May 2021


On Systemd

Sometimes you can fill a vacuum and still suck. Other times you suck all the air out of a room, killing everyone inside.

…I Work For A Supervillain

Book 6 in the Pennyverse came out Monday night, and I stayed up reading it. Even though there’s very little overlap with the next book, reading them out of order was interesting. And fun. In many ways it holds up a funhouse mirror to Penny’s story arc, with Our Heroine provoking a completely different reaction from the Community and other powered kids.

It also reflects the slightly older high-school protagonists, with more adult content. And by that I mean Bad Things Happening To Good People, not sex (although there is an increase in the amount of kissing, in both books). Fleshes out some of the supporting characters a bit as well, particularly Marcia.

Penny herself is restricted to a brief cameo, which felt like it took some effort to accomplish, with so much of it taking place at her school. The main series needed some transition scenes to wean the audience off of Penny’s PoV, and perhaps I noticed them more because I’ve already read the next book that doesn’t have them, and doesn’t have a Penny-shaped hole in the story.

Diary of a Slime

(last week) Swimsuit episode. More Soka, please.

The Spider Diaries

Swimsuit episode. More Oka, please.

(spider is unrelated)

Demon Lord Dairy

Dance Dance Dungeon Idols. More oppai, please.

(swimsuits are unrelated)

Slime To The 300th Power

Ballroom Blitz, Dragon Wedding Edition. More Beelzebub, please.

Revenge Live!

The IndiansZombies win the pennant! Because they’re zombies. More Junko, please.

School Live! Live!

Licensed. More Megu-nee, please.

(zombie is unrelated)

Iosevka Termanal, Revisited

Their license was updated a while back to reserve the name “Iosevka”, as part of an issue that came up building the nerd font version (which doesn’t quite work anyway due to some metrics changes (whether you use their version or patch it yourself), and which in any case is only useful for Starship, which abuses color and icons to fill your terminal windows with gratuitous noise).

Anyway, I updated my custom build, finding out along the way that they’ve significantly simplified the process of building custom versions that don’t match their preferred widths and weights. In keeping with the license change, it’s now named IO Terminal.

To Hell With That!

As I feared, Hades is much too fun to play when you’re busy. I’m not playing it on the Switch. No, definitely not.

Also, I’m delighted to say that the soundtrack that seemed too intrusive in the trailers fades into the background while playing. If I were playing. Which I’m definitely not.

(Young Beelzebub is unrelated)

Tomorrow Never Comes

Amazon has a prominent ad for a movie titled The Tomorrow War, coming soon to Prime, with a teaser available now. Clicking the link took me to a page that has no trailer, just a little box saying “this video is currently unavailable to watch in your location”. Did they hire an ex-Apple QA team?

Might be for the best, because I found the trailer on Youtube, and it looked really terrible and derivative. But then, unlike the people who create SF TV and movies, I’m actually familiar with the genre.

Might want to rethink that one…

The latest trending hashtag for phony hate crimes is “#StopAsianHate”. Which sounds an awful lot like they’re complaining about racism by Asians…

Demand to see Life's manager!

This update has been piling up for a while, and since I’m too distracted to annotate each entry with pictures…

How many ounces in a lemon?

I found this grapefruit-sized lemon on the tree in my backyard. It looked perfectly healthy, so I brought it in and decided to find out how much juice it had inside.

Gross weight: 13.8 ounces (390 grams). Net volume of lemon juice? 1 teaspoon (5 ml). It was mostly rind, with some dried-out pulp in the center.


Dear Apple “QA”

I dragged an alias of a Photos library onto my desktop, to remind me to re-process that batch of 2007 pictures in Lightroom sometime (despite the fact that there’s still no way to actually import the library in a sensible way, even with Avalanche (although they just released the Capture One conversion, so maybe they’ll finally get to it).

The result was two days of constant high CPU usage by Finder, with apparent side effects triggering Spotlight reindexing that created heavy WebKit activity that created heavy Cookie processing, etc. Fans were spinning up under the load.

Delete fancy symlink from desktop, problem goes away instantly. Note that this happened even though “show icon preview” is off for all folders, because it’s a crap feature that has little or no caching and has always been a huge performance problem for the desktop, and a non-trivial slowdown for other folders. It’s so bad that even the switch to SSDs didn’t make it tolerable, because so much other garbage got shoveled into MacOS at the same time.

