Some years ago, actress Dawn Wells visited one of the remotest islands in the already remote Solomon Islands; she was, in fact, the first non-native woman to set foot there. The chief’s wife stared at Wells in surprise when she came out of her hut. “Mary Ann?” she asked in amazement.

— "Madonna who?"

3D Cheesecake 24

Caught up in work and Breath of the Wild (status: I suck at Trial of the Sword), so here’s a typical assortment of cheesecake. I really need to catch up on filling in names sometime…

Cheeseless commentary

I briefly investigated “Master Mode”, the harder mode for BotW, and it’s pretty pointless for anyone who hasn’t mastered controller combo moves, even with a heaping helping of cloned amiibo to drop piles of loot from the sky and overcome the enhanced weapon-frailty system (even in the tutorial zone, you need two or more weapons to finish a fight, unless you can trigger a flurry-of-blows combo reliably).

There appear to be some actually interesting changes that I’ll likely never really get to, like the floating platforms with monsters and lootable chests. I pretty much gave up on it after reaching Hateno and upgrading all of my runes. I probably wouldn’t have gotten there so easily without the amiibo horse drop (Epona, for those who know the series).

The widely-available cloned amiibo NFC cards are quite useful, and the art on them is cute enough that I’d like to find out who drew it and see what else they’ve done; the current set has 24 cards, and the two sets I’ve used had different serial numbers, so you could scan them all every day for double the loot. I also acquired an old Nexus 5 for a few bucks, loaded the TagMo app, randomized serial numbers with the pyamiibo library, and picked up a pack of 50 NFC stickers for a decent price. You can get the tags even cheaper from Ali Express, but Amazon’s a lot quicker. Besides, I’m still kind of miffed at Alibaba for buying up our building.

(the mini cards, by the way, are the same height/width as a Switch cartridge, making them easy to slip into a case for travel)

“Oh, hi there PG&E!”

Unrelated, while typing the above, my power blipped. This is apparently the new normal in Californistan.


Dear Apple,

Congratulations on breaking the Calendar and Reminders iCloud sync for anyone still running Mojave and iOS 12.x!


It looks like rebooting my phone, disabling sync on both my Mac and my phone, killing the associated apps on both, and then restarting them forced a sync. Hopefully it will continue to sync for a while before it breaks again, but since I know that they switched to a completely different system for Reminders in Catalina and iOS 13, I’m not hopeful; Apple and legacy are two words that simply don’t go together.


…and I had to do it all on my iPad, too.

Dear Amazon,

I love that you’re promising next-day delivery on a lot of items, but in your relentless pursuit of shipping optimization, you have failed to take into account the fact that USPS simply lies about when they “delivered” a package.

For instance, Wednesday at 5:53 PM, I placed an order (“free next-day shipping, for sure!“). Tracking shows that you handed it off to my local post office at 4:44 AM Thursday. USPS claims it went out for delivery at 8:44 AM, and was placed in my mailbox at 6:51 PM. My mailbox (of the shared, locking variety at the curb) was completely empty when I got home at 9:15 PM.

This is not the first time this has happened. Sometimes it shows up on my porch very early the next morning, other times as part of the next day’s regular delivery, occasionally delayed even further by a weekend or holiday, and at least once it never turned up at all, despite being marked “delivered”.

Friday night update

By golly, the “delivered Thursday” package somehow found its way into my locked mailbox today! It’s almost like it never made it onto the truck and they checked it off to pad their numbers!

Oh, wait, it’s exactly like that!

Right on schedule…

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 6 raises the stakes.

Given the ongoing speculation, I will not discuss any details, except to say that it continues to track the satisfying story told in the novels.

Dear Youtube,

Twice in the past few days, I’ve had a video interrupted in the middle by an unskippable video ad for an unrelated and uninteresting product.

So I downloaded them and watched offline with no ads at all.

Fun with Chrome

First, if you haven’t already stopped using Google Chrome, stop now. What could possibly go wrong with allowing web sites to edit files on your computer, and have your mobile browser automagically process those annoying two-factor-authentication SMS messages and agree that it’s really you logging into your banking site?

Security? They’ve got Top Men working on it right now!

An update for Chrome 78 is now available that fixes two major security vulnerabilities, one of which is already being used to exploit devices.

