Friday, March 2 2012

Rune Soldier book 1, finished

This was the first light novel I started struggling through, way back when, and it took a month of painstaking kanji and vocabulary lookup to finish the first part of chapter 1. Much later, I scanned and OCR’d the same 30 pages and ran the results through my custom-reader scripts, and read it in about two hours. These days, I can manage a typical chapter in about an hour, and last month I discovered that someone had OCR’d the first four books and made them (coughcoughperfectdarkcough) available. Much easier than scanning them in myself.

I haven’t had a lot of time to read recently, so it was only last night that I managed to finish book 1 (which was covered in episodes 1-4 and 6 of the anime). The stories will be more or less familiar to people who’ve seen the series but as I discovered with chapter 1, the characters are much more interesting.

So far, the character who was changed the least for the anime is Genie. Louie is much less of a goofball, Ila is significantly more interesting (and dangerous; those glasses aren’t just for show!), Melissa’s difficulty accepting Louie is less melodramatic, and Merrill gets a lot of character development, replacing the slapstick and caricature that she was subjected to in the anime. You get more of Jenny’s backstory, including her adventurous youth with Rijarl and Carwes. The encounters with Celecia and Conrad are more character-driven as well.

The stories also have a lot more nuance to them. For instance, in the anime, the “sealed door” in the ruins was just something that the girls found while adventuring; in the book, it had been found quite a while ago by a member of the Thieves Guild, who sold the info to Merrill for a significant sum. When it turns out to be a dud, she goes back to the information broker for a refund, and also learns that the Guild is very interested in finding out who Louie’s parents were. That’s just a teaser so far, along with Jenny’s unspoken knowledge that King Rijarl only has one living bastard son.

I’ve just started book 2, which is shaping up to be the basis of episodes 9 and 10. The prologue is two scenes: the first with Banarl activating the ancient weather-control machine, and the second with Celecia feeling it happen and being ordered by her village elders to investigate. Being young and interested in the human world, she’s delighted at the chance to get out, and hoping to meet a certain young man again…

Side note that I don’t recall from the anime: many of the elves in Celecia’s village are old enough to remember the great magical kingdom that fell 500 years earlier, and their subjugation during that era has a lot to do with their current hatred and mistrust of humans. Celecia’s mission is in part a punishment for having defended Louie and company when they were prisoners.

Saturday, March 3 2012

Postcards from Chizumatic…

I needed new wallpaper for my gaming machine. Dusting off my collage script produced this, which I think will work nicely.

Goofy Mecab error

When I ran the third Louie book through my custom-reader scripts (being nearly halfway through book 2…), it warned me about a conjugation pattern it didn’t know how to handle. This happens occasionally, since my de-conjugator is based on a limited sample of Mecab output, but the word it was complaining about was a real surprise: the yodan verb 戦ふ (written “tatakafu”, but pronounced “tatakau”), conjugated into 戦はない.

The sentence was “人の死なない戦はない”, which should be read as “Hito no shinanai ikusa wa nai”. For some reason, the context matcher did not correctly determine that “人の死なない” was a clause modifying the noun “戦”, and instead fell back all the way to a pre-1946 classical conjugation of the modern verb 戦う, which would have translated into the nonsensical “person’s won’t die won’t fight”. One of the many reasons human translators still have jobs!

(the sentence actually means “this is not a battle in which no one dies”, or perhaps “there are no wars where no one dies”; I’ll have to look at the context when I get there)

Tuesday, March 6 2012

Rune Soldier book 2, finished

I finished the main story Sunday, leaving only the epilogue, which was a quick read last night. I didn’t blog about it right away, however, since I started reading Shamus Young’s The Witch Watch and didn’t put it down until I finished.

As expected, this was the “magical weather control device” story that was adapted into episodes 9 and 10 of the anime version. Also as expected, a great deal of characterization and nuance was lost along the way. And, as Steven hoped way back when in the comments to my first attempt to read book 1, Celecia doesn’t secure Louie’s aid with a love spell; she charms him, but only by being pretty, sweet, sympathetic, and Elven. And her personality and motives are more complex.

True for everyone, actually. Louie is far less of a goofball; yes, he didn’t pay attention in some of his classes and missed things like needing silver or magical weapons to hurt spirits, but he’s much more self-aware and mature. Melissa is less over-the-top melodramatic, both in her fantasies of a True Hero and her disappointment in the reality of Louie; biting sarcasm and a cool head are more common than hysterics of either type. Merrill shows no signs of turning into the comic relief, and is given plenty of opportunities to demonstrate competence and wit. Genie is the most like her anime self, but her current relationship to Louie can be summed up as “hasn’t killed him yet”; everything he does pushes her buttons, and she calls him “amateur” with naked contempt. Ila, whose feelings for Louie are just beginning to transition from “little brother” to “I don’t really go for muscles, but…”, has several moments that make her much more interesting than the somewhat air-headed, clingy wannabe-girlfriend from the anime.