Dear Amazon Echo product managers

As features are added, the slow degradation of core functionality increases. I now find myself deliberately setting alarms and timers with numbers that are unlikely to be confused with other numbers (“fourteen” instead of “fifteen”, because the device often hears that as “fifty”).

By the way, whoever came up with the “by the way” misfeature that spams me with suggestions for unrelated uses of the product at random intervals should be fired. Out of a cannon.

On the good side, it seems to have gained a longer memory of the last song I requested, so that three days later I can say “repeat the song” and correctly get Ballroom Blitz.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

Only in theaters in June! Only if there are still theaters by June! Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, and a much-expanded role for Salma Hayek. Still wondering what happened to Free Guy? It’s been pushed off again, this time to August. 2021, still, for now.

The perils of girl_name in the land of the vanity domain

(with apologies to the memory of the sadly-late Tawny Kitaen, star of the hilariously terrible film The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak; review: bored French boobs, and one honestly funny scene involving the three leads in a cage)

Digging through my spam-trap mailbox, I get a surprising amount of stuff directed to the address be@mydomain, but the winner for the week is one of the “send bitcoin to stop us from revealing that you masturbate in front of your computer” genre, literally addressed to girl_name@mydomain. Yeah, good luck with that one.

Someday, I’d love to find out how I got onto a bunch of Canadian political mailing lists as “Ollie Tabor”…

Token security

If you use Homebrew on a Mac, eventually you’ll hit the limits of their Github-based service and need to set up your own API token to reliably update the package repo. The documented solution for this is to simply sign up for a Github account, get a token, and hardcode it into your dotfiles so that every running process will be able to extract it from your environment and freely use your Github account.

Historically, at least. For some time now, it’s been possible to generate an API token that has no non-public permissions, and will only act to identify the user (Settings -> Developer Settings -> Personal access tokens -> Generate new token -> do not check any permissions boxes; also delete any old-style tokens on this screen).

This came up because I’ve been syncing my personal dotfiles over to my work Mac, and this was one of a dozen or so things that needed to be pulled out into a separate, non-synced file. When I looked at it, I decided it was stupid to do it that way even with a “safe” token, so I moved it into its own file:

brew () {
  if [ -f ~/.homebrew_api_token ]; then
    HOMEBREW_GITHUB_API_TOKEN=$token /usr/local/bin/brew "$@"
    /usr/local/bin/brew "$@"

I’d love to programmatically retrieve it from secure storage on use, but while Homebrew supports integration with the MacOS keychain, their documentation for this does not seem to exist outside of a snarky “do it this way instead” in a will-not-fix closure of a bug report (and, honestly, an unlocked MacOS keychain is at best only kinda secure anyway).

At one point I had things set up so that my Mac homedir was on its own small file system that lived in a TrueCrypt container with all the large directories linked from elsewhere, but Mac software had (and likely still has) so many problems with the concept of multiple file systems on a computer that it was more trouble than it could ever be worth. Full-disk encryption covers the same scenarios with less hassle.

Dear Amazon Shipping Optimization

When this is how the product is packaged for retail sale, shipping it in a non-padded brown paper bag is not adequate…

It used to be that you handled returns by boxing them back up and dropping them into a nearby Amazon pickup locker, but now they just give you a barcode to take into the nearest UPS/etc store with the unboxed product, and they scan it and box up a large batch of defective products all at once. So, they’re generating less shipping waste getting the product to you and getting back the products that got broken because they generate less shipping waste. Kind of a win?

They arrived Thursday, and after I immediately initiated the return, the replacements arrived Saturday. Also in a non-padded paper bag. But were somehow intact anyway. So, yeah, in the pursuit of Green-ery, Amazon has apparently chosen to replace common sense with blind luck.

File under baffling the fact that OXO designed a set of graduated cylinders for the kitchen which advertise milliliters without providing enough markings to actually be useful for that purpose:

  • 250ml: 25ml increment starting at 50ml
  • 175ml: 25ml increment
  • 125ml: 25ml increment
  • 60ml: 20ml increment
  • 30ml: 10ml increment
  • 15ml: 5ml increment
  • 5ml: 1ml increment

The US side with cups/ounces/tablespoons/teaspoons has plenty of (accurate) markings, but they could have significantly improved the 60ml and 30ml sizes with minimal effort.

