“The day Al Gore was born there were 130,000 glaciers on Earth.
Today, only 130,000 remain.”

— Rufus Kings

Peace Talks didn’t suck


Given the direction that Butcher is taking things, I can see why he had to give up trying to fit it into one book. As is, it’s still bursting at the seams. As expected, however, if you’re not 100% up-to-date on the short stories, there are some things you’ll miss. Like why Carlos is bitter and badly injured.

Random Thoughts, Kemeko-Hates-You Edition


Oh, FFS

(top-updating for once…)

Benito Newsom has abruptly re-closed restaurants and churches statewide. Pull quote:

Newsom has compared his strategy of opening and closing businesses as a “dimmer switch”

This is true, but not in the way he thinks.

Damn You, Corona-chan!

I pre-ordered a Pinky Funko Pop. It was supposed to arrive Sunday. When it didn’t, I checked my orders, and found the release date had silently been pushed back to March 15, 2021. Drat. At least Peace Talks should be here tomorrow (physically; I won’t pay $15 for a DRM-infested Kindle edition).

Porch Cat Gets The Hose

Well, squirt bottle, anyway. Less than an hour after receiving a dish full of premium wet cat food last night, he came around to the back of the house and tried to get attention by jumping up on the screen door and hanging there by his claws. He did not receive the form of attention he craved.

Pine Trees Matter?

Is it just me, or does this SMBC strip read like a metaphor for something?

Video hunt…

N years ago, I found copies of the Hello!Project side project Folk Songs, featuring the H!P girls singing an oddball mix of songs that their starpimp grew up with; on volume 4, there’s a song called “Kemeko no Uta” from 1968 (live performance by The Darts). It chronicles the all-too-familiar tale of boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, girl brutally cuts boy down to size. This gains something when sung by a girl group rather than the original boy band, especially since the key lines are delivered by Kei Yasuda, whose nickname in H!P was Kemeko.

This song was a hit when I brought the lyrics to my mostly-female group reading class at Foothill. At the time, I had a different video with the original band on a college campus, but when I went looking for it this morning, instead I found this, which includes various clips where the song was used, including one featuring Yuko Nakazawa, Mari Yaguchi, and of course Kei Yasuda (don’t ask about the costumes; the skits on Hello!Morning were at best “goofy”).

Old games are old

I finally broke down and downloaded OpenEmu to revisit some ancient console games, as well as try out earlier generations of things like Zelda and Pokémon. I actually have two DS Lites and an Atari Lynx, but I used the DS primarily for Japanese study, and I haven’t fired up the Lynx in decades. Indeed, the last time it got serious use was back in the early Nineties, when one of my co-workers wore out the power connector and did a half-assed soldering job to get it working again. As far as I know, it still works.

Short take: nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. I think I’ll stick with modern games and remakes that incorporate significant gameplay improvements.

Speaking of Pokémon…

I’ve significantly improved my Cram-o-matic recipe generator. Mostly I wanted to allow all reasonably-common ingredients while still excluding rare and unique ones. As a side-effect, it runs a lot faster.

The previous version focused on excluding uncraftable ingredients, which excluded a lot of common drops. I had added back several common types, but there were enough one-offs that writing additional exceptions was more trouble than it was worth, so I took the time to mark up the data files with availability. Basically, if the only way to replace it is to visit the vendor in Stow-on-Side every day until you get lucky, it’s rare (8 items), and if the only way to replace it is “play the entire game again on another user profile”, it’s unique (25 items).

I also gathered buy/sell prices for most items, for rating recipes by whether the result sells for more than the ingredients. At the moment, TR88 is the winner, with several ways to make it out of free drops and/or berries you can buy in bulk. Next time I get bored, I’ll add a “profitable-only” option to the script. 😁

Random Thoughts, Time Machine edition


Dear Amazon,

You know the drill:

Hmmm, have they done an isekai series about ending up in another world as a monster-girl samurai psychologist yet?

