That time I got two defective refurbished Nikon D3400s from Adorama

I had long wanted to get serious about photography. I used a Canon PowerShot SX100 IS until it died on me, and quit photography. I just didn’t have the money for another camera, and phone cameras were inadequate.

One day, I finally saved enough to get a proper DSLR in the form of a Nikon D3400 with the kit 18-55 lens, plus the vibration reduced DX 70-300 lens.

Adorama had a great deal on a refurbished camera and refurbished lens. Everyone said refurbs were as good as or better than new because they had special attention from a tech at Nikon. That turned out to be false. I don’t doubt that every blog post and comment stating this was from someone who had a good experience and believed it to be true, but either I got a bad run or something changed.

The first camera had a big line up and down every image. Bad pixels. Hot pixels. Dead pixels. I don’t know. Adorama sent me a return label, and I shipped it off for a replacement. I had to spring for about $5 in packaging since I was only sending the camera back and the box was sized for it and the big zoom lens.

A replacement arrived around midday. I took a lot of great shots, and then I saw it. The faster the shutter got, the more obvious it was I got another defective camera. The picture was unusable by 1/1000 and almost completely black by the maximum shutter speed. Obviously, it’s not Adorama’s fault the camera was defective, but their support person said someone would check it before sending. They obviously didn’t do a thorough enough check. I was out about $10 for packaging this time since I already sent the big box back with the first camera.

I sent it and the lens back, and decided not to try again until I could buy new. By then, I was already pushing the return window on the 70-300 lens, and I couldn’t risk getting another bad camera to go with a lens I couldn’t send back anymore. To Adorama’s credit, they processed the returns and refund without fuss. The only problem was with the first camera where they processed it as a refund instead of a replacement, added a new order for the same camera, and I had to ask them to suspend it for a few days so the money could get back in my bank. They did, though, and that matters. Companies mess up. It's a fact of life. What matters is how they deal with it.

Who failed here? I don’t know. I do know Adorama no longer has Nikon D3400s, refurbished or otherwise, in stock as of this writing. The lesson not to put too much weight on what people say online cost me $15 and some time at the UPS store, and I consider it worthwhile.

When it wasn’t obviously broken, I got enough use out of it to realize I would probably be happier with a mirrorless camera. Those are still much more expensive and fall short in some areas. In the interim, I went with a new Nikon D5600.

DistroKid Review

I was skeptical about DistroKid, the music distribution service that sends as much music as you can produce to streaming and sales sites for a yearly fee. The guy behind it likes to tout the fact that the founders of his main competitors have endorsed his service. Any kind of high profile recommendation makes me immediately suspicious. But…

It’s okay. I signed up. Sold some music. Made enough referrals to cover the signup fee. Left for 3 years while I worked on other things. Now I’m back! Short version: it's still good! And I still don't mind sharing my referral link so you get a 7% discount and I get a small referral fee.

The first roadblock: the artist name I used back then was no longer of interest to me, but it still occupied the one slot on the account. I contacted DistroKid. They weren’t able to delete it, but they did add a free Artist slot so I could upload for a new project.

The uploader still has no bulk option. It’s not so bad for uploading a 4 track EP, but it might get a little old if I make a full album. DistroKid wants you to “be prolific,” but this is friction in the way of doing that. You can’t set things in bulk, and at least for me, everything except the track name is the same. It does at least let you copy the songwriter name to all tracks with one click.

It didn’t pull the track name from the metadata in the FLACs I uploaded. That’s a missed opportunity for taking back some of the friction added by not having any bulk upload or edit options. The data is right there. This seems like an oversight more than an intentional thing on DistroKid’s part.

I ultimately took advantage of the 14 day upgrade discount window and moved over to a Musician Plus plan. I have plans for the extra artist slot, and the daily stats are nice to have. It’s nothing I can’t get from setting up an account on each service, but this brings it into one dashboard. DistroKid provides an album UPC and ISRC codes for the tracks that you can add to Bandcamp so it’ll report sales to SongScan. This is handy if your marketing strategy involves getting on charts.

