Continuing to hate technological progress

My usage split of communication methods, until recently:
Phone Call: Message demanding an immediate response or an extended discussion
SMS: Short messages demanding attention ASAP but no significant discussion
Hangouts/IM: Short, time-relevant but not urgent messages
Email: Long, important, but not immediately urgent messages
LJ: Long/rambling and undirected messages that I don't really expect a response to.
Paper letter: Birthdays, Christmas, and social messages to/from my grandparents.

Consequently, I have my phone set to make noise for calls and SMS and just flash for IM and email.

Google's integration of SMS into Hangouts has broken this in a way that I cannot fix without tracking down and nagging every android user I know who has my cellphone number in order to get them to either 1) disable SMS in Hangouts or 2) manually split apart my email/phone contact book entries, so that their Hangouts app stops sending me SMS messages. This is actually impossible in some cases--e.g., my mother, who would have no clue how to do this.

Amorous Footwear

Randomly saw the touring company's performance Kinky Boots due to inheriting a ticket from someone who was unable to go. Apparently it won a Tony in 2014 or something. Regardless, I was unimpressed. And not just because in my particular performance they had the sound set up in some way that I was unable to figure out significant portions of the lyrics.

There were a bunch of funny bits (including a clever pun) and the costumes/set were good. However: A lot of the scene shifts were abrupt and random-seeming, even by the standards of musical theater. The story seemed really trite and/or forced in places and a few characters underwent random radical personality changes. It was also not sufficiently any the things I primarily like in a story, those being {sweet, subtle, fun/silly, adventurous, romantic}.

The main message got distilled down to "accept people for themselves." There are at least two readings of this appeal, and I think the musical went for the feel-good one which is practically unworkable, that of accepting/tolerating/respecting everybody. I should probably note here that this is not only practically unworkable, I happen to think it's also a horrible goal because it fails to abjure evil. If someone is an asshole, I want to have the right to think they're an asshole and not associate with them rather than be enjoined to tolerate them.

The other reading I can think of, "If you are going to accept/reject someone, accept/reject them for who they actually are rather than for a label you've unilaterally stuck on them or, with also trying to change them," seems like neglected common sense and I fully support it.

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The internet is really large nowadays.

This posting of the obvious brought to you by my not having paid any attention to it for like seven years and just now wondering whither went what was.

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I have a GSM smartphone that I used in Japan. It's old as far as smartphones go (Two years! Practically ancient!) but it does pretty much everything I want it to with acceptable efficiency, doesn't usually run out of battery, doesn't limit tethering, and, aside from some cracks in the case, is in good condition. I have zero desire to buy another one.

Thus begins the quest to try to get it to work in the US. I know that it can work, because when I was a Docomo subscriber and brought it here on visits it would get 3G/LTE roaming access.

However, I have no idea which network it was using to do that. My initial effort, which just consisted of going to the T-Mobile store and asking them for a SIM card to fit it, didn't work: it can make calls and it gets 2G access, but nothing faster. It can't even see the T-Mobile 3G network to be able to select it in the settings.

Investigating on the 'net, it appears that
- Actual 4G LTE is hopeless. The phone uses only band 1, which is not supported in North America. This doesn't match my roaming experience, but it's possible that the phone was displaying "LTE" as the connection type when it actually meant "3G plus some speed boost features."
- For 3G, the phone uses bands 1, 9, and 19. None of these are supported by anyone in North America.
- AT&T supports, in some places, band 5. Band 19 is entirely contained within band 5. I strongly suspect this is the one it was using when I was here before. As further evidence, "AT&T[3G]" shows up as a carrier I can select in the phone settings screen.

So my options seem to be
- Switch to AT&T. They have an equivalent plan to what I've got now, so it won't cost me any more. I'm not sure how to check if they have reasonable coverage since coverage maps don't show which bands are used where, but "some coverage" is better than the "no coverage" I've got now. The one catch is that my current T-Mobile plan is a grandfathered one that's $20/mo cheaper than anything else they offer currently, so if I leave them and then want to switch back later it'll cost.
- Buy a new phone. Arrrrggggghhhhhh.
- Give up and live with 2G access. It seems to be kinda-usable just for web browsing at least. Though apparently 2G networks are deprecated and getting shut down soon.