Fun Mac Fact

If a Time Machine backup is interrupted for any reason, it may leave behind an unkillable backupd process. If this happens, even automatic local snapshots will stop working until you reboot. And by “reboot” I mean power-cycle, because MacOS doesn’t know what to do about an unkillable system process; it kills off everything it can and then just sits there, helpless.

Part of the problem is that the menubar indicator that’s supposed to show when a backup is active does not include the “preparing” or “stopping” stages, so if you were to, say, close your laptop lid during those stages, or change your network configuration by starting a VPN connection or switching from wired to wireless, you could trigger the problem.

For more fun, if your Time Machine backups are on a NAS, they’re stored in a disk image, which needs to be fscked periodically (part of the lengthy “verifying” stage), and must be fscked after any error. And that can take hours. And if it fails, the only solution Apple offers is to destroy your entire backup history and start over, potentially leaving you with no backups at all until the first new one completes, which, again, takes hours, especially with the default “run really slow in the background” setting enabled.

Pro tip:

sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=0

There are instructions (1, 2, but none from Apple) for how to manually fsck a TM image (possibly multiple times) and correctly mark it as usable again, a process that has the potential to take days.

And that’s why I keep two separate SuperDuper backups of my laptop in addition to the two separate TM backup drives (the “belt, suspenders, bungee cords, and super-glue” approach). Time Machine is far too fragile to rely on for anything but quick single-file restores, although it can be useful for migrating to replacement hardware that won’t boot a cloned disk.

In the standard “you’re holding it wrong” Apple way, you can’t just turn on automatic local snapshots; you have to have at least one external volume configured for automatic TM backups. In fact, the manpage seems to claim that you can’t make local snapshots at all unless you’ve got at least one external TM backup. This suggests that the optimum strategy is to use SuperDuper every day to have bootable full backups, set up TM without automatic backups, and then set up a cron job to create and manage local snapshots. And manually kick off TM backups every week or so when you’re sure you won’t need to use your computer for a few hours.

Good Eats Reloaded Gets Loaded


Alton Brown’s “Kentucky colonel” southern-gentleman cosplay and accent during the mint julep segment were perhaps not the best choice for the current trigger-word-happy climate. Not much meat to this one, although I liked the clear ice cubes and the dedication to the late Deb Duchon. Pity he didn’t go into the “Mpemba effect”, which is more of a Good Eats-ish thing than just making some cocktails.

No doubt part of the reason he just referenced it and moved on is that it doesn’t seem to be a particularly well-defined or well-tested claim. The original claim seems to be that a container of hot water will start to freeze sooner than an equivalent container of cold water, which is often misinterpreted as “will freeze faster”. Test results have been ambiguous, with a lot of uncontrolled variables depending on how the tester decided exactly what to test (evaporation, convection, freezer temperature, humidity, volume, container shape, etc, etc).

Alton does give a practical reason to start with hot water: less dissolved oxygen makes the resulting cube clearer.

What Would Maple Do?


I don’t want to get hurt…

…so I devoured all of Bofuri in one day (as one should), and then was disappointed to discover that the only merch on Amazon US was cheesy knockoff crap printed in China (blank notebooks and wall-hangings printed with swiped artwork). Not much fan-art on Pixiv, either, and very little of it even reasonably well-done.

In fact, I didn’t see anything on Amazon Japan, either, just the novels, manga, and anime.

So I read the 276 available fan-translated bite-sized chapters of the light novels. The first two translators who took a stab at it weren’t very good at assembling English prose, so I don’t know if they were working from the original web-novels or the published books. The third, still-active translator has taken it way ahead of the anime; everyone’s just finished up exploring the 7th level of the game and acquired their new (spoilers). Naturally, Maple recently gained an absurd new power by eating something.

The game developers seem to have embraced the idea that she’s the final boss, and just try to make it possible for other players to eventually defeat her. They do at least manage to come up with content (including bosses) that she can’t solo.

It’s an interesting series that exploits a lot of common tropes without falling into the usual patterns. There’s no villain, no harem, no angst, no world-saving, no jerks ganking noobs. Even the tentacles are benign. There’s just Maple warping the universe through her determination to have fun.

