Journal Entry: September 28, 2009

Wednesday after work we met K– and N– at Johnny’s Charcoal Broiler — carrying on a tradition started the first time T– took AB to church, and we ate there for lunch. The food was delicious, of course, and it was a fun time getting together with friends.

Afterward, everybody but K– and me walked over to church for Wednesday night classes. K– came over to my place to help me with T–‘s broken computer. He had a hard drive caddy handy, with connections for all manner of hard drive, and in no time at all he had the data from T–‘s laptop copied over to mine. That solved the biggest of T–‘s fears (lost photos and work documents), but of course the laptop was still broken.

After church the family came back home, and we spent the evening watching TV while I played WoW.

Thursday I had to prepare a tutorial/lecture for my students, and I spent a significant chunk of time after work reviewing it and getting it posted to the website. I also spent much of the day (and evening) reviewing the students’ submissions for the first document packet, and fielding questions from them (by email, of course).

Karla made us some incredible quesadillas for dinner. D– came over for that, and to play some WoW with me, but mostly to pick up T–‘s dead computer and take it home with him. He spent the evening getting it resurrected (with the help of a spare hard drive he had sitting around, which probably saved me a hundred bucks), and getting the OS back on it.

Apart from that, Thursday night was more TV, and more WoW. We chilled, and caught our breath.

Friday I met Toby for lunch, and we discussed (among other things) a document conversion project I’ve got to get done for work. He had volunteered to help with that when they came to visit at the hospital, and this was my first opportunity to provide him with more detailed information. He sounded optimistic that he could get it done, and we made arrangements to meet at his place Sunday evening.

Then in the afternoon I got home from work a little bit early, so I was there when D– brought T–‘s laptop by, and I installed a few more programs for her, and now it’s better than new.

D– had to go back to work, but he agreed to meet us for dinner. Half an hours after he left, Mom and Dad got in from Little Rock. We introduced them to Alexander (or XP, as he’ll be known hereabouts in the future), then spent some time socializing while we waited for my sister and her family to come over. A little after five we piled into a bunch of vehicles, and headed over to Mama Roja for dinner.

As we were waiting for our table, T– turned to me and said with some surprise, “Can you believe it’s been nine days since we’ve been here?” Her Mom rocked our world by pointing out it had actually been two whole weeks. Craziness.

Anyway, it was a crowded, busy table, but we all had delicious food and enjoyed the opportunity to talk. Afterward, T–‘s parents left from the restaurant to head home, and everyone else came over to our place.

I took Mom up to Homeland to pick up the necessary supplies, then when we got back to the house I mixed up a pitcher of rum margaritas. They went over pretty well, but T– and I had a hankering for the real thing, so as soon as the pitcher was empty I filled it up again, with tequila this time, and we had a grand ol’ time.

Saturday morning T– and Mom headed up to Edmond (with XP in tow) for pedicures with my sister, and Dad headed to Edmond for a conference at Memorial Road Church of Christ on an educational framework called Journeylands. That left me at home with AB. We played in her room, we spent half an hour or so on my laptop playing the Memory game, we read from her books, and we practiced telling each other stories.

Then T– called to tell me we were all supposed to meet Dad for lunch at Jason’s Deli, so I had AB watch some TV while I got ready, and then we rapidly got her dressed (and I made a humorous attempt at putting her hair in a ponytail), and headed north.

Lunch was awesome, and afterward T– and Mom took AB with them to go shopping for baby stuff. Dad headed back to his conference, so that left me alone. I ran home, took care of some stuff on my laptop, and then headed back out again for our monthly writer’s group at Courtney’s.

That probably deserves its own post (as it’s gotten in the past), but I’m feeling lazy now and I was sleepy and distracted then, so I couldn’t do it justice anyway. Shawn was missing, so it was just the three of us. We started out talking about dreams (and nightmares), and I told the story of my first nightmare (the killer shark in the apartment swimming pool), and my most recent (last week, when T– walked away from our marriage because I left her to fend for herself when we found ourselves caught in a swamp surrounded by killer snakes and spiders).

