What I'm Doing

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We've Moved to a New Location

Announcement: As of today, I will discontinue my infrequent postings here on cin >> cout;. From this day forward, I will be posting at my new blog, currently (and temporarily...maybe) titled, MattSpoon.org. So, go there for any further ramblings and so on. Again, that is http://mattspoon.org. That is all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Domain Scam

I decided today to finally check my Yahoo! email account, delete all the spam, and see if there's any email I'd actually care about (not likely since it's more-or-less a spam-bait account, anyway). As I was skimming through the emails, I came across one dated May 21, 2008 with the subject line, "kristenandmatthew.com". At first glance, I missed the ".com" part, and decided to check it out, because I currently own matthewandkristen.net. I registered that domain for my wife and my wedding website, and I've not done much with it since (it's set to expire in September, and I think I'm just going to let it go). In addition, I had registered kristenandmatthew.net (which has already expired) as a result of miscommunication regarding what was being printed on the invitations.

This email is from a guy, Ken, at some company that "specializes in recovering preferred expiring domains and either selling them to individuals such as yourself or building out our own web presence on those domains.". In the email, Ken states that the domain, kristenandmatthew.com, had recently expired, and his company had acquired it in a domain name auction. Seeing as how I own kristenandmatthew.net, he wanted to sell me the .com version of the domain.

At this point, out of curiosity, I went to whois.net and did a search for the domain. At the moment, no one owns this domain.

Returning to my email list, I found that on the next day, May 22, Ken had sent me another email, reminding me of his company's offer.

Two days later, he sent me an email with the subject, "One Day Sale For kristenandmatthew.com". Up to this point, the emails had not mentioned a price; I guess I was supposed to go to their site and discover their price there. In this email, however, Ken informs me that their previous price for the domain had been $557, but for 24 hours, I could buy it at the discounted price of $300.

Now, remember, I've already discovered that no one owns this domain. I can register it for $10.

To make matters even more humorous, 3 days later (May 27), I received an email from a different company, stating that they had recently acquired kristenandmatthew.com and thought I might be interested it buying it from them for $49.95 (and then, after a year, I can renew it with them for the standard $10, or move it to a registrar of my choice). The email then states that "this is a one time note for the owner of kristenandmatthew.net."

Despite that, I have received a second "one time note" from this second company that says exactly the same thing as the first on July 6, and a third dated August 12 that includes (I guess to sweeten the pot) a note that my purchase will include a year's registration of the domain, full transfer of the domain ownership to myself, and they will even point my new domain to my current website for free (this is listed as being optional)! It also includes a warning that if I don't take this offer, someone else may purchase the domain instead.

I suppose some people might fall for this sort of thing, if they don't know about whois searching (to see who owns a domain name, if anyone). If I thought that there were any humans that might actually read a response to these emails, I'd be tempted to register the domain (at a reputable registration site) and then respond to both of these "companies" with an email saying, "Thank you for your offer; however, I have just recently registered this very domain name with [registrar] for $10." As it is, I'll just blog about it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New Puppy!

This morning, Kristen and I went down to the pet store where an adoption agency had pets up for adoption. We brought home a lab mutt that we named Luna. She was really tired when she got home, but since taking a nap, she's been exploring what of our house we're allowing her into for now.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

We got good seats for the fireworks show. Not many people were around us.

Friday, May 16, 2008

New Photos Uploaded

Spring Flowers 5
Originally uploaded by coderforchrist
Back in March, Kristen and I went up to Kennesaw Mountain, and I took some photos of the first flowers I saw this Spring. Two months later, I finally get around to uploading them. This one is my favorite of the set.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Christ is Risen!

Well, I'm really late, but Happy Easter everyone! The Orthodox Church celebrated Easter this year a couple weekends ago (April 27), and this Sunday was St. Thomas Sunday, where the Church commemorates the event where St. Thomas, hearing from the other disciples that the Lord was risen, said, "Unless I put my finger in the holes in His hands, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." The Lord later came to Thomas and the others, and allowed Thomas to touch the scars in His hands and in His side. After this, Thomas believed.

To continue the story, St. Thomas ended up bringing the Gospel to India, where he was ultimately martyred, being run through by 5 spears.

I'm sorry for being so late in posting; I've been very busy, what with getting the house, moving in, Easter, and getting settled, but I'll try to post more often.

As a final note, let me just say that I love the Paschal troparion:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Buying a House, Part Fin (or, I Own a House!)

