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Haruhi Suzumiya and her Oblivious Brigandiers

Jul. 13th, 2009 | 12:09 pm

I haven't posted in ages, but I'm excited about the new season of Haruhi Suzumiya. What the animators are doing is incredible, and of course the fandom has been completely flummoxed by it. Michael at Low on Hit Points had already written about the new episodes:

I fully approve of what KyoAni is doing with Endless Eight.

Not only do they have my approval, but they also have my respect! Where do I start? I've mentioned before on how it's a brilliant (yes, crazy like a fox) marketing move, how I personally don't mind rewatching good content, and how I appreciate ballsy moves like this one.

But before EE 4, that all was just a slight counterbalance to what I found to be an awkward direction. But now I get it. It is a very artistic and unusual direction. We are a part of that recursion. We are affected by it like the very characters we are watching. And more and more, I am being drawn into their plight. I love it!

Yes! Someone else who gets it! In fact, I should thank Michael for expressing what I've been feeling. Now I've been able to gain a more concrete understanding of what's going on. These animators have demonstrated before that they have a special understanding of the otaku perspective. What we know, intuitively if not explicitly, is that the temple of anime is built on vividly outrageous characters. When KyoAni adapts a set of novels like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya they do not want to simply transfer the events & dialogues from books to TV.

Can you imagine how Haruhi would react if she saw them doing that?

I've seen projected schedules for the second season by otaku who've read the novels already, and felt non-plussed. What does it mean to read a story as if it were a series of parcels at a warehousing distribution center that one needs to relocate from train cars to a fleet of trucks? Isn't that a little impersonal? What if those parcels contained your entire household? Would it be natural to feel a bit apprehensive about some callous strangers hauling around the contents of your life? Imagine if you were a head of state, or a royal monarch... This is brand management raised to Art.

Kyoto Animation knows that they've got Haruhi Suzumiya herself to bring to anime. They extend the SOS Brigade to include all her fans, just as they did with the first season. KyoAni has been simulating a relationship with this very dominant person since the very first episode, when she took over the direction herself. Even after relinquishing that role to them, she continued to insert herself by reordering the episodes. Now she's at it again.

You may blame KyoAni now, but we know who's truly at fault. But Haruhi is more practical - and compassionate - than she appears at first. I believe the animators recognized a value in expanding this particular story which originally was much shorter. This arc's not just about showing how revealing how obsessive Haruhi is. The resolution rests on an important character point which in the novel may pass so quickly some readers could overlook it. The hidden information here is so subtle that neither Haruhi nor her best friends were prepared to recognize it.

And so that's why I think this Endless Eight is so cool.

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Great news!

May. 19th, 2008 | 12:56 pm

I've got a good job again! Starting Real Soon, I'll be responsible for supporting the Theater Management System, a product of Kodak: Digital Cinema. Even better, I'll be using my Linux expertise. I'm beside myself with joy! After seven long years, I'm returning to Information Technology work and fiscal independence. And though I don't expect this job to involve software development, that day can't be far behind. At the very least I'll be a well-paid geek again!

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My parents' landscaping

Apr. 24th, 2008 | 01:30 pm

Years ago when my folks were newlywed, they made their home on a six acre lot surrounded by farmers' fields. To its old oak trees they added many young evergreens, flower beds and a large vegetable garden. As I grew up they replanted our Christmas trees into the back yard and had an enormous hole dug for a pond, which my father then seeded with cat tails.

I understand my parents then were young, ambitious, and possibly a little foolish. Today they can't work quite so long or hard, and they can't afford to spend the money to make their place look as nice as it used to. Also, the trees that were young thirty years ago are now quite tall and kill the grass with their shade. Fortunately they are considering moving to a smaller place, but I feel they're overly committed to maintaining everything as it used to be. I wonder too whether their methods are appropriate, or whether they may be breaking their backs to avoid taking it easy.

Several tall evergreens stand along the east side of the driveway. Pine needles and pinecones collect underneath them, replacing the grass. There's still some grass, but it's very patchy. My mother blames the pine needles; I blame the shade. She wants to remove all the pine needles so the grass would grow back; she's attempted to do this every spring for the past couple years. She dislikes the pinecones too, because they fly out of the lawn mowers. I don't see what she's worried about. The pine needles cover the bare soil where the shade has killed the grass, protecting it from erosion, and I can't imagine pine cones of light mass doing damage to anything. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think most of the kinetic energy from a pine cone meeting a mower blade goes into moving the little thing three meters. I doubt its momentum is much greater than when it falls from the tree.

So when she left me to sweep pine needles the other day, I did something I felt was more useful: I brought out her patio furniture. Then she made me a chocolate pie. Hah!

