September 2020

“Say hello to the 21st century”


The last time I had to go through a new-hire process was at the beginning of 2007, at a startup that didn’t quite fit in two large rooms. The onboarding process was basically “oh, you’re here; good thing you already know half the company from working with them six months ago”.

This week is a bit more involved, in a good way. Even without the aggressive use of online services to work around all the Corona-induced issues, it’s clear that the new company has invested the time and money to get people onboard and up to speed well.

I’m spending a crapload of time on Zoom, but my time isn’t being wasted. Instead, I’m seeing a lot of things being done right that we had to half-ass at the other place, because nobody had the free cycles or the management support to expand on solutions. There’s automation I set up in 2007 that’s still running basically unchanged, because that’s-good-enough-now-here’s-another-hat-to-wear.

Seriously, there’s a script I wrote in the middle of our first building move to let the rest of build team quickly handle config updates for physical and virtual machines, with the obvious name QUICK. It gained features and safeguards over the years, but deep down, the central pillar of corporate IT remains a weekend hack, running on ancient hardware with an obsolete version of CentOS. (technically there’s only one piece of it that couldn’t be migrated to a current OS on a VMware virtual, but that had to be kept alive as long as there were still Windows 7 machines in the company) (and the last attempt to do a P2V conversion before I left failed)

Yesterday afternoon, I was shown a self-service web portal that made my old script look like, well, the weekend hack that it was. It’s like they started in the same place, and then it became someone’s job to keep making it better. With funding and management support.

I was also shown a nice tool that looks quite a bit like something I proposed a while back, that got shot down because it would have disrupted The Way Things Have Always Worked. Which was the entire point. Because The Old Way was a compliance/audit nightmare.

(classical reference)

Phrasing, people!


One day at Synopsys (long ago and far away), email went out informing our team of an urgent meeting. The subject line read:

Emergency Sexual Harrassment Training

With no further context, we weren’t sure if it was a class on how not to get fired or how to definitely get fired. Worse, it was going to be run by the HR rep who just happened to be smoking hot and extremely friendly.

I think we were a bit disappointed that the “emergency” was simply the fact that the Director of NCS was going on vacation and just wanted to get this done before he left.

So what did I find in my onboarding inbox today?

Preventing Sexual Harassment Training

😁

Related, with Labor Day weekend coming up, I’m reminded of the small healthcare facility located just off-campus at OSU my first year, that I noticed for the first time when the handmade sign on their door was changed to read:

Pregnancy Distress Center: Closed Labor Day

Culture clash


My Amazon wish list recently contained this happy news:

The reason Look to Windward was so much more expensive than any of the other Culture novels was that it was owned by a different publisher. Who has finally decided that a 19-year-old SF ebook should not be priced like a 2020 hardcover.

Downside: books 7-10 have off-by-one errors in the series titling (“Book N-1”), and books 4-6 are out of print in the US, and not available as ebooks. Pretty sure they’re on my shelves somewhere, though.

Unrelated, this categorization is not an error, it’s the work of Corona-chan:

My dentist is in full-body hazmat gear, because it’s a solo practice; if she gets sick, the whole place shuts down again.

(and I get to go back to her soon with a brand-new annual budget, so “drill, baby, drill!”)

Unrelated bleg

Does anyone remember the network vendor from The Before Times who used a soviet-looking travel poster to advertise their product with a tagline like “Welcome to Zeroslotlan”? Google and DDG have been unhelpful.

Death and Taxes


Bring It On, Ghost

Korean rom-com series on Netflix, featuring a clean-cut college boy who works part-time as a one-punch exorcist, and the amnesiac high-school-girl ghost who moves in with him. Difficulty: not Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs, so it’s not filled with fan-service shots of the delightful young lead actress (note: she was 17 at time of filming to his 28). He does at least manage to land on top of her in a compromising position, but he lacks Kogarashi’s talent for optimizing hand positioning. Also, not a harem comedy, although Our Hero’s college has a well-furnished eye candy department.

And that is called paying the CoC-geld…

The CoC-blockers are trying to destroy Linux again with another coordinated attack on Linus. This is your daily reminder that “codes of conduct” in open source are not about civility, they are about control.