They’ve added a bunch of services since I was last on there, so I’ll briefly review the few I tried.

Wheel of Playlist

I always end up bumped by someone else within an hour or so, but they do give you another spin before the 24 hours are up when this happens. But the playlists…most of this is not music I’m into. You have to follow all their playlists, from country to gospel to metal, to get a spin on it. I don’t want all this messing up my Discover Weekly magic playlist. It would be better if I could pick 1-2 playlists to follow. As it is, I have to stop using it or make a burner account just to use this function. I stopped using it entirely.

Dave

DistroKid’s music analysis AI. The data looks like the Spotify analysis you can get by API: BPM, danceability, energy, etc. I think they’re just pulling Spotify’s data for the song. That’s okay to me. I’d rather they not spend money on doing too many non-distributory things and drive up prices.

For the most part, they’re tools that go well with a music distributor. I will probably use Vizy to make the promo video when I set up Bandcamp subscriptions.
DistroKid does what it says it’ll do on the sales page: sends your music to the stores, gets you paid. Simple. Support is still responsive three years later. I expect to stick around this time.

Use my referral link for a 7% discount.

My first furry convention

As much as I would love to put photos in here, I didn't have the awareness I do now that furry is a majority-queer community, so I wasn't very careful about obscuring faces in the photos I took.


Sonic the Hedgehog was my first crush at a young age, so I was destined to become part of this weird, wonderful little community we call furry. I’ve done what many furries aspire to: go to a convention. Furry Weekend Atlanta is local, so their 2016 convention made a good first.

Day 1

I got to Furry Weekend Atlanta 2016’s hotel, the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, on the second day of the convention, so I walked into the lower floor of the hotel completely bewildered. Without the first day lines to guide me, I didn’t know where to go.

To my left was a giant room with people milling about. I tried to go in, but the woman at the door said I needed to get my badge first.

“Where do I do that%3F”

“Upstairs.” She pointed at the escalator in the middle of the lobby where I entered. I was so overwhelmed — by the drive in, seeing the tips of Atlanta’s buildings covered in clouds, the many lanes of traffic, the sheer mass of the brutalist architecture of the hotel — that I missed the escalator.

“Thanks.” I headed to the escalator, but the person I was with noticed an African wild dog fursuiter heading back toward the room we were turned away from and asked to take a picture. We did. This was my first time seeing a fursuit in person. They seem so big in pictures. In reality, they don’t add much to the suiter’s size.

Up the escalator, on to the con floor, where we finally got a look at the legendary hotel’s innards. The floor above us, which holds the hotel’s food court and leads to the mall food court across the sky bridge, had curious people from another convention taking pictures. Many of them had tails to go with their fancy business suits by the end of the convention. You can’t resist the fluff. I bump into them on Twitter from time to time excitedly sharing the story of that time they saw a furry convention happening in the same hotel.

I finally got to meet Haven Fusky, the ball of fluff behind HavenCon. He’s been a furry half as long as I have, but he took to it faster than I did. I dabbled from the 2000s and didn't make a fursona until the mid 2010s.

We ended day one at the rave. I had a pounding headache, so I didn’t expect to last long.

Somehow, the bass pounding through the room made my headache go away. I did not dance. Behind me on the sidelines, I saw someone familiar. Someone I’d had a falling out with on Twitter. I avoided them a few more times, then made amends after the convention. It didn't last, but we parted on good terms. Sometimes two personalities just don't mesh.

Day 2

Fennec foxes, the real ones, are exactly as tiny and cute as they look in pictures. Wendy the fennec was there with the Conservator Center, the charity selected for Furry Weekend Atlanta 2016. I asked why she had to be caged. The last time they took her out, the crowds were too much. I know that feel. Also, fennecs can run at 30 miles per hour, so they didn’t want to risk her getting loose in that big hotel. Wendy has since passed away. Foxes don't live nearly long enough.

