Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Rubber Geometry

And I don't mean topology...

O = center of circle; V is the top of the circle, M is a point on OV, and E is a point on the circle at the same level as M

I recently happened across the start of a very detailed commentary on the Evangelion TV series, which brought home to me that not only is the anime physics of necessity rubber, but so is some of the geometry.

The diagram shows a sketch of the NERV geofront, a sphere notionally 89% full according to ep 20 i.e. 11% of it is open as a spherical cap. From the latter page we see that the volume of a spherical cap of height h (VM in the diagram) cut from a sphere radius R (OE or OV) is πh²(3R-h)/3; the volume of the whole sphere is 4πR³/3. If we let x = h/R, then volume of cap/volume of sphere is x²(3-x)/4, = 0.11 in our case.

A little computation shows that x ~ 0.412, so OM = 0.588R, and since OME is a right-angled triangle, (ME/R)² = 1 - (0.588)², so ME is 0.809R.

But it is also claimed that

The Geofront is a sphere with a diameter of 13.75 km). However, 89% of it is buried and only the top part (900 m high and 6 km across) is open.

i.e. R = 6.875 km, 2ME = 6km and h = 0.9km. The drawing is done with R and h in those proportions. There is no way to reconcile these figures, which can be derived with a little high-school geometry.

Taking the R and h values, we have ME² = 6.875² - 5.975² = 11.565, so ME = 3.4km, or about 7km across, which is not too bad, but x = h/R = 0.131, giving a fraction of volume in the cap of about 1.2% of the sphere, about 1/10 of what was stated.

So perhaps it might have been a slipped decimal point, 1.1% recorded as 11%, and the rest is history.

Later -- Of course the 89% figure might be right, if NERV HQ is like an iceberg; nine-tenths hidden. And there are a lot of vast caverns shown in the depths below that might well use up a lot of space.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Web (server) log

Real geeks run web-servers. So with the arrival of broadband, I put Linux and Apache on an old PC, and connected it up, with copies of my externally hosted sites (plus some extra stuff like more photos, and bigger binaries). And after a month I have reached a few conclusions.

There are a *lot* of web crawlers out there; and any server will have intermittent probes to see if it is IIS or an open proxy. But there is legit traffic. A lot comes from people reading pages here or on one of the old external sites with images now hosted on the local box (my father's account of his National Service in the main), a few from an entry on the FOX toolkit wiki, or from my .sigs in old Usenet postings on Google, and one from my entry. But most come from search engines. And what a range of queries:

  • how+do+i+get+32+bit+colour+on+my+windows+98+system - picked up my freeware site
  • ravna & tines - ditto
  • tines - ditto
  • NTLM source server - ditto
  • Win32+MD5+16+Bit+Source - ditto
  • Blowfish+block+cypher - java page ditto
  • swing fade effect - ditto
  • java swing fade - ditto
  • fade to black - ditto
  • xhtml+validator+standalone+application - ditto
  • PassiveFTP - windows page ditto (from Japan, no less)
  • Gevaudan - picked up my walking holiday there from '02
  • A cat who walked cross France - picked up the same page
  • jemima cats - picked up the obligatory cat photos page
  • jemima from cats - ditto
  • Ada Walters - a picture of my great-aunt
  • Gilham - twice, one of those from Google Israel
  • Sergeant Major WWII Uniform - a picture of Great Aunt Ada's son, Fred in uniform in the family regiment
  • something unidentifiable that turned up my Eden Project photos page
  • screcrows - picked up the (now fixed) misspelt word on my page of photos from the recent vilage festival
  • chobits lemon fanfic - well, there are some sick puppies out there. Yes, I do have a page with all three words on, but not in that exact sequence.

Traffic Hazards

Cycling to work, I go past the local school as I approach the office. About half the kids seem to be driven there - often from only a few hundred yards away, and the rest are on their own wheels. This makes negotiating the road and cycle path interesting, when there are 5-year-olds peddling madly away, not looking where they are going.

Anime/Film Review — Utena : the Movie

Well, it's different.

