Category Archives: reviews

Journal Entry: September 8, 2009

Friday
In my blog post last Friday I went into great detail concerning a slow-build head cold I’d spent a week developing, but then never really talked about it. I talked about how I confused it with social anxiety for a couple days, but never said how I knew that was a misdiagnosis.

I knew by Thursday, though. It hit me hard on Thursday, and then kept me home from work on Friday. I went in in the morning to pick up my school laptop that I’d left behind on Thursday, and then went back in for a short teleconference in the afternoon, but apart from that I stayed home and convalesced.

Between medication and lots of rest, I felt up to going over to K– and N–‘s for dinner Friday night. We had hotdogs and watched the last preseason Cowboys game. It was entertaining, but mostly just left us wanting the regular season to start.

Saturday
Saturday morning I watched AB while T– went shopping. Just before she got home, I got a phone call from a guy selling a $2,500 camera on eBay letting me know I’d won and asking me about shipping and payment arrangements.

This entire phone call came as a complete shock to me, of course, and I got to spend the rest of the morning dealing with eBay’s fraud department and getting my account re-secured. Turns out somebody had figured out my login credentials and made purchases in excess of eleven thousand dollars. Luckily (hah!) the check card associated with the account was stolen when we were robbed last December, so it had been canceled and no money changed hands.

Then around eleven T– went out again to go shopping with my little sister, and took AB with her that time, because I headed up to Vintage coffeehouse for some social writing with Courtney before T– planned to be home. Between worry over the eBay thing and a growing fuzziness from my lingering cold, I didn’t actually get any writing done. I chatted with Courtney and ate a remarkable turkey sandwich, and then begged off early and headed home.

I deteriorated from there, so when six o’clock rolled around and we were supposed to head out for some OU football at K– and N–‘s place, I decided I just couldn’t handle it. I called and offered my apologies, and then went to my room and took a nap. T– went over to hang out at my sister’s place and scrapbook, and I eventually woke up to grab some dinner and play some WoW. From what I heard, it was probably a more pleasant experience than watching the game would have been.

Sunday
I wasn’t up terribly late Saturday night, even with the mid-evening nap, but I still managed to sleep through church Sunday for no other reason than that I forgot to set an alarm on my clock. I was up and dressed when T– got out of service, though, and we went to Taco Cabana with D– and my sister’s family for lunch. Then I took AB home for a nap and T– went over to my sister’s place for more scrapbooking and some maternity photos.

AB woke up a couple hours before T– got home, but we entertained ourselves with books and puzzles and counting poker chips. Then I spent most of the evening worrying about my class on Tuesday and playing WoW.

T– picked up some Chinese takeout for us for dinner, and after AB went to bed we spent a couple mostly-depressing hours watching Sunshine Cleaning. It’s got a happy ending, but it takes a pretty miserable path to get there. It’s like Uncorked for girls. Anyway, after that T– headed to bed, but I stayed up and watched I Love You, Man to cleanse the palate.

Monday
Monday morning we woke up early for a date! D– came over to watch AB, and T– and I grabbed some breakfast at Sonic before heading up to the mall for All About Steve at 10:05. The movie was…fascinating. It was good. It was Joe Dirt for girls. We had fun.

Then we stopped by Sears on the way to the car, and ended up buying my birthday present from T– a little bit early. She got me new shoes and a new watch (both badly needed), and I walked out of there looking dapper.

We picked up D– and AB for lunch at Chilis, then T– dropped D– and me at Best Buy to pick up some XBox games on sale while she ran to my sister’s place to drop off some stuff. Turned out there was no sale, though, so D– and I ended up wandering the aisles aimlessly until T– got back. It wasn’t too long, though.

After that D– went home, and AB went down for a nap. I settled in to play some WoW, and T– took advantage of my babysitting to go do some grocery shopping. She got back just as AB woke up, and we all watched TV for a couple hours. AB watched Nick Jr. videos on T– laptop, and T– and I watched a homemade marathon of season 4 of Newsradio.

T– heated up a frozen pizza for dinner, and other than that our evening looked exactly like our afternoon. At nine AB went to bed, and then I put away the computer and T– and I watched a Leverage. As soon as that was done I headed to bed, sick with anxiety over class tomorrow.

Which is to say, today. I’ve over the cold, but not the anxiety. It shouldn’t last much longer than five hours, though. So at least there’s that.

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

Journal Entry: July 20, 2009

Friday
As I mentioned on Friday, my parents came in Thursday night for a brief visit — primarily to celebrate T–‘s birthday, since they couldn’t make it here next weekend. I had to work Friday, but they drove down my way to meet me for lunch at On the Border. Then shortly after I got home we headed up to Carino’s for T–‘s birthday dinner.

My little sister’s family came to that, too, which made for quite a crowd. It was hectic, and afterward we went back to our house for ice cream cake and Madagascar. My parents had never seen it, and of course the little girls appreciated it.

They didn’t make it all the way through the movie, but even so it was well after nine before my sister packed up her kids and took them home. Mom and Dad watched the rest of it, with many a hearty chuckle, and then they slipped away, too. T– went to bed and I spend a while considering all the things I could get accomplished with a few hours of peace and quiet, but the pillow called to me. I was asleep by 10:30.

Saturday
Saturday morning T– and Mom headed up to Edmond to meet my sister and N– for pedicures, so Dad came over to watch AB with me. He played with her in the back yard while I took care of some stuff around the house, and then she came in to play with puzzles while Dad and I talked writing.

Of course, she wanted some attention, so she brought the puzzle over and sat down right between us while we talked, but that gave me an opportunity to show off how well she knows her letters (she only really gets confused between M and W, and Y and V), and even her right and left. Dad was suitably impressed.

We spent most of our time this weekend talking about his book. He’s been about to finish it for the last three months or so. I read it right up to chapter sixteen, when everyone in town has hardened their hearts against our fair hero, and then he left me hanging. So I’ve been more a demanding fan than a mentoring coach ever since, trying to bully him into getting it done. It worked. While AB and I were doing puzzles, Dad pulled out his laptop and started writing.

