July 2020

State Of The County


Malled In

The local mall is almost-entirely open, albeit with masks and sanitizers and roving social-distancing enforcers. Well, open from 11am to 7pm on weekdays, anyway (11-6 Saturday, 12-6 Sunday; feels like being back in the Seventies).

What’s still closed?

  • Bath & Body Works
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop
  • Cinemark Theaters
  • Disney Store
  • Dairy Queen
  • Main Street Studio (art gallery w/painting classes)
  • Manpower (temp jobs agency, something you’d expect to be busy)
  • PLAYLive Nation (“upscale gaming lounge”; their words, not mine)

And that’s it. None of the others have any restrictions beyond masks and limited capacity, and the non-food-court restaurants are all open for dine-in as well as carryout.

I might go there tomorrow for the first time in 8-9 months, just for the novelty of having somewhere to walk around. For about ten minutes, anyway, until the mask starts lowering my blood oxygen and raising my blood pressure.

Meat run

When I went to the coast for a haircut a few weeks ago, I stopped at the Safeway that carries Boar’s Head meats; they were mostly out. Today? They had every variety of turkey in quantity, but had to open the last roast beef and teriyaki chicken for me (because I didn’t want the turkey either). They’re expecting a delivery just in time for the 4th.

Speaking of haircuts…

…Anita Ekberg is enough to make me want to shave…

New California Republic?


Uranium Fever

Amazon is producing a Fallout series. If they follow the Bethesda model, it will be set 300 years after the bombs dropped, but the rubble and the people will make it look like it’s only been maybe 20 at most. The plot will involve cleansing the radiation from something that shouldn’t need cleansing, but never mind, because most of the episodes will focus on side quests and crafting, with a heavy dose of Daddy Issues.

Benito Newsom’s Strike Teams

No, seriously. What are the odds he’ll give up this newly-discovered power, ever?

Also, he just re-closed 19 counties for a minimum of three weeks, because fireworks apparently spread viruses now. Or something like that.

Ah, how quickly things change…

“Seriously people, stop obeying mandatory mask orders! And stop leaving the house so you don’t get arrested for disobeying the mandatory mask orders! And don’t buy food at stores that mandate masks! And tell that drug store to remove the giant display of individually-packaged disposable masks! And stop breathing!”

More, please!

19-year-old arsonist and looter facing 5-20 in federal prison. He was caught on video setting fire to a Sake House in Santa Monica. The same video shows him then moving his car about 500 feet and looting a nearby business.

Random Thoughts, Explosion Day edition


Brought to you by Megumin, the patron saint of Home Fireworks Displays:

Gosh, how did this get detected as spam?

Received: from redacted.clientshostname.com (unknown [185.180.197.116])
Received: from [185.144.31.1] (localhost [IPv6:::1])
From: “PROF. DAVID HAMILTON” <redacted@easynet.es>
Reply-To: redacted@sol.dk
Message-Id: <redacted​@​redacted.clientshostname​.com>
Subject: ABOUT SUSUMU

So that’s a Spanish from address, a German reply-to address, and a Japanese word in the subject, sent from an IP address in Russia, routed through another in Netherlands whose domain is registered to a company in Cyprus, then handed off to pobox.com (a US/Australian company who will apparently accept anything from anybody). The body of the message tells you that The Good Professor is a retired British lawyer, so this international effort is clearly on the up-and-up.

Oh, and it was sent to my cpan.org email address.

Best part?

I am searching for any family member of my late client Mr. Susumu who has the same family surname with you

Yeah, I’d fall for that in a heartbeat. If my “family surname” was Susumu, maybe.

The address block at the end of the message looks entirely authentic as well.

Prof. David Hamilton (RETIRED)
52 Denedin House, Manwood
street,Noth Woolwich,London E162LB
United Kingdom.

No. Just… no.

My absolute loyalty to the Pepsi brand dates back to the day I won $500 in the Pepsi Spirit bottle-cap contest, but despite the amount of merch I own, I cannot imagine purchasing this product for any price.

The only product less attractive than this is the hand-made soy candle in an old Pepsi can with “custom scent” ($15 plus $8 shipping).

(Technically it was a joint effort. My sister and I collected everything but the rare “R”, and one day when my brother was home on leave, he drove us to school, buying a Mountain Dew on the way and flicking the bottle cap into the back of the car. I found it a week later and it was the “R”, so we split it three ways)

In home-baking news

My latest order from King Arthur Flour arrived, containing 9 pounds of durum flour and a pound of SAF Red instant yeast. And since several of my recent grocery-store trips have resulted in the discovery of KAF AP and bread flour on the shelves, and Costco had 2-pound bricks of Red Star active dry yeast, I’m pretty darn stocked in the bread department for quite a while. I’ve got a loaf of durum sesame bread cooling on the counter right now, and a nice selection of Boar’s Head lunch meats to combine it with.

And while updating my LinkedIn profile for the first time in fifteen years, I stumbled across a job opening that I should have no difficulty demonstrating my qualifications for, given that the Director of Engineering who posted it is someone I trained and shared an office with. More on that after I talk to him Monday.

