November 2019

Candy, Free

As mentioned earlier, I bought almost exactly the right amount of candy this year, and if I hadn’t picked up a few boxes of full-sized bars as a reserve, I would have almost nothing left. 109 trick-or-treaters isn’t a record for my house, but it’s pretty respectable in an era where many kids can’t get more than thirty feet from their parents without either being scolded or taken away by social workers “for their own good”. Never mind that the tales of abductions and poisoned candy have gotten so stale that they’ve resorted to spinning yarns about evil-evil-thc-edibles.

In celebration, I offer these four-eyed cuties:

…never said the four eyes were evenly distributed…

New Release Of A Bookworm...

I see that the next Ascendance of a Bookworm light novel (part 2.1) comes out next week, and it’s currently in the top 20 for “fantasy manga” and #1 for “children’s manga”.

Note that it’s not manga at all, nor is it the claimed 33 pages long. The publisher seems to have some severe tagging issues, but I’m sure they don’t mind the ranking and “#1 bestseller” marker.

I need to sit down and catch up on the anime. When last I checked in, they had a long way to go to get through the first three books, although it looks like they’ll be using some of the side stories that pad out the books as the Bluray-only episode 14 (a rare case where “buy the blurays” does not involve steam removal…).

And, yes, that’s Koyasu as Benno.

After the jump, an artist’s rendering of what the future holds for the Adorable Moppet…


BotW: inverted challenges...

Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is a third-person open-world exploration/puzzle/combat game with some elements drawn from RPGs. There’s some variety in playstyles, but no real choices that would differentiate one person’s save-game from another’s. Once you’ve progressed past a certain point, you can do anything that anyone else has done in the game, simply by swapping in the appropriate gear.

Assuming you have the twitch reflexes and well-honed console skills to pull it off, of course. Personally, I suck at precisely-timed button/button/stick combos, so many of the “easy strats” you can find on gaming sites and Youtube are almost impossible for me to pull off reliably, while a straightforward sword/board/bow-focused slugfest worked just fine for getting me through the main story and the major side quests.

Since I went through the main quests methodically, I saw a generally sensible progression in difficulty. Puzzle and combat shrines started off easy, outdoor fights that were obviously too hard were avoidable and could be returned to later (much later…), and most problems had multiple solutions. Creative use of the special powers you pick up along the way makes it possible to cheese your way through situations where your gamepad skills aren’t up to par.

Usually. There are certain things, however, that I just can’t pull off reliably.

  1. Rapid headshots; there’s a significant benefit to hitting certain creatures in the head, and sometimes specifically in the eye. In certain situations you can slow down time long enough to line up a precise shot, but in real-time, I often miss, with messy results.

  2. Perfect blocks; get it right, and your enemy takes all the damage from the attack he just hit you with. Get it wrong, and he gets another free shot while you’re rolling on the ground recovering. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got the timing down against Guardians, but then I’ll suddenly miss 80% of them, lose half my health, and break three shields.

  3. Flurry of blows; this combines the precise timing of a perfect block with pressing the left stick in a specific direction. As a result, I think I’ve done it half a dozen times accidentally, and never when I needed it.

Mastering all of these skills makes combat much, much easier, leading to Typical Internet Responses for anyone foolish enough to ask questions about how to deal with situations those skills make trivial.

I went through a pretty standard progression, using a walkthrough just enough to expand my inventory and work around the weapon frailty system. That means I visited a lot of shrines to boost my health and stamina, wandered all over the map collecting things to craft food and upgrade my armor, defeated the four preliminary bosses, and then set the final boss battle aside while I acquired and upgraded the best gear in the game, until I was sure I could survive the fight long enough to win.

It was a cakewalk. Out in the world, I could still get my ass handed to me by carelessly engaging a group that turned out to have neighbors, overlooking a distant enemy that could stun or disarm me, taking on two guardians at once and suddenly having three leveled-up undead and two ninjas spawn, or, say, being spotted at long distance by a silver-maned lynel who has AoE arrows.

Main boss? I think he knocked me down once at the start of the fight because I was trying to take a picture of him. Then I just shot him with arrows until the fight moved outdoors, at which point I shot him with even better arrows (supplied by a special this-fight-only bow that can’t run out of ammo).

I checked the FAQs and walkthroughs, and there are all sorts of things that can happen in the big battle, but I never saw any of that; the only brief change was that right before he went down for the first time, he gained an energy shield, and kicking off Urbosa’s special took that down so I could shoot more arrows. I didn’t even use any specials in the outdoor fight; I just aimed where Zelda told me to.