The big thing for me on day two was the sky lounge social. While in line around the central barrier of the tenth floor, from which you could see all the way down, I met a guy who really knew his film. We chatted about why some old movies and shows get a HD release while others don’t. For example, I didn’t know they recorded parts of Stargate SG-1 on 35mm, ensuring it would never have a proper HD release without ugly upscaling. Sad.

Behind us, cheesy electronic dance music emanated from a wolf. Normally I’d hate it, but the beat kept the line moving when conversation died down. Later, once we got our food, we met the friend we made in line and chatted with his friends at a table while we ate and looked out the windows.

They wouldn’t let us have campfires in the hotel to go with year's convention theme, so we had mocha smores in little cups instead.

Day 3

Day three convinced me it was wise to skip the convention’s actual day 1. I was so out of it I almost forgot to check the Dealers Den one last time. I'm convinced I had a coronavirus. The symptoms resemble covid-19's so closely that it's hard to explain otherwise.

I met Rukis. If you’re a furry, you know who Rukis is. She makes cute art, but I did not know she writes. I spent several minutes chatting with her at her table. We talked about art and books, the state of the fandom, conventions. Stuff like that. Except I didn’t realize I was talking to Rukis. I recognized the art, but didn’t make the connection. That’s how out of it I was when I handed her my card to pay for my print.

I’ve since read two of her novels. The first, Off The Beaten Path, involves the arctic fox on the print I bought. Puquanah is a blind arctic fox who travels with his coyote, Ransom, and goes on all kinds of adventures. This print depicts Puquanah soon after being kicked out of his tribe, before he became a healer.

What I’ve noticed is, in the furry community, even the stars are down to Earth. I also (knowingly) talked to Fox Amoore at his panel on music composition and met a few other minor figures in the community. I hugged a lot of fursuiters.

I ended the day at Max Lager’s with the biggest hamburger I’ve ever eaten. We actually planned to go to Hard Rock Cafe, but the estimated wait time was absurd. So we went a few blocks to Max Lager’s, passing someone taking their graduation photos, meeting a guy who apparently rides around on his bicycle telling groups to stop laughing (we were).

You should go to Max Lager’s if you’re ever in town.

I decided to make my next convention a non-furry con. FWA was too small, so when the former friend I was with ditched me for 99% of the convention, it was hard to find my way around. He had more experience with cons, so I felt safe going in, but I realized it was unwise to depend on someone I barely knew. I met all the people I knew who were in attendance on the first day, and you can only hit up the Dealers Den, Game Room, and Artist Alley so many times before you run out of activities.

DragonCon is an obvious choice, but it's probably a 2022 or 2023 thing unless this newsletter takes way off. Money isn't as tight as it was in 2016, but I know from that experience that I need to stay at the hotel, not commute, and I need enough money budgeted to really enjoy myself. But I Did A Con, and it marked a huge bucket list item off while also giving me a more realistic idea of the experience.

Raised by the internet

You know the subreddits. Raised By Narcissists, Lost Generation, Childfree, and other subreddits in that theme. Forums where people go to share notes and commiserate.

They’re great for a little while. You learn the boundaries of your traumas, find strategies to get past them, and then…

That’s where the problem starts. By the time you’ve gotten something out of them, you’re used to visiting and joining in on the misery. But you can’t just stay there and keep getting something out of it.

It’s true of anything. Eventually, you have to move on from the beginner level. You can’t live in your misery. At some point, you have to live. Take it from someone who spent hours a day getting mad in /r/lostgeneration while ignoring all the things I could be doing to thrive despite all the barriers put in my generation’s way. Once you grow past it, you realize a lot of the people hated by that forum are in the same boat, and getting your daily Five Hours Hate just keeps you from realizing who your allies are.

Let me leave you with one lesson: If a relationship makes you feel worse every day, the relationship is toxic. That could be family, friends, a partner, a place online. Or offline. Time and energy you spend in those relationships is time and energy you can’t spend learning from it and moving on to better things.