry me?”.

As they kneel there, arm in arm

he promises “from this day on…

Chorus 2:

I’ll be walking you home, holding your hand.

Praying that the Lord will see us living out his plan.”

Down life’s shared road, with the stars up above.

They remember were they were the night they fell in love.

He was walking her home.

Bridge:

They’ll see each other through both good and bad;

a lifetime spent together, sharing all the love they have.

Verse 3:

A nursing home, in fading light.

The time will come to say their last goodnight.

With no regrets, or love ungiven’

reflecting on the journey they have been.

As life’s ember’ll cease to be,

they’ll close their eyes and there they’ll see…

Chorus 3:

..they are walking on home, still hand in hand.

Oh the way she’ll smile when he says “this is not the end”.

Just for a while, they’re on those old grounds

giving thanks for all the love and life that they have found.

They’ll be walking on home.

They’ll be walking on home.

Outro:

Looking back, from start to end,

a journey walked together hand in hand.

Engagement Story

This past Friday, June 15th, I proposed to my girlfriend of 5 years! What follows is the “Engagement Story”, from her perspective. I’ll be writing my own account of the event (and the weeks leading up to it) in a few days. Until then, enjoy!

I can imagine few activities that leave me more exhausted at the end of the week than working at camp, so when Libby (the program director) approached Mackenzie (my little sister) and me on Friday afternoon, June 15th, after we had spent a week volunteering and asked us to drop off a package in Houston, I suspected no mischief. “Since you’re going to Houston,” she asked, “would you mind dropping this off with Sara? Her mail isn’t forwarding properly, and we keep getting stuff for her here.” For those who don’t know the back story, Sara was the previous program director at Lutherhill, who had moved to Houston at the end of the previous summer. Libby took over as program director last fall.

Privately I thought, “Gee, Houston is kind of out of our way…I visit Houston *so* frequently, though, so maybe it would be okay if we take it now, and I drop it off sometime later when I’m actually *in* Houston rather than home?” When I inquired by when the package needed to be delivered, Libby responded, “Oh…like tonight.” Chalk up another point for sleep-deprivation, because it never occurred to me to question the supposed “urgency” of the package. When Mackenzie replied, “Okay, yeah, we can take it,” the deal was sealed – we were going to Houston, whether I wanted to or not!

We departed camp around 5 p.m. Normally the drive back home lasts about 2 hours (a little longer when I drive, a little shorter when anyone else drives). I texted my mother to inform her that we were on the way but needed to make a stop, so she should expect us around 8 or so. With address entered into the GPS on Mac’s phone and sticky note clutched in hand (another plot hole I failed to detect: Sara’s address was written on a sticky note, but not on the package itself – how the heck did I miss that!?), we were off!

En route, I decided I was excited about the opportunity to see Sara. I had not talked with her in over a year, and she had recently announced her engagement, so I wanted to offer congratulations and ask how the wedding planning was going. I knew the visit would be brief, but I still appreciated the chance to say hello. Since her zip code matched the zip code I had when I lived at Rice (another clue I failed to notice), I wondered about the feasibility of visiting campus, but immediately ruled that out because I thought we should make every effort to return home before dark.

The sticky note read “6221 Weslayan, Houston 77005.” Mackenzie’s GPS directed us to a street in West U. (Weslayan), and I immediately noticed the dearth of houses actually situated along Weslayan. Plenty of residential streets intersected Weslayan, but only a few driveways actually backed up onto the street, and I couldn’t find numbers on any of them. I obsessively checked the GPS, certain we were close, but 6221 simply did not exist. When we got to University Drive, I instructed Mackenzie to turn around and drive slower, sure we must have just missed it because the house numbers were not obvious. When she attempted to drive a different route, I became very persistent (“No! Turn left *here*! We have to go back! You must have missed the house – drive slower this time!”). Mackenzie pulled over to the side of the road about two blocks from where I was certain Sara’s house must be, and reached into the back seat, asking, “Where did I put that package?”

Frustrated by her sudden flakiness, I climbed out of the car, figuring I could maybe find the house on foot – we were only 2 blocks away, after all. As I marched away from the car, Mackenzie called after me, “Wait! Change of plans…you need to open the package and follow the directions!”

Finally it dawned on me that some serious skullduggery was afoot. Why would *I* need to open a package meant for Sara? The truth is – I would *not* need to open a package intended for Sara, which left only one option – the package was never intended to reach Sara, and had been for me the whole time! All was not as it appeared…

Upon opening the package, I found a rock labeled “180‌°”. My first instinct was to make an about-face, but I quickly realized I was nowhere near any place of significance, and there was no way whoever had sent this rock would know which way I’d be facing when I got the instruction. When I glanced up at Mackenzie, confused, she mentioned that she needed to take me to Stockton Drive (one of the entrances to Rice University). With this final piece of information, the message clicked – I needed to go to the statue in the engineering quad at Rice called “180‌°” (there are 3 statues in that quad, all labeled according to the angle they make with the ground – 45‌°, 90‌°, 180‌°). Coincidentally, this statue marks the very spot where Kyle and I found ourselves on the morning after his graduation from Rice 5 years previous, talking about “what comes next.” Anyone else see any symmetry here?