Celecia is much more of an active player in the novel. She comes to town to secure the gang’s aid in fixing the weather, but first sneaks into the Mage College to spy on Louie and Ila as they figure out what’s going on, then tracks the girls down in a bar and basically bullies them into re-introducing her to him as their choice for a new adventuring companion, pointing out his near Elf-worship and Melissa’s divine order to serve him. And Celecia is quite certain that Louie was somehow responsible for the (lethal) goblin attack on her village that he then helped rescue them from, but despite the girls’ fears, she’s not after revenge. Indeed, one of her main interests is finding out why he retains such a high opinion of elves, even after narrowly escaping execution in her village.

Good stuff, and now on to book 3, which seems to have been skipped for the anime. Louie’s accidental engagement! Merrill waking Louie at knifepoint! Genie’s little sister! All this and more!

Wednesday, March 7 2012

What’s Louie like?

So I started book 3 of Rune Soldier last night, and I think the parts I read last night neatly sum up the difference in character between book Louie and anime Louie.

It opens with a restless Louie throwing off his covers. Summer has arrived with a vengeance after their previous adventure with the weather-control device, and it’s just too darn hot and muggy for him to sleep. So, he puts on his street clothes and heads out for an evening of fun in the entertainment district. After a few hours of pub-crawling, he’s nicely drunk and headed for home, when he happens to look into an alley and see two suspicious-looking punks harassing a 13-year-old girl whose high-class clothing suggests she has no business in this neighborhood, especially in the middle of the night. He butts in.

They vaguely recognize him as “that guy” from various places in the district, and he in turn can tell that they’re low-level members of the Thieves Guild. But Louie doesn’t want to get into more trouble with the Guild by beating the crap out of them, so he name-drops Merrill and identifies himself as one of her partners. They were willing to fight a drunken tavern brawler for their prize, but an experienced adventurer with ties to an established Guild member is a bit much, so they slink off.

The girl naively complains that her new friends were about to help her find lodging and a job, and as Louie leads her out of the entertainment district, he gives her a carefully sanitized explanation of what her “friends” meant by that. Recognizing that she won’t be safe on her own, and knowing that the only lodging houses open at this time of night are no safer than the alley, he takes her back to the Mage College, wakes up Ila, and asks her to take the girl in for the night.

He’s quite surprised when Ila calls her by name, recognizing her as the daughter of one of the richest and most powerful merchants in the country, in fact her own father’s primary rival. Gentle questioning gets young Muriel to confess that she’s running away from home to escape an arranged marriage. She had been reluctantly willing to abide by her father’s decision, until she went to the temple of Mylee and consulted one of the priestesses…

Yes, Melissa is the one causing trouble this time, and Louie staggers off to his own room in a daze, waking up the next morning to find a dagger at his throat, in the hand of a very angry Merrill. Not the least bit surprised by this after having used her name to influence Thieves Guild members, he casually greets her and explains the situation. She quickly calms down, and agrees that they need to go see Melissa and get this straightened out fast. As he gets dressed, they banter quite companiably, with Louie responding to her obvious envy of rich families by offering to introduce her to Carwes, who always wanted to adopt a daughter. She quips back that she couldn’t handle having a blockhead step-brother like him, and he admits that he’d be too worried about getting his throat slit to ever fall asleep around a little sister like her. Unspoken, they both know that she values her independence too much to ever be anyone’s dependent.

Louie is naked for most of this conversation, and Merrill makes no effort to turn away. She’s not ogling, but she’s paying enough attention to comment on how he seems even bigger and more muscular than when they met, which he credits to his daily solo sword practice. She suggests that if he has enough free time for that, he should spend it working on his magic and leave the fighting to them. He refuses, both for his own goals and for Melissa’s expectations of a hero. He wants to be a proper Rune Soldier, expert in both combat and magic, something that hasn’t been seen for a long time.

Dear Apple,

QA. Look into it. Then perhaps you’ll learn about things like “iTunes 10.6 can’t see my iPhone 4S” before you release. There’s not a lot I can do about usbmuxd core-dumping.

The key error seems to be when you start up the new iTunes:

3/7/12 4:34:18 PM	iTunes[10876]	_SubscribeForMuxNotifications (thread 0xb081b000): USBMuxListenerCreate: Connection refused

[Update: you have to reboot your machine to get it to work. Nice.]

Thursday, March 8 2012

Apple’s attempt to kill the Kindle backfires

Oops. Seems the Department of Justice doesn’t care for price-fixing and collusion, even when you put lipstick on it and call it the “agency model”.

