June 22, 2016

Bakuon!! -- Lime sempai

Let's get something clear from the get-go: I don't think the mangaka is trying to hide a serious story here. It's an ecchi comedy and that isn't going to change. But I do think there's a lot of story background here he's only revealing slowly. It's the skeleton onto which he's hanging a lot of good jokes and it's going to stay that way.

Nonetheless, I think it's there. And in particular I think there's something pretty interesting about Lime sempai. She's always been strange and mysterious, and I don't think that's random or haphazard. The mangaka knows the truth about her, and all the things that happen relating to her are consistent and driven by his unrevealed back story about her.

This is a monstrous spoiler about the whole series so it all goes below the fold.

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May 20, 2016

Why are we watching?

(Yes, this post is about anime, so stick with me.)

May I introduce B.F. Skinner? He did critical work in understanding conditioning. Everyone has heard of Pavlov's Dogs, but that had to do with low level neural circuits and its practical application is extremely limited.

Not so Skinner's work. He was studying processes which happen at the highest levels of the brain. It's known as "operant conditioning" and it's extremely powerful. It has to do with reinforcement: the person who is training you is trying to achieve certain results, and he uses rewards to make you comply.

It's more complex than that, however. How does the operator get across what he wants the subject to do? You start by rewarding behavior which is close to what you want, and get more and more specific as time goes on.

You want the pigeon to peck the keyboard of a toy piano. So the first thing you do is to starve the pigeon so it's voraciously hungry. The pigeon wanders close to the piano, and you dump some food in a hopper which the pigeon immediately eats. But it wants more, so it wanders back to the piano and when it gets a lot closer, you reward it with more food. It goes like that; eventually you reward it when it puts its head near the keyboard, and you reward it for pecking the keyboard, and so on.

Quite complex behaviors can be induced this way. And they can be reinforced really very strongly. He also studied "schedules of reinforcement" and came up with some surprising results. "Continuous reinforcement" is what you use when first teaching the desired behavior but it isn't very effective at maintaining it.

The most effective schedule of reinforcement is to reward randomly, with varying amounts of reward. Small rewards more commonly, and bigger rewards more rarely. If the reward schedule is consistent, the subject knows each time whether there will be a reward. But if the schedule is random, then he thinks, "Well, maybe this time it'll hit."

Skinner's work was anticipated by tinkerers a hundred years before him, when they invented the slot machine. It turns out to be a nearly perfect device for teaching people to stick coins in the machine.

So what has this got to do with anime? Wonderduck asks, "Why are we watching?" when really excellent shows come around so rarely and unexpectedly?

The answer is that we've been conditioned. Smaller rewards more often (shows which are good but not great) and an occasional masterpiece without warning -- isn't that exactly like a slot machine?

Which makes us think, "Well, one more try; maybe this one will turn out to hit the jackpot!"

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May 07, 2016

Cheesecake: Kevlar and Cyanoacrylate

Today's search term is "Impossible shirt" and it touches a sore spot I've been brooding about for years. JGreely has a link on his side bar to a blog called "Boobs don't work that way" and this, in turn, is "cloth doesn't work that way."

There are two major issues here. We can call the first one the "Sternum problem". It's about the way that shirts on girls are drawn so that the cloth follows the skin all the way into the middle of the cleavage:

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That's not cloth; that's paint. (Or heat-shrink plastic, ouch!) No way anything woven would do that. Even worse is when they do this with plate mail, such as Cecily Cambell in "The Sacred Blacksmith":

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The purpose of a chestplate like that is to distribute the force of a blow. But with that shape, if she gets hit all the force is going to be transferred to her sternum, and it will probably be crushed -- leading to all kinds of physical problems such as bleeding in her lungs.

Fairy Tail gets this right. Erza Scarlet wears a chestplate a lot of the time, but hers is not only plausible for manufacture, it's also plausible defense:

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It doesn't try to form fit her breasts; it tries to spread the force of blows. Exactly right.

The other problem with a lot of this art we can call the "Hourglass problem", dealing with extreme ranges in the "three numbers".