Some things never change…

Amazon promises Tuesday delivery, hands off package to local post office at 1 AM Tuesday, post office claims it went out on a truck at 7 AM and was delivered at 7:30 PM, package not in locked mailbox at 8 PM. Package spontaneously appears in locked mailbox early Wednesday morning.

Job talking

Had a good chat with the former co-worker who’s building up an SRE team. Looking forward to talking to some of his people. Downside: the current opening is junior for me, but he expects to have senior positions in August, and if I’ve already interviewed, the process should be shorter.

Oh, a title goes here?


Weighty decisions

Rogue Fitness got another shipment of kettlebells in, and I grabbed a 40-kilo one before they ran out. Hopefully it won’t be Brickmuppet hefting my 88 pounds of cast iron onto a UPS truck…

Cram-o-matic

The most profitable crafting recipe I’ve found in the Pokemon DLC is:

1 Cheri Berry + 3 Dynamax Candy

The berries can either be collected in small quantities for free or purchased in large quantities for 80 each. Dynamax Candy is the reward for doing raids, and can’t be sold, so you end up hitting the inventory maximum (999) pretty quickly. To add insult to injury, a recent event significantly increased the amount awarded after most raids. The recipe produces TR88 (“Heat Crash”), worth 3000.

There are some profitable recipes that can be made with just berries, but not berries you can buy bulk, so you’re limited by how many you’ve found by shaking trees once a day.

The most useful recipe is a chain:

1 Iapapa Berry + 3 Dynamax Candy = Wide Lens
1 Wide Lens + 3 Rare Candy = Bottle Cap
Bottle Cap + (anything) + 2 Bottle Cap = Gold Bottle Cap

This is quite expensive, since Rare Candy sells for 5000, but it’s another thing you get for free from raids, so you can build up quite a stack. Bottle Caps are how you optimize the stats for the pokemon in your party; Gold Bottle Caps max out the potential of all six stats at once. You can buy them with a currency that’s earned at the battle tower, but only if you spend a lot of time grinding there. Much easier to just make a few when you’re building a new party.

The best team for catching free-range organic Dittos is a Feebas with only non-attack moves (at least two; it’s one of the few mons that can actually have all four moves be useless) and a Gallade with False Swipe, Hypnosis, Thunder Wave, and Sunny Day. Start by throwing a Quick Ball. If that doesn’t work, swap in the Gallade and use False Swipe, then throw a Repeat Ball. If that doesn’t work, use Hypnosis or Thunder Wave to sleep/paralyze it, and then throw another Repeat Ball. Sunny Day is useful if the weather would damage the Ditto after you’ve reduced it to a single hit point, but so far I haven’t seen that on the new Ditto island in the DLC.

This is a much better place to catch them than the Lake Of Outrage, because there aren’t any nuisance spawns in the area that will chase you around, and the Ditto spawn rate is much higher. The raid den also spawns them more frequently than the only one in the base game, although I haven’t checked to see if they’ve nailed down the rates for the new DLC dens.

Unrelated

I’ve run out of Stargate: SG-1 episodes I want to rewatch while on the elliptical. I’ve found it difficult to rewatch the Atlantis spin-off, so I need to find something new/old that will give me ~45 minutes of mild entertainment and is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Starz, BritBox, Hulu, Netflix, Crunchyroll, HiDive, or dLibrary Japan. Hmmm, perhaps it’s time to cancel a few of those…

First up: Bodacious Space Pirates. Two episodes at a time works well for this series.

Black Powder Nation


I have never heard so many unofficial fireworks going off, many quite elaborate. And quite close. The smell will linger for weeks.

I am very glad it’s been damp and humid recently, and that I watered the yard today.

Update

By the time I went to bed, the weather app on my phone had been reporting “unhealthy air quality” for several hours. Seems all the particulate sensors in the area were reading ~5x the usual amount of stuff in the air…

Ah, social media…

Nextdoor is full of complaints this morning, both about the massive fireworks displays and the city’s failure to stop them all. “Don’t these people know that it’s illegal?!?!?!?!?”