BotW: inverted challenges…

Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is a third-person open-world exploration/puzzle/combat game with some elements drawn from RPGs. There’s some variety in playstyles, but no real choices that would differentiate one person’s save-game from another’s. Once you’ve progressed past a certain point, you can do anything that anyone else has done in the game, simply by swapping in the appropriate gear.

Assuming you have the twitch reflexes and well-honed console skills to pull it off, of course. Personally, I suck at precisely-timed button/button/stick combos, so many of the “easy strats” you can find on gaming sites and Youtube are almost impossible for me to pull off reliably, while a straightforward sword/board/bow-focused slugfest worked just fine for getting me through the main story and the major side quests.

Since I went through the main quests methodically, I saw a generally sensible progression in difficulty. Puzzle and combat shrines started off easy, outdoor fights that were obviously too hard were avoidable and could be returned to later (much later…), and most problems had multiple solutions. Creative use of the special powers you pick up along the way makes it possible to cheese your way through situations where your gamepad skills aren’t up to par.

Usually. There are certain things, however, that I just can’t pull off reliably.

  1. Rapid headshots; there’s a significant benefit to hitting certain creatures in the head, and sometimes specifically in the eye. In certain situations you can slow down time long enough to line up a precise shot, but in real-time, I often miss, with messy results.

  2. Perfect blocks; get it right, and your enemy takes all the damage from the attack he just hit you with. Get it wrong, and he gets another free shot while you’re rolling on the ground recovering. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got the timing down against Guardians, but then I’ll suddenly miss 80% of them, lose half my health, and break three shields.

  3. Flurry of blows; this combines the precise timing of a perfect block with pressing the left stick in a specific direction. As a result, I think I’ve done it half a dozen times accidentally, and never when I needed it.

Mastering all of these skills makes combat much, much easier, leading to Typical Internet Responses for anyone foolish enough to ask questions about how to deal with situations those skills make trivial.

I went through a pretty standard progression, using a walkthrough just enough to expand my inventory and work around the weapon frailty system. That means I visited a lot of shrines to boost my health and stamina, wandered all over the map collecting things to craft food and upgrade my armor, defeated the four preliminary bosses, and then set the final boss battle aside while I acquired and upgraded the best gear in the game, until I was sure I could survive the fight long enough to win.

It was a cakewalk. Out in the world, I could still get my ass handed to me by carelessly engaging a group that turned out to have neighbors, overlooking a distant enemy that could stun or disarm me, taking on two guardians at once and suddenly having three leveled-up undead and two ninjas spawn, or, say, being spotted at long distance by a silver-maned lynel who has AoE arrows.

Main boss? I think he knocked me down once at the start of the fight because I was trying to take a picture of him. Then I just shot him with arrows until the fight moved outdoors, at which point I shot him with even better arrows (supplied by a special this-fight-only bow that can’t run out of ammo).

I checked the FAQs and walkthroughs, and there are all sorts of things that can happen in the big battle, but I never saw any of that; the only brief change was that right before he went down for the first time, he gained an energy shield, and kicking off Urbosa’s special took that down so I could shoot more arrows. I didn’t even use any specials in the outdoor fight; I just aimed where Zelda told me to.

I got into more trouble cleaning up outside the castle after it was over. I still have difficulty taking down lynel without suffering a ton of damage and/or breaking multiple weapons. But I could kill the Big Bad any time, just to show someone the ending scene, no problem.

I’ve got a bunch of shrine quests and DLC content to go through now, and now that I have some basic franchise knowledge and console skills, I may play through again on hard, but for that, I’ll stack the deck in my favor. Literally; I ordered a set of fake amiibo cards that shower you with loot once every 24 hours. (turns out I had just enough left over from that silly Paypal/Ebay gift card I got for Christmas a while back…)

New Release Of A Bookworm…

I see that the next Ascendance of a Bookworm light novel (part 2.1) comes out next week, and it’s currently in the top 20 for “fantasy manga” and #1 for “children’s manga”.

Note that it’s not manga at all, nor is it the claimed 33 pages long. The publisher seems to have some severe tagging issues, but I’m sure they don’t mind the ranking and “#1 bestseller” marker.

I need to sit down and catch up on the anime. When last I checked in, they had a long way to go to get through the first three books, although it looks like they’ll be using some of the side stories that pad out the books as the Bluray-only episode 14 (a rare case where “buy the blurays” does not involve steam removal…).

And, yes, that’s Koyasu as Benno.

After the jump, an artist’s rendering of what the future holds for the Adorable Moppet…