KAF Durum Sesame Bread (2-pound loaf)

This is not the recipe available on their web site, but the one on the back of the flour bag (metric weights are the amounts that I use, checking the dough consistency when the bread machine’s mix-in beep goes off):

1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups water, 105 to 110 degree (355 grams)
1 tbsp sugar (12 grams)
2 tsp salt (12 grams)
2 ½ cups durum flour (310 grams)
1 to 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (180 grams)
2 tsp instant yeast (6 grams)

1 tbsp sesame seeds (9 grams) – topping

  1. Combine everything but the sesame seeds, knead, let rise until doubled in size. (I use the dough cycle on my bread machine)

  2. Shape into a smooth 12-inch torpedo, brush with water, sprinkle with sesame seeds and press them lightly into the dough. (I load it into my KAF small pullman pan)

  3. Let rise until almost doubled, slash in 3 places before baking. (pullman: let it rise within ½-inch of the top, put on the lid)

  4. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 10 minutes, lower heat to 400°F and bake 20-25 minutes more. (pullman: 25 minutes at 350°F, remove the lid and let it go another 8-10 minutes, pulling it out when the center reads 190°F)

  5. Cool on a wire rack.

I like the pullman pan for this, because it makes a very sturdy sandwich loaf that can be sliced quite thin, toasted, and filled with plenty of chicken salad or sliced lunchmeat.

Black Powder Nation


I have never heard so many unofficial fireworks going off, many quite elaborate. And quite close. The smell will linger for weeks.

I am very glad it’s been damp and humid recently, and that I watered the yard today.

Update

By the time I went to bed, the weather app on my phone had been reporting “unhealthy air quality” for several hours. Seems all the particulate sensors in the area were reading ~5x the usual amount of stuff in the air…

Ah, social media…

Nextdoor is full of complaints this morning, both about the massive fireworks displays and the city’s failure to stop them all. “Don’t these people know that it’s illegal?!?!?!?!?”

Oh, a title goes here?


Weighty decisions

Rogue Fitness got another shipment of kettlebells in, and I grabbed a 40-kilo one before they ran out. Hopefully it won’t be Brickmuppet hefting my 88 pounds of cast iron onto a UPS truck…

Cram-o-matic

The most profitable crafting recipe I’ve found in the Pokemon DLC is:

1 Cheri Berry + 3 Dynamax Candy

The berries can either be collected in small quantities for free or purchased in large quantities for 80 each. Dynamax Candy is the reward for doing raids, and can’t be sold, so you end up hitting the inventory maximum (999) pretty quickly. To add insult to injury, a recent event significantly increased the amount awarded after most raids. The recipe produces TR88 (“Heat Crash”), worth 3000.

There are some profitable recipes that can be made with just berries, but not berries you can buy bulk, so you’re limited by how many you’ve found by shaking trees once a day.

The most useful recipe is a chain:

1 Iapapa Berry + 3 Dynamax Candy = Wide Lens
1 Wide Lens + 3 Rare Candy = Bottle Cap
Bottle Cap + (anything) + 2 Bottle Cap = Gold Bottle Cap

This is quite expensive, since Rare Candy sells for 5000, but it’s another thing you get for free from raids, so you can build up quite a stack. Bottle Caps are how you optimize the stats for the pokemon in your party; Gold Bottle Caps max out the potential of all six stats at once. You can buy them with a currency that’s earned at the battle tower, but only if you spend a lot of time grinding there. Much easier to just make a few when you’re building a new party.

The best team for catching free-range organic Dittos is a Feebas with only non-attack moves (at least two; it’s one of the few mons that can actually have all four moves be useless) and a Gallade with False Swipe, Hypnosis, Thunder Wave, and Sunny Day. Start by throwing a Quick Ball. If that doesn’t work, swap in the Gallade and use False Swipe, then throw a Repeat Ball. If that doesn’t work, use Hypnosis or Thunder Wave to sleep/paralyze it, and then throw another Repeat Ball. Sunny Day is useful if the weather would damage the Ditto after you’ve reduced it to a single hit point, but so far I haven’t seen that on the new Ditto island in the DLC.

This is a much better place to catch them than the Lake Of Outrage, because there aren’t any nuisance spawns in the area that will chase you around, and the Ditto spawn rate is much higher. The raid den also spawns them more frequently than the only one in the base game, although I haven’t checked to see if they’ve nailed down the rates for the new DLC dens.

Unrelated

I’ve run out of Stargate: SG-1 episodes I want to rewatch while on the elliptical. I’ve found it difficult to rewatch the Atlantis spin-off, so I need to find something new/old that will give me ~45 minutes of mild entertainment and is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Starz, BritBox, Hulu, Netflix, Crunchyroll, HiDive, or dLibrary Japan. Hmmm, perhaps it’s time to cancel a few of those…

First up: Bodacious Space Pirates. Two episodes at a time works well for this series.

What Would Maple Do?


I don’t want to get hurt…

…so I devoured all of Bofuri in one day (as one should), and then was disappointed to discover that the only merch on Amazon US was cheesy knockoff crap printed in China (blank notebooks and wall-hangings printed with swiped artwork). Not much fan-art on Pixiv, either, and very little of it even reasonably well-done.

In fact, I didn’t see anything on Amazon Japan, either, just the novels, manga, and anime.

So I read the 276 available fan-translated bite-sized chapters of the light novels. The first two translators who took a stab at it weren’t very good at assembling English prose, so I don’t know if they were working from the original web-novels or the published books. The third, still-active translator has taken it way ahead of the anime; everyone’s just finished up exploring the 7th level of the game and acquired their new (spoilers). Naturally, Maple recently gained an absurd new power by eating something.

The game developers seem to have embraced the idea that she’s the final boss, and just try to make it possible for other players to eventually defeat her. They do at least manage to come up with content (including bosses) that she can’t solo.

