Late Night Musings

It’s been a while since I’ve gone back and re-read old journal posts, but a phone conversation this evening inspired me to go back and look at old locked LiveJournal posts from the end of Freshman year.

In the process of doing so, I read back through all of the posts I’d made. And I’d made a heck of a lot of posts, mostly angsting, but sometimes about happy things. But the best part is that I can go back, read the posts, and remember my emotions and thoughts at that time. And while a lot of it is stuff that I would rather have forgotten about (like my terrible roommate experience the summer after my Sophomore year, or thoughts when I found out my dad had cancer, or my breakup), a lot of it is also super happy things, like anniversaries or the first inklings of a relationship. Those happy posts, in particular, are the most interesting to re-read (and those moments, to re-experience) now given I’m getting married in less than 4 months. (Holy crap!)

I angst less now. At least, I’d like to think so. Maybe this is a part of growing up and having more stability in life. Maybe I actually angst just as much but privately instead of in journal posts.

I don’t post nearly as much now as I used to. I don’t post in nearly as much (personal) detail now as I used to. In some ways, that’s sad, because I look back on some posts and I really can’t put myself back in my own shoes. But I pretty much also now only post publicly. Maybe I should start using LiveJournal again sporadically.

There really is no point to this entry. I haven’t done a musing-type entry in a while, so perhaps I was overdue.

I’m just thankful for all of my friends, even if sometimes I forget how awesome they are and how much they’ve been there for me in the past.

And congratulations again to you, mysterious caller. You know who you are, and you are awesome, and I’m glad we’re friends.

Thanksgiving, KoL, wedding

KoL goes interestingly. The challenge path that ended the middle of last month was Heavy Rains, which I found to be a very interesting challenge path. I hit my first non-BIG 3 day runs, got my first sub-700 turn hardcore run, and generally was doing well with the path. Then, when I discovered I was actually on the leaderboard for path dedication, it became somewhat of an obsession. I chained 3-day runs repeatedly, so I was ascending every 2 days. I kept it up even while I was in Chicago for Ben’s wedding. It got to the point where I was no longer ascending because I enjoyed it, but because I felt like I had a responsibility to keep doing so.
I guess I get a little overly obsessive at times.
On the plus side, the 34 Heavy Rains runs I ended up finishing netted me a ton of Beautiful Rainbows, many millions of meat, and a ton of karma such that I have now permed every Accordion Thief, Disco Bandit, and Sauceror skill, with plenty left over.
I’ve already completed two of the new challenge path, Picky. I didn’t find it as annoying as I was expecting, even though I definitely felt the lack of skills at times. I think the skills I should always take are
Advanced Saucecrafting, Pastamastery, Transcendent Olfaction, Cannelloni Cocoon, Smooth Movements, Saucemaven, Phat Loot Lyric, and Sonata of Sneakiness. The other stuff depends on the class you’re running; you can buy a lot of useful skills in-run.
Max has also started playing, so it’s really nice to have someone I can talk with about the game. Hopefully he will stick with it.

I’ve been watching House ever since Amazon had a sale on the complete series ($60!). I’m currently on season 6, and while the show has gotten a bit formulaic, I can see why it won so many awards. It’s one of the most well-written shows I’ve ever watched with awesome characterization. It does a good job of blending the mystery-of-the-week in with the storylines of the main characters and holding viewers’ interest while doing so. Highly recommended, if you haven’t seen the series and are considering doing so.

I had a Thanksgiving. It was nice, both because of the lack of work and the abundance of people, food, and board games.

Thanksgiving was followed by Black Friday, which we avoided. But it meant lots of nice online sales, so we were able to buy board games and custom cards for our wedding for cheap. We ventured out on Saturday when the stores had calmed down a bit and also got some more supplies for our wedding invitations. Also picked up some TV shows on DVD I’d been eyeing for a while. Spent a good $300 or so, but it was all stuff I had been wanting or needing anyway, so that’s good.

Wedding planning is going. We got all of the save the dates sent out, and have received some responses already from people (despite not having sent out formal invites or having an RSVP system set up yet). It looks like it will be fun times. We’ll start work on the actual formal invitations soon, so that will be lots of fun.

Wedding Stress

Wedding planning proceeds at a good pace, although it is generally stressing me out way more than it should. We booked our officiant this past week, as well as the room block at a hotel in the area. We also registered the domain and put up the website. And designed and printed the save the dates. And that’s what’s currently causing me undue grief.