T– and Mom got home around 11:45, and I had to run out immediately because I had a haircut scheduled for noon. Under normal circumstances I’d have rescheduled, with my parents in town, but I had plans later in the afternoon for a writer’s group — which I found intimidating for reasons my regular reader will instantly understand — and I always feel a little more confident right after a haircut. I mentioned that to Dad (who’s quite familiar with my social anxiety), and he encouraged me to keep the appointment.

It wasn’t that bad a plan anyway, because the rest of them were just going to spend that hour eating lunch, and under the circumstances there was no way I could have eaten. So I ran up to Memorial and Penn, got a chop, and then headed back home.

That left me most of an hour to chat with Mom while Dad busily hacked away at his keyboard. Then as two rolled closer, Mom started telling him to wrap it up and he lamented that he was so close to the end, but yeah, they had to get on the road. So he packed up his laptop, we all said goodbye, and then I headed out to writer’s group at the same time they headed back to Little Rock.

I’ll give a full accounting of writer’s group in its own blog post. For now, suffice to say that even with the social anxiety going full strong, it was awesome. A great experience, and I’m looking forward to more.

At three T– had her monthly crop up at the church, and N– attended that, so while I was in writer’s group I got a text message from K– asking if he could bring Jason and hang out at my place. D– was there watching AB, and at the time it seemed like we were about to break up, so I replied and said, “Sure,” without any sort of explanation.

As it turned out, we were not about to break up. So K– hung out at the house with D– for a while, put Jason down for a nap in our room, then Jason woke up and K– took him back up to the church, and all told it was 6:30 before I left Courtney’s place. As I was walking out the door D– messaged me to say AB was getting hungry, so I called K– to convince him to come back to the house again, and then stopped and picked up food for all of us at McDonalds.

AB had missed most of her nap, but she was still a pretty good girl all evening. K– and I tried to put some new remote control software on my HTPC while she watched Dora, but it was to no avail. I could fix the situation with an upgrade to Vista and a new $30 remote, but there’s not a lot we can do with pure software solutions. We finally gave up on that when K– had to leave to pick up N–.

Shortly after that AB went to bed, and D– headed home, and I had the whole quiet house to myself. Once again I pondered all the useful things I could accomplish, and of them all I chose a stupid little computer game and spent the rest of the night doing that.

Oh! There was one interruption to it. Dad called me to let me know he’d finished his book on the drive home. Go Dad! I have it waiting in my email even now. I should have a strong review for him by the end of the day.

I ended up going to bed around eleven. T– headed to a late Harry Potter after her long night at the crop, so I have no idea when she got home. She was still awake before me on Sunday morning, though.

Sunday
Sunday morning we all got up in time to make it to Bible class, but we didn’t make it to Bible class. That just sort of happened. We ended up getting to the church halfway through, so we dropped AB in her class (two-year-olds don’t judge), and then T– and I slipped into the church library to pick a couple new books for AB and wait for classes to break. While we were there I told her all about our writer’s group.

Then the bells rang and we headed to the auditorium. Courtney came over to say hi, and then I spent the service getting started on chapter four of Restraint. I like where it’s going. I fear (like too much of this book so far) the chapter is going to be about half as long as it’s supposed to be, but maybe this one will surprise me.

After that we had lunch at Jason’s Deli with D– and K– and N–, then we all went our separate ways. AB took a nap, T– and I watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and then T– woke AB up to take her to small groups in Guthrie. I decided to skip that to spend some time with D–.

After four weeks of him suggesting we go see Transformers II and me saying I didn’t want to, I suggested we go see Transformers II. It was not good. I don’t regret seeing it, but it was not good. There was so much third grade humor in there that did nothing to improve the movie. You know me. I am not easily offended. But every bit of comedy in there felt childish, forced, and overdone — and there was lots of it. The only line I laughed out loud at was, “We’ve got Jordanians!” which — I assure you — was not meant to be funny at all. That was actually supposed to be high drama.

Anyway, after that we grabbed dinner at Moe’s, and then came back to the house to watch an episode of Dexter. That show is creepy. I cannot recommend it, but I’m having a hard time not watching the next episode. Creepy.

T– got home with AB well after nine, we put her in bed, and D– headed home. T– and I watched a random episode of Newsradio, and then we went to bed.

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

Journal Entry: July 16, 2009

Yesterday I finished my software course. It’s a pretty cool program. I threw together a MaskedFox icon in it, and then drew an Eye of Horus that was pretty acceptable. That was killing time. For the actual training I built a workflow process flow chart, an organization chart with decorative groupings for the various departments, a cubicle map that imported database info, and a Word document with an embedded calendar object.

Boring stuff.

I know how to use the program now, which is what my work was paying for. I don’t know how to design (or really read) an EE schematic, though, so I don’t know how practically useful it will be. If an engineer who spends all day every day working in CAD software needs to tell me every little line I need to change, wouldn’t it be faster for him to just make the change and hand it off to me? I mean, I could understand if the goal were to have him say, “Reroute this circuit from J4 to $A1X33+ and put in a resistor.” That would save him a lot of time. But they’re going to have to send me to a lot more classes before that happens.

Okay, it just occurred to me that apart from the handful of work associates I left behind in Tulsa, I don’t know a single other technical writer in the world. So this post has been a real waste of time so far….

Yesterday after work I grabbed a way-too-short nap while AB climbed all over me. I finally got tired of that and agreed to take her to McDonalds so she could climb on the play equipment instead. D– and my sister’s family were already there when we got there, and K– and N– joined us a little later.

Oh! Okay, I went to check out Redbox for new movies last Monday when they sent me a coupon for a free rental, and there was nothing worth getting. Just before I walked away, though, I noticed one of the many “Coming Soon” covers and when I looked closer I saw that it was The Color of Magic. That’s a Terry Pratchett novel — the first one in the Rincewind series (I think). So, of course, I had to get it. Hogfather, you’ll recall, was extraordinarily long and most people found it tiresome, but I loved it. I’m certain this one will be the same, but with the added features of Tim Curry and Rudy from the movie Rudy. But no Susan, which is a real shame….