Well, well, it's all over and now we are homeowners! We met our real estate agent and our lender from our bank at the closing attorney's office. The selling agent wasn't there, nor was anyone representing the selling bank, which was kind of weird. But all the documents were there and the attorney was there, and I signed a bunch of stuff, and we were handed the keys!

Well, actually, we weren't. There were no keys, either. Not that it was a huge deal; there was still the key in the lock-box on the house, and we were changing all the locks, anyway. The back door deadbolt was broken, so we decided to just go buy all new locks, and I installed them tonight. Kristen brought over the vacuum cleaner and a broom to start cleaning up the place (it's been vacant for a few months, IIRC).

Tomorrow, a plumber will show up to replace the water pressure reducing valve, and our real estate agent hired a guy to come and clean the carpets for us. So, after tomorrow, we'll have clean carpets and running water! My mom has suggested we "camp out" in the house before moving in, but I guess I'm not in that big of a hurry.

So, now, we just have to get packed up and move in! That'll be this weekend, which will mean we'll move into a new house before Easter (according to the Orthodox calendar)! Yay!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Buying a House, Part IX

Again, a lot has happened since I last posted. That 'lot' that has happened has been part of why I've not posted in a while. I've been running around going crazy. As such, this is a long one.

The week before closing, everything was going well for a while, the appraisal got done, and we were all set for a scheduled closing date of Monday, April 7. This would be 2 days before our deadline, when they'd start charging that $100/day. I had learned that my bank had stopped doing 100% loans the day after I had locked in on ours, but that was okay, because our file was in the system before the cutoff. Wow; thank God! I was just waiting to hear the final numbers from the bank (i.e., how much of the closing cost we'd have to pay, if it went over what the selling bank was paying).

Thursday evening, I was preparing to fly home from a business trip in Florida when I got a call from the Mortgage Consultant at my bank. He had just heard from the underwriters that he had been wrong about the date of the cutoff; we'd actually missed it, and now the best we could do was a 97% loan. This meant we needed 3% to put down by the next Monday (giving us 1 business day to do this). We didn't have 3% that we could afford to put down.

So, I gave Kristen a call and told her the bad news, and spent the flight back trying to decide what to do. We had just enough money in savings to cover that 3%, but then we would have nothing left over. By the time I got home (around 11pm), I was nearly decided that we couldn't afford the house. Then I got some good news: Kristen's parents had already agreed to let us borrow what we needed for 6 months (my parents were also willing to help, though I hadn't talked to them yet about specifics). That 6 months would have given us time to save up some extra, earn more interest on what we had, etc. I went to bed less decided about walking on the house.

The next day, I got in touch with the M.C. at my bank, and he was working to try and get us the 100% loan again. Apparently, the main problem was that the mortgage insurance companies had stopped insuring 100% loans because our area had been declared a declining market, but, our M.C. thought he might be able to get us an exception. So, I decided to wait and see what would happen.

However, by the end of the day, he was back to the 97% loan, and had decided (acknowledging that it was his mistake that caused the trouble) to take as much as he could out of his earnings on the loan and apply it to our down payment for us. In addition, there were apparently some marketing funds or whatnot that the bank had available that he was trying to get authorization to use to pay more of the down payment, to help ease the burden on us. He wasn't able to get in touch with his manager, though, so he asked if we would mind delaying the closing to Wednesday, to give him some time the next Monday to get those funds. That was fine with me, so the closing got rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Now, the reason we had to schedule for Wednesday was that the attorneys mandated by the selling bank (who were, by the way, already more expensive than most attorneys, probably because the specialized in foreclosure properties) insisted that they needed 48 hours from the time they got the package from our bank until they could close. So, if they got the package Monday around noon, they could close Wednesday afternoon.

Over the weekend, I finally sat down and took a long look at our finances. This was, for me, one of the best things to come out of the weekend, because I have a better idea of where, exactly, I am financially than I have in the 5-6 months since I moved into the apartment. Not only that, but I have an idea, now, of where we're going financially, and how we can get there. Also, I discovered that, if we had to bring any money to closing at all (even if just paying a remainder of closing costs), we'd have to borrow it.

The next Monday, I hear back that our M.C. was about to get us an exception and we had the 100% loan again. The loan package was being processed, and we were waiting for a final word, but everything was looking good. Unfortunately, by Tuesday afternoon, the bank had not gotten the package to the attorneys; they would get it first thing Wednesday morning. With the 48 hours they had been telling us they needed, we wouldn't close until Friday, two days past the deadline. So, our M.C. got approval and told us that the bank would cover the $100/day, since it was the bank's mistake that caused all this in the first place.

