it's been a long time since i set foot in my parents' backyard; with all the recent rain we got (still probably less than an inch unfortunately), there was no reason to water, and with the weather turning cold, few plants were producing anyway. but i went out to clean and fill the bird baths, a much needed resource not just for birds but for squirrels as well. i ended up doing an hour of garden maintenance as well, pruning all the dead flower stalks (foxgloves, lunarias, hollyhocks) and weeding the lawn (dandelions, crabgrass, lambs quarters, etc).
i helped my father order a rotating magic mop from ebay. he'd seen something similar back in taiwan, he wanted it so he can more easily mop the new wooden cafe floors.
after dinner i returned home with a miniHDMI adapter i found at my parents' place. this was the final piece that would allow me to connect the pi zero. earlier i put the memory card in the pi 3 to connect to the wifi and take some preliminary steps to get it ready for the wireless adapter. i managed to boot from the pi zero and from what i saw on the screen it seemed like it was connecting to the wifi, but i couldn't ssh to it.
with the sole usb data port used up by the wifi adapter (tethered to an OTG cable), i had no way of controlling the zero, so i ended up pulling the powered usb hub from my bedroom and attaching it to the pi. that allowed me to operate raspbian, but no amount of fiddling with the network interfaces file or wpa_supplicant.conf could get me wifi. actually, that wasn't entirely true. there was a small trickle of connect, enough that i could load a webpage after several minutes (but all text). however ifconfig showed numerous dropped packets.
my first hunch was that the OTG cable was bad, despite the fact that the keyboard and wireless mouse were working just fine. this was a cable i probably picked up from a china street vendor, so quality could be suspect. i knew it wasn't the edimax USB wifi adapter, because when i connected it to my laptop (after installing the driver), it worked fine, just as fast as my macbook wifi if not faster. i worked until 3am when i finally gave up, figuring my best chance was to try a different OTG cable.