Journal Entry: July 28, 2009

Okay, fine, no more fun with footnotes….

Yesterday after work I spent forty minutes on the elliptical and another twenty minutes after that in the Capitol Wasteland. Then D– came over for dinner, for which T– made up some cheese dip with taco meat that was phenomenal.

Afterward D– agreed to watch AB so T– and I could go fill out our baby registry for an upcoming shower. We went to Babies R Us (but, y’know, with the backward R), scanned in a bunch of stuff we’d like to have for free but wouldn’t necessarily pay for, and then came home.

Then AB went to bed, D– went home, and I went to the office to play another twenty minutes, maybe thirty minutes of Fallout, and three hours later I finally went to bed.

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

Journal Entry: July 27, 2009

Hah! You just thought I was the perfect husband.* On Saturday N– orchestrated a surprise party for T–, and I got her just what she wanted (SFW). In your face, Mister Darcy!


Friday was a long day at work trying to figure out how we’re going to handle the crippling documentation we got from Raytheon. Not fun.

Shortly after I got home, we went out to dinner for T–‘s birthday. We decided to try somewhere new, and picked a little pizzeria we’d driven past a dozen times up on May. K– and N– and D– joined us, and we each ended up getting our own personal pizza, trying all the house specialties (I think) and a plain ol’ boring half-beef half-pepperoni for AB and me. It was delicious.

Afterward D– came over to introduce me to a hilarious show called Three Sheets while T– went to see a movie with my little sister. Three Sheets is a travel show about a guy who goes to exotic locations (we watched Brussels, Champagne, Jamaica, and Costa Rica), tries all of the famous regional liquors while participating in the local night life, and then the next morning tests out the indigenous hangover remedies. That last part is made necessary by the sheer, absurd indulgence of the first part. It’s fun.

Anyway, T– got home late, D– went home, and I think I made it to bed while it was still Friday.

Saturday morning I woke up around 9:30, worked out on the elliptical, and then ran up to Taco Bell to grab us some lunch. Then I invested myself in Courtney’s novel, and read through to chapter sixteen before AB woke up from her nap and we had to leave.

We had plans to be at K– and N–‘s place by 3:30, so that T– could go shopping with N– to help her find a frame for a painting T– had made her a year or so ago. D– joined us (because he and I were going to go hang with K– and probably play some XBox), we drove up there, and then N– took T– to get a massage. As a special surprise, several of her friends were there, too.

While she was doing that, K– got the kitchen decorated and set up for a surprise party, D– watched AB, and I ran up to Walgreens to get some wrapping paper and wrapped T–‘s present. When T– came back to the house, with Becca and E– and my little sister in tow, she was surprised again to find an actual party waiting for her. She loved it all.

When the party finally wound down, T– went with my sister to do some shopping at Hobby Lobby, and B– gave D– and me a ride back to our house. I read another two chapters of Triad so I could give some specific feedback, and then contacted D– to see if he wanted to go out. We ended up heading to Henry Hudson’s around nine, and we were there until they turned on the lights and kicked us out. In betwixt, too much alcohol and much talk of relationships and religion.

I got home around 2:30, and made the wise decision to stay up and do some hydrating, and while I was at it I watched Joe vs. the Volcano. Excellent flick. Finally went to bed a little after four.

Sunday morning I woke up in time for church, took a Benadryl and two ibuprofen, and then crawled back into bed. T– called me at 11:45 to ask (doubtfully) if I wanted to join them for lunch, and I said sure. We had Schlotzky’s, which really hit the spot.

Then I spent the afternoon playing Fallout, which is an incredibly massive game. I got lost in it, and in no time at all it was after five. T– called me out for dinner, and afterward I decided I should actually do something useful with my Sunday so I mowed. Then I got a little too ambitious and pulled out the chainsaw to trim some of the trees along our front fence. The end result looks nice, though, and it should make mowing next time a more pleasant experience, though.

After that I came in and helped T– get her Cricut up and running, and she showed off just how cool it is (which is to say, very), and then we put AB down for a nap, and then we sat side-by-side on the loveseat with our various laptops and read through Digg for an hour (which was a little surreal), and then we went to bed.

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

* no you didn’t

Journal Entry: June 29, 2009

Maybe I’ll get back to daily eventually. For now, here’s a big update!

Last Wednesday night we went to Poblano’s for dinner, with D– and my little sister, and K– and N–. The tamale dinner was good as always, and too much food as always. T– and my sister had to rush out early to get to church for their class, but they weren’t too rushed.

D– and I went back to the house and started up a game of Civ that took up most of the rest of the evening.

Thursday I used T–‘s car to drive to work, and my sister graciously provided her with transportation for the day. When evening rolled around, I drove up to Edmond to pick her and AB up, and we had dinner there at my sister’s place. D– came along, too, and we spent a little time socializing. AB was tired, though, so we headed home to put her in bed. Then T– turned on New in Town while D– and I played Civ in the living room. The movie was horrible, and the game was worse.