I got into more trouble cleaning up outside the castle after it was over. I still have difficulty taking down lynel without suffering a ton of damage and/or breaking multiple weapons. But I could kill the Big Bad any time, just to show someone the ending scene, no problem.

I’ve got a bunch of shrine quests and DLC content to go through now, and now that I have some basic franchise knowledge and console skills, I may play through again on hard, but for that, I’ll stack the deck in my favor. Literally; I ordered a set of fake amiibo cards that shower you with loot once every 24 hours. (turns out I had just enough left over from that silly Paypal/Ebay gift card I got for Christmas a while back…)

Fun with Chrome

First, if you haven’t already stopped using Google Chrome, stop now. What could possibly go wrong with allowing web sites to edit files on your computer, and have your mobile browser automagically process those annoying two-factor-authentication SMS messages and agree that it’s really you logging into your banking site?

Security? They’ve got Top Men working on it right now!

An update for Chrome 78 is now available that fixes two major security vulnerabilities, one of which is already being used to exploit devices.

Dear Youtube,

Twice in the past few days, I’ve had a video interrupted in the middle by an unskippable video ad for an unrelated and uninteresting product.

So I downloaded them and watched offline with no ads at all.

Right on schedule...

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 6 raises the stakes.

Given the ongoing speculation, I will not discuss any details, except to say that it continues to track the satisfying story told in the novels.

Dear Amazon,

I love that you’re promising next-day delivery on a lot of items, but in your relentless pursuit of shipping optimization, you have failed to take into account the fact that USPS simply lies about when they “delivered” a package.

For instance, Wednesday at 5:53 PM, I placed an order (“free next-day shipping, for sure!”). Tracking shows that you handed it off to my local post office at 4:44 AM Thursday. USPS claims it went out for delivery at 8:44 AM, and was placed in my mailbox at 6:51 PM. My mailbox (of the shared, locking variety at the curb) was completely empty when I got home at 9:15 PM.

This is not the first time this has happened. Sometimes it shows up on my porch very early the next morning, other times as part of the next day’s regular delivery, occasionally delayed even further by a weekend or holiday, and at least once it never turned up at all, despite being marked “delivered”.

Friday night update

By golly, the “delivered Thursday” package somehow found its way into my locked mailbox today! It’s almost like it never made it onto the truck and they checked it off to pad their numbers!

Oh, wait, it’s exactly like that!

Dear Apple,

Congratulations on breaking the Calendar and Reminders iCloud sync for anyone still running Mojave and iOS 12.x!


It looks like rebooting my phone, disabling sync on both my Mac and my phone, killing the associated apps on both, and then restarting them forced a sync. Hopefully it will continue to sync for a while before it breaks again, but since I know that they switched to a completely different system for Reminders in Catalina and iOS 13, I’m not hopeful; Apple and legacy are two words that simply don’t go together.


…and I had to do it all on my iPad, too.

3D Cheesecake 24

Caught up in work and Breath of the Wild (status: I suck at Trial of the Sword), so here’s a typical assortment of cheesecake. I really need to catch up on filling in names sometime…

Cheeseless commentary

I briefly investigated “Master Mode”, the harder mode for BotW, and it’s pretty pointless for anyone who hasn’t mastered controller combo moves, even with a heaping helping of cloned amiibo to drop piles of loot from the sky and overcome the enhanced weapon-frailty system (even in the tutorial zone, you need two or more weapons to finish a fight, unless you can trigger a flurry-of-blows combo reliably).

There appear to be some actually interesting changes that I’ll likely never really get to, like the floating platforms with monsters and lootable chests. I pretty much gave up on it after reaching Hateno and upgrading all of my runes. I probably wouldn’t have gotten there so easily without the amiibo horse drop (Epona, for those who know the series).

The widely-available cloned amiibo NFC cards are quite useful, and the art on them is cute enough that I’d like to find out who drew it and see what else they’ve done; the current set has 24 cards, and the two sets I’ve used had different serial numbers, so you could scan them all every day for double the loot. I also acquired an old Nexus 5 for a few bucks, loaded the TagMo app, randomized serial numbers with the pyamiibo library, and picked up a pack of 50 NFC stickers for a decent price. You can get the tags even cheaper from Ali Express, but Amazon’s a lot quicker. Besides, I’m still kind of miffed at Alibaba for buying up our building.

