Bits and pieces

The Lasagna Paradox

My mom loves spices but her stomach does not, so when I made lasagna yesterday, I tried to tone it down significantly, cutting the spices by half and replacing the Italian sausage with ground beef [(velveting 1, 2] the meat to improve the texture). Hopefully it mellowed overnight, because when I tried it fresh out of the oven, it was still inexplicably quite zippy. Anyway, I hope she can eat it today. 😁

[Update: it still had a spicy finish to it, so I went back to the original cookbook, Tough Guys Don't Dice by the late James A. Thorson, and discovered that he handwaved the quantities of everything, and the precise values in my recipe had been invented over time as my gaming group tinkered with what fit into a standard Pyrex lasagna pan. I'm going back to the drawing board with this one, and definitely including the velveted ground beef option, which had amazing texture.]

Charming Sharra

Or, The Adventures of Karen of Ethshar. This is the first time I’ve ever just stopped reading one of Lawrence Watt-Evans’ fantasy novels, and it is entirely due to the main character being annoying and stupid. I simply don’t want to spend time with her as she demands to see life’s manager until (hopefully) learning her lesson and growing into a better person.

Hey, look, Bing Copilot worked for me!

I had a very specific problem that was poorly served by the way Google and other search engines chop up your search string, normalize the words, and then match them to wildly irrelevant results. And ads.

What I was looking for was a very specific type of fruitcake that my mother makes, and that she used to receive as a Christmas gift from her aunt decades ago. The first way it differs from the most common variety is by not being a cake; the small amount of flour is present only to coat the fruit and nuts so that they stick together when the only other major ingredient is added: sweetened condensed milk.

I’m pretty good at Google incantations, but because it just breaks language into keywords, it can’t tell the difference between recipes that contain a few tablespoons of flour and ones that contain several cups. The thing LLMs do well, on the other hand, is retain the connection between adjacent words, so I could specify “no more than 1/2 cup of flour” and have it correctly limit the search results.

The first pass included recipes that contained eggs and sugar, so I added “and no eggs”, and ended up with four “Texas” fruitcakes that aren’t what you’ll get if you buy a “Texas fruitcake”:

  1. Stella’s Texas Fruitcake
  2. Texas Fruit Cake
  3. Homesick Texan’s Pecan Date Fruitcake
  4. Never-Fail Fruit Cake

If I asked Copilot for more recipes like these, it just repeated the same list, and I’m willing to believe that there just aren’t a lot out there. The good news is that it didn’t insist on padding out the results with false positives.

Fun fact: with no actual “cake” involved, the ingredients are self-preserving, so it can’t really go bad (which is the original point of the heavily-sweetened alcoholic English fruitcake), but it should still be baked right away. We learned that the hard way this year, when, while stirring the pounds of fruit and nuts together with the cans of condensed milk, Mom got interupted by visitors, and had to cover up the bowl and set it out in the passively-refrigerated garage. One thing led to another, and it was three days before she fetched it back inside to portion into bread pans and bake. And it was a rock, firmly stuck to the mixing bowl. It took several hours of warmth and prying to break it up, and then restoring the original texture required some more condensed milk.

DanMemo ends (outside Japan)

The phone/tablet gacha game based on Is It Okay To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon is finally ending service in February. I sank a fair amount of time into it, and bought enough tokens to compensate the developers for producing a decent game with all the voice actors from the anime and original stories by the author. It gets old after a while unless you’re into throwing money at it, but it did have some nice cheesecake of the vast female cast, and several of the original songs are pretty good.

It sould be nice if they followed up the end-of-service announcement with a client update that bumped the point recovery and free gacha rates, so people could spend the next two months exploring character stories they could never unlock before. Probably won’t happen, though; they have another game now. Hopefully there’s an archive of ripped art and music out there somewhere.

(the Japanese servers are staying up, because apparently there’s a very active “PvP” community that still spends money on gacha pulls)

Comments via Isso

Markdown formatting and simple HTML accepted.

Sometimes you have to double-click to enter text in the form (interaction between Isso and Bootstrap?). Tab is more reliable.