Life, climbing, work, expenses

My photo journal has been updated to bring it up to today.
After the holidays, life has returned to its usual habit of climbing on Tuesday, board games on Thursday, and climbing (plus food) on Friday. It’s a nice routine, and it means I get out of the house, so that’s good.
Climbing and gaming photos from January have also made it up at photos.

Traverse party!

I made a bad thing at work. During some refactoring for a feature I built for the last release, I apparently failed to notice that the class I was pulling code out of was a singleton, so I added instance variables in the base class. The feature in question was a login feature, so the end result was a concurrency bug where users could get logged in as other users.
Lesson learned: Singletons are dangerous. Be careful when using them and probably avoid them for things that don’t want state to be shared (like a global whitelist or something), even if they don’t currently have any state.

I’ve belatedly crunched all my expenses from the past year. As expected, 2014 is the year that breaks my spending trend: I spent $11,664.02 in 2011, $12,356.83 in 2012, $13,698.12 in 2013, and $15,821.38 in 2014 (not including wedding expenses).
The responsibility for this lies almost entirely in food expenditures, up around $1,200 from $3,804.70 to $5,081.34 (or a monthly average of $317.06 to $423.45). I guess I’ve been eating out a lot more or something this past year.
Everything else has remained fairly flat, including my $50/month discretionary budget, which hasn’t changed since 2004. Which is surprising given the four weddings we attended in 2014 (travel expenditures of $1,390.13 in 2013 versus $1,787.94 in 2014).
My share of the wedding expenses so far (save the dates, invitations, deposits, scheduled payments) total $2,953.74, which ultimately puts 2014 expenditures at $18,775.12. Not so bad. That’s still under what I was spending in SF (with an average rent and utilities of $1,200 to $1,600 compared to the current $450 to $500), even though monthly food expenditures have more than doubled since then.

Wedding plans continue. The next big thing, I think, is the honeymoon. We’re currently planning a UK and France trip for that, which should be a lot of fun, but argh long plane flights. Hooray for things?

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.

Climbing, board games, TV shows, card games

Life has been pretty uneventful lately.

I recently celebrated 80 months of companionship and love and awesome. I guess in some ways it’s silly that we still track months together, but it’s also nice. So yay relationships.

There was a Thanksgiving. There was lots of tasty food and lots of fun games.

I’ve started climbing again after Groupon had a $70-for-a-three-month-membership deal. I actually haven’t gotten too much worse (finished a couple V2s yesterday), which is nice. A gallery of December climbing photos will be posted in about a week (since I batch together all related photos from a month).

There has also been copious board gaming, which is always fun and awesome. Eight Minute Empire Legends recently arrived, and it was played, and it’s a really nice filler game. For some reason, all of the recent Kickstarters I backed seem to have all finished production early November, so they’re all shipping around Christmas time. I’m expecting the Machine of Death card game and The Agents card game soon (or, I guess, when I get back from Christmas break), and Euphoria is arriving in January (but only because I used the “delay shipment” option, since it would otherwise arrive Christmas week).
(More board gaming photos will likewise be posted in about a week.)

I’ve become re-addicted to the show Supernatural, after Amazon had it on sale for Black Friday and I bought the seasons I was missing (7 and 8). Watched through season 2 in a few days and started on season 3… and I don’t know why I ever stopped watching. Yay awesome TV shows.
Also bought the last two seasons of Smallville that I was missing (9 and 10), as well as the first three seasons of The Walking Dead. Have a lot of TV to watch now. Maybe at some point I’ll get re-motivated to work on the Investigations card game. I’m thinking of making a tweak to the game where every deck card has a “conspicuousness” value, and every character provides conspicuousness, and exceeding a random conspicuousness value makes you automatically fail the investigation. (Would provide another value to tinker with on cards, and some more strategy in deck building to get good abilities with low conspicuousness cards or worse cards but be able to throw more characters at things.)

Work continues on People Wars: Gatherings. The theme of the set is “dual characters”, so I’m adding a bunch of dual characters along with abilities and skills that key off of them. Also, in an effort to make hybrid decks more feasable, I’m adding cards that reward working characters with kill counters as well as tasks that can provide items and attacks/skills. There’s also new abilities to help score tasks late game, and to help deal more damage early game. (Also notice the new “Climbing” and “Game Group” attributes, which I’ll flesh out in later expansions.)

Work has been super stressful lately. Not much to really say about that. I need to get better at separating work and life, and stopping work when it’s not work time. Hopefully that will come.

So yay for life, at least.

Tea cupcakes, People Wars, climbing

I made tea cupcakes today. Om nom nom nom. I wanted something light (especially since it was tea), so I didn’t want the usual buttery cupcakes. After mixing everything, I realized it needed something to make it moist (usually the butter or oil), so I added some applesauce. I think they turned out decently, actually. I would probably use something less flavorful than applesauce next time (vegetable oil?).

Brew teas, leaving in a little longer than usual (I did green tea and chai tea). Reduce each on the stove by about half to about 1 cup liquid total (so 1/2 cups each if you’re doing two like I did).

2 c flour
1 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c reduced tea
1/4 c applesauce or oil
2 egg whites

Combine dry ingredients. (Separate into equal amounts for each tea flavor if required.) Stir in tea and applesauce and egg and mix well.
Bake at 325 for 20 minutes.
Makes 18 cupcakes or two cakes.

I sprinkled green tea on the green tea ones and cinnamon on the chai ones before baking.

In other news, the latest People Wars expansion has also been completed and posted. You can download it here. One of the expansion’s themes, other than the “give and take” of the various abilities, was to further highlight the specialties of each subject trait. Of all the cards in the set, there are a couple I think are particularly interesting.