Then from there we talked more about our creative influences, how we come up with titles, and how we cope with the constant temptation to jump to new projects — leaving old ones unfinished. We also talked about another OKC writer’s group we might try to crash sometime, and a potential addition to our group, and traditional versus non-traditional publishers. I also dragged the conversation toward magic in the real world for a bit, and we each seized that opportunity to feel a little bit foolish.

Then it was 4:30, and time to split up. I got home just after Dad, and Mom was still there with AB (who was taking a nap). T– was already up at the church, getting ready for a crop, and she had XP with her.

So it was just me and Mom and Dad, and I took the opportunity to ask them for some advice and analysis on parenting. Specifically, I wanted to know how much change I should expect in AB in the coming years. I feel like we’ve weathered the differentiation called “the terrible twos” at this point — we’ve seen it, we’ve found ways to address it, and at this point, though her rebellion can be frustrating at times, it isn’t baffling. It’s predictable, and addressable, and I feel like we both know who she is.

So my question was, how many more major change events are there, in early childhood development? I was relieved when Mom and Dad both agreed there really aren’t any. We can reasonably expect AB to be pretty much the person she is now for most of the next nine years. I’m happy with that answer. I like the person she is.

They also had some good information about how to handle the challenges of her differentiation events in her teenage years, but I really didn’t enjoy thinking about that. Not that I’m worried about the rebellion or family drama or anything…I just don’t like thinking about her being a teenager. It feels far too close, and that’s only a handful of years before she’s gone. Miserable thought, that.

Anyway, that took up most of an hour, and then I went and woke AB up so she could go to the church with Mom. A few minutes later K– came over, having dropped his baby off there, too. We ordered a couple pizzas and loaded up Beatles: Rock Band. An hour or so later, my brother-in-law called to ask if he could come join us, and we rocked out for two hours before he and K– had to go pick up their little ones.

Right around then Mom and my older sister came home with AB, and after she went down to bed the rest of us played some more Rock Band. I mixed up a pitcher of strawberry daiquiris for us, too, and we all had a good time. By the time T– got home my sister was gone (to stay at my little sister’s place), and Mom and Dad were in bed, so it was just me still awake, playing WoW.

I didn’t stay up too late, though. I was tired, so I went to bed around 11:30 with no regrets.

Sunday morning we had a full house getting ready for church, and all of us running a little bit late, but we managed to get ourselves together somehow and showed up no more than five minutes later for service.

The sermon was on the various social values of hymns in a congregation, and before Rob was done Dad leaned over and said, “I want you to introduce me to your preach after church.” Turned out that was a sermon Dad had been wanting to preach for years, and while he’d heard lots of sermons on the topic, he’d never heard anyone express the real benefits and perspective that Rob gave in his sermon.

So we caught Rob after church (after waiting through an impressive line), and Dad got to compliment and thanks Rob for his sermon, and Rob got invite Dad to come give a marriage and family seminar to Britton Road sometime — something he’s been wanting to talk with Dad about for a while. So that’s pretty cool.

Then afterward we all went over my sister’s place for an Italian-themed lunch of salad, chicken pasta, and cheesecake for dessert. Everyone agreed the food was incredibly good. AB and her older cousin weren’t getting along terribly well, though — probably because they were both in severe need of a nap — so we split up and went back home to put AB to bed. Mom and Dad decided to head home around the same time, too, so we got them packed up and said our goodbyes.

And then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the house was quiet. For the first time in ten days.

T– watched some Law and Order, I played some WoW, and then AB woke up from her nap and the spell was broken. We grabbed some McDonalds for dinner, and then all too soon it was time for me to head down to Norman for my meeting with Toby.

I didn’t want to go. I was tired and worn out, and it’s not a short drive, but I had made a commitment. And, after all, Toby was doing a favor for me. I showed up, and found out he had, in fact, finished it. He walked me through the code, teaching me what it did (so I could make little modifications on my own), and it’s one of those things where it’s fascinating in its simplicity. He did a really fantastic job. And after a quick test run (and double-checking how the output looked in Word), I was able to put the work stuff aside and we had some time to just talk. That was fun. He’s in the same boat I am — having to work with a new baby at home — but in spite of all the chaos, and petty problems at work, and weird happenings with rent houses in Tulsa…in spite of all that, we’re both doing pretty well. It was fun to get to hear that, and say that, and just to talk programming with my programming teacher for an hour or so.