Random Thoughts, Explosion Day edition


Brought to you by Megumin, the patron saint of Home Fireworks Displays:

Gosh, how did this get detected as spam?

Received: from redacted.clientshostname.com (unknown [185.180.197.116])
Received: from [185.144.31.1] (localhost [IPv6:::1])
From: “PROF. DAVID HAMILTON” <redacted@easynet.es>
Reply-To: redacted@sol.dk
Message-Id: <redacted​@​redacted.clientshostname​.com>
Subject: ABOUT SUSUMU

So that’s a Spanish from address, a German reply-to address, and a Japanese word in the subject, sent from an IP address in Russia, routed through another in Netherlands whose domain is registered to a company in Cyprus, then handed off to pobox.com (a US/Australian company who will apparently accept anything from anybody). The body of the message tells you that The Good Professor is a retired British lawyer, so this international effort is clearly on the up-and-up.

Oh, and it was sent to my cpan.org email address.

Best part?

I am searching for any family member of my late client Mr. Susumu who has the same family surname with you

Yeah, I’d fall for that in a heartbeat. If my “family surname” was Susumu, maybe.

The address block at the end of the message looks entirely authentic as well.

Prof. David Hamilton (RETIRED)
52 Denedin House, Manwood
street,Noth Woolwich,London E162LB
United Kingdom.

No. Just… no.

My absolute loyalty to the Pepsi brand dates back to the day I won $500 in the Pepsi Spirit bottle-cap contest, but despite the amount of merch I own, I cannot imagine purchasing this product for any price.

The only product less attractive than this is the hand-made soy candle in an old Pepsi can with “custom scent” ($15 plus $8 shipping).

(Technically it was a joint effort. My sister and I collected everything but the rare “R”, and one day when my brother was home on leave, he drove us to school, buying a Mountain Dew on the way and flicking the bottle cap into the back of the car. I found it a week later and it was the “R”, so we split it three ways)

In home-baking news

My latest order from King Arthur Flour arrived, containing 9 pounds of durum flour and a pound of SAF Red instant yeast. And since several of my recent grocery-store trips have resulted in the discovery of KAF AP and bread flour on the shelves, and Costco had 2-pound bricks of Red Star active dry yeast, I’m pretty darn stocked in the bread department for quite a while. I’ve got a loaf of durum sesame bread cooling on the counter right now, and a nice selection of Boar’s Head lunch meats to combine it with.

And while updating my LinkedIn profile for the first time in fifteen years, I stumbled across a job opening that I should have no difficulty demonstrating my qualifications for, given that the Director of Engineering who posted it is someone I trained and shared an office with. More on that after I talk to him Monday.

KAF Durum Sesame Bread (2-pound loaf)

This is not the recipe available on their web site, but the one on the back of the flour bag (metric weights are the amounts that I use, checking the dough consistency when the bread machine’s mix-in beep goes off):

1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups water, 105 to 110 degree (355 grams)
1 tbsp sugar (12 grams)
2 tsp salt (12 grams)
2 ½ cups durum flour (310 grams)
1 to 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (180 grams)
2 tsp instant yeast (6 grams)

1 tbsp sesame seeds (9 grams) – topping

  1. Combine everything but the sesame seeds, knead, let rise until doubled in size. (I use the dough cycle on my bread machine)

  2. Shape into a smooth 12-inch torpedo, brush with water, sprinkle with sesame seeds and press them lightly into the dough. (I load it into my KAF small pullman pan)

  3. Let rise until almost doubled, slash in 3 places before baking. (pullman: let it rise within ½-inch of the top, put on the lid)

  4. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 10 minutes, lower heat to 400°F and bake 20-25 minutes more. (pullman: 25 minutes at 350°F, remove the lid and let it go another 8-10 minutes, pulling it out when the center reads 190°F)

  5. Cool on a wire rack.

I like the pullman pan for this, because it makes a very sturdy sandwich loaf that can be sliced quite thin, toasted, and filled with plenty of chicken salad or sliced lunchmeat.