“This is griefing disguised as game design.”

— Shamus Young, on No Man's Sky's inventory 'improvements'

Triangulation

Okay, the producers of the anime adaptation of the erogame Triangle Heart whimsically reimagined a minor (“not romanceable”) character as a magical girl and accidentally created the extremely successful Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise, which has inspired quite a bit of fanfic over its life.

Including one about a magical girl in the middle of a realistic 20th Century war. Which quickly filed off the serial numbers and turned into an isekai story where the main character was reincarnated as a little girl, with the memories and personality of a 30-year-old salaryman.

In other words, the eponymous hero of The Saga of Tanya the Evil is a porn game little sister’s evil twin. Explains a lot, really.

Unrelated…

…I’m trying to get Virginia’s voice back into my head so I can fix her story. What I initially thought would be a small course correction ended up revealing that pure seat-of-my-pants writing just doesn’t work when events have to be grounded in a real-world setting.

The root problem is that they leave the mall early enough in the evening to invite Kit over for dinner, but have to take her home first to get permission. This Does Not Go Well™, leading to a confrontation where Sally and Virginia have to trade truths about themselves. But Kit can’t be in the room for that, because she really is just a little girl who won’t understand, so I put her to bed in Virginia’s room while the “grownups” talked.

But it’s still only dinnertime. If it were later, it would be easy to just tuck her away for the night, but if she was affected (physically or emotionally) by what happened with her Wicked Stepmother, they wouldn’t leave her alone in another room. Virginia may be in deep denial about her budding humanity, but she’d find a rationalization for her compassion, and Sally is a genuinely nice person. I think I need to read it over from the beginning, set a fixed direction, and then see how much of chapters 3 & 4 I can keep.

Maybe I can figure it out during my upcoming flight to Chicago.

Last Anime Standing, etc.


A Certain Demonic Agriculture Minister

Still haven’t finished the “new girl” Re: Zombie episode or the one after (apparently a historical piece set in go-go girl (5号) Yūgiri’s life). Kind of paused Demon Lord Slave Harem a bit after Horn went all girly and collared herself. Slime Diaries is becoming a bit of a chore. Girl Spider, Spider Girl is getting pushed aside for the B Ark, which is far less interesting.

Which pretty much leaves Best Girl Beelzebub And Her Amazing Friends (something-something-slime-something-level). Still fun, and that’s despite the fact that I’ve read well past this point in the light novels, so there are no surprises.

The only other thing I’ve really watched recently was Isekai Quartet, which I’d passed on when it came out because I hadn’t seen any episodes of two of the four shows, so their in-jokes were lost on me. Now, even though I dropped Overlord mid-season and Re: Zero fairly early in the first season, and would need the full Clockwork Orange treatment to ever watch more Konosuba, I did like Tanya.

TL/DR: season one okay, season two less so, and only partially rescued by Shield Hero cameos. Visha is Best Girl, thanks to the chibifying process removing The Innsmouth Look from her character design.

File under baffling the fact that the well-regarded (and still active) Nanoha franchise is apparently not available on any streaming service, and the used region-1 DVD box sets are outrageously priced. Seems like an odd thing for Funimation to completely drop from their catalog.

Unrelated, new trailer for Dragon Maid S, to be unleashed on the world on July 7.

Novel: A Hail Mary Project

The new Andy “The Martian” Weir novel came out a month ago, well above my price point for a Kindle book, so I put it on my Overpriced wish list to check up on in a few months. On Friday, Amazon sent me email offering a $5 instant credit on it, so I bought it.

It’s not bad, but I can’t say lightning struck twice. It tries to follow the Martian “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this” pattern, but it just doesn’t work as well when the danger is largely offscreen and the problems are more abstract and distanced, especially with so many exposition-heavy flashbacks.

Mark Watney was stranded alone on Mars and was facing certain death soon if he couldn’t quickly come up with practical solutions for the many problems he faced; Ryland Grace is alone on a spaceship and gradually learns that other people will die eventually unless he comes up with a solution to a single very specific and convoluted problem.

