Everything's going to be fine.
Monday, June 28
Pixy Misa's award for Correct Use of Algebra this month goes to Pretty Cure. In the first episode (by the way, can anyone tell me what that theme song is reminding me of?) our heroine Nagisa (the sporty one) is called upon in class to solve the equation:
x - 7 = 19 + xWhile she was dithering on the screen, I was saying to myself That's not possible - it simplifies to 0 = 26! Then our other heroine, Honoka (the brainy one) stands up and says That's not possible - it simplifies to 0 = 26! Perhaps you meant to write x - 7 = 19 - x, and then x would be 13.
Apart from that the show wasn't particularly impressive..
And irritating trick of the month goes to Aishiteruze Baby... Which puts an extra minute of story after the closing credits, something I didn't discover until episode 12.
Tuesday, June 15
I barely made it through the opening them (one of those incredibly dreary Suzanne Vega type things, only in Japanese) but it's worth it for the sandpit politics and the moment when five-year-old Marika turns to her mother and demands that she produce an older brother for her.
And the observation of the five-year-old's mind - the logic of why, if Yuzuyu loses her crayons or has to change her school uniform, her world comes apart - is spot on. (Though if you're hiring a voice actress to play a little girl, you should make sure she can cry properly. Otherwise you get the tired-and-upset whine when you should be getting the heart-broken choked sobs.)
(More information here)
Sunday, June 13
As a change of pace from all the cerebration, here's a little video I found. It's called Ecchi* Boys of Anime and it's by Maria of Choco Fansubs**.
The music, by the way, the Don't touch Junky Boy song, is the closing theme from Maze***. I always liked it, and I'm glad to see it being put to such good use.
* The term ecchi comes from the Japanese pronounciation of the first letter of the romanisation of the Japanese word hentai, which means pervert or perverted. Clear? Anyway, ecchi is a softer term, and its meaning is closer to, say, naughty - though the context is still sexual. The video clip is work-safe, anyway.
** If you like this one, follow the link and you can download a file containing this and another 31 other clips by the same group. They're called Anime Music Videos, or AMVs, and they consist of, well, anime videos set to music.
*** Maze himherself appears in the clip a couple of times too. He's**** the guy who doesn't get clobbered by the girl he tries to kiss. The first time, anyway.
**** Technically speaking, the previous footnote should have read as follows:
Maze herhimself appears in the clip a couple of times too. Shehe's the girlguy who...However, referring to big sisterbrother that way rapidly becomes tiring.
Saturday, June 12
Steven Den Beste has been hitting the hard stuff again. Anime, that is. In this case, Masamune Shirow's classic Ghost in the Shell.
Now, I'm a shallow sort of guy, and I read Shirow's work mainly for the hot anime chicks, but in GitS (as it is known) he does raise some important questions. In a not so distant future where people are often part machine and part computer, what does it mean to be human?
And beyond that, what does it mean to be a thinking being, and what does it mean to be alive? As a mechanistic atheist engineer, Den Beste finds these questions important, and difficult, and troubling.
I'm also a mechanistic atheist engineer* and I also find these questions important - but not difficult or troubling. That's because I've worked out what the answers are. And that's because I've argued the point with a number of people who aren't mechanistic atheist engineers. Of course, they think I'm wrong, and I think they're crazy, but that's not the main point here.
Den Beste asks, Is a virus alive?, and confesses he doesn't know. To me there is one obvious, clear, simple, and comprehensive answer, and it is sort of.
A virus is sort of alive. For any useful definition of life, salt, for example, pure sodium chloride, or, say, hydrogen gas in its ground state, are not alive. For any useful definition of life, people, cows, cats** and fish are alive.
I'm quite comfortable with saying that amoebas are alive, and bacteria too. Individual isolated proteins aren't alive, not really. And viruses are sort of alive.
It's the argument from utility really; as Den Beste himself has put it, It is what it does. Does a virus act like life? Well, it does, sort of. So it is sort of alive.
Some people don't like this; they want a yes/no answer, a knife-edge division between life and unlife. To them, I say: Tough. Neither life nor the Universe owes you an easy answer. Why should life be a binary property, any more than, for example, intelligence, or complexity?
The same argument also solves*** the even trickier questions of the conscious mind. Is there actually an identifiable self with continuity of existence which is typing these words? asks the engineer. Well, yes, there is. In the same sense that the surface of this table is solid, Steven Den Beste is a real, identifiable, continuous entity.
Of course, at an atomic and subatomic scale the table is mostly empty space. And at a low enough level, consciousness is just Physics. But that doesn't matter, because it still works. This keyboard is not going to fall through the table, and the fact that it is a big blob of atoms doing the thinking in my head does not contradict Descartes' Cogito ergo sum.
* Well, more or less. I'm a computer programmer, so I have aspirations towards engineering, and try to apply the principles of engineering to my craft.
** Most cats. Not Schroedinger's, and not dead ones.
*** For a sufficiently small value of "solves".
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