Volunteering, Arrival, games, cards

Life goes. I’ve been purposely avoiding news and related things because I would like to not know how much of a shitshow this administration is becoming. (Although, from what I’ve heard anyway, it’s already quite a disorganized mess. So we’ll see.)

To do a (very small) part to combat the havoc this administration will wreak on the environment, we switched our house over to 100% renewable energy. It turns out it’s super easy to do… just go to http://www.papowerswitch.com, enter your ZIP code, and choose an option that fits your needs. We’re paying a bit more than normal because we wanted 100% PA-generated renewable energy (as opposed to renewables sourced from arbitrary locations), but it looks like you could actually see a discount in your bill by switching to renewable. So win/win for everyone!

We also went and packaged meals for 2 hours last Saturday with Stop Hunger Now. I don’t know what I was expecting (maybe pulling turkeys and cans out of boxes and repackaging them), but it definitely wasn’t standing in front of a funnel with 5 other people, filling bags with vitamin packets while others poured scoops of rice, dehydrated veggies, and textured soy flour into the bag. Apparently a bag feeds 6 people and contains all the necessary nutrients (thanks partially to the vitamins), and it’s probably a heck of a lot more shelf-stable than more varied foods, so that’s good?

Also on Saturday, we saw Arrival after a failed attempt at short films for the Three Rivers Film Festival (which was sold out by the time we got there). I thought it was actually a really good film… was scientifically (and linguistically) accurate, and managed to not over-emphasize the military or conflict portions of the plot. Given it was a big film, I was expecting them to have escalated the conflict more, or otherwise focus less on the linguist… but they actually did everything really well, and never took away from her and her role in the film. So yeah… really good, and would see again.

We’ve been playing a lot of board games recently, between the usual Thursday board games, hosting board games over here, and having games at Pat’s for his birthday. The recent favorites are Above and Below, which is a really fun worker placement-ish game, and Codenames Pictures, which is like Codenames but with Dixit-crazy images (kangarooasaurus!) of awesomeness. Game photos for the month are up at photos.

I also splurged on some World of Warcraft cards. I’ve been looking for a new defunct TCG to get into, and WoW had base set starter boxes (6 decks, each containing a 30-card deck and 2 boosters) at $15 each, so I got a case of them (it was cheaper than even just buying booster packs), as well as a few boxes of Death Knight and a box of Drums of War.
I actually had some fun luck with decks… the first 8 base set starter decks I opened had different decks (8 of the 9 possible ones). Of course, then it took an entire box (6 decks) to get the last one I needed. After opening 4 boxes of starters, I have at least two copies of each deck. But I also have four copies of the Paladin and Druid decks, so decks (even within a single case) seem to not necessarily be distributed evenly. (One box of 6 decks had two Paladin decks in it.)
Slowly going through packs and decks (two more base set boxes to go), but I should have a good collection to build decks now, much like my .hack//ENEMY collection. Hopefully I’ll be able to find someone to play with me… Max is starting to get back into Magic, which is very similar, and we had a quick evening of card games, so hopefully this will continue.

Also continuing work on the next People Wars expansion. Still haven’t reworked the Facet icon, but cards are coming, slowly.

Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving!

Donations

If this election has you as freaked out as it has me, there are a lot of good causes you can donate to to make sure these upcoming 4 years aren’t terrible for those less fortunate or more vulnerable than you, and to continue to advance progressive causes. Because, when the government won’t, private organizations will have to, but they can’t without us.

Here’s a list of my top priorities, in roughly priority order

  • The ACLU or the ACLU Foundation to help ensure the rights of minorities are not trampled upon
    (The foundation is tax-deductable… there’s information about the differences here)
  • The EFF to help ensure net neutrality and protection against spying and electronic surveillance
  • Feeding America or a local food bank to help ensure those in need will not be devastated by cuts to SNAP
  • Enviornmental Defense Fund or Sierra Club to help protect the environment
  • The New York Times (online subscription, which you don’t have to use) to support quality journalism and reporting
    (Or some quality local paper, which you can either take delivery of or do an online-only subscription to give them more of the money)

Many of these are also tax-deductable, and your company may match your donation, which would be an excellent way to increase the impact of your contribution.

Also, putting my money where my mouth is, I made a $300 donation to the ACLU Foundation today, matched by Salesforce (and will continue to do so, to various organizations in that list, going forward). I encourage you to do the same, in whatever amount you can manage, toward whatever causes you feel are important to you.

Does anyone have any other recommendations for charities that would be good to support at this time?

Edit: Some organizations suggested by FB friends are Lambda Legal, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, NAACP, Doctors Without Borders, RAINN, Slyvia Rivera Law Project, National Immigration Law Center, EarthJustice, Pittsburgh AIDS Taskforce, ProPublica, Mother Jones, the Transgender Law Center, and the Trevor Project.

Election

So a thing happened. I’m surprised, but honestly, not that surprised. I am, however, more than a little terrified of what will happen over the next 4 years.

But I think the important thing to remember is that not everyone that voted for Trump voted out of some malice, or sense of hatred for LGBT people, women, immigrants, or minorities. This is counterproductive, and just turns people against each other. What we need right now is understanding.

I would venture to say that the majority of people voting for him are simply people that are struggling to get by; that haven’t seen improvement or upward direction in their lives and careers, or seen the opposite as their jobs and way of life disappear; that feel like politics have abandoned them. They saw Trump as a way out, or at least figured he was at least some chance at change compared to Clinton.
Try to understand that. Try to empathize with that. I think a lot of us that are shaking our heads right now are fortunate in that we’ve done relatively well in life. Try to understand the lives and views of people that aren’t in that position and why that need for change could trump things that we find important.

