Life updates

Things proceed, as they tend to do.

My old D90 hit a snag last Friday when the shutter release button stopped reliably working. It still works if I hit it at a certain angle (and with a lot of pressure), and I can theoretically still record video with it via live view, but that makes it significantly harder to use. Fortunately, IR remotes are a thing, so I bought one off Amazon that will hopefully allow the camera to keep chugging for a bit longer. And it still is technically usable anyway… I’ve been shooting with it at climbing, and it’s been fine other than taking much longer to take each shot.
(None of its truly functional parts, like the sensor or mirror, are broken, so there’s no real reason to ditch it yet. But given how much it would cost to fix the shutter button versus its value given its age, repairs are not worthwhile.)

Work has been a mess of annoyance and stress. Maybe I’m just expecting too much, but I’ve been running into cases lately where I feel like people doing work either aren’t understanding the task in the way they need to, or are otherwise requiring much more hand-holding than I can reasonably provide given my other duties.
I know I need to step back and give people room to grow, learn, and make mistakes… but at the same time, I don’t want people to put out code I know has issues or is wrong, because it will ultimately come down to me to deal with it. Blah.

Tried to make chicken marsala today, and realized before starting the mushrooms that we were actually out of marsala. Substituted a riesling instead, and I think it actually turned out pretty good.

Max and Yubin came over and we made cupcakes for valentine’s that weren’t very valentine-y, but still cute.

Here are some random photos, because yay photos.






Black Friday, weather, games

Life goes. It’s been busy — hard to believe we’re already halfway through December.

I took advantage of the Black Friday sales surprisingly little this year. I picked up an iPod Touch to replace my Samsung digital camera, at almost $50 off, which was nice. The iPod actually takes better photos, and is generally useful as well in places that have WiFi. It’s been a nice replacement for taking daily photos.
I also picked up season 11 of Supernatural (usual $10), and a few booster boxes of .hack//ENEMY ($3/each) since they’ve been out of print for years and it seems prudent to stock up now while they’re still buyable.
I also bought myself the new computer (a desktop this time) I’ve been wanting for years. My old laptop seems to be having a lot of trouble now, and I wanted something that could actually run Photoshop Lightroom (bought as part of my camera bundle at last year’s Black Friday), so it’s nice. :) Although it’s a little confusing now to sit at my desk and have 4 different keyboards and 3 different mice in front of me… I’ve typed on the wrong keyboard so many times.

We decorated our house for Christmas. Yay for garland things and big red bows!

The weather has been bizarre here lately. Friday it was freezing. Saturday morning the world was ice, and I walked to Giant Eagle and slipped a lot. By Saturday evening, the world was water, and I was overheating in even just a plain t-shirt with a sweater on top (never mind my usual winter coat). Today it’s cold again. Yay weird Pittsburgh.




Owen’s been visiting and there’s been board games.

We had a fun game of Salem where we killed all of the accused people. Also two of my three witches survived. Yay Salem. Also, I feel like the game plays better with 7 people. Everyone starts with totally equal information, and you don’t have to play weird annotation games with the shared colors. Limiting round 2 to 10 minutes and round 3 to 25 minutes also seemed to work well to keep the game moving.

We had a close game of Settlers with our new dice deck. It was a little weird (and maybe more awesome?) because the 8s came out mostly together, the 6s came out mostly together, and the 7s waited almost all for the end. This led to some interesting situations (abundance of wood early, abundance of sheep in the middle game, and sad everyone late game). It actually ended up being really close — Greg was one sheep away from winning for a couple of rounds, and I would have won had I rolled anything other than a 7 (due to having 8 cards and needing 5 of them to build my last city). So yay games.

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.

Gamey portraits

It’s Pi day. Happy Pi day!

It’d been a while since I had done any real photo project, and our new house is begging for things to put on the walls. People came over for games yesterday, so I took advantage of the situation and got some portraits shot for the game room in a crappy makeshift shooting studio in the basement. (This is the photo shoot I had been wanting to do ever since I shot Vincent in William’s stairwell in bright clothing.)




Moar people!


They look pretty good on the wall

I’ll probably get them printed in some nicer format eventually (nice prints in a frame, or maybe canvas prints), but it feels good to be doing photo-y things again. Now I want to shoot more portraits. :X

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