June 2021

No cover charge

Cover art that doesn’t sell

I was browsing through Amazon, and buried at the end of a “you may like” list was a book that I automatically looked past based on the cover, and by pure chance happened to catch the author’s name just as I was clicking away to another page.

The cover art didn’t grab me, the title didn’t grab me, so I’d already given it a pass before scanning to the bottom to see the author. I mean, all I really saw was “poorly-lit ponytail gal leaning against something”; I didn’t even linger long enough to notice the details that said “boxer gal resting against heavy bag”, much less “forest/marsh background with human from another era”. And what does this have to do with an actor having to become the detective character she’s best known for to solve a murder? About the only nice thing I can say about this cover is that the author’s name is fairly readable against the background at thumbnail size; the title really isn’t.

There are better ways to inform me that Charles de Lint released a new Newford novel a month ago.

(as an aside, I’ll mention that I have a love/eye-roll relationship with de Lint’s Newford stories; there are elements that I have a hard time swallowing, and I’m not referring to the urban-fantasy parts)

No wine after its time

Some random wine discussion online reminded me of something amusing that happened when my sister and I took our parents to Japan. We were having dinner at an Irish pub in Kyoto, and since they had a wine list and the three of them are fans of good wine, they selected a bottle and ordered it.

It was undrinkably bad. So was the second choice. And the third. The manager humbly apologized, noting that they were the first people to order wine in as long as he could remember, and apparently no one had been keeping track of the stuff. It was after all an Irish pub, so everyone just ordered the Guinness.

Also, their “fish & chips” was a whole fried fish, including the head and tail. Fortunately I ordered the Guinness curry, which was decent.

Anime merchandise that isn’t

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that they’re not getting any sales to Tanya fans…

As The Worm Turns...

Apple employees have finally discovered work/life balance, refusing to go back to the office for three days a week:

“Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.”

I love how they tart this whine up with grievance-studies language. The pandempanic-induced switch to remote work is somehow inclusive in a way that the job environment they were in for the last 5-20 years was not.

“This bug is a feature; your argument is invalid”:

I have some sympathy. After all, I’ve been living 60-70 miles away from my office for over 20 years now, and going in every day was a pain in the ass. Reverse-commuting and working from home 2-3 days a week significantly improved things for me, and since I was on-call 24/7, it didn’t really matter where or when I did the work. Honestly, having interviewed at Apple, I’d rather not be surrounded by those people all day long, either.

Indeed, since switching jobs in the middle of the Corona-chan Revolution, the only one of my co-workers I’ve met in person is the one who already left the company for a startup opportunity. I might meet my manager soon, when I get back from my upcoming trip to Chicago, since my return flight puts me near my nominal office in time for lunch. It will be September before I might have to drive up to an office at least once a week.

Last Anime Standing, etc.

A Certain Demonic Agriculture Minister

Still haven’t finished the “new girl” Re: Zombie episode or the one after (apparently a historical piece set in go-go girl (5号) Yūgiri’s life). Kind of paused Demon Lord Slave Harem a bit after Horn went all girly and collared herself. Slime Diaries is becoming a bit of a chore. Girl Spider, Spider Girl is getting pushed aside for the B Ark, which is far less interesting.

Which pretty much leaves Best Girl Beelzebub And Her Amazing Friends (something-something-slime-something-level). Still fun, and that’s despite the fact that I’ve read well past this point in the light novels, so there are no surprises.

The only other thing I’ve really watched recently was Isekai Quartet, which I’d passed on when it came out because I hadn’t seen any episodes of two of the four shows, so their in-jokes were lost on me. Now, even though I dropped Overlord mid-season and Re: Zero fairly early in the first season, and would need the full Clockwork Orange treatment to ever watch more Konosuba, I did like Tanya.

TL/DR: season one okay, season two less so, and only partially rescued by Shield Hero cameos. Visha is Best Girl, thanks to the chibifying process removing The Innsmouth Look from her character design.