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nice day, sucky night

Apr. 3rd, 2008 | 11:16 pm

Today I went out for dinner with Kelly and her mom Sherry, who is visiting from Idaho. We had some great conversation while appreciating some great food at Hogan's Hideaway. Afterwards we returned to Aunt Pauline's house to relax, read and play some Go. Kelly and I enjoyed a short walk before I had to leave, so it was a fine evening.

I drove just a mile before my car died. The dash indicates an oil problem, but the oil stick revealed a healthy level. Our mechanic had inspected the car just last week (and we trust them), so what gives? Sherry gave me a ride home, back across the county. I wouldn't want to try solving a car problem at 11 at night, so tomorrow I'll recross the county to investigate.

Old cars break down, so I'm not too alarmed, but I do worry that I overlooked something with the car's maintenance. I can miss important details while I'm experiencing depression and withdrawal. Tempus fugit, but this year I especially need to get my act together. And last December I had become so much more active.

On the plus side, riding home with Kelly's mom meant I had more time to talk with them, and check out the new GPS system in their rental car. If the diagnosis turns out minor tomorrow I can say I was lucky.

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Deep hurting

Dec. 19th, 2007 | 11:36 am

Characteristically, it's times like this when I'm reminded of my status as a meatbot. Early Monday morning my stomach woke me up with a "I'm not happy" informational packet. By dawn I was studying my last dinner in the kitchen sink. This is not supposed to happen. I had been cool with some coughing and dripping, symptoms like those add a acerbic counterpoint to the holidaytime sweetness, but such a bitter metaphor should remain a metaphor, and not become a a literal sourness on my throat. When afternoon came, I had some root beer and chicken soup, which might have been a bad idea, but considering I lost everything by one exit or the other I can't really say. Of course I canceled the interview I had for that afternoon. I did my best to remain still and avoid eating for the rest of the day.

(I haven't forgotten there are some people in worse pain than me.)

I've been able to eat again, but I sense I'm not entirely over this yet. My stomach makes sounds like a mad chemist's lab, and I still have diarrhea, but it's controllable. I haven't been entirely uncomfortable. But I'm still impatient.

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I take a personality quiz -- howzat?

Dec. 13th, 2007 | 04:42 pm

ColorQuiz.com Ben took the free ColorQuiz.com personality test!

"Seeks affectionate, satisfying and harmonious relationships."

Click here to read the rest of the results.

I really wasn't expecting it to describe me so accurately. You need to follow the link here or take the test yourself to appreciate the emotional detail offered in this test's analysis. Thanks to glazzal for pointing out this test.

Notably, my biggest issue with ColorQuiz's results are that it's incorrect on one subtle but important point. He feels this adverse situation as an actual tangible pressure which is intolerable to him and from which he wants to escape, but he feels unable to make the necessary decision. I agree up to my wanting to escape, but I believe that I have made the necessary decision, very recently. But I think I can forgive an analysis adminstered by machine for missing something so fine.

It's seems remarkable to me that a test taken by selecting favorite colors can reveal so much that's hidden. Perhaps it's possible precisely because you don't usually think of covering yourself or self-censoring when you respond to "What is your favorite color?" I suppose now I'll have to find out a little more about this mysterious Dr. Max Lûscher, who developed this idea.

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Romancing Throat Lozenges

Dec. 13th, 2007 | 11:47 am

What I love about chest colds is that I can lie about doing nothing, partake of simpler pleasures, and not feel guilty about it. Since I've actually been fairly busy this month searching for my next job and contributing at the VOC, this comes as a nice break. When I'm not hacking up my esophagus.

So this week I've started playing Romancing Saga, which I picked up for its eccentric reputation. That reputation is well-deserved. Romancing Saga has a non-linear story structure. You can begin playing with any one of the eight protagonists, choose your companions and pursue different quests at will. It's quite a departure for Square, the Final Fantasy developer, though not quite so byzantine as Troike/BlackIsle's RPGs (Fallout, Torment, Arcanum). There are few dialogue branches in the game, which doesn't have especially much dialogue anyway, though I've been satisfied with its quality. However, the storyline can appear to branch by spending time in one area of the world versus another. The game guides recommend avoiding battles to see more of the game's events in one playthrough. So perhaps some subplots could turn out differently if I don't participate in them myself? I'm not quite sure, because I haven't played through yet.

