roadrunnertwice: DTWOF's Lois in drag. Dialogue: "Dude, just rub a little Castrol 30 weight into it. Works for me." (Castrol (Lois))

Hi, I redid my journal style for the first time in ages! I did not even briefly consider making it any color other than baby-aspirin orange. Also I named the new one "Scratch the Surface," as an homage to my old five meg home base. (Good god, have I really been Extremely Online for 20+ years.)

This time around, I actually dug into Dreamwidth's S2 style system and made my own "theme layer" over Tabula Rasa. I've never done that before! I was vaguely aware of some kind of concept of "~layers,~" but had no idea what was actually involved until a couple days ago.

How about that S2 business, huh? Though TBH it's more like, "how about LiveJournal-descended technologies in general, huh?" Like many of those, this one is very clearly a product of a particular time and place ("people want to build complex document tree-structures and/or roll their own CSS pre-processors by composing Perl subroutine calls!"), and you can't exactly call it "good" per se... but you definitely have to respect the amount of insight and thoroughness that went into it. I can recognize at least five or six of the specific template language grievances that drove the design here — they're ones I've wrestled before without seeing any good way around them, and S2 has at least semi-reasonable answers. But also, WOW. The language design is usable and the docs really aren't that bad, and ultimately I spent like 80% of my time wrestling with CSS anyway, but I kind of feel like I just french kissed a coelacanth.

Anyway, this was a great chance to fix some things that have always bugged me about most of the built-in layouts, especially on mobile. New one should be fairly solid, unless I use a table in a post, in which case I probably deserve what I get in the first place.

roadrunnertwice: DTWOF's Lois in drag. Dialogue: "Dude, just rub a little Castrol 30 weight into it. Works for me." (Castrol (Lois))

Here’s an absolutely buck wild story from the Wikipedia page for aqua regia:

When Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of German physicists Max von Laue (1914) and James Franck (1925) in aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from confiscating them. The German government had prohibited Germans from accepting or keeping any Nobel Prize after jailed peace activist Carl von Ossietzky had received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935. De Hevesy placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. It was subsequently ignored by the Nazis who thought the jar—one of perhaps hundreds on the shelving—contained common chemicals. After the war, de Hevesy returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The gold was returned to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation. They re-cast the medals and again presented them to Laue and Franck.


Feb. 14th, 2019 01:41 pm
roadrunnertwice: Dialogue: "I have caught many hapless creatures in my own inter-net." (Hapless creatures (Activities For Rainy)

OK: I went ahead and switched to Google Fi.

I'd been feeling kind of reluctant about it, because it kind of chafes to hand Google even MORE of my critical infrastructure. But then I regained perspective and remembered that I'm weighing the sinister brooding menace of Google against the sinister brooding menace of Fucking Telcos, and if you put it that way, the telcos can go screw.

Why not go with another MVNO, like Consumer Cellular? Well... I'd been on T-Mobile, and one of their nicest perks was free international data service. It was slower than shit, because they were still trying to upsell you for 4G speeds, but it did work for maps and iMessage. None of the other MVNOs I know of have anything like it, and it's been useful often enough that I didn't want to give it up. But Fi does basically the same thing, except 1. LTE speeds, 2. better country coverage (I think), and 3. much cheaper overall. (No international tethering, but I couldn't do that before anyhow.)

So I went ahead and switched now, since we're going out of the country in a couple weeks. And wow, even with all the rough edges on iPhone in the "beta," they still did a surprisingly good job at making it easy to port my number over and get set up. I'll miss visual voicemail, but the texted transcriptions should be about half as good, and also I assume they're working on it.

Oh, pro-tip, though: download your voicemails off your old carrier before you port your number. I forgot to, and now those are gone forever. (I'll live; there were only like two I wanted to hold onto.)

roadrunnertwice: Dialogue: "Craigslist is killing mothra." (Craigslist is killing Mothra (Cat and Gi)
So I had a somewhat sketchy craigslist adventure the other day. Or rather, the lead-up was sketchy in one way, and the punchline was sketchy in an entirely different and much more hilarious way.

I was buying a video card, and the seller said they could only meet at their house (which was out in goddamn Tigard) and at an inconvenient rush-hour-hell time. And actually that part was Especially Strange. Their exact words were: “Although I would love to, I can't meet anywhere besides my place.” ???????

