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…

Life, Photo Firsts (Jennie, Matt, Sarah, Alok, Chuck)

It’s the end of another 4-month period, so life‘s photojournal and stats pages have gotten updates.

I’ve also started up the daily photo project again, seeing as my WFH lifestyle was keeping me inside all the time, and it’s good to leave the house daily. Also, I was looking back at the old photo journal, and I rather liked the random snapshots of various things in San Francisco… it differed so much from my usual photography (people) and was fun to look at.

Anyway, I’ve added five (!) new people to the photo stats page this time around, so here’s my first photos of them.

First photo of Jennie T.

August 17, 2002 at the PPA welcome party for the year.

First photo of Matthew S.

August 31, 2001 at the PPA (then UPA) in class.
(He’s on the far left, almost out of the frame.)

First photo of Alok P.

June 26, 2013 at work.

First photo of Sarah L.

January 30, 2013 during lunch with other non-work SF people.

First photo of Chuck M.

January 15, 2010 at work.

Travel travel travel

August is nearly over, and that’s a good thing… it’s been a crazy month. Spent the first half of the month on my own, followed a weekend trip to a wedding in Ohio, then a flight to San Francisco for work, then a flight to Phoenix to see my parents (including a weekend trip up north to Sedona and Page), then a flight home to Pittsburgh. Travel is almost done (still an upcoming flight to Albuquerque for another wedding), but I really wish timing had worked out better or I’d had more advance notice for some of this.

Anyway, yeah. A little more than two weeks ago was Chris’ wedding, and it was pretty. It was held in a small building on an orchard, and had pizza for dinner, and was generally low-key and awesome (thanks in part to the board games in a smaller, quiet room on the side).

Two weeks ago, I flew to San Francisco for work. If the trip had been planned out more than advance, I would have flown straight there from Ohio. Instead, we drove back to Pittsburgh and I got a bit of sleep before waking up early for a Monday morning flight to make it to afternoon work meetings.
It was a nice trip, and I saw a lot of awesome people, but I think I’m getting too old to really do as much stuff with people on trips. There were two dinners with friends, a lot of nice meals with coworkers, and surprisingly many early evenings.

Flew to Phoenix that Friday, and my parents and I made a trip up to Sedona and Page over the weekend. We visited Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and the Glen Canyon Dam, and also had a quick stop in Sedona. There were lots of photos and it was generally a nice time. It would be nice to have more time next time and do things like rafting or boat rides down the river as well.

Managed to see a few Phoenix people as well… caught David, Matt, and Jennie for coffee and dinner, and David again for lunch.

Flew home to Pittsburgh yesterday. Things were uneventful, until the Supershuttle started approaching the house, at which point the light rain that had appeared downtown suddenly picked up a lot… and it started hailing. Fortunately I only had a short distance to go from the street to the house, but everything got rather soaked. Fitting, I suppose, for the misery that comes with so much travel.

More photos of everything can be found at photos.

Here’s some random photos of fun things:

My mom got these seatbelt cover things that are remarkably nice during long car trips… you can sleep against the large head part, and it means your head isn’t flopping around everywhere.



“Not actual size.”



Ice cream crane game!


Draft beer jelly beans…?


In other, entirely unrelated, news, Rock Band has been coming out with awesome DLC lately, including songs like Uptown Girl, Africa, Heaven is a Place on Earth, Everything You Want, Famous Last Words, and Pompeii. I’ve been going through and watching the music videos for the older songs, and they’re extremely *bizarre*.
I think the current winner for “most bizarre” video goes to Heaven is a Place on Earth, although Uptown Girl is probably a close second, and Africa is a reasonable third.

Politics 2016

Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment, but this primary season has been so utterly bizarre that I feel some responsibility to opine on it, even if just for my own future reference.

Here’s some thoughts, in no particular order, in bullet point form. Since I’m sure you already know my thoughts about the candidates themselves, these are some more general thoughts about things that have been bothering me this primary season.