I would have been very unhappy if I’d paid 50%+ more for this book than a mid-list nuts-and-bolts SF novel. I still think I paid a good 20% more than I should have. Seriously, hunt yourself up a battered paperback copy of The Ring of Charon if you want to see it done right.

(and, yes, I find the sub-title “A Novel” pretentious and insulting; WTF do they think I expect to find, “A Canned Ham”?)

Pelosi’s nephew addicted to tyranny, too

While Benito Newsom hasn’t yet reneged on the promise to end the Californistan Mask Theater on June 15th, he insists on retaining his emergency powers.

Because it feels so good to force others to live by rules that don’t apply to you.

As The Worm Turns…


Apple employees have finally discovered work/life balance, refusing to go back to the office for three days a week:

“Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.”

I love how they tart this whine up with grievance-studies language. The pandempanic-induced switch to remote work is somehow inclusive in a way that the job environment they were in for the last 5-20 years was not.

“This bug is a feature; your argument is invalid”:

I have some sympathy. After all, I’ve been living 60-70 miles away from my office for over 20 years now, and going in every day was a pain in the ass. Reverse-commuting and working from home 2-3 days a week significantly improved things for me, and since I was on-call 24/7, it didn’t really matter where or when I did the work. Honestly, having interviewed at Apple, I’d rather not be surrounded by those people all day long, either.

Indeed, since switching jobs in the middle of the Corona-chan Revolution, the only one of my co-workers I’ve met in person is the one who already left the company for a startup opportunity. I might meet my manager soon, when I get back from my upcoming trip to Chicago, since my return flight puts me near my nominal office in time for lunch. It will be September before I might have to drive up to an office at least once a week.

No cover charge


Cover art that doesn’t sell

I was browsing through Amazon, and buried at the end of a “you may like” list was a book that I automatically looked past based on the cover, and by pure chance happened to catch the author’s name just as I was clicking away to another page.

The cover art didn’t grab me, the title didn’t grab me, so I’d already given it a pass before scanning to the bottom to see the author. I mean, all I really saw was “poorly-lit ponytail gal leaning against something”; I didn’t even linger long enough to notice the details that said “boxer gal resting against heavy bag”, much less “forest/marsh background with human from another era”. And what does this have to do with an actor having to become the detective character she’s best known for to solve a murder? About the only nice thing I can say about this cover is that the author’s name is fairly readable against the background at thumbnail size; the title really isn’t.

There are better ways to inform me that Charles de Lint released a new Newford novel a month ago.

(as an aside, I’ll mention that I have a love/eye-roll relationship with de Lint’s Newford stories; there are elements that I have a hard time swallowing, and I’m not referring to the urban-fantasy parts)

No wine after its time

Some random wine discussion online reminded me of something amusing that happened when my sister and I took our parents to Japan. We were having dinner at an Irish pub in Kyoto, and since they had a wine list and the three of them are fans of good wine, they selected a bottle and ordered it.

It was undrinkably bad. So was the second choice. And the third. The manager humbly apologized, noting that they were the first people to order wine in as long as he could remember, and apparently no one had been keeping track of the stuff. It was after all an Irish pub, so everyone just ordered the Guinness.

Also, their “fish & chips” was a whole fried fish, including the head and tail. Fortunately I ordered the Guinness curry, which was decent.

Anime merchandise that isn’t

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that they’re not getting any sales to Tanya fans…

Jira Jungle


Current employer blessed us with a Friday off, extending the 3-day holiday weekend to 4. Naturally, both Jira and Confluence ran their log-scanners this morning and reported thousands of instances of never-before-seen potentially serious errors, and at the same time one of our contractors was horrified to discover what looked an awful lot like a potential admin-level hack against Jira. The hack wasn’t, and the log-scanner seems to have gone completely insane, for instance reporting hundreds of instances of three completely different Confluence errors on the same server, on the same log line, which matched precisely zero of the errors.

So that’s 2.5 hours of life I want back. Also, for the entire time, the Tanya The Evil OP song Jingo Jungle was running through my head, so I had to buy it on iTunes so that I can inflict it on the rest of the team the next time we have a surprise emergency Zoom debug session.