Ruth reminded me that I was being an idiot by ignoring the prime craigslist directive (meet in a public place), which I was, but I was pretty sure it was fine? But she did have a point, so I brought a friend for backup.

Well. We get out there and knock on the door, and a kid answers, I’m figuring 13-years-old-ish. And he’s like, “Nick?” And I’m like “yup. Sam?” looking behind him to see who else is home. And he’s like “here’s the card, should all be working fine, feel free to email me if you need help w/ drivers or anything!” And I’m like... “cool beans, here’s that $60, pleasure doing business. 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼”

Anyway I’m about 100% sure listing stuff before you’re 18 is against the TOS, and he definitely scheduled that annoying meeting time so his parents wouldn’t be home, lmao! I kind of admire his moxie, but I‘m also debating texting him to suggest having some backup of his own around if he has to sell something out of his own house again. On the other hand, given what I remember of living in the burbs, probably he’s a mid-level weed baron or something and doesn’t need my input.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly and a little black cat. (Me - w/ Frankie)

Can't remember if I mentioned it here or on Masto, but a couple months back we had to take our cat Annabel to get most of her teeth pulled — they told us when we adopted her that she has a congenital autoimmune Thing that makes her body flip out at the bacteria on her teeth and just go ape on her gums. Pretty much all cats who have that just do 1000% better when they don't have teeth, and also apparently indoor cats don't actually use their teeth all that much, even for kibble?? Who knew.

Anyway, we went ahead and had it done when we noticed her appetite was down and she wasn't grooming herself and her gums were looking like a disaster. Dr. Emily judged that we could leave her canines in place, which was good (she uses those for carrying spring toys around the house while yelling at us, it's very important), and as advertised, she's been doing fantastic ever since.

OK. All fine and well. But now.

Halla has the exact same autoimmune Thing, and we gotta get her teeth yanked too. Scheduled for next Thursday.

What the fuck. These cats aren't at all related, by the way; they only came as a set because they got along well in foster care.

Apparently 10% of cats have a chance of developing this, so I guess the answer to my incredulous "WHAT ARE THE CHANCES" is, "definitely high enough that it's gonna happen to someone." Still tho, neither I nor Ruth has ever had to deal with this over the course of how many cats?? (Although some of that might be the selection situation out where I come from — about half of our family's cats were involuntary adoptions who just showed up and started asking for food and couch space, and it's so rural out there. Basically the culmination of generations of raccoon fighters.)

roadrunnertwice: Weedmaster P: "SON OF A DICK. BALL COCKS. NO. FUCKING." (Shitbox (Overcompensating))

The Mojave upgrade completely hosed iCloud Drive uploads on both my home and work computers, and it took me like a week to notice it and my text files drifted way out of sync.

I was able to fix it:

  • Manually find any files with the dotted cloud icon (indicating that they're perma-stuck on uploading) and move them somewhere safe.
  • Disable iCloud Drive in settings, tell it to delete everything, and tell it to cancel uploads and delete NOW instead of finishing (since the whole problem is that those uploads will never complete).
  • Re-enable iCloud Drive and wait for it to download most things.
  • Once it stops downloading, find the folders where it decided it didn't want to download quite everything, and force downloads of the remaining files. (Usually you can just right-click and say download now, but it seems to have an issue with empty files, so you might have to open those in an editor.)
  • Compare the files you rescued earlier to the current contents of your folders, and move them back into place as needed.

But good grief, what a gross mess. Doing that kind of nuclear re-sync and manual clean-up is so fucking nasty!

I've had one or two de-synchronization problems in my years of using Dropbox, too, and it's never a great scene. (The big one I can remember had to do with a bad software update that blocked further updates, so I had to manually re-install.) But even with the worst of those, I don't think I ever had to nuke and re-download; it's generally been able to hit the ground running. And Dropbox has a kind of huge advantage on the ratio — I only moved these folders into Drive a couple weeks ago, and we're already at one monumental cock-up and counting.

I'm gonna keep using iCloud Drive for now, because I needed it for those recent improvements I made to my note-taking tools. (Dropbox disabled a feature I was relying on in iA Writer, and hasn't updated their support for the Files app to replace that functionality, so iCloud is currently the best way to give Writer persistent access to an arbitrary folder of synced files.) But damn, it's a bummer that Apple's services are still so rinky-dink and fragile. And it's exacerbated by the fact that they STILL don't give you any worthwhile level of administrative interface to help debug these things! The whole concept of "no interface, it just works" is predicated on the software never ever doing this shit.

