Journal Entry: August 3, 2009

Last Friday I got to work to find an email from the Deputy Secretary of Transportation encouraging all FAA managers and supervisors to support a (highly symbolic) DOT Telework Day. Any employees who wanted to were encouraged to try out telework (that is to say, working from home), in the hopes of more permanent adoption.

We got that email on Friday, when 2/3 of the office was out on RDO (including, I should point out, all the managers and supervisors). DOT Telework Day is today. That was the least useful Department-wide memo ever sent.

Anyway, contractors are not allowed to telework, so it never would’ve mattered to me. Still, bummer.

I got home from work a little early on Friday, which gave me time to work out before heading out to our July Poker Night. (Yep — just barely slipped that one in). My sister let us use her place again, and D– and K– both made it. D– brought with him ingredients for a vodka cocktail called the “O. G. Diddy,” and after his clumsy attempts to make it I took over bartending and we all found the drink remarkably good. So remarkable, in fact, that it directed the fortunes of all our evenings (and most of our mornings on Saturday, too).

We defied nomenclature and played Rock Band for a couple hours, until someone’s wild thrashing brought the XBox crashing off its shelf and engraved the Rock Band disc with a shiny silver line that rendered it worthless. Instead of being concerned, we probably laughed hysterically. It was that kind of night.

Then we played poker for two hours and watched Mean Girls. After that, a little bit past midnight, my little sister drove us all home. I stayed up for a bit playing Fallout and hydrating, and cursing myself for making the same fool mistake two weeks in a row.

Saturday morning saw me awake a bit before nine, and I killed a couple hours working on the computer and playing with AB. Then, half past noon, we headed to Edmond for my niece’s birthday party.

That was at McDonalds, and we had family from Dallas up to visit, as well as my dad and brother-in-law (with all his little ones) from Little Rock. The party was two hours in an enclosed play area with, what, ten kids under ten-years-old. It was a lot of noise, with echoes. I gather from more reliable sources that it was a lovely party for a four-year-old. So I’ll leave it at that.

Afterward T– took AB to go swimming with the rest of the party guests, but I went back home for a nap. Ended up playing Fallout instead, but it was just as recuperative. T– brought AB home for a late nap, and when she woke up we headed back to Edmond for dinner at my sister’s house. There was pizza for all, and movies for the little ones. Dad got started watching The Incredibles, which he’d never seen before, and found he actually liked it.

Halfway through the movie, I had to leave to head over to K– and N–‘s place so they could go watch Harry Potter. Dad came with me, tearing himself away from the movie, but he was gratified to learn when we arrived that K– had a copy of it, too. They put the baby down to sleep, then headed to the movie, and all I had to do for the night was be there in case of emergency (and, of course, there was none).

While we waited, Dad got out his laptop and I borrowed N–‘s, and we watched The Incredibles and talked about getting published. Dad talked me into querying a new literary agent who’s specializing in science fiction and fantasy, and I talked him into starting a blog. We spent much of the next three hours doing the tedious work necessary to follow through on those ideas.

Then one o’clock rolled around and K– and N– rolled home, and we got their quick opinion on the movie and then headed home to get some sleep.

Sunday morning we woke up late enough to skip Bible class but early en0ugh to grab donuts on the way to service. Or, as I like to call it, “the magic hour.”

I delivered unto Courtney her marked-up manuscript, then hastily took our seats before service started. We ended up filling the row with family, when my sister brought all hers and the brother-in-law with his, and N– had to sit in the row behind us.

Afterward, the whole family went to P. F. Chang’s for lunch, which was a mess. I’m just saying, that’s a lot of little kids. It was awesome as always, though. Then we said goodbyes in the parking lot, and the Little Rock folks headed home, and we took AB home for a nap, and then…I guess I spent the afternoon playing Fallout.

That game has to come to an end at some point, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. That’s okay, I didn’t really want to get a book finished this month anyway.