Then I drove back home, in the weary dark, and crawled into bed and said good night to my weekend.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: August 13, 2009

I’ve had a Draft email with no recipient sitting in my GMail inbox for a week now. It goes as follows:

Well, to be fair, I did solve all crime, most hunger, energy dependence on fossil fuels, voter apathy, predatory lending, and unemployment BEFORE I started working on skanky sluts.

That was never actually meant to be an email. It was a reply I had ready for a conversation thread I started on Facebook when I posted the status update “Aaron Pogue is considering the real-world consequences of on-demand real-time modeling of the statistical distribution of sexually adventuresome barflies across a city’s club district. Y’know, for my books.”

It only occurred to me after I’d posted that that I have a bunch of church friends and dear old grannies who follow me on Facebook. So I did what I could to explain what I was getting at, and came up with a clever defense in case somebody challenged me for thinking about such things at all. But nobody did. So I’m manufacturing a setting in which I can share it with you guys.

Anyway, I had a ridiculously and unpleasantly busy day at work yesterday, and so I owe two days worth of diary. Tuesday night D– came over to hang out, and T– picked up McDonalds for us for dinner. Then we left AB playing under D–‘s watchful eye while T– and I went out to the garage to start prepping for the garage sale. We boxed up some stuff, moved some stuff around, and then I brought three old, haphazard socket sets into the living room and spent an hour sorting them out so we can sell down to just one.

After that I gave up on being useful for the night and went to the office to play Fallout until my bedtime. Then I loaded up a new Magic: The Gathering game I’d gotten through XBox Live Arcade, just to play for a couple minutes, and ended up playing that until midnight. Ugh.

Then I had to go to work yesterday, and it was awful.

Afterward, D– rode with us to dinner at Moe’s where we met K– and N–. It was a little chaotic with all of us squeezing around a booth meant for four, but fun! And of course the food was delicious. Then afterward K– and N– headed home and we went to grab snow cones before heading to Office Depot, then Hobby Lobby, then a different Office Depot in search of supplies for a project T– is working on. I spent most of that time trying out a Civilization game on D–‘s iPhone, so I had a good time. AB was pretty sick of her car seat by the time we got back to the house, though.

Then we watched some Conan and a little Psych before I headed back to the office to play some more Fallout while T– did some work on her laptop.

Oh, and then just before I woke up this morning I had an exceedingly odd dream which could best be titled “Drunk-driving Miss Daisy.”

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: June 23, 2008

I have some pretty ugly business going on with the Tulsa house, involving insurance stuff and roof problems, but I don’t want to go into detail on that, because it’s horribly depressing. If you’re curious about it, ask me sometime when I’m in a good enough mood to handle it.

Anyway, Thursday afternoon my mom and dad came in for a visit. They had to take care of the van (as mentioned previously), and had dinner plans with an old family friend at 5:00 downtown. T– drove down and we all met up near the airport at 4:30, then we dropped the van off in hourly parking and headed to the Zio’s downtown for dinner.

It was nice getting to see Theresa again, and dinner was excellent. D– joined us so he could take AB home with him (he’d offered to babysit while we went to an exhibit at the museum), but he ended up coming with us.

The exhibit is a collection of ancient Roman art from the basement of the Louvre. It’s mostly sculpture and jewelry, but they’ve also crafted a walking tour through it that’s themed and presents all kinds of fascinating historical information. It was very cool. AB’s favorite part was the relief of a cow, sheep, and pig being led to sacrifice, but that’s just because she likes animals and doesn’t quite get context yet.

Afterward, Dad and I stopped at Byron’s to pick up some dessert (as it were), and we all stayed up late watching SNL and talking. It was fun.