Mackenzie suddenly developed a mysterious desire to visit Rice Village and asked where she might park in order to do so. I directed her to the band hall, since it has a visitor’s parking lot next to it, and it’s relatively close to the engineering quad. I was also *finally* developing a suspicion of what kind of shenanigans were under way, and I suspected I ought to visit the ladies’ room – no matter what the surprise was, I did not wish to ruin it by rushing off in pursuit of a restroom in the middle of it. I walked to the engineering quad, and sure enough, there was Kyle, atop 180‌°, along with a portable CD player, 180 lilies (my favorite flower!), some candles, and a bottle of sparkling grape juice.

I climbed up to join him on 180‌°, asking if he knew anything about this mysterious message I’d received. He responded by giving me a hug, then pressing “play” on the CD player. I recognized the opening chords to Mark Schultz’s “He Was Walking Her Home”. When the first verse started, though, I heard that the voice coming from the CD player was not Mark Schultz, but was Kyle…and the words had been altered so that the song no longer narrated the story of a hypothetical couple, but described *our* story instead.

When the song described the two people back on college grounds, Kyle dropped to one knee, pulled out a ring, and (at the pre-determined break in the music) asked, “Will you marry me?” For some reason, I was struggling to actually vocalize just then, so I nodded (vigorously, I think), and he stood up to give me the best hug of my life! When the song ended, I recovered my voice and said, “Yes!”

I guess some people celebrate moments like this with wine or champagne; we substituted sparkling grape juice. The ring is made of recycled metal, and the diamond was grown in a laboratory rather than mined, so it is 100% conflict-free!

Before actually proposing, Kyle flew out to Baltimore to talk with my best friend. He attempted to fly to Houston to talk with my other very close friend, but his plane was diverted and he couldn’t make it while she was in town, so he had to talk with her on the phone. The night before he actually proposed, he had dinner with my parents to ask for their blessing. My dad, being contrary, asked “What would you do if I said no?” Caught slightly off-guard, Kyle eventually responded that he would ask anyway, but he’d be extremely disappointed. My dad praised that response as the right answer and (still being contrary) gave his blessing, provided that Kyle promised to learn both how to drive a stick-shift car, and how to ski. (We have already begun to rectify the stick shift issue.)

So now we enter the next adventure of our lives! I am humbled by God’s graciousness in blessing me with such a wonderful fiancé. I know that the years to come will carry many ups and downs, and I look forward to facing both the challenges and the blessings with Kyle at my side.

Plot o’ Land

One of the stereotypical elements of the American Dream is owning land. I live in an apartment (which is fantastic for this stage of my life), but have had a growing desire to acquire a small plot of land on which to maintain a lawn of my own. So, a few weeks ago I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I’ve constructed a 2′ x 2′ x 6″ wooden box… sanded it, stained it, and waterproofed it. I then filled it with potting soil and sowed a healthy quantity of bermudagrass seed. After considerable watering, sun, and a few weeks waiting, I now have a 4′ sq lawn of my very own!

PS: Anyone have a lawn mower I could borrow? Self-propelled is preferred.

PPS: The pot contains newly-sprouted catnip.

Gerber Baby Punks

Those thugs at Gerber Baby Life Insurance just won’t leave me alone! I’ve asked them nicely to stop sending me junk mail, but they haven’t… so I’m taking drastic measures. As it turns out, you can tape a “Postage Paid” envelope to a package and the soliciting company has to pay the bill. This time those Gerber Baby Punks are getting a tennis ball. Next time it’ll be a brick. See the pictures below.

PS: I checked with a postal worker before mailing this and was assured I wasn’t bending / breaking any laws or guidelines. I got the idea from here.

Car Audio

Since I’m going to be taking a long road trip from VA to TX next week, I decided I wanted to add a new audio source to my car. Rather than buying a whole new sound system, I decided to do things the “fun” way.

  1. I soldered a new DC plug to the inside of my console, taping into the pre-existing, externally-accessible DC plug.
  2. I ran a USB power cable from the DC plug through a small hole drilled in the open shelf in my console.
  3. I also ran power to an FM transmitter, housed in the slide-out ashtray in the dash.
  4. I ran the auxilarily input of the FM transmitter through the back of the console and out through another hole in the console shelf.
  5. Now, from a user perspective, there are aux & power connectors inside my console shelf, and an FM transmitter controller in the repurposed ashtray. The original DC power outlet still works unchanged.