Anyway, this is why it took me like four or five years to actually put anything of value in iCloud Drive, is because I sometimes have the power to see the future and I literally had a vision of this in like 2014.

roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Drag)

I have to renew my Oregon driver's license this year, and I am 100% gonna circle the "X" in the gender field.

I debated it for a moment, like critiquing my ~authenticity~ or whatever. And then I imagined myself circling "M" and feeling the same spike of resentment and hatred I always feel when I have to circle the god damn "M." And then I imagined just... not doing that.

roadrunnertwice: DTWOF's Lois in drag. Dialogue: "Dude, just rub a little Castrol 30 weight into it. Works for me." (Castrol (Lois))

K, idk if y’all have ever messed around with the iOS “Shortcuts” app, but it turns out it is Legit.

So. On my Mac, I use a pair of oddball note-taking systems that I made out of baling wire, scrap lumber, and keyboard shortcuts over a decade ago and have been using daily ever since:

  • “Garbage Book” is just a clone of Apple Notes,* except that it uses my normal text editor instead of a separate app that I don’t like as much.
  • “FMP”** is, uh, baroque. There's a hotkey to get a text field that appends to a special text file. If I append a line that starts with something like ^didread, it’ll eventually get moved to a file like didread.txt (courtesy of a second hotkey that refreshes everything). And there’s yet another hotkey for quickly opening one of those note files by name.

    (I do realize what that all sounds like to a normal person, but trust me, it's a specialized ADHD workaround that solves some particular annoyances for me in a really sweet way.)

Since both sets of notes are just plain text files in a synced folder, I've always been able to access them on my phone. But it was way more awkward and slow, and I've always been on the lookout for ways to improve it.

Anyway, yesterday my dad was having brain surgery (he's doing fine, everything went great), and here's a thing about when someone close to you has major surgery: you sit around for a long-ass time, and you can't concentrate on any actual responsibilities for the whole duration (basically because the entire part of your mind that gives a flying fuck about responsibilities is wholly occupied with reacting whenever it's time to do something for said loved one). But a really frivolous and finicky project can be a great way to not obsess at 20,000 RPM over hypothetical stuff that you can't do anything about, so I decided to crack open that Shortcuts app that came out with iOS 12 and see if there was anything to it.

THERE IS. The card-based editing interface is weird as heck (it has some real strengths for programming on a touchscreen, but it also makes refactoring a pain in the ass, and was probably not intended for use on an iPhone SE), and the lack of some basic niceties like and/or expressions is pretty embarrassing (you can implement boolean logic yourself by adding more variables, but it looks like legit hell), but behind all that is a remarkably functional little scripting language with a coherent and consistent core and really unmatched discoverability.

It's probably even nicer for scripting apps that provide "real" Shortcuts actions, but even with just iA Writer's URL-based scripting and the built-in actions, I was able to completely*** re-implement both Garbage Book and FMP on my telephone over the course of two afternoons!

I now have little buttons on my "today" view for starting a new Garbage Book page, appending a line to my dump file, opening an FMP ^caret-tag file by name, and sorting ^caret-tag lines out of the dump file and into their real homes. (That was the one I didn't think would even be possible, but I totally did it!) And it all plays nicely with the edifice of Mac scripts that I've been using since '06.

Anyway, very satisfying results, a very impressive tool, also A+ distraction for that mandatory fret-in-the-hospital downtime.


* Except this was ca. 2007 so it was more like a clone of Notational Velocity.

** Fast Memo Pencil? Fiendish Master Plan? Free Mashed Potatoes?

*** Wellll mostly completely. There's one thing I couldn't do on my phone from the original Garbage Book script: include part of the first line of text in the filename. That was always a nice feature, but c'est la vie; it's just a problem of different editing paradigms. In BBEdit I start by opening an empty editor window and typing for a while before hitting the Garbage Book hotkey to save, but in iA Writer I have to start by creating the file, so there's no first line of text to grab. I guess the editor itself could update the filename (Notes does this!), but it would have to know about my timestamped naming scheme to do that.

roadrunnertwice: Kim Pine wearing headphones. (Music / racket (Scott Pilgrim))
We're at my parents' house right now, for a combination of Christmas In January (a tradition born of travel constraints) and It's Dad's Brain Surgery and Everyone's Invited (it's proactive; he's getting a DBS implant to help treat his Parkinson's).