The attorneys, however, responded by telling us they couldn't close until the next Monday. Suddenly, 48 hours had become 72 hours. Although our bank was already going to pay the per diem, this put us in a bind. Kristen's parents had already sold their house, and had moved out. They had left a few things behind for us, but we had to get the stuff out by that weekend. I really didn't want to have to rent a truck twice (once to move that stuff into storage, again to move into the house). So, we argued with the attorneys for a short while, but they wouldn't budge: we were closing on Monday.

After conceding that argument, our M.C. called the selling attorney to argue that the selling bank shouldn't charge us the per diem past Friday, since it was their attorneys that didn't want to close then. She called the selling bank, and then called back to let us know the selling bank had decided to forgive the per diem.

Also, we got the HUD from the attorneys Wednesday afternoon, I think, and after looking over it, and having both our M.C. and real estate agent go through it with us, it turns out that, rather than having to bring money to the table, we should be getting most of our earnest money back! This is great news, as it's money I wasn't expecting to have this month!

In addition, Kristen and I were both sick last week, and neither of us got any packing done, so we wouldn't have been ready to move last weekend, anyway.

In the end, I rented a smaller truck, and put the stuff from Kristen's parents' old house into a friend's garage for the week. Kristen got started packing stuff up yesterday, and has already gotten a lot done. I've still got my home office to pack, which will probably involve throwing lots of random stuff into boxes and not being about to find it for the next couple years.

We're closing this afternoon, and moving in this weekend. I had hoped to be moved into a new house before Easter, and we're going to be doing just that. I had figured on us cutting our finances really close this month, but it looks like we've gotten some help there, too. God-willing, this afternoon, we will become homeowners, and, according to the appraisal, we'll be starting out with a little bit of equity in the house. If all goes well, this Saturday's move will be our last for a long time. Glory to God.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Buying a House, Part VIII

Okay, so I've not updated in a while. A lot has happened.

Where I left off, we had sent in an offer on a house we really liked, and had to wait over the weekend to hear back from the bank that's selling it.

The next Monday, I got a call from Eric, our Realtor, and the bank wanted to accept our offer, with a couple changes: 1) shorten the due diligence period (the time in which we have to do inspections and, if we find something we don't like, can walk on the house and recoup our earnest money) to 7 days instead of the 14 days we'd asked for, and 2) move the closing date to April 16 (we'd asked for March 31). Eric talked them out to 10 due diligence days, and we got a closing date on April 9 (or sooner if we can manage it). However, if we miss the April 9 closing date, the bank wants to charge us $100 per day (alternatively, they can walk on the deal).

So, we came to an agreement, and put the house under contract. Woo!

Last week, I received the Good Faith Estimate from our lender, a guy Eric knows and recommended at Countrywide. Now, stupid me, we had just gone with the guy Eric recommended rather than shopping around. Frankly, I hate dealing with money, and I wouldn't really have known what to look for, anyway.

Fortunately, a coworker of mine used to work at a mortgage company and had learned about all this kind of stuff, so I took my copy of the Good Faith to him, and he looked it over and told me I could be getting a much better deal. I decided I needed to shop around while I still could, so I told the lender at Countrywide I wasn't ready to lock in on the loan yet, and let him know I was going to shop around.

Because the closing date was so close, we weren't able to use Kristen's credit union, which probably would've been ideal. In the end, though, I found a good deal with my own bank (I got half a percent lower rate than Countrywide could offer me, for one thing), and locked in with them Friday afternoon.

Then, on Monday, Kristen and I met with the inspector we'd ordered and did a detailed look over the house. This guy seemed very thorough, and we were there for 3 hours. We found one major issue: the water pressure regulator is broken, so the pressure inside the house is way too high. Fortunately, we have the valve closed at the moment, which should protect the appliances. Eric spoke with a contractor he knows to get an estimate on fixing that and the other bigger issues, and is going to try to get the bank to pay for those repairs.

In addition, we went by the company we have our car and renter's insurance with, and spoke with them about insuring the house. They have contacted the bank, so once the appraisal comes back, they'll be able to tell us how much insurance will be.

As of right now, we're waiting on the bank to get the appraisal done, and everything should be set. God-willing, by April 9, we should have a house. And then the next adventure: moving. Who wants to help (I don't know when we'll be moving yet, but I plan on being moved before Holy Week, which in our Church is April 20-26)?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Wester!

(Note: 'Wester' is pronounced wē'stər)

I've been really busy lately, between work and buying a house, so I've not posted any updates. Sorry. I did want to make a quick post, though, and wish all my Western Christian brethren a Happy Wester (Western Easter).

