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Monday, July 27, 2009

& Summer 2009 Thoughts

So, we're now several episodes into the summer 2009 anime season. I've been meaning to write mini-reviews of new series for a few seasons, now, but never got around to it; we'll see if I actually make it to the end of (writing) this post, this time.

First of all, I always get my first looks at new series from Random Curiosity's season previews. and I'll probably end up quoting some of their descriptions here (and go in the order they're listed in the preview). With the exception of one, all the ones I'm going to list here piqued my interest at least enough to give them a shot (at least the first episode).

Charger Girl Ju-den Chan [that's the official English name on CrunchyRoll; it's listed as Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! on the preview]

Preview says:
Let me start by saying that I’m not convinced that this series is anything other than a vehicle for fanservice and nudity. Originally by the author of Mahoromatic and KissXsis, Juuden-chan is a story about a clumsy girl whose job it is to inject energy into people who are depressed. If that doesn’t tip you off on what kind of series this’ll be, then maybe a visit to the official site where you can remove some of the main character’s clothing will. And then there’s the promo video (see below) that’s got the main character orgasming during a transformation sequence.
Verdict: who could say no to that? Me, for one.

Umineko no Naku Koro ni [When the Seagulls Cry]
Genre: mystery, drama, psychological
"Sequel" to Higurashi no Naku Koro ni [When the Cicadas Cry], another mystery murder series, about a rich family getting together to hash out the details of their inheritance after the patriarch dies. From there things quickly go downhill, as six people are murdered on the first night.

Higurashi, as I mentioned, was quite a strange series. I didn't particularly like the characters, nor did I like some of the excessively slapstick comedy [OMGWTF @ Higurashi Rei 1], but it had an awesome and intelligent high-level story, and it was told very well. As such, I liked Higurashi as a whole, and I've been waiting for Umineko ever since I heard about it (it was originally a game, like the Higurashi series). So far it seems to be more drama than comedy, although there's also been some of that.

By the way, I hear that the Higurashi games have just been licensed, and will be released in English pretty soon.
Verdict: definitely watching

Taishou Yakyuu Musume [Taishou Baseball Girls]
Genre: slice of life, comedy

High school girls forming a baseball team in the early 1900s. I was/am pretty wary about this one. I've seen entirely too many (which is to say a few) "cute girls do (often boy) things in cute ways" series that rely on girls being cute as the primary attraction (a genre I've named Shoukawa). E.g. while I did watch and enjoy "the definition of moe" K-ON! (girls forming a rock band) last season, it really had entirely too much moe, and I would have liked it more if it had less.

There was, however, a shred of hope with this series. Japan is in some ways even more conservative than the US, so it would be unheard of for there to be a girls' baseball team in that time (e.g. how in the first episode one girl refers to baseball as "that thing boys do"). If they could create a realistic depiction of the cultural and social clash of something like this (as opposed to simply saying "Here's some cute girls doing funny things! Watch!"), that could be interesting enough to justify watching it. So I decided to take a look and see.

Well, thus far only the first episode has been translated by a decent group, so that's all I have to go on. It wasn't bad, to sum up in a couple words. There were indeed signs of exploiting moe, but there were also signs of interesting cultural material - enough to keep my hopes alive, for the moment. I'll know more after a couple more episodes.
Verdict: still watching

Two of the girls (the rest all ran away immediately) on a field trip to watch boys play baseball, after seeing the batter nail the pitcher in the head with the ball.

[I'm told this is wordplay on 'bakemo monogatari', which would be something like Supernatural Story]
Genre: supernatural/mythology, comedy, randomness

This one I hadn't really planned to watch, though I decided to take a look after some of the WTF stuff in the first episode summary on Random Curiosity (the girl stapling the guy's cheek comes readily to mind). It's a rather weird story about a guy who encounters a number of supernatural phenomena in his daily life; in the past he himself had been a vampire, and in the time of the series he encounters a number of girls with various supernatural problems. Sounds like a dating sim adaptation to me (which was part of why I didn't initially intend to watch it), though I really hope that's not the case, as the second girl has to be in elementary school.
Verdict: still watching. I don't know if I'd say it's good; but I really hate to drop series after I've watched a few episodes, and it hasn't been bad enough to do that. It really doesn't help that it's by SHAFT, who I rather dislike; they can certainly draw pretty pictures (as you can see in the summary), but they have an incredibly distinctive artistic style that I find quite disorienting and relatively difficult to follow.

