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

400k photos and electrical woes

This past Friday was a fun milestone: I broke 400,000 photos tagged in Photoshop Album — Album is reporting 400,307 photos tagged through today.

Here are the dates on which I took each 25,000th photo as well as the number of days between each 25,000th photo.

25,000 50,000 75,000 100,000 125,000 150,000
January 12, 2004 October 20, 2004 April 10, 2006 April 20, 2007 December 4, 2007 February 7, 2009
282 days 537 days 375 days 228 days 431 days
150,000 175,000 200,000 225,000 250,000 275,000
February 7, 2009 July 4, 2009 April 14, 2010 September 4, 2010 June 23, 2011 December 23, 2011
147 days 284 days 143 days 292 days 183 days
275,000 300,000 325,000 350,000 375,000 400,000
December 23, 2011 August 24, 2012 June 2, 2013 February 17, 2014 March 21, 2015 November 13, 2015
245 days 282 days 260 days 397 days 237 days

Here’s updated stats for my two cameras. I now also use my work iPhone for photos sporadically, but those numbers are not represented here. Perhaps I should pull those in next time I do a stats post.

Samsung SL30 July 27, 2009 – October 1, 2015 2257 days; 6.18 years 20,772 photos $70 9.2 photos per day 0.34¢ per photo
Nikon D90 February 26, 2010 – November 15, 2015 2088 days; 5.72 years 196,539 photos $780 94.13 photos per day 0.40¢ per photo
252,751 shutter releases 121.05 shutter releases per day 0.31¢ per shutter release

And the usual graphs… Number of photos taken by month, log scale y-axis:

Same thing but with a linear y-axis (second graph only includes time after graduation from CMU):

Total number of photos taken through time (second graph only includes time after graduation from CMU):

And amount of time between 1000 photos (second graph only includes time after graduation from CMU, so it starts at 131,000):

Here’s the 400,000th (tagged) photo. It’s our electrician getting a wire through the ceiling so we can replace the second-floor panel with a better one.

Which (finally) brings me to the fun we’ve been having with our house.

One of the things the inspection for the house (before we bought it) brought up was the lack of grounded outlets, and general knob-and-tube wiring, on the second floor of the house. Obviously, since I work from home with computers, and we have 6 computers between us, it was pretty important to get this remedied. We got quotes from quite a few electricians, and eventually settled on Patco Electric, as Pat was very thorough and also friendly and easy to get along with.

He comes Thursday to start the work, and things proceed reasonably.

Once the knob-and-tube wiring is out and the panel disconnected, we run into a minor snag upon discovering that the first floor’s living room light, foyer light, and porch light are also fed from the second floor. Not too terrible though… easily fixed by running a wire down from the second floor. (We were pulling up the floors anyway to avoid cutting holes in the plaster walls, so pulling up a few more boards wasn’t an issue.)

Friday, the work continues, and I took the day off work to sit in the house and be available in case things go wrong. The first part of the day proceeds awesomely… they successfully fish the new main wire to the second floor through the first floor closet and into the basement, then through the (finished) basement ceiling and around most of the room to get it into the panel.

It took a couple of tries, and eventually required cutting a hole in the ceiling as the fish stick was able to get through but the thicker cable wasn’t — cutting revealed that the stick was passing through a ~1cm gap between beams that the cable couldn’t have. But that was fine, and the rest of the work proceeded mostly as expected.

The problem came up when they turned the power back on to the second floor. The ceiling light fixtures in three of the four rooms didn’t come back on, even though they hadn’t previously turned off when cutting the knob and tube power. Cue lots of searching by the electricians. A few hours later, it turns out the previous electricians had done some mess of wiring — the ceiling lights have a hot wire coming from somewhere else (probably the third floor), but their neutral line was going through the second floor knob-and-tube wiring. This basically meant they were not shut off via the second-floor circuit breaker, but were dependent on it to complete the circuit, so its removal meant they no longer worked.

The electrician is coming back next weekend to rewrire those lights as well, but yeah… yay for horrible previous people doing horrible things. I guess that’s what we get for buying such an old house. :P

Saturday was a nice break from things, and we spent the day at William’s house where David was having an “experimental music birthday party”. For us non-musical people, it was mostly hanging out and talking, which was interesting anyway. Here’s a fun photo of Vincent in Wiliam’s basement stairwell.

I have an urge now to shoot people in bright clothing against a white background (maybe with board game components?), blow out the saturation for effect, and then print and frame these photos for the game room or something. Perhaps a project like that will happen at some point.