Anyway, I went back Tuesday (the aforementioned “Coming Soon”), and they didn’t have it. I figured it was a pretty low-demand item, so it probably wasn’t too heavily stocked. Still, there’s another Redbox about a quarter mile from the one I’d checked, so I hopped down the road to try that one, but no luck. There’s another one on my way home from work, at the McDonalds right by our house, so I checked that one, too, but still nothing. I decided to add it to my Netflix queu, and promptly forgot.

So then last night when T– told me to take AB to the playground while she got in line to buy our food, I spotted the Redbox and took AB over there instead. And there was the movie! Haha, in your face! I say that because now you’re going to have to sit through an extraordinarily long and timesome movie, but I’ll love it.

Ahem.

After dinner, T– took AB to church, and I went back to the house with D–. We started watching Dexter, about which I’d heard some really rave reviews, but it’s just oppressively dark. It’s hilarious, when it’s not soul-crushingly bitter. We watched most of two episodes before AB showed up and made us change the TV to WordWorld.

Then we put her to bed, D– headed home, and T– and I watched the penultimate episode of Flight of the Conchords. And then, both of us still exhausted from our Harry Potter adventure, we went to bed before ten. That’s our glamorous lifestyle.

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

Journal Entry: July 15, 2009

I spent yesterday in software training at work. I’d complain, but I got two thousand words written on Ghost Targets: Restraint, so the day was definitely a win.

After work I went home and grabbed a quick nap, but not long enough (as the evening proved). I woke up around six, and T– had dinner ready by 6:30. D– joined us for that, then he watched AB while T– went shopping and I reviewed some documents for the mother-in-law. Once I was done I came out into the living room and watched a movie with AB while I worked on T–‘s iTunes setup. It doesn’t necessarily play friendly with our fileserver….

Then, all too soon, 9:30 rolled around. AB was in bed asleep, and D– had agreed to hang around and watch her so T– and I could catch a midnight showing of the new Harry Potter movie. We left at 9:30, as I said, and picked up her friend Rebecca down in Moore to go to the Warren Theater there.

It was our first time there, and walking into that place was an eerie experience. Apart from the stairs up to the bar area, the lobby is identical to the old Warren in Wichita. The old Warren, where we watched Twister and Mercury Rising and whatnot. In high school.

Bizarre. I was expecting something more like the new Warren downtown, but obviously they had more space out there and they took advantage of it. Still…weird.

Anyway, we didn’t have to spend a long time waiting in line or anything. Every theater was showing Harry Potter, so they just checked our ticket and sent us in to get a seat. Rebecca had brought her knitting, and T– and I ended up spending most of an hour trying to get a knot out of her yarn for her. And yawning. We spent a lot of time yawning.

Then the movie came on at midnight, of course, and it was awesome, of course. I think one thing this one does well is divorce the series from the childish adventure of the first few books. It does a good job of establishing that these are no longer children playing at being grown-ups, but capable adults still trapped in a child’s world. I feel like the books never quite managed that — Rowling kept asserting that it was the case, but some of the childish charm so strongly established in the first three books lingered. This movie…it’s not that it’s darker, as other have said. Order of the Phoenix did darker. This one is more mature. I like that.

I also find it funny that this new maturity is wrapped in the chaotic throes of everybody’s blooming love interest. That aspect of the movie was done well, too. It was fun. That might have had something to do with the exuberant crowd, though.

All told, it’s my favorite of the movies so far.

It ended at 2:40. And we were in Moore. By the time we’d dropped Becca off and driven back home, it was 3:30. We sent D– home (he was still up playing Civ), and then I crashed. I’d hoped to use my RDO today, when I first agreed to go to a midnight showing, but remember that software training I mentioned at the top of the post? It’s a two-day class. So I woke up at 6:45 to make it to class on time, and today is more of the same.

If I could get another two thousand words, I’d be ecstatic. If I can make it through the day without falling asleep at my keyboard, I’ll consider that a real victory.

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

Journal Entry: May 10, 2009

Friday
Last Friday (the first of the month), after work, T– went out shopping for the evening with Diana, leaving me to watch AB. I ended up taking her to the mall for dinner in the Food Court. N– met me there and helped me find a Mother’s Day present for T–. In the process, I got to see what it’s like to try to run errands with a child in tow. It wasn’t actually as bad as I would have guessed.

I got home from that eight-ish, and D– called to see if I was free to go out later. T– showed up right after that called and confirmed that I was, so around 9:30 D– swung by and picked me up. We checked on a couple coffee shops but they were closed, discussed a couple different bars, and ended up going to On the Border. We sat in the bar, finished a pitcher of sangria and two or three bowls of chips, and ended up taking home a bag full of leftovers somehow. Chips, salsa, queso, tortillas…. We think maybe the waitress had a crush on D–.

Saturday
Saturday morning T– got up early and took AB out garage saling, so I took the time to get some work done. I mowed the lawn and put down some weed killer, got a couple old Wal-Mart bags out of a tree in the front yard, cleaned up the house some, and even did a little writing. Then I got cleaned up in time to meet T– and AB at IHOP for lunch.

After lunch was my niece Lola’s birthday party — a tea party at my sister’s house — and I’d received conflicting reports concerning whether or not boys were supposed to be there, so I picked the most self-serving option and skipped it. D– and I went to see Wolverine instead, which turned out to be a chick flick, somehow. So there really were no winners.

My grandma and my aunt Darla’s family came up from Dallas for the party, so after the movie we all went out to dinner at Ole. It was excellent fun. Sometime in the afternoon T– had mentioned that we really needed to watch Quantum of Solace (she and I hadn’t seen it yet), and then when we mentioned that at dinner my brother-in-law said he hadn’t seen it, either. Or 300. Or Transformers. We were aghast, so I told my sister her husband was going to spend the evening at my place.