Of course, it’s hard to take publishing spokesmen seriously when they claim that the physical printing costs were never a significant part of the cost to make a book, when they start selling e-books of thirty-year-old SF novels at the same price as new releases. (hint: some of us know how much work is actually involved in scanning, OCRing, and proofreading an old paperback)

Friday, March 9 2012

Never Buy A 1.0, Electric Car Edition

Consumer Reports bought a Fisker Karma. Two days later, the dealer had to tow it away on a flatbed, because it refused to go into gear.

iPhoto for iPad still not for me

When the iPad first came out, I answered Jeff’s question by describing the killer app that would get me excited about it as a tool and not just a toy. The newly-launched iPhoto for iPad is not that app (emphasis added):

When you import a RAW image to your iPad, iPhoto will display only the JPEG version of the image embedded in the RAW file. When editing a RAW image in iPhoto, the edits are derived from the embedded JPEG, and saved in JPEG format.



If you import RAW+JPEG images, iPhoto will display and export the JPEG version.

The JPEG embedded in most RAW files is a tiny little thumbnail, so this is pretty useless. It detects RAW+JPEG, which is nice, but any edits you make are to the JPEG version, and you can’t replay them against the higher-quality image once you’re on a real computer.

So, great for casual users or for serious photographers who just want to dink around on throwaway images, but don’t waste your time copying RAWs to it. You can play with your JPEGS on the road, but leave the good stuff on the memory cards until you get back to a computer.

Monday, March 12 2012

Get off my lawn!

Overheard in the office break room:

“Yeah, did you see the new John Carter movie? I guess it was a remake, from like before Star Wars, before Star Trek.”

Thursday, March 15 2012

I can haz Gatsby?

The product is actually quite useful, and I wish I’d brought back a few more packs from Kyoto, since none of the Japanese stores around here seems to carry it.

It’s basically a mentholated wet-nap, good for cooling down after a workout, sold by a company that markets primarily to pretty-boys. And, yes, there are worse versions of the ad.

Reasons I love Amazon, #317a

[Update: since I first posted this, some idiot Marketplace dealer’s auto-pricing system has jacked their (virtual) copy up to $999. Plus $3.99 shipping, to add insult to injury. Wonder how long it will take their sloppy code to notice that the used book they plan to buy from someone else and resell at 8x is now over-priced by 5x?]

I ordered a book of the sort that’s in print but out of stock everywhere, so that all the dealers list it at prices ranging from 1.5x to 15x. Amazon’s order confirmation (which, as always, reached my inbox before I could switch windows) said, “no idea when we can get a copy, but as soon as it shows up, we’ll get it out to you”.

That was Monday at noon. Yesterday at 5pm, they sent an update: “found one, expect it Tuesday”. Two minutes into today, another update: “okay, you’ll have it tomorrow”. With free shipping, of course.

(and they bought 8 copies, just in case anyone else wants to start studying Japanese swordsmanship)

Local book stores could give me this sort of service, but past experience suggests that very few will, and even fewer will do it consistently. Right now, I’d have to drive 90 miles to reach one that might, which stretches the definition of “local” a bit. Amazon isn’t driving the competition out of business with predatory pricing and sales-tax avoidance; they’re doing it by being a better book store. And a better furniture store, appliance store, hardware store, etc.

I love book stores, but after reinventing themselves as coffee shops with a small selection of books sandwiched in between the videos and the sandwiches, I really have no reason to go to one. The only ones left worth patronizing are the used book stores, which still have some actual variety on their shelves, to surprise and delight the customer. And a lot of them stay in business by listing all their stock on Amazon.

(and yes, after my first two nights in the dojo, all sorts of underused muscle groups are complaining)

Monday, March 19 2012

Hoihoi-san anime? Looks like it!

Everyone’s talking about it, but the details only seem to be available in a clip that requires a premium membership to Nicovideo.

Lots of links to footage from the PS2 game and the earlier short animation, but it doesn’t look like there’s a trailer or site open yet.

I must say, given the increase in the amount of Hoihoi-san merchandise recently, I’m not surprised.

Thursday, March 29 2012

Relief!

Amazon Japan just sent me a notice that Okina Kamino has a new novel out,Tarot Knight. My first response was that AsoIku was dead for good, since he’s got three other series running now; my second thought was suddenly aborted when I clicked through and saw that the “customers who bought this also bought” linked to AsoIku book 15. And it’s not just a repackaging of the short stories that were included with the BDs; it looks like Aoi’s half-sister is coming back with marriage on her mind (ah, but who’s the lucky one…), and Chaika’s other two daughters are sneaking out to play on Earth.

Guess I should finally finish book 11 and catch up.

(as for Louie, well, I hit the first honest-to-gosh Stupid Thing and set it aside for a while; the worst part was that it wasn’t Louie’s bad idea, it was Merrill’s. It’s a bad plan, honey)