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.

Adulting (and rambling)

No matter how long it’s been true, it still feels weird to me when I do something that requires me to be an adult.
(Getting a credit card? Uh… don’t I need a parent to co-sign? Booking plane tickets? Who gave me permission to fly? Buying a house? What are you even…)

But in the last few weeks, I’ve done some things that felt adult-y, but felt right, and so I guess yay stuff making some more sense now?

We bought matching furniture for our living room. After getting the coffee table we liked at Target (23.5% off), we decided it was reasonable enough quality and a good enough price, and a good enough match with the house, that I bought an endtable and console table from the same set, and also a lamp that matched. With the couch and armchair being the same set as each other, and an old lamp that is the same color as the rug, the living room actually matches, for the first time ever in a place I’ve lived in and had control over. And it feels pretty nice. This excites me far more than it should.
(Bonus: The furniture also matches the dining room chairs and table in color and style.)

(Of course, adult-ing only extends so far, so the couch features my Sonic and Shadow pillows, and a plush peep named Bub.)

The portraits I talked about last post were finished, and printed on canvas, and they came out pretty nice. After trying to figure out how we could nail in to hang them without perforating crucial things in that wall (like a “novelty ventilated wall pipe”), I decided to just go to Target and buy some of those Command hooks. Turned out to be a good idea, and they look pretty good. (Just need to pull out the old nails still in the wall above them.)

Also, on Easter, we hosted Easter brunch, as like a proper meal with things for 7 people. That’s the largest group I’ve ever cooked for and set place settings for and stuff, I think. (Previous record was 4?) It was also relatively unplanned: we wanted to have ham on Easter, and the smallest ones you could buy were like 7 pounds, so we figured we’d need people to help eat it. I think it also went off rather well?

Other totally random things that are on or have been on my mind recently, in no real order, in bullets that may be incoherent rambling:

  • The house we almost bought, that sold for ~$300k, is back on the market as of today. For $399k. $100,000 in less than a year is pretty good money. Also, based on the Zillow listing and photos, they did exactly nothing to the house in the time they lived there.
  • Looking back at the photos of it, I’m actually rather glad now we didn’t get it? I think it’s been idolized in my mind as this “ideal” house (the one that got away?) that we have fond memories of. But actually I think the house we did get is better in almost every way (forced air heating and cooling, nicer kitchen, nicer rooms, bigger yard, better location). Makes me feel really happy we found this one and got it.
  • I stumbled across this reddit thread and particularly this post recently, and it’s making me feel really weird about things. (Watching the “Born Rich” documentary doesn’t help either.) It’s still rather unfathomable to me that anyone has that kind of money, and that people in general are okay with them having that kind of money. I mean, it doesn’t make logical sense to me that any single person’s contributions to the world, no matter how significant they may be, are worth a billion dollars. (And that’s only for the “I earned my money” argument… never mind inherited money.)
  • Also private large planes are disgusting and should not be a thing anyone can or would ever want to buy. Even ignoring the insane cost to buy, outfit, and operate such a plane… how many other people would that money and those resources (particularly the jet fuel?) be used for instead? Small private planes are already terrible enough. :\
  • I keep being reminded of how incredibly fortunate I am in life, in so many different ways. Particularly (following above), money is one of the things that has never *ever* been a problem in my entire life, and there are so many people I know where that is definitely not the case. I was sent (full-ride by the parents) to a top university where I didn’t have to concentrate on anything but schoolwork. I work a job I love in a field I am good at with coworkers that are amazing and for a company that seems dedicated to its employees and their success, and on top of that I make enough to live comfortably. The fact that I can drop the money for 4 color canvas prints for the game room wall, on a whim, after basically no thought, just because I thought it would look nice is a testament to that. So while some people may have stupid amounts of money and eat dinner with the president, I live comfortably and happily and never feel like I truly want for anything, which I suppose already makes me one of the wealthiest men in the world.
  • Why is sick time not a standard thing in jobs, or failing that (and job allowing) work-from-home-when-sick policies? It seems like the productivity loss from an employee coming in and getting others sick would be far higher than just having them stay home and not work at all, or work from home instead. It occurred to me last week, as I signed in for 5 minutes in the morning to post a “Not working today; sick” update, that there are many people that can’t do the same thing, and that really confuses and frustrates me. (Heck, even the fact that I didn’t have to ask for the day off, because I knew I had implicit permission and would be told to go rest if I actually tried to work anyway, is a thing many people don’t have or get, and is such a simple thing that it seems so many companies forget.)
  • It’s so bizarre to me that society has put such differing dollar amounts on skilled work. Artists usually make shit, and drawing well is a skill many people will never have nor can ever learn. Teachers make shit compared to the amount of work they do, and teaching kids is both incredibly difficult and incredibly important. Writers make very little, and assembling words together in ways that flow and just seem right is a skill that is both rare, and also immediately recognizable when you read it as something amazing. Heck, if you’re a skilled call-center agent who knows how to diffuse customer tempers and provide real service (and even just deal with people in the first place)… that’s also a heck of a skill, and you probably literally make minimum wage. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here typing words (I guess if you consider thingsLikeThis() to be words) and symbols into a computer screen and somehow that is worth money. The person that maintains the computer that lets me continue typing words in doesn’t make that much, but that’s skill too, in an area I have very little knowledge or ability in. I don’t know.
  • KoL has been interesting, in the monetary aspect, lately. It seems they’ve completely embraced the idea of premium content and putting insane amounts of power into paid things, which from the standpoint of a F2P game, really really bothers me. At the same time, given their declining revenue numbers, I can’t exactly blame them? (If you had only one revenue stream, and your continued employment relied on you making things people *want* to or *have* to buy, of course you would do it.) So the side of me that understands businessy things is fighting with the side of me that abhors things that feel like they’re forcing money out of me. I do greatly miss the old KoL days, when the paid things felt less important and the free things felt much more equitable, but I guess I still enjoy KoL enough that I’m willing to press on for now. On the plus side, there’s a couple recent things where they’ve done a standout job: the Witchess set, which unlocks awesome puzzles (and also, tangentially for me, powerful game items), and the LT&T Telegraph Office, which unlocks a lot of fun writing and interesting boss battles. While I still wish more stuff was available for free (free puzzles… who wouldn’t love that?), developer time is (non-trivial amounts of) money, so it only makes sense. But blargh?