Anime update

  • The Slimelord Wears Cosplay: still reliably delivering more cute monster girls than the main series. My interest in both this show and the fan-art is somewhat reduced by the fact that I am not attracted to Rimuru’s gender-ambiguous human form, and apparently most everyone else is.

  • ZSR: last week, Lily-focused and really good; this week, Tae-focused and I kind of lost interest somewhere in the middle and finished it later. It was “a day in the life of a mostly-unawakened zombie, followed around by the dangling plot thread from last season”. The most interesting bit was the small and completely unsubtle reveal in the graveyard, although The Truth Is Out There.

  • Demon Lord Slave Harem: haven’t watched this week’s yet, last one finally added the OurHero-worshiping robot maid to the harem. Plot is still largely “boobs”. Or at least “large boobs and a flatcat”.

  • Spider-ko and the B Ark: haven’t watched this week’s yet, but the timelines are getting close to connecting, so I expect the season to include the revelation that Our Heroine has a great pair of legs and isn’t as dead as teacher thinks, but not yet the part where Kumoko isn’t (spoiler-spoiler-spoiler).

  • The Witch, The Slime, and the Virtual Harem: honestly, it all blurs together after a while, but remains fun to watch. This week’s episode managed an actual cliffhanger. Beelzebub remains best girl.

The Numbers Game

Monterey County jail population, cumulative statistics since the zombies first arrived from China: 7.4% covid-positive, 0 fatalities. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since the same status PDF has consistently reported that 85% of the covid-labeled deaths in the county were 55 or older, and they further mask the fatality data by lumping together everyone from age 1 to 34 as one group (50% of the population, 2.6% of the deaths).

Rainy Rodeo Vaccine

Having learned their lesson about hosting a drive-through vaccination event at a venue that has multiple entry points and plenty of parking, my second vaccination shot went a lot more quickly Saturday morning, as they had four parallel lanes from the moment you entered until you got the jab. They also had pre-printed labels with the date, vaccine lot, and location, rather than having to fill out the card by hand.

Things went so much better for them that they followed up the original “appointment times will be strictly enforced” with a “feel free to come early” email before noon.

The most interesting things about the event were two things I don’t remember being on the healthcare form I filled out for the first shot:

  1. boxes for both “legal gender” and “gender ID”, but not “biological sex”, which is the only one relevant for medical treatment.

  2. A box for ethnicity that contained options for declined, hispanic origin, non-hispanic origin, and unknown, followed by a box for race that contained options for native american or alaskan, african american or black, native hawaiian or pacific islander, asian, and declined. The only valid answer I could have given was declined/declined, since “white mutt” wasn’t available.


That was Saturday at 9am. 48+ hours later, contrary to the folk wisdom spreading about the second shot, I can detect no negative reaction. I feel pretty much the same way I do every day where I haven’t had human contact in over a year.

Closer to the target

Target has replaced their potentially-machine-damaging horrible clone Nespresso pod house brand with a different one that at least looks compatible. That is, they’ve replaced the “Archer Farms” brand of badly-made plastic/foil pods with the “Good & Gather” brand of correctly-shaped aluminum pods. No idea if the coffee inside is any good, between the fact that they burned me once and the fact that I’ve still got around 500 Nespresso-branded pods. 15% cheaper isn’t enough to justify the experiment.

Related to that link, apparently almost all of the bad Carnation Half&Half tubs in the bulk box I bought from Amazon were at the top. When I first opened the box, about 5% of the ones I grabbed were at least partially dried out, but I haven’t seen a single failure in weeks. I guess the shaking they went through in handling sorted the lemons to the top.

Fixed that for ya!

Trending on garbage-gargling Twitter: “Fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants continues to escalate Terrorists continue trying to murder jews who refuse to give up and die”.

