I am a consumer whore (and how)

It’s 4:30 AM right now, but given the recent positive experiences I’ve had, I would be remiss to not report on it.

Some of you may know that I’ve wanted Rock Band and/or Guitar Hero for a while… basically since I first moved to San Francisco and before I became overly stingy about money. When I was seriously considering this idea again last year, Rock Band 3 had been out of print for so long that it was going for ridiculous amounts of money online, and I couldn’t justify spending nearly $1000 to buy the game, an extra guitar controller, and a PS3 to play it all on.

Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live were released earlier this year, and I figured I should get them now (after basically waiting almost 8 years, and given we now have a house and therefore a place to play it), especially when Black Friday sales were happening. So I got Rock Band at $50 off (online via Target) this past Monday, and ordered Guitar Hero Live on Amazon (at $40 off).
But that evening, I made a physical trip to the Target store in our neighborhood, and happened to walk past the games section, where they were having a one-day sale on Guitar Hero at 40% (or $60) off. So it was entirely by happy coincidence and luck that I saved another $20. (Amazon fortunately made it easy to cancel the order, so I didn’t end up with two copies of Guitar Hero.)

I also figured I should actually spend the work Amazon credit that had been earmarked for a new camera lens for a while, given all the steep discounts happening right now.
I’d been debating for months (since I got the credit in late August, basically) about getting the D610 full-frame camera body, versus just a lens, versus upgrading my existing body to the DX-format D7100. But, in the end, I couldn’t justify spending nearly twice the price on a body just to get FX (sale prices of ~$800 versus ~$1500), and Amazon was having some pretty awesome discounts on a D7100, 18-140mm lens, and Photoshop Lightroom bundle, so I sprang for it yesterday (Wednesday) morning. It will be really nice to have the new camera and lens.

Black Friday deals started up in earnest today (pretty much 4.5 hours ago at this point), so I ordered the PS4 ($50 off pretty much everywhere; I got it from Amazon) and some discounted games (FFX/X-2 Remaster, Until Dawn; $20 and $40 off respectively) and things are awesome.

And it turns out… shipping nowadays is really fast. Rock Band, which was ordered from Target late Monday night, actually shipped from within PA and arrived at the house this past evening (Wednesday). I was glad there were housemates to bring the package indoors so it doesn’t have to sit outside until we return from Thanksgiving.

The camera body, which shipped hours after I placed the order, also shipped from within PA and had a delivery date of Friday, which was clearly not going to work. (And be even more problematic, because while it’s one thing to let a $250 game sit outside and potentially get stolen, it’s entirely another to leave a $1000 camera body outside.) And this is where Amazon is awesome.

I know a lot of people complain about how Amazon treats its workers and how it strangles publishers and other competition… but from a consumer standpoint, Amazon is pretty much perfect. I hopped onto a chat and explained the situation, and the rep was simply like, “Yeah. That makes total sense. Let me contact UPS and tell them to delay delivery until Monday.”
Simple, effective, and it took about 5 minutes of typing into a chat window (with phone options available for those so inclined). This is what all customer service should be like.

(Related note: I kind of feel like websites should not only have delivery windows when ordering, but also allow you to specify restrictions like, “Item cannot arrive before X date”. Seems like it’d be particularly important around holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, where items arriving early can conflict with travel plans. But maybe this isn’t a thing that comes up too often in practice? Maybe I’m just unusual for hitting it twice within a period of 3 days.)

So that was really nice, until I happened to check the D7100 bundle I’d bought again a little bit ago, and found that the price had dropped $90. It was entirely my fault — I should have waited until actual Black Friday deals to get it, I guess — but I figured it didn’t hurt to at least ask…
So I hopped into another Amazon chat, explained the situation, and had a $90 refund against my credit card with no fuss. Magic.

So yeah… it’s been a nice shopping experience this year, between Amazon having awesome customer service and being able to take advantage of all the Black Friday sales online (and, in some cases, as early as this past Monday). I’ve spent more in the last 72 hours than probably all my discretionary spending in the last two years combined, which makes me feel a little weird about things. But I suppose most of it has been stuff I’ve been wanting for years anyway, so it’s more like I’m taking advantage of the specific sale period rather than buying random things?

Yay for basement video game room. :D

400k photos and electrical woes

This past Friday was a fun milestone: I broke 400,000 photos tagged in Photoshop Album — Album is reporting 400,307 photos tagged through today.

Here are the dates on which I took each 25,000th photo as well as the number of days between each 25,000th photo.

25,000 50,000 75,000 100,000 125,000 150,000
January 12, 2004 October 20, 2004 April 10, 2006 April 20, 2007 December 4, 2007 February 7, 2009
282 days 537 days 375 days 228 days 431 days
150,000 175,000 200,000 225,000 250,000 275,000
February 7, 2009 July 4, 2009 April 14, 2010 September 4, 2010 June 23, 2011 December 23, 2011
147 days 284 days 143 days 292 days 183 days
275,000 300,000 325,000 350,000 375,000 400,000
December 23, 2011 August 24, 2012 June 2, 2013 February 17, 2014 March 21, 2015 November 13, 2015
245 days 282 days 260 days 397 days 237 days

Here’s updated stats for my two cameras. I now also use my work iPhone for photos sporadically, but those numbers are not represented here. Perhaps I should pull those in next time I do a stats post.

