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)

Glocks at half-mast

JMB/GG meetup

Gaston Glock has died, after a very full and successful life. I picture him meeting up with John Moses Browning in the afterlife and getting along just fine. Unlike many of their fans in this life. 😁

Purah Explains It All

Maplestar has promised a sequel to that Purah video by the end of the year. Clock’s ticking… [Update: January 4th!]

McPharmacist & Waifu & Sister, Too

The new trailer for season two makes it clear that Ruti loves Red in a completely inappropriate way. So whatever happens with the new hero-dick, they’ve got that going for them.

(wrong waifu, but I doubt I’ll get complaints…)

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone’s happy, healthy, stuffed, and loaded with goodies. I’m thinking next year I should make myself an Ammo Advent Calendar. Other than just stacking Federal and Remington boxes in a tree shape, I mean.

Ladies Served Fresh Daily

(obscure reference)

For women-women who might have found a Glock under the tree, my local members-only range has an upcoming confidence-builder:

Ladies Only ‘Ballistic Therapy’

This does not require a membership.

Rerun Returns

Second season announced. No details about the story beyond what was in the last episode.

Important Pixiv note

If your “discovery” page has become cluttered with unwanted content, it’s likely because their algorithm is prioritizing viewed images over favorited. In other words, if you clicked on a thumbnail and it turned out to be something you didn’t like or weren’t interested in (or had such content below the fold), it’s still being treated as something to show you more of.

You can clear it from the profile menu under “Browsing history”. Note that doing so doesn’t cause your recommendations to refresh immediately.

How the sausage espresso is made

James Hoffmann takes a deep dive into how Nespresso gets away with it, extracting info about how their pods extract coffee, and why third-party and refillable pods aren’t as good, no matter what beans you put into them.

🎶 One of these things is not like the other...

Dear Amazon, how much were you paid to recommend this?

(classical reference)


Every once in a while someone manually goes to the effort of posting spam comments here, which I can delete with one click and which never get indexed by search engines anyway. Click.

S-Rank Daddy’s Girl, episode 4

In which Our Obsessed S-Rank Daughter wallows in hometown nostalgia, Our Favorite Dad fosters a catgirl, Our Adventure Gals manage to bathe without significant fan-service, stern parenting succeeds by failing, and we learn Something Important about how Bel lost his leg.

Verdict: I enjoyed this little interlude almost as much as they did, but I think it’s time everyone got back to work. That nameless villain’s not going to defeat himself.

(no new fan-art for this show, so here’s a cute dragonette foodie)

Top. Picks.

Amazon is heavily pushing “top picks for you” that include new books by Britney Spears and Jada Pinkett Smith. I don’t want to know what they were paid for these promotions, but they really stand out from the isekai novels, snack foods, and electronic gadgets that make up the bulk of their recommendations for me, and which are actually based on my purchases. I’m not interested in a sequel to The Firm, either, but I can at least understand why other people might be.

For two months now, they’ve also been constantly exhorting me to buy the hot-new-release Steven Brust novel, Lyorn, which doesn’t come out until April.

On that note, “Dear Amazon, this product couldn’t be gayer if it included a picture of two gay men drilling their buns, which it does”:

A glitch in the Matrix Starfield

Twice now, I’ve gone through the Freestar Rangers questline and ended up having to hoof it at least five kilometers through heavy jungle, because the game generated a random POI that overlapped with the place I was supposed to be landing. And there’s nothing to do during that run except scan the local critters and maybe kill a few, all of which are level 1 and completely trivial. It was supposed to drop you off about 100 meters from your destination; your quest objective explicitly tells you to land there.

For more fun, the distance-to-target display is wrong, so you have to use the terrible on-world mapping to figure out roughly how much farther you need to go. Kind of ruins the tension of the big fight.

(there are no ground vehicles in Starfield, despite how sparsely populated the planets are with procedurally-generated content)

Trevor’s Red Tape

An exercise in side-quest design and lack of ground vehicles…

Random Martian: Hey, you should maybe talk to Trevor; I guess he’s having some problems with the mine.


Trevor: Hey, this mine we’re working that’s right under the middle of town? Yeah, we’re way below quota; could you maybe grab a cutter and get me some iron? For free?