It’s an interesting series that exploits a lot of common tropes without falling into the usual patterns. There’s no villain, no harem, no angst, no world-saving, no jerks ganking noobs. Even the tentacles are benign. There’s just Maple warping the universe through her determination to have fun.

Some things never change…

Amazon promises Tuesday delivery, hands off package to local post office at 1 AM Tuesday, post office claims it went out on a truck at 7 AM and was delivered at 7:30 PM, package not in locked mailbox at 8 PM. Package spontaneously appears in locked mailbox early Wednesday morning.

Job talking

Had a good chat with the former co-worker who’s building up an SRE team. Looking forward to talking to some of his people. Downside: the current opening is junior for me, but he expects to have senior positions in August, and if I’ve already interviewed, the process should be shorter.

Good Eats Reloaded Gets Loaded


Alton Brown’s “Kentucky colonel” southern-gentleman cosplay and accent during the mint julep segment were perhaps not the best choice for the current trigger-word-happy climate. Not much meat to this one, although I liked the clear ice cubes and the dedication to the late Deb Duchon. Pity he didn’t go into the “Mpemba effect”, which is more of a Good Eats-ish thing than just making some cocktails.

No doubt part of the reason he just referenced it and moved on is that it doesn’t seem to be a particularly well-defined or well-tested claim. The original claim seems to be that a container of hot water will start to freeze sooner than an equivalent container of cold water, which is often misinterpreted as “will freeze faster”. Test results have been ambiguous, with a lot of uncontrolled variables depending on how the tester decided exactly what to test (evaporation, convection, freezer temperature, humidity, volume, container shape, etc, etc).

Alton does give a practical reason to start with hot water: less dissolved oxygen makes the resulting cube clearer.

Random Thoughts, Time Machine edition


Dear Amazon,

You know the drill:

Hmmm, have they done an isekai series about ending up in another world as a monster-girl samurai psychologist yet?

Fun Mac Fact

If a Time Machine backup is interrupted for any reason, it may leave behind an unkillable backupd process. If this happens, even automatic local snapshots will stop working until you reboot. And by “reboot” I mean power-cycle, because MacOS doesn’t know what to do about an unkillable system process; it kills off everything it can and then just sits there, helpless.

Part of the problem is that the menubar indicator that’s supposed to show when a backup is active does not include the “preparing” or “stopping” stages, so if you were to, say, close your laptop lid during those stages, or change your network configuration by starting a VPN connection or switching from wired to wireless, you could trigger the problem.

For more fun, if your Time Machine backups are on a NAS, they’re stored in a disk image, which needs to be fscked periodically (part of the lengthy “verifying” stage), and must be fscked after any error. And that can take hours. And if it fails, the only solution Apple offers is to destroy your entire backup history and start over, potentially leaving you with no backups at all until the first new one completes, which, again, takes hours, especially with the default “run really slow in the background” setting enabled.

Pro tip:

sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=0

There are instructions (1, 2, but none from Apple) for how to manually fsck a TM image (possibly multiple times) and correctly mark it as usable again, a process that has the potential to take days.

And that’s why I keep two separate SuperDuper backups of my laptop in addition to the two separate TM backup drives (the “belt, suspenders, bungee cords, and super-glue” approach). Time Machine is far too fragile to rely on for anything but quick single-file restores, although it can be useful for migrating to replacement hardware that won’t boot a cloned disk.

In the standard “you’re holding it wrong” Apple way, you can’t just turn on automatic local snapshots; you have to have at least one external volume configured for automatic TM backups. In fact, the manpage seems to claim that you can’t make local snapshots at all unless you’ve got at least one external TM backup. This suggests that the optimum strategy is to use SuperDuper every day to have bootable full backups, set up TM without automatic backups, and then set up a cron job to create and manage local snapshots. And manually kick off TM backups every week or so when you’re sure you won’t need to use your computer for a few hours.

Random Thoughts, Kemeko-Hates-You Edition


Oh, FFS

(top-updating for once…)

Benito Newsom has abruptly re-closed restaurants and churches statewide. Pull quote:

Newsom has compared his strategy of opening and closing businesses as a “dimmer switch”

This is true, but not in the way he thinks.

Damn You, Corona-chan!

I pre-ordered a Pinky Funko Pop. It was supposed to arrive Sunday. When it didn’t, I checked my orders, and found the release date had silently been pushed back to March 15, 2021. Drat. At least Peace Talks should be here tomorrow (physically; I won’t pay $15 for a DRM-infested Kindle edition).

Porch Cat Gets The Hose

Well, squirt bottle, anyway. Less than an hour after receiving a dish full of premium wet cat food last night, he came around to the back of the house and tried to get attention by jumping up on the screen door and hanging there by his claws. He did not receive the form of attention he craved.

Pine Trees Matter?

Is it just me, or does this SMBC strip read like a metaphor for something?

Video hunt…

N years ago, I found copies of the Hello!Project side project Folk Songs, featuring the H!P girls singing an oddball mix of songs that their starpimp grew up with; on volume 4, there’s a song called “Kemeko no Uta” from 1968 (live performance by The Darts). It chronicles the all-too-familiar tale of boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, girl brutally cuts boy down to size. This gains something when sung by a girl group rather than the original boy band, especially since the key lines are delivered by Kei Yasuda, whose nickname in H!P was Kemeko.

This song was a hit when I brought the lyrics to my mostly-female group reading class at Foothill. At the time, I had a different video with the original band on a college campus, but when I went looking for it this morning, instead I found this, which includes various clips where the song was used, including one featuring Yuko Nakazawa, Mari Yaguchi, and of course Kei Yasuda (don’t ask about the costumes; the skits on Hello!Morning were at best “goofy”).