Friday I took off work to get my car fixed. We dropped it off at K&C first thing in the morning, then I watched AB while T– went to a ladies’ lunch and ran some errands. The original plan had been to leave AB with a babysitter, and when I found out I was taking the day off I talked D– into taking a vacation day, too, so we could play Civ all day. Babysitter canceled on us, though, so I got to do that.

D– came over anyway, though, and we played a little disjointed Civ until AB went down for a nap. Then we got a good hour or two in before she woke up.

Friday night T– and I ran out to grab some Taco Bueno for dinner, and then spent the evening watching Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien. Pretty fun evening.

Saturday I slept in, then went up to the mall with T– and AB for lunch in the food court. Afterward we went over to the kids’ play area there and let AB romp for half an hour or so. She had a great time, and she played well with the other kids. Then I dropped the girls off at the house and took my new chainsaw over to B–‘s for a little topiary work. The project took all of eight seconds, but I hung around for forty minutes or so chatting.

Then I got home while AB was still napping, and T– said a quick goodbye and headed up to church to prep for her crop. I worked on a programming project for an hour or so, then AB woke up and we played in her room for a while. We watched some Dora, I tried and failed to make a grilled cheese sandwich, and then we did puzzles for almost an hour before bedtime. She loves puzzles these days, and she’s remarkably good at them.

After she went to bed I got back to work on my programming project, and I was still doing that when T– got home around midnight. I finished it up around then, packed it up, and shipped it off to Toby to fix all the problems I’d created. That’s what a mentor is for, right?

Sunday morning T– and AB took our only car to go to Bible class while I was still in bed, so K– and N– came by on their way to services and picked me up. We had a quick breakfast, and then a church service in which I only got two pages written because I spent most of it helping AB color her pages.

We went to Braum’s for lunch with them and D–, and afterward D– came over for the afternoon so we could try to break our losing streak. After three pretty bad wins in Civ, we started a game with a terrible map but we caught some lucky breaks and managed to put together a pretty encouraging game. I had to break it off around five, though, because T– had dinner plans.

We went to Hafer Park up in Edmond for a picnic, joined by three or four couples from our Small Group at church, as well as K– and N–. We ate in the gazebo on the pond, and then AB and I walked around it to feed the ducks, and then T– took AB to play on the play equipment while K– and I ran to a nearby snowcone stand for some snowcones. After that I played with AB on the playground for half an hour or so, and then we headed home.

It was 8:30 by the time we got in, so we put AB down to bed, and then I contact D– on GMail and we finished our game. It was looking really, really promising right up until the point where we lost. Gandhi beat us with a Culture Win, and there was nothing we could do to stop him. Alas.

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

Journal Entry: June 23, 2009

It’s no surprise that I went a week without posting after accepting a teaching job for the fall, right? Because I had to start getting class materials together and all….

Heh. Right.

Last Tuesday we had McDonalds for dinner. That’s all I recall. I probably played a bunch of Civ, but who can say for sure?

Wednesday night I picked up a pizza from Little Caesar’s and D– came over to join us for supper. T– took AB to church, and D– spent the evening working on his computer while I sorted files on the fileserver and browsed Netflix.

Thursday I had lunch with Toby, and as ever we decided to work on a new programming project. This time it was going to be a memory game for AB, because she loves her Disney Princesses memory game and I get sick of the setup and cleaning up afterward. So I floated the idea by Toby and he said it would be pretty easy technically and a new project was born.

After work Thursday night the cable guy came over to fix a problem we’d been having with our digital cable. He ended up just telling me to unplug the cable from our UPS, with assurances it wasn’t necessary anyway. While he was there I had him open up the cable box out back and we got that mess cleaned up. I’m glad of that.

But after he left we noticed that the TV had glowing purple bands scrolling ever upward whenever we watched the TiVo. Everyone’s pretty sure that’s a ground loop problem, but I don’t remember it happening before the cable guy came, and yet he didn’t do anything that might cause a ground loop. And, after all, everything is plugged into a UPS which should take care of that anyway. Bah.

D– brought over Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. That was a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating evening.

Friday was my RDO. I had a dentist appointment at 8:45, and then lunch with T– at IHOP, and then took AB home to put her down for a nap while T– went shopping.

Once she was in bed I checked my email and found a message from Toby with a really basic prototype of the Memory game GUI. It had a 3×4 grid with blank gray cards and you could click on them to flip them over and show photos of his adorable family. Some of them were paired, but it wasn’t perfect.

I got to work on that, and really spent most of the rest of my day on it. I grabbed a bunch of Creative Commons-licensed animal photos and wrote some code to enforce pairing (so every card has a match), and even programmed it to handle non-identical matches (what I’m calling Flash Card Mode). I found some free sound effects, too, to spruce it up a bit. By the end of the day, it already looked and felt like an actual game. AB played it with me for half an hour, and ever since she’s occasionally come to me asking to play her “puzzle game,” which I consider a real victory.

T– made us dinner Friday night, these weird awesome sandwich pocket things with a honey mustard dipping sauce, and then later we ran up to Freddy’s for some frozen custard. After AB went to bed D– and I finished a multiplayer game of Civ that resolved in our absolute destruction. It was the most thorough, humiliating loss I’ve ever suffered in that game. We just spent half an hour marveling at the wretchedness of our situation, while city after city fell to enemy invaders. It was spectacular.