Girl #1. She can probably kill you with each of those.

Canaan [main character's name]
Genre: action, drama, fighting

Another series about an inhumanly good gunfighter girl with underworld dealings, lots of action and gunfights, and something about bio-terrorism. It sure sounds (and looks, thus far) like its girls-with-guns predecessors Noir and Madlax, though as far as I can tell it's not by any of the same people. As a matter of fact, it's an adaptation of a video game, so I suppose the fact that it seems pretty decent to even people who haven't played the game is noteworthy.
Verdict: pretty decent

Kanamemo [not too sure about this one; Kana could be the main character's name, but the only thing I could think of for "memo" is some misapplication of the English word to refer to newspapers]
Genre: comedy, slice of life

Story of an orphan girl who gets hired to work and live at a newspaper delivery place, and her daily life. That was enough to make me take a look, as slice of life comedies are one of the things I'm most into. While it's always possible I'm not giving it enough of a chance, the one episode I saw lead me to believe it was merely the sum of it's parts, as listed by AniDB (categories): coming of age, large breasts, lolicon [pedophilic], shoujo ai [lesbian], small breasts.
Verdict: taking my ball and going home. Perhaps if I'm ever desperate for something to watch I might see if the second episode was like the first; but not any time soon.

Sora no Manimani [Following the Sky? This is a really tricky name to crack, for somebody with limited knowledge of Japanese]
Genre: comedy, slice of life, romance

Another slice of life comedy, this time about a small astronomy club at a high school. Of course this one also caught my attention for something to at least check out. Out of the first two episodes it seems pretty average, as far as slice of life comedies go, though it's difficult to come up with something more cliche in anime than the harem [multiple girls that all like the male main character]. This will probably end up in the slot of "something to watch when I'm out of better stuff to watch".
Verdict: better than nothing

Spice and Wolf II
Genre: drama, comedy, romance, medieval slice of life

Based on a series of novels, this series is about a traveling merchant in the middle ages and his (sage wolf god) traveling companion. This is one of those series that features more mature topics than most, such as economics and politics. I liked the first season of it a couple years ago, and I've been looking forward to a second season ever since. If you're looking for something outside the ordinary anime, this is one to consider.
Verdict: good

Wolf and hangover. In case anybody is wondering, these are all pictures I took while watching the series, not ones taken specifically for this post.

Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou [something like Modern Day Magic to Be Well Learned]
Genre: comedy, fantasy

In this world, like in Serial Experiments Lain, reality is fundamentally composed of information, and like data in a computer this information can be altered; this is the nature of magic. I thought that creative take on magic was interesting enough to warrant checking out. Unfortunately, the first two episodes lead me to believe that an interesting premise is all this show has going for it, and in general it appears to be a dud; and with an average rating of 6.4 out of 10, it seems like a lot of people concur.
Verdict: on life support. If I'm feeling generous, I might watch the third episode (next week) and see if it manages to improves any.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

& That Memory Leak

I'm pretty sure that a while back I mentioned a particular Firefox plugin called Feed Sidebar. It's a nice little RSS feed plugin that does exactly what I wanted an RSS plugin to do (and all others work differently). As such, I'm rather fond of it, and have been rather tolerant of its faults.

The particular fault I believe I discussed was that it leaked memory. With the ~15 RSS feeds I have on it set to update every 10 minutes, it leaked about 20 megs of memory per hour. While many would probably not find this to be a serious problem (e.g. 8 hours x 20 megs/hour = 160 megs leaked before shutting down for the day), as I tend to leave my computer running for weeks straight, this was a moderate annoyance. Left on its own, Firefox would crash about every three days due to address space exhaustion (32-bit applications have a 2 gig address space, and fragmentation can reduce the amount actually allocatable below that; I was seeing it crash around 1.5 gigs). Much more frequently, I'd start World of Warcraft and my computer would grind to a halt, as Windows really, really doesn't like it when you get > 90% memory usage (up until a month or two ago, when I have 4 gigs of RAM), and I'd have to manually restart Firefox at that point.