Old games are old

I finally broke down and downloaded OpenEmu to revisit some ancient console games, as well as try out earlier generations of things like Zelda and Pokémon. I actually have two DS Lites and an Atari Lynx, but I used the DS primarily for Japanese study, and I haven’t fired up the Lynx in decades. Indeed, the last time it got serious use was back in the early Nineties, when one of my co-workers wore out the power connector and did a half-assed soldering job to get it working again. As far as I know, it still works.

Short take: nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. I think I’ll stick with modern games and remakes that incorporate significant gameplay improvements.

Speaking of Pokémon…

I’ve significantly improved my Cram-o-matic recipe generator. Mostly I wanted to allow all reasonably-common ingredients while still excluding rare and unique ones. As a side-effect, it runs a lot faster.

The previous version focused on excluding uncraftable ingredients, which excluded a lot of common drops. I had added back several common types, but there were enough one-offs that writing additional exceptions was more trouble than it was worth, so I took the time to mark up the data files with availability. Basically, if the only way to replace it is to visit the vendor in Stow-on-Side every day until you get lucky, it’s rare (8 items), and if the only way to replace it is “play the entire game again on another user profile”, it’s unique (25 items).

I also gathered buy/sell prices for most items, for rating recipes by whether the result sells for more than the ingredients. At the moment, TR88 is the winner, with several ways to make it out of free drops and/or berries you can buy in bulk. Next time I get bored, I’ll add a “profitable-only” option to the script. 😁

Peace Talks didn’t suck


Given the direction that Butcher is taking things, I can see why he had to give up trying to fit it into one book. As is, it’s still bursting at the seams. As expected, however, if you’re not 100% up-to-date on the short stories, there are some things you’ll miss. Like why Carlos is bitter and badly injured.

XML is the bomb!


There are several lessons to be learned from the Samsung Blu-ray player fiasco, in which pretty much their entire product line turned into a useless pile of e-waste.

  1. You don’t know what your Internet-connected appliances are doing, and the manufacturer won’t tell you. Customer service probably doesn’t even know about most of it.

  2. The people designing your appliances often don’t think about or thoroughly test boot or update processes.

  3. Always mount a scratch monkey.

  4. XML makes a terrible config-file format. Ditto YAML and Apple’s Plist format (both of which are just as complex and unforgiving as XML).

When I was at WebTV, every client release meeting included someone who had precise statistics on how many devices were bricked by each previous release, how much it cost to replace them, and the effect on customer churn. This neatly negated the efforts by development and marketing to take shortcuts with QA.

On the service side, we were usually able to just roll back to a previous code or content release within a few minutes of detecting a problem, but there were occasional out-of-band updates, as well as external dependencies. One that bypassed QA one night was an update to the XML config file that controlled ad rotation on the home page. As each ad server retrieved the new file and parsed it, they locked up. When I traced the appropriate process, I saw it spinning in a tight loop trying to parse a comment; someone had manually removed one ad from the rotation. At least, that’s what they thought they’d done, with their limited understanding of XML syntax.

In our case, the code checked for errors, but never got there because it was stuck in an infinite loop; the Samsung startup code simply didn’t check for errors. If the file was syntactically valid, of course it must be semantically valid.

Random Thoughts, Delay-Of-Gain Edition


Check, please!

My last dentist appointment included an item that wasn’t covered by my insurance, and which set me back $500. No problem, says I, I’ll transfer the money from my Health Savings Account. I log in to the credit union, initiate a transfer, and the only method they offer is mailing a live check. Which arrives over a week later, from South Dakota. Unlabeled, resembling common junk mail.

I used to have a debit card for this account that let me just handle this sort of expense directly, but when it expired, they didn’t send out a new one. I think it originally came with a batch of checks, but that was so many years ago that they didn’t turn up when I cleaned my office. I must have put them somewhere “safe”…

Dear Adobe,

Did you just move the Flash team over to Photoshop support, or do all your developers like arbitrary code execution security holes?

Immune To Parody, I Became An Isekai Novel

I was mostly kidding when I dummied up a cover for an isekai series. Then Pete recently linked to a scanlated manga about a loser who gets transported into another world as a walking cheat-code who assembles a harem of eager slave girls. His adventuring party and home entertainment system eventually includes Busty Dog Girl, Cute Dwarf Girl, Cuddly Cat Girl, Giant-Breasted Dragon Girl, and Fallen Noble Elf Girl.

Skimming the translated web-novels, what struck me most is that Our Hero never faces any conflict or setbacks. The dungeon battles that take up most of the text are just the details of the party’s inevitable and painless victory, the author doesn’t write sex scenes, and the world-building is generic and bland.

Engadget has started slipping frequent “sponsored” content in between their articles (1:5 ratio), visually distinct and achingly stupid. This was the first one I noticed:

Pretty sure I don’t need an attorney in Quincy, because Quincy is a 300-mile drive from my house. I had to look it up, because I’ve never been anywhere near the Plumas National Forest.

The usual geolocation failure for my IP block puts me somewhere near Berkeley, so these bottom-feeders aren’t even using second-rate data sources.

Dear Publishers

Check your metadata when releasing books on Amazon:

Apple Knows Best

The recent iOS update apparently silently changed update settings. Some of the folks in this discussion seem surprised, but I’ve been double-checking settings after every update for years, because they pull stunts like this all the time. Especially when it comes to enabling iCloud “features”.

