Where to even start…

I feel like I owe the internet an update, but what could I possibly say to cover the craziness that has been the past two months?

This Coronavirus thing was a thing. I had a Thailand trip planned for 3 weeks in February for my dad’s funeral, and spent the week leading up to the trip worried… not because I thought I was at risk of catching it, but because the US had just banned travel from China, and I was concerned about being stuck in Thailand (#2 in the world at the time, after China) for an indefinite period of time.

Bought a couple travel-sized containers of hand sanitizer and some travel alcohol wipes, and dutifully went on the trip, flying through what (at the time) was one of the most affected countries in the world (Japan) to what was the second most affected country in the world (Thailand).

The trip itself was good. I didn’t get sick, and it was nice to see my relatives again (for the first time in years), and it was also a good break from work. The funeral itself was also really nice.

The time to return home came basically just as cases around the world were becoming a huge issue. Flew home through Japan (now the #2 most affected place) and through the bay area (the #2 most affected place in the US) to Phoenix, where the plan was to stick around for a week, head to San Francisco for a week for the Architecture Summit, come home to Pittsburgh for another three weeks, then return to San Francisco for release planning.

It was that week that Seattle got really bad, and SF started having more serious issues. I ended up cancelling my SF trip on Thursday evening (the last chance for refunds on hotels and such, since I was supposed to fly out Sunday), and got an email Sunday morning that Salesforce was now prohibiting even domestic travel for work, so it turned out I made the right decision after all. (I was thinking that three days in a conference room with hundreds of people from around the country eating at a shared buffet was not a great idea given the outbreaks.)

One of my coworkers wasn’t quite as lucky: He was stopped at the airport before boarding his flight by the company travel managers. But I dutifully cancelled my other planned trip and spent another week in Phoenix, which also ended up having the nice side effect of being 13 days from my Thailand flight, pretty much ensuring that I hadn’t caught anything in Thailand or on the international flights.

The Southwest flight home was great — the flight attendants came around at the beginning of the flight with a trash bag for everyone’s alcohol wipes, and I was mostly relieved when the day arrived that they hadn’t banned domestic travel, sticking me in Phoenix (after having already been away from home for 5 weeks). Got home Thursday evening in time for board games. Was feeling pretty tired from flying (and stressing), but got some nice gaming in, and made arrangements for games the following week. Also did some stocking up on groceries.

Russell came the following Sunday to work for a week, and there was rock band and beat saber and generally nice socialness. The shit really hit the fan that week, culminating Wednesday night when the US finally started reacting to the ever-increasing cases and locking down cities. We cancelled board games, and then other board games, and started isolating ourselves preemptively. The grocery stores got crazy busy, and Aldi’s was sold out of meat, bread, most kinds of fruit, and toilet paper, kleenex, and paper towels.

Pittsburgh really started being affected this week, starting out with “stay at home” recommendations followed by recommended shutdowns of businesses, followed by restaurants changing to carryout only, followed by (tonight) statewide closure of non-essential businesses.

There’s now 18 cases in the county, including some that are community spread. We’ve been pretty much locked at home since last Thursday, although we make time every day to go on a walk outside (keeping 6 feet away from anyone else).

I’ve been cooking basically daily (multiple times a day, sometimes) for the first time in probably a decade, and working through my 2-week stockpile of food. We’ll need another grocery store trip probably next week, and I’ll try to find a time when not many other people are shopping, if there even is such a time anymore. We have had two restaurant meals (both takeout, of course) since Thursday.

Not much of my work situation has changed, because I’m permanently WFH anyway, but all of my coworkers are having fun figuring out their desk and computer setups and how to handle the different video conferencing systems we have.

My social life has been replaced with video calls and attempts at online board gaming, that we hope to expand in the near future. In theory, the lack of other things to do should mean more time to do computer things (like sort through Thailand photos), but I’ve also been in this weird miasma of worry about the world that makes it hard to actually get anything done other than work. (Sometimes it makes it hard to even get work done.)

We’re supposed to go to a wedding in May, and I’m supposed to go to Origins in June. I have no idea if they’re still on, or if they are, if I’d even be interested in going anymore. I guess we’ll see what things are looking like in a month or two.

