Breaking all the things

It’s been an interesting few days in life… mostly full of things not working properly and/or frustratingly.

On Monday, I set about installing the latest Windows 10 updates on my desktop. Apparently one of the updates was a large enough change that it caused Photoshop to require re-activation. Which wouldn’t be a real problem, except that Adobe took down the CS3 activation servers earlier this year. The workaround was to download a version of Photoshop that didn’t require online activation (from the official Adobe website; which required installing some software to download it, too) and obtain a new offline serial number.
So that process was reasonably straightforward, but when I went through the uninstall/reinstall process… it failed. The newly installed version continued to request re-activation, rather than activation, and wouldn’t give me a way to use the new offline serial number.
In the end, I found the solution on their forums (clear some cache directory on your computer) and was able to get Photoshop working again.

Except the process of clearing the cache screwed up my installation of Photoshop Elements (which I use for the Organizer functionality for my photos). Fixing that required another uninstall and reinstall of Photoshop Elements, which fortunately was uneventful. (I was a little worried about the photo library database file.) Still, it’s a great example of why DRM only hurts legitimate consumers of your product: People that have always been using a cracked version of CS3 would never have run into problems due to the activation server EoL. People that bought it have to jump through hoops to get a new installer and get things working again.

On Tuesday, I did laundry. And some felt ring in the dryer came unattached, and is no longer part of the dryer. We’re trying to figure out how much it matters, and if we should care enough that we should get it fixed before using the dryer again. But that’s just even more of a mess to deal with.

We drove to my in-laws’ for Thanksgiving on Wednesday. It was our first time trying to use our new EZ Pass on the Ohio toll roads… so of course, when we go to drive through the toll gate to enter the turnpike, the system is broken. They give us a “breakdown ticket” instead, but then when we got off the turnpike, the gate just opened to let us through, and the tollbooth attendant seemed uninterested in collecting the ticket. So we were concerned about getting charged the correct amount until the charge registered on the account (which only happened today, and fortunately registered correctly). So boo for technology.

Yesterday (or, more accurately, early this morning) was Black Friday sales, starting at some time around midnight. I tend to save up a list of the things I want to buy during a year, and get them while they’re on sale. (Persona 5 for $30!) I collected together my list, saw that almost everything on my list was on sale at Best Buy (because I guess Black Friday deals are mostly the same across all retailers now and Best Buy stocks all the stuff?), and patiently waited for the deals to become active on the site. They finally did around 1 AM and then… the site crashed. It was mostly unresponsive, I was unable to add items to my cart, and the checkout process glitched out many times (fortunately, always before asking for credit card information). I ended up waiting for the deals to become active on Amazon instead (which took until ~3 AM), and getting them there, but it was unnecessarily frustrating. Websites that expect to host Black Friday deals online really should be better at handling the server load of Black Friday deals.
Mostly cranky about this because it meant I got two hours less sleep than I would have, and because I’m particularly wishing I had just slept normally and tried to buy things the next morning. Next year, perhaps, this shall be the plan.

Finally, today I tried to log in to Facebook (to check messages, which is really the only thing I use FB for anymore)… and ran into their latest and greatest form of two factor: Apparently the new method gives you the names of five of your friends (randomly selected, it looks like?), and requires you to either call three of them (or talk to them in person), and have them go to a page to obtain a 4-digit code for you to enter. I was fortunate in my case that I actually have the ability to contact any of them (albeit indirectly, in some cases, via a friend who actually has their contact information), but I really wonder what would happen if three of the five were people you knew mostly (or entirely) indirectly, or only extremely casually. Would you just lose the ability to access your account forever? I kind of feel like this process was not thought through very well.
It’s also particularly amusing, or perhaps heavy-handed, when a person you contact actually goes to get a code… it asks them to confirm how they talked to you (over the phone, email/text, or not at all). I understand the desire for security, and as someone that builds two-factor mechanisms for work appreciate the innovation, but this particular method seems perhaps a bit too unforgiving. It seems particularly rough given that a lot of people can *only* be contacted on FB messenger these days, but it mostly just reminds me why I hate closed systems and stopped using Facebook in the first place. (Now if I could only contact everyone I needed to via email…)

So, as nice as the holiday has been, it’s generally been a frustrating week. Hopefully everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, though. :)

Strict Koenigs-Pittsburgh Hike, Attempt Two

A bridge was out, so we made another attempt at a constructive proof of the Koenigs-Pittsburgh bridge problem yesterday. We were joined by Keith, Dan, Christian, and Edward, and dutifully set off on our 27 mile hike to cross every pedestrian-navigable trans-three-river bridge with both endpoints in Pittsburgh. The first one, of course, was the furthest, taking almost 7 miles to get to, and a further 4 to the next bridge.



