December 2020

"Dear user,"

“We are excited to hear about your new project for the first time, and are eager to work with you to meet your team’s needs. However, we will not be able to give a new external partner admin-level access to our internal bug-tracking database by end of day tomorrow, as requested.”

Dear Amazon,

I honestly would prefer this to the current state of politics:

I’m not sure about your choice of takoyaki as a breakfast food, though:

Unrelated, “why we can’t have nice things”

Hairspray, baby!

Pete, I’m getting great results with a very thin layer of Aqua Net Unscented Extra Super Hold. More reliable than the glue sticks with much better bottom surface quality. Best applied with a microfiber cloth that’s been wetted with a replacement cap like this one.

PLA (what I’m mostly sticking to right now) adheres very firmly to a heated bed, but pretty much pops off as soon as it cools.

(note on ABS, since I belatedly noticed that’s what you’re printing with)

Unrelated, plastic calipers. 😁

"The DNC went down to Georgia..."

🎶 …they was lookin’ for some votes to steal.
They was in a bind, ’cause they was way behind,
runnin’ a houseplant with no appeal. 🎶

To pet or not to pet…

I’m not saying I have a cat, but Porch Cat Prime spent three hours sleeping on my chest yesterday, waking up several times to attempt to groom my beard.

Dear Amazon,

Recently when I’ve tried to look up something that I ordered a while ago, the link I get back is for a page in the Amazon Fresh section, with a warning that it’s not available in my area. None of these items were purchased through Amazon Fresh, and aren’t even appropriate for it (such as the plastic calipers I linked to earlier (which, by the way, are crap, but good enough for simple uses like checking for consistent widths)). I have to search for the product again to get a link I can actually buy or send to someone.

Georgia Suitcase Ballots

This is the name of my new Dixiepunk band. We’ll start rehearsing when and if the Democrats let us out of our homes again.

More fun than a suitcase full of Biden votes…

"Maybe she's a Spice Girl"

What fresh new hell is this?

One of my neighbors has put up an outdoor Christmas light system that plays music all night long.

Single-channel, 8-bit, square-wave. Apple II games had better sound.

Slice(r) of life

I’ve gotten no love from the folks at Dremel about the layer-shift problem I ran into a few weeks ago. I’ve gotten responses, but they just consisted of “pics or it didn’t happen”. I had already thrown out the bad prints, and I haven’t gotten around to shaking my printer again, so the simple, detailed repeat-by I sent is unlikely to be fixed until they pull a few years of upstream Cura code into their slicer.

So, I finally sat down and started building profiles for PrusaSlicer, which is a supported version of the open source Slic3r package that hasn’t had a release for a few years. I’m getting as-good-or-better results that take slightly longer, and I knocked together a quick gcode post-processor that inserts the timing comments the Dremel firmware uses to update the display and API with “time remaining”. As a bonus, PrusaSlicer seems to be a lot more accurate with its timing estimates. I need to work out the inheritance features so I can bundle all the settings into one file without a lot of duplication, and then do some testing to improve the results.

On the bright side, Dremel did follow up on the promise to send me two free spools of PLA for posting a review of the 3D45. They’re the older half-kilo spools, but don’t look a gift filament in the extruder.

The Boys: dropped

I tried watching again, about two-thirds of an episode at a time. Somewhere in episode 5, I got tired of the subtle-as-an-explosive-brick social commentary, so I switched to just reading the episode summaries on a wiki. Kind of glad I did, because apparently season one is subtle for these people. Now that I know where it’s going, I doubt I’ll give it another chance.

Final take: Karl Urban has a great deal of fun playing Butcher, but Frenchie gets all the best lines.

The word for the day is ‘tolerance’

…as in, “I designed these parts without any tolerance for variations between 3D printers and user settings, assuming that minimal clearance Will Just Work” (inside part: 25.8mm, outside part: 25.804mm). Given how long it takes to print the average object downloaded from Thingy, I recommend testing all allegedly-interlocking STL files in an app that has a measure function (Meshmixer is free, although the UI, documentation, and functionality are all quirky).

