Thursday, May 31, 2012

Observation notes

Venus having been a bright evening star all spring, I caught a last glimpse at 21:36 on Saturday, courtesy of clear skies and an unobstructed horizon, nine days before it transits, and 15 minutes before spotting Vega as the first real star of the night. Subsequently the fine weather has been tending to leave cloud in the west at evening, before socking in completely now.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

C# under the covers II

An initialisation problem I hit recently, a null pointer exception when initialising an object via an initialiser statement. This program is a simplified example --

which throws when initializing b.

Putting them together like this, it's obvious what I missed out in the second initializer : I'm not creating a new object to assign. But it's not obvious what the second case is actually doing, even though it compiles -- which in itself initially surprised me. So let's look at the IL and find out what that initialisation is actually doing...

which actually resolves to something like

So if we add a constructor and a sensible ToString to the type being initialised, thus

we see that the initialisation of a replaces the constructed values; whereas b adds to them.

Not sure how useful this is as the dictionary literal form only works in initializers like this, but it's another bit of living and learning.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Anime — Chihayafuru

Looking at last Autumn's season listing, this was the one title to really stand out, the one I hoped against hope that would get licensed -- Madhouse escaping from their Marvel phase, adapting a josei sports manga, where the sport is karuta, a curiously Japanese affair, involving memorizing the 100 poems, and capturing cards based on recognising the one bearing the closing lines of the poem being read out.

After a very brief current day set-up, the story flashes back from high-school to junior school, where Chihaya Ayase befriends Arata, the shy transfer student with the regional dialect being bullied by the rest of her class. He introduces her to the game -- she is mesmerized by the way he flicks the cards and such speed, and hooked by finding that one of the poems begins with her name. Both of them play at school and in the local club, and eventually become friends with fellow player and classmate Taichi, until Arata moves away with his family.

Taichi and Arata

Surprisingly enough, the skip forward to high-school does not end up presenting us with a love triangle with occasional card games -- there are more important matters, like recruiting enough players to get an official school club and team, and then it's off to the major tournaments, with Chihaya aiming to become the overall womens' champion or Queen -- the best in Japan, and thus the best in the world. Only this is not Saki (although the first passing encounter with the current Queen is reminiscent of the entry of one of the monsters from that series); older and wiser players can take advantage of Chihaya's over-impulsive speed, she can become unsure of herself, and not adapt to the person she is playing.

Facing off against the Queen

And between all the play, there are the relationships between the bunch of misfits that have been recruited to make up the team, the team with families and other players, and also finding out what happened to Arata -- once tipped to become the Master -- to make him give up the game in the intervening years. And so we end, a year after the start, everyone gearing up to do better in the next season. The manga continues, the anime, well it would be nice to dream.

The production of the series is definitely good Madhouse; and the character design subtle -- characters can be plain, or plump, or middle-aged, and the ones who are meant to be pretty do stand out. The story never becomes mawkish, nor does it sacrifice everything for romance with a flimsy excuse to get the principals together. Very definitely, anime of the year, 2011. Available in many regions on Crunchyroll.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Galloway Effect

So, local elections, and the LibDem councillor of 17 years is standing down on health grounds. The election communication comes out with an introduction to the anointed successor, and isn't it wonderful what the parliamentary party has achieved.

Then suddenly, the first active canvassing I can recall for at least those 17 years, and maybe more -- phone calls, doorstepping, the full works. Then another more locally focussed election communication with a lot of "Please don't vote for the independent candidate" -- the only other horse in the race (I think I saw one Conservative poster the whole time).

So, results now in, 516 for the independent (a local character), 514 for the Libs, the rest down in the noise under 100, and a total turnout of under 1200 (which I would be surprised to find was much over 25%).

Maybe not as decisive as Galloway's win in Bradford last month, but a bit of a kick against complacency (though I don't think that Andrew Lansley has any cause for concern as yet).

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Anime — Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

One of the major series that are set in the same continuity as the original, but to my mind rather the weaker of the two. Where the original had the main characters caught up in actual warfare, doing what they could to escape to safety, and then becoming caught up as an irregular unit in the larger conflict, this is the story of a boy named Sue Kamille; and it all starts when a soldier (of the now rather fascist Earth Federation) makes fun of his name. So, he decides to sneak onto the base and cause mayhem with one of the new Mark II Gundam models; and gets out thanks to the fortunate timing of a raid by spacer guerillas.

So we reprise some of the structure of the previous series -- battles in space, then down to Earth for a while (meeting more of the old characters) before getting back into space, bouncing around the Moon and colonies before a final battle. And like last time, there's a somewhat fae girl whom the hero falls for, and who of course dies fighting for the other side, and a set of annoying kids aboard the battleship (purely gratuitously). But this time, rather than just "Federation good, Zeon bad", there is an attempt at some more Byzantine politics, with various Zeon successor groups being introduced, though often in a way that seemed to suggest that you should have known about them all along (maybe you should have read/seen something else in the canon?).

While there are a number of stronger female characters who turn their coats, or at least seriously consider it, they also get above and beyond the usual Kill 'em All Tomino treatment. And then the final battle -- they saved up all the character deaths, including at least one who'd been on borrowed time for several episodes; and after that ... it just stopped.
No aftermath, no epilogue, nothing.

In all, a series to be watched because it gets quoted so often, but being somewhat more ambitious than its predecessor, it also needs to be judged more harshly.

Bonus feature — Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

One of the alternate canon Gundam series, with the same Earth vs Colonies backdrop; but this time it kicks off with five superpowered delinquents being dropped to Earth in their own overpowered Gundams to #occupy the place, fighting each other as often as the Earth military. Oh, and one of them somehow is attending a school where the oujo-sama (daughter of some diplomat) showcased in the ED sequence goes, so he can threaten to kill her (which gets her all hot for him).

Meanwhile, there is a Char-alike following his own agenda, and military bases in Africa which appear to have the same racial mix as a Democrat party campaign HQ...

Dropped after five episodes.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012



Bluebells at the start of the month

So despite a very wet April (albeit one that opened and ended with warm, sunny spring days), I managed 130 miles on the bike. Need to do twice as much each for the next two months to hit my target; and May isn't looking too good (but that's Bank Holidays for you).

Flowers in the Rain

More typical weather