Saturday morning T– took AB to a ladies’ brunch at church, so I slept in. I got up around ten, spent an hour putting some extra tweaks on my Memory game, and then ran to the bagle place for lunch with D–.

In the afternoon I watched AB while T– went over to my sister’s place to scrapbook. AB spent much of that time taking a nap, so I put some finishing touches on the game, and when she woke up we spent half an hour playing. We also read a couple of her books, watched a little TV, and before I knew it, it was time to meet T– and my sister and brother-in-law, and K– and N– for dinner at Cafe 7. K– and N– were the only ones who’d been before, but we all enjoyed it. Very cool place.

Then K– and N– came over for a short visit, and I got to show off my game to K–. They left around eight, and T– gave AB a bath which stretched past her bedtime so she was still busy with that when I left.

T–‘s friend Rebecca’s husband Dave’s band, the Recliners, was playing at the Dugout, a bar that’s about a ten minute walk from my house. Back when I was taking Rock Band a little too seriously, there’d been some talk of me taking drumming lessons from Dave, and at the time he’d invited me to come see them play a couple times, but it was never convenient to do so. When I saw that he’d be playing at the Dugout on Saturday, though, I didn’t have any good excuses so I decided to go.

By Saturday night it seemed kind of weird, though, because D– was busy with friends in town, K– was sick with a sinus infection or something, and B– was recovering from an extended visit from the in-laws. So I went by myself, and sat at an empty table right in front of the stage to watch the band play.

They were phenomenally good. They didn’t play any original songs, but they rocked the ones they did play, and the assortment was impressive. It was mostly rock, with a sprinkling of classic country and eighties stuff. They also did “Party Like a Rock Star,” which is fun if it’s loud enough. And it was.

I took my scribblebook with me, and while I was there I not only overcame the crippling start on chapter one that had blocked me for two weeks, I got all of chapter two done. I consider 1,000 words a successful day’s work, and Saturday night I did 6,500. I also shut down a bar for the first time in forever.

Afterward I walked home, jumped in the shower to rinse of the smoke smell, and fell asleep around three in the morning.

I didn’t really have any intention of waking up for church Sunday morning, but AB and T– came lumbering into the room burdened with gift-wrapped presents and cards at about 9:30, and AB was crowing, “happyfathersdayiloveyou” over and over again entirely unlike a toddler who had been carefully coached. Ahem.

Anyway, it was adorable, and the first package I unwrapped was a pound of Twizzlers, which did indeed make mouths happy. I also got some cool stuff for the car, and after distributing thanks in proportion to my receipts, I finally climbed out of bed and got ready.

I got a good start on chapter three during the guest speaker’s sermon, then afterward we went to Texas Roadhouse by way of Father’s Choice. I had the Dallas filet. It was fantastic. Afterward, when I was groaning about how full I was, T– said, “Are you totally happy now?”

And I said, “Well, not totally.”

And she said, “Do you think the stand is open?”

The first one wasn’t, but I have backups. I got a large snow cone, and that was enough to push me over the delicious, delirious edge.

I did a little more work on my game while AB was taking a nap, and then we met D– and his mom (who was on her way through town for a convention in Dallas) for dinner at Irma’s. It was as awesome as always.

Afterward D– came over and we started a new Civ game, which went considerably better than the previous one. I stayed up way too late playing it, though.

Yesterday I got home from work and did half an hour on the treadmill. T– called in an order to Papa John’s, so when I was done I ran up to the store half a mile down to pick it up. On the way, I noticed (very quickly) that the air conditioner in the car wasn’t working. It had been a little sluggish on my way home from work, but it had eventually kicked in. This time, it was blowing only hot air. So much so that the relatively short trip became surprisingly uncomfortable.

D– came over for dinner, and stuck around for Civ. We played into another late night, but it was pretty gratifying. We’d ended Sunday night planning to start a war on the Vikings, and Ragnar ended up attacking me on the same turn I’d planned to attack him (which is helpful, for reasons of international opinion). We made quick work of the Vikings, and when they became vassals of the Maya with just one city left, we went ahead and made quick work of the Maya, too. That secured our eastern border (with only the friendly Greeks left on that end of the continent), so we moved our troops back to the other side and launched a war on the Malinese and the Koreans. Before that one was even finished I went ahead and attacked Greece just because I could.

We’re tearing up. I can’t wait to finish this one.

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

Journal Entry: June 8, 2009

Last Thursday night we had D– over to babysit AB so T– and I could go out on a date. When we started trying to decide where to go for dinner, though, we both thought pizza sounded best, so we just ordered in and shared with D– and AB. Then he took her outside to play and we went shopping.

I’ve been looking for new short sleeve dress shirts to wear to work, and T– has been looking for maternity dresses for the summer. We hit Old Navy, then Gordman’s, then Best Buy (which was a total bust), and then Wal-Mart where T– finally found some stuff she liked. I also hit the snowcone stand for a Tiger’s Blood, and filled up the car for T–.