We watched the Bond flick, and then T– went to bed. Then we put in Transformers and I was yawning before the end of that one so I ended up going to bed, but D– and Jeff stayed up to watch 300. Good for them.

Sunday
Sunday morning we had church, and then headed up to Jason’s Deli to meet N– and K– for lunch. After that I took the girls home, then headed back to Edmond to play some Demigod with K–. Two hours disappeared like that, and then I headed back home in time to have dinner with T–. We had a pretty quiet evening, playing Hi-Ho Cherry-oh with AB and then watching TV after she went to bed.

Monday
N– went back to work on Monday, and T– got to watch Jason for the afternoon. She also made up a delicious pot roast and tempted N– and K– to come over for dinner. After they left we moved to the living room to watch our Monday night shows (only comedies left now, and it looks like tomorrow might be the finales of those). I brought my laptop out of the office to work while we watched, and finally got started recovering my documents folders.

Before the robbery I’d had all my active writing projects divided unevenly across two working directories — one on my computer at work (which I’d brought with me from Lowrance, where I did a lot of creative writing at the office), and the other on my computer at home. There was a lot of overlap between the two folders, but they were nowhere close to synced. On top of that, I’ve been doing more and more work on Google Docs lately, which is not reflected in either folder (but, also, was not lost in the robbery).

Anyway, my backups consisted of a three-month-old backup of my folder at work, and some CDs that contained 3-, 5-, and 6-year-old backups of my home folders. Again, there was some overlap but it wasn’t identical.

So I started the process of reducing this massive piles of documents down to only the most recent version of each document. I went through my novels first, gathering them into project folders by series and novel, but I haven’t even begun the process of comparing individual files there. Then I went through my academic papers (only about 30-40 of those), and got those cleaned up.

Then I started working on my poetry, and ended up spending all of last week on that project. I had 160-something poems, but they were scattered (and frequently duplicated) across nearly 200 files, many of which were collections of several poems at once. To clarify the collection at the expense of a little extra effort, I decided to break them all out into individual files, again saving only the best version of each. That meant a lot of comparing documents. I also decided to make the styles consistent across all the documents and label each one according to the oldest date I knew it had existed (which mostly meant going off the Last Modified date on the big collection files, so it looks like I wrote several dozen poems on 13 January 1998 and a couple dozen more on 1 August 2002, but whatever).

Anyway, I started that process Monday night.

Tuesday
Tuesday T– got to babysit baby Jason again, and I got to go to work again. Yay! But while I was at work I got an email from Dr. Agan, one of my professors at OC, saying that she had sent off my recommendation letter to OU and, oh, by the way, would I be willing to teach Technical Writing at OC in the fall.

That’s a big deal. T– was incredibly excited for me, as were most of the people I told about it. D– said it sounded like too big of a time commitment, especially with me going to school in the fall (and he’s not wrong), and B– said it sounded like a miserable experience for someone with social anxiety (and he’s not wrong), but I think in the end I’m going to do it. We need the money, it’ll look great on a resume, and I’ll have a lot of support from my old Tech Writing professor, who goes to church with us. She also mentioned that I can make it a half-classroom half-online course, so that cuts the time investment considerably. I’ll have a lot of work to do at home, but I can handle that. It was the extra hours out of my evenings I was really worried about.

Wednesday
Wednesday night we tried to go to KFC to get Oprah’s free chicken (or something), but everyone in the world did the same thing so we ended up going across the street and getting Popeye’s you-have-to-pay-for-it-but-at-least-you’ll-get-it-in-the-next-two-hours chicken. We met D– and N– and K– there, then I went to church (for a change) so I could meet with Gail Nash (my old Tech Writing prof) and learn what I told you in the last paragraph.

After that K– and N– came over to watch Lost which, for various reasons, took us almost three hours to accomplish. It was a good one, though.

Thursday
Thursday night, I think we watched some TV and I worked on my poetry. I don’t remember anything exciting.

Friday
Friday was my RDO, and I’d promised T– I would watch AB in the afternoon so T– could get a haircut. Once again she woke up early and took AB out garage saling so once again I got up and mowed the lawn. I also cleaned out the closet in my office because we’re going to be switching the office and baby’s room soon, and I did some work in the garage, too.

Then T– called to say she’d lost track of time and wouldn’t be home before her haircut. She was in Edmond so she dropped AB at my sister’s place, and I got an afternoon off. I spent it working on my poetry (and finished up that project), and doing a little writing.

Then T– got home and put AB down for a nap, and a few minutes later K– showed (that’d be around 3:00), to take me to the theater.

We had plans to go see Star Trek for K–‘s birthday, and it being opening day decided we needed to be there early. K– and I went to save spots in line (T– and N– and B– showed up in time for the movie), and we ended up getting there way too early. We’d brought our laptops with us, though, and we set up an ad-hoc network and spent the time playing Demigod. It was fun. There was a little initial concern about how much we’d look like dorks, but come on, we were waiting in line for the Star Trek movie. That ship had already sailed.

The movie was fantastic. Of Star Trek, I’ve only ever seen Generations and First Contact. Maybe (maybe) two or three episodes total of any of the series, ever. So, yeah, I came to it new. The movie was good enough that I’m thinking of finally watching some of the shows. We’ll see.

After the movie everybody headed home (it was already after nine, after all), but I stuck to my recent pattern of doing way too much on weekends and went over to B–‘s place. I caught up with B– and E–, telling them all about my teaching opportunity, and then we watched Comedy Central’s roast of William Shatner. That was some funny stuff.

Saturday
Saturday morning I had to wake up early so we could pack the car and head to Wichita. We’re there, now, to celebrate Mother’s Day. I spent most of Saturday laid-up with back pain, but John and I took AB out to dinner at Chili’s in the evening, then after we came back John ran out to rent one of the old Star Trek movies on essentially the same principle that led us to having Jeff over last weekend. Unfortunately they didn’t have Kahn or the one with the whales, so he grabbed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Ummm….

