Carnival 2014

There was a Carnival. It was awesome to see people again, but for some reason this Carnival ended up being rather more stressful than fun.

Total photo count from Wednesday through Sunday: 2887, edited down to just over 2000… a far cry from past Carnivals where I took around 1000 a day (or, in the case of Carnival 2009, 2255 photos in one 24-hour period).









More photos exist at photos.

Life otherwise has been pretty much the same routine. It’s nice having weekly rock climbing and board gaming.

Pittsburgh weather has been full of crazy. Today it snowed. Yesterday it was really warm. Sunday it was in the 80s.

So yeah.

Life things. Yay.

Climbing, blood work, houses, food

Climbing goes. I actually had a really good day today… got my first top-out on the big top-out wall (this yellow V2 route that Austin is climbing):

and also got my first real V2/3. (I’d gotten a few V2/3s before, but they were clearly misrated V1/2s or V2s.)
Here’s the view (and Maja) from the top of the wall.

I’ve been dumping climbing photos at my photos site in case that interests you. March climbing will be dumped after Friday, since that’s the last climbing day of the month.

In other less happy news, I went and had a routine physical at the beginning of February and had routine blood work done as a part of it. I have now been billed over $300 (after insurance) for the blood work, since apparently they sent the blood to a hospital to process, and I got charged a bunch of hospital rates for the work. Sigh. At least I have insurance… it would be well over $600 without. But I am never getting blood work done again. :\
…And they wonder why people are reluctant to seek medical services.

House hunting continues. It had been slim pickings for a while, but the market seems to be heating up now that the weather is starting to heat up. We saw two houses this past weekend that were interesting.
The first one had a huge, two-story, covered-in-glass room in the back that was really nice. Unfortunately the rest of the house was not so great… it had “three” bedrooms, but one was really awkwardly shaped to be used for anything but an office, and the second had a built-in desk that would make it weird to put a bed in. The kitchen was also rather tiny and had no counter space.
The second had “four” bedrooms, but one wouldn’t have fit a queen bed, a second wouldn’t have fit *any* bed, and the third in the third floor had the stairs in the middle such that you can’t fit anything other than a couch-mode futon in there. So that was fun. They were also asking way too much for it, according to our agent.

In other things, Ben was in town late last week for Simiao’s match day for med school. She got her first choice (yay!) and afterward we all went to dinner at Cure.
It’s probably the fanciest restaurant I’ve been to (at least on-par with Salt of the Earth and Toast), and featured a lot of interesting things. The menus were on nice wooden cutting boards.

Simiao’s drink had little fruit juice beads on an orange peel that looked like caviar and mine had a super-thin slice of some fruit with fruity foam on top.

Juice beads made another appearance in Greg’s cream of mushroom soup, this time in a lime variant. The soup was poured at the table into a plate containing crab meat and other tasty things.

Simiao got the foie blonde, which came with delicious crumbly pistachio stuff, and Lilli’s beef tartare had some odd foamy gel stuff.

The food was, of course, delicious. Greg was not eating meat that day, and was contemplating ordering the lamb gnocchi minus the meat. In the end, he ordered the chef’s vegetarian special and was pleasantly surprised by gnocchi, minus meat, plus veggies.

I ordered the spaghetti carbonara as a safe choice (I really don’t like my meat red, and they don’t serve meat over medium-rare here), and it was delicious. The egg was gummy, so it was cooked through but not so much that it was hard… Simiao thought they’d probably done it sous-vide. Delicious.

Everyone else got hanger steak.

Dessert was also very good… Ben got chocolate souflee cake while Greg, Simiao, Lilli, and I had frozen creme brulee with passion fruit and blood orange.

Ben was silly and paid for the whole thing. Poop on you. But thanks very much. :) It was tasty.

Emily, Card games, Kickstarter games

Emily has complained that I don’t post photos of her anymore, so here are Emilies. Lots of Emilies. Alllll the Emilies! Bouncing Emilies (assuming your browser supports the good old <marquee> tag)!







Click them… if you can. They get bigger.

Life goes. Not much else has been happening. Photos from my San Francisco trip have been posted to photos. It was really good to see Patrick again (in a context that wasn’t the formality of his wedding).

Before I left for SF, I’d ordered some card games for myself (kind of as a belated birthday present), so it may be time to update this list of card games I own. Key is the same as before.

  • Game of Thrones TCG
  • Lord of the Rings TCG
  • MegaMan TCG (Yes) (C)
  • Sonic X TCG (Yes+)
  • Star Wars: Young Jedi CCG
  • World of Warcraft TCG (Yes)

I’m finding it harder and harder to find rulebooks online for many of the games I have, including .hack, the X-Files TCG, and the Fullmetal Alchemist TCG. I’m wondering if it makes sense to enhance my TCG site to compile information on some older games I play as well… things like rulebook scans, starter deck card listings, and general game info. Meh. I can’t really be the only person who still plays some of these CCGs, can I?

Stonemaier games came out with with an expansion to Viticulture called Tuscany. It’s on Kickstarter now, and if you’re into board gaming, I recommend it.
Unfortunately, this means I’ve been dragged back into Kickstarter. In addition to the recently ended character meeple campaign (adorable Dargon the Dragon meeples!), I also found an awesome card game named POOP (yeah, perfect game for me :P) and an interesting dinosaur-based deckbuilding game called Apex Theropod. Still not quite sure what to do about the last one, as it’s reasonably-priced at $38, but my gaming group (and Greg in particular) tends to shy away from deck-building games. But it’s so, so pretty.