We got home after nine, but AB was still awake and in crisis mode. She couldn’t find her white pacifier. She had the orange one, but she needed the white one, too. We had no luck finding it, but I got her distracted enough that she finally forgot about it and fell asleep.

Friday morning I stuck around the house long enough to have breakfast with T– and AB before they got on the road. They spent the weekend down in Texas, going to my aunt’s birthday party in Houston (with a scheduled stop in Dallas to spend some time with my grandma. I stayed home and went to work.

I met D– for lunch, then in the afternoon I got a haircut, grabbed some snacks and drinks for our party, and even got started wiring the new office. We had put in network and cable connections in the old office closet to set up a distribution point for our router and cable modem. When we switched AB’s room and the office, though, it became inconvenient to have to go in there to deal with networking issues.

So my project for the weekend was to move the two existing network connections and the cable connection from the old office closet to the new one, and add a new network and cable connection on the wall in the new office. I also decided to install a new electrical outlet in the new closet, because I had much easier access to the wall in this closet than I’d had in the other one.

Friday afternoon I didn’t get much of it done, but I did find the locations for the two junction boxes in the closet and cut the holes in the wall. I also got in the attic for a few minutes to scout out the setup up there, and that was awful. I hate working in the attic.

After that I had to call it quits and get cleaned up because we had our June Poker Night scheduled to take advantage of the wives and kids being out of town (my sister took her family down to the same birthday party). We met at their house, and K–, D–, and B– joined us. N– came over for dinner, too, and they brought us Steve’s Rib, which is currently my favorite barbecue. It was awesome.

We watched some Simpsons and Family Guy, and then most of the original Batman movie, and then more Family Guy. Oh, and we played some Texas Hold ‘Em. I won out, but then B– beat me when we switched to Blackjack. Ah well. It was a fun night.

Saturday I got up around eight because I knew my plans for the day involved attic time and I wanted to get to it before it got really hot. K– came over to help out while N– went shopping for baby clothes nearby, so I put him to work on the electrical outlets while I finished setting up the network connections, then finally (and reluctantly) went up into the attic to drill a hole and feed the two new connections down the wall.

Turns out our air conditioner is situated directly over the office wall. It took me about half an hour to figure that out, searching with my fingertips under the mountains of insulation to try to find the top cap — trying to guess distances based on the paltry landmarks up there — K– finally had to come up to help and we found a spot about eight inches long in which I could place the drop. Anything to the north of that would have been in the living room, and anything to the south was trapped under hundreds of pounds of sheet metal and blower fans.

Then I finally got to do the actual work, and that only took a few minutes. I put the hole through the cap, K– went down and cut the square out of the drywall (and I could immediately see the light from the room below), and then I fed the cables down until he could pull them through into the office.

All told I spent more than an hour up in the attic, crouched and supporting my weight on the narrow edges of two-by-fours. Once I got back down into the office, it was just a matter of terminating ends, plugging them into faceplates, and cleaning up. We did about half of that, tested out all the connections we’d made (except the cable modem connection, it turned out), and then ran up to Panera to meet D– for lunch. That was about noon, and I was completely exhausted.

After lunch, though, I had plans. I’d been supposed to meet Toby for some programming last Saturday afternoon, while I was in charge of AB, but I’d postponed that because I thought she was sick and didn’t want to fight with her all afternoon. So this Saturday I got home from lunch, grabbed my laptop, and then jumped in the car to head to Norman.

It was fun. We spent the afternoon modeling furniture for a game we’re going to make AB, and while we were at it he turned on Madagascar II for the kids. I’d never seen it, so I paid about as much attention to that as to the work he was doing. Both were pretty entertaining. His wife got home around five and we had an Asian pot roast for supper that was awesome, and then Toby and I went to see Star Trek, which she’d gone to see without him earlier in the week.

It was great on a second viewing. Definitely one worth watching on the big screen. Toby really enjoyed it, too. We got back to his house around nine and spent a few more minutes talking before I headed home. I got in at about ten, totally exhausted and quite ready for bed.

Then I spent six hours playing computer games.

That wasn’t actually as accidental as it sounds. On the drive home I called D– and invited him over for some multiplayer Civ, deciding in a casual, off-hand way that I could sleep for half the day Sunday, skipping church in the process. So D– met me at the house, and we took three tries to get a game set up right, and then we were off and running.

I did discover, while I was waiting for him to prosecute a war against the Incas, that my internet connection was down. Our network connection was fine, but there was no link to the outside world. I restarted the cable modem, and then got back to the game. An hour later it finally had a connection, and that one stayed live (but weak) for the rest of the night.

I finally went to bed a little after four, looking forward to a really, really late morning.

So T– called me five hours later, discovered I was asleep, and graciously agreed to call back later. I couldn’t get back to sleep after that, though, so I got up, cleaned up, and went to church after all. The sermon was a pretty good one, and I got some writing done on the next Ghost Targets book, so in the end I’m glad of the way the morning turned out. I was really dragging all day, though.