This card (and the Program variant) can be really good for task decks if you get them out early. This may be weakened to only place on one task, pending playtesting and balance.

This card grants a powerful skill that reduces an opponent’s kill counters while increasing your own. It’s expensive, but can be really strong. To help meet the item requirement, we have

and the Fine Art variant “Modern Art” that can turn into any item you want (similar to “Crab Cakes” from the Activities expansion, but without the discard).

And here’s a couple examples of the give-and-take effects in this expansion (which is the theme for BayArea characters):

It’s also exciting that, after the next expansion, People Wars will have more cards than Student Wars, which currently holds the distinction of largest card base with 963 distinct cards. (This will be true even if you exclude the re-released item cards and event cards in the Exchanges and Starter sets.) Yay.

In other other news, I went climbing this week on Monday and Tuesday. This ended up being a terrible idea, and I spent most of Tuesday doing VBs and V0s because my arms were incapable of holding myself up on a wall. And then I spent most of yesterday unable to grip things with my fingers. So climbing is great, but doing it too much is not so great. Hopefully I’ll have managed to recover enough by Friday that I can do V2s again… there are some awesome new routes going up that I want to try.

Yay life.

San Francisco, climbing, Kickstarter games, and People Wars

It’s been over a month since my last update. Given I keep telling myself I should write in here more, doing so at least once a month seems reasonable.

I recently traveled to San Francisco to check in at work… given I hadn’t been there in 10 months, it was about time. It was mostly an uneventful trip. Managed to see pretty much everyone except for Sharon, which was sad. Afterward, I did my usual stop in Phoenix to see my parents. Our travel plans were cancelled due to both of my parents being sick, so the week was also uneventful. Went to bar trivia and played some games with Isaac, but no one else around was answering emails.

There are more photos of the trip here.

I’ve also been climbing regularly for the past couple months. A group of us first went for Michael’s birthday back in December, and we’ve been going weekly since then. After starting with VBs and V0s in December, I’m now pretty comfortably into V2s and looking at attempting some V2/3s. It’s nice to see improvement from week to week.

More rock climbing photos are here and here.

In other fun news, the Kickstarter games I backed have started arriving. Ground Floor arrived while I was in San Francisco (like two days after I left), and My Happy Farm arrived today. Here’s the unboxings.

My Happy Farm had previously been played many times (as a print-and-play game) and enjoyed. Ground Floor met a bit more resistance.
Our first attempt at our weekly games night ended early when it was 11 PM (about 2.5 hours in) and we were still only 2/3 of the way through the game. The second attempt the following week was about a 3 hour game (quicker since half of us had played before) and went fairly well.
I think Ground Floor accomplishes what it set out to do very nicely. It’s a much heavier game than My Happy Farm, or even many of the other Eurogames we play. But I like that it’s so open ended, and there are so many decisions you can make each round. I also like the trade off between more actions (employees) and money, since it’s not a matter of “get as many actions as you can” like most worker-placement games end up as. (In fact, at the end of our game, not one player had the maximum number of employees, despite having had many chances to hire and despite the job market being at the cheapest possible level.) That’s a good sign.
It actually reminds me a lot of Through the Ages, even though they’re entirely different genres (moreso than even Agricola, which is also a worker-placement game). It’s a fairly long game, and it has so many things you can do each round, and it’s about planning well but also reacting properly to other players’ actions and the changing nature of the game (the row of cards in TTA, and the economic forecast in GF).
Definetly enjoyable for me.

Both games also came with Kickstarter bonuses.
Ground Floor came with a dice-rolling game Skyline, which we found very light and enjoyable once we started playing it correctly. (Note for other people playing that don’t read the rules carefully: When you complete a building, the dice used all move to the construction yard. They don’t go back into the supply.) It fills the same niche for me as Farmageddon or Malta!… a quick game to pull out when waiting for people to arrive or when people are tired and have started leaving: quick to learn, quick to play, and not much thought required.

It also came with a bunch of different small expansions, like a Great Depression economic forecast card, various “event” cards, and a new game board area. We haven’t played with those yet, but it looks like it’ll be fun to break them out.

My Happy Farm came with four new animals to play with. I was expecting enough copies for all four players to use, but it only came with one of each. Still, it’s a cute little extra for the game. I’m looking forward to playing the real version, hopefully at the next games night.

We’ve also played a few games of the print-and-play of another Kickstarter game, Viticulture. I’ve really, really enjoyed this one, although I admit the wake-up track mechanic ended up being less revolutionary than I was expecting it to. (Most people ended up taking the #1 spot when they were first to pick, and the winner in the few games we played were the people that were first or second to pick in the last round of the game, when competing for wine order spaces was most important.) The only issue was with our print and play… it was black and white, meaning the different card icons were very difficult to distinguish, the board was hard to read, and the white and blush wine glass icons looked too similar. But that aside, the game itself is awesome, and I think everyone that played it enjoyed it.

We had a rather interesting game where Austin decided he wasn’t going to make wine and would win by other means. He actually came very close… he managed to cause the end of the game (by hitting 20 victory points) with only his starting three workers and without having made a single bottle of wine the entire game. Yay for breaking games?

In other, other news, I’m finally continuing work on the next People Wars expansion (last talked about here) now that I actually have more up-to-date photos of San Francisco people. (This makes sense given it’s an expansion themed around Bay Area people.)

The set is also going to have new versions of the twenty basic item cards, because it’s bothered me enough that they don’t match the new card design. Here’s Board Game, which features Michael playing (and eventually winning) Ground Floor.

Other things have been happening too (like awesome AoJ in KoL and awesome vacation planning for this summer and another SF trip in June), but I’ve probably rambled on enough for now. Yay long-but-infrequent journal posts.