Anyway, some folks already left, and Ruth's headed back home tomorrow, but at peak capacity we had nine adults, a toddler, and a baby in this house.

This is a house with four bedrooms plus a den, and a single bathroom. It is also somehow composed entirely of bottlenecks. There is NO place where you can stand or sit that is out of the way, and god help you if you need something from the kitchen. We're all having a very cozy week.
roadrunnertwice: Rodney the Second Grade T-Ball Jockey displays helpful infographics. (T-ball / Your Ass (Buttercup Festival))

Welp, that's all of my 2018 reviews in the bag, so as is customary, here's the brief and reductionist reading material gender census for the year:


  • 19 books by women
  • 19 books by men
  • 2 books whose authors are either non-binary, or are trans in an idiosyncratic way that overlaps enough with non-binary that they didn't obviously belong in one or the other of the binary lists.


  • 14 comics by women
  • 17 comics by men
  • 8 comics by multi-gender teams
roadrunnertwice: Scott fends off Matthew Patel's attack. (Reversal! (Scott Pilgrim))

And there we go!

Graydon Saunders — Under One Banner

Aug 31

Hey hey, it’s another Commonweal book! This is so deep into the previous events in the setting that I don’t see much point reviewing it as an independent object, so instead I’ll just say that it’s a solid Commonweal book ~if you’re into that sort of thing~ (AND I AM). A new main character dealing with different kinds of problems, and a move back into a more March North-style military milieu after the last two books’ wizard homeschool setup.

In terms of series-scope movement, this advances the slow-motion freakout about the Second Commonweal’s fairly dire situation vis-à-vis getting enough resources on-line to deal with a very likely existential threat (whose outline you still can’t quite make out over the horizon but whose kicked-up dust is starting to make a little bit of distant haze).

Anyway, I dig these, see prior reviews for more, and I’ll reiterate that these books are not at all cliffhangery and are a safe exception to your policy against starting a new unfinished open-ended fat fantasy series.

Graydon Saunders — The Human Dress

Sep 27

I enjoyed this quite a bit, but I don’t think I can give it a general recommendation! (Good thing everyone knows not to come here for general recommendations, lol.)

Anyway, this is a standalone, it is LONG, it is weird, it is frequently digressive, it has Norsemen and dinosaurs, and it is occasionally deliberately obnoxious for comedic purposes. It is intensely satisfying if you enjoy following down the implications of strange aspects of the way a fictional world works. The character writing is an odd mix of high melodrama and chilly stiff-upper-lip-ism. It's straight and horny in a way that was honestly kind of surprising given the at least moderately-queer sensibility of the Commonweal novels.

In short, there are plenty of reasons not to read this book, but it also gets a fair amount right that's not really possible to find anywhere else. I had plenty of fun with it, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) I think I'd be more likely to recommend the Commonweal series to most of y'all.

I might have mentioned this before, but Saunders' writing style fits my particular brain really well — it has something to do with the amount of connections he leaves un-drawn, where a lot of the later action in a book depends on understanding something he never actually explicitly covered in the prior text. I realize that probably sounds like an obtuse pain in the ass to a lot of people, but it fulfills some innate need for interactivity that I seem to have, and I tend to read his books at binge speed. I feel like I had this with The Wire too, where it was like thank god, someone finally figured out how to distract me enough that I don't get bored during a TV show.

Evan Dahm — Vattu vol. 1: The Name and the Mark (comics)

Dec 7

An intense and vivid drama about a nomad child and an empire. I'm not wholly sure where this is going, yet.

This is part of the same universe as Rice Boy (I think it's called "Overside?"), but it isn't dreamlike or surreal in the way Rice Boy was; much more linear and mimetic. (Well, the interludes into the War Man's memories are fairly dreamlike, but it's clear that his experience of time and events is very different from Vattu's and the imperials'.)

Kohei Horikoshi — My Hero Academia vols. 1-3, 4-5, 6-7 (comics)

Dec 23, Dec 27, Jan 1

I was feeling that urge to read some fight comics, and this is the one everyone's been gaga about for the last couple years, so I decided to hit the library and see if it's good. It is!