Also, widely reported: Israel bombs building containing offices of international journalists, including Associated Press. Not so widely reported: building was controlled by Hamas, who ran an intelligence operation out of it. (which, honestly, you could have guessed just by knowing that it was full of journalists…)

A hole never filled…

I’ve been watching Shingu recently, and went looking for information about it. Almost every reference is a stock overview that quotes the series marketing info from the original English dub release. Except for the review and too many words by Steven.

Smell the glove

Non-isekai light novels are getting weirder, too…

The cover art for this one turned up in my Pixiv feed: パパ活JKの弱みを握ったので、犬の散歩をお願いしてみた。 = “I caught the high-school girl next door putting out for money, so I made her walk my dog.”

  • パパ活JK = “papa-lifestyle high-school girl”
  • 弱みを握る = “to have someone by the short hairs”
  • 犬を散歩 = “dog-walking”
  • お願いする = “to request”

This is billed as a slapstick romantic comedy (ドタバタラブコメディ), and clearly just blackmailing the underage ho next door wasn’t enough, so her kink is sniffing people. At least I hope it’s just people…

(classical reference)

Echo from Hell…

Amazon Music has the soundtrack to the extremely diverting game Hades. So I said, “Alexa, play the song ‘Good Riddance’ from the Hades soundtrack”.

Or, rather, I attempted to do so, and despite the fact that I was still speaking without even a hint of a pause, it interrupted to announce that it was going to play a completely different song named ‘Good Riddance’.

It’s not just Apple; every Internet-updatable product is now an eternal beta where a “release” is just the latest crap thrown at the wall. Increasing the pace of releases is now an explicit goal, under the theory that releasing more often means that you can simultaneously increase the pace of innovation and reduce the amount of testing required.

I saw my dentist this week…

…and by that I mean she’s no longer wearing a full hazmat suit at work, so I could actually see her (through the face shield and mask). It was actually a refreshing experience; on all previous visits since she was able to reopen, I had to wear a fresh mask folded up to cover just my nose, but on this visit, she said, “if you’re vaccinated, you can just take that off”.

Kindle wishlist bargains…

I have an Amazon wishlist named “Overpriced”, on which I place items that I’m not simply not going to buy until the price drops to something reasonable, like perfectly ordinary SF novels priced above $10 years or decades after their release (seriously, Connie Willis, why does your publisher think your 2010 novel Blackout is at least 40% more interesting than everything else on the market), interesting books that are priced to rip off college students who need them for a class, inexplicably rare DVDs, cookbooks, and coffee-table books that are subject to algorithmic bidding wars, etc.

Several times now, Amazon has sent me targeted emails offering substantial discounts on items that have been on a wishlist for a long time. Yesterday was a 40% discount on the Kindle version of Sid Meier’s Memoir!, dropping the price to $8.92. Sold!

Amusing side note: “products related to this item” were basically anything filed as “memoir”, including books titled Hippie Chick, Steep Turn (not about flight sims), Authentic (not about software piracy), Being Authentic (ditto), No More Dodging Bullets (not about first-person shooters), No Rules (not about game design), lots of books about surviving assorted physical and/or mental life challenges, and the actually relevant The Walkthrough and Ask Iwata.

Hololive Alternative trailer

If there’s anyone out there who’s interested in that sort of thing

Another slow Zombieland episode

I like the idea of introducing a new cute, busty, clumsy girl to the show, but I just kind of paused it halfway through, and haven’t gone back to finish it yet.

Not yet an isekai novel?

“Reborn in a fantasy world as an elder dragon, I didn’t want to eat all the virgin sacrifices that were left near my lair so I adopted them instead, until the day I realized that the nearby kingdoms were just getting rid of the annoying ones, and now I’ve got to marry them off to gullible Heroes before they drive me crazy!”

Operators are standing by!

Speaking of ‘eternal beta’…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kits, Cats, Sacks, and Wives...

Show me the print button!

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

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

Unexpected Advantages of Life on Planet Zoom

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

I hate ice cream trucks

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

Herding cats…

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

Slow-playing Pocket Dueces

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

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

Speaking of shopping…

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

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

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

Vertuo signalling

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

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

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

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

Oh, and I made a Thing

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

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

In the shop!

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

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


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

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


When you wish upon a duck…

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

I choose to send ducks in their natural habitat…

A Different Mini

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

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

Slime Spider Saga

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

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

Jira Jungle

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

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

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