After church K– and N– invited us over for a cookout (specifically hot dogs and brats), and that was delicious. Then D– and I went back to the house to finish our game of Civ. I took a stab at fixing my internet connection first, by reterminating the input cable. When I hooked it back up it wouldn’t connect, though, same as the night before. We went ahead and started playing our game.

Half an hour later I checked on it again and it finally had a connection, and this time it was fantastic. We played all day, stopping only to order a pizza around six, and at about eleven we found ourselves master of half the world, with three nations our vassals and modern armies capable of annihilating any opposition already in transports headed for the other hemisphere, when England suddenly and unexpectedly won a cultural victory. Lame!

We left it at that, though. D– headed home, and I spent a little while getting the house cleaned up for T–‘s return. I finished off the network connection in the office, vaccuumed up all the drywall dust from all the wall-carving we’d done, cleaned out the trash, loaded and ran the dishwasher, dragged the garbage out to the curb for an early pickup, and then finally crashed in bed after midnight.

The weekend was equal parts productive and awesome. There’s very little overlap between those two, but the total is one I’m pretty happy with. I’m looking forward to T– and AB getting home this afternoon, though. Even busy as I was, I found plenty of time to miss them.

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

Journal Entry: April 23, 2009

Yesterday, at work, I officially got the sort-of-demotion that I mentioned last Tuesday. My supervisor took the other tech writer and me into a conference room, laid out the problem for me, and then we spent half an hour discussing exactly how it should be resolved. I’m basically stepping into the publication process to do a full review of every document she prepares, including all of the ones currently in process.

That’s the ugly part. The next two months or so are going to be crushingly brutal while I try to get through the backlog of existing projects. Once that’s done, reviewing her new projects will probably only add eight to ten hours a week to my schedule. Unfortunately, by that point I’ll also be fully trained to do her job, which I see as a possible sleight of hand involved in this whole bit. I don’t mind reviewing her projects, but at that point they could just as easily have me start working some of the projects through the system, and that becomes tens and hundreds of hours, not just eight. I don’t want to mess with that.

But, y’know, it’s their Administration. They can run it however they want.

I went to BWW for lunch, because I needed a break, and learned that my waitress has gotten another job, so she won’t be there anymore. Lame! I mean, great for her, but lame.

My back has been hurting, too, almost as bad as last summer. My physical therapist said that when my back starts to hurt a little bit I walk differently to accommodate it, and that’s what causes the real problems. So that explains why I’m having the same issues even though I haven’t done anything resembling the sort of work that caused the original problem. That’s really neither here nor there, but I figured, as long as I’m whining….

After work I got home to find my little sister with her two kids at the house. They were out in the back yard, playing with T– and AB, so I slipped stealthily back to the bedroom without saying hi, and crashed on the bed. My brother-in-law showed up shortly, though, so I had to get up to let him in. I managed to avoid going outside, though. Small victories.

We had dinner at Qdoba, which is pretty much awesome. I’ve got a real appreciation for those chicken burrito bowls lately — rice, beans, chicken, cheese, salsa, lettuce, and cilantro in a cheap plastic bowl. I get the same thing when I have lunch with D– at Moe’s. It’s cheap, delicious, filling, and relatively healthy. Yay!

No, that was not a paid advertisement, but I did accidentally watch Biggest Loser last night, so you were well within your rights to wonder.

After dinner we went home, and I fetched the laptop out from the office so I could try out a new game, Demigod. It’s fantastic. I recommend it highly. It consists of short matches (15-30 minutes) that feel like RTS battles, although you don’t do anything like base management. Instead you’re playing a hero tasked with killing the heroes on the enemy team, destroying their fortifications, or capturing and holding strategic locations (“flags,” but the gameplay is what’s usually called “king of the hill”). A given match will consist of getting a certain amount of points from one of those three things to win, but every match becomes a mixture of all three.

There are eight heroes to choose from. Half of them are assassins, capable of wading into the battle and murdering everything, and the other half are generals, who can summon 5-15 minions to do battle for them. Each of the heroes has its own skill tree, and you can level up and customize your hero’s abilities through the course of the match.

I had fun. Ended up playing it from seven-thirty straight through to eleven. I really wanted to get some writing done last night, and didn’t because of the game, but after the day I’d had, it was just the evening I needed.

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

Journal Entry: September 5, 2008

Okay, imagine if the Trans Siberian Orchestra got a lead singer who was really angry.

That’s Coheed and Cambria, in case you’ve never listened to them. The drum part of “Welcome Home” is amazingly fun.

So, yeah, as you can see, more of the same. Wednesday night was a lot of fun. We got together with K– and N– and D– at Jersey Mike’s for dinner, then went back home because T– wasn’t feeling well. D– came over, too, and we played with AB for a while, then pulled out Rock Band. As soon as AB went to bed, T– joined us, and we tore up. D– and I stayed up until 11:30 playing.