Wester (pronounced wē'stər; like "Easter" with a "W" in front of it) is a term someone at church came up with today during choir practice. I actually kind of like it, since many—if not most—of us at my parish are converts and have Catholic/Protestant families (or just non-Christian families who still celebrate Easter in a more secular way). Since, in many families, Easter is both a time for religious observance and a time for familial get-togethers, I heard the question more than once today, "So, are you doing anything for Western Easter?" along with discussions about finding a balance between taking the Lenten fast seriously and not putting out your family when they pass you the ham.

And so, again, I wish you a Happy Wester! Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is risen!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Buying a House, Part VII

Because of the gas prices, my company has approved us to work a day a week from home. I chose Fridays.

While I was working from home this past Friday, Kristen went out with Eric to look at some more houses. A little after 4pm, Kristen called me and asked if I can meet them in a certain neighborhood a few exits on the Interstate north of the apartment. I reminded her that I don't get off work until 5pm, and she responds that it's important. My curiosity was sufficiently piqued by the fact that this neighborhood was the same neighborhood with the house that we'd really liked but was too expensive, and she sounded excited, so I checked to make sure I didn't have any pending emails to deal with, and headed out to meet them.

When I pulled up, I discovered that the house Kristen and Eric were excited about was a foreclosure that had, previously, been well outside of our price range, but had been reduced to the high limit of our price range. It's a "Cape Cod" style house with a garage/finished basement. This time, Kristen and Eric spent a lot of time, including the time waiting for me to get there, looking over the house trying to find anything wrong with it.

They did find a few issues: a piece of wood trim on the chimney needs to be replace, and a piece of wood over the porch is also bad. There's a deadbolt in the back that needs to be replaced, and the stove/over needs cleaning. The carpet could also use a good professional cleaning. These things are relatively minor, and probably won't be terribly expensive. Once we're past that, there are a number of things that could be done to make the home even better than it is.

At the reduced price, Eric believes that this house will be somewhat of a hot item. In fact, he was able to find that at least 3 people other than us had looked at that house that same day. Since none of us felt any reservations about the house, we decided to make an offer that evening.

Because the house is a foreclosure, and a bank is selling it, they aren't likely to receive the offer until Monday, when it may be that they receive two or three other offers as well. At the same time, Eric expects that other people, looking at the house, may decide to try and talk the price down even further, so we considered it and decided to offer the full price of the house (minus the fact that we're asking the seller to pay closing costs), and told them we want to close at the end of March. This should give us enough time for an inspector to come through and check everything out to make sure the house is as good as we think.

We signed the paperwork, and Eric has sent in the offer, so now we can only wait. The bank has until Tuesday evening to respond, so we'll know by then whether we have a chance at this house. If not, we'll find something else. God-willing, we'll have a house before Easter (according to the Eastern calendar, April 27).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Buying a House, Parts III-VI

Okay, so I've been lazy and skipped parts III-VI. Here's a quick recap, though, so you don't feel too left out:

Part III
Eric called us a couple days after our first tour to let us know that an offer had been placed on the one house we had liked. Since things in our price range seemed to be moving quickly, we decided to move quickly. The next tour, covering an area between my office and our apartment, was covered by Kristen and Eric on a weekday while I was working. They called me and I met them to see the house they'd kept: a home in the neighborhood Kristen first grew up in. It was well within our price range, and though it had a couple issues that could be dealt with, we really liked it. It was the same floor plan as the other house we'd liked.

Part IV
The next weekend, I joined Kristen and Eric again to go looking at an area a bit further away from my office. We looked at a number of homes, and, again, ended up with only one house (again, the same floor plan) that we kept, although the price was still a bit steeper and it was further out. I didn't like the way they'd finished the basement, myself. We also came across a few more homes that were surprising to see on the market. From people I've talked to that are selling homes, "stagers" say you're supposed to remove all personal stuff from walls, etc., to make the house more attractive to potential buyers. I haven't really liked that, but, at the same time, there's a difference between "personal stuff" (like photos of children) and clutter. In some cases, you couldn't see the house through the stuff.

Part V
Now we had two similar houses that we could consider. Because the market seems to be moving quickly for the nicer houses in our price range, we felt that we needed to be coming close to making a decision. Between the two we'd kept after our last two tours, I decided the next Monday to make an offer on the cheaper house. Admittedly, I didn't have a great feeling even at the time about it, but I put that aside, figuring that it was just nervousness about making such a huge decision. I called Eric, and we decided to meet that Thursday to sign the paperwork required to make an offer.