We, however, found ourselves foiled at our attempts to cross the Liberty Bridge, as the pedestrian walkway was closed due to bridge construction, and the detour signs led to the Smithfield bridge. We decided to also skip the 10th street bridge (which was a bit of a detour anyway, on the original route), and instead skip to the Smithfield, putting us downtown at a better lunch time anyway.

I skipped out after lunch with Keith (who had somewhere to be) due to not feeling so great. I probably could have finished the entire thing (only a total of 25 miles, at that point, thanks to the changes), but I think I’m much happier having dropped out after ~15 of those. I think the lesson, though, is that I need to buy inserts for my shoes… I think the default ones that come with them now distribute weight weirdly and make the back of my knees hurt after a lot of walking.

Steve apparently joined the group after lunch, and they succeeded at the rest of the walk. So even though the proof failed due to two bridges being out, it was still a good experience.

More photos, as always, are at photos.

Have a Bar-B-Cone:

In non-hike news, we went to the library today for the afternoon, and I read this book. Really enjoyed it, and I think it’d be really interesting if there was a Machine-of-Death style compilation of stories for it in terms of how the world is affected by the ability to capture and restore peoples’ “souls”.

Phoenix, Wedding, Life

Life goes. I was in Phoenix for my friend’s wedding last week, and also took a trip to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument with my parents.



(I also lost my lens cap at the wedding, somehow. Oh well.)

Also got to catch up with David, Matt, Isaac, and Janet, which was fun.

Trip photos, as usual, are at photos.

The most interesting part, though, was probably the flight back. Got to the airport around 10 for a noon flight, and got an error from the Southwest checkin kiosks that I couldn’t check bags more than 4 hours before the flight time. Turns out my plane was coming from Burbank, and the Oakland to Burbank leg had been rerouted to Las Vegas due to weather in Burbank. (The list of flights for that airport was just a mess of rerouting that morning, so that was fun.)
My parents wanted to go walk or do something else instead in the meantime, given the flight was scheduled for 2 (and then 2:30) PM, but I figured I’d go sit at the gate anyway. So I do that, and then I notice a while later that the flight was once again on time for noon.
Turns out they were getting a plane from a hangar instead of waiting for the Burbank plane, so we were all getting ready to board… and then the flight changed to 1:15 instead (I guess they had paperwork for the plane that needed to be completed). And then it showed on time again.
I have a series of emails in my inbox from Southwest for the 5 (!) schedule changes for the flight, which were basically jumping back and forth between the original noon time and other times between 1 and 2:30. Not sure why they couldn’t do the updates in a more reasonable way, but whatever.

Otherwise, not much has been happening. We had probably around 160 or 170 trick-or-treaters yesterday (we left the bowl of candy out after 151, passed a few groups of trick-or-treaters heading to our street, and then found the bowl empty an hour later), which is a bit of a reduction from last year’s ~200. I guess the colder weather this year had some effect, although maybe not as much as we were originally expecting.

Also there was more karaoke, which is always fun.

Wedding

Last weekend, I went to my manager’s wedding in Atlanta, flying in Friday and flying out Monday. You’ll also recall that Monday was when Irma was supposed to hit Atlanta. So that was fun.

The wedding itself was awesome. It was my first Indian wedding, and it was really colorful and full of delicious food and happy people and was generally a great time.

I also had some free time on Sunday, so I hit up the World of Coca Cola. It was an interesting experience… I think it was intended more for kids, as it was set up kind of as a super-high-tech amusement park with different “rides” that you walked through. Like the “Vault”, holding the original copy of the Coca Cola secret recipe, was after some videos and displays of historical artifacts, a game where players had to chase down a man with the recipe, and then the “vault room” that was a 360 degree promotional video that dramatically revealed the vault door at the end.
Still, it was an interesting experience, and was worth visiting once. The best part was probably the tasting room where they had different coke products from different continents, so you could taste what exotic flavors were being consumed around the world.