Zeroslotlan

The Scott Who Comments By Email wins the no-prize: it was Avatar Technologies.

Update

Oh, cool, the River and Carmel fires are officially out. They no longer appear on the LA Times wildfire map.

Losing and Winning Customers


Dear Blurb Writer,

I’m pretty sure no fan of either of those graphic novels has ever thought that was the one thing they were really lacking:

“In the tradition of Watchmen and The Dark Knight, but with more cussing. Zephyr is the superhero fiction series you’ve been waiting for.”

Vaguely related, the author of Konosuba apparently has a tech/fantasy isekai crossover series, Combatants Will Be Dispatched! (novel, manga). In which Our Hero is the top agent of an Evil Corporation sent to conquer a fantasy world with the help of his loli android sidekick.

In the color teaser pages for the second volume of the manga, Our Wrong-Genre-Savvy Hero laments the fact that absolutely nothing ecchi has happened to him yet, despite being the protagonist assigned to a group of sexy female adventurers.

Why, yes, there will be an anime version.

Losing Customers, Delivery Edition


Since it’s over 90 today and the smoke from the more distant fires is in the air, rather than firing up the oven or range, I ordered a pizza from Round Table, and accidentally failed to de-select the new default contactless delivery:

Claim:

Step 1: Order online and select the Contactless Delivery option during checkout. Please pay with a credit card and tip online to complete your contactless order.

Step 2: Your pizza is removed from our 400+ degree oven, sliced, placed in the box and is never touched.

Step 3: The driver will let you know they have arrived by ringing the doorbell or knocking.

Step 4: The driver will leave your order on a protected barrier, step back to a safe distance and wait for you to pick up your pizza.

Reality:


Step 3: The driver places the pizza on the ground in front of the door, ignoring both the side-table of the grill and the large wooden bench, both less than three feet away and in clear view.

Step 4: The driver rings the bell and pounds on the door, then flees before you can walk twenty feet. (seriously, he was already back in his car and putting it in gear)

Step 5: The manager faux-pologizes without any sign of giving a damn.

Thanko, can you hear me?


Ear-cleaning in Japan is apparently not as romantic as anime has led me to believe:

And I have a hunch that these don’t look as good in reality as claimed:

These seem more practical and attractive:

…assuming your phone still has a headphone jack, that is.

Kitchen Sputter?


Okay, Amazon, ya got me on this one: Toribe Kitchen Sputter:

The box label does (fuzzily) actually say キッチンスパッター, implying a loanword sputter/spatter, and an Amazon Japan search for that string returns a mix of kitchen shears and fire blankets (“sputter sheets”), but a spot check of the shear listings doesn’t include the word スパッ ター anywhere, except for the exact same product.

Which leads me to think that the only reason other shears showed up in the results was because of this product. But why does Toribe call their scissors sputters?

And why does Amazon US include this in the listing?

(recommended because I recently bought a completely different brand of Japanese kitchen shears recently, naturally; scissors are like toaster ovens, apparently, in that you can’t have too many)

Unrelated

The air is rather chewy today. Thanks, Oregon; your forest management is as inept as California’s, although it looks like your fires are a more direct threat to major cities (leading to some suspicion as to how they started).

Of note to me is that the Mt. Hood Resort I spent a week at last year for a Kumihimo conference is in the “be ready to evacuate” zone, and so is the Timberline Lodge, along with a good chunk of Mt. Hood itself.

Ruth Gatling Pluto


Not dead, not sick, still getting used to having a job again, especially the multiple daily Corona-induced Zoom meetings. On the bright side, the first check paid all my bills for the month, and that’s with a substantial 401K contribution. The next one will be smaller due to the ESPP contribution, but still quite healthy.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash

This showed up as something to stream on STARZ, and I remembered only two things from seeing it ~17 years ago: Rosario Dawson and the Big Reveal. Okay, three things: it’s cheesy as hell. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed watching it, largely due to it being one of Eddie Murphy’s more restrained roles. Also, Rosario Dawson.

Gatling

Most of the past week was spent building up a decent load test for our Jira cluster using Gatling. Easy to install, easy to set up basic recordings, heavily documented in slightly-awkward English, almost no online examples of how to really build useful scenarios.