Part VI
From the time I called Eric until that Thursday, the "not great feeling" I had about the house grew into more of a foreboding. I continued to tell myself it was just nerves, and pressed on. That Thursday, as Kristen (who had met me at my office) and I were heading out to the car to meet Eric, he called us and suggested that, as he was coming from somewhere else anyway, it might be easier to meet at the house and take another look at it before we do the paperwork. This time, we looked even more closely, and the longer we stayed there, the more all three of us felt that this wasn't the right decision. I'm not sure if it was any one issue for any of us, but the number of issues, smaller and larger, that would need to be dealt with made us all feel uncomfortable. In the end, we decided to table that house for now, and look for a bit more.

We decided to do a broader search, including houses that didn't have basements, and Eric and Kristen planned on going out the next day while I was working.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Confusing Conversation

This is a conversation I had with a friend recently on AIM. As background, my status message was, "Working LIKE A FOX!"

MetalHead Type 0:
so how does a fox work? ;)
coderforchrist: by eating chickens?
MetalHead Type 0: is that how you're workign?
MetalHead Type 0: working*
coderforchrist: stop calling me a liar!!! :-O
coderforchrist: ;-)
MetalHead Type 0: ....
MetalHead Type 0: not-truth-teller!
coderforchrist: um...not not-truth teller!
MetalHead Type 0: truth-un-teller-not?
coderforchrist: are you not saying I don't not tell the not truth?
MetalHead Type 0: no-yes-no-maybe-definately-not
MetalHead Type 0: -and-so-forth
coderforchrist: I will not not be not accused of not telling the not truth!
MetalHead Type 0: you will not be acused of not not truth not firetruck!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Buying a House, Part II

Things are going well with buying a house, so far. I contacted the lender that Eric (our realtor and a friend from our old church) recommended and got pre-approved for a loan that should more than cover what we need.

Then, this past Saturday, we went out with Eric to visit some houses that he'd picked out from listings near my office. One of the things we'd told him we'd like was a basement. As it turns out, a house that is listed as having a basement doesn't necessarily have a basement. In some cases, it was a small area behind the garage which happened to be under the house. Granted, all the houses we saw had a garage/basement (as opposed to just a basement that sits under the whole house), but some were better than others.

Anyway, I had expected that we would take most of the day looking at houses, but it only took about half the day. This was certainly aided by the one or two houses that we pretty much walked into and quickly walked out of.

I think the most interesting house was, I believe, the second one we visited. The exterior was not terribly confidence-inspiring. The roof looked like it had been shoddily done, the siding didn't look too great, etc. In contrast to the exterior, though, the family room we entered through the front door was "pimped out." Tile floor, nice fireplace, leather chairs, nice TV, even a bar that had been cut into the wall between the family room and the kitchen. The kitchen, however, wasn't quite as impressive. When we opened the door to the hallway that led to the bedrooms, it almost looked like the exterior (in quality, at least), except for the master bedroom. What was so interesting to me was the huge contrast between the different areas. One might say they were very telling as to what this resident's priorities were.

Another house we visited was nice enough, except that everywhere you looked there seem to be a half-finished project. Well, except for the kitchen; that had totally been redone, but we didn't really like what they'd done with it (the floorplan was similar to a house we did really like, which gave us an idea of what the house may have been like before). The listing for the house promoted a "finished bath" in the basement. "Finished," in this case, means a toilet connected to a hole in the ground where a pump is probably going to be buried.

At the end of our tours, we had only one house we were planning to keep in consideration. On the downside, the seller is asking a bit more than we're wanting to pay, but there could be some working with that. Also, the house is very, very nice—certainly worth what the seller wants for it—which means there's a chance it may get snatched up before we've had time to look at other options.

Hopefully, over the next week, we'll get a few chances to meet with Eric again, and we'll probably be out looking again next Saturday, this time in some other areas we've considered. God-willing, everything will work out for us to have a house before our lease is up on the apartment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Buying a House, Part I

With the wedding, honeymoon, and being sick out of the way, Kristen and I are ready for our next big adventure: buying a house.

Currently, we're living in the apartment I moved into back in November. At the time, I was already planning on getting a house as soon as possible (at least partly to take advantage of the current "buyer's market"), so I only signed for a 6-month lease. This means that I need to have a house by May (I could, of course, renew my lease for another 6 months, or pay an extra $100 monthly, but I don't want to do either of those). So, with less than 3 months to go, Kristen and I decided to call up a friend of mine from our old church who happens to be a realtor, and get started looking for a house.

