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.

Life, Photo Firsts (Austin, Max, Yubin, Michael), KoL, wedding

As it’s the end of yet another 4-month interval, life‘s photo journal and photo stats pages have been updated. The stats update includes stats for Pittsburgh people as well, so here’s some photo firsts:

First photo of both Austin and Max:

April 26, 2012 at Yubin’s apartment after Greg and I were invited to their weekly games night.

First photo of Yubin:

Also April 26, 2012. Same place. Same event.

First photo of Michael:

August 9, 2012, also at Yubin’s apartment at a games night.

KoL has been going. I’ve been ascending more and feel like I’ve gotten better at runs (thanks in no small part to the terrible overpoweredness of the Smiths tome). I fell short of a 3 day Heavy Rains run today by less than 20 turns (hit the hedge maze). The run will definitely be under 800 turns. That’s a rather large improvement from what my runs used to be like.

I’m also really enjoying the new path. The path itself isn’t actually that hard… the extra ML granted by the water is actually super beneficial (at least to me, with like 150+ permed skills), and the path-specific skills granted mean turncount goes way, way down by granting an infinite-use fax machine, a banish, a stunner, a deleveller, item drop, a yellow rain, summonable equipment, and more. Crazy.

As far as weddings go, Susannah’s was last weekend. It was a fairly nice wedding and reception… photos of it are up at photos. This means we’re halfway done with weddings now, at least for this summer. I hear that there will another one early next year. So whee for that?

KoL, Boston, wedding, and San Francisco

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks.

I started ascending again in KoL (abandoning my level 52 character). Did a couple Slow and Steady runs while it was in season, and I have to say, I really didn’t dislike its concept as much as I thought it would. The old item restrictions I didn’t really notice (even though like 90% of my “premium” things were unusable since I haven’t bought very much recently), and the 100-adventure-per-day restriction worked really well with my hectic travel schedule…

Two weeekends ago was rlambert’s wedding in Boston. Greg and I flew out Thursday to save on airfare (and to have some time to explore Boston), and had a nice time at the wedding on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, it was home for him and to San Francisco for work for me.

Just got back from San Francisco yesterday, and I’m already gearing up to head to Toronto this week for yet another wedding. A little after that there will be another wedding in Ohio, followed by another wedding in Chicago. It’s going to be an interesting summer. (Well, end of summer, I guess.)

Work had recently moved to a new building, so I got to experience the awesomeness that is sufficient conference room space and awesomely-stocked kitchens (including a Coke freestyle machine). Also the kitchen has Its Its ice cream sandwiches. I had some for breakfast every day. I am so bad. D:

Anyway, as much as I hate travelling, I had a good time in both Boston and San Francisco. Explored some new things around Boston, got to see a lot of people again (in both cities), had a bunch of tasty food, and attended some fun work events.





More photos of the stuffage can be found at http://photos2.alanv.org/.