The dance in the rose garden/duel arena was beautiful.

Invalid XHTML

And possibly HTML as well - Blogger single item pages have unescaped ampersands in the "leave a comment" code - and if you put any markup in a post title, that ends up in the <title /> tag. *sigh*

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Film — Hero

A 2002-dated film from Yimou Zhang, previously known for more subdued films like Red Sorghum, that seems to have taken off in the States despite subtitling, and now doing the round here.

In terms of what goes on, it's probably safe to say that it's a little bit Rashomon meets Crouching Tiger, and go no more lest spoilers abound. There is plenty of OTT martial arts action, including a duel in an autumn wood, amongst drifts of fallen and falling leaves, where one character manifests a technique that I would label Hurricane Sword and assign as an Orlanthi magical technique for HeroQuest.

The scenery is taken from a range of different parts of China, from western desert to lakes amongst green wooded hills, and the scenes are always wonderfully colour-coordinated, a different colour for each separate layer of narrative. However there were points where I found the visuals just feeling like padding - in particular, there was one "get on with it" bit about halfway through where we had a minute or so of the Qin army riding that added nothing to the film that a brief fade to black would not also have done. And visual to the extent that apart from the very first fight scene, where there is an old man playing a zither, that the background music failed to make a conscious impression on me (I am told that it was Itzak Perlman violin in some places).

However, on balance, a good film, one I'm glad to have seen, and enough to make me add seeing his next, House of Flying Daggers (which was trailed before the showing), to the things that I can reward myself with for survivng the rest of the year at work with my sanity intact, though not a great one - I would put it a notch behind Warriors of Heaven and Earth in terms of story.

Anime Review — Revolutionary Girl Utena (spoilers)

Earlier in the year, after working my way through Evangelion, and then trying to work my way out again via fan-fic, I started to look for other fan takes on Eva. And encountered Neon Revolution Evangelion aka Shin Kakumei Evangelion. I had previously seen mention of RGU aka Shoujo Kakumei Utena that all tended to put it amongst the most regarded of titles, but NRE gave so much of a teaser (without making it obvious what bits were spoiler and which were original synthesis) that I thought that I'd just have to get around to seeing it; so taking advantage of the weakness of the US$ and Linux libdvdcss enhanced DVD players, I purchased the whole run - 39 episodes, plus the movie (yet to watch) from, and watched it 3-4 episodes at a sitting, on a weekly basis over the last few months.

Well, it was weird. Not in the same way as Lain, but weird, nonetheless. A series for which the word "epicene" was invented, with few of the relationships being even close to what one might call "normal" - after all, you start off with one girl stating that she's waiting for her "kareshi" (lit. boy-friend), and said person turns out to be the eponymous Utena (a girl who just dresses in a mannish fashion for most of the series), and then it turns out that if any girl has a brother anywhere on stage, that is where her interests tend to be directed. Even the boy-girl relationships that don't involve siblings have strong degrees of control or other ulterior motive.

The series is clearly aimed at a female audience, especially in the later episodes where there are a lot of episodes involving bishounen displaying their manly pecs, and especially lounging around on cars, in a manner normally associated with bikini-clad "booth babes" at car shows.

If I wanted to be arch about it, I'd say it was merely a slight exaggeration of adolescence, with the need to discover who one really is, cast as a HeroQuest to become the Prince. And it is indeed an undeniable HeroQuest in the last handful of episodes, as the Prince is revealed, and the sacrificial nature of the Rose Bride made manifest.

My feeling on watching the ending was "How very sweet, how very fitting." and I will add my voice to those heartily recommending this series to anyone who can watch it without getting hung up on the appearances and superfices.