It's really no surprise that this is popular, because the premise is straight-up "Harry Potter except superheroes instead of wizards." Right down to the outrageous character names! (Although that part's all Japanese, so it's not necessarily obvious in the translation.) And the execution is really solid; excellent art and cartooning, interesting subtle depths to a lot of the characters, unexpected interactions of powers, solid fight choreography/plotting, etc.

I feel like there are a lot of manga that are roughly this good, but what's got me hooked is basically All Might. What a weird and fascinating character.

Bonus Level: Fortune 499

Dec 31

This is a game about investing too much of your identity in a day job that you never actually decided to care about, but which somehow has taken over your life anyway because you accidentally went on autopilot three or four years ago and are just now waking up at the wheel. A topic near and dear to my heart! And I quite liked the graphics and music.

It's also got some surprisingly fun and challenging turn-based combat — the basic mechanic is a randomized rock/paper/scissors game, but you can manipulate fate to improve your chances (and even literally cheat, though that'll eventually get expensive), and there are a lot of weird variations on the rules that you end up having to deal with. In general the dungeons are more like puzzles than like the turn-based crawls I grew up with — there's no random encounters, and you often need a specific plan for each fight, based on clues in the dialogue and an assessment of, like, the office equipment on each floor.

I was about to say "this is a short game about etc. etc.," but then I realized my standards for game length are actually completely incoherent at this point and even I have no idea what I would mean by "a short game." Anyway it's a streamlined indie RPG with a beginning, middle, and end, it took me about six hours, and it costs like five bucks.

roadrunnertwice: Silhouette of a person carrying a bike up a hill (Bike - Carrying)

The countdown continues! There's one 2018 bookpost left to go, after this.

Ann Leckie — Provenance

Oct 20

This was pretty great. A very different ride than the Imperial Radch trilogy, in a lot of different ways.

For one thing, Ingray’s disposition is about as far opposite Breq as one can get, and I spent the first several chapters periodically shouting “who is this completely unprepared baby?” (She gets better, and actually I quite admired her bravery once the going got tough.)

For another thing, the culture and values of the setting were very much un-Radch, as driven home immediately by Ingray’s pressing worry that she had run so comprehensively out of money that she wasn’t going to be able to eat for the next week. Now, say what you will about the Radchii, and I’ll absolutely grant that they’re murdering imperialist bastards, but they won’t just leave you to starve, good lord, what kind of barbaric solar system have we ended up in.

Anyway, I got quite into this, and I’ll probably re-read it at some point. A solid page-turner with a lot going on under the surface.

Max Gladstone — Full Fathom Five

Oct 12

I wasn’t feeling this one nearly as much as the other two Craft novels I’ve read so far. I’m hoping that’s due to specific issues with this volume and not just fading novelty, because I’m still really interested in the broader setting and situation.

Part of the problem might just be that it’s working with more abstract material; Two Serpents Rise and Three Parts Dead were really about concrete problems of urban infrastructure, but this one is about colonialism and tourism economies and the fickle flow of global one-percenter capital, which 1: makes for a harder thematic frame to hang a functioning adventure story on, and 2: is harder to bring to an authentic resolution. It felt kind of meandering and uncertain — the protagonists of Dead and Serpents may have spent a fair chunk of time lost and bewildered, but their stories didn’t. And this one kind of did.

Greg Van Eekhout — California Bones

Nov 4

Hey, this was great! An excellent heist story with solid character writing, and an awesomely bizarre setting and concept.

I love how Van Eekhout really commits to the ghoulish grossness of that osteomantic magic system. I ALSO love how that grossness makes the full horror of an unsustainable lifestyle built on a fossil fuel economy juuuust foreign enough that it all hits you like a fresh gut wound.

Ages ago, I read an early take on this concept in short story form. (I think it was called "The Osteomancer's Son"?) From what I can faintly remember, the gross magic system and its brutal implications were already about 80% of the way on-line, but there wasn't much space for character in it, which made it feel a little airless. At novel length, though, it really shines. Making Daniel a funny and amiable crook with lots of friends was an excellent call in terms of mood and balance, and the setup phase of the heist gave the story enough breathing room that Los Angeles itself could really show some personality. (The short story might as well have taken place nowhere, but the living and breathing L.A. is one of the pillars of this novel.)