Friday, Dad and I had made plans to spend most of the day writing together, but I ended up sleeping in until 10-ish, and then we had lunch with Mom and T– at Pizza Hut, and then I had a dentist appointment at 1:00 (small filling), so it was 2:30 or so before we really got started, and Mom and T– got home from their thing (painting pottery at the mall) around 4:00. We did make some good progress on a story idea Dad had come up with, but I didn’t accomplish much of anything.

Friday evening we went to dinner with D– and his mom, and my little sister brought her family including the in-laws, so we had quite a crowd. We went to this barbecue place called County Line, down by the Cowboy Museum (yes, we have one of those), and it was fantastic. The food, not the museum. Fan-freakin’-tastic.

Then we ran by the Family Fun Night at OC, and AB got to ride one of the ponies. T– has pictures on her blog. Unlike Thursday, Friday was a pretty early night.

Saturday morning, T– went to a tea room for brunch with Mom and my sister. I took Dad to the Texas Roadhouse, and we brought our writing stuff (he his laptop, and me my scribblebook), but we ended up spending the whole time talking.

Mom and Dad headed home around 2:00, and D– came over with a new tabletop came called Heroscape, and taught T– and me how to play while AB was taking her afternoon nap. We played for most of the afternoon, and then he went home and I went over to B– and E–‘s to watch some mixed martial arts.

Mostly, though, we talked. I was there for four or five hours, and it was a lot of fun. I need to spend more time with them. But, then, I think that every time I spend any time with them.

Sunday morning we skipped church because we had plans to celebrate Mrs. Huddleston’s birthday with her. She’s…umm…D–‘s childhood friend’s mom. It’s a little bit of a distant connection for us, but she’s also D–‘s mom’s longtime friend, and the two of them both fell in love with AB pretty much from the start, so we’re invited to family stuff, now.

Anyway, that was at the zoo. We got there around 11:00, and it was already hot. All the girls went on the merry-go-round to start with, and rode this silly little train that goes in a short circle, and then we had a picnic lunch, and talked for a while, and then it was 3:00 and we went home.

Umm…I’m sure T– will make it sound like a lot more fun. Watch her blog for updates.

Both before and after that trip to the zoo, I spent several hours working on a markup of my sister Heather’s first novel. It’s fascinating working on Fantasy again. Her book is a good one, too, so it’s fun to have a hand in that.

After I finished that, around 5:00, I invited D– over for dinner and called in a take-out order to Ole. We ate, and then spent the rest of the evening watching Boston Legal. We’re ten episodes in. It’s…fascinating.

I also had a couple truly bizarre dreams this weekend, but I won’t try to explain them here. Suffice to say, they have me thoroughly weirded out.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: June 12, 2008

Yesterday after work I headed south. I had plans in place to meet Toby for an evening of programming. We’ve pursued projects together — primarily video games, and particularly a single one, an MMO called Remnant — ever since he taught me to program.

Most recently, we’d started talking about building a Python client for a tabletop game, when we started looking over our old documentation and decided we’d really rather work on Remnant again. My oldest notes for that project date to 1999. So, yeah, we’re not making great progress.

Still, it’s an interesting pursuit, and Toby has a 3d game engine working (built primarily in C++, but callable from Python scripts), and it’s really not too great a leap to get started.

Anyway, since I work so far south of our house, I went straight there from work, and Gwyn was kind enough to make me dinner. She made some fantastic chicken and rice, and the kids were fun company at dinner.

Afterward, Toby and I went immediately back to the office to work. He showed me what he had working (a flat plain of a world, with a tree in the center, and an avatar that could be made to run around, using standard RPG controls. While I was there, we added an enemy creature, and implemented a very basic form of combat. That was pretty cool.

Game development will be pretty evenly divided into the C++ stuff and the Python stuff, Toby building up the game engine, and me building up the game environment, writing in character interactions and story events, stuff like that.

We wrapped things up around 7:30 and I headed home. I spent the whole drive thinking about the things I would need to do to get the game part up and running, and they were all things I’d done recently for that cheesy single player game I was working on. And, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the majority of that code can be copied and pasted right into the new project. I have yet to try it out, but I should be able to dramatically improve the game’s functionality with a tiny bit of work. I’m anxious to get started.