  • Progressives and liberals are continually coming off as more closed-minded to me than many conservatives. Case in point: When Hillary chose Tim Kaine as her running mate, the first reaction I saw from many people was that “he’s pro-life”. Yet every indication is that, despite his personal beliefs, he’s been a champion for a woman’s right to choose and for safe abortion practices in his state. He seems to be an excellent case of not letting personal opinions get in the way of policy, and this is something to be widely lauded, not condemned. Why the hell are people so threatened by people that disagree with them?
    (This keeps coming up, but this also bothered me a lot about Brendan Eich. Who cares what his opinions and finances are as long as he acts appropriately in his capacity as CEO?)
  • For that matter, why is Hillary’s (and Obama’s) changing stances a problem? Do you really want a politician who holds steadfastly to their policies even as times change around them? I totally understand the argument “but she’s saying stuff just to get elected”, but then I see this come up again on how she’s shifted her stance on things like same-sex marriage. People are allowed to change their opinions based on compelling arguments and facts — if anything, this is also something that should be encouraged and lauded, not condemned.
  • Jill Stein has been really pissing me off this primary season, and making me regret having voted for her in the past. I’m all for her doing everything she can to push her party and garner votes, but a lot of what she’s been saying lately has been so utterly ridiculous and irresponsible to me that I have a hard time believing she’s not only a presidential candidate, but actually a candidate that a lot of my friends (that I would normally consider very reasonable people) are somewhat gravitating to.
  • Bernie Sanders is an Independent, guys. He’s not really a Democrat, even though he often voted with (and caucused with) the Democrats. So can you really blame the DNC for being super cautious (and concerned) with his candidacy, especially given what was happening in the Republican camp at the time with Trump? I totally understand the ire and disdain being sent toward the leadership and the bias in the process… but I still think they were in the right with this. If I was a Democrat, particularly one charged with managing the party and nomination process, I would absolutely be terrified and threatened of what Bernie was doing. It’s bizarre to me that so many people can’t see and understand this. They’re acting like the DNC overruled the voice of the people or something. (Because yeah, first it was “Bernie has more votes without superdelegates” and then “Bernie can still win if he gets most superdelegates on board”. He got fewer votes, guys.)
  • As above, I actually think the superdelegates are an extremely good mechanism and I’m sad to see changes to force their votes to be more in line with the popular vote. In a discussion back in March, way before any of this stuff had really hit the fan, I remember everyone basically agreeing that the superdelegates would never overrule the will of the people — to do so would give the impression that Hillary had been coronated and risk throwing unnecessary controversy on the results. (Yeah… that happened anyway. I blame Bernie’s supporters here.) In the end, I think the role of superdelegates is (and should be) to prevent someone like Trump from winning the nomination — someone so absolutely out of touch with the party and politics that he is not only unlikable, but actually threatening both to the party and the country as a whole. I’m sure the Republicans would have loved an equivalent on their end so they could have nominated Kasich (or even Cruz) instead.
  • I actually like Bernie and what he stands for and many of his views. (And I voted for him in the PA primary.) But I think his supporters are so blinded that they refuse to acknowledge any potential fault with his candidacy — mostly his idealism that would prevent most of his agenda from actually being enacted in office, and the fact that his policies would be a *huge* turnoff to older voters. The latter part probably proved moot anyway (now that he would be up against Trump), but it was a huge concern I had when debating my primary vote. Look at the Obama of 2008 and where he is now — he’s managed to get stuff done because he’s softened his stances and worked within the system. Bernie (particularly in defeat) showed me that he’s incapable of doing this.
  • I actually understand a lot of Trump’s appeal, and why people are willing to overlook the parts of him that many people consider to be deal breakers. It bothers me when people automatically label Trump supporters as ignorant or racist or malicious. Just like millions in 2008 felt like Obama was a voice of hope and reason in the screwed up political process, so people feel about Trump now. (But probably even more so given his lack of political experience and no-nonsense attitude.) I wish everyone would try more to find common ground and have legitimate discussions instead of demonizing.
  • I also understand people that say they can’t vote for Hillary. Different people have different deal breakers in politicians. Hillary is certainly a flawed candidate. It bothers me when people outright demonize everyone looking to vote third party. That said…
  • I don’t understand people saying they’ll vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson (or Trump) solely “because Bernie was robbed” (which is a ridiculous assertion in the first place). If you liked Bernie as a candidate for his policies and views… there’s actually remarkably little difference between his and Hillary’s. (Especially now that the two have agreed on a party platform.) The fact that you’re willing to sabotage the progress that you were working so hard for only months before seems extremely petty, irresponsible, and malicious. Vote third party because you agree with their policies, or because Bernie’s appeal was his “outsider” nature (as much as someone who’s been in national politics since at least the 80s can be). Don’t vote third party just because you hate Hillary as a candidate or feel slighted by her, the process, or the DNC.
  • As much as I dislike Ted Cruz’s policies (and disagree that Kasich is a “moderate”), I really respect their reactions to the Trump nomination. They have more of a backbone than a lot of people in the party, at least.

I keep saying that, if I had been born a few decades earlier, I would probably be a Republican. When Republicans govern responsibly (and if you ignore the crap about trickle down economics), they can actually be a reasonable party pushing for personal responsibility, smaller government, and states’ rights. I’m really rather disappointed that the party has been so utterly horrific the entire time I’ve been able to vote.

I haven’t taken any of those “which candidate do you agree with” tests this year since I think it’s important enough to vote Democratic (especially in what’s looking like a particularly important swing state), but I feel like I’ve always agreed more with either the Libertarian or Green parties than the Democrats or Republicans.
It would be nice to live in a country where you could always vote your first preference and see them have a real shot at winning… but being realistic here, there’s really only two candidates for president, and while your vote is your vote, I would really like everyone to seriously consider what would happen if Trump (as opposed to Hillary) won, and how a third-party vote would contribute to such.

Also here’s some links of things I found good to read. I may edit this list and add more links to it later.

Yay for wall of text. :X