And that goes the other way too. If you voted for Trump, try to empathize with the rest of us that right now are feeling abandoned and afraid. If you’re white, male, and/or straight, try to understand the things that people unlike you face and go through in life. Try to understand the fear, and work with us to make sure that people are not bullied, threatened, or killed because of their gender, race, or orientation.

I think the big thing right now is to hope. Hope that Trump surrounds himself with people that have actual policy experience, and listens to them for once. Hope that he, inexplicably, manages to “Make America Great Again”, in some sense, for everyone. Hope that we don’t regress too far backward in longer-term goals like controlling climate change and handling the Middle East. Hope that Trump manages to become more of the man we saw in his victory speech last night now that he no longer has to campaign, and does what he can to unify the country.

Hope.

Edit: Some articles, presented without commentary:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/opinion/election-night-2016/it-is-possible-for-trump-to-bea-good-president (You may need to manually scroll down to the “It Is Possible for Trump To Be a Good President” section, because that page seems to be bad at directly linking one article.)
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/09/opinion/absorbing-the-impossible.html

Edit edit: This is excellent too: http://waitbutwhy.com/2016/11/its-going-to-be-okay.html

Editx3: Also good: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-reasons-trumps-rise-that-no-one-talks-about/

Doors Open and life

Life goes. Things happen. Climbing and game photos from the past two months have been posted. Machi Koro seems to be a winner, but Lupin III seems to be a dud. We also broke out Concept again for the first time in a while… had forgotten how much fun that was.

We recently went to an escape room, the Imaginarium, and it was pretty fun. We got out, with not much time to spare, but it seemed we actually left a ton of puzzles unsolved since there were several locks and a door that we never got open. Oh well.

ITG has also been happening again, which is nice.

This weekend was Doors Open in Pittsburgh, where various downtown buildings open up and let you explore them (with cameras!). We went on Saturday, and saw a variety of buildings… most of them were apartments and hotels, but we also stopped in the Dollar Bank and Engineers’ Society, the former of which was really pretty and the latter of which was rather uninteresting. We also stopped in the city council chamber and mayor’s office, which included a stop in their vault that held pretty much all historical paperwork for the city.

The hotels were also interesting. Two of the three were setting up for a wedding at the time (the third may have been, on some upper floor we didn’t have access to), and seeing the William Penn ballroom all dressed up for a wedding is rather special. Also we got to see a $3000/night suite at the top of the Fairmont, which was also spectacular.
















The PSO was also on strike due to salary and benefit negotiations falling through. That was sad.

Also I am strangely obsessed with Rebecca Black’s new single (apparently she’s gotten rather good at singing) and The Sound of Silence cover by Disturbed.
Relatedly, Rock Band released the latter as DLC this past week, and we tried it today… the game rates vocals as a 3 (while rating Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger as a red 5, and Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl as a 4), which we think is utter bullshit. Yay for bad video game ratings.

I finished FFX Remaster this past Thursday, and the ending never fails to make me cry. I started FFX-2, and I’m just not feeling it, for some reason. I’ve never been a big fan of the ATB battle system, and I think coming to it from FFX’s super strategic battle system, I’m not enjoying combat at all. The music is also rather lackluster compared to X, and so many concepts are thrown at you all at once in the beginning (like dressspheres, skill learning, monster capturing) that I’m feeling rather overwhelmed. I don’t know. I guess at some point I’ll return to it, but unlike FFX, which was occupying much of my free evening time, I haven’t felt the same pull to play X-2.

Here’s weird soda flavors (corn, buffalo wing, bacon, ranch dressing, dirt, and grass) at a soda and candy shop in the Waterfront.

New Mexico and cards

We successfully had a week-long vacation to New Mexico, which included a wedding at the end.
We started by flying into Albuquerque and immediately leaving it, for Santa Fe. We stayed in a small hotel (only about 12 total rooms?) that was really nice and central… around 10 minutes walking distance from the town’s plaza.

We did a lot of exploring around the city, and also did a day trip to Taos to see the pueblo and the Rio Grande gorge.




Then it was off to Albuquerque where we had museums, views and hiking at Sandia peak and more hiking.




Oh, and also a wedding.

The hotel there was the Marriott pyramid hotel, which was really only pyramidal from the front. But it had a awesome view inside, including through the glass backs of the elevators.

Photos of everything can be found at photos.
It was overall a nice trip, and it was good to relax and have time away from work, but I’m very glad to be done with travel for the foreseeable future.

In other, unrelated fun things… I made my largest (in terms of dollars) order of cards yet. A large amount of the cost came from a single item: a case of 10,000 card sleeves ($50)… but now I’m set for life, including all of the deckbuilder games I keep getting. (My only regret here is that I didn’t have the box of sleeves for the Apex deckbuilding game, for which I bought like 8 or 9 packs of sleeves alone.)

The order included a box of LoTR CCG Black Rider starter decks, a box of L5R Seeds of Decay starter decks, a box Megaman TCG Grand Prix starter decks, six boxes of Megaman TCG Grand Prix and Grave booster packs, a box of Star Wars TCG starter decks, a box of Young Jedi starter decks, a box of VS System Fantastic Four starter decks, a Tribbles CCG box, a WoW TCG Icecrown Citadel raid deck, and the box of sleeves. The raid deck I think will be a reasonable thing to take to games night as well, since it plays four (in a 3 vs 1 format).

The order also included two board games, one of which was Machi Koro, and was the entire impetus for the order in the first place. It was on sale for $25 (deluxe version), but the shipping for it by itself was already $14. Given the rarity of my orders from TCG specialty stores, I took advantage of the situation to get a bunch of other stuff I’d had my eye on. Overall shipping on the ~48 pound box was only $20, so it was definitely worthwhile in that respect.

Now to find people to play more defunct TCGs with me…