On one occasion I e-mailed the author about the problem; he said that he'd been looking for the leak for a while, and was stumped. Unfortunately, as I haven't done anything with Javascript (what Firefox plugins are written in) in over a decade, and I don't know the first thing about the Firefox plugin architecture, I couldn't go looking for the problem myself as I've done so many times in the past (at least 3 or 4 incidents on the blog).

However, a couple weeks ago the problem suddenly become much worse. Immediately after installing Firefox 3.5, I noticed that it was now hemorrhaging about 150 megs/hour, more than seven times as fast as in 3.0 and earlier (in fact, at first I thought it was that 3.5 was just unstable, as it crashed about every day; then I noticed that it was allocating massive amounts of memory). After verifying both that this was consistent/reproducible and that this was indeed due to the particular addon, I e-mailed the author again, with my new data.

Apparently that got a pretty quick response. A couple days later he sent me a test build he wanted me to try. After some looking, he'd come to believe that there was a bug in Firefox that was leaking SQLite resources; resources that should have been freed when an SQLite connection was closed were being leaked (it was not clear from his e-mail whether this was a new bug with 3.5, or just that the quantity of resources leaked was greater in 3.5). This test build included a workaround for it (presumably he saved the connection instead of creating a new connection every time it updates the RSS feeds, but he didn't say).

This seemed to work well. After installing it, I immediately noticed that it was not hemorrhaging memory like it did before (previously it was leaking about 25 megs each time the RSS feeds were updated, which was now gone). Rather, after a couple of days of collecting data, I concluded that it was now only leaking 1-2 megs each update (about 10 megs/hour).

It's not clear yet whether this is true leakage (which would suggest that one leak was plugged but another remains) or that this is a side-effect of the workaround. It's conceivable that Firefox might delay freeing SQLite resources as long as a connection is in use; if he's indeed keeping an SQLite connection open the whole time, we could imagine that this "leak" is not a leak (lack of resource reclamation) so much as a deferral of resource reclamation. If this is the case, this should go away after Firefox fixes the SQLite connection leak and he goes back to creating a new connection on every update.

We'll see.

Incidentally, version 4.1 of Feed Sidebar was released today; this is the version I tried a test build of. After I've had more time to collect data I'll have to see if it's leaking the same amount as the test build, or if there have been further modifications.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Useful Fact of the Day

As of a few versions, you can no longer get the nice graphical Visual Studio profiler in anything less than the most expensive Team Suite edition of Visual Studio. For most people (namely, those that don't have 6 grand to spend to get a profiler), this isn't really an option.

Fortunately, Microsoft has been kind enough to release a command-line version of the Visual Studio 2008 profiler for free. If you need a profiler, get it. Fortunately for me, I got Visual Studio 2005 and 2008 Team Suites for free through my school via Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance; unfortunately, I won't be able to do that with Visual Studio 2010, so hopefully they'll make the 2010 profiler available that way as well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

RIP E Terra Blog

As you can see, I've removed the link and RSS feed for the E Terra blog from the sidebar. After several years of no real content and over a year since the last post (that's even worse than this blog!), I'm finally putting it out of its misery. If I'd been a prolific writer on the development of E Terra there might have been a purpose to a separate blog, but I sure haven't been, once the class I had to create it for ended. If I have anything to say about E Terra or game programming in the future, I'll just put it here, instead.

By the way, a few semesters ago (after the class I wrote E Terra for) I got a very nice book: 3D Game Engine Design (second edition). It's largely about graphics engines, though it does have occasional other topics (e.g. that's where I learned to write a good collision detection system for E Terra). What's really nice about this book is that it's not limited to theory; while it does explain the theory behind things, it also shows how to bring everything together into a working system. Most (useless) textbooks, in contrast, simply explain the theory and (if you're lucky) give you pseudocode for each separate concept, with no advice on how to integrate everything into a complete system. If you're interested in game programming, this is by far the best book I know of (I originally found it looking through the book shelves of my graphics teacher).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

& Detexify

So, somebody just linked me to Detexify, a very neat little program that reads your "handwriting" and tries to find the TeX special character that you just wrote.