Personally, it's satisfying to play a game which can frustrate my ambitions with a tricky, well-designed system of mechanics. The first few times I played this game I became quite frustrated because I assumed I could easily master it, but I realize now that Saga will not give up its secrets right away, and that's ok. I've been playing with Sif, the warrior woman from the frozen wastes, who rescued a boy prince from a shipwreck. Her first duty's always to protect her snowy homeland from the encroaching monster hordes, but she's travelled far since taking the boy back to his kingdom to report some dreadful battle. Now Sif and the boy are a team to kick ass, take names, and eventually save the world, assuming it needs saving. She doesn't know yet; she's heard some legends about this dark imprisoned god, and the prophecy of a possibly luny sorceress, but no matter. Sif knows that if there's an ass harassing good people, her's is the foot to kick it.

So for today I'm fighting the good fight in Mardias, but soon I'll have to get back to work. I intend to get a new programming job this season, and I've got another preliminary interview to look forward to next Monday.

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I've uploaded my resume to Scribd

Dec. 10th, 2007 | 07:35 pm

Go on, you know you want to read my resume. Let me know what you think.

I don't know a lot about Scribd yet, but what I've read so far sounds interesting. Scribd wants to become a free, public repository of documents, written by anyone for anyone. People have already uploaded a large and diverse collection, including a children's Christmas story from 1947, New York City's greenhouse gas emissions inventory for 2007, a calculus textbook, Cory Doctorow's novels (why am I not surprised?), an introduction to subatomic particles, a guide to grading undergraduate exams, and a cheat sheet for bash shell scripting. Will these links be good in another 5 years? Is there material here of dubious legality? I don't know; I have a lot of questions, but today my skepticism has decided to shake hands with my optimism. I appreciate such cacophonous experiments in online public goods, helping us to disentangle our information from immediate commercial value. But I fear that Scribd's good health may only last as long as its obscurity.

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A story of a December morning web stroll

Dec. 9th, 2007 | 02:24 pm

When I finally woke up this morning, with a mild throat infection, I found a page for features Now Playing at Rochester's Little theater. Since I'd already read all the synopsizes last night, I read this history of that local attraction, but has some details I wasn't aware of, such as that the name derived from a "little cinema movement" to favor more sophisticated films than the shallow commercial trash of the day, which was 1929. October 17, 1929, in fact, a few weeks before the stock market crash and the day when the Little presented "Cyrano de Bergerac". Gee, Cyrano de Bergerac, I've heard of him, but let's visit Wikipedia to make sure! So maybe he didn't really have a big nose, but he did fight a lot with his sword. He was also articulate, a poet and science fiction writer, but he wasn't actually a Gascon. A what? Oh, somebody from Gascony, a French countryside, with foie gras and brandy. Tres bon! But what do we have here? Viking invasions? Clearly, any more surfing would be a disappointment, after reading about

Viking Invasions!

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What Do You Have To Say? - Not Enough Coverage

Dec. 6th, 2007 | 11:35 pm

What isn't written about enough in today's world?

(Responding to my friend Kelly, who wrote: I firmly believe that kindness is the most crucial thing that isn't getting enough coverage or appreciation in this world. People see news about corporate evil, violent crimes, bizarre conspiracies, etc., etc., but we seldom hear about people who are actually carrying out the golden rule in their daily lives.)

I wish to gently disagree with you. It occurs to me that kindness, or by extension virtue, will always tend to appear unremarkable, whether the medium is journalism or art. To the degree a society does sustain itself we can expect its members to approve of most of its events. Somebody somewhere is refilling a supermarket cooler with milk jugs, carefully and promptly. A child completes her math homework, though the last two problems troubled her. A librarian has patiently directed a stranger again to the correct stacks for the books they need. Good things must happen all the time, or else society collapses.

I think you've expressed in a general way the urgency we must feel after any exceptionally good event. Appreciation certainly has its place in our societies. This is an ordinary, common-place observation, because daily we hope for appreciation by others and we desire to share our admirations. Since good events happen all the time, the acts of kindness we notice must represent exceptional ones. A friend is there to talk every time you need to talk, or has a good excuse otherwise. A friend gives you lunch on a traumatic day. A friend entertains you with a classic movie and popcorn when you're down and out and have few options to do anything. It would feel wrong not to acknowledge such things when they happen to us.

You're free to argue that we could acknowledge kindness to a greater degree, but the project of communicating the wonderful things we do for each other already flounders on supernumeracy. In other words, we can easily find faults in our social system, but selecting its best features leads us to greater disagreement.

So it seems unremarkable to me that bad news predominates our widest forms of communication (911 and the Emergency Broadcast System come to mind), just as good news does in our most intimate encounters. So rather than kindness missing coverage, I imagine it's humanity. I want to describe it as our universal mystery of being, or our collective consternation. We have a bad tendency to shorten the mess up by limiting who we consider human, or else limiting what human is. And we don't share enough examples of different people being human, which I think you'd agree would include many instances of other humans being kind.

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