(would you call these “mating surfaces”? 😁)

Genshin Boredom

I haven’t actually played Genshin Impact for about two weeks. I was just logging in, claiming daily freebies until I had enough for another 10x gacha pull, which gave me another character to level up. Which I don’t want to do, because I hit a catch-22: I can’t level any of my other party members above 40 without materials that can only be extracted from specific hard-to-kill bosses. Who would have been easier to kill if I’d gone after them before progressing the main story far enough to level all the monsters in the world.

There’s no other way to get those specific mats. The fights are do-it-again-stupid tedious and difficult with a party that’s underleveled. And I can’t even do the next stage of the story without significant grinding to unlock it.

The solution is to play online with random strangers. Or stop playing. I prefer the latter.

Pixiv: before sex

I’m not sure why Pixiv users tag pictures ‘before sex’ (事前, literally ‘prior to’); aren’t they all? Maybe it’s just for the ones where the characters know about it…

Unrelated, Solo Leveling

(no, not that way…)

Official English versions of this popular Korean fantasy story are scheduled to be released early in 2021 by Yen Press. Light novel, January 19th; manga adaptation, February 23rd. Hopefully they won’t meet the same fate as some other Yen Press titles that are inexplicably not available for Kindle. (all the missing titles seem to be available on BookWalker, although at higher prices)

Unrelated, “fuck you, readline devs”

I hates me some workflow-breaking changes to default behaviors in a new release, buried at the end of the release notes of a project that got silently upgraded as a dependency:

This document details the changes between this version, readline-8.1, and the previous version, readline-8.0.

2. New Features in Readline

h. Bracketed paste mode is enabled by default.

To which my answer is:

echo set enable-bracketed-paste off >> ~/.inputrc
bind -f ~/.inputrc

I’ve been cutting and pasting commands into terminal windows for many, many years. 99.9% of the time, when I paste something with newline characters in it, it’s because I want the shell to see the damn newlines and execute the damn commands.

Today Years Old…

“Out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy”

For decades, I had no idea what this line was.

Sometimes, ‘before sex’ isn’t a good thing…

But usually…


Samurai Redressed

For once, 2020 has delivered some good news, namely that Jacqui Carey’s new book on samurai armor braids has finally been released.

I’m not a big fan of Adobe Digital Editions installing DRM crap on my laptop, but Carey’s books have been heavily pirated around the world, so I understand her caution.


Bought my copy this morning. It’s 129 MB on disk (376 pages), which is good for the quality of the photos and illustrations, and bad for the performance of Adobe’s extremely limited reader application. I’m used to being able to scroll through PDF files in something approximating real time, and Adobe clearly is not interested in that.

Hopefully it will eventually be released on dead trees, for greater usability.

Performance Issues

Adobe’s client is significantly faster on my iPad Mini than on my MacBook Air. Still incredibly limited in functionality, and I had to force-quit it to fix a spontaneous zoom-to-tinyfonts issue, but it at least changes pages at a consistent speed. File under “baffling” the fact that the Mac client isn’t capable of displaying two pages side-by-side, something I’d consider pretty basic functionality for a PDF viewer on modern wide-screen displays.

Mister Doctor Strange

Let’s Play Doctor

Quite a few people are pointing and laughing at Jill Biden for insisting on being addressed as “Doctor”. Rest assured that this is not a personal quirk. Many years ago, I learned that everyone with an Education doctorate does this; it’s the quickest, most reliable way to confirm that you’re not dealing with someone who has a PhD.

Dear Apple,

Stop demanding I log back in on all of my devices every week or so. I’m getting really sick of re-entering my long, secure password at least twice (email, icloud, app store) on every Apple device I own, including the watch (which actually forces me to type it in on my phone, but without the usual keyboard UI or the ability to cut-and-paste from my secure password vault).

Social Distancing

I went to the dentist today, and they asked if I’d been in contact with anyone who’d been exposed to Corona-chan. I said they could have ended that question a few words earlier, since I haven’t been in contact with anyone for months.

It’s just me and Porch Cat Prime.