Samsung SL30 July 27, 2009 – October 1, 2015 2257 days; 6.18 years 20,772 photos $70 9.2 photos per day 0.34¢ per photo
Nikon D90 February 26, 2010 – November 15, 2015 2088 days; 5.72 years 196,539 photos $780 94.13 photos per day 0.40¢ per photo
252,751 shutter releases 121.05 shutter releases per day 0.31¢ per shutter release

And the usual graphs… Number of photos taken by month, log scale y-axis:

Same thing but with a linear y-axis (second graph only includes time after graduation from CMU):

Total number of photos taken through time (second graph only includes time after graduation from CMU):

And amount of time between 1000 photos (second graph only includes time after graduation from CMU, so it starts at 131,000):

Here’s the 400,000th (tagged) photo. It’s our electrician getting a wire through the ceiling so we can replace the second-floor panel with a better one.

Which (finally) brings me to the fun we’ve been having with our house.

One of the things the inspection for the house (before we bought it) brought up was the lack of grounded outlets, and general knob-and-tube wiring, on the second floor of the house. Obviously, since I work from home with computers, and we have 6 computers between us, it was pretty important to get this remedied. We got quotes from quite a few electricians, and eventually settled on Patco Electric, as Pat was very thorough and also friendly and easy to get along with.

He comes Thursday to start the work, and things proceed reasonably.

Once the knob-and-tube wiring is out and the panel disconnected, we run into a minor snag upon discovering that the first floor’s living room light, foyer light, and porch light are also fed from the second floor. Not too terrible though… easily fixed by running a wire down from the second floor. (We were pulling up the floors anyway to avoid cutting holes in the plaster walls, so pulling up a few more boards wasn’t an issue.)

Friday, the work continues, and I took the day off work to sit in the house and be available in case things go wrong. The first part of the day proceeds awesomely… they successfully fish the new main wire to the second floor through the first floor closet and into the basement, then through the (finished) basement ceiling and around most of the room to get it into the panel.

It took a couple of tries, and eventually required cutting a hole in the ceiling as the fish stick was able to get through but the thicker cable wasn’t — cutting revealed that the stick was passing through a ~1cm gap between beams that the cable couldn’t have. But that was fine, and the rest of the work proceeded mostly as expected.

The problem came up when they turned the power back on to the second floor. The ceiling light fixtures in three of the four rooms didn’t come back on, even though they hadn’t previously turned off when cutting the knob and tube power. Cue lots of searching by the electricians. A few hours later, it turns out the previous electricians had done some mess of wiring — the ceiling lights have a hot wire coming from somewhere else (probably the third floor), but their neutral line was going through the second floor knob-and-tube wiring. This basically meant they were not shut off via the second-floor circuit breaker, but were dependent on it to complete the circuit, so its removal meant they no longer worked.

The electrician is coming back next weekend to rewrire those lights as well, but yeah… yay for horrible previous people doing horrible things. I guess that’s what we get for buying such an old house. :P

Saturday was a nice break from things, and we spent the day at William’s house where David was having an “experimental music birthday party”. For us non-musical people, it was mostly hanging out and talking, which was interesting anyway. Here’s a fun photo of Vincent in Wiliam’s basement stairwell.

I have an urge now to shoot people in bright clothing against a white background (maybe with board game components?), blow out the saturation for effect, and then print and frame these photos for the game room or something. Perhaps a project like that will happen at some point.

Housey House (and pumpkiny pumpkins)

Our housemates had a pumpkin carving party again. Lots of interesting pumpkins happened this year. I carved a fake foam “carvable pumpkin” that was actually pretty neat. (More photos at photos.)

But this weekend was house things! Austin was awesome and drove us to Home Depot yesterday, where we proceeded to spend over $200 on things like hedge clippers, garden hoses, gardening gloves, a step stool, brooms, buckets, dryer things, and other house stuffs. We spent the day cleaning the first floor rooms, as it unfortunately rained most of the day.

Today the rain stopped, and the awesome David, who lives at the other end of our street, loaned us his manual lawnmower and battery-powered weed whacker, and we had a pretty fun day mowing, trimming trees, and generally doing yardwork. My big accomplishment was reconnecting the dryer exhaust pipe and hooking up our new flexible dryer tube to it, to replace the old solid pipe that had fallen off and dumped lint everywhere (including inside the wall where the pipe had also detached). That was fun.

Yay for home ownership?

House to the future

I’d been feeling rather melancholy for the past few weeks — nothing much happening other than work and the usual routine of board gaming and rock climbing. There was some softball practice with Greg’s softball team, and I got a few nice shots out of that.

David also hosted a bonfire at his house.

But today was special for a couple of reasons…

Today is Back to the Future day, where Marty and Doc go to the future (October 21, 2015) to help his son and set an entire series of events in motion. William hosted a movie night at his house where we watched the movie. I think the best part was the end where we were watching the credits and everyone, seemingly at once, spotted Elijah Wood’s name as some random kid character. So we return to the scene, and it is indeed him.

