Life, social media and smartphones, Pepsi cookies

My photo journal has been updated to bring it current to today.
May was one heck of a month for gaming… in addition to the weekly Thursday board games, we hosted board games at the house three times, and hosted rock band a few times as well. Life being full of board games and people makes me happy.

I’ve been meeting a lot of new people recently in life, through both softball photography and board gaming. This has given me a desire to start working on People Wars again, so the Juxtapositions expansion continues onward. The set is adding a new card type Dream, that acts like a character once played but goes away at the end of the turn, and new Softball characters that have abilities that interact with Dreams. It should be an interesting mechanic to explore… maybe at some point I’ll get around to printing updated decks and actually playing again.


Owen sent me this article recently, and it just reinforces my desire to not get a smartphone. I’d previously ranted about social media and I don’t think any those opinions have changed since then. If anything, it’s gotten worse since then… my LiveJournal friends page has become basically a webcomic RSS reader and, with few exceptions, the posts that do still show up there are often only several sentences and seem like something that would be appropriate for Twitter.
I’m so old and curmudgeony. :P
Still, I guess I do see the benefit of having a semi-permanent way of contacting people as necessary. Email addresses change, IM services stop existing or fall into disuse… but your Facebook account (as long as you have an account) is pretty much always going to be you. It’s actually rather alarming how many FB messages I’ve sent recently to people. (Many of them were just asking for email addresses, but still…)

I’d previously made Coca-Cola cookies but they turned out rather strange, I assumed due to the lack of sugar in the soda. We recently got some Pepsi made with real sugar, so I figured I’d give it a try again, this time basing it on this recipe.

1/2 c butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 egg (I just used the egg white)
1 c flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 can Pepsi (with real sugar)

Melt the butter, and mix it with the sugar until well mixed.
Boil down the Pepsi until it’s thick and syrupy, and immediately pour into the butter/sugar mixture. (It should be reduced enough that it turns hard quickly when heat is removed.) Mix well.
Add the egg, and mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients, then slowly mix into wet ingredients.
Place small spoonfulls onto a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes.

I think they turned out better this time? They taste a lot like caramel, and not a lot like Pepsi, but they’re still pleasantly sweet and chewy.

If I was doing this again, I would probably add more Pepsi and remove a bit of the sugar. Maybe 2 cans of Pepsi, and then only 1/3 c of sugar? It might flavor them a little stronger.

Life goes. Yay for life.

Life, KoL

I guess I should write in here as we’re approaching the end of July.

KoL has been interesting lately, as I’ve been pulled into a series of Hobopolis speed runs to obtain things like an invisible hamster, a technicolor overcoat, and a whacking stick. (They’re kind of like raids in WoW, in that you need 7+ people participating in specific ways to get the rewards.)
The hamster runs, in particular, mostly happened around 11:45 PM and went 3 hours, meaning there were quite a few nights of little sleep.
I’m weaning myself off of the runs now that I have all of the items I want and have contributed sufficiently to justify that, but there was a while where I was doing runs one or more times a day.

I’ve also had my first experiences maximizing item drops to obtain more things from the bosses. Here’s what happens when you hit +1800% items. (Click to make bigger.)

We have been cooking things once again. Chicken marsala happened for the first time and it was amazingly tasty.

Also lasagna happened. Ricotta cheese is one of the best things ever.

Nothing else has really been happening in life. Work continues to be crazy, and I should probably take some time off soon.

Edit: Buffed up even crazier today to +1900% items (+2000% in combat).
Details here.

Here’s the awesomeness that happens as a result:

I also made a thing to do loot distribution.

ITG, 7 Blunders, BBQ, and Keith Manor

Life has been full of stuff recently. In roughly reverse order:

The ITG machine at the storage facility in the South Side exists, and it is awesomely full of charts I love. In the year-ish absence from ITG, it seems my reading has not suffered at all but my stamina is gone. I can’t even make it to the jacks in Perfect Cherry Storm anymore, and probably generally can no longer pass an 11 (although I didn’t try). The fact that the place is a small, enclosed space with no cooling other than fans probably doesn’t help either.
It’s good to have ITG machine access again, even if it means a bit more work than previously to access.




7 Wonders is one of my favorite board games, and it gets played around once a week. I already have the Leaders and Cities expansions, as well as the promo leaders, wonders expansion, and extra fan-made boards from board game geek (for a total of 23 wonder boards). We decided to try a variant of it last games night that Max affectionately titled “7 Blunders”. The goal is to get the lowest score possible, but you’re subject to the 2-player-style rules where you can’t sell a card unless you are forced to, cannot buy resources if you could make them yourself in some way, and must build for free if you can. It makes for a very interesting game, especially depending on whether your wonder gives you lots of points or not… do you save the wonder stages for burying large-point-value age 3 cards, or do you take care of them early so building is harder for you due to lack of resources?
We’ll certainly play it again and see how that goes.