This, by the way, was shot on my Sony A-6500 with the old Minolta 28-135mm f/4-4.5 lens, using the EA4 mount adapter. This is the more expensive adapter that steals 1/3 stop of light to deliver autofocus with A-mount lenses made all the way back in the Eighties, so with the APS-C sensor, effectively it’s a 40-200mm f/4.5-5 lens.

In many ways, I’d prefer this as a travel lens over my shiny modern Sony 18-105mm f/4, even though the Sony has in-lens stabilization, faster and quieter focus, the ability to extend its range to 210mm with Sony’s “ClearImage” digital zoom, and is lighter and shorter. When I next go to Japan, though, I’ll take the Sony, and either try out ClearImage or switch to my little WX800 when I want to really zoom in (720mm equivalent, usable with the built-in stabilization and automatic multi-shot noise-reduction or anti-blur turned on). One less thing to juggle on an international trip.

Now all I need is the ability to travel…


10,000 channels, still nothing on

I don’t miss DirecTV, especially since I hadn’t watched anything on it for several months before canceling. I also haven’t watched anything on Hulu, dLibrary Japan, BritBox, or STARZ. Also very little on HiDive, Crunchyroll, or Funimation.

Which leaves Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, where I spend more time scrolling through listings than actually watching anything. Most recently I’ve rewatched an Indiana Jones movie, some of my favorite SG-1 episodes, and the first half of several movies from the Seventies and Eighties.

Last night, after N minutes of deliberation, I watched the “dinner with Dad” scenes from episode 6 of the second season of Umbrella Academy.

Speaking of which, I understand they’re scheduled to start filming season three in February, but I haven’t seen anything about them hiring a new actress to play Vanya. Surely they won’t let a man steal that role from a woman.

Cognitive Dissidents

With the looming threat of a brief Biden presidency, and the only-slightly-less-imminent threat of a Harris presidency, there’s another problem with those N million citizens who were so inspired by Biden’s vision for the future that they put him over the top: the Democrats are an incredibly racist, sexist party.

After all, none of these people were willing to vote for Obama or Clinton. Only the promise of a rich old white man could get them to the polls for the very first time in their lives.

Or else they don’t exist, and will disappear as swiftly and silently as they appeared, a mystery never to be explored by the media.

"Close your eyes and think of China"

Cozier Than Thou

Perhaps the real reason Democrats are so fond of China is that they wish they could still get away with forcing slaves to pick cotton.

Jam Jam Jam Jam Jam…

After the refreshing take on the SAO universe that was the Gun Gale Online anime, I took a look at the translated light novels, which are currently up to 7, and it’s the same thing over and over. Squad Jam, Squad Jam 2, Squad Jam 3, Squad Jam 4, Squad Jam Party, Squad Jam Sausage and Jam, etc. I think I’ll pass.

The Door Into Spam

Slightly more faithful than ‘Starship Troopers’…

…a Japanese live-action adaptation of Heinlein’s novel, The Door Into Summer:


Can it be coincidence that the volume of email spam I receive is increasing in direct proportion to the confidence that BidenHarris will take power soon?

It’s the worst sort of obvious crap, and it’s all getting past Gmail’s spam filtering before being caught by mine. This is maybe half of what arrived yesterday afternoon:

Subject: For Mr Kadri Mehmet

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’m deeply sorry to berg into your privacy as we haven’t met before, as a matter of fact, I will be very brief since I’m in urgent need of a trust person to help move out a valuable funds deposit by later libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi into a foreign bank account which will later be used for any profitable joint investment between me and you,

Subject: Hello

Dear Friend,

Good day to you. Apparently this email will be coming to you as a surprise since we have not met before now. My name is Reem E. Al-Hashimi, the Emirates Minister of State for international cooperation and Managing Director of United Arab Emirates (Dubai) World Expo 2020 Committee.

Subject: Calvary greetings to you!!


I am Mrs. Dian, a widow to late Marcos Carlos I am 56 years old, i am now a new Christian convert, suffering from long time cancer of the lung, from all indication my conditions is really deteriorating and it is quite obvious that i would only live for a short period, according to my doctors this is because the cancer stage has gotten to a very bad stage. My late husband was killed during the U.S. Raid against terrorism in Afghanistan, and during the period of our marriage we couldn’t produce any child.