Thoughts and reflections

SKU is definitely a series to be watched with sub-titling and a smattering of Japanese : the English language loses a lot of the sub-text that is there in the various forms and degrees of address, or in the use of pronoun-equivalents. Idiomatic English speech can't really mirror, for example, the change between Himemiya's use of "Saionji-sama" when Saionji Kyoichi is the One Engaged, to her almost spiteful dismissal of him as "Saionji-senpai" when he has just lost her in a duel to Utena. Nor is there a simple way of showing that Utena refers to herself as boku (an informal form most often used by males) rather than atashi (a formal, female form, even used by such frail flowers of delicate femininity as Yuumura Kirika and Iwakura Lain). Utena even uses boku to state "Well, I am a girl." when it is suggested to her that she is being particularly feminine, without irony (compare and contrast with a similar remark by Lovely Angel Kei from DPFlash Mission 2 ep 1 using an even more aggressive and unfeminine pronoun form).

It is a series where there are characters about whom one feels strongly, for or against, but is not afraid to twist things so one's perception and feelings about the characters do change. The vulnerable Rose Bride, at times, does have episodes what look very much bouts of sugar-coated passive-aggressive nastiness (as noted above). By contrast, Kiryuu Nanami, who is introduced as haughty, selfish, green-eyed kitten-drowning bitch (and those are her good points), reaches a state where even being predisposed to detest her, I found myself feeling sorry for her plight instead.

And, having reached the end of SKU, I can now say that the bits of NRE where I see characters being most out-of-character are that Kaoru Kozue (even though I do actually have a sneaking fondness for her in retrospect - maybe that's because she's the most overtly sexy of the characters*) and Saionji Kyoichi are more sympathetic than I found their canonical appearances. Plus I would quibble that in NRE, Utena has not been pulled aside from the Prince HeroPath as she is in the later parts of SKU, so should possibly not have followed quite the same path in the Duel named Révolution, would have been more Princely. Other Eva-ish consistency checks - Utena's mother - definitely dead; the Kaoru twins' mother - separated at least, and definitely out of the picture, but still writing letters; Arisugawa Juri's mother - no data.

Annoying dangling loose end related to the above - the Rose Bride as step-mother to the Kaoru twins thread that was introduced in a brief scene and then forgotten.

* — female characters that is. Bishounen don't do anything for me :)

Anime — Serial Experiments Lain (spoilers)

Back in the spring I categorised this as low key cyberpunk weirdness on the strength of the first disk (eps 1-4). The later disks turn the weidness up to 11.

It seemed to me that as the story went on there was a bit of casting around for what the underlying plot might be. After Layer 06 (Kids), I thought I had it figured out - Lain was an aftereffect of the Kensington experiment, coalesced out of that explosive release of psychic energy (This would be true if I ever write Serial Experiments Evangelion, with Sub-Commander Hodgeson up there on the bridge with Gendou). But then a couple of episodes later, we get into more familiar Roswell/MJ-12 territory, coming right up to date by tying IPv7 into the brew, before disappearing into the metaphysics associated with uploads, and ending with more questions than answers.

Despite that, I thought it excellent, thoughtful, and that it came to an end that supplied a fitting closure.

Also, a honourable mention for the real 'C' code in the lesson in the early episodes - even if the coding style is a little bit clumsy. I don't think there are any other titles that go even that far.

Anime — RahXephon (spoilers)

This was a title that a while ago I admitted to getting as it came out. Well, I finally got round to watching the last disk this week.

Possibly watching it with long gaps between each disk - enough to have to think "what happened last time?" - didn't do it full justice, especially as the effect of one of the sequences of revelations depends on remembering which character is related to whom in which degree. Tthe overall effect was that it was something very pretty, but ultimately shallow - I didn't find myself with any great sympathies or antipathies for any of the characters except in the most abstracted form. Also, unless I missed joining clues together, we found out even less about what was actually going on than in Evangelion - who or what the Mulians were and why they started acting up when they did, whenever that was.

And at the end, after Instrumentality has happened, it just sticks in the "alternate universe" equivalent - but a very claustrophobic AU, inside windowless rooms, only the least sense of everyone (or even everyone we know from the series) being there, rather than the tiny number we see. And in the objective world, we see that there is a real need for an Ohtori project - the world now has a literal shell to smash.

But we do find out who the girl in the yellow dress was.