Another thing that I don't think came across much in that early take was just how unbelievably unethical Daniel's father really was, and I think that aspect makes his character a lot more interesting. Like, he's heroic from a certain point of view, and he was genuinely trying to do what was best for the kid, but wow dude, holy shit! Anyway, Daniel's superpowers kind of push against the border of being o.p., and they work a lot better in the story when you can see exactly what it costs to put together that kind of monster.

Akwaeke Emezi — Freshwater

Aug 18

This was gripping and hair-raising and for the most part really well done, and ultimately I'm not wholly sure what to make of it or whether I "liked" it or not.

I can't seem to put together a proper review, so here's what I've got:

  • In large part this book is about sexual relationships where consent is in a majorly dubious state and where at least one party is definitely being harmed somehow, but it puts most of these into a deeply fuzzy context where categories of "abuse" and "rape" don't seem to map very cleanly. I think maybe a lot of the narrative oddities of the book are a way to explore the dissonances you have to deal with when your internal experience of a rough situation just doesn't seem to match the simpler categories that the society around you wants to apply.
  • I'm really interested in some of the gender identity stuff in here, and I have zero intention of thinking any of that through in public. If any of my trans or non-binary friends have deep thoughts about this book, *telephone-hand gesture*
  • I really don't understand the ending, but I’m not super fussed about that.
roadrunnertwice: Sigourney Weaver with a trucker 'stache. (Sigourney Weaver with a trucker 'stache)

Happy new year, by the way!

Martha Wells — The Murderbot Diaries: Exit Strategy

Oct 11

A solid ending for this story!

One thing I don't think I've mentioned here is how I really appreciate GrayCris's approach to villainy — to wit, never use less than overkill. They really don't fuck around! I feel like I don't see that kind of absolute disregard for boundaries or norms nearly often enough in a villain, and it makes their eventual defeat very satisfying.

I know I said before that I was going to try and spot the "episode breaks" in this volume, but... I forgot to. Sorry!

Ann Leckie — Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy (re-reads)

Oct 2, Oct 4, Oct 6

Still so good!!! Ruth re-read these recently and it got me fired up to read them again. And we had a plane ride and a vacation, so I pretty much just blazed right through 'em.

Do I have anything to add this time around? Mostly I’m just even more impressed at how the whole thing fits together. In particular, Breq has a lot of hidden and unconscious motivations that she never really acknowledges to herself or to others, and you don’t really have to pick up on those to enjoy the hell out of the books, but it all slots perfectly into the structure in a really satisfying way. (Like, after the end of book one when she has to decide what she’s doing for the rest of her life, she kind of starts modeling herself directly after Lieutenant Awn. And over the course of books two and three, she acts a lot like she’s running an annexation inside the Radch, but it’s an annexation run on Awn's terms.)

Bonus Level: Oneshot

Dec 22

A short and satisfying little walk-and-talk/puzzle game (no combat), about a young cat-boy carrying a lightbulb across a ruined world where the sun has gone out.

This had some clever and creepy uses of the UI and runtime in service of the story. Some of the earlier ones are atmospheric but not particularly groundbreaking in a post-Undertale context, but I DID totally lose it over the bit about "expose this film to the void" and the bit about activating the tower. And the weird overlay app you have to use once things go all the way off the rails was REALLY impressive.

The story is one I've seen plenty of before (the "my virtual world is crumbling" plot), but I think it's a well-executed and affecting version of it.

Helen Macdonald — H is for Hawk

Sep 1

This was a little outside my normal hunting grounds, but Chris Baldwin quoted a tiny passage in one of his journal comics and I was instantly hypnotized by the language of it.

This is one of those memoirs where ostensibly it’s about something quite focused (the year the author spent training a goshawk after her father’s sudden death) but really it’s about everything (the history and meaning of human contact with nonhuman animals, the shape and nature of grief, and also a really unexpected amount about T.H. White). It was quite gripping, even when dealing with subjects I didn’t really have an independent interest in (honestly I could not care less about falconry), and the prose remained a delight.

Jen Wang — The Prince and the Dressmaker (comics)

Oct 12

I liked this a lot. It’s a well-told story about characters that I cared about, and I think the character design and cartooning and staging and timing are just a delight. It reminded me a lot of a Ghibli film, actually — it’s really that polished.