Subject: Good Day

My Dear Friend

This letter is to acknowledge the substantial contributions of time and energy you have made in trying to assist to claim the fund through your account, despite that it failed us because of your inability to continue financing the transaction.

Subject: Good day

I am Jim Yang. I am the Operation Manager at China Citic Bank International, Hong Kong. I do not know if we can work together in transferring US$48.2 million from my bank to your bank account.

A Wild Gravity Ratchet Appears!

Back in April, I put a deposit down with BraidersHand for an ayatakedai (綾竹台) conversion kit for my takadai. Unexpectedly, it arrived on my birthday, which was a nice surprise. (note that their waiting list isn’t usually that long for this particular item; my order accidentally got dropped from the work queue, and I didn’t check up on it until November)

The takadai straddles the line between braiding and weaving, while the ayatakedai is firmly on the other side, kind of a warp-weighted tablet loom. Warp threads are manipulated in groups to open the shed, through which two weft threads are passed. The threads are wound on separate kumihimo bobbins, and then the warps are tightly twisted and moved up/down the “feathers” to open the shed, or across to change the color or pattern. The wefts just hang over the side arms, without any twist.

All of which is a lengthy side note, because what I was actually interested in was finding someone who had replaced the standard chopstick brake on the take-up reel with a gravity ratchet:

No Passing

Apple takes aim at a newfarmer’s market

Lots of coincidentally-identical rumors exploding out of the tech press recently, about Apple’s un/confirmed plans for a self-driving electric car Real Soon Now. Given that they can’t release a new OS without bricking thousands of their own products, I think it’s a bad idea to give them the chance to brick their customers, too. And non-customers.

Rewatch: Bofuri

One does not marathon Bofuri, one mainlines it. Fingers crossed that season 2 shows up sometime next year.

I’ve been having difficulty watching pretty much anything recently, with all the never-ending lockdown theater, but I was able to watch half a season of Maple’s antics at a time.

No Comment

I’ll be upgrading the comment system tonight. Should be a trivial outage, and it’s not like I get a ton of comments in the first place…

It scans

Given the Left’s ahistorical fondness for Guy Fawkes masks, I find it curiously appropriate that you can just substitute “Democrat” for “Gunpowder”.

Reread: Sunshine

Robin McKinley’s novels have long been a comfort food for me, and last night it was the quirky Sunshine, which carved out its own little genre, the vampire/bakery/buddy-cop urban-fantasy.

(yeah, I didn’t even try to find something that included all the relevant elements…)

Dear Amazon,

When I have more than a dozen packages arriving today, all marked as gifts, all delivered to cities hundreds of miles from my billing address, it seems quite pointless to pop up a constant stream of notifications telling me that they’re on the road, then that they’re 10 miles from target, then delivered, and finally interrupting me with Yet Another Notification to ask me to rate each delivery.

I don’t know, I’m not there! Even if it weren’t 2020, it’s unlikely that I could offer delivery feedback on gifts sent all over the country.

Practical Plastics

Most Useful Thing

Thingiverse has a clunky and unreliable indexing system and search engine, to the point that it can be hard to find the same thing twice. So here’s a link to a quick, useful tool: Angle taker for tight spaces.

A while back I made a stab at designing a removable drip tray for the water/ice dispenser on my Samsung fridge, which was inexplicably designed with an oddly-shaped depression that will inevitably become etched by the residue of evaporation. I basically had to take rubbings to get measurements, and my first try got the angled sides wrong.

This little tool captured the angle precisely so I could transfer it to a protractor and correct my OpenSCAD code.

Other Useful Things

Bag Clips

While I generally frown on the idea of spending hours 3d-printing something that can be purchased for pennies at any local store, 2020 and Benito Newsom have made the shopping experience so cumbersome that I’m willing to make a few exceptions. I generally have at least three opened bags of something or other that need to be resealed cleanly, and this set of 3 clips works nicely. There are quite a few remixes and redesigns, but they don’t solve the only problem I’ve had with them a few times, which is the ends lifting off the bed slightly during printing.

