Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Half frustrating and half awesome

Amazon is really bad at informing you whether or not you're going to have to pay for digital downloads, but they're really good at apologizing for how terrible they are at it.  I've had a $10 credit toward Amazon's game download store listed on the site for a year, and now their digital downloads work through Steam which is totally awesome, and Dungeon Defenders was on sale and it looked mildly interesting, so I decided to buy that with my $10 credit.  The checkout page listed "gift certificate / Visa" as the payment option (Curse.com pays me in Amazon credit so I constantly have gift cards applied to my account), so I figured yeah, totally, that $10 credit toward game downloads must be working.  Nope.  The full price was charged to my credit card.  I had already put my activation code into Steam and installed the game at that point too, so no hope of a refund.

So I contacted their customer service.  The woman apologized and said that that $10 credit was only good for Xbox Live subscriptions.  WTF.  Oh, duh, I totally should have been able to tell that from the "Your Balances" screen, which from what I can tell is the only place where you can see your store credit for downloadable products, and is only accessible from the pages for MP3 albums.

So yes, obviously that is just for Xbox Live subscriptions.  My mistake.  But she was nice and refunded my credit card.  And I get to keep the game.  And I'm not sure exactly what she did because there's no place that lists your various promotions, but apparently she converted that $10 credit for an Xbox Live subscription into a $10 credit for any digital download, because all of the other numbers other than software / video games and gift card just increased by 10.  WHAT IS GOING ON?

Is this what it feels like to be the annoying customer who gets free stuff just so the customer service rep doesn't have to deal with you anymore?  Because it's half frustrating and half awesome.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mainly for the health benefits

Today I went to an informal lunch meeting where there were going to be several gay Microsoft employees in attendance.  I thought of how I was going to introduce myself, and this is what I came up with.  Unfortunately a good opportunity never really arose so I never got a chance to use it.

"So anyway, I recently decided to become gay mainly for the health benefits. I haven't really noticed any improvement in my appearance though. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong." Assuming I couldn't quite keep the deadpan look, I'd then follow up with "Sorry, I just couldn't tell that joke with a heterosexual face."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Next week off

It's generally not necessary to get approval for vacations or other time off at Microsoft, but it's customary to give people a few days' warning rather than just disappear randomly.  Today I sent this mail to my team:

I’m gonna take next week (Thanksgiving week / 21-25 November) off and start using up some of this vacation time before it expires. Presumably I will take a short break from playing Skyrim at some point during that week to eat turkey but no guarantees.
It started out as a joke but at some point in typing the message I realized that it's not much of an exaggeration.  Since Thursday at 9pm, life has basically been Skyrim with the occasional interruption for sleep, meals, or work.


Some more of my favorite random short thoughts of recent times, collected here for archival purposes...

You know you've hit rock bottom when you're just walking around and someone stops you because they think you're cosplaying the Baron Harkonnen from Dune.

Today instead of working out I went to the Olive Garden for lunch. I feel sort of like Maeby F√ľnke throwing away a banana for each dollar she steals.

Dear Shakira: every time you sing jealously about some woman that is hotter than you I want to slap you in the face. (Just don't bother.)

Who really throws their hands up in the air when they just don't care? Sounds like a lot of effort. If I just didn't care I'm pretty sure I'd just stand there with a dumb look on my face.

The worst part about having non-white waitstaff who are terrible is that I assume that they think that I'm tipping poorly because I'm racist. Wait, no, the worst part is that they're terrible. Then the racist thing.

Each morning I wake up and find a new spider web on one of my car's side mirrors. Some spider must have written a really good Yelp review if people keep coming back. Or maybe they're just trying to be the mayor of my car on Foursquare.

Today's gotta be a new record for number of times I've threatened to burn my work computer's house down if it didn't start behaving.

No, Visa Fraud Protection Hotline, me purchasing several things from Amazon is not unusual account activity. You should know this. You're the one with a list of my usual account activity.

Good life advice: if you're about to do something, first ask yourself if it would make a good Insanity Wolf meme picture. If the answer is yes, you should probably not do that thing.

Someone at Microsoft sent an email about some "cool Forza skins" and I just want to shake him vigorously and yell "DON'T YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SAYING? DON'T YOU KNOW WHAT THAT SOUNDS LIKE?"

Today I rickrolled a Microsoft vice president. That's one thing I can check off the bucket list.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'd be all like whoosh

I daydream a lot.  One of the things I daydream about pretty frequently, especially as I'm walking or driving, is what it would be like if I could teleport.  This is usually the way my thought process works:
  • Traveling sucks.  I wish I could teleport.
  • Oh man that would be sweet.  I'd be all like whoosh (I imagine the visual effect of the teleportation).
  • If I could teleport, I'd be rich.  I could quit my job and just stay at home and play [game I've purchased most recently] all day.
So basically my daydreams of having superpowers always end up with me staying at home and playing video games rather than becoming a crime-fighting superhero.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Way too many Ladies Gaga

The short version:
Bear McCreary—Dark Void: 7/10
Amadou and Mariam—Welcome to Mali: 5/10
Justin Timberlake—FutureSex/LoveSounds: 5/10
O.A.R.—King: 6/10
Bruno Mars—Doo-Wops and Hooligans: 6/10
P!nk—Can't Take Me Home: 3/10
fun.—Aim and Ignite: 7/10
Teddybears—Soft Machine: 6/10
Various Artists—Almost Alice: 6/10