Still, when I got in I decided to play some AoC instead. I wasn’t sure how long I would have, and I hate having to stop a programming project in the middle of a change, so AoC seemed safer. I got several levels and finished off the starter area, which was my goal.

T– got home late from church, last night being the final night of VBS, and then she and I watched a couple episodes of Lost, so it was pretty late by the time I got to bed. I had some fascinating dreams, too, but I didn’t write them down, so they’re lost to me now. I remember it was in England, and there was something about a bomb, and it would be a perfect movie for the guy from Napoleon Dynamite. I can’t even imagine how those pieces fit together….

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: June 24, 2007

Friday, June 22nd
Friday night, we didn’t end up doing the Family Fun Night. It was rainy, and the event was an outdoor event. As far as I know they didn’t cancel it, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be there.

Instead, we went over to K– and N–‘s for the evening. We made mini-pizzas (which were delicious), and played some Guitar Hero, and talked a lot. S– and J– were there with their two kids, so it was a pretty wild night. Fun, though. Although, as far as Guitar Hero goes, I got a lot worse.

We went home about 10:30.

Saturday, June 23rd
We woke up around 6:30 in order to be on the road an hour later. T– had two big events in Wichita yesterday: a baby shower at 11:00 and a wedding at 4:00. Also, we delivered one of our kittens to T–‘s brother’s family. The original plan was to drop it off on the way to her mom’s house (thus the early start time) but her dad and I ended up taking it over there while T– and her mom were at the shower.

I’d had some hopes of cranking out the last twenty or so pages of Sleeping Kings this weekend, since yesterday should’ve been a pretty empty day for me. I’m kinda popular with the Charboneau clan, though, so I didn’t have quite the amount of free time I thought I would. So, all told, I got about a page and a half written.

After the wedding last night, we came back to T–‘s parents’ place and watched Zoom: Academy for Super Heroes or something to that effect. It was pretty much awful. Not awful in the way a kid’s movie is awful, but awful in the way an awful movie is awful. Just plain awful. Don’t watch it.

Then last night I had nightmares, for the first time in forever. The horror-movie type nightmares, not the how-am-I-going-to-get-the-taxes-paid kind. It was wild.

Right now, I’m just waiting for it to be time to head to church. With luck, I’ll get another couple pages written while we’re there. Afterwards, John’s supposed to make us steaks. I don’t figure we’ll head home until late afternoon.

Greatness: Story Idea

I took a nap and had a dream.

It was mainly about a little girl, named Ideine, who had a bunch of friends, but wasn’t happy. The actual scene in the dream was kinda something out of Buffy, and the girl was kinda Willow (but, to all of that, not really).

The story would start, “Ideine sat alone, and cried.”

Sometime in the past, an old man gave her a penny and he said, all sad, “You get everything you ask for, and you lose everything you want.” And it was true. The rest of her life, from that point, went exactly like that. Those became the natural laws of her reasonable, ordered, rational universe.

She became a kind of Cassandra, although she had been given no powers. She learned how to know what the universe would be, to see the future, simply by extrapolating based on her two natural laws: “You get everything you ask for, and you lose everything you want.”

Umm…it probably wouldn’t be a very happy story.

Journal Entry: Sketch Comedy Night

I had two dreams this morning that, upon later consideration, both ended with a punchline that really read like sketch comedy. I thought I’d share them with you, for a peek into a mind that is always trying to build stories, not just settle for simulated experience.

First, “Setting a Trap”:
Daniel and Trish and I are questing in World of Warcraft. Not playing World of Warcraft, mind. We’re in the game. We’re sneaking around in what feels like a fairly low-level area. At one point we’re huddled behind some brush and Daniel points to the open land just beyond.

“We’ve got to be careful here,” he says. “This whole area is rife with dangerous Druids, and Hippies, and Romantics. Any one of them could kill us. But that crossroads up there,” I look where he’s pointing and there’s a crossroads, with a single stop sign facing us. Just, a regular red stop sign like you’d see on any street in the U. S. Well, in Arkansas I should say, because it’s completely riddled with bullet holes.