Then yesterday D– got sick, so he couldn’t join us. T– and AB met me for lunch at BWW yesterday, for the first time, and that was cool. Kind of the high point of my day, because work got pretty frustrating yesterday afternoon. So by the time I got home, I was in no mood to go work out, and T– was still feeling pretty down with her allergy attack (or whatever it is), so we stayed home. I played with AB for a couple hours, trying to teach her how to drum on her little turtle drum. She just bangs. Whatever.

I also dug out the old “How to Drum” book that I’d gotten way back when I was taking lessons in college, but by the time I thought of that it was AB’s bedtime so I just played the game instead of reading.

As I said, T– wasn’t feeling too well last night, so I just played the Solo Tour. I kind of like doing that because if I have trouble with a song I can try it two or three times until I get it right. D– and T– are usually more in it for the entertainment value, and prefer to skip the brutal songs and go on to something we can handle.

Anyway, I’d cleared 10 songs on Solo sometime last week, and last night I did 19 more. Then the 20th kicked my butt. My goal for the Solo games is to get through them all with 4 stars on Medium (there’s 93 total), then go to Hard and do the same thing. I figure by Expert I’ll just be trying to complete them, but who knows. I’ve been making some impressive progress.

So, yeah, since they’re arranged in increasing difficulty (specifically for the drum part), and since patterns you learn in one song tend to show up in harder songs (only faster, or with minor variations, or whatever), I can generally just burn right through the Solo songs. Almost every one I get 4 stars on the first try. Out of those 19, I had to retry 2 of them, because I’d only gotten 3 stars on the first try (and I got 4 on the second). Then there were 4 or 5 that I got 5 stars right off the bat, so you can see how awesome I am.

Then I got to that 20th song (30th overall), and it was 10:15, and I told myself, “I’ll complete this one, see what the next 5 songs are [because it reveals them 5 at a time], and then go to bed.” I knew that to be a lie, but that was my plan.

Then I started the song, and the intro was a nightmare. 30 seconds into the song, I almost got booed off the stage, but it transitioned into the verse and then I was fine. Then about six minutes into the song (SIX minutes into ONE song), it goes back to the fast drum solo, and it lasts for two solid minutes, and I just didn’t stand a chance. I got booed off the stage. First time that’s happened to me on the solo.

So, ugh, I started it over (because that’s what I do), and I did the first fast solo pretty well, but I got to the second one and it trashed me again. But, as I said, I had just played over six minutes of perfect drums before suddenly getting booed off the stage.

Then, on the “You Failed” screen, I noticed that it also showed the amount of the song that I’d completed before failing — 65%! The song is damn nine minutes long! And I have to beat it to go on with the game.

So I switched to practice mode and spent a while just practicing those two solos, trying to get the rhythm down, and I could do the first one but the second one is tough, and it goes on forever. I tried and tried and tried, and figured I had it down well enough to at least finish the song (even if it wasn’t graceful), so I tried again. Seven minutes later, I failed. Then I tried again, and by that time it was 11:30. I spent over an hour trying to just complete this song, and never did. Never even got close. I could have played an entire “Blitzkrieg Bop” in the time left between the farthest I got and the end of the song.

Bah! And I didn’t want to end on that note, so I switched to the “Bonus Set” and unlocked four songs before I went to bed. Two of them were 4-stars and the other two 5-stars on my first attempts, so that gave me some of my confidence back.

Yeah, yeah, that’s a lot of drum talk, but it’s what’s been going on. In spite of the frustration, I’m having a good time, and I now have all of the songs from the game on my mp3 player, so I can practice even when I’m not home. Awesome.

I’m listening to that song right now, by the way. “Green Grass and High Tides” by the Outlaws. I like the lyrics, but I kinda hate the song, in case you were curious.

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

Journal Entry: September 3, 2008

I had been planning to write up a post about how I first got started writing for today’s journal entry, just to preserve it for posterity (by which I mean my own, given my flaky memory), but I don’t feel up to it. Remind me to get to that sometime, though.

T– and I are sick. I would not be at all surprised if AB is too, because she’s been wicked cranky for three or four days now. We had just put that down to the 18 hours in the car, though.

Anyway, it’s mostly just stuffy nose and scratchy throat, but it’s enough to wear a person down. Sometimes I feel feverish, but that could just be the hypochondria talking. It has never been bad enough for me to check a thermometer on it.

Lame, though. I was just sick! Ugh. Anyway, T– and I are both on zinc, and with any luck it will pass quickly.

Last night on the drive home T– asked me to pick up some stuff for dinner, so I ran to Crest and got some soda, potato soup (and some new potatoes because the potato soup is always too thin), and some bananas for AB. D– called after work and asked if I wanted him to bring over a snowcone or grab something for us for dinner, but I missed the call. Alas.

Soup was good, though, and afterward we went ahead and bought a bunch of the songs we’d picked for Rock Band (and by “we” I mean D–), and then a little bit before AB’s bedtime (which was probably a mistake) we broke out the instruments and started rocking. I’m definitely seeing major progress, but I have a hell of a time with off-beat bass drum. One of the songs we were doing last night had tons. That, and bass drum/snare, snare, bass drum, rest, all at a rapid tempo. Every time I try I just make a big noisy mess. T– and D– managed to save my performance most of the time, though, and I’d get into the chorus and then I’d be back up to a full Crowd Meter.