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

Journal Entry: December 5, 2008

Last night, on the way home from work, I stopped by B– and E–‘s on an impulse. While in Little Rock I’d picked up a bottle of beauj nouveau for them, and it had been kicking around in my floorboard since we got back. The weather being what it is (and extreme temperatures being so bad for wine), I decided I needed to get it delivered sooner rather than later.

So I turned left at my exit instead of right, and got to see a couple of my best friends for a few minutes.

Then D– brought over Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner, and T– made up some delicious mac and cheese (not Kraft, this time). After that I played WoW while we watched Prince Caspian which was better than I expected it to be.

A pretty good night. I didn’t get to sleep until midnight, but I was still up on time for work today, and then left work for an hour and a half to get a dental cleaning. Looks like I’m going to need some more work soon, most notably the removal of a couple wisdom teeth. Ugh.

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

Journal Entry: September 22, 2008

I have this To Do list that I made in Google Documents, and I use it to keep track of little projects I can take care of when I have a spot of free time and am feeling productive (or stuff we need around the house that I can pick up if we have a spot of free money, but that never really happens).

Anyway, the purpose is just for me to jot stuff down as it occurs to me, and I can browse through it from time to time and try to find something that sounds worth doing.

Last week, the “Writing” section kept catching my eye, and you probably saw the results here. I completed a bunch of writing chores last week, and it felt pretty rewarding.

Well, about six months ago I noticed the severely peeling paint on the wood siding above our garage, and it really got to me. It’s been in terrible shape ever since we bought the house, but it’s a relatively small portion of our facade, and high enough up that no one ever really pays it any attention, so it’s gone ignored for two and a half years. When I made up my To Do list, though, I went ahead and put “Scrape and paint exterior woodwork” on there, and ever since it’s been annoying the everloving bawhango out of me. Every time I pulled into the driveway, it irritated me. Every time I glanced through my To Do list, I wanted to mark it off. But the height of that was not only in an incredibly hot (and then abnormally rainy) summer, but also while my body was broken with all that back pain.

So, yeah, last Thursday I found out we would actually be home this weekend, and I checked the weather and found out it would be sunny and windy and dry (and not uncomfortably hot). Then again, I also mentioned here on Thursday that I was feeling sick. I’m not quite sure what happened with that.

Anyway, I moved my Regular Day Off to last Friday, and figured I would either spend the day in bed convalescing, or on a ladder scraping. I ended up doing the ladder.

AH hahaha! That was so worth all the setup.

Bah. No, really. On Thursday night I was still feeling under the weather, so I just watched a movie with T–, and maybe we played some Rock Band. Then I got up relatively early on Friday, felt relatively well, so I went outside to see what I could do. I had gotten a drill bit a while back that said it was for “stripping paint” which, it turns out, is not the same thing as “scraping and prepping a surface for painting.” I seriously damaged some of our exterior woodwork before I came to that conclusion though.

That left me using an old-fashioned metal scraper, and a Mouse power sander. I didn’t get around to the Mouse until Saturday, though.

See, to use the drill, I bit the bullet and got out our Really Long Extension Cord, and completely unwound it. Turned out, that was unnecessary (I could reach the peak of our roof with about a third of it), but I didn’t know that to begin with. So I got out on the ladder, worked on the woodwork until I realized I was doing more harm than good (and would have to scrap, which I hate), and then climbed down and decided to take a little break.

Already having the Really Long Extension Cord unfurled, I decided on a whim to grab the weed eater and edge our lawn for only the second time since we moved in. I ended up doing a pretty thorough job of it (and our drive looks nice now), but there was a lot of newly cut undergrowth all over the driveway at that point. I thought about going to borrow K–‘s leafblower, said something about it to T–, and she pointed out that we had a shopvac we’d bought years ago for a single project, and never used since.

So I vaccuumed my drive. Shut up! It worked really well.

And then at that point I was out of excuses to delay, so I dug out our scraped, got back up on the ladder, and finished the bottom half of the west facing. Only the bottom half, though, because my ladder was too short to do more. It was 5:00 by then, though, and I was supposed to watch AB while T– went to a crop, so I put my stuff away, showered, and called it done for the day.

K– and N– came over to keep me company for the evening, and we went to Mazzio’s for dinner and then came back to the house and watched Baby Mama (which is worth seeing twice, I can attest). Then we played Rock Band until 11-ish, at which point they had to go home, and I ended up playing guitar for another hour and a half until T– got home. It was after 2:00 when we finally went to bed.

Saturday, I had all day to work on the house so I had no intention of getting up early. I turned off the alarm clock before I went to bed, and just slept as long as I wanted to. When I got up, I threw on my work clothes and stumbled out into the living room and T– said, “Oh, I’m sorry! Did we wake you?” And I had no idea what she meant, so I assured her no, and went out to the garage to get started.

I started out mowing the lawn, because it needed it (and I had basically done everything I could on the woodwork without borrowing a taller ladder). Then when I got to the back yard, I couldn’t help noticing how terrible all the edges looked, so I dragged the Really Long Extension Cord back there, and spent a good hour really cleaning up the back yard (focusing mainly on the porch), including another half hour or so of vaccuuming the outdoors. Hey, I said to shut up about that!

Then I put my stuff away, and went inside to find out why T– hadn’t started pestering me about lunch plans yet, and learned that it was barely ten o’clock. I had gotten up at eight. I was horrified.

I showered, and then T– went to grab us some sandwiches and I watched AB. We played some, I made some phone calls to see if anybody wanted to help me work on the house (and learned that all my friends actually schedule productive activities for their weekends, too — who knew?), and made arrangements to swing by B– and E–‘s after lunch to grab a ladder.