File under baffling the fact that the well-regarded (and still active) Nanoha franchise is apparently not available on any streaming service, and the used region-1 DVD box sets are outrageously priced. Seems like an odd thing for Funimation to completely drop from their catalog.

Unrelated, new trailer for Dragon Maid S, to be unleashed on the world on July 7.

Novel: A Hail Mary Project

The new Andy “The Martian” Weir novel came out a month ago, well above my price point for a Kindle book, so I put it on my Overpriced wish list to check up on in a few months. On Friday, Amazon sent me email offering a $5 instant credit on it, so I bought it.

It’s not bad, but I can’t say lightning struck twice. It tries to follow the Martian “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this” pattern, but it just doesn’t work as well when the danger is largely offscreen and the problems are more abstract and distanced, especially with so many exposition-heavy flashbacks.

Mark Watney was stranded alone on Mars and was facing certain death soon if he couldn’t quickly come up with practical solutions for the many problems he faced; Ryland Grace is alone on a spaceship and gradually learns that other people will die eventually unless he comes up with a solution to a single very specific and convoluted problem.

I would have been very unhappy if I’d paid 50%+ more for this book than a mid-list nuts-and-bolts SF novel. I still think I paid a good 20% more than I should have. Seriously, hunt yourself up a battered paperback copy of The Ring of Charon if you want to see it done right.

(and, yes, I find the sub-title “A Novel” pretentious and insulting; WTF do they think I expect to find, “A Canned Ham”?)

Pelosi’s nephew addicted to tyranny, too

While Benito Newsom hasn’t yet reneged on the promise to end the Californistan Mask Theater on June 15th, he insists on retaining his emergency powers.

Because it feels so good to force others to live by rules that don’t apply to you.

Nanoha The Evil


Okay, the producers of the anime adaptation of the erogame Triangle Heart whimsically reimagined a minor (“not romanceable”) character as a magical girl and accidentally created the extremely successful Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise, which has inspired quite a bit of fanfic over its life.

Including one about a magical girl in the middle of a realistic 20th Century war. Which quickly filed off the serial numbers and turned into an isekai story where the main character was reincarnated as a little girl, with the memories and personality of a 30-year-old salaryman.

In other words, the eponymous hero of The Saga of Tanya the Evil is a porn game little sister’s evil twin. Explains a lot, really.


…I’m trying to get Virginia’s voice back into my head so I can fix her story. What I initially thought would be a small course correction ended up revealing that pure seat-of-my-pants writing just doesn’t work when events have to be grounded in a real-world setting.

The root problem is that they leave the mall early enough in the evening to invite Kit over for dinner, but have to take her home first to get permission. This Does Not Go Well™, leading to a confrontation where Sally and Virginia have to trade truths about themselves. But Kit can’t be in the room for that, because she really is just a little girl who won’t understand, so I put her to bed in Virginia’s room while the “grownups” talked.

But it’s still only dinnertime. If it were later, it would be easy to just tuck her away for the night, but if she was affected (physically or emotionally) by what happened with her Wicked Stepmother, they wouldn’t leave her alone in another room. Virginia may be in deep denial about her budding humanity, but she’d find a rationalization for her compassion, and Sally is a genuinely nice person. I think I need to read it over from the beginning, set a fixed direction, and then see how much of chapters 3 & 4 I can keep.

Maybe I can figure it out during my upcoming flight to Chicago.

Windows WTF?

Spent some of my recent family time trying to debug a problem with a Windows PC. The short version: their desktop PC stopped being able to connect wirelessly. Ethernet? Fine. Android phones and tablets, anyone else’s computer, iPhones, iPads, Amazon, streaming boxes, etc, all good. My IT-pro brother lives nearby, and couldn’t figure it out.

They reset the network stack and reconfigured everything. No change.

They replaced the wireless access point. No change.

They replaced the entire computer, and didn’t copy the existing settings or data over. No change.