Things and words and stuff.

House, work, Until Dawn, Powerball

It’s 5 AM and I can’t sleep for some reason, so here’s a general braindump of things from the last few days.

Our house is approaching usable and livable status! Keith needed a trip to Robinson last weekend, so we tagged along and used his car to buy 8 chairs and a TV stand at Ikea. Our living room couch and armchair also arrived, so we actually have furniture now, and it’s awesome. We spent the weekend building furniture and cleaning the place in preparation for my birthday party there this upcoming weekend, did our first load of laundry in the machines (which all work fine, albeit slowly and strangely since I guess they’re all fancy and have tons of modes and settings), and generally started bringing over things from the apartment.

Except that I got a call Sunday night from work that things were exploding. Apparently we managed to break API logins for many customers. It turned out to be a weird edge case that we hadn’t considered, and that had existed for years, but that was revealed now because we stopped doing fallback in a way we had previously. Lesson I guess is to always always always log when stuff is happening that you don’t expect to, and pull logs before deprecating code. (No matter how many times we do this I still get amazed at the weird things our customers sometimes do.)
That was an all-nighter mostly (with an hour or two of sleep between Sunday and Monday), so it was a rather unfortunate start to the week. At least the rest of the week has been quieter.

As previously reported, I acquired a PS4 for Rock Band and Guitar Hero recently. As part of the Black Friday deals, I also picked up a copy of Until Dawn, which plays out kind of like a visual novel but with more exploration and real-time reaction events. It’s actually ridiculously fun, even if my video gaming skills are super rusty from not having really gamed in like a decade. (Then again, I never did play actiony-type games anyway, preferring to stick to RPGs, so maybe I never had them in the first place.) Completed my first playthrough today and somehow managed to get everyone through without dying.

I still need to pick up a second guitar for Rock Band, but the $100 price tag is proving to be a psychological barrier. If I get that, the drum cymbals attachment, and a second mic (and mic stand), I’m going to be down nearly another $200, which seems like it would be better spent on several good board games, or a bunch of good DLC songs. Meh.

Also today, I bought a lottery ticket for the first time. The thrill of having a tiny shot at that ridiculous sum of $1.5 billion proved too alluring, but I was also hoping I’d at least win the cost of admission back by matching the powerball or a couple of numbers. But no such luck — between my manual pick and the QP ticket, I matched exactly zero of the final numbers. It’s just as well anyway… who needs nearly that kind of money?

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

Thanksgiving, KoL, wedding

KoL goes interestingly. The challenge path that ended the middle of last month was Heavy Rains, which I found to be a very interesting challenge path. I hit my first non-BIG 3 day runs, got my first sub-700 turn hardcore run, and generally was doing well with the path. Then, when I discovered I was actually on the leaderboard for path dedication, it became somewhat of an obsession. I chained 3-day runs repeatedly, so I was ascending every 2 days. I kept it up even while I was in Chicago for Ben’s wedding. It got to the point where I was no longer ascending because I enjoyed it, but because I felt like I had a responsibility to keep doing so.
I guess I get a little overly obsessive at times.
On the plus side, the 34 Heavy Rains runs I ended up finishing netted me a ton of Beautiful Rainbows, many millions of meat, and a ton of karma such that I have now permed every Accordion Thief, Disco Bandit, and Sauceror skill, with plenty left over.
I’ve already completed two of the new challenge path, Picky. I didn’t find it as annoying as I was expecting, even though I definitely felt the lack of skills at times. I think the skills I should always take are
Advanced Saucecrafting, Pastamastery, Transcendent Olfaction, Cannelloni Cocoon, Smooth Movements, Saucemaven, Phat Loot Lyric, and Sonata of Sneakiness. The other stuff depends on the class you’re running; you can buy a lot of useful skills in-run.
Max has also started playing, so it’s really nice to have someone I can talk with about the game. Hopefully he will stick with it.

I’ve been watching House ever since Amazon had a sale on the complete series ($60!). I’m currently on season 6, and while the show has gotten a bit formulaic, I can see why it won so many awards. It’s one of the most well-written shows I’ve ever watched with awesome characterization. It does a good job of blending the mystery-of-the-week in with the storylines of the main characters and holding viewers’ interest while doing so. Highly recommended, if you haven’t seen the series and are considering doing so.

I had a Thanksgiving. It was nice, both because of the lack of work and the abundance of people, food, and board games.


Thanksgiving was followed by Black Friday, which we avoided. But it meant lots of nice online sales, so we were able to buy board games and custom cards for our wedding for cheap. We ventured out on Saturday when the stores had calmed down a bit and also got some more supplies for our wedding invitations. Also picked up some TV shows on DVD I’d been eyeing for a while. Spent a good $300 or so, but it was all stuff I had been wanting or needing anyway, so that’s good.

Wedding planning is going. We got all of the save the dates sent out, and have received some responses already from people (despite not having sent out formal invites or having an RSVP system set up yet). It looks like it will be fun times. We’ll start work on the actual formal invitations soon, so that will be lots of fun.