Chris and Rob hosted a last-minute Memorial Day BBQ, and it was tasty.


In other other things, Keith’s kitchen is sad. His ceiling had been cracking (I guess one of the screws holding the ceiling up came out or something…?), so we spent a Saturday helping him remove his kitchen appliances and stripping the wallpaper from the room (which ended up being quite the experience due to the painted double layers of wallpaper, going as far as 4 layers deep at the top where there was trim). Apparently his ceiling came crashing down on Monday (which was the alternate day for wallpaper removal), so it was a good thing we did it when we did.




Also here’s us being crazy after midnight at IHOP, attempting to recreate various bad stock photo scenes.





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.

Duck!!!, Renaissance wedding, games, race, Tartan, People Wars, and macarons (phew)

Life has been full of lots of awesome things recently.

In probably the biggest (ha ha) thing, a giant rubber duck is in Pittsburgh! It is super cute.

Greg, Eric, and I went to see it on the night it arrived, at which time they were throwing a huge bridge party for the duck.

Yay duck! I was actually expecting it to be much bigger (not having read anything about it beforehand), but apparently it’s only 30 by 40 feet. It’s still extremely awesome.


I think downtown is enjoying the attention the duck is bringing. Here’s Noodles & Co at Market Square that evening. It’s significantly more packed than usual. (The soda machine was constantly out of ice as well as many kinds of soda. And it’s one of those newer ones that has hundreds of varieties of soda and that makes its own ice.)

So yeah. Greg’s undergrad friends Eric and Dan were in town for the wedding celebration of Vicki and Brett. It was held at the Pittsburgh renaissance fair, which was an interesting venue.


Besides the usual wedding food and things, we had access to the fair with things like jousting (which turned into an “attack the good guy and force a ‘joust to the death’ tournament” thing), strength testing, hatchet throwing, arrow shooting, and fire manipulating.




Naturally, there were also board games.

In other recent board game funness, I acquired the Leaders, Cities, and Wonders pack expansions for the game 7 wonders. I also printed the official Catan board, the “official” Cupertino board, the official Stevie and Esteban and Louis leaders, and some boards from the fan-made Empires expansion. The result is an awesomely complex, awesomely large, awesomely 23-wonder-ful game that I am really enjoying.
(More photos of this, and other board gaming adventures in September, can be found here.)

This morning was also the Pittsburgh Great Race. Eric, Dan, and I went to watch Greg run.

The best outfit was a guy running in full Penguins ice hockey gear. Yes, including ice skates. (Word on the internet is that this is actually Tom7, who I actually know [but only in the ‘I have met him once or twice’ sense], so that’s awesome.)

There were also people with awesome signs cheering on the runners. (My favorites were “Worst parade ever” and “Why do all the cute ones run away?”.) They also cheered on the ambulance, police car, and bus at the end of the long line of runners, which was awesome.

There was also Tartan production today. The situation there is rapidly improving, which is awesome. Swathi is doing a good job as the new layout manager and leading a good group of layout staffers. The section editors have started getting their shit together (well, mostly). Papers are slowly (and sometimes painfully) becoming longer than 8 pages. Let’s keep going like that.

But in fun Tartan things, there was also a Kate tree constructed, which rapidly turned into a Tartan ed staff tree. It’s pretty awesome. (More photos of it, as well as general Tartan stuff from September, can be found here.)


I’ve finally started working on the next People Wars expansion, Flashback. It’s themed around PPA students (and general effects that look at the discard pile or add traits), and should be fairly interesting… but what’s getting me in making it is how amazingly young everyone looks.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised given I’ve been tracking this stuff on my photo stats page for years, but it’s still kind of weird whenever I actually go back and start looking through high school photos. Baby friends! ZMONGS!

Speaking of photos, June 28, 2014 will be the date when I’ll have been taking (digital) photos for exactly half my life. It’s kind of awesome that, in about 9 months, I will have over half my life documented in photos. I plan to keep up with my photo journal, so it should be an interesting adventure.

Last, but not least, a nice new French bakery opened in Squirrel Hill by Greg’s work. I stopped by and couldn’t resist getting some macarons. They’re a bit pricey at $2.25 each, but so very worth it. Their French bread is also very, very good.

Yay awesomeness.