Overall: Mostly Harmless.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

For fox' sake

Well, they actually passed the hunting ban. I never thought they'd actually keep that promise. I guess it's something juicy to be thrown to the Labour back-benchers for them to fall upon with glee. Rather like fox-hounds do to peoples' pets when they go off at a tangent and head through village gardens.

Hounds aside, I don't understand some of the fuss being made. It's not as if they're proposing to make it illegal to go out horse-riding with a bunch of like-minded people on a crisp winter's day, so all the social/horsey-set goings on could carry on without interruption. Just that someone would actually have to plan the route rather than it being made up on the spot.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Schrödinger's Cat-food

Discussing quantum logic with my boss the other day, we came to the conclusion that it was related to run-time (as opposed to classical) refinement. Rather than having "AND" distribute over "OR", so you can satisfy (a AND (b OR c)) by just implementing (a AND b) or just (a AND c), you actually have to do both b and c. The analogy used in the discussion was of quantum cookies with nuts or chocolate chips : each bite would give a possibility of the one or of the other.

Given the way our felines prefer to fall on one flavour of cat-food like it was manna from heaven, and then even with second helpings from the same tin, get picky and want something else, I could see the practical value of a different flavour in every mouthful in that application. And the brand is of course obvious, as noted above.


The weather becomes stormy - relics of hurricanes, riding back across the Atlantic, and the evenings close in by 19:30. So only one day cycling this week - and fortunately that wasn't the day when I ended up staying until after dark to get the build fixed for the current project. This was not helped by random failures in code-signing that look like inadvertent input into the passphrase dialog for MS signcode that pops up briefly during the build. By contrast the Mozilla/NSS signtool takes a command line argument and gave no problems.

The change of the seasons has also been reflected in increased pussy-cat appetites. Which means the orange one is in danger of becoming spherical unless coerced out to work off what he eats; and the old grey one is no longer up to helping himself to kibble, and is inordinately picky as well as full-time hungry.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

One step forwards...

With the new navbars, instead of the Google ads, I can finally make my page validate in (X)HTML. Alas, in putting various IE hacks into the CSS, I can't get that to validate. *sigh*

Not just Ambridge...

It's not only the Archers who had a village do with lots of scarecrows (effigies, really) around this weekend. My village did too.

A Flower-pot man, like Bill, or Ben.

This was the first cool and dry weekend for ages, so my first priority was trying to hack the garden back into some semblance of control, so I filled the green bin, hacking back out of control jasmine; and have another amount of lawn rakings, and another of hedge trimmings, plus the 90% of the iris from the pond that was surplus and still it comes. So my only interaction, apart from listening to music wafting from the jazz yesterday evening, was with the various scarecrows around.

So I tried out my recently acquired (second-hand) digital camera on some of the scarecrows made for the event, just as light was fading on the Sunday. I only had the 10-image card in, so I had to be selective. That meant I mssed the bridal patry, the golliwogs' croquet, any number of legs sticking out of hedges, or from under cars or out of their bonnets, and the builder not quite falling off his ladder. This was my own idiosyncratic sampling.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Peaking early...

I don't know if Andy Warhol had even yet uttered those words about everyone being famous for 15 minutes when I had my slot come up. In 1967, I appeared on the first experimental live intercontental TV broadcast via satellite (Australia to UK). Through the miracles of modern tech, an nth generation print has been captured in digital form. That's me on the right, brother Andy on the left.

This explains everything...

If you've read Illuminatus!, you'll know the real reason for the Pentagon.

Three years ago, a plane crash disrupted the pentagonal geometries. Perhaps Something leaked out, and, floating around, finally found a weak enough intellect that it could control, just a little way down the road.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Earlier in the year, I'd been surprised by quite how few flat rabbits I spotted while cycling to work. Well, they've been making up lost time recently. And today I saw the first muntjac as roadkill. Fortunately it had been removed by the time I was on the homeward leg. A decaying badger was stinky enough to cycle past.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Film — The Motorcycle Diaries

Or “What I did in my gap year, by Che Guevara, age 23¾”

Middle class medical student and biochemist friend a few years older set out on a 20-year-old Norton motorbike from Buenos Aires intending to reach Venezuela via the length of the Andes. Bike breaks down in Chile. Hitching and walking, with a generous side of blagging their way as doctors specializing in leprosy treatment, the rest of the way, they see the poverty of the underclasses, and end up spending a while trying to break down the social apartheid in a church-run leper colony. Finally they reach their goal, months late. And young Ernesto is fired with a vison.