(aside: the only real reason the desktop needed to be on wireless was to access the printer, and once they discovered the printer had ethernet and bought a cable for it, they were fine running it wired; my father just thought that it was convenient to be able to put it somewhere that wasn’t chained to the router by a cable)

I’ve been hearing about this over the phone for weeks, so when I finally had a chance to sit down with it, I went through the full range of debugging options, and confirmed everything they’d told me.

With my MacBook sniffing the wireless, I quickly narrowed down the problem: it always successfully gets DHCP, but never receives any other packets after that. I could see it ping my Mac, but it never got the return packets. I could see arp traffic and responses, but it would simply ask again, like it hadn’t seen the answers.

I went to check firewall and anti-virus settings, and discovered one tiny little fact that no one had mentioned to me: Norton 360. Sure enough, they’d had it on the old machine as well, and it was the only piece of software the two had in common beyond the base OS install.

I didn’t have enough time to run full backups before trying to surgically extract all traces of Norton and restore it to the supplied MS firewall/AV, and since adding ethernet to the printer had solved the only actual connectivity problem, I left that for another visit, or for my brother to deal with. I strongly suspect it will work just fine without that crap.

“So, how was the trip?”

Got to San Francisco airport with plenty of time before my flight. Good thing, because long-term parking was simply closed, and they were handing out printed instructions and vouchers on how to get to the hourly parking garage and only pay the long-term rate. The vouchers were for the domestic hourly parking, but the instructions took you to international hourly parking; this will come up again later.

Had a terrific first-class flight to Chicago; the plane was United’s international 767, with individual pods in first class, so it was very, very nice. We landed on time, my checked bag came out right away, and then I tried to find out how to pick up my rental car.

The permanent signage at O’Hare refers to a very convenient tram service. It’s apparently been under repair for approximately two years now. Not only was the temporary signage inadequate and contradictory, so was the shuttle bus service.

After approximately an hour baking in the heat, I made it onto one of the reduced-capacity-due-to-covid buses, which fortunately was the only one in service that had working air conditioning.

After approximately 45 minutes in the line for rental pickup, they took my reservation information and told me they’d call me when my car was ready. In about an hour.

Sure enough, about 65 minutes later, my car was ready, and I was able to start the drive to my sister’s place, which would have taken 30 minutes if I’d gotten on the road by 1:45 PM as scheduled.

It took a lot longer at 4:45 PM.

The next morning, my sister and I piled back into my rental car to drive to Kettering, Ohio to spend several days with our parents, and find some time to see my brother and his kids as well. The ride was smooth (2020 Nissan Altima), the roads were pretty clear, the company was terrific, and they’d arranged to have Dayton-style pizza hot and fresh when we arrived. Even the dozen or more cicadas that ended up as big smears on the windshield didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

Then we discovered that my brother had brought his kids over. I love my brother, and my niece and nephew are awesome, but after a five-hour drive (only a day after my airport adventures), we wanted a quiet, relaxing evening with the parents I haven’t seen in over a year. An 11-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl really aren’t compatible with that.

Good food, good company, masks pretty much a historical footnote, etc. The drive back to Chicago a few days later was equally uneventful (and timed to coincide with the end of masking there, also), and we went out to one of her favorite places last night, Yoshi’s Cafe, before I headed out for my early flight back to SFO this morning.

Getting from the rental center to the terminal was only mildly tedious, again due to terrible signage that left people clustering around terminal-specific signs with no hint that all buses went to all terminals. At the security checkpoints, covid theater trumped security theater, so you basically just needed to empty your pockets when you walked through the metal detector.

The flight home was ordinary domestic first class, which was still better than the alternative. The fun began when I went to find my car, which was in the G lot. The signage leading you to domestic hourly parking (see above) shows that lot as having A, B, C, D, E, and F/G; since I’d never had any reason to use hourly parking before, and hadn’t really understood that they’d sent me to the international hourly garage the week before, I simply assumed that F and G were combined.