(the mini cards, by the way, are the same height/width as a Switch cartridge, making them easy to slip into a case for travel)

“Oh, hi there PG&E!”

Unrelated, while typing the above, my power blipped. This is apparently the new normal in Californistan.


Dear Amazon,

“🎶 One of these books is not like the others, one of these books really does belong. Can you tell which book is not like the others, before I finish my song. 🎶”

Clicking on the tile reveals several “Catholic Action Horror” novels, Simak’s Project Pope, Stasheff’s Wizard novels, Neil Boyd’s Bless Me Father novels, pretty much every novel by Andrew M. Greeley (no relation), and books on embroidery, aikido, ninjutsu, play therapy, and a Martha Stewart how-to manual. Oh, and some books on religion, evenly divided between Catholic and non-Christian.

Dear Steve Jackson Games,

Whoever approved licensing Munchkin to the company that produced Munchkin Quacked Quest should be fired. Out of a cannon. Repeatedly.

It came out for the Switch this week, and based on the franchise, I was willing to overlook the fact that the gameplay trailer was light on details and voiced by someone who on a scale of RandomYoutuber to VoiceActor was around a 2.

Launching the game, the first warning sign was the prominent “Version 0.70”. This ain’t a Steam early-access game, kids; don’t just shove it out the door as soon as it stops crashing.

The second warning sign was that the spinning “loading” cursor was choppy as hell. Not just on the initial load, but loading the actual (tiny) dungeons, too.

The third seal was broken by the “DM” voice, which constantly repeated a small handful of lines that weren’t funny, with all the talent and wit of a third-string politician misreading a teleprompter.

Turning that off, however, simply highlighted the fact that the game isn’t any fun. And is to Munchkin the card game as the film Starship Troopers is to the novel it swiped a few paragraphs and character names from.

Living in the world you made...

It’s a pity that when you beat the Big Bad in Breath of the Wild, you don’t get to live in the world you’ve made (unless you count the sequel that’s coming next year…). Like all soldiers returning from war, Link has picked up some behaviors that don’t translate well to peacetime, and mastered many skills that there would no longer be much use for. I figure Zelda will quickly become so exasperated with him that she’ll welcome the next catastrophe:

Habit Is A Cable

“Link, no! I just bought that vase!”

“It might have rupees in it.”

“Link, stop! Those crates are filled with supplies!”

“I certainly hope so.”

“Link, that belongs to someone! And you already have four of them.”

“I need five.”

“Link, those apples are offerings to the guardian deities!”

“...and darn tasty.”


Well, that explains their QA process

Not bothering to read this one, just snarking the obvious:

Apple’s Hour of Code plans include coding labs for 3-year-olds

I had to stop rolling my eyes at the whole pointless “hour of code” nonsense a few years ago, fearing they might get stuck that way. Most kids don’t need to “learn to code”. Neither do most adults. All of them need some basic math, statistics, home-ec, problem-solving, and logic skills, but then there’d be no Democrats, so that can’t happen.

Yeah, not goin' there...

I was looking over the shop list at Shibuya Parco (note: I really hate sites that give a “language option” button that just forwards the page through an automatic translator), and noticed a pub with an interesting name: 真さか, which can be read as both “real booze” and “as if!”.

Sadly, clicking on the link reveals the ugly truth:


“This is a lemon sour, vegan gyoza, and vegan kara-age shop.”

Not only no, but hell no.

I was also sad to discover that the Candy Stripper shop is not for men.

On the bright side, they’ve got a Condomania, which is always good for tourist pictures.

Dear Amazon,

Finally you get one right!

[Unrelated, file under “baffling” the person in India who manually posted three link-stuffed (and I mean “every character is a different link, all to the same site”) spam comments to two recent entries. Pro tip: javascript-based comments don’t get indexed by search engines, so no one saw this except me, and it took one click to make them go away. Looks like it’s a WordPress site, so with luck it will be hijacked by other crooks soon…]

Local, seasonal, sustainable E. coli

My town is in the news again, for a sadly familiar reason:

Do not eat any romaine lettuce from Salinas, California

I can’t wait to see if they blame this on wild boar pooping in the lettuce fields again. Because that was hilarious.

Pixiv: Hippy Chicks

I hadn’t noticed the Pixiv tag 安産型 (literally “easy-childbirth type”, idiomatically “child-bearing hips”), until I added the pic of the BotW version of Zelda to my recent musing on the topic of reintegrating into society after life as a deranged murderhobo. (related: 1, 2)

The challenge with this set is not just linking to Houtengeki. 😁


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