This seems to be getting a lot of buzz (both when it came out and on the year-end lists), and I’m glad, IMO it deserves it.

roadrunnertwice: Weedmaster P: "SON OF A DICK. BALL COCKS. NO. FUCKING." (Shitbox (Overcompensating))

the relevant xkcd strip

This is long, and it's about troubleshooting an exotic driver issue. )

Of course, I'm probably going to replace the damn thing eventually anyway because the download speeds are so heinously slow. Earlier I used connection sharing via Ethernet to plug the PC into my MacBook's wireless, and it was literally like ten times faster.

Well, still, I was offended that I couldn't understand what was going on and I really wanted to win, so I guess it was worth it just for that.

roadrunnertwice: Weedmaster P: "SON OF A DICK. BALL COCKS. NO. FUCKING." (Shitbox (Overcompensating))

VICTORY!! I got Windows installed, got drivers and updates taken care of, got Steam installed, and managed to play like five or ten minutes of Hyper Light Drifter. At which point it was WAY past my bedtime.

What did I learn this time? I learned that it is ✨basically fucking impossible✨ to use a Mac or Linux system to turn a Windows ISO into a bootable USB installer drive. Give up. Do not try. Do not get clever. Ask a friend with a Windows box to do it for you.

I had a valid ISO! This should have been a cakewalk! But I spent all evening on it and failed A LOT.

...a lot. )

But anyway! It's done!

BTW, Ruth was able to get me a really cheap copy of Windows from the employee store, thank u Ruth!! 😭 Taking everything into account, including the Car2Go trip for picking up the tower to begin with, I ended up spending $123 for a working gaming PC. AN ALL-AROUND SUCCESSFUL ENDEAVOR.

roadrunnertwice: DTWOF's Lois in drag. Dialogue: "Dude, just rub a little Castrol 30 weight into it. Works for me." (Castrol (Lois))

So these junkyard PC adventures have continued, because I am in full project mode.

Little stuff:

  • Discovered how to remove that useless front fan! (And vacuumed out a huge wad of dust from inside the plastic front panel while I was in there.) It looks like the case was designed to have a fan there, but it was meant to suck up air from a tiny downward-facing vent a few mm above the floor? How about not.
  • I also replaced the rattly rear exhaust fan, because it turns out a nice fan costs like $8 new.
  • Tidied up the interior cables with some stretchy ties, some blue tape, and the one Command hook I could scrounge up. (They were a tangled mess, and I worried they'd foul the fan blades.)
  • Installed the SSD.
  • Bought a sketchy USB bluetooth adapter for $7.
  • And hey, it looks like HDMI audio from the gpu is working fine, even in Linux! So my plan of just swapping my speaker cord between the thunderbolt dock (for Mac) and the monitor (for PC) will totally work!

    (Actually my Mac can also use the monitor for sound, via DisplayPort... except then the music cuts out when the monitor goes to sleep, and that just won't fly. So swapping cables it is.)

Stuff where I had to learn a thing:

  • I took the Intel heat sink off (and blew a shitload of dust from between the fins), removed the crusty old thermal paste, and applied fresh paste! 😱 I've never had to deal with the "goop" phase of computer building before, but I heard that the stuff loses efficiency by drying out over time, and my housemate had a tube of decent paste sitting around, and I was like, welllll, while I have it open...

    It was mildly tense, but really pretty easy. The only confusing part was that the pegs holding the heat sink in were already in the "unlocked" position (which they shouldn't have been!!! 😑), so I was disoriented and had to read multiple guides about how to remove it before I figured out what was up.

    I already checked on the CPU temperature sensors several times last week (because I was a tiny bit paranoid about turning off that front fan), and they'd been hovering somewhere in the 50°C+ range (which is fine) during a session of mucking around in my temporary Ubuntu sandbox. So after doing the paste thing, I switched all the fans to "silent" mode in the BIOS and booted back into Linux, and after running for a while, the core temp was just kind of chilling in the mid-30°s. So I'm pretty sure that was actually worthwhile!

Anyway, now I'm at the point where I get to install an OS and maybe actually play a game or two. Wish me luck!!!

roadrunnertwice: Weedmaster P: "SON OF A DICK. BALL COCKS. NO. FUCKING." (Shitbox (Overcompensating))

OK. I’ve been wanting a better way to play the backlog of cool shit in my Steam library.