Evil/Coffee/Duck


When you wish upon a duck…

Wonderduck is slowly working his way back home. Send thoughts, prayers, wishes, vibes, or whatever seems appropriate.

I choose to send ducks in their natural habitat…

A Different Mini

The warranty replacement for my lightly-leaking Essenza Mini arrived Tuesday morning, and sadly(?) it’s the right color but the other design. Instead of the flat rectangular one I originally purchased, it’s the rounded-wedge design, which takes up about an inch more counter space. Not generally a big deal, unless you have three different kinds of machine lined up side-by-side in a small space. Which I do.

I’ll be leaving it on the tile counter for a few days to make sure it doesn’t drip. Actually, I’m wondering if many of the online reports about this sort of leak are tied to the design; that wider shape may affect how the internals are laid out. I’m surprised that even the cup platform is slightly different, although still compatible with the 3D-printed mug adapter; the water reservoir appears to be the same part, although it doesn’t snap into place as snugly as on the first machine.

Slime Spider Saga

Binge-watched The Saga Of Tanya The Evil after catching up on both 300 Years Of Slime and I Did Not Give That Spider Godlike Powers. A bit of whiplash there…

It was a bit refreshing that a pixiv search for Tanya sorted by Popular(male) did not lead off with porn. I made it all the way to the fifteenth picture before the first crudely-done low-resolution penetration shot showed up. Of course it went downhill fast after that, and switching to the “All ages” view didn’t help much, given the inadequate tagging.

Kits, Cats, Sacks, and Wives…


Show me the print button!

Booked a flight to see family in June (human contact again!). Expedia no longer has a way for you to print your complete itinerary, just individual print buttons for each flight and car rental. This is really fucking stupid. “Yes, I have your app. Yes, I keep paper copies of important documents when I travel, because the app is just a web browser that loads the same mobile-optimized site on demand, and doesn’t store that data offline when I might actually need it.”

Seriously, I had to scroll around in the app just to get useful information I could screenshot, because it wastes space on a crappy static map showing me that my flight from San Francisco to Chicago goes from cisco to Chicago.

Unexpected Advantages of Life on Planet Zoom

During our group’s social hangout, one of my co-workers was surprised to discover just how old I am. Apparently Zoom’s been taking a good twenty years off. When all the Covid-Koolaid is over, can I use $zoom_age / 2 + 7 to pick up girls? 😁

I hate ice cream trucks

Not only does the sound carry for blocks on a warm windy day when I want to have all the windows open, they play really terrible versions of songs I already dislike. I’ve heard half a dozen Christmas songs this week, and on Sunday afternoon, there was one going around with “Do-Re-Mi” on endless repeat.

Herding cats…

Heard loud yowling in the back yard, went out to find Porch Cat in a desidedly antisocial clinch with a much larger orange tom. I’d been wondering why there were signs of combat when I’ve petted him recently. The real surprise was that the orange one, who I haven’t seen around the neighborhood before, was completely unwilling to be run off. It took two (accurately) thrown shoes and the water hose to get him out of my yard.

Slow-playing Pocket Dueces

While masks are still mandatory in California for at least another 3 weeks, it appears that late-night curfews and assorted Sanitization Theater requirements have been revoked, so that the local Safeway that’s been closing early and opening late for most of the past year is now back to normal hours.

Which means I can buy groceries after midnight again, like when I used to live in America.

Speaking of shopping…

…I guess I won’t be going back to Costco for a few days, at least: they took away my card. They’d have given me a new one if I’d been willing to wait in the lengthy Sunday-afternoon service-desk line, but since they at least let me finish my purchase, I didn’t bother.

Why take it away? Because about a month ago, I applied for the Costco Visa card (for the sole reason that it has no foreign-transaction fee, and the only other card I have with that feature has a credit limit high enough that I don’t want to just walk around in Japan with it), which doubles as a membership card. It never arrived, but while it was in-flight-but-not-activated, my old card continued to function.

Once I called in to report the credit card as missing, it automatically deactivated both cards. Gosh, thanks.