We met with Eric (our realtor friend) at a local Chick-Fil-A this past Saturday, and he went over a "first-home buyer's" brochure he had put together with us. We also caught up with each other a little, since I hadn't seen him in some time.

After the meeting, both of us were very excited. I can't wait to get out looking, and I know that Eric is a realtor that not only has the experience to be able to help us, but is also trustworthy.

Of course, before we can get out looking at homes, we have to figure out what we can afford. To that end, Eric gave us a card for a lender that he knows, so that we can get pre-approved for a loan. I gave him a call yesterday, but I got an answering machine. Of course, if I'm enjoying a holiday, the banks are, too. So, hopefully, we'll hear back from him today, or I'll try calling him again this afternoon.

I really want to get this show on the road. God-willing, by May, I will own a home. Which means I'll be able to vote! Wait...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Common Cup

At one point during the Orthodox wedding ceremony, the bride and groom drink from a common cup. This is not the Chalice of Communion; it is simply a cup of wine (at our parish, we have wine imported from Cana of Galilee). However, it, like everything else, carries symbolic meaning. The most obvious meaning is that of the bride and groom sharing of one life together, and all that brings.

One interpretation of this that I have come across goes, "Your joys will be doubled, and your sorrows halved, because they are shared."

I've thought about this some since being sick last week. As I said in my last post, I think I had the flu, and it put me out of commission for a few days. During those few days, I was even more grateful for my wife than usual! She took care of me, made sure I ate enough, let me rest, and so on. As I started feeling better, she got sick, and I got to return the favor. I hope I took care of her as well as she took care of me.

I found, last week, that there is certainly something to having a spouse that can take care of you when you're sick. You don't get lonely laying around at home, for one thing. For another, of course, you can relax; you don't have to fix your own meals, which, when all you feel like you can do is sleep is a great blessing. In some ways, it's like being a child again and having your parents take care of you (except, of course, that you're an adult, and your relationship with your spouse is different from your relationship with your parents).

Yeah, this isn't terribly profound, or even well-written, but last week, in a perhaps small way, I think I began to really understand the interpretation quoted above of the common cup. Thank God for my wife!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Down Time

I had some enforced down time this week. In other words, I got sick. I think it was the flu, but all I know for sure was I was out of commission for a few days. I'm still not entirely over it—I've got a nasty cough, and my mind feels a bit muddled and tired—but at least I'm back at work, trying to catch up on everything I missed.

Dr. Q, apparently, had the flu, too, and chronicled his misadventures with DayQuil. All I can say is that I wish DayQuil worked the same for me. It is helping with the coughing and stuff, but, even despite getting 8 hours of sleep last night (with the exception of the alarm in the restaurant behind our apartment going off at 2am—again), I feel like the only thing I want in the world is a nap.

On the upside, I began reading A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy by Nicholas Cabasilas. I'm totally digging this book. It's helping me to better understand what is going on in the Liturgy, and giving me a deeper appreciation for it. I hope I can get the book finished by Sunday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I've been re-reading some of the first chapters of Programming Perl, and came across this gem of a paragraph on portability:
Initially designed as a glue language for Unix, Perl has long since spread to most other operating systems. Because it runs nearly everywhere, Perl is one of the most portable programming environments available today. To program C or C++ portably, you have to put in all those strange #ifdef markings for different operating systems. To program Java portably, you have to understand the idiosyncrasies of each new Java implementation. To program a shell script portably, you have to remember the syntax for each operating system's version of each command and somehow find the common factor that (you hope) works everywhere. And to program Visual Basic portably, you just need a more flexible definition of the word "portable". :-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Back Home

Well, okay, so we actually got home Saturday evening, but this is the first chance I've had to post. The honeymoon was great; we went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Flew in Monday, did some dog-sledding Tuesday, some skiing Wednesday and Thursday, wandered around Town Square Friday, and came home Saturday. I'll probably post more about it later (including pictures on my Flickr account), but for now, I'm tired and it's bedtime.

Also, the wedding was wonderful. And now, bed.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Getting Married

Tomorrow's the big day! Kristen and I will soon be setting our Facebook relationship statuses to "married." ;-)

Of course, this means we'll both be out of contact for the next week, as we enjoy our honeymoon. See ya'll when we get back!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Hobby

I have discovered a new hobby: making my own soft drinks.