When I got there, I kinda tarried. For one, it’s always fun to catch up. For another, I had a really miserable afternoon ahead of me. I did finally leave, though, and when I got home I set up the ladder, climbed up way too high, and finished the scraping. Then I got out the Mouse and sanded the whole surface, top to bottom, which took right around two hours. Meanwhile, T– ran up to Lowes for me and bought the paint — Killz as a primer, white for most of the siding, and a rich blue for the trim.

It was already dusk by the time I finished sanding, but I did a test coat of the primer in one of the lower areas, and it had me feeling pretty good about the project. I put my stuff away, went inside for dinner, and then played Rock Band with T– for a couple hours before watching SNL. It was nearly midnight before we went to bed.

Then I woke up at 7:30 Sunday morning so I could out and put up the primer before church. That was a miserable morning, I’ll tell you what. I was also sore all over from two full days of hard work, but I made myself climb the ladder again and again, and it took me just under two hours to get the entire area primed. Then I had to rush to get ready for church, and we went to worship while my base coat dried.

I kept falling asleep during church, and really dragging when we went to lunch at Subway with K– and N–, but I needed to get two coats of white on, then let it dry completely so I could tape it before I could do the coat of blue. So when I got home from church, instead of crawling into bed, I crawled back up the ladder and did a coat of white in about an hour and fifteen. I let it dry for half an hour, then went back up and did a second coat in just under an hour. At that point, the siding was looking pretty good.

Then I took my nap. I spent an hour and a half sprawled on the bed, then went back out and taped and painted — I didn’t have any room for a tray at the top of the ladder, so I would take the tape up, cover everything I could reach, then go back down for the tray and brush and go back up to paint. All this to do one six-inch-wide trim board, so I was only doing three or four feet in lenght from any given ladder position.

All told, taping and painting took about an hour and a half. Then D– showed up, newly back from Wichita, and asked if I wanted something for dinner. T– and AB were at Small Groups with K– and N– (and eating there), so I said, “Heck yes,” and he ran off to Taco Bell while I climbed back up and did the second coat. Since the tape was already up at that point, the second coat only took about half an hour, and that was significantly more time moving and reconfiguring the ladder than it was painting.

Once again, I finished my handiwork by the glow of our exterior lights, but I got it done and went in to enjoy my soft tacos (and a Diet Dr Pepper with more than a little bit of rum in it).

Before I finished eating T– and AB and K– and N– got back from Small Groups, and we started up the Cowboys / Packers game. It was another wild one, and after a slow start the Cowboys really tore up. That was a pretty pleasant way to end a pretty unpleasant weekend. I went to bed at eleven again, and was up by six this morning to get to work on time.

UGH!

I did finally count it up, and every step in the process of painting required me to climb the ladder eighteen times. That’s eighteen times to scrape the peeling paint, eighteen times to sand, eighteen to prime, thirty-six to paint two coats of white, eighteen for taping and painting blue, and eighteen more for the second coat of blue. My legs are dying.

I have eighteen more, too. I’ve got to go up and take down the tape, when I get home from work today. I should probably go up with some white and do touch-up (where the blue dripped past the tape, or the ladder damaged the not-perfectly-dried white when I was moving it around), but I doubt I’ll have the energy. It’s so high up, and such a small area, I doubt anyone will care.

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

Journal Entry: August 26, 2008

It’s been a while since I last posted, so I can’t promise to get all the details right on this….

Still, Friday night D– and I went over to K– and N–‘s to watch the Cowboys game. The third preseason game is often called the dress rehearsal for the season, so most teams put in their starting line for most of the game, to see how they work together. It’s also the first time in preseason that the team actually watches any tape of the opponents in preparation, and that they cater their plays directly to the opposing team. So we knew going in that it was going to be a good one.

And it was. With the exception of a Romo-thrown interception into the endzone that led to a strong drive by the Texans, the Cowboys starters dominated throughout the first half, on both offense and defense. When Romo et al. came off the field, the Cowboys were up 20-10, and those 10 came off an opening kickoff return that put them in range for the field goal, and then the interception and ensuing drive.

Anyway, if you don’t care about football, sorry about all that. It was an exciting game, though. This weekend they’ll be sitting all the starters to guarantee they’re fresh for the season opener, so that one won’t even be worth watching. On the other hand, the Sooners have their opening game this weekend, so there will definitely be some football on.

After the game Friday night, ’round about 10:30, I suggested we go catch a late showing of Tropic Thunder and D– was down, so we ended up at AMC in the mall until two in the morning. So worth it. Fantastic movie. It’s like a modernization of Three Amigos. Hilarious — wildly inappropriate, but hilarious.

I got home at 2:30 and found T– still awake, chatting with Julie, who was in town for a wedding shower. We stayed up and talked for a while, mostly about the movie. I finally went to bed and just crashed.

Saturday I didn’t get up until lunch time. We took Julie to our bagel place, which is becoming a Saturday tradition (lunch at the bagel place, that is — not taking Julie there). Afterward, T– and Julie headed to the shower, and I went over to B– and E–‘s to hang out with B– while I had a few hours free. We watched Three Amigos and talked, and before I knew it four hours were gone.

We met my little sister and her family for dinner at Friday’s, then met D– at the house around 8:00, and he and I played Civ while we watched the Vikings’ preseason game. I promise not to do a play-by-play on that one, but it was almost as much fun as the Cowboys game.

We got kinda caught up in the Civ game. Last time we’d played, before D– headed out of town for work all last week, we’d won that game, so we started a new one Saturday evening. After 8:00. By the time we quit, we had tanks — just to give you an idea how long we played. Ugh.

Fun, though. I got to bed late and did not feel like waking up for church, but I did anyway. T– and I stopped at a garage sale on the way there, then sat through a sermon about running in such a way as to win, and I worked on a short story set in the SK universe.

Afterward we went over to K– and N–‘s place for lunch. Her parents were there, and among them they made up steaks and hamburgers and we brought hotdogs that K– threw on the grill, and there were all manner of sides and cheesecake and strawberry shortcake for dessert. It was a fantastic lunch. Everyone was pleased.