Dan resumes, “That crossroads is a dangerous trap. Hunters come from miles around to camp this crossroads. They kill anyone who comes close.”

“What we need,” says I, “is a trap! Some way to take out our enemies, and get out of here.”

“Oh no!” groans Daniel, “What is she doing now?”

I look where he’s looking, and Trish is standing (all crouchy, like she’s trying to be stealthy) next to the sign. While we watch she finishes whatever she’s doing and comes back to us. We hold our breath the whole time, but she gets back to us unshot.

When she arrives, she smiles a big smile and says, “Well, that should solve all our problems! We’ll just lure all the Druids, and Hippies, and Romantics here, and let the Hunters take them out for us!”

So we look back at the stop sign, and she’s painted a butterfly and a little pink heart on it.

*wah waaaaah*

(Hey, I didn’t say any of it was good comedy.)

Second, “Art Theory”:
Trish and I are wandering through the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, looking at all the art and discussing Impressionism in general. I asked her about Impressionism in other media, starting with sculpture and she told me about some of the different techniques sculptors developed out of the basic ideas of Impressionism.

As we’re wandering down some long corridor, I ask her, “What about music? How do you get pastel colors into music?”

Trish thought about it for a moment, and said, “I don’t know, but I imagine it would sound something like John Mayer.”

Ah hahaha! Okay, that one had me laughing.

Greatness: Constructed Reality and You

Here’s the thing: you’re already familiar with constructed reality on a day-to-day basis.

Have you ever had a dream that felt real? So real you couldn’t tell it was a dream until afterward? A dream in which all the pieces fit together, logically, within the dream (even if they seemed entirely absurd after you woke up)?

That’s a constructed reality. Dreams are our minds’ way of communicating to us, when we’re unwilling to listen to direct signals. It builds up a whole world for us, a whole universe, and lets us experience what we refuse to accept in logical impulses.

My point is this: our brains are GOOD at building realities. We all know it. We all experience it all the time.

Have you ever seen someone hypnotized? I very much hope so. It’s an amazing experience (being hypnotized, yes, but even just watching). You tell someone he’s a chicken and he begins to behave as though he’s a chicken. Yeah, that’s a silly one. My favorite is the three-year-old. Watch how someone becomes a three-year-old, within his own mind.

As a matter of fact…HAVE you ever been hypnotized? You can realize you’re participating in an imaginary universe (you’re conscious the whole time) even as you are completely submersed in it. You’re not ACTING, the suggested scene becomes truly real for you and imposes itself on you, but there’s a part of Man that can sit outside and watch, even as the body and mind are caught up in the illusion.

That’s a very important point, right there, and it’s what keeps the rest of what I’m saying from being just mad, useless ramblings. We are capable of stepping outside and watching the play, even as our bodies and minds are trapped within it. Most of us choose NOT to, which…

Well, you’ve heard that rule about hypnosis, that the hypnotist can’t make you do anything you normally wouldn’t do. That’s not entirely true. It’s possible, in normal hypnosis, to let the monitoring part of your mind…go to sleep. Most people don’t (they don’t trust the hypnotist), but it’s possible, and then you just go along.

It’s also possible, as a hypnotist, to build so deceptive a world, so captivating an illusion, that the environment itself (rather than your suggestion) causes the hypnotized to do something they wouldn’t normally do. Maybe you couldn’t Command a hypnotized woman to take off all her clothes in front of a huge audience, but you could convince her that her clothes were full of vicious, biting ants….

Both of those are real concerns. What we do, with our science and our logic and our arm’s-length consideration of philosophy, is put to sleep that monitoring part of our mind. We like to stop thinking of this world as an illusion, because that’s less WORK. It also means we no longer have the freedom to manipulate our own role within it, or to stop the play if it gets too absurd (or repulsive).

We need to be reminded, from time to time, that the reality we’re living in is just an illusion we’ve dreamed up for ourselves. We need to look at it from the outside because we (especially we Christians) know we have that power, that perspective. Constantly examine your life, your reality, to make sure it’s not misusing you, not leading you down paths you don’t want to follow.