We didn’t have any good photos of us to use, so we enlisted the help of our friend Vincent to take some engagement photos for us. They turned out decently (although I guess not exactly what either of us had in mind), and save the dates were duly created, but the process of doing that meant we were a bit further behind in getting them printed to send out.

We looked at various options for printing. Costco has a good deal at 50 cards for $14.99, but they do 6″ by 7.5″ cards, which is rather ridiculously big for something like a save the date. Instead, we figured we’d get them printed at the Fedex/Kinkos in the area, and we could get 4 to a 8.5″ by 11″ page.

So we did that tonight. And while the colors printed well, the print has streaks and lines in it (supposedly from the rollers in the machine). The guy was also rather unpleasant to deal with, refusing to print just one front-and-back copy for us to see first. (He instead ran 19 copies of the black-and-white back, then ran one of those with a color front for us to look at, so we were kind of stuck with a minimum of 19 sheets of printed paper even if we decided we didn’t like the result… which we didn’t.) We ended up getting them printed there anyway, but I think neither of us was particularly happy with either the process or the end result. But at this point, there isn’t much we can do since we need to get them in the mail soon. Sigh.

The officiant has also been causing me a bit of stress. After an awesome in-person meeting two Saturdays ago, we were sure we wanted to sign her, because we liked everything that we’d discussed and the conversations about her methodology and style. But then it became impossible to reach her… she never answered her phone, didn’t return our voice mails, and took several business days to respond to our email saying we’d like to sign with her. In the end, we got it done, but it left me with a rather unhappy feeling about the whole thing. And it took almost a full 7 days from our attempted “we want you” call to her to when we actually dropped the contract in the mail.
I’m sure she will be awesome as far as the actual ceremony goes, but I still wish it was easier to get in contact with her. She stands in rather stark contrast to the other officiant we were looking at, who responded to all of my emails (in great detail) within 24 hours.

The room block contract was also a minor pain point, since the original contract said I was liable for damages to hotel property by our guests (which I imagine was a carryover from the standard event-space rental contract). Got a revised one today, but it was just a bit of annoyance to have to run to campus to print it again.

Wedding costs are likewise stressing me out. I guess I’ve never been good at spending money, and as the projected cost of things continues to rise past our original and revised and re-revised estimates (our original “less than $15,000″ estimate seems ridiculously laughably low now), I sometimes wish there was something reasonable we could scale back. Unfortunately, at this point, that would consist of things like cutting the alcohol, which is probably not terribly ideal. (We’re at least limited in party size by the room capacity, so our guest list can’t keep expanding. We already had to make some tough decisions about who we wanted to invite due to capacity.)

I guess the lesson here is to never get married. Or if you do get married, elope instead of having a wedding. :\

Work and KoL are also excessively stressful right now, but I think this post has gotten long enough, so those may be a topic for a future date.

Chicago, wedding #4

Ben and Simiao got married this past weekend at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, so we took the opportunity to go on a much-needed vacation and headed over the Sunday before via the Amtrak.

Or, at least, we tried to go via the Amtrak. Turns out they were having line trouble between Toledo and Chicago which meant both that we were two hours late leaving Pittsburgh despite the train being there on time (because the crew had exceeded their working hours or something), and we were woken up in Toledo and transferred to a cramped charter bus for the rest of the trip. So much for taking the more-comfortable Amtrak over the Greyhound. :(

Chicago turns out to be a wonderous land where the Walgreens sell frozen yogurt (with fresh fruit toppings), the Starbucks have a beer and wine selection, the people don’t seem very friendly, and the drivers honk all the time at nothing in particular. Interesting to visit, certainly, but not somewhere I’d really want to live.

We made quite a few trips out to the Bean.

The Chicago marathon was also that weekend, so we encountered a lot of marathon-related things, including rows upon rows of port-o-potties and chain-link fences that seemed quite out of place in the parks.

Ben had a bachelor’s party on Thursday evening. We tried to make it out, but it turns out the Blue line was having serious issues, with trains arriving overpacked and only one or two people able to squeeze into each car at the station.

After being unable to board 4 trains in a row, we gave up and met up with them for dinner instead, which ended up being amazingly tasty.

But mostly we spent the week wandering the city before transferring out to a hotel in Lisle on Friday before the wedding. We took the Metra train, which seems pretty much exactly like the Caltrain. The seats had a neat property though where the backs swiveled over the seat itself so you could face either direction or create little seating areas that faced each other. Kind of an awesome feature.

Saturday was the wedding, and we took advantage of the free admission to the Arboretum to wander it for a bit in the morning. We had no car and walk everywhere anyway, so we walked the 2.5 miles in, but it turns out the Arboretum doesn’t really expect people to wander in by foot. As a result, we ended up standing in a line of cars going to the entry booth while a bunch of confused volunteers kept asking if we were okay. So that was fun.