Now, personally I don't have much use for such a thing, as I don't use TeX. However, it happens to be open source, which means that if I can muster the energy I'm going to try it with the set of Chinese characters and see how well it can do identifying those. If it can do that decently I have some much less theoretical uses for it...

& the Genitive

Last in the series of core cases (the four cases almost universal among languages that use grammatical case) is the genitive (the nominative/absolutive and accusative/ergative are described here, and the dative here).

Genitive Relation
The genitive relation consists of a noun phrase (the minimum noun phrase in most languages being a single noun) that modifies another noun phrase. As described by grammar books, a genitive phrase is a noun phrase that specifies or describes another noun phrase, with the result being that the genitive phrase helps to answer the question "which?" with regard to the modified noun phrase; e.g. "the girl next door's dog" (genitive in italic) answers "which dog?", "music of Starcraft" answers "which music?", etc.

As it essentially contains all manner of modifying phrases, clearly the genitive is an extremely broad relation, and there are quite a few more-specific relations that fall under the umbrella of "genitive". A semi-exhaustive listing of the various types of relations the genitive can express:
  • Physical possession: "my computer"
  • Abstract possession: "your happiness"
  • Relational: "his wife"
  • Compositional: "bottle of water", "box of nails"
  • Quantitative: "half of them"
  • Subjective: "her snoring"
  • Objective: "its destruction"
  • Purpose: "sledgehammer of castration"
  • Location: "citizens of America"
  • Origin: "Kazuhiro Sasaki of Japan" (for those who don't know, he's a Japanese baseball player that was recruited to play professionally in America)
  • Affiliation: "Apple's Steve Jobs"
  • Attributive: "thing of beauty"
  • Topical: "Of Mice and Men"
  • Appositional/classifying: "President Obama"
It's likely that all languages can represent all genitive relations, though the methods used in languages differ, and a single language may have multiple mechanisms that may or may not overlap. A genitive case (or multiple cases that each represent more constrained relations) is one option to represent the genitive, but a language need not have an actual case, nor are case(s) and non-case methods mutually exclusive. Japanese, for example, does not have a genitive case, while Latin (and many other Indo-European languages) has both genitive case and a variety of prepositions that allow expression of specific relations.

One very good reason for a language to have more than a single mechanism of representing the genitive is that any single such mechanism would necessarily be ambiguous. Take, for example, the English phrase "betrayal of Illidan"; with this phrase it is unclear whether the genitive is subjective or objective - that is, whether Illidan is the betrayer or the one betrayed. Other such examples can be invented based on other uses of the genitive.

Of course it's not all bad; if there were no ambiguity in language, puns would be impossible. One real-life example of genitive ambiguity comes from IRC. jfroy says 'Snow Leopard meeting' in the sense of 'meeting about [Apple] Snow Leopard', to which I reply, interpreting that as 'meeting with a snow leopard':
<@jfroy> Snow Leopard meeting over. Ow.
<enma_hinobara>Next time don't poke it
<enma_hinobara>It's not Kaity

The Genitive in English
It's arguable whether English still has a genitive case; if it does, it only exists for (some) pronouns, where it indicates a purely possessive relation (which is why it might better be called the possessive case). It does, however, have three different mechanisms for expressing genitive relations in general - the periphrastic genitive, the analytic/agglutinative genitive (both are my own terms, so don't expect to find them in a dictionary), and the possessive.

The periphrastic genitive renders the genitive phrase as a prepositional phrase with the preposition 'of', e.g "fog of war". This is the "true" genitive in English, in that it is the mechanism that can express nearly every possible genitive phrase (although some phrases may sound better using one of the other mechanisms), while the others are much more restricted in use.

The analytic/agglutinative genitive renders the genitive relation purely by shoving two (or more) nouns together, e.g. "milk carton" (compare to "carton of milk"), "wood chips" ("chips of wood"), etc. I call it the analytic genitive because the genitive relation is expressed purely analytically - through word order, rather than word form. I call it the agglutinative genitive because in more synthetic relatives of English, such as German or Old English, the modifying word(s) would be agglutinated with the modified word to form a single large word (this can sometimes produce very long compound words); for example, "girl next door" would be "Nachbarm├Ądchen" in German (literally "neighborgirl"). In English, this type of genitive is restricted to certain types of relations, and is especially used for classification.