It all started when I read a blog post on "How to Beat the Soda Habit," and then the comments beneath. The post suggested adding lemon or lime juice to water and serving it over crushed ice (the crushed ice was supposed to give the water a "texture" that would replace the fizziness of carbonated water). Some commentors, however, noted that they had been doing something like this, only mixing club soda or seltzer water with the juice (one commentor noted that this provided the "same fizziness, no sugar, caffeine, or bad stuff"—perhaps someone should inform him that fruit juice does have sugar in it, though not as much as a can of soda).

Thinking this would be a neat idea to try, I went out to the store with Kristen and picked up some limeade, grape juice, lemons, limes, and club soda. When we got back to my apartment, I immediately tried mixing limeade and club soda. It turns out that what Kristen had said to me at the store was correct (of course); that won't work, because these juices were made for drinking, therefore water has already been added. In the end, I had fizzy, watered-down limeade.

So, my second attempt was to juice a couple of the lemons and mix the juice in a glass of club soda. Apparently, this was too strong; I kind of liked it, but Kristen found it undrinkable. I tried, at her suggestion, adding a tablespoon of sugar. I found it to be like drinking very sour candy, but Kristen still couldn't drink it.

This evening, while Kristen was over, I tried mixing it with grape juice, but that bottle of club soda had already gone flat. However, I still had two bottles left, and after Kristen went home, I decided to try again.

I juiced one lemon and one lime, and mixed the juice with a tablespoon of sugar and a glass of club soda. The result was pretty good, although the lemon taste did mostly outweigh the lime, and I think it would have still been too sour for Kristen. I think my next attempt is going to be juicing only half a lemon and a whole lime for a glass of soda. I'm going to do that when Kristen is here, though, so I can make a glass for her and a glass for me (that way I don't have to worry about wasting that last half of lemon).

This has been kind of fun, although I think for it to be even more fun, I would need to carbonate my own water. Apparently, it seems that you can buy a seltzer bottle and some chargers, which you can use for this purpose. I've read that the fizziness is not quite as good this way, but I'm willing to try it, just so I can make totally homemade soda. I also need to start finding more soda recipes, and start coming up with my own.

Who knows? If nothing else, maybe I'll come up with something that'll be popular at parties.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Some Good News

As I mentioned in my New Year's post, my company instituted a 10% pay cut around the same time I moved into the apartment. Now, I'd like to point out that this 10% pay cut was across the board, from officers down to us. I say this in praise of my company; the officers were not exempt, neither were they—as I have heard of happening at other companies—getting raises while the rest of us suffered.

That said, an email went out yesterday with some good news: salaries are being reinstated, effective next pay period. This means that, the same week I get married, I will receive a paycheck at my full salary again! In addition, if things continue to go well, I hope to be receiving a raise in the next couple months (this would be very helpful).

Thank God for this!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

First Post!

(Well, first post on this blog for the new year.)

First of all, Happy New Year (yeah, yeah, a day late)!

2007 has been a very...interesting year, with big highs, and big lows. This year started with a LAN party. Of course, the idea was to play until just before midnight, count down to the new year, celebrate, and return to playing. As it worked out, though, we played until someone eventually asked, "What time is it?" at which point we realized we'd missed the new year by almost an hour (if my memory serves me correctly). LAN parties rock.

It wasn't long into the new year, though, that I had to tell my parents that Kristen and I had been attending an Orthodox church. We had been attending more-or-less consistently for a few months, but I hadn't gotten up the guts to tell my family yet. They had, apparently, assumed we were still visiting around at Protestant churches. I think it goes without saying that they were not too pleased. Since then, Orthodoxy has seemed to be the elephant in the room every time I've spent time with my parents. For a while, the elephant did a lot of running around and breaking things; for the last half of the year, he's mostly sat quietly, although he's still there.

I hope I'm not saying too much with that. Whatever issues may exist with my family (who I love dearly) are private, and not appropriate for this blog (being more-or-less a public forum), so I won't say any more.

It wasn't long afterwards that Kristen and I were received as catechumens (I think that's the plural?) in the Church. We had been going to catechism classes for a while already, but finally decided to come under the umbrella of the Church's ministry. Basically, being a catechumen means that you are seriously interesting in learning about and considering the Faith. It also means that, if you were to die, you could receive an Orthodox funeral.

Of course, for the first half of the year, I was still back-and-forth about becoming Orthodox. There was much about it that I loved, although I still had some deep-seated aversion to the veneration of icons and the Saints. To some degree, I believe this was partly external (coming from others), but it was also internal. It's a hard thing to really reconsider things you had been taught your whole life as axioms. And, so, I vacillated between going Orthodox and settling for Anglicanism (which seemed to be the most acceptable of the Protestant churches).