It doesn’t hurt them functionally, and it can be avoided by keeping the infill percentage and number of walls down, to reduce shrinkage-induced stress. And we should all reduce shrinkage-induced stress.

2x MicroSD in SD case

When there are once again places to go and things to see, I will take pictures with my cameras. My pocket-sized travel camera fits nicely in this padded pouch, with only the security strap sticking out. The pouch has just enough room for an extra battery and some thin card storage.

Unfortunately, most of the printable MicroSD holders overcompensate for their tinyness by adding substantial bulk. This very simple design is the notable exception, just fitting two of them into a standard SD snap case, of which I have a lifetime supply.

Not a tool…

Apple’s iCloud service crumbled under load on Christmas day, and took 36 hours to recover. The richest company in the world is still struggling to build an online service that can scale.

Remember the days when you could unbox a gift on Christmas morning and it would actually work? Clearly no one at Apple does.


Got Black Ships? Japan has banned foreigners again. Well, at least until the end of January.

If you meet the buddha on the road, duck!

There Will Be Dragons

Dragon Maids, to be precise. In masks, apparently.

(hmmm, the face-masks are gone from the promo pics now; maybe they realized that dragons don’t fear Corona-chan)

(no, wait, they’re back; they must be rotating the image)

M140 > M190

I solved my intermittent adhesion problem. PrusaSlicer was heating the bed with M190, which apparently doesn’t “stick” on the Dremel 3D45. The printer dutifully pre-heated the bed, but then turned it off, so it gradually cooled to around 36°C over the course of the print. Cooling plastic shrinks, so long, narrow items would tend to pop up at the ends.

Dremel’s version of Cura doesn’t use M190 at all, and just issues an M140 for pre-heating and another right before starting the second layer. PrusaSlicer supports custom gcode before layer changes, so I just added M140 S{bed_temperature[0]}, and all is well. It’s probably overkill to force it on every layer change, but it doesn’t hurt anything or slow down the print, and I can always refine it later.

Meanwhile, I’m pretty happy with the quality I’m getting:

Hatchbox PLA, 0.1mm, 0% infill, no supports, 230°/60°; Buddha, Duckie. The buddha really should have been printed with supports, but I decided to risk it. The duckie has some layer-start issues that I’m still tinkering with.

Dear Amazon…

Cooking is different at your house.

What he said…

2020-world problems

Santa was hung by the chimney with care…

This looks less like “coming down the chimney” and more like “autoerotic asphyxiation”.

Purple. Green.

There Will Be Zombies

Or at least, an announcement about zombie idols. On January 1st.

Well, that’s different

I’m in the habit of asking the nearest Alexa device to play songs that I don’t have on my laptop. The experience is unreliable, not just because it mis-hears me and plays whatever sounds close, but the one thing that’s always worked is the phrase, “Alexa, repeat the song”.

Until today, when instead of the most recent song, A Very Strange Medley, it reached back several weeks and repeated The Future Soon.

The Return Of Doctor Sue

If you have any remaining affection for the current incarnation of Doctor Who, the upcoming New Years Day special features Captain Jack Harkness. And Daleks. And a plot that looks to be recycled from a few Matt Smith episodes. I’ll pass.

First overnight print

This took about 14 hours. I haven’t tried it out yet, because there are a few more parts that didn’t fit on the bed.

Yes, I’ve finally printed a 3d-printer upgrade, because I decided that the hassle of rewinding filament onto empty Dremel spools was higher than the hassle of printing an external spool adapter and coming up with a way to keep it warm and dust-free. The dust cover should be trivial, since I’ve got plenty of connectors from my takadai project; I just need to see if I can keep it up around 30°C the way the internal spool holder does. One of these would be overkill, but since it would only run while I’m printing, I could plug it into the spare Amazon Smart Plug I’ve got sitting around. Or just pre-heat the chamber for a few minutes before printing, and keep a dessicant pack inside the dust cover.