For instance, Atlassian recommends it as a testing tool, but has nothing on how to use it with their products. Honestly, the most useful example I found was a screenshot embedded in a years-old presentation on Youtube. It was a bit fuzzy, but it cleared up a lot.

The recording functionality works great for capturing the info you need and replaying it multiple times to generate background load, but is so full of cruft that I gave up trying to scrub the 5,000+ lines, and extracted about a dozen that were useful.

I ended up with roughly 100 lines of code for a test that scales up to ~180 simultaneous users logging in and each browsing 50 random Jira issues selected from a CSV file, with small random delays between requests. Aiming that at a test instance pounded it just hard enough that 9 requests out of 28,000 timed out and failed, while interactive use from a browser was obviously impacted but still functional. The output is quite readable and useful (including things like finding particular issues that render very slowly even without load).

I worked a bit with Selenium way back when, and this was a much more pleasant experience. Except the looking-for-useful-examples part.

(ordinarily I’d end a rant about “no examples online” with a clear, commented one, but I need to double-check the various documents I docusigned about “code written on company time”…)

Supreme Court Follies

I have never previously mentioned Ruth Bader Ginsburg on this blog. It seems odd to do so now that she’s passed, so I will merely wish her family and friends well, and say that the timing of this sad event just made 2020 even crazier.

Further comment on that deferred for a few days.

Unicorn Chaser: Eri Tokita

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, …”

(more here and here, sites obviously NSFW)

Unrelated

I am in the process of migrating my pantry storage from Oxo POP containers to Neoflam Smart Seal. I first spotted these at Safeway and tried one out, then bought some more online. I like the twist-seal better than Oxo’s push-button, which doesn’t seal as well and can pop up as you’re moving things around in the pantry. Neoflam bonus: people unfamiliar with your kitchen won’t just try to pull the lid off without releasing the seal. Also, the lids are much easier to clean.

It’s all Seg’s fault


Emacs should never refuse to start

Especially with an error like this:

Error in GnuTLS initialization: ASN1 parser: Generic parsing error.
Segmentation fault: 11

Come on, guys, it’s a text editor.

(fresh install of Emacs 27.1 via Homebrew on a machine that’s not crufted up with years of old software; literally the only Google hit for this error message is for Emacs 25.1 from four years ago on Debian GLU/Ninix)

One is never enough

I’m kind of glad Amazon can’t sell cars yet, because the moment you ordered a Toyota Corolla, you’d see:

  • Trending deals: BMW i3, Chevy Silverado, and Fiat Spider

  • Brands you’ve shopped with before: a Yaris, a Tacoma, and three Prius (Prii?)

  • Recommended items other customers often buy again: Mercedes S-Class

  • Inspired by your purchases: Kia Soul

  • Inspired by your shopping trends: Lexus GS

  • Books you may like: 1973 Dodge Dart owner’s manual

  • Recommended For You: “Buy it again in Cars” tile

How much to call me Ishmael?

One of the many Star Trek novels that were better-written than any generation of the shows, Barbara Hambly’s Ishmael was on sale for $0.99 for Kindle. A relatively small number of the usual OCR typos (“doom” instead of “Cloom”, etc) failed to mar the reading experience.

The problems with the Kindle edition of John M. Ford’s brilliant How Much for Just the Planet, also $0.99, were mostly with failure to add white space between the frequent PoV changes, causing the reader to resync at annoying intervals

🎶 If ya liked it then ya shoulda put a steak in it

Discount Epic Certs, etc


None Shall Pass

Pro tip: when your SSL-enabled LDAP query throws a java.security.NoSuchAlgorithmException error, make sure that your cacerts file isn’t completely empty. It’s always fun when an application startup error turns out to have been accidentally caused weeks ago, making it difficult to find the culprit.

Make Epic RPGs

So, the trailer for RPG Maker MV on Steam is narrated by Epic Voice Guy. I suppose that makes it an Honest Trailer. This is old news, but I only noticed it because MV is steeply discounted right now (both on Steam and Humble Bundle).

Watch that cart!