This post was supposed to have a bunch of photos from my trip, but those photos are still sitting on my hard drive, unsorted and unedited. Maybe next post.

All I can say is… I hope this huge mess that is the world right now drives the right kinds of changes. Health insurance, and healthcare in general, can’t be tied to work. We need better societal safety nets when people can’t work or lose their jobs through events that are no fault of their own. We need to recognize that the workers that are so often put down as “unskilled” or “replaceable” are also the ones who are the most important right now.

I’m one of the fortunate people since the next few months will be, at worst, a slight inconvenience for me… but there’s too many people in this country (and around the world) for which this will mean a potential loss of their homes and not being able to eat. And that’s really not okay.

Christmas, New Year’s, Life

life’s stats and photo journal pages have been updated. Not too much interesting this time around… life has been crazy, but not due to trips, at least.

It was a really weird Christmas, weather-wise. Mostly because it was super warm out on Christmas day and we sat outside on the deck with a bottle of wine, playing Paperback.

I also got Playstation VR for Black Friday, and have been playing a lot of Beat Saber. I’m consistently passing Expert songs now, but am nowhere close to passing an Expert+. I also highly recommend Astro Bot Rescue Mission as a game that makes extremely good use of VR, and is just generally adorable besides.

Otherwise, there isn’t much to update. We had a small group over last night for New Year’s, and ended up starting a game of Salem after midnight (which was great and actually only lasted until about 2 AM since Ben and Steve are so fast).

Lots of photos of everything are at photos, as always. That, this journal, and life are about the only parts of my site I actually update, nowadays.

I’ve been seeing a bunch of “Decade in review” posts pop up recently, and I guess it could be interesting to do one for myself, as well. The highlights though would be something like:

  • Moved back to Pittsburgh
  • Got married
  • Bought a house
  • Lost a parent
  • Had something like five or six years in a row with (at least) 4 weddings to attend

It’s been an eventful 10 years, and I hope the next 10 have a lot fewer big life events.

(Also, related to my reverse games post, we tried Hey That’s Your Fish yesterday and it didn’t work very well. I think the game needs more tweaks to placement or movement rules to be viable as a reverse game.)

Photo Catalog Woes

I find myself incredibly frustrated with Adobe products again. I don’t know why it’s so hard to make sorting and tagging software that just works, although I suppose having over 465,000 photos may stretch the limits of any software. But my recent woes are not directly related to that…

I normally use Photoshop Elements 9’s organizer tool to organize and tag all of my photos. This works decently well, except when I got a new hard drive. For some reason, the software associates photos to a drive ID (rather than the drive letter), and is extremely stubborn about keeping that drive ID mapping intact when the drive letter changes. This was already a bit of a problem a year ago when I got a new (bigger) hard drive, found that all the photos were no longer found on the new drive (but still searchable with thumbnails, thankfully), and found that the built-in “Find Missing Photos” tool was a huge piece of unusable garbage that was completely impractical to use to fix everything.

It seems like newer versions of Organizer has the concept of “offline hard drives” and has an easy way for you to re-assign an entire drive or folder groups when they’re moved. But my version doesn’t. So it’s generally a horrible combination of “tries to detect drives” and “doesn’t have a way for you to fix things when the drive changes”.

So I lived with it for a year, assuming that I’d just have to deal with any photos older than November 2018 being unable to be directly opened. (Instead, I had to right-click, view the photo properties, and open the corresponding folder on the new hard drive and find the filename. Frustrating, but not completely unusable since I don’t deal with older photos all that often.)

I had the misfortune last weekend of plugging in my old hard drive at the same time as the new one while Organizer was open. The result is that now all photos, even the ones I imported in the past year, are now pointing to the old drive and are therefore running into the missing file problem. (I can’t think of why this would possibly happen, because clearly the new photos were never linked to the old drive ID.)

In any case, I had bought Lightroom a couple of years back (thankfully before they started their subscription-only garbage with it), and it seemed like a potential solution. So… install it, convert my Organizer catalog over and… great… none of the photos have imported their metadata and everything is displaying metadata conflicts and effectively have lost their ability to be searched by date, which is one of the major use cases I have for my organizer. (But at least fixing the drive letter change was easy in Lightroom after I figured out you have to use the folder view and collapse parents to the root. Which was also completely non-intuitive.)