D– was there, too, but he was running a little late because he’d stopped on the way there to pick up Guitar Hero, so we had our afternoon’s entertainment provided. After lunch we guys got to work setting up the equipment for the game, got all the instruments put together and went to play it, and discovered that there was no game disc in the box. Ugh. So D– had to drive all the way back across town to the store where he’d gotten it to pick up a game disc (luckily they didn’t make us break the instruments back down), but when he got back (around 2:00) we set up a band and started rocking.

T– hung around to see what the game was like, but after our first song she took AB home, because the baby was badly in need of a nap. D– offered to drive me home, so we could play a couple more songs. Three hours later, T– called to ask me what time I planned to be home. It’s an addictive game, and easily the best of the rhythm games I’ve seen so far. The cooperative aspect of it, working together as a group toward a goal, is just awesome. Powerful, and fun.

We all took turns on all the instruments, although I don’t think D– tried the drums. The drums were easily the most popular instrument, though. They’re addictive, and nowhere near as difficult to use as everyone assumes they will be.

Anyway, after T– called we played one more song, then packed everything up and headed home. We had pizza for supper, then when AB went down D– and I brought in the instruments to rock out with T– some. We set up a new band on my XBox, and this time we took the time to go through character creation and customize our characters. D– had read that that was one of the big features of the game, and it really was a fun process. When T– complained that she didn’t like her outfit, we decided to play some gigs, make some money, and then let her check out the in-game store to find something better to wear. Once she started looking through the options, D– and I had to check out ours, too, and we spent the rest of the evening alternating between playing gigs and shopping for clothes. Heh. We played until about 10:30, when pragmatism forced us to call it quits.

Yesterday morning I went back to the physical therapist, and she said she was seeing real progress. I could tell, too. I haven’t taken any of my back medication for four days, and while it’s pretty painful at times, it’s manageable, and getting a little better every day. On Friday she gave me my stretches to do at home, and I find them helpful every time I do them.

Then over lunch on Monday I was in a minor car accident. I was turning into a parking lot, through a line of cars waiting at a red light, when the lady waiting in line decided to pull forward into the gap and slammed into my right tire. It sounded horrible, but to all appearances there was no damage other than scraped paint on my car or hers (and basically all of the paint was on my tire, scraped off of her bumper). Once I was on my way back to work, I called T– to let her know about it and I was in the middle of saying, “There’s no real damage done,” when I noticed my steering wheel was at a 15 degree angle to the left, while I was driving straight. Ugh. So, at the very least, I’d destroyed my alignment, though it’s quite possible I’ve done real damage to the axle. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Anyway, I tried not to let it bother me, and the car is driving fine. Just…bah. I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to get it in to a mechanic, but we were supposed to drive to Houston this weekend, and all the time I’m spending not thinking about it is just making matters worse and worse.

When I got home from work I was feeling pretty worn out after a long day, so we scrapped our plans to go to the gym. Instead I lazed on the couch for a while, then T– made supper and we went for a walk in the neighborhood. We got home right at AB’s bedtime, and while T– put her to bed, I got the instruments back out and T– sang for me while I drummed. The plan was to play through a song or two, then she was going to go paint while I continued practicing the drums.

The game’s addictive, though! Did I mention that? We played until 10:30, when once again pragmatism forced us to quit.

That’s my weekend (and the start of this week). It’s been a fun one. I’m looking forward to getting better at the drums. They say this is one of the few rhythm games that can really teach you real-life skills, as the game version of drumming is pretty close to the real world equivalent (as opposed to, say, guitar playing, or even the quality-insensitive singing). So yay.

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

Journal Entry: August 19, 2008

My life feels…weird when I’m not addictively playing a video game.

I suppose I should get to that point with my writing, where I’m sitting up all evening at home working on Sleeping Kings while I watch CSI with T–, or whatever, but that takes a lot more focus. For me, video games are about winding down, after a day spent dealing with people at work.

Anyway, that’s all old discussion. Yesterday I went to the gym after work, and spent 45 minutes on the treadmill. My physical therapist said I could do anything that wasn’t directly painful, so I may go ahead and start working on strength training again, sooner than I’d intended. I don’t want to do anything to slow my recovery (because it’s already been a ridiculous percent of forever), but 45 minutes on the treadmill is dull. I’m not jogging, even. I get up to a 4 mph walk, but that’s just enough to make my feet hurt without really feeling challenging.

So, yeah. I’ll go back to arm and chest workouts, anyway. I might do them sitting instead of standing, but at least I’m doing something.

And that’s probably way more than you wanted to know about my infrequent workouts, but it’s what’s on my mind. After the gym last night, we played with AB for a while, and T– made some fantastic quesadillas, and then we watched The Wedding Singer. Neither of us had seen it in a while, and my computer’s recent demise rather limited our options, so there ya go.

It was pretty fun. I enjoyed it, although I can probably go another eight years before watching it again. No big deal.

After that I turned on an episode of New Adventures of Old Christine, because it was the only thing new on the TiVo (and, as it happened, a rerun we both remembered), and did some chores while we chuckled at the jokes. Then I went to bed early, but couldn’t sleep because I’d had a nap right after work. I stayed in bed, though, because what else was there to do? I’m sure I drifted off well before midnight.

And then I came into work on time today, and T– went to Tulsa for work, and N– is watching my baby even as we speak. Thank the Lord for good friends. I mean that.

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

Journal Entry: July 28, 2008

It’s been almost a week since I wrote last, but not a lot has happened in that time.

Tuesday night went pretty much like I predicted it would. I lay on the floor and we watched TV. Wednesday I went to work all day, then afterward we didn’t have our regular Wednesday night dinner because, frankly, we have to eat at home some time. T– grilled up burgers and dogs, and D– joined us.

Oh, during the day on Wednesday, T– had the same problem with the Saturn, and it has happened twice more since then — if you drive it anywhere, it stops working until it’s had about an hour to cool down.