I bet nobody will understand all of that last paragraph, but that’s okay. The short of it is: drumming is hard. For me, anyway.

I got to talk with B– last night, and that was fun, and then (as I said) we rocked out starting around 8:00 and, in spite of our best intentions, we didn’t get done until 11:30. Fun, though. Quite fun.

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

Journal Entry: Labor Day in Houston

Last Thursday night, after I got home from work, T– and I spent a while talking, and I played with the baby, and I wrestled with my inner demons and finally settled on watching the entirely insignificant final Cowboys preseason game instead of playing Rock Band. Then, after the game, I played Rock Band.

Friday morning we woke up at 7:00, loaded up the car, and headed out of town. We were in Dallas by 11:00, and we met Grandma and my aunt Darlene for lunch at El Fenix — a family favorite in the area. Then Grandma, who had taken the afternoon off, watched AB for us so T– and I could go to the museum just the two of us.

That was fun. We had to drive an hour across town to get from Dallas proper to the museum in Fort Worth, but on the way we passed the new Cowboys stadium, and it was amazing. Worth the drive just for that.

Then the museum itself was beautiful. It was part of Fort Worth’s cultural district, with a massive park our front and quiet fountains all along the front walk. We went to the Impressionists Exhibit first. On loan from the Chicago Museum of Art, that exhibit was the only reason we’d gone to the museum. After looking through all the Monets and Manets and Van Goghs, T– went to look through the gift shop while I sat down on a bench and did my PT stretches, because my back was killing me.

While T– was shopping she discovered that the museum had, in its permanent collection, one of her favorite paintings by Caravaggio, so we went ahead and strolled through the museum’s permanent collection, and there were some amazing paintings there, too. After spending forty-five minutes in the Impressionists, the stark colors and sharp lines of the older realist paintings really stood out.

Anyway, we were there for a little over an hour, then headed back to Dallas and discovered along the way that the charger for our GPS had exploded inside the cigarette lighter, so we were without GPS for the rest of the trip. That was a bummer.

After we got back, Grandma and I ran out to pick up some barbecue and Darla and Jason came over for dinner. We ended up watching the last ten minutes of Ella Enchanted and then the last fifteen minutes of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, and I finally decided enough was enough and went to bed.

Saturday morning we got up early and left by 8:00 toward Houston. T– had been smart enough to print out directions everywhere we were going (I’d have just relied on the GPS) so we weren’t completely helpless. Saturday morning AB was a little fussier about being stuck in her car seat than she had been Friday, but it wasn’t too bad, and we made it in to Perry’s place a little bit before noon. He gave us the tour of the house, we chased AB off the stairs, and followed her around while she chased the cats from room to room. Then my sister showed up with her family, and Mom and Dad showed up with Granddad, and we all had sandwiches for lunch.

Dad and I ran up to the grocery store to pick up some supplies, and that became a longer ordeal than it needed to be (but it gave me a time to provide some advice on his book, for which he was grateful). Then I got back to find T– and AB in the pool. It was so hot that I didn’t hesitate to change into my swimsuit and join them. I was only out there about half an hour before my uncle announced dinner was almost ready, and we all headed in to get cleaned up.

Dinner was steaks, and was fantastic. After that, Jeff and I spent the evening getting Civ set up on his laptop and Dad’s, and the three of us played until late into the night. There was a Sooners game on — first of the season! — but it was pay-per-view and Dad couldn’t talk us into chipping in to order it. Civ was sufficient to entertain us.

We were up too late, so church at 10:00 the next morning came way too early. We made it, though. They attend a pretty progressive church, with a five piece rock band for the praise team, so I spent most of the service watching the drummer and about half of it tapping along on my knees. It was quite educational.

Actually, even though I had to leave Rock Band behind in OKC, I spent the whole weekend practicing. I did most of the driving, and whatever music I could find on the radio, I would try to pick out the drum rhythm and follow it — at least the way it would be presented in Rock Band. There’s a particular combination of high hat, snare, and bass drum that is incredibly consistent in the Rock Band songs (at least at the easier difficulties), and which I’d had a lot of trouble with all of last week. While I was driving, I spent hours at a time practicing that specific pattern, until the independent movements of left hand, right hand, and right foot all made sense to me. I didn’t know how much of it would be useful, and how much I was just being silly, but I did get much better at recognizing and picking out the drum part of songs just over the course of that first drive from OKC to Dallas.

Anyway, Sunday afternoon after church we left my uncle and his family and headed toward Galveston for a day at the beach. We stopped at a Mexican place there in Tomball (the little town outside Houston where my uncle lives), then drove the hour-and-a-half out to Galveston. Granddad rode with T– and AB and me, and he entertained us on the drive with stories of trips to the beach, from throughout his life. A surprising number of them involved hurricanes, too, which was topical. All weekend the TV stayed on the Weather Channel, tracking Hurricane Gustav.