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How can there be such a difference in diameter between the level of the breasts and the level of the waist? If it is like most T-shirts it's going to be a constant cylinder and if it's wide enough to hold that chest, it's going to hang like a sack at the waist.

Fairy Tail usually gets this one right, too. Nearly all the women in Fairy Tail have huge boobs and narrow waists, but they usually wear halter-tops or, as in this case, clothing which is obviously custom tailored. There are plausible seams in this to expand the top part without being loose around the waist.

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So these two girls have both problems:

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This is a particularly egregious example. The cloth not only follows the cleavage exactly, it goes under the boobs as well. There's no way that's cloth; it's another paint job.

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Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Cheesecake at 01:06 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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April 16, 2012

Mouretsu Pirates ep 15 -- Engineer's Disease

I finally got my download, so now I can take frame grabs.

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Hmmm... Five girls, four beds. Hmmm....

Think Lilly and Maki (both standing) will share one? There have already been hints that there's something between them. (Lilly stole Maki's bra in ep 3, for instance.)

More likely one of them is just visiting. (Rats.)

Actually, this post is about the layout of the bridge, and I've got some pictures and discussion of it below the fold.

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Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 10:05 AM | Comments (16) | Add Comment
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March 28, 2012

Mouretsu Pirates -- just a few questions, ma'am

They're spoilers, of course.

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Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 07:24 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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March 06, 2012

Mouretsu pirates -- Engineer's disease

One way I can tell that a series is a good one is that it engages the part of my mind that tries to figure things out. Some thoughts below the fold, spoilerish.

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Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 10:16 AM | Comments (15) | Add Comment
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October 13, 2011

Space Refrigerator Yamato

And now a trip to the refrigerator. (This always happens to me.) Naturally, this is loaded with spoilers, so it's below the fold. more...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 04:41 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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December 24, 2010

Engineers take on Santa

Man, you thought I had it bad. Check out these guys trying to explain Santa Claus.

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November 28, 2010

I think this pretty much says it all

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October 04, 2010

Buck Godot -- Gallimaufrey

I am completely out of it today. Two naps, more caffeine than usual, and I feel like I weigh about half a ton. I can't write.

But there is an idea that occurred to me the other day about Phil Foglio's "Buck Godot" stories that won't leave me alone. So here goes:

Early in the canon (maybe the story about the teleporter?) we learn about the law machines. They're sapient robots who, one day, appeared on all human worlds simultaneously and implemented The Law. Nobody knows where they came from, or why the human race was the only species they picked on in this way.

There were 21 (IIRC) elements to the Law, and each would come into force when a certain (unspecified) proportion of the population voted for it. But you could only vote "yes" and you could only vote once. When the required number of yes-votes had accumulated, that law went into effect and henceforth was enforced by the law machines.

The deal about New Hong Kong was that when the law machines arrived there, someone hacked the voting process and change it so that it read, "There is no law on New Hong Kong." It immediately accumulated an overwhelming number of yes votes, and though the law machines found the hacker and did something with him, they didn't change it. That's why New Hong Kong has such a wild-west feel to it. It's the only world in Humanspace where The Law doesn't apply.

Now... in Gallimaufrey we learn that for the last several hundred years, the human race has been the custodian of the Winslow, as part of a deal with the Prime Mover. In exchange, the Prime Mover guaranteed that the human race would not go extinct.

What occurred to me was that the Law Machines were the way that the Prime Mover fulfilled his side of the bargain. He's the one who created them and sent them to humanity, and their implementation of The Law had the effect of suppressing the most pernicious tendencies of the human race, which otherwise might have led to self-destruction. If I've got the chronology right, it seems that they showed up just about the time that humanity took over as guardians of the Winslow.

And the reason the Law Machines didn't override what happened on New Hong Kong was that their mission only required that enough humans survive to represent a viable breeding stock. If New Hong Kong did eventually self-destruct, it was OK as long as other human worlds continued to exist.

Not too impressive an idea, is it? But when ideas like this seize me, the only way I can get them out of my head is to write them down. And I don't have the energy to write anything else today.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 04:38 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
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