Thursday I took off work, and we took the Saturn up to Wal-Mart to have them check the battery. It was under warranty, so I figured they would make good and certain the battery was bad before fixing it (and if it wasn’t bad, they could give us a hint what was wrong). I figured wrong. They replaced it with a new battery, I drove it home, and then out of curiosity I tried starting it up and it wouldn’t even turn over. An hour later, though, it started fine.

I also had my doctor’s appointment Thursday, which mostly consisted of me sitting in an empty exam room waiting for someone to show up. The doctor looked me over, ruled out some kinda scary things, and mostly agreed that it was probably a pinched nerve in my spine and a pulled muscle in my leg. He sent me for an XRay which, he said, didn’t really indicate anything (and he said that was a bad thing), so they scheduled me for an MRI. In the meantime, he said, I shouldn’t do anything that could make things worse. Basically, I’m supposed to do as little as possible. Over the weekend, I pretty much obeyed the doctor’s orders.

He also gave me prescriptions for a painkiller (Lortab) and a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory (Soma). Between the two, they make me feel drunk all the time. Not the good sort of drunk, either. The queasy, light-headed, anxious sort of drunk. Ugh.

Anyway. Thursday was T–‘s birthday. I gave her a card Thursday morning, and then stayed home to hang out with her all day (which mostly consisted of sleeping in, going to the doctor, then crashing on the couch when the Lortab kicked in), and then we went out to Texas Roadhouse with D– and K– and N– for dinner. Afterward we got dessert at Maggie Moo’s, and took it home to watch the rest of Batteries Not Included. It was fun, and I think everyone had a great time.

Friday morning I woke up early, and felt really weird. It was either the medication or the large ice cream I’d had just before going to bed or (more likely) a combination of the two, but I was sick. I didn’t realize how sick until I got to work, though. Oh, and I was driving the Saturn, because T– had some errands to run during the morning. So I got out of my car, threw up in the parking lot, and then had no way to get home until the car cooled down. Nice.

It was an unpleasant morning at work, then I ran home and crawled into bed. I got up to give T– a kiss goodbye before she headed to Wichita, then crashed again. Around 5:00 D– called and woke me up, and I was feeling better by then.

But, yeah, T– went to Wichita over the weekend to celebrate her birthday with family. I’d meant to go, too, but we decided with my back problems that the five hours of driving and two nights on a crappy bed wouldn’t do me any good. T– was worried about leaving me home alone, though, so she asked D– to keep an eye on me while she was gone.

So he picked me up around 5:00 on Friday afternoon and we went over to his place to watch some Boston Legal while I played Civ on my laptop and he worked on B–‘s dead computer. That was pretty much the model for the weekend. Friday night we also watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which was pretty good in a Big Lebowski or Zero Effect sort of way.

Around 11:00 I went home and went to bed. Then D– called around 10:00 Saturday morning and woke me up. He brought Taco Bueno for lunch, and while we ate he grabbed some more episodes of Boston Legal and installed Civ on his laptop, then we went over to his place and watched Iron Eagle (which was terrible, in exactly the same way that The Last Starfighter is terrible), and then we watched some Boston Legal while I played Civ on the laptop and D– worked on B–‘s computer.

N– called sometime in the afternoon and invited us to dinner at Othello’s up in Edmond, so we headed that way around 6:45, and after dinner we went over to their place to watch Wargames, which was only left out of our 80’s Movies Review because we’d all seen it. It was fun watching it again, though. D– dropped me off at home afterward, and I stayed up to markup another chapter of Heather’s novel before I went to bed.

Then Sunday morning K– and N– picked me up for church (remember I was left with the Saturn, and it’s misbehaving). Ben Affleck led singing, which was pretty exciting, but other than that it was a normal Sunday service. Afterward they drove me up to Schlotzky’s to meet my little sister and her family for lunch, but K– and N– couldn’t hang around because K–‘s mom was coming into town, and they needed to meet her. (D– didn’t join us because he thinks Schlotzky’s is “gross.”)

So, I had a pleasant lunch with my sister. They just got back from a week in New Mexico, and had lots of stories to tell between the two of them. Jeff also mentioned that he has a lot more experience to offer to help me improve my Sleeping Kings story, which means he’s willing to read through it at least one more time, which is a pretty big compliment in itself. I’m grateful for that.

When they dropped me off at home, I called D– to check in, and he came to pick me up and we went over to his place to, yeah, watch Boston Legal and play Civ. This time he loaded it up too (as B–‘s computer was running hours-long diagnostics tests), and we played some multiplayer Civ for the first time in many years. It was incredibly fun, and the next ten hours flew by.

We did watch Strange Brew while we played, and it was awful. Truly, truly terrible. I don’t recommend it at all. Then we tried to watch The Beastmaster because I remembered liking it in high school, but…ye gods. All the other movies we watched that weekend shine like beacons of perfect cinematography compared with The Beastmaster. It was wretched. It was filth.

Oh! He had also started The Unforgiven while I was at lunch, so I got to see the second half of it after he picked me up. Yet again, terrible movie. The dialog is atrocious, and the plot is boring. Don’t watch it. Yuck.

Still, the movies were all just background, really. D– played the Germans and I played the Russians and we started out on this catastrophically small island together, but by the end of the day we had two more continents under our dominion and we’re about to prosecute a successful war against the allied Incas and Vikings, with the full backing of our good friend Hammurabi.

I could have stayed up all night playing, but T– called around 9:00 to say she was heading home, and I wanted to be there when she got in, so D– took me home and I did some dishes and generally cleaned up the place while I waited for her to get in. It was nearly midnight before I got to bed.

Then this morning I slept late, which made me late for work, but I got to play with AB a little because of it, so I’m not too upset. I brought the Saturn to work, but it should have had plenty of time to cool off by now, so I don’t expect any problems getting home.

I feel like I’ve got my medications under control now, and they’re definitely helping with the pain. My back is nowhere near as bad as it was a week ago. I have an MRI scheduled for Wednesday at 3:30, so I’ll be able to tell you more after that.

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