Ignoring the fact that this is also incredibly stupid behavior (why would you take over 30 minutes to convert over a catalog file and then effectively throw away most of the data in that file… it didn’t copy thumbnails nor date data, and seems to have not gotten all of the tags/keywords), I found that the only way to really fix this is to tell it to import metadata from the actual files. Which means it needs to run through all 460,000+ photos. It takes about a second per photo, which wouldn’t be totally horrible if it didn’t also constantly “stick” on random files requiring me to manually remove the file from the library and re-add it before it can continue. So I can’t even just tell it to handle everything and leave it for a week… I have to do it in batches and monitor it fairly constantly.

But fine. Okay. I’ll eat the cost of doing that. Which brings us to today’s fun, where starting another batch of metadata syncing caused the video driver on my computer to crash, eventually requiring a hard reboot. Internet searches seem to indicate that this is a problem many people have with Lightroom in random use cases, maybe caused by a lot of keywords, maybe caused by a specific photo, but generally with no solution.

So I guess my option at this point is… upgrade Photoshop Elements to a version that properly supports drive changes and hope the catalog upgrade is compatible? Except I’m really loathe to give Adobe even more money at this point.

This should not be this complicated.

Maybe it’s time I stopped doing photo tagging.

“Reverse” Games

We played another successful “reverse” game recently, so I want to document them in one place.

Sushi No (Sushi Go)
Play normally. Goal is to have the lowest score at the end of the game.

7 Blunders (7 Wonders)
Play normally, except you cannot sell a card unless you can build no card in the hand. You must build in the cheapest possible way after selecting a card (chaining if possible, own resources or optimal conversion/production, minimal payment to a neighbor). Goal is to have the lowest score at the end of the game.

New York Spite (New York Slice)
Play normally. No section may be empty (no slices/specials). Goal is to have the lowest score at the end of the game.

Between Two Shitties (AKA Beneath Two Cities) (Between Two Cities)
Play normally. Your score is the higher of your two cities. Goal is to have the lowest score at the end of the game.

Carcass-none (Carcassonne)
Play normally. Each tile you play must have a meeple placed on it if possible. Goal is to have the lowest score at the end of the game.

Annul (Azul)
Play normally, except you cannot select a set of tiles where you can play none of them unless you cannot legally play any available set of tiles. Once selected, you must select a row for the tiles such that as many of the selected tiles play as possible (choice between ties if applicable). Goal is to have the lowest score at the end of the game. (Negative scores are allowed.)

Games we haven’t tried but want to:
6 No-mmit (6 Nimmit) – Normal play? Goal is highest score.
Yes Please (No Thanks) – Would need some tweak so you don’t just take almost every card that comes up to you. Goal is highest score.

Also Aldi’s has cute things and I want to buy all the stuffed things there.

San Francisco, Phoenix, Phew

So uh… I’ve been home for a few weeks now, but only just got through photos from October. Which I suppose isn’t too surprising given my October.

Anyway.

I was away from home almost a month in a vacation followed by a trip within a trip that became more complicated due to my dad passing away, and then came home and got to leave again right away. But it had a lot of really nice moments in it, as well.

Started out the trip in late September with a trip to Northern Arizona for vacation. It’s really pretty up there.



Then it was an emergency recall back to Phoenix, followed by hospitals and logistics. But I got a chance to catch up with some people, as well.



It was off to San Francisco for a week in the middle of it all, for the Koa Club (Salesforce’s 10+ year employees group) celebration and also some face time with the teams.

Salesforce… really knows how to throw a party. The gala at City Hall was perhaps the fanciest and most well-provisioned party I have ever attended. There was an entire tuna that was being sashimi’d:

And the next day we took over the ballpark for a bunch of activities and volunteering:

After that it was back to Phoenix for a week, then home for about 12 hours before leaving again to Ohio for a combination anniversary/birthday party.

Photos from my crazy October are all at photos.