Bear McCreary is one of my "new" favorite composers as of the last several years.  His work on the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack is nothing short of phenomenal, and he has a keen ear for interesting and unusual sounds combined in unusual ways.  (By the way, I totally recommend following him on Facebook; he posts fascinating insights into his musical processes, videos of him playing BSG tunes on the piano, and so on.)  Anyway, he also did the soundtrack for a video game nobody heard of called Dark Void.  It's not as good as his BSG soundtracks (well maybe better than The Plan / Razor, the weakest one), but it's pretty definitely recognizable as Bear—wacky unidentifiable foreign instruments, heavy percussion, and stuff that makes you just nod your head in appreciation of this dude's ridiculous creativity.  I think the best things here are Above the Canopy (which I would totally believe was from BSG seasons 3-4 if someone told me that), The Collector, and Survivor Camp Combat.  Overall it's good enough that I thought about picking the game up for six bucks on Amazon until I saw how poorly it was reviewed, but I can still recommend the Dark Void soundtrack to anyone who enjoyed the BSG soundtracks, which is I suppose anyone who doesn't hate music.

I don't know what genre Welcome to Mali by Amadou and Mariam is.  I admit it.  Just a sec; I'm gonna go look it up.  Okay, Wikipedia suggests that it might be "African blues."  I dunno.  I always enjoy when an otherwise pleasant piece of music makes me furrow my brow and wonder to myself what on earth I'm listening to, and Sabali fits that bill.  Most of the album isn't doesn't sound like that though, with my other two favorites Africa (featuring K'NAAN) and Je te Kiffe being decidedly more blues-y and rock-ish.  Overall I'd like it more but I don't really love the vocals.  It's not mean to complain about the way that blind people sing is it?  That's just deaf people, right?  Anyway, I don't know who to recommend it to.  It's a long CD and there's are several tracks that I don't care for all that much, but at the very least I can't complain that it's just like all of the other world music albums I have by blind husband and wife duos.  Just check it out.

FutureSex/LoveSounds by Justin Timberlake is okay.  Actually, I think that Lovestoned / I Think She Knows is completely fabulous, and of course SexyBack is super catchy.  The rest I don't really care too much about.  I probably should have stuck with singles for this one.

I'd heard of O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) before but I can't recall why.  They had a new album called King on Spotify with a very pretty album cover so I decided to click on it.  It turns out it's kinda decent.  It's one of those albums that starts out strong and then probably should have ended a lot sooner than it really does.  It's twenty tracks (!) and only three of those are interludes... but there's only one that's better than mediocre after #6.  Heaven, King, and Not for Me are all some good head-bobbin' rock music.

I'd been on the fence for a while about Bruno Mars' Doo-Wops and Hooligans.  Actually, I was on the fence for a while and then I decided on the "no" side of the fence, but I changed my mind and decided it was worth buying after all.  (His amazing new single It Will Rain is mostly what made me reconsider.)  That should probably adequately explain what I think of it.  I think it's decent, and it's worth owning, but not overwhelmingly so.  Just the Way You Are, The Lazy Song (omg best video evar, starring Leonard Nimoy), and Marry You are my favorites.

Ugh.  I figured I should round out my P!nk collection and get Can't Take Me Home, but I curse my completionist nature.  It's not good.  There aren't any songs on it that are really all that good.  There are a few that are okay, and that's it: Most Girls, Private Show, and There You Go.  I say skip it, even if you're a fan.  Maybe there's a reason it was impossible to find the songs on it streamed.

Another random promoted Spotify find, Aim and Ignite by fun. was well-named and unexpectedly pleasant.  The opening track Be Calm is wonderfully unpredictable and perky and joyous and, well, entertainingAll the Pretty Girls is more pop-rock and less insane than Be Calm, but still really nice.  And Light a Roman Candle with Me is interesting too.  This is another one of those CDs for which I can't really guess who might enjoy it, but I do recommend giving those tracks a listen and see if it's something you'd like.  I don't even know what genre to call it.  Indie rock?  Some of it sort of reminds me of Electric Light Orchestra, so maybe it's oldies...

After the resounding success with their last album Devil's Music I picked up Soft Machine by Teddybears.  It's certainly not as good but it's rather similar in style and still decent.  I can hear the sounds of their latest album in this one in a somewhat less refined form.  Yours to Keep, Automatic Lover, and Different Sound are all worthwhile, but they just aren't as awesome and memorable as the best tracks on their newest CD.

Finally, I picked up the CD of music "inspired by the movie Alice in Wonderland," Almost Alice.  I got it for Tea Party by Kerli because Kerli is awesome, and I like the idea of the lyric "I'm a lady, futhermucker, have some class" occurring in a song for a PG-rated children's movie.  The video for that song is terrifying though; it's basically twenty Lady Gagas having cake, and that's just way too many Ladies Gaga.  But there's other good stuff on there too.  Shinedown, a band I don't really care for, has a really excellent metal-ish song Her Name Is Alice on there, probably the best on the CD.  And Welcome to Mystery by the Plain White T's is rather good too.  As with any compilation album there's a lot of variance, but Almost Alice fits the movie appropriately.

Not the greatest batch of CDs, but a bunch of "decent enough."  I got the latest from Mute Math and Coldplay and they're also both decent but sort of disappointing so far; I'm not yet ready to pass judgment though.  I'm pretty excited about this four-disc Skyrim soundtrack coming in a couple weeks however!