Vertuo signalling

One of the big features of the second-generation Nespresso “Vertuo” system is that it can make a wider variety of espresso and coffee sizes, with brewing parameters controlled by a barcode printed around the rim of the pod. This is a pretty-standard-looking linear barcode wrapped in a circle, known to encode five parameters, the most important of which is “how much water to brew”.

This is particularly important for the Next model, which is the only one capable of successfully brewing the largest “pourover” pods (the full size range in milliliters is: 40, 80, 150, 230, 414, 535). I’m interested in decoding this fully, largely because I bought the Costco bundle that was on sale a while back, and included the pourover carafe and pods in my first online order once I’d gone through all the samples.

I have now brewed a full sleeve of 7 pourover pods, with the following results: 230, 535, 230, 535, 230, 475, 525. I’m curious if the barcode is a bit out of spec for these pods, so that the machine isn’t reliably detecting the correct volume. So I’m knocking together a script to help me straighten out the circular layout, figure out which encoding system they’re using, and decode it. First pass is simply a printed template to manually transcribe the bar/gap widths.

There’s an old reddit post where someone took a stab at it, but he didn’t understand how barcodes worked and completely ignored the variable line widths, treating it just as a binary encoding.

Oh, and I made a Thing

The Vertuo Next is capable of pouring more than half a liter of coffee from a single pod. The designers are convinced that every coffee mug that anyone would ever want to use with it fits neatly onto a 3.5-inch (90 mm) elevated platform, or else is flared out at the top so that coffee will go into the mug when it’s placed on the counter.

This is, in a word, bullshit. Hence the Vertuo Next large-mug adapter, based on the OpenSCAD design I used for my Essenza Mini. This one clicks onto the platform and worked perfectly on the first print.

In the shop!

Speaking of the Essenza Mini, I finally called them about the small amount of clean water that leaks from directly under the machine a few hours after it’s been used. It’s only about a teaspoon a day since the novelty wore off and it became more appliance than toy, but since I had the Next and the Keurig, I figured I could do without it for a while and get rid of the minor annoyance.

They emailed me a shipping label and sent the replacement at the same time, so I should have it Monday or Tuesday. The specific shape and color I bought has been out of stock online for a while, but that’s A stock, and I expect the replacement to come out of B stock, so hopefully it will match. The service rep at least looked it up while we were on the phone, so fingers crossed.

3?!

Yes, I have three completely different types of pod coffee machine now. Also an Aeropress or three, a moka pot, and a Hario V60. And two high-end milk frothers; well, three, because there was one in the Vertuo Next bundle, but I’m giving the other one away and just keeping the Aeroccino 3 and the Barista foam-as-a-service device.

What can I say, a year without human contact has made me a bit goofy…

Operators are standing by!


Speaking of ‘eternal beta’…

I have an Amazon Echo Fire TV (4K). When I originally bought it and the matching smart-but-never-connected-to-internet TV, turning the two on would always result in correct video sync. Now, about 1/3 of the time the Fire TV comes up in the wrong screen resolution, so that I have to power-cycle the TV to get it to display the full UI. Progress!

“Please hold while we connect you to a con artist”

My cellphone is getting flooded with robocalls pretending to be Apple support (two in ten minutes already this morning, and I haven’t even had coffee yet!), all of them from phony local numbers that have the same NPA-NXX as my cell number. I have AT&T’s free call-blocking app, and it used to reliably block these. Now it just offers extremely basic blocking and the opportunity to manually report them, unless I upgrade to the $4/month “Plus” plan…

On a whim, I actually answered one of them and mashed a few buttons, and it connected me with someone in India who informed me that my iCloud account had been compromised.

J: Which one?
C: Your iCloud account.
J: Yes, but which one? We have three.
C: All hacked.
J: But what username?
C: (click)

Honestly, I expected better. They should at least have given the poor fucker a script to try to coax information out of people.

(the only reason my phone is even ringing for unknown numbers is because I’m expecting calls from local service companies this week, as the Newsom junta ever-so-slowly permits life to return to “normal” in California)

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”