Trevor: Great, now what we really need is a bunch of new equipment, but that dumb exec just won’t approve my POs. How about you fly up to Deimos and apply for a job as his executive assistant, fly back and hack into the local HR database to delete every other applicant, and then answer his mail and approve my PO?






Exec: Hello, assistant; did you change your hair, or are you a new one? I’m such a nitwit, but the first thing I need you to do is find out why I can’t get my special shipment; there’s some kind of hold on it.


Mars Governor: Yeah, that nitwit’s got a lot of unpaid taxes, but if you do me a tiny little favor, I’ll release the hold. The favor? The Crimson Fleet stole my company car starship, and it’s really a sweet ride, but I need you to quietly destroy it, off the record. For insurance reasons.


Crimson Fleet: Seriously, kid, we let you bluff your way onto the ship, but you don’t speak pirate lingo at all, so we’re gonna kill you.


Crimson Fleet leader’s body: I’m an incriminating letter from the Mars Governor hiring the Fleet to destroy his own ship to hide the evidence of his affair with the woman who ran off with his ship.

Woman’s body: I’m an incriminating suicide note, and she was really, really sorry for all the trouble she caused.




Mars Governor: Nice work, I’ve released dipshit’s cargo. You didn’t… find anything interesting out there, did you? No? you just blew it up? Great!


Head of Security: Thanks for this incriminating evidence, we’re going to have a little chat with the Governor.


Exec: Ooh, thanks for the package; could you take care of my email now?


Trevor: Awesome work, the new equipment is on the way. Hank volunteered to go get it, but he should have been back by now. Could you maybe check at the docks?


Docks: Yeah, Hank left a while ago on some pickup job, but it was funny that he didn’t park here when he got back. I mean, there might be a good reason he parked waaaaaaaay over there, but really, that’s kind of a dick move. Or a smuggler move.


Trevor: Gosh, that doesn’t sound right. Check the local bars, and ask him why he did that.


Hank: Yes, I admit that I ripped off my fellow miners, because of reasons you won’t remember long enough to write them down. I repent my actions, though, so let’s go outside and I’ll hand it all over. My ship’s right over there, and while we spend the next 5-10 minutes walking, I’ll explain everything in a way that makes it really obvious that I’m going to try to kill you as soon as we’re alone. Really, really obvious.







Trevor: Wow, Hank was a dick. We’ll go bring his ship back to the docks so we can grab our new equipment. Oh, and could you check up on Rivkah? She doesn’t sound good…

(I left out the step where I had to fly to a shipyard, switch to another ship, and fly back, because I only had auto-turrets and the Governor’s ship wasn’t flagged hostile, so they wouldn’t shoot at it)

Escapism versus reality

Because we missed missing shows?

Crunchyroll has jumped on the “linear channel” bandwagon, in which streaming services schedule blocks of programs with ads, so that we can return to the days of our primitive ancestors and watch Broadcast Television 2.0. Will they also add static, breaking news interrupts, weather alerts, and infomercials? Maybe some After-School Specials?

Decent bread recipe

My mother stumbled over this recipe for condensed milk bread. It promised the moisture and texture of the various tangzhong breads “made in a less complicated way”.

By which the author means “using condensed milk and yogurt instead of sugar and an egg”; the actual effort of making the tangzhong is trivial. Still, a quick run through my bakers-percentage script showed it as containing even more moisture than a tangzhong dough (80% versus 72-75%), so I tried it out, skipping all the complicated shaping and just pressing Go on the bread machine.

Worked fine, and stayed fresh as long as a tangzhong bread, due to the high moisture content. I think next time I’ll use the dough cycle and bake it in my pullman pan, for a better sandwich-loaf shape.

(downside: if you don’t bake several batches, you end up with a lot of leftover condensed milk and yogurt, which are arguably less versatile than eggs and sugar)

Got Frieren?

Want more? They’re streaming short gag comics on Youtube.

(speaking of things you won’t find in the main series…)

California freezin’

Clean and abundant natural gas bad, scarce unreliable expensive electricity good. But at least fast-food workers will be paid $22/hour! Both of them!

All I’ll say for now about this week’s events

Joe Biden paid Iran to murder jews. Anyone who voted for him (including the photocopiers) voted for this.

Nasally-inserted fire...