Some Jehovah's Witnesses came to the door yesterday, which is a hazard (?) of being a foreigner in Tokyo.
Them: Hi, we'd like to tell you about the good future waiting for us.
Me: Oh?
Them: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Me: I can't really answer that. I am sure that regardless of what I choose, the world will be worse off for my having done so.

Then I had to explain that, because English was not their native language. But it pretty much set the tone for the rest of the conversation, which was remarkably civil despite my essentially pointing out more depressing alternative explanations for anything they said.

It also reminded me that constant pessimism is an engineering occupational hazard.

And that I really dislike it when people take a single verse out of the middle of somewhere and use it as evidence for something where that something is not present in the plain reading of the text.

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So I am finally playing Skyrim, because I wanted to lose any and all time that I could be doing something more useful or fun. Also been dabbling in the Creation Kit because I wanted to fix that there wasn't a follower with the particular skillset I wanted. But that aside.

Most quests are, of course, of the "go there and kill/acquire something" variety. Apparently in Skyrim there are a lot of people who want other people dead but don't want to do it themselves. Nor do they want to make use of, e.g., black widows in the privy. But some have interesting stories or form interesting lines, and I do have enough of a character concept that I won't just do anything anyone asks of me, or in the most expedient way. Anyway, having stumbled upon some Stones of Barenziah and being unable to get them out of my inventory until I collect all 24*, I've been following the Thieves' Guild questline.

Which brings me to the thing I wanted to complain about: Nocturnal's deal. See, they want to make me a Nightingale. The contract for which is: I protect the Twilight Sepulcher with my life while alive, and then my spirit is bound to it after death. In return, Nocturnal makes me luckier. Except when she arbitrarily (and possibly randomly) doesn't.

It is really annoying that the only way to object to this deal is to claim that you're not a daedra worshipper, to which the person recruiting you responds, "It's not religion, it's just business. It's a deal between you and Nocturnal." Yeah yeah I know that, the problem is that as a business proposition it is a horrible deal. Every single other daedra so far has given far better value for money. Meridia gave me this completely awesome sword just for getting rid of some necromancer that I probably would have killed anyway. Hermaeus Mora didn't even ask me to do anything at all—he essentially just gave me two and a half levels for free. Even Hircine, with his dubiously useful "blessing" of lycanthropy, is giving a better deal: after death, he brings you along on his hunting trips. Whereas Nocturnal binds your spirit in a dank and boring cave forever where your only companions are other sketchy rogues who probably cheat at cards. And then for her part she doesn't actually have to do anything for you at all. After all, you have no way to tell whether she actually is doing anything or not.

Ironically, this deal makes perfect sense if you consider it as religion instead.

But seriously, WTF. Maybe the current Thieves' Guild deserves to perish. (Or hmm, I wonder if I have enough Creation-Kit-fu to rework the quest so that some other sucker becomes their third Nightingale...)

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I need to remember to make a better effort to write Amazon book reviews for books that I actually like.
So far I've mostly only been writing reviews for 2- and 3- star books, which I suspect is because I'm annoyed at having spent money on them, usually through being mislead by the 5-star reviews.

Part of this thought is derived from reading this Zen Pencils quote. It's really really easy to be hard on obviously-starting-out people who are apparently just throwing what they have up on the Kindle store and hoping for the best because man are there a lot of places to criticise. But if they want keep going and get better, then that benefits me down the line.

...but on the other hand, I feel like I ought to have context-invariant standards for categories of things that I pay for.

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[Book] The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani
You have probably already read this, since it is apparently like a NYT best seller or something.
However, I'll just put in my two cents and say that it is excellent. And ridiculously twisty.
The overall theme isn't anything new, really, being basically fairy tale material, but apparently you can do a heck of a lot more with that than I had thought.