This put a lot of stress on my relationship with Kristen; while I was trying to make up my mind, she had already decided on Orthodoxy. In addition, there was the question of what would happen to us if we ended up in different churches. It would be one thing were we already married, but it seemed like a bad idea to marry into such a situation. We had been talking about engagement (I had gotten the ring in February), and seemed so close to getting married; the idea of losing all of that was heartbreaking.

Finally, glory to God, I made two decisions (I forget in which order): First, I was going to propose to Kristen, and, second, I was going to become Orthodox. I've already posted our engagement story, so I won't repeat that here, except to note, again, that I proposed on May 5. Having both been baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit in a Baptist church, we were received by Holy Chrismation into the Orthodox Church on May 20, the Sunday before Pentecost. I have been asked by a few people about why I converted, etc., and I've been considering creating a blog post about that to refer people to. Perhaps that will come this year, as I've gained more hindsight.

Those two events, one right after the other, were pretty much the height of the year for me. Besides that, I've continued my piano lessons, and have had my first two performances outside of recitals: the first, in May, was playing at the Decorator's Showhouse (I played background music in one of the rooms for a couple hours), and the second was playing at my sister's wedding in December.

This November, I moved out of my friend Chris's house, where I had lived for the past couple years and into an apartment. This was a bit of a change for me, as I had never lived alone. Before living at Chris's house, where we shared most of our space between 3-4 guys, I had lived at my parents'. In addition, I was going from having only a tiny bedroom as "my space" to having an entire two-bedroom apartment.

Unfortunately, just before my getting the apartment, my company instituted a 10% pay cut, which means that, all included (rent, utilities, etc.), I'm paying roughly three times more for living expenses and making 10% less. So far, I've been able to manage, and God is faithful.

I mentioned earlier that, being a catechumen means that, if you die before actually joining the Church, you can still receive an Orthodox funeral. Apparently, this is something priests commonly tell people considering catechism, but this Fall, we actually saw this happen. A young woman who had recently been received as a catechumen in our parish passed away just before the Nativity Fast. I wasn't able to make it to the funeral, though I do wish I could have. Lord, have mercy on her.

As I alluded to earlier, my sister was married the Friday after Christmas, and I was honored with playing the piano at her wedding. She is on her honeymoon now, with her new husband.

I also built a new computer (I believe that was this year), went to Dragon*Con for the first time (well, last year, I went, but didn't register, so I just spent a while in the hotel lobbies), and went to Anime Weekend Atlanta a second time. I went to the Renaissance Festival a few times this Spring. Maybe this year I'll try to convince Kristen to make me a tunic so I can put together a good RenFest costume.

Finally, I ended this year at another LAN party with most of the same friends that were at the LAN party at the beginning of the year. We missed the new year again, of course.

This post is already getting too long, so I won't even try to remember everything else that has happened. All-in-all, though, it has been a good year. I've been busy, although I've also wasted a lot of time. I haven't read enough, nor have I prayed nearly enough. However, despite my unworthiness, God has blessed me with a wonderful fiancée, has led me to the true Faith, has allowed me to continue working, and, despite issues regarding the Church, has nevertheless preserved my relationship with my family. He has given me a number of good memories from Chris's house, and the exciting prospect of many more good memories with Kristen. He has preserved me in good health, and has led me safely to the close of this year. All of this has He done, despite my failure to give thanks as I should.

In hindsight, I know that even the struggles and difficulties I have experienced this year are gifts from God for my salvation, although I pretty much always fail to recognize this at the time and instead instantly pray for deliverance. Perhaps, in the next year (and the next, and the next...), He will help me to learn to give thanks even for the difficulties.

Above all, as I am listening to music from the Final Fantasy series of video games, I am grateful for beauty. God has allowed me to see many beautiful things this year. Some of them I have been able to document in photos on my Flickr account. Some of them I simply cannot document in any way. Perhaps I can create another blog post on that topic.

Having looked back to 2007, I also look forward to 2008. The coming year promises many new blessings, the first of which is the upcoming wedding, where God will unite Kristen and myself in Holy Matrimony. This will bring it's own set of blessings and difficulties that I've never experienced before, and I'm excited to meet each of them. God-willing, I will have a house by May, and, hopefully, the pay cut will be lifted soon (maybe, considering the extra work I've picked up, I can even get a good raise). All of this will certainly come with difficulties, but, again, God-willing, I will be able to meet them this year "with peace of soul and the firm conviction that [God's] will governs all."

To quote Saint John Chrysostom, "Glory to God for all things!"