We’d decided on the way home from lunch that we wanted to have dinner at the newly-opened Freddy’s on north Penn., so as six o’clock rolled around, we called D– and K– and N– to see if anyone of them wanted to join us, and they all said yes. When we got to the restaurant, I heard a woman call out my name just inside the door, and we turned to find our stylist, Karen, there with her friends. She got to meet AB for the first time, and T– and I both got to fight down the urge to introduce her to D–. Then she went back to her booth, and we went to ours, and we had phenomenal cheesesteaks for supper.

And frozen custard for dessert.

And then when we got home we had just time to watch an episode of Leverage, and then put AB to bed, and then it was bedtime for us, too. We read for a while, and gradually drifted off to sleep.

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.

Poker Night

Except for D–, we are all now married dudes and fathers — those of us that are dudes at all, anyway — and as a result we live kinda boring lives with little flexibility. Our wives, of course, have the same problem (with considerably more of their time tied up by the children, nonetheless), but they’re smart enough to schedule events from time to get them out of the house. T–, for instance, organizes a monthly scrapbooking party at the church that runs from six to midnight.

A couple weeks ago D– floated the idea that we should do something similar, for the dudes, since our old method was no longer really practicable (that is to say, one of us spontaneously deciding on a random Friday night to go to some bar and drink way too much, and then using coercion and peer pressure to get everyone else together). He proposed we do a poker night, of the cliche sort seen so often on TV and film. With fear and trembling we approached the various wives about the idea, and they all responded with enthusiastic support. Who knew?

So we did our first one Saturday night. My sister, easily the most enthusiastic of the wives, willingly offered up her house as a meeting place, and then she and her husband spent the afternoon at Wal-Mart (racking up quite a bill in the process) getting stuff together for our little party. Among other things, they bought a nice new poker table (felt top, raised border with inset cupholders). It’s got room for ten, but could probably comfortably seat about six.

Then they spent a while setting up. When D– and I showed up a little after six, my sister had all manner of snacks ready in the kitchen, including little smokies, some veggies and dip, chips and salsa, and brownies. I also brought over some Chex Mix, and some liquor to complement the soda they had chilling in the fridge.

My sister packed up her kids and took them over to my house for the evening, and K– showed up at 6:30. We chatted for a bit and watched some of the NFL draft while K– read up on the rules for Texas Hold’em that came with the poker set I’d brought over. My set only has 100 chips, which makes for a relatively small piles when it’s divided four ways, and K– predicted (quite accurately) that it would make for a pretty short game. We played through according to those rules, and it took about an hour and a half. Maybe a little less. I won, but that’s neither here nor there.

After that we ate some pizza and my brother-in-law went in search of more chips, which essentially tripled the number we had and let us play a more nuanced game. We started another round, but K– had to cash out at 10:00 because he had early-morning commitments on Sunday.

That left D– and my brother-in-law, and the three of us played for nearly two hours before D– lost out. Then Jeff and I spent another hour battling back and forth before the game finally ended. I won, but that’s neither here nor there.

I think we’d all seen some Texas Hold’em on TV — I know T– and I watched all the Celebrity Poker Showdowns back when that show was on — but none of us had really played and there were aspects of the game that didn’t make sense to me until we started working through it. By the end of the night, we all four had a pretty good grasp on it. K– and I were the only ones who really fully got the betting rules, but we were also the ones trying to figure it out. The other two just went with it and focused more on their hands.

We all agreed it was a great time. B– and Toby both expressed interest in future Poker Nights, but neither was able to make it to this one. To be fair, they only got one day’s warning, so that’s more my fault than theirs.

Given that we are all of us gamers, it’s unlikely we’ll ultimately limit ourselves to just poker, but Poker Night sounds a lot more impressive than Tabletop Gaming Night, so we’re going to stick with the little white lie. We’ve discussed playing Magic (D– and my brother-in-law both have as much experience with that as I do, and the other three are all interested in it), Risk, and a…umm…strategic terrain-based combat simulation D– owns called HeroScape. But we’re calling it Poker Night.

I’m already really looking forward to the next one.