Goodbye Outback

The Outback Steakhouse in my town has closed for good, thanks to Benito Newsom’s arbitrary re-closing of restaurants. I saw them painting over the sign yesterday when I was driving to the post office.

Random Thoughts, Way-Behind-On-Cheesecake Edition


False Positives

Dinner last night was a quick stir-fry of onions, bell peppers, Kevin’s Korean BBQ-Style Chicken (sous-vide chicken breast with nearly-sugar-free BBQ sauce), and leftover white rice. As I added the rice and stirred it in, my Apple Watch pinged me, saying that it had detected a workout in progress and wanted to know what type. Sadly, “carbio” wasn’t one of the options.

(I don’t give a damn about Kevin’s products being natural, gluten-free, paleo, minimally processed, no artificial ingredients, with coconut aminos; I care that it’s fully cooked, vacuum packed, low-sugar, available at Costco, and fairly tasty, with enough sauce to coat the veggies and the rice)

False Narratives

Highly-accurate Corona-chan tests will hit the market faster if they don’t have to be highly accurate. Where “highly accurate” is defined as only 20% false negatives, with no mention of false positives…

Reminder: scary stories about rising Corona-chan cases are actually just reporting confirmed positive tests. Not deaths, not ICU admissions, not hospitalizations, not serious illnesses, not necessarily even a bad case of the sniffles. You can see this in the daily reports for my county, where out of the 3,726 confirmed positive tests, there have been only 245 hospitalizations.

Speaking of metadata…

This is because HarperCollins still owns Last Call and is keeping only the Kindle edition in print to keep the rights from reverting to the author, who sold the other two to Baen, which apparently doesn’t have clear ebook rights yet.

Earthquake Weather, by the way, is the single least satisfying Tim Powers novel I’ve read, although this year’s Forced Perspectives comes a close second, and for the same reason: they’re sequels. Last Call and Expiration Date work perfectly fine as standalone novels, but merging them together in EW just didn’t work for me. I don’t want to know “what happens next” at the end of a Powers novel, I want to know “what world’s next”.

Lots of nibbles, not much biting

I never expected my job search to take more than a few weeks, but that’s because I never expected the jaw-dropping imbecility of the political response to the ongoing clusterfuck that is 2020. Silicon Valley HR groups are swamped with applications from laid-off techfolk who don’t have the financial reserves I do and are desperate for work. One thing I’ve noticed in particular is the high percentage of people with Master’s (can we still call it that?) degrees applying for entry-level positions.

I’ve turned down several contract offers, not just because they’re contracts, but because once the lockdowns end, they all revert to “commute to downtown San Francisco”, something I wouldn’t do even if it weren’t a two-hour drive away. Shit-stained sidewalks, violently crazy street people, and unsafe parking garages just don’t hold much appeal for me.

I had a promising call yesterday for an SRE/sysadmin position with a decent company in Mountain View. There’s some 24/7 support involved, but that’s fine if it’s a real rotation with a team, not the 13 years of non-stop on-call that I had at Ooma. Bonus is that they found me; it’s not something that turned up in my LinkedIn searches.

(sometime, there will be a lengthy rant about what a dumpster-fire LinkedIn is)

Afternoon Update

Yesterday’s promising recruiting call was followed up by today’s “let’s schedule the interviews” call. I was standing in Costco wearing a mask at the time, so conversation was a bit difficult, but we exchanged email after I got home.

Random Lies


Spot The Lie:

“List 5 famous people you’ve either met or have been within a few feet of, but ONE is a lie. Then let your friends guess which one they think is a lie.”

My answer:

  1. Gene Simmons
  2. Ron Jeremy
  3. Harlan Ellison
  4. Hugh Hefner
  5. Verne Troyer

Oh, China, never change…

Guess the product:

“Multi-use for everyone, you will love this soft fluffy rug under your feet !”

By WETONG, from YeHow. Pretty much every line is pure gold. Four stars, ~2,400 reviews in just over a year. Competitive products available from Rechishre, BAKHUK, JSDOIN, Ouddy, Bomstar, Ozera, iReaydo, L LEIWEK, and other well-known brands.

Schlock Mercenary has ended

On the one hand, I’m sad because this was a consistently entertaining MilSF webcomic. On the other hand, now I can stop averting my eyes from the cringeworthy tweets in the sidebar. It’s become increasingly difficult to reconcile the two since you-know-when.

Esil is Best Girl

The manwha adaptation of Solo Levelling is long on full-page battle scenes, making it a brisk read. The artist has designed a number of distinctively attractive female characters, but the one who stands out for me is the demon princess/sidekick Esil (에실).

In addition to being cute as a button, she has the guts to intervene in a fight that’s way above her weight class, aiding Our Hero at a critical moment.

Sadly, peeking at spoilers from the original novel, she never shows up again.

After all, she was in his party at the time, so by rights she should have gotten to split the XP from the final boss, since she definitely participated in that fight. It would be nice to believe that she and her clan were returned to the demon realm, where she became its queen, waiting for a chance to rejoin Her Hero.

(yes, I know it’s not that kind of story; “spoilers”)

Random Fictions


Stylish And Full Of Fail

Cop Craft is out on Blu-ray. It’s a bargain at $10; pity it costs $50.

When I initially reviewed this series, I said:

“They’ve got 6 light novels of source material to work with for 12 episodes, so they shouldn’t run out.”

I was so wrong. It starts off solid, and is still pretty good through episode 7, but then it all goes to hell as you realize they’re desperately shredding the story to reach the end of book 6, and they even threw in a clip episode.