And secondly, we bought our house today! (Here’s me with our agent and a celebratory bottle of champagne.)

This weekend will be full of yardwork and house cleaning things, and it will be awesome. We need to get some electrical work done, but after that, it should be totally good to move in to. Looking forward to buying furniture and getting everything into place. :)


Four posts in one month?! What is this madness?

I got a bear. His name is Bob. He’s ridiculously cute, and also rather large and very cuddly. He makes a reasonable spouse-substitute while I am by myself.

I spent a large part of the day re-reading old journal posts, and as seems to happen every time I do this, I keep feeling a sense of nostalgia for things that are no longer a thing. So here is a list of things that I wish still happened or miss or generally am thinking about.

  • I wish people still wrote long-form journal posts.
    I don’t really follow Facebook, but the few times I do sign in (mostly to send messages to people) and see stuff… it’s never in-depth and interesting the same way LiveJournal or Xanga or individual blogs were. I still read LiveJornal daily, and it’s still nice to see some people posting there, but it’s not nearly the same quantity or level of engagement it used to be. See also: I *can* go back and read through everything again years in the future. I don’t really think the quantity-to-quality ratio on Facebook is nearly good enough for that (even if you display just your own posts… if that’s even a thing you can do), and even if it was, you’re contending with the horribleness of Facebook around you just trying to read years into the past. (Also, I like being able to go back and read past years of other people’s journals. Really wish people still kept those.)
  • I miss the college environment.
    Not the classes, but the general “people are around and you can go to a friend’s room for board games any time.” I guess I’m super fortunate in that I have a lot of awesome friends around and we play board games a lot (every Sunday and Thursday for the last 3 weeks! :D), but it still feels somewhat different to have to schedule things. But board games are still awesome. (Photos from the last month of gaming have been posted to photos.)
  • I love being married.
    It’s amazing to have someone always around with you, even if you’re just sitting at your respective computers watching YouTube, or sitting next to each other reading. A lot of my older unhappy posts seem to involve feeling lonely, or wishing someone was around just so someone was *there*. And it’s really nice to not have to worry about that anymore. (Well, except for when one of us is on a business trip… like right now.)
  • I used to take much better photos than I do now.
    This is true of both portraits, and more abstract photography. I look back at things I’ve posted on my journal, and I just wonder how I’ve managed to get so much worse at photography, while being significantly more technically knowledgeable now. I guess I also miss college campuses for the ability to sit and watch (and photograph) the world… some of my best shots have been random outdoor things with (sometimes random, unknown) people, and that doesn’t really happen anymore in the world of 9-5, see-people-on-weekends, gaming-in-the-evenings adulthood. (For one, the lighting is much worse.) I wonder if I take photos more now out of some sense of responsibility, or fear of missing something important, rather than actually enjoying photography.
  • My laptop is 5 years old.
    And it has never had a reformat or reinstall of Windows. I’m actually really amazed it’s still running so well, all things considered.
  • I should work on card games again.
    RPG Get! still remains one of my more interesting concepts (especially the latest constructed-deck variant that has never gotten beyond some conceptual index-card cards), and I wish I had the motivation or time to dedicate to it that it deserves. But with life being what it is, I find I’d rather spend free time either relaxing with mindless things to destress from work, or with people doing things like board gaming.
  • Adulthood is weird.
    I guess I’ve been an adult for a while now. But it’s still really weird to me that my friends are all going to start turning 30 soon, and that we’re allowed (and have) so much responsibility. Sometimes it feels like I should still have someone excusing me to the bathroom… and it’s really weird when I start looking at things like buying a house, or booking plane tickets, or deciding to take vacation time. I guess I really like the freedom, but at times I miss the balance of freedom and decisions provided by college.
  • I miss #cslounge and SF people.
    It’s been a long time since I’ve really seen SF people outside the core gaming group that meets up with me every SF trip. Part of it seems to be that they’ve gotten so difficult to reach (no one seems to really use email anymore?), and part of it is that I”m never there long enough to have time for south bay. But there was a nice sense of connection and togetherness that came both in-person with clusterness and after-college with #cslounge that I guess I’ve stopped being as interested in, but still miss?
  • I used to play more video games.
    Primarily PSO, but also some random Gamecube and Dreamcast games. Video games have gotten so weird nowadays, I don’t think I’d be interested in them anymore, but I still feel some sense of nostalgia for the games I did play. I guess Kingdom of Loathing, at this point, is really the only thing I have time for though.

I don’t know. We’re closing on a house in less than a month, so I guess that’s a new chapter of my life. And while I think my life is awesome and I am super fortunate to be where I am with things the way they are, I still feel a sense of longing for some of the past.

This was a wall of text, so let’s close with some more photos from this month’s gaming.

All tokens on the same space in Trajan.

Steampunk Rallying. (I finished the game with a 1-card contraption, and was extremely close to blowing up. Yay bad planning.)

Immediately blocked from building where I wanted to in Kingdom Builder. Was trying to connect tiles for points, but other players got the terrain types and immediately played where I’d wanted to play. So that was sadness.