Still, the entire weekend was kind of filled with dread of being stuck in Atlanta for a couple days due to Irma. I spent my free time glued to the Weather Channel, looking up path and severity forecasts for the hurricane, and seeing what options there were for sleeping and working within the Atlanta airport.

In the end, it didn’t matter, because Irma weakened more than expected, and my plane took off (8 AM on Monday) without incident. I hear that basically all flights were cancelled after 1 PM, and the entire city also shut down for the day, so I count myself pretty fortunate that I got in and out without incident.

More photos of everything are at photos, as usual.

Cruise! (Or, really, esiurc!)

I went on a cruise! Actually, it was the same as the last (and first) cruise I went on, just in reverse (and with a Montreal stop at the beginning instead of an overnight in Quebec City at the end). Different ship this time (the Maasdam instead of the Veendam) and different people (friends instead of parents), but it was just as awesome as last time.

We traveled to Montreal on Thursday via Porter Airlines, which recently added a flight to Pittsburgh. It went through the Toronto City Airport, which is pretty much the best airport ever. The entire airport is like 3 gates, and has a large, comfortable waiting area with free refreshments (water, soda, tea, cookies, and snack mix)!

The flights were also pretty awesome. They were smaller propeller planes, but well-serviced by a friendly crew, and included free wine (red or white) served in real glasses, and a nice snack selection (Terra chips, almonds, and shortbread). In a lot of ways, it was nicer than Southwest, which I generally hold up as a great example of airplane travel.

Montreal itself was fine. We had all of Friday to explore the city, and spent it wandering. I hadn’t been there before (the last cruise stopped at Quebec City), but it was a nice time.

We got on the boat on Saturday, and the fun (and infinite food) commenced. The first stop the next day was Quebec City. Given that we’d had an overnight there on the last cruise, I opted to remain on the boat the whole day and enjoy sitting around, eating, and sitting in the pool. It was pretty awesome.


After that, it was a day on the boat, cruising the Saint Lawrence River. There was an interesting thing when a passenger had to be disembarked for a medical emergency. They contacted the coast guard, who came with a boat to receive the passenger in a lifeboat. Naturally, we’re all voyeurs, so everyone stood on the deck watching the crew lower the lifeboat. More interesting, though, was that the coast guard boat itself had an emergency onboard while waiting for the lifeboat, and had to return to shore. As far as I know, the person was fine, so the issue was apparently not super time-sensitive, but it was still an interesting thing.

The next day was Charlottetown. I remembed Charlottetown last time as being one of my favorite stops, due to all the Canadian history there. It was a little less good this time (had already seen Founder’s Hall, and Province House was closed for renovations. Still, we managed to see some interesting buildings (including an old historic house) and got Cow’s ice cream.


The next stop was supposed to be Sydney, but the winds proved too much and the ship had to skip the stop due to being unable to make a safe docking. This worked out just fine for me: I hadn’t been planning on leaving the ship anyway, and there really isn’t that much to do in Sydney outside of the (expensive) shore excursions. Yubin’s bird-watching tour had already been cancelled due to early bird migration. Instead, we spent the day on the ship, eating and enjoying the pool. The bonus was the free sparking wine from the captain due to missing the stop, plus a refund of the port fees on our ship statement.

After that was a stop in Halifax. I stayed on the boat in the morning and got to watch a crew emergency drill, which was actually pretty interesting.


I mostly wanted to see the Citadel, so Max, Yubin, and I made the trek up there in the afternoon. It (and the views) were as nice as I remember, and it was free due to the Canada 150 celebration, to boot.

The final stop was Bar Harbor, where I spent the morning exploring the town and taking a trolley tour up to Cadillac Mountain.

After that, it was sailing to Boston and disembarking, followed by a 12.5-hour drive back to Pittsburgh. I got to drive in Pittsburgh for the first time that evening to finagle some stuff with getting a bike home, so that was also interesting.

Overall, the trip was awesome, and full of delicious food and friends and a daily dip into the pool. I also got to do a lot of relaxing and lounging around, while still having opportunities to go explore cities and landmarks as desired. I remain convinced that cruising is mostly the ideal vacation for me. :D

Tons more photos of everything are up at photos.