When I placed this Anker Thunderbolt 3 dock into my cart a few weeks back, it was $320 with Prime shipping. When I went to buy my cart today, I noticed that they’d selected Woot as the dealer for it. That seemed odd, so I went back to the product listing and discovered it was available for $250 with Prime from AnkerDirect. And there was a $20 instant coupon available.

So, um, yeah, I’ll take the $90 discount with no warranty issues, thanks.

Why a new Thunderbolt-3 dock? Because I’m replacing my 12-inch MacBook and its sole USB-C port with a new MacBook Air and its dual Thunderbolt-3 ports. This will likely be my last Mac, between the upcoming ARM shift and the fact that Catalina is about to be replaced while still in beta (most of my old environment will be migrated into a VMware image, so I have a stable OS that still runs 32-bit apps).

Work supplied a 16-inch MacBook Pro, so I don’t need a powerhouse Mac, just something portable that has a non-terrible keyboard. And I’ve got enough time left on the MacBook’s AppleCare that by the time I’m fully off of it, I’ll still be eligible for a keyboard replacement before giving it a new home, if necessary.

I came this close to buying an Asus ZenBook Pro Duo with a 10th-gen Core i9, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD, but decided to hold off on upgrading the Windows side of the house until sometime next year. It is still 2020, after all, and I might need that money for whatever comes next.

Inspired by my purchases, you say?

I purchased a branded item as a gift, and now they think I drink the stuff straight.

One of these things is not like the others…

I’d been wondering what all those vaguely key-shaped items were that have been popping up online, and they turn out to be the latest in fear-of-doorknobs technology. The one-hitter hash pipe is apparently also used to relieve virus-based anxiety.

How about them apples?

“NT; big difference”


I don’t think this one’s been written yet…

“Reborn in another world as a tentacle monster, I defy hentai stereotypes by living a quiet life as a potato farmer, rebuffing the unwelcome advances of every kind of horny otaku waifu.”

User workarounds for Apple’s failures

Oh, look, now iCloud’s down!

Apple’s really having a great week. Looks like all iCloud services went offline around 4:45 PM PDT.

Can I at least parry?

(sorry about that…)

Microsoft Loops

I bought the new, well-reviewed Flight Simulator, because it was half-price thanks to my old MS Alumni discount. If you’ve paid any attention to this launch, you know that someone thought it was a great idea to make the downloader play a short music clip, over and over and over while it downloads more than 100 GB of data. Even in the background. Even minimized. Fortunately you can use the mixer to silence a single app, so I was able to sleepwalk through the Diablo 3 campaign while FS downloaded the world (because I’d only finished it on seasonal characters from a now-closed season, so the progress didn’t count when they became “normal” characters).

On the bright side, at least their QA only missed something annoying, unlike Apple’s spectacular screwups with their latest Watch and Mac OS releases. (no comment about the massive Azure auth & Office outage yesterday… 😁)

A few years ago, someone acquainted with the relevant VP tried to share the spin he’d received from his friend about how well QA is handled at Apple. He simply wasn’t technical enough for me to explain how everything he was parroting was a bad idea. Honestly, I think the real reason they’ve moving the Mac to ARM is that they ran out of disposable 23-year-olds who know what the words “CPU architecture” mean.

Amazon Filing System

Using urban fantasy novels to navigate the real world generally doesn’t work out particularly well…

Toothpicks at Dawn

This is the sort of home decor that gets you banned from air travel.

🎶 There’s a ringin’ in your brain…

(classical reference (sadly-censored radio version))

Is it wrong for a loli to pick up baked goods in a dungeon?


Legally Loli

Courtesy of The Volokh Conspiracy, I now have the perfect anime title:

Doli incapax is a common law presumption that a minor between the ages of seven and fourteen lacks the capacity to commit crime.

Bread: this should not happen

File under peculiar the fact that Corona-chan taught the local Safeway how to stop burning their french bread. (admittedly, grocery-store “french bread” bears only a vague resemblance to a real baguette in the first place…)

🎶 Good girls don’t…

Coming Real Soon Now (as in “this weekend”), season 3 resumes the saga of the divine ribbon.

🎶 …but I do!

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