December 28, 2009
December 24, 2009
First off, a month ago I withdrew some cash from a non-Chase ATM. The non-Chase ATM charged me $3, which I was expecting. Chase charged me another $2, which I was not, what with them loudly proclaiming many times that they don't do that.
Second, and more importantly, they never sent me a "your statement is available" email this month, which is what usually prompts me to pay my credit card bill (the last one I received was on 10/31). As a result, although my payment was due on 12/23, I didn't realize I hadn't made it until 12/24, today. I have gone through all my Procmail logs and have no record of them sending me a statement notification for December (although I have one for every other month). They did send me quite a few "important changes to your online legal agreements" emails but none of those had anything to do with alerts - just stuff like me agreeing not to "reverse-engineer the website" and other such nonsense.
I have a feeling they're going to charge me interest and some huge late fee. I already sent them a customer service message explaining the situation. We'll see how that goes.
Meanwhile, I checked my "account alerts" settings and it looks like somewhere along the line, all credit card alerts got completely disabled. I think they overhauled their alerts system, and didn't bother to reapply old settings. I think there will be a lot of people surprised by massive unexpected late fees. I think Chase will make a lot of money off of this.
Yeah, I know, it should be up to me to know to pay my credit card bill every month, but I've always just used the receipt of the "you have a new statement/payment due" email as a reminder. I guess I should just set this up as a recurring calendar item instead, because no way can I trust a bank to not screw up when their screw-up potentially costs me money.
5:35 PM Wow, this is surprising:
Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to assist you today in regards to your request to remove the late fee recently assessed to your account.Well, then.
Please be advised that I have credited your account for the $39.00 late fee and this adjustment will be reflected on your December billing statement.
December 5, 2009
Since people have been interested in getting their own, there's not a whole lot you need. There are several soda siphons available (I have the iSi Soda Siphon Brushed Aluminum 2248), and then as far as cartridges go, you can often find them at restaurant suppliers or wholesalers (e.g. Cash and Carry). My most recent shipment came from Creamright, which specializes in these things (they also have N2O cartridges for making whipped cream and/or getting high); I just use their generic CO2 cartridges. They also have slightly better deals on siphons, too.
Anyway, the other part of the equation is that after you have a source of seltzer (and this works with bottled seltzer too), you can make your own soda with Torani syrup, which comes in a bunch of flavors, and is sweetened with sugar instead of HFCS (and they also have diet versions). I just buy that stuff at BevMo.
If you want soda that's brewed in a more traditional way, there are plenty of recipes out there for home-brewed ginger ale and root beer using a fermentation process, or you can cheat and get (or make) an appropriate syrup and mix it with seltzer (typically by making simple syrup and combining it with a flavor extract). That does generate a slightly different flavor, though, and a fermentation approach also produces a bit of alcohol (not enough to get drunk, but enough to cause problems if you have an alcohol-sensitive medical condition).
December 3, 2009
December 1, 2009
Things I like about Beatmania:
- It has an incredible variety of music. When R343L came by she said, "Oh, it's like Rock Band but with techno," but she just happened to come by when I was playing a techno track. If she'd been there for the previous one she'd have heard some Motown-style funk, and the next one was new-wave fusion jazz. There's also classical and rock and pop and IDM and who knows what the hell else. Much of it is hard to classify, like most of my broad tastes in musical styles.
- You are actually playing the music. On most rhythm games you're just hitting buttons, and hitting the wrong button will make the overall pre-mixed track mute, or (on a good day) play some random jarring instrument noises. On Beatmania, though, you are actually playing a sampler keyboard, whose sample triggers are changing as part of the timeline. It is totally transparent to the player, BUT it means that if you mess up the timing or miss a note or play the wrong key, you actually get off-time or partially-missing or wrong samples. Another side-effect of this is that you really have to play with your ears as much as your eyes, and so it doesn't matter that there's no way to calibrate it for display lag because if you're looking at the event line, you're doing it wrong.
- Relatedly (and completely unlike DJ Hero), when you are scratching it is actually scratching. Okay, it's not speed- or direction-sensitive, and the metaphor of the turntable can vary often (sometimes it's a scratch, sometimes it's a spin, sometimes it's just another sample trigger) but when you're on a scratch-heavy track, every scratch you make produces a separate scratch sound. You have to be able to count small numbers very quickly, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
- You get a hell of a lot of music on each disc. Yeah, in the days before DLC, you had to buy additional CD-ROMs to get more songs. But each disc has about an hour's worth of songs. (Because the tracks are composed of samples, and often have the same samples used across songs, you easily get a CD's worth of music, sometimes more, even with all the audio tracks being separate.) Yeah, some of the later mixes have repeats from the previous discs, but so what? Each disc is a unique gaming experience.
- The visuals! Most rhythm games give you basically nothing interesting visually. Oh, yay, a band on stage, big deal. Beatmania gives you fun semi-interactive music videos that react to the song and to how you're doing. And the visuals are fun, with crayon scrawlings and tongue-in-cheek discotheque visuals and occasional IDM-ish weirdness.
- Winning doesn't involve just not failing, but ending on a high note. (Actually it's possible to completely bomb out at the beginning and then recover towards the end. Finishing strong is more important. Except in expert mode.)
- Even though it's over 12 years old it's still fun and challenging, and the later mixes took it a bit further and provided multiple difficulty levels and even multiple arrangements of the songs. Okay, sure, Guitar Hero and Rock Band have the multiple difficulty levels, but that's just adding more events you have to hit more or less on-cue to keep the same sounds going as always. On Beatmania, the fact you're playing the notes directly means the advanced difficulties actually start to fall apart in different ways, and you know it. And there's always new challenges, too — expert mode (where you have a budget for mistakes for an entire setlist), double mode (two controllers one gamer), special challenges (key randomization, hidden/sudden/extra-fast note markers), and probably lots of other stuff that isn't even occurring to me right now.
It's also a shame it's so hard on my wrists because holy cow did I miss playing this wonderful game.
I have basically every worthwhile mix for the PS1 (except Sound of Tokyo, which I should be receiving soon, having finally sourced a copy on eBay), and the first Gameboy mix, which is basically a "best of" for the first few PS1 mixes, in chiptune form, and the chiptunes are exceptionally well-done. Right now I'm considering also getting either an import or modded PS2 so I can start building a IIDX collection, even though IIDX didn't really seem so much fun (since it seemed to be all about the difficulty instead of the fun). It's just too bad I didn't get back into this stuff a few years ago when it was still easy to source a PS2 modchip. (Maybe not so bad for my wrists though.)
12/3 Of course, this being the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, CA.