I’d like to believe that this was deliberate sabotage by someone instead of complete incompetence by the team. The director’s not a noob, and even the story that replaced book 3 was written by the original novelist, but somewhere in the middle of production, they screwed the pooch. It’s almost certainly tied to the reason that the first 7 episodes were written by the novelist, and the rest by someone else.

Also of note is that book 7, which was supposed to come out while the series was airing, was first delayed, and then completely canceled. Although the final cancellation may have more to do with the author being canceled over his remarks about Scoldilocks.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Ready Player Two is coming out in November. I suppose a sequel was inevitable, but while the book was much better than the movie, it still wasn’t really good.

Cultural Appropriation

This is a little cheesy:

Random Thoughts, Defective Detective Edition


The Kanji Police

Scammer posing as detective arrested because he couldn’t write ‘detective’. Or ‘fraud’.

Gathering Momentum

I’ve got several video interviews this week.

Y’know, for a long time I’ve been saying that I just don’t have time for all my hobbies any more, and when I suddenly have months with nothing but time, I discover that many of them involve being able to leave the house and go somewhere. Sigh.

Silent But Deadly

Unannounced and unexpected, Homebrew changed the behavior of brew upgrade to include brew cask upgrade (casks being vendor installers that may include GUI components, require root access to install, require a reboot, etc). This change is not mentioned in the release notes or documentation. Who do they think they are, Apple?

Otaku Of Gor

Those who do not read history are doomed to write isekai novels that repeat it.

With one key difference: for all the (mostly true) complaints about how horribly misogynist the Gor novels were, the core audience was female. The local bookstore clerks who more-or-less adopted me in the late Seventies often laughed about how women would come up to the counter with a Gor novel artfully concealed in the middle of their purchases.

Behind Every Successful Woman…

…is Joe Biden, sniffing her hair.

Mall-be-gone

Late last year, my local mall was finishing up a major renovation that was designed to attract more upscale stores. And it was working, until all those stores were forced to close for nearly three months, invest in expensive sanitation measures to reopen, and then forced to close down again a month later. The lucky few who have their own exterior entrances can do some business, but for the rest, the only good news is that they’re not being looted or burned out. Future lease negotiations are going to be pretty tense, with the property owner desperate to pay off the renovation and the business owners running on fumes.

Like with a cloth

I wiped and reinstalled my Surface Pro 2 last night. It is now approximately 7 zillion times faster. Next up is finally trying out WSL2 and the new Terminal app.

What J’s Watching

I tried to watch Jumanji: The Next Level last night; I’m glad it was free (Starz), because I got bored and walked away. Actually, a lot of the things I’ve tried to watch recently have bored me; this could be a more general problem with the extended lockdown.

On the other hand, I also watched the first episodes of Brand New Animal and Warrior Nun, and I’m at least willing to try another.

No One Expects The Organic Disposition


Surprise Delivery

Yesterday afternoon my doorbell rang twice, but by the time I got there, the person making a contactless delivery of organic fruits and vegetables was long gone. Unfortunately, I didn’t order a 20-pound box of organic fruits and vegetables, and there was no label on the box to indicate who did. A call to the company listed on the box just went to voicemail, and a review of my front-porch cameras showed some old guy in work clothes.

When they called back a few hours later, they explained that this was part of a USDA farmer relief program where they paid farmers and ranchers for produce and distributed it through churches, etc. Her guess was that some neighborhood group picked them up there and dropped one off on my porch. Zooming in on the camera footage of the old guy, I could just make out the word “veteran” on the rim of his baseball cap, which explains that.

I re-gifted it to one of my neighbors who has a large family. Most of it would just go bad before I could eat the parts of it that I’d actually eat.

#3

Since I only got one guess, I’ll go ahead and reveal the answer: the closest I ever got to Harlan Ellison was about 50 feet. All the others were people who showed up at Glamourcon when I was the show photographer. Gene Simmons did a Playboy photo shoot with a bunch of models in Kiss-face, and Verne Troyer did one as Mini-Hef.

Gene was loosely orbiting his wife’s table and shamelessly photobombing anyone trying to get a picture with one of the models. Meanwhile, all the models wanted pictures with Verne, and rather than having them come out from behind their tables, he just went under and joined them on their side. They were quite surprised the first few times he did that.

Hard Cider

Juicy bug in Apple’s current MacOS release, where it leaks a gigabyte an hour if you run virtual machines.

As part of the investigation, it was discovered com.apple.security.sandbox was allocating millions of blocks of memory containing just the text “/dev” and no other data.

Current workaround: don’t run virtualization software, or reboot every few hours. Or don’t install 10.15.6, even though it fixes a serious USB-2 disconnect bug.

Animal Recovery Service

Animal Crossing: New Horizons encourages you to spend hundreds of hours carefully customizing your island, which can’t be backed up or transferred to another device. So instead of supporting the standard Switch cloud save process, they’re adding a special backup-to-cloud service that will allow you to call Nintendo Customer Service to beg for a data restore after theft, loss, or purchase of a new device.

Meanwhile, the Pokémon team is determined to keep fucking you over by not supporting cloud saves, although they at least allow you to (destructively) transfer your data from one Switch to another. Their excuse is that it would enable wholesale duplication of rare mons, which is currently restricted to dozens of web sites and ebay dealers that create anything you want with save-hacking tools and sell them to you, and which advertise in-game with random trades that have their URL as the original trainer name.