In Galveston, we drove along the beach for a bit then stopped at a Wendy’s to change into our swimsuits. While I was changing, I put my cheap Wal-Mart sunglasses on top of a hand dryer, and some dude ended up snatching them and walking out the front door with them before I had a chance to go back and grab them. Whatever. I walked over to the Surf Shop next door and bought a new pair for $7.

Then we finally got out into the ocean. In spite of all my grousing about having to spend a whole hour outdoors, I really had a good time. At water parks, my favorite spot is always the wave pool. This time we got to take AB out into the waves, and she loved it. Jeff had little Sophie, too, and she stayed with us even when we went out deep. It was fun.

Fourth wave that hit me, though, ripped my new sunglasses off my face and hid them somewhere in the bottom of the ocean. I spent about five minutes trying to find them, but after about ten seconds they were already lost to me. Argh.

I had just as much fun anyway, though, and I was disappointed when Mom and Dad called us back to the beach and said it was time to go. We drove up to a gas station that turned out to have only one bathroom, got changed back into dry clothes, and then headed back for Tomball, this time with Mom riding in the back with AB.

Just as we were getting into Houston, AB’s stomach rebelled at the cereal Mom was giving her (and, much more likely, all the saltwater and sand she’d swallowed while playing in the waves). She made a huge mess in her car seat, and I was trying to follow Dad through dense traffic, at high speeds, in an unfamiliar town (and without directions or a GPS). That was no fun. Mom and T– between them got her cleaned up, but the whole car smelled like vomit and I have a sensitivity to that. It was not a fun ninety minutes….

We finally got home, though, and Perry had some fantastic fajitas ready for us for dinner. We were all exhausted after the day’s events, too, so after dinner we fell to talking and Dad and Jeff and I played some Civ and it was all very low key. Around midnight we gave up on our game, and headed to bed.

Then we got up fairly early Monday morning, but with all the chatting and saying goodbye, it was nearly 10:00 before we got out of town. We made good time, though, and got to Dallas right at 1:00 where Grandma and Darla and Jason met us at Chik Fil’A for a quick lunch, then an hour later we were back on the road.

We got home at about 5:45, unpacked the car, looked around the house to make sure the cats hadn’t made any messes (and silently blessed B– and E– for taking care of the litterbox over the weekend, which was the reason they hadn’t), and then set the table for our dinner guests.

K– and N– showed up at 6:30 with some P F Chang’s, and D– got in about fifteen minutes later with soda. We had a delicious dinner, then watched An American Tail (as part of our 80s Movies thing), and then rocked out for an hour or so before bedtime.

Y’know, I wasn’t too excited about spending my holiday weekend on the road, but I had a lot more fun than I thought I would. I always forget just how cool Perry and his family are, especially the kids, and then it was a much quieter weekend (in terms of schedule) than most such family get-togethers are. Maybe it’s because Labor Day doesn’t have the same traditional demands associated with it as a Thanksgiving or a Christmas.

But, yeah, it was awesome. And then while I was playing Rock Band last night, that particular drum pattern that I had been practicing in the car on Friday kept showing up, in song after song, and every time it came up I nailed it. Bah-DAH! So that’s awesome. I also learned that the intro to “Enter Sandman” can kick my ass, well and truly, but I’m working on that next.

Now I’m home, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be home until October. I’m grateful for that.

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

Journal Entry: August 28, 2008

I still sometimes type 19- at the beginning of the date before remembering we’re in the 2000s. Three times this week, in fact. Oops.

Anyway, last night we went to Taco Cabana for dinner, and K– and N– met us there. D– and I had to skip out early so I could get him to the airport for a business trip. He’s spending today and tomorrow in Denver, learning how to Microsoft a Microsoft in the Microsofting Microsoft. I dunno. I don’t pay attention when he talks.

After I dropped him off, T– and AB were still at church, so I busted out the Rock Band and started working on my form. I read through a couple articles yesterday with advice either from real drummers on how to play Rock Band, or advice on how to become a real drummer (or at least start the process) using Rock Band. Either way, I learned how to stand on the bass drum pedal without killing my foot, and that was important.

I also went ahead and started playing through the solo game on Medium difficulty. I had gotten “good enough” at the Easy difficulty, and I figured moving up sooner would just make me learn faster. Then I spent some time regretting that decision, and then before the end of the night I was actually keeping up with some of the complicated mixture of high hat, bass drum, and tempo snare stuff that they were throwing at me.

And actually by “end of the night” there, I really mean, “by the time T– and AB got home, and K– and N– dropped by with them,” which was only about 40 minutes later. So that’s pretty good. Of course, AB crawled up into my lap in the middle of some song by The Clash and just wrecked my score and got me booed offstage, but she was adorable doing it, so what’s there to complain about? After she went to bed I got four stars on it.

T– and I played for a while, but she called it quits a little before ten so I went ahead and played through the rest of the second tier of songs (the Amsterdam set, I think it was), and I’ve got 4 stars on all of the 12-16 songs I’ve played so far on Medium. I think that’s pretty good. By the end of the night I was doing way better than I had at the beginning, too. So that’s awesome.

Also, that’s my whole night. I went to bed around 11, and then woke up and came to work.

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