A road movie with lots of spectacular scenery, usually under leaden skies.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Species memory

This is how I've thought of Google in the past. And this evening, I decided to idly ego-google (i.e. give Google my name as a search term).

The unusual surname probably accounted for getting the whole first page to myself - but even there I found things that certainly referred to me, but I didn't recall publishing. There were more than a few incidents of that sort. Then something I did remember, which I co-wrote in the late '70s (well pre-Internet for most practcal purposes), for a small circulation wargaming 'zine, that had managed to make its way on-line.

And a couple of links-to that I'd not noted before, and my old college saying I'd dropped off their radar.

Conclusion: Interesting.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Senior Moments

Well, today is my 47th birthday. And this weekend, I've made two contradictory responses to the passage of time.

One of the things that I'd been looking for, on and off, since my beard turned quite white (see recent au naturel picture) was something to keep it more in step with the mere greying of the hair on my head. And one of the few adverts I spotted on TV while on holiday that weren't for new cars, was one for just such a product (Just For Men - including a beard colourant range). So I ventured into Boots and finally found it in the Men's grooming section - rather than under hair-care. So now I'm coloured rather more like I used to be; though leaving the temples strategically grey, and keeping it short (currently a bit shorter than the profile picture, as I got the boss at the local barber's last time, and he does everything freehand - no number 4 on the side, number 6 on the beard for him. This did mean I only had to mix up a fraction of the expectd amount of colourant, though.

Oh, and as I now can't really accomodate into the 10-15cm range at all comfortably (the face jammed up against something with an awkward line of sight, scredriver against cheek to fix a fiddly screw sort of distance), amongst the eyewashes and similar - not the opticians bit - I found the off-the-peg reading glasses. My prescription from the start of the year was +0.75 (dioptre, presumably), but these only started at +1, so that's what I got - a stylish slim-line rimless pair. Now I wonder how much I'll actually use them.

[Later] - At work, one colleague remarked on how short my hair now was; and another commented that he thought the style made me look younger. So I had to 'fess up that I'd coloured it. Later on, the Site Manager's PA also made favourable and unsolicited comment on the new style.

Guess I should have done it sooner.

Styling the body element in XHTML

Updating this entry.

body {position: absolute; top: 0px; width: 100%;margin:0px;min-height:100%;} does nothing for pages served as HTML. But this style is useful for Firefox and pages served as XHTML, as it makes the body element in XHTML behave just as it does in HTML and fill the entire viewport. Zero margin - to work round any default margins - and at least full viewport height have been added.

Friday, September 03, 2004

WiseDll.dll "Extracting directories..." localization

A Google-bait header for a problem that took me far too long to chase down, and which had no clear data to be found on the web — not even on's knowledge base.

Scenario — an installer created using Wise for Windows Installer 5.0 — last year's model, I know — with the resulting .msi file being post-processed to extract all the strings from the database, localized, patched and then used to create a transform. All the other strings were being processed; the Template summary and all merge modules were set language neutral (codepage zero); and still, as soon as the installation started, up popped English language strings “Extracting directories…” and “Extracting properties…”.

There was no sign of them in any of the string tables. Flattening the .wsi file to xml failed to show anything. Looking in the actual binary, however, they were there.

Much dissection later, I found that they were present in one of the Binary table entries, which, extracted, turned out to be a .DLL, 21kb, associated with custom calls for startup and cleanup. So not something that could be excised safely. And the strings turn out not to be located as resources, but as hard-coded data.

This really makes all the localization support in the rest of WfWI moot.

So I just patched the .DLL I'd extracted — set the 'E' bytes to NUL in a hex editor — and re-inserted it into the .wsi file using Orca. Problem papered over, if not solved.