Finally, English has a special means of expressing possessive relations, a subset of genitive relations (it's unclear exactly how this form originated; some argue that it's an evolution of the genitive case, while others are more skeptical of that conclusion). Note here that English has a rather broad concept of possession, and as such the possessive can be used with some relations that aren't strictly possessive in nature.

The Genitive in Latin
As a relative of English, the genitive in Latin is much the same, in that genitive relations can be expressed via prepositional phrases (which are substantially similar to their English equivalents) or analytically; however, Latin also has an actual genitive case (a result of which is that it does not need a possessive structure as English does), which is used very commonly. A few examples of the genitive case in Latin:
  • "agricolae [farmer, genitive] filia [daughter, nominative]": "farmer's daughter"
  • "horum [these, genitive] omnium [all, genitive]": "of all these/of all of these"
  • "vir [man, nominative] magnae [great, genitive] virtutis [courage, genitive]": "man of great courage"
  • "fossa [ditch, nominative] decem [10] pedum [foot, genitive]": "ditch of ten feet/ten-foot ditch"
  • "Rex [king, nominative] belli [war, genitive] cupidus [desirous, nominative] est [is]": "The king is desirous of war"
The Genitive in Japanese
Finally, As Japanese does not have true case, like English it uses non-case-based structures for constructing the genitive. Japanese has two genitive-marking particles - 'no' and 'na', which differ only in whether the genitive phrase is abstract (e.g. 'baka' - 'stupidity') or concrete (e.g. 'shakunetsu' - 'scorching heat') - used in the periphrastic genitive, as well as the agglutinative/analytic genitive (the genitive may or may not actually be agglutinated). However, Japanese also shows off several uses of the genitive that English and Latin do not.

Consider the rough definition of the genitive - something which specifies or defines a noun phrase; where have we heard this definition before? Well, for one, it's the definition of adjectives. In fact, a language can get by just fine with almost no true adjectives (e.g. the kind we have in English), instead opting to use one or more of the three alternate methods I talked about previously. One of these methods is to use the genitive with descriptive nouns, a method that is used extensively in Japanese and Caia (in fact, it's the primary method in Caia). A couple example from previously used words would be "baka na inu": "stupid dog" (literally "dog of/with stupidity") and"shakunetsu no koi": "scorching love" (literally "love of scorching heat").

The other structure this definition matches is apposition; that is, a restatement of something previously said for the purpose of definition or clarification, such as the italicized part in "Julius, son of Ambrose". In a previous post on the predicative, I explained that in Indo-European languages such phrases are in the same case as the phrase they restate, but that we could imagine other reasonable ways of expressing them. In Japanese such phrases may be expressed either by the analytic genitive (e.g. "kemono [beast] no sousha [player, generally of an instrument] Erin": "Erin the beast player") or the periphrastic genitive (e.g. "Hamelin no violin hiki [player]": "Hamelin the violinist" - literally "violinist of Hamelin").

Finally, some languages, such as Japanese and Caia, allow other relational phrases to be put into the genitive, where the genitive particle indicates the modification of a noun phrase, and the other relational particle specifies the precise relation of the genitive phrase (you might say the genitive particle applies top-down, while the other relational particle applies bottom-up). Some examples of this in Japanese:
  • "ano [that] group to [with] no kankei [relationship]": "relationship with that group" (literally "relationship of with that group")
  • "ano kaisha [company] to no keiyaku [contract]": "contract with that company"
  • "Asia kara [from] no ryuugakusei [exchange student]": "exchange student from Asia" (literally "exchange student of from Asia")
  • "Hokkaido kara no omiyage [souvenir]": "souvenir from Hokkaido"
  • "America ye [towards/to] no monkowohiraku [opening the door; this is rendered as a noun in this phrase, not a verb, in this example]": "opening the door to America" (literally "opening the door of to America")
  • "anata [you] ye no tegami [letter]": "letter to/for you"