The sequel's a little weaker IMO, but still good. Plan to pick up the third one when it comes out.

One of the cats my family had did not meow, only chirp.
I have been thinking about pets recently. As in the "maybe I should get one sometime" way. The problem being that it's a total gamble what you end up with. Well, also I'm not sure if I'm just more enamored of the idea than the reality. Though I guess the last time I lived with a menagerie I did like 3/5 of them.

Regardless, I will probably never have a kangaroo.
squirrel 1

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Random pet peeve: were-whatever characters where the animal form has both medium+ length fur and tattoos or any other kind of detailed applied body art.

This is not actually possible. Any tattoo would be invisible under the fur in the same way that you can't see scalp tattoos unless someone's head is shaved.
Paint should blur and flake off as they move unless you applied enough of it that it just forms a solid block, and even then it would crack at the joints. (Though it would probably work better the longer the hair, since that would buffer the bending of the skin more. But if you do apply a lot of sufficiently sticky, flexible paint to fur, you'd better hope you have an excellent solvent to get it out again afterward.)
Permanent-ish color designs might work with short hair and dye, and even then it's not going to get you that good a level of detail because the longer the fur the more it blurs together.

I'm talking especially to you, author whose book I'm not really sure why I'm reading, whose werewolf main character apparently is covered snout to tail with impressive tribal tattoos in wolf form. Since your other main character is marvelling at them, I can only assume that the wolf also has no fur. Though come to think of it, you haven't actually mentioned anything about their fur yet, so maybe they really are bald.

Not-quite-related link! Why Paint Cats, a book about what it says on the cover, sort of.

[Book] The Demon's Apprentice

Stayed up way too late reading The Demon's Apprentice by Ben Reeder.

Summary: 7-year-old is sold into slavery to a demon by his father. Learns black magic. Defeats his master eight years later, goes to live with his mom instead, and attempts to return to normal high school life. Of course, it doesn't actually work that cleanly. He's also bad at social and tends to (over)react violently to threats against him or his friends.

Overall, it was well done. Especially considering that apparently it's his first book ever. The characters and scenes mostly leapt off the pages, the plot pacing was excellent, and there was a large amount of impressive ass kicking. (If he has writing weaknesses, fight scenes are not one of them.) The magic system is arbitrary and unexplained, but the author never uses a trick he doesn't introduce ahead of time in some general way, so points for that. My only gripes were a few places where either the plot or the writing felt really clumsy (especially, the Chomsky incident and its immediate aftermath, where it felt like the protagonist was forced into taking the main plot hook rather than actually having a reason to do so) and, essentially, the protagonist himself.

Taken as a contextless character, he's an excellent instance of the edgy chaotic-good dark-but-secretly-white knight with a traumatic past type that apparently every book and movie in a certain genre is trying to exploit nowadays. There's a reason this type is popular though, and the appeal doesn't really wear thin here. But in the context of his specifics... it is really, really hard to believe that a kid taken young and trained in the ways of evil for years and years will, without some kind of major transformative incident, have ended up with the seriously strong conscience, honor, and Good-capital-G alignment that he somehow has. Of course, if the protagonist didn't have at least most of those then the book would be unreadably depressing, so there's an excellent meta reason for it, but sigh. There were a few other character-related irritations too, mostly around how the "Hi I'm a black magic caster" flag in his aura was dealt with, but I suppose those were still well within the YA unsubtlety tolerances. And the love-at-first-sight with the cheerleader was... ehhh. I thought it overplayed a little, but probably that was just because I wasn't fond of her character in the first place.

The morality thing kind of reminds me of the otherwise excellent Timothy Zahn Dragonback books where an orphan is raised by a con artist from the age of three to the age of fourteen, but somehow still ends up with his parents' moral outlook. Because morality is genetic? Though that doesn't help in the case of the Demon's Apprentice, since his father is definitely a complete bastard.