You Will Be Upgraded

For some reason, Amazon recommended a cheesy anti-snoring aid to me, sort of a bargain-basement CPAP that puts Chinese-made rechargeable batteries up your nose. The most interesting thing about it was the before/after picture:

(the reviews look as authentic as the photos; unrelated, the broken item that was rejected by the shipper was automatically refunded today (really 3-5 days from now), and the re-order will supposedly arrive in two days, shipped from a local warehouse)

Whoops, You Upgraded!

MacOS Safari 17 removed the Developer menu option to disable Javascript. This is the only way to safely browse many sites, especially the ones with pictures of pretty young women who shouldn’t go out dressed like that.

It’s still possible to disable it globally in the browser preferences, but you can’t assign a keyboard shortcut to that. It might still be possible to do it through a browser extension, but no one has updated their app-store pages to confirm compatibility.

Good thing there are other browsers that don’t know what’s best for you!

Doctor Who Disney

The new Doctor Who specials, featuring cast/crew from another, better time, will stream on Disney+, demolishing whatever interest I might have had. I can’t blame Disney, which secured the rights by the old-fashioned method of investing in the production, but every time I look at Disney+, it has the least to offer of any streaming platform.

(now, if they made a new generation of Cybermen that looked like this…)

Space to breathe

Frieren not only kicks off with a two-hour episode, it will run for two cours. In a row, even.

(wrong elf getting tickled, but I’ve wanted to use this one for a while now)

Local Pie

I finally had a chance to stop by Mehaffies, and didn’t recognize my grandmother in any of the pictures they had from the Thirties. As for the pie and cheesecake, the peach pie had excellent filling and decent crust, while the New York cheesecake was light on both crust and flavor. It would have made a good base for the cherry, strawberry, or blueberry toppings they sell, but it didn’t stand alone.

Random roundup

Drain the swamp!

My landscapers have been wondering why part of my back yard is so soggy, since they’ve overhauled the drainage and put in a lot of thirsty plants.

I’m halfway up a hill, and it hasn’t rained much in weeks, but a large section of the yard near the back fence is downright soggy. They probed in a few places to find the source, and dug down to uncover an old clay-tile drainage pipe running under the fence. It apparently used to run further down toward the street (most likely part of an old irrigation network from the original farmhouse), but it recently broke off right at the property line.

Either there’s a major water reservoir at the top of the hill, or the neighbor has a busted water line and hasn’t noticed the bill. He’ll be very motivated to fix it after my landscapers cap it off on my side. The water is going to have to come out somewhere…


Um, Pete?

“Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.”

(Update: the link should go directly to his comment, but it ends up showing the entire thread from the top; the bit I'm responding to reads "My harem of slave catgirls is extremely efficient at satisfying my needs, in fact it's superior to any alternatives.")

And you thought light novel titles were bad…

New RPG released for PC, PS5, and Switch:

Mon-Yu: Defeat Monsters And Gain Strong Weapons And Armor. You May Be Defeated, But Don’t Give Up. Become Stronger. I Believe There Will Be A Day When The Heroes Defeat The Devil King.

It looks like a crude dungeon-crawler.


In response to Pippa’s computer woes, someone wrote:

“Even my computer I built myself half hazardously has less problems somehow.”

At least, I’m assuming it’s an eggcorn for haphazardly; otherwise someone’s re-implemented the Halt And Catch Fire opcode. 😁

You’re grounded!

Amazon just offered me a conductive sleeping pad that implements the “proven medical benefits” of sleeping on the ground with a grounding wire. I mean, a doctor said it works, amirite?

Name that tune!

Once upon a time, there was a Jim Croce album featuring not only his best-known songs, but stories linking them together. I had it on vinyl, but I can’t find it on CD or streaming. It’s been frustrating me for decades.

I can hear his voice telling the stories, and remember bits of it, like talking about someone trying to have sex with a really fat woman (“that’s a winter-time woman”) and thinking, “‘am I there? am I there?’ you don’t know!”, and then linking that story to Roller Derby Queen’s line about “built like a ‘fridgerator with a head”. Another was a short explanation of why he didn’t use a guitar strap, because he spent a lot of time playing in cheap bars where he needed to protect his guitar when a fight broke out.

But I can’t even find anyone who mentions an album containing this stuff. Grrr.

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