I haven’t really made any progress on People Wars lately, since I’ve been doing things 3-4 evenings a week during the week, and Saturday has been declared computer-free day in an effort to do something other than stare at a screen. (I spent most of last Saturday reading books, which was dubbed “cheating” by Greg, so I suppose future Saturdays will involve more things outside the apartment.)
In any case, I’ve reworked the newest set, Hijinks, to be themed around Rock Climbing instead. And similar to how lots of interesting conversations happen and people from different fields mix and mingle, the “Climbing” faction in the game will be themed around “Route” cards (similar to Kiltie characters and Cheer cards) that boot task scoring. We shall see how that works out.

Yay life.

San Francisco, again

I spent the past week in SF for work, and it seems I still can’t get a good travel experience. Last time, I got stuck in Vegas for 12 hours. Having learned that SF arrivals can be at the whim of the weather, I booked my flight into Oakland instead.

The flight itself was fine, and I got in at the expected 9:05 PM. I had booked a Supershuttle because I figured it would be more convenient, and that’s where the trouble started. Called for my shuttle, went to the curb, and waited. 15 minutes later, with no shuttle in sight, I called again and waited on hold for another 10 minutes. Turns out my shuttle had developed a flat tire and the expected pickup time was another 30-60 minutes.

This, obviously, was not good, so I decided to take AirBART and BART into the city instead. Unfortunately, I just missed one while I was on the phone, so I waited another 10 minutes for the next one to leave. Got to the Oakland BART station and found that one of the tracks was out of service, so they were running trains in both directions on a single track, resulting in slower service than usual. I finally made it to the hotel at 10:45 and barely caught the restaurant before the kitchen closed. Sigh.

The trip otherwise was really good. Since the four devs on my team are all in different cities, we’d synced up our visits to meet up. It was the first time the entire team (minus the doc writer, who is in Seattle) was in the same place. Woo.

Monday was a holiday, that none of us had realized before we booked, so we all spent the day individually wandering. I’d tried to sync up with South Bay folks, but no one responded, so I made arrangements to meet up with SF friends for food and karaoke instead. Unfortunately, I was called in for a P0 around 5, so I missed karaoke and instead met up with Zeke and Ian at a bar for food around 8:30.

Wednesday evening was a team happy hour. Over a period of 5 hours, I had four small sangria pitchers (about 6-7 drinks), a couple of glasses of wine, and about 5 cocktails at a beautiful high-up bar called The View. Was fine afterward, and didn’t have a hangover the next morning. I think this might be a new record for myself as far as alcohol goes. Let’s not do this again for a long time, but it’s good to know I still have my tolerance.

The rest of the week was work and usual group dinners, except for Friday when we had a team trip to Napa and Sonoma for wine tasting. That was tasty.

More photos will be added to photos at some point.

I’m currently in Lake Havasu with my parents. The most interesting part of the city is that they purchased, moved, and rebuilt one of the London Bridges. Unfortunately the city itself isn’t all that interesting, especially given that pretty much everything closes down after 6 PM. But we’re enjoying the weather and change of scenery, at least.

Whee things.

Adventures in house hunting

We signed a contract on Friday and spent most of Saturday afternoon going to see houses with our now-official agent.

The first one we saw needed a *lot* of work. The bathrooms were rather old and hideous (and had tile coming off the ceiling), the front porch was having problems and was cracking and sagging, the kitchen needed updating, and the carpet was kind of sketchy. Cheap-ish, but definitely easy to pass over.

The second one we saw was huge and had a super-modern kitchen with granite, stainless steel, and the nicest fridge I’ve ever seen. The bedrooms were all large and one of the bathrooms had been renovated and looked really nice. The biggest surprise, however, was when we went down the stairs to the basement, opened the door that wasn’t to the garage, and found a full two-room apartment, complete with its own kitchen, shower, toilet, and entrance on the side of the house. It was cheap for what it was (especially given the complete apartment with the house), but the location (and lack of a back yard thanks to the hill) made it reasonably easy to pass over as well.

The last one we saw I had been excited about from the listing online, and the house did not disappoint. The bathrooms were fully renovated and so amazingly nice. The house itself had central air and forced air heating, really good quality hardwood floors, and updated wiring throughout the house. It also had a huge backyard, really nice bedrooms, and space for me to have an office on the third floor (which was also really nicely done). Its only real downsides were the lack of covered parking (but it had off-street parking) and distance from things we care about.
I spent the rest of the evening and this morning worrying about the house and wondering if we should make an offer on it or risk losing it. It had been on the market already for 2 months with no offers, so it seemed fairly safe to wait on, but I was concerned that we could lose it and not find anything remote comparable again (given that all the other houses we’ve seen so far have needed significantly more work than this one). Still, given that we’d only seen 8 houses total and were therefore at the beginning of our search in a slow market, it didn’t really make sense to jump on it. But it still didn’t stop me from worrying.

In the end, the problem was solved for us, as our agent called this evening and told us someone else had put an offer on the house, to see what we wanted to do. The result was a rather strong, “Don’t do anything now, and wait and see what happens” sentiment, and made the decision to potentially pass up this house much easier. (Neither of us was willing to jump on the house tonight, which is what would have had to happen if we didn’t want to risk losing it. So fate kind of forced our hand.)
Our agent also sent us examples of comparable listings sold in the last 6 months that did a lot to assuage my concerns, since there were many well-priced houses on the list that were also nicely updated and had many of the important features of this house.

So it’s been an interesting hunt so far. Things will continue more in earnest after I return from my San Francisco trip, and we will hopefully find something awesome.