Why is it purple? Because it was the only color in stock at a reasonable price while I was ordering some other things from Amazon. Dremel’s branded filament continues to have availability issues, which is another reason for me to make it easier to use third-party spools.

(and, no, I will not be using this filament to print a dinosaur…)

Helping Hands

Soldering isn’t the only activity that benefits from a set of extra hands. This set is sturdy, easy to print, and the grip strength can be adjusted by your choice of rubber bands.

Playing With Your Spool

The external spool holder works well, although it’s a tight fit on the 3D45’s built-in spool-holder cylinder. The creator originally designed it for a 3D40, which has a slightly different diameter, and apparently used someone’s measurements for the 3D45 without personally trying it. I opened it up a bit with some sandpaper wrapped around a dowel, and it went into place without force.

Does it work? Yes; I anticipate no issues with reliable handling of third-party (and most Dremel) filament. The only obvious difference is that the open side reduces the chamber temperature by ~5°C. My makeshift dust cover, a 12-quart square Cambro propped up on its side over the spool and opening, cut that to ~1°. Instead of building a dust cover, I might just end up making a better stand for the Cambro and put a small tray of dessicant inside to keep the filament dry.

Fun Dremel firmware fact: if you print the same filename twice in a row with different contents, the printer will remember the total time of the first one, and report bogus completion percentages for the second one on the display and the API.

Having used up most of the purple PLA, I switched to the roll of translucent PETG that came with the printer. This had to go inside, because despite being one of the new 0.75 KG spools, it has a slightly smaller hole. Since this is my first time working with PETG, and I’m using PrusaSlicer’s generic profile modified with Dremel’s temperature settings, I started small, printing a known design that didn’t require supports.

It worked perfectly, and gyroid infill looks pretty cool showing through the translucent surface. Not an effect I’d always want, but it can add some visual interest to an otherwise boring object. The second print (one of the ubiquitous “thumb book holder” designs) at first looked like it had adhesion issues, until I re-checked the model and found that the long, thin ends of the arms were curved up so they didn’t touch the bed.

I’ve got a few kilos of colored PETG coming tomorrow, so I think I’ll save the rest of this one for things that would benefit from the frosted appearance, and switch back to PLA for today; I promised to make a batch of babydai koma for someone.

File under ‘baffling’…

In one of my recent Amazon orders, I included a 3-pack of Aqua-Net unscented super extra hold hairspray, since it’s been working out so well for print adhesion. Amazon reports that it shipped yesterday FedEX Ground from the vendor “challways”, and will arrive sometime after January 8th. A 4-pack arrived today via OnTrac in a box with a return address on the shipping label. It’s the right stuff, though, so I’m kind of wondering if more will show up. The 3-pack was already going to be enough to last me a very long time, so I hope not.

Below, Mamako solves an adhesion problem…

In other news…

Valentine’s Day store displays are going up already.

Plastic flowers not included

Okay, I made one more print with the translucent PETG before switching back to PLA:

Despite its size, this only used up 10 grams of filament, because it was done in vase mode, something I hadn’t tried before. It’s not quite water-tight, with one very slow leak at the base. This looks like a good way to use up the tail end of a filament spool when you don’t need any more bag clips. 😁

Note: I did not print (literal) plastic titties.

Update: PETG Delivery…

The new filament arrived, and now I have to print another spindle adapter for the external spool holder. If you go to Sunlu’s web site, their product photos insist that their spools have a 56mm spindle size. If you order the stuff on Amazon ($18/spool), however, what you get is a spool with a 73mm hole.

There are a variety of Sunlu-to-something adapters on Thingy, which either have the wrong internal diameter or use ridiculous amounts of filament and take hours to print. I tried a clever low-profile one done in OpenSCAD, only to discover that its creator hasn’t grasped the concept of constructive solid geometry and instead used a great deal of painful calculation that only rendered correctly in the specific version of OpenSCAD he was running. Belatedly, I remembered that I had a perfectly-good spoked wheel design that I used for the baby takadai take-up reel, and it prints quite quickly with minimal filament use.

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