The wedding itself was beautiful. It was the quickest ceremony I’ve ever seen (less than 7 minutes from the time the officiant walked out the door to when he walked back in again after having married them), but it was still awesome. And you couldn’t beat the view.

The food, booze, and company were all awesome, and it was rather a shame to head home Sunday evening via the Metra to an L train to a plane to a Port Authority bus. Our great luck at Chicago public transit never failed us, with trains usually arriving shortly after we got to the platform, but gave out in Pittsburgh when we missed the 28X by a matter of seconds.

More photos can be found at photos.

That’s it for weddings this year (thank god). Next wedding is in March, followed by ours in April. Yay for more weddings?

Wedding venue, houses

We signed a contract for our wedding venue last Thursday, so we now officially have a place and a date!

Last weekend we actually looked at three places, thanks to some last-minute searching and emailing. In addition to the planned stop at the Children’s museum, we also took a look at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association and the Wyndham Grand downtown.

Our first stop was the PAA, and we liked it so much that it made the rest of the day rather anticlimactic. The venue itself was gorgeous, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the food. But their prices are also remarkably cheap (relatively speaking, anyway). And they have a bowling alley in the basement you can rent out.

Next up was the Children’s museum. It was pretty much what I expected as far as the rental spaces. The rest of the museum was a little disappointing though… it was my first time there, and while there were a lot of interesting things, it wasn’t anything that I would see holding the attention of wedding guests for an extended period of time. The best part was the third-floor water exhibits, but that would be expensive to rent (would probably have to do the whole museum) as well as a bad idea (formal wear + water = unhappiness). So it was nice, but not as nice as the PAA with bowling option.

Finally was the Wyndham Grand. It was certainly a beautiful venue (especially the ballrooms surrounded by glass), but it was quite expensive and also felt very hotel-y. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when you’re comparing it to other (cheaper) places, it just doesn’t feel very special. But Ashley was certainly friendly and very accommodating of our 24-hour-notice request to tour the place (which ended up being during a busy all-day Indian wedding, no less), so it had that going for it. (We were more interested in the smaller first-floor rooms due to size and cost, but they really didn’t feel special at all… just generic meeting space that could be set up for food and people.)

But overall, I think the bowling sealed the deal for the PAA. I had been concerned about people that didn’t like board games having things to do during the reception. Bowling fixes that, and their rental rate was also very fair.

At this point, we’re also close to signing the photographer (have the contract with me right now, actually) and are working on the officiant. Once those big three are done, it’ll be time to continue on with the more fun and awesome parts of planning.

I think our budget at this point has become “whatever it ends up costing”. We’re definitely going to be over $22,000 and will likely exceed $25,000 depending on how many people come. I think that also gives us the dubious honor of spending more on our wedding than anyone we know. I suppose we’re fortunate in that we can afford whatever ends up happening, and it’s really just a once-in-a-lifetime event. But it still feels wrong to me to be spending the cost of two cars on one evening of festivities. Meh?
I think the main unexpected cost is turning out to be the alcohol. Pennsylvania already has expensive alcohol, and the markup from the venue-provided-only alcohol is fairly substantial. I suppose we could always look into doing a “dry” reception (I know that a lot of people coming don’t drink at all), but there’d be a bunch of really disappointed people as well. (We could’ve saved a few thousand by going with a venue that allowed DIY alcohol and bringing it, but the only one that allowed that that we’d been looking at was the Children’s museum.)

We also saw another couple of houses last week. The first one was a huge disappointment… looked beautiful outside, and looked nice when you walked in the front door. But it became apparent as you walked around that they had just done a lot of last-minute patching work to make the place seem nice. The second floor was also terrible (thin, worn-down wood floors, broken light switches) and the basement was a disaster. And they wanted $400,000 for it. We were joking that we’d probably pay $150-$200k given the amount of work it would require, but I don’t think we would actually want to do as much work as would be necessary.

The second was very interesting. The first floor had been redone as an open floor plan, and as such only had two rooms. But it just didn’t work very well with the layout of the door and stairs, and also the design ended up making the place look more industrial or businessy than homey. The second floor wasn’t much better either… dark, rather old looking, and small. Our agent pointed out that a lot of the workmanship was also subpar. And they wanted $390,000 for it. So, yeah.

The house hunt continues. At least wedding plans are starting to take shape.

My photojournal has also been updated through the end of September. Just because.