Skittleized For Your Protection

I installed the new Windows Terminal. I had to edit a JSON file in order to set it to black text on a white background, in a decent font at a reasonable size. I used Notepad++ for this, after disabling the color syntax highlighting that made the contents of the file unreadable.

Then I installed WSL2, for which the official instructions use several PowerShell incantations and a manual download. That meant I also had to find the incantation (recently updated after a breaking change) to disable the color syntax highlighting that made commands unreadable. And the incantation to make it possible to have a profile.ps1 file that runs on startup, so it won’t be unreadable next time.

Then I installed Ubuntu, and went through the familiar process of disabling the unreadable colorized prompt and unreadable color-coded ls output. (this is completely different from the way you disable it under distros like Alpine, by the way)

Then I discovered that the two black-on-white themes that are pre-configured for Terminal include a light-gray-on-white mapping that less uses to display emphasized text in manpages. Also line numbers if you turn that option on. More JSON editing, this time involving holding the Alt key down while clicking on “Settings” in order to open the other JSON config file.

“How much other Lion functionality depends on guessing that if you wave the rod with the star a crystal bridge will span the chasm?”
     …and this was before Apple went completely nuts

Looks like I’ll have to go outside the MS store for distros other than Ubuntu, though, since I really don’t want to buy the ones built by random guys in China, and there’s no reason to pay for them in the first place.

First thing I tried was Fedora32, which unfortunately was built from a very stripped-down Docker container that made it useless as a general-purpose distro. So I tried someone else’s CentOS 8.2 build, which includes useful things like manpages. I may try rolling my own Fedora at some point, since I have plenty of experience creating small-but-useful kickstart configs.

Next up: overriding the key bindings in Terminal so I can run Emacs. My fingers have very specific expectations for the behavior of Control-X, Control-C, and Control-V.

Dear Netflix

Could you please cut it the fuck out with the autoplay video while I’m trying to decide if anything’s worth watching? Seriously, it often kicks in before I even have time to click to the next show. (Amazon FireTV version of the client, FYI)

Rising From The Ashes


Switching to phase 3

Interview with hiring manager complete, moving on to technical interview with team. Amusing note: he started at Synopsys soon after I left, so we know a lot of the same people.

Dear Phoenix Pick

This is an absolutely dreadful book cover. Art commissioned for a classic novel by a grandmaster of the field should have a budget higher than a trip to Starbucks.

I suppose it’s better than just randomly cropping out-of-copyright SF art with no regard for relevance. Love the random elbow.

Endless Update

No, not a Windows machine that’s been turned off for a few months, the free game Endless Sky. They’ve added a lot of content since the last time I played 2+ years ago, and there are more story-focused third-party addons.

One thing that’s changed is that my old Blackbird Bus Driver build may no longer be viable due to more intelligent behavior by pirates. Which is a good thing.

Breaking the rules…

Apparently in the current Sword Art Online arc, Our Hero Kirito has been in a coma, and thus almost entirely absent. That this has not vastly improved the story violates my expectation that, after the first season, SAO is best when Kirito’s not in it.

(and did you know that the author wrote a non-canon short story set after the resolution of the Alicization arcs where all the girls forcibly marry Kirito inside the Alice-verse and sleep with him?)

I might someday rewatch the first season. I have no interest in slogging through the rest, largely because my favorite character is the tragically underused Liz. I did however just rewatch Gun Gale Online, the spinoff written by the author of Kino’s Journey. The only disappointment was that Netflix labeled every episode with a nudity warning, but the only thing that happens is that her friend Miyu is briefly shown taking a bath in one episode, with nothing showing.

Related, according to the wiki, Karen is canonically six feet tall (183 cm). They try to show this in the anime, but don’t quite manage to drive home just how freakishly tall that is for a Japanese woman; Karen should feel alienated and isolated. Compare to original Morning Musume member Kaori Iida, who towered over all the rest of the girls at only five-foot-seven (170 cm).

WSL2/Terminal configs

The current incantation to disable skittletext in PowerShell is:

Set-PSReadLineOption -Colors @{None='black';Comment='black';Keyword='black';String='black';Operator='black';Variable='black';Command='black';Parameter='black';Type='black';Number='black';Member='black'}

You need an additional incantation to be able to put that into a Documents\WindowsPowerShell\profile.ps1 file that’s read on startup:

Set-ExecutionPolicy Bypass -Scope CurrentUser -Force

The user experience for customizing Windows Terminal is pretty poor. Out of the box, clicking on Settings will bring up a window asking you to find an app in the Microsoft Store to read JSON files. And it doesn’t tell you that it will do a live reload of the file every time you save it, until you make a mistake and it reverts your changes.

It also automatically adds config entries for all registered Linux distros, as well as Azure. You can hide, remove, or reorder them by editing the JSON file and remembering to add/remove trailing commas from arrays. Holding down Alt while clicking on Settings loads the default file containing color definitions, which you can copy into your settings and customize.