This little project was waaay too much fun… how often do you get to solder wires on the inside of your car’s dash? 8)

Office 2007 Citations

MS Office 2007 has a very good reference manager, but changing the inline citation style is absurdly complicated. Standard practice for citations in an engineering paper is “[#]” where # is the reference number. Unfortunately, the default citation option in Word 2007 is “(#)”… so I needed to change it. If you need to do the same thing, just download this file, move it to the “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\Bibliography\Style\” directory. You should then see a new “Style” option under the “References” tab called “ISO 690 – Numerical with Square Brackets”. Bingo… that’s all you need to do.

MS Defense

I had my Masters Defense yesterday and to my great delight, I passed! It involved a 30 minute presentation followed by an hour of questions from a panel of 3 professors. Now I just need to make a few edits to my thesis and I’ll have completed my MS degree! 8) Oh yeah, and I posted the slides from my defense presentation here.

Load / Save Wii Games From Hard Drive

I hate optical media. I hate its sensitivity to scratches, I hate its loud loading noises, I hate sorting through stacks of discs.

I’ve now found an excellent (albeit somewhat complicated) hack that allows me to save/load my Wii games to/from an external USB hard drive! The final results look a little something like this. I’ve worked off of the guides found here and here and am using a WD Passport hard drive. This was especially difficult for me because, despite the fact I already had the Homebrew Channel installed, I had the Wii system menu 4.0 installed (latest as of the time of this post). Alright, enough yapping… here’s how you can duplicate my results.

First, we need to trick your Wii into thinking it’s running an older version of the Nintendo software. This overcomes the fact that we’re running system version 4.0! We’ll also install “The Homebrew Channel” at the same time.

  1. Copy the contents of SD1.zip to a FAT formated SD card.
  2. Insert the SD card into your Wii and click on the system icon (lower left corner).
  3. Navigate to “Data Management” –> “Channels” –> “SD Card” and wait a moment.
  4. Agree to load “boot.dol” to execute the LoadMii environment.
  5. Select “DowngraderIOS35.dol” and run it by pressing “A” on the WiiMote. Choose “Downgrade IOS35″ and then let it go. After it’s done, select “exit”.
  6. Now select “WAD Manager.dol” and, using default settings (e.g. run as IOS250), install “IOS35.wad”. When it’s finished, hit the “Home” button to exit.
  7. Run “WAD Manager.dol” again, but this time select “IOS35″ when prompted and install “CIOSv7.wad”. After that’s installed, hit the “Home” button to quit.
  8. Next, run “WAD Manager.dol” one last time. This time, select “IOS249″ for the IOS version and install both “IOS36.wad” and “HBC.wad”.
  9. Finally, restart your Wii and you’ll see a new link to “The Homebrew Channel”!

Now that we have “The Homebrew Channel” and the necessary IOS files, we can install the USB loader.

  1. Delete everything from your SD card and extract the contents of SD2.zip to it.
  2. Insert the SD card into your Wii and launch “The Homebrew Channel”.
  3. Execute the “cIOS36″ application and follow the installation instructions.
    1. Be sure to use the “Internet Installation” option to get the very latest custom IOS files.
    2. If you have any problems with this step, it’s probably because you’re using the Nintendo System Menu 3.4 or later. Make sure you’ve successfully completed phase one of this tutorial!
  4. Restart “The Homebrew Channel” and execute the “WADman” program. Using this tool, install the “USB Loader-USBF VForwarder.wad” file.
  5. You should now have a “USB Loader” channel in your Wii System Menu. This is how you save/load game discs.

Alrighty… we’re done hacking the Wii! Now we just need to get the USB hard drive ready for use.

  1. Install the Wii Backup File System manager from here.
  2. Plug the hard drive into your PC.
  3. Right click on “My Computer” and select “Manage”.
  4. Click on the “Disk Management” option on the left
  5. When your disk drives have loaded, right click on the drive to be read by the Wii and choose “Delete Volume”.
  6. Now right click on the disk drive to be used and click “New”.
  7. Be sure to assign a drive letter to your drive, and to choose NOT TO FORMAT the drive when you create your new partition.
  8. Using “WBFS Manager”, select the correct drive and click “Format”.
  9. Now plug the USB drive into your Wii and start playing around with the “USB Loader”!

I hope you find this tutorial useful! I’ve been waiting for a good Wii game saver/loader for a while now, so I’m really excited about this tool. If you have any questions or problems, just leave a comment!

PS: I’m providing this information so you can run games that you OWN from a hard drive. If I find out that any of you are using this to pirate games, I’ll personally find where you live and leave a sack of flaming dog poop on your doorstep!