A lot of it technically plays on Mac, but man, it all just runs like a dog on a 13-inch MacBook Pro. And I’m not in AAA land either, this is all just low-power indie stuff! (I blame the anemic Intel gpu for half of it, and poorly optimized/buggy ports for the rest.)

Anyway, the expense of a gaming PC always seemed way too high for what I'd be using it for, so I've never gotten around to it. But recently I stumbled into a free hand-me-down desktop GPU (midrange, circa 2011), and I started wondering: could I cobble together a half-assed machine for pocket change, chuck that seven-year-old card in, and still easily crush anything my Mac has been choking on?


something of a journey ensues )

So now I've gotten it booting from a Linux USB stick, with an old keyboard I like and a scrounged mouse, and everything seems to be working fine so far. (Even managed to update it to a post-Meltdown/Specter bios! Pro-tip, Asus's no-OS updater might sound good, but it's way too finicky about partitions and filesystems, so give up early and flash a freeDOS stick.) My housemate gave me the world's tiniest USB wi-fi adapter (only does wi-fi 4 [n], but who cares, it works!), another friend traded me a spare SSD for some catsitting over Christmas (joke's on him, I love hanging out w/ his cats), and since Ruth is now technically a Microsoft employee I think I can convince her to buy me a copy of Windows for hella cheap.

God, I'd forgotten what a fantastic dopamine hit you can get from a really epic feat of garage saleing.

roadrunnertwice: Dialogue: "Craigslist is killing mothra." (Craigslist is killing Mothra (Cat and Gi)

I think Verizon is running their dimwitted corporate version of that scam where you shove some raw ginger up a half-dead horse's butthole, so it looks more lively for as long as it takes you to run off with the buyer's cash. They're trying to sell Tumblr off for parts to some entity (which they believe to be an idiot), so they're doing whatever it takes to get that app back into Apple's store without any regard for the future health of the platform.

(Well, either that or whoever's calling the shots over at Oath was literally born yesterday. But I figure statistically, it's more likely that they're ordinarily-inept scammers rather than extraordinarily-inept platform owners. I guess we'll see.)

Because the idea that Tumblr would have any kind of meaningful future after this type of heavy-handed adult content ban is plain ludicrous. This is the end! And I don't mean in the hipster sense of "Tumblr is over, man," I mean that yesterday it entered a network effect death spiral that will be complete within probably three years, at the outside.

roadrunnertwice: Yehuda biking in the rain. (Bike - Rain (Yehuda Moon))

Niv Sekar — Your Mother's Fox (comics)

Aug 16

A short and melancholy story, about that point in early adulthood where you start to measure yourself against your parents and aren't really sure you like your score.

Martha Wells — Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries

Aug 25

Continuing to enjoy Murderbot. Also, I'm really glad this series has been getting a lot of love from elsewhere! People IRL have been bringing it up spontaneously! (Including my sister, who I don't think reads this journal.)

Sidenote, I'm starting to think I misjudged the title choices on these. I figured the episode titles were from someone in the editorial or marketing chain grasping for plausible nonsense that sounded badass and vaguely technological, but now I think they're tongue-in-cheek. After all, our protagonist's "rogue protocol" consists of making shit up as they go along and trying not to have a panic attack. And then if I look at it from another angle, there's this element of kind of sweet encouragement to it, too, right? Murderbot might see these misadventures as a frustrating and disappointing anxietyfest, but from the outside, it's all very much as exciting and badass as their beloved TV serials, and you could read the titles as telling them "buck up buddy, this is very hard and you're doing a good job."

Anyway, the end of this one was quite sad, and while slipping out the back door might not have been the coolest move, I'm not sure what else Murderbot should have done in that situation. Staying probably wouldn't have helped.

Oh, lemme throw YET ANOTHER tangent about novellas in here. If a short story ought to be about a movie's worth of story, and a novel is at least a season of TV's worth, how much story can a good novella fit? Three episodes of hour-long TV? More, less? This metric didn't even occur to me until I was already finished with this one, but I'll try to watch for the "episode breaks" next time.

Adolfo Bioy Casares — The Invention of Morel (re-read)

Sep. 1

This existential comedy/horror story remains a fuckin' delight.

Eleanor Davis — Tommorow, ch. 2 (comics)

Sep 26

(gumroad link)

This comic makes me feel very comfortable and very uncomfortable at the same time.