    ...
    // GUID of the profile you want by default
    "defaultProfile": "{5d9039ec-62cd-5628-abab-f769d05a6baa}",

    // left-drag to copy, right-click to paste, plain text
    "copyOnSelect": true,
    "copyFormatting": false,

    // make the most of the limited screen height on the SP2
    "launchMode": "maximized",
    "showTabsInTitlebar": true,
    ...
    "profiles":
    {
        "defaults":
        {
            // "No, BIGGER!"
            "fontFace": "Office Code Pro",
            "fontWeight": "Medium",
            "fontSize": 17,
            "colorScheme": "Readable",
            "cursorShape": "filledBox"
        },
        "list":
        [
            {
                "guid": "{5d9039ec-62cd-5628-abab-f769d05a6baa}",
                "hidden": false,
                "name": "CentOS8_2",
                "source": "Windows.Terminal.Wsl",
                /// otherwise you get your Windows homedir
                "startingDirectory": "//wsl$/CentOS8_2/home/jgreely"
            },
    ...
    "schemes": [
        {
            // work in progress...
            "name": "Readable",
            "foreground": "#000000",
            "background": "#FFFFFF",
            "cursorColor": "#7F7F7F",
            "black": "#000000",
            "red": "#EE0000",
            "green": "#00EE00",
            "yellow": "#000000",
            "blue": "#0000EE",
            "purple": "#000000",
            "cyan": "#000000",
            "white": "#FFFFFF",
            "brightBlack": "#222222",
            "brightRed": "#FF0000",
            "brightGreen": "#00FF00",
            "brightYellow": "#222222",
            "brightBlue": "#0000FF",
            "brightPurple": "#222222",
            "brightCyan": "#222222",
            "brightWhite": "#000000"
        },
    ...
    "keybindings":
    [
        // disable these!
        // { "command": {"action": "copy", "singleLine": false }, "keys": "ctrl+c" },
        // { "command": "paste", "keys": "ctrl+v" },
    ...

Skittletext in most Linux command-line utilities is typically enabled by the default shell profile in /etc. You can either not pull that file in at all, or undo the damage. Append-to-bashrc version:

# skip if non-interactive
[ ! -t 0 ] && return

for i in egrep fgrep grep l. ll ls xzegrep \
        xzfgrep xzgrep zegrep zfgrep zgrep; do
    alias "$i" >/dev/null 2>&1 && unalias "$i"
done
LS_COLORS=
alias ls='ls -F'

Skittletext in Notepad++ is unfortunately tied to the automagic detection of file type, each of which gets a completely independent set of color definitions. IMHO, the correct solution is to install Emacs (terminal-mode, not X11), but N++ is useful for light editing of config files on the Windows side. I might look for something else at some point. Emacs launches a bit sluggishly under Terminal, but when I tried emacsclient, it was no faster, wasting time showing me the scratch buffer before loading my file.

I had to add another line at the bottom of my standard .emacs file, to deal with the fact that with Office Code Pro at 20 points, even a fullscreen Terminal window is only 85x22 on my Surface Pro 2. Apart from the shortage of rows, it gives off a warm and fuzzy “classic Sun console” vibe as I set up a development environment.

(menu-bar-mode -1)

I suppose I should have added it years ago when they first started crufting up the UI, but I just never got around to it.

UPDATE

Font handling in Terminal turns out to be in the middle of a messy transition right now, with a lot of cleanup on the way. I’ve updated my config file above to reflect the new fontWeight option, which produces significantly different results from specifying the weight directly in fontFace. I’m now getting 85x23 fullscreen with the size set to 17 points, and it keeps the same size changing between “medium” and “light” (but not “bold”; that’s smaller).

Corona-chan Locally

The daily report for my county finally started including breakdowns by age and race for deaths. The data was available elsewhere, if you knew exactly where to look, but now it’s right up front in the report. They’re fudging a bit by only breaking down deaths into under-55 and 55-and-older, but since the total number of deaths is still only 26 out of 434,000 (with 274 hospitalizations), the bottom line is that very few people have been directly impacted by it, as opposed to the measures taken against it.

Yesterday I went out to get the mail and saw six kids riding their bikes up and down the street, socially-distanced and wearing masks. Who were they going to catch it from? Who were they going to spread it to? Feh.

Profaning The Sacred


The Sacred Texts!

rcs is no longer available in CentOS. At all. Not even in EPEL. Installing it from the Fedora 31 source RPM pulled in most of X11, because it inexplicably depends on Ghostscript. (just for the source, not the resulting binary)

Why do I need it? Because while I store most of my personal projects in Mercurial, and use Git to pull in code from other people, for config files and random text I use ESR’s src, which wraps a modern UI around RCS in a single portable Python script. As a bonus, if you decide to migrate a directory of files into Git or Mercurial, it generates fast-export files.

“Is it weird to play as the opposite sex?” – Reddit

“No, but it’s weird to think it’s weird.”

Seriously, you’re playing a game where you’re a 12-year-old monster trainer. Or a vaguely-immortal warrior. Or a space marine. Vampire. Elf. Alien. Sentient tank. Space freighter captain. Combat archaeologist. Pirate. Ninja. Murderhobo. Detective. Pick-up artist. Gangsta. Thief. Pimp. Mercenary. Leader of a biker gang. Cartoon dog and bunny. Post-apocalyptic parent. Marlow Briggs!

All this and many more, and you’re worried about the naughty bits your avatar doesn’t even have?

How to hold a fair election

Trump should tweet support for mail-in ballots that are allowed to arrive up to 30 days after election day. Within an hour, the Left will be demanding in-person voting with mandatory ID, active poll monitoring, and transparent auditing.

Teach Them Well…

In 1985, I went in to pay my OSU tuition for the quarter, and in the line was a large group of young men in identical clothing, looking like a centipede as they moved in lock-step in a tightly packed line, their identities subsumed into the group. At the time, I didn’t recognize the Marxist indoctrination that was common in black fraternities.

Close enough

Of all the actress/models whose careers are based on “looks kinda like Ai Shinozaki but gets nekkid”, I think Nanami Matsumoto (松本菜奈実) is the best. Link is NSFW, of course.

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen any of her video work, just the photos.