Nope. That section is literally labeled “F/G”, and has nothing to do with the completely separate “G” garage, which nothing will direct you to from anywhere in the domestic terminal. I was delighted to go on a discovery tour in 90+-degree heat and figure out where the hell I was supposed to go and how to get there.

I still managed to get my car out of the garage a bit after noon, and discovered that Silicon Valley traffic has recovered enough that 101 turned into a parking lot several times on the way home. Where it had been 80+ degrees for a few days, requiring that I turn on the air conditioner for the first time this year to cool it down and air it out.

On the bright side, I hear California mask theater has also ended now, despite Benito Newsom’s desire to continue his illegal emergency power-grab indefinitely. I haven’t been anywhere yet, so I suppose I’ll find out on Friday if any stores are still attempting to perform the rituals in hope that the cargo will return.

On the amusing side, less than a minute after I got home, there were two cats on the front porch looking for food and cuddles. Also three dead mice, to indicate that they had missed my daily offering of meaty sticks.

🎶 My meaty sticks bring all the cats to the porch… 🎶

Kamen Raider

406 Mask Not Found

Went out to Costco and Safeway Friday in between meetings, and while all employees were masked, only about 80% of customers were. With luck, the lingering fear will soon dissipate. Unless Benito Newsom abuses his emergency powers again (Democrats seem to be pinning their hopes on “The Delta Variant”, which sounds like a bad spy novel).

409 So much for getting vaccinated!

California has started offering an online Corona-chan barcoding service, so you can prove you were part of the unmonitored public trial of the Covid vaccines.

Would you be surprised to learn that it’s riddled with data errors and crashed under load on the first day? I wasn’t.

Of course, if you got the wrong vaccine, proving your vaccination status could be actively harmful.

410 Pizza Not Found

Apparently even pizza delivery couldn’t survive Covid. The Pizza Hut in Salinas closed down for good a few months ago, and I just happened to drive by their old location Saturday and discovered that there will (someday) be a Straw Hat Pizza opening there. Or maybe it’s already open, and their online ordering pages are just completely busted. It’s been at least 20 years since I ate Straw Hat, possibly as many as 30; I don’t even remember what they’re like.

Unrelated, I was perusing the neighborhood around one of our Tokyo hotels for the upcoming (hopefully…) Japan trip, and there’s really nothing interesting in walking distance that isn’t located inside another hotel. And I’m including this, even though reviews suggest that it’s a very different dining experience than you’d find at their US locations. 😁

413 Oopsie!

Unit conversion is hard for me, let’s make pizza:

“In the ingredient list, the quantity for extra-virgin olive oil should be given as 80 grams (8 tablespoons or ½ cup), not 80 grams (5¾ cups).”

Unsurprisingly, one of the negative Amazon reviews for the book complains that there’s way too much oil in the dough recipe…

429 No room for your bullshit!

Hey, Benito! It’s not a “tax rebate” if the people who paid the taxes don’t get any of their money back! It’s just another handout to try to keep your sorry ass from being canned for gross incompetence and lust for power.

405 Cosplay Not Available

If I were working with a model named Suzu Harumiya, the first thing I’d do is dress her up as Haruhi Suzumiya. I mean, how could you not, even if there’s no real resemblance? (NSFW! Disable Javascript!)

308 Watch it at home.

Did you know HiDive blocks a subset of their streaming catalog on mobile devices? Pixy mentioned the series-I’ve-never-heard-of-either The Girl In Twilight, which JustWatch reports is streaming on HiDive. It won’t show up in the search results at all on the app, or in your queue if you add it from a computer or TV-attached streaming device.

HiDive is a bit player in streaming, but they still charge real money for their service, and this kind of crap makes me want to binge the few remaining shows on my list and cancel.

206 Still No Desert Peach

Out now: Operation Desert Pasta, a Tanya OVA.

Coming, whenever: Tanya season 2 (video isn’t).

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