There is a nice second hand bookstore in Mountain View called Book Buyers, I alway go there when I’m in town, even if it is only for the smell of old books. One book I bought there is Aikidō for Life by 本間 学, a direct student of Ueshiba and Iwama Ushideshi who moved to the US and opened his own dōjō. While the book is basically an overview of his beginner program, I found the observations and the insights around it interesting.
Clearly Homma is an outsider, 日本館, his dōjō, is un-affiliated and he seems un-impressed by most of the talk about ki or any mystical force, his book concentrates on the pragmatic aspects of running a beginner’s class. There is a quite a bit of work separating aikidō from other, more competitive and/or agressive martial arts, but also quite a lot of interesting insights in how the students behave, how they sit on the mat, how partners are chosen. In that sense, the book is refreshing because it describes what really happens in a dōjō, certains persons preferring cute girls as partners, people being tired, confused, or simply out of sync with their partners.
These explanations are interleaved with a few actual techniques, and some illustrations that help give a idea of what the author is trying to convey. I liked the fact that Homma insists early on that there is not so much right and wrong techniques, but more a sense of consistency between the techniques and that each technique must be adapted for the practitioner (tori) and the receiver (uke). There are also some insightful explanations on the relationship between tori and uke.
With 110 pages, this is a quite a short book and certainly a worthy reading. A scan of the book is available on the web-site of his dōjō.
Durant mon dernier séjour aux États-Unis, j’ai acheté un chapeau USB. Techniquement, il faudrait plutôt parler de bonnet USB mais la langue française ne semble pas avoir d’équivalent exact pour le terme beanie, je trouve que chapeau donne un meilleur titre (quelqu’un a proposé calotte, mais ça me semble trop formel).
Le standard USB est apparu en 1996, soit il y a 17 ans. À l’époque, si on m’avait dit que j’aurais un bonnet avec un câble de ce type, j’aurais été très perplexe, surtout que cette connectique n’est pas utilisée pour transmettre des données, le rôle premier du standard USB, à la place elle est utilisée comme source de courant 5 volts.
Durant ce laps de temps, deux choses se sont passées, d’une part USB est devenu un standard de-facto pour des prises à bas voltage, de l’autre les batteries rechargeables sont devenues suffisamment compacts pour être logées dans un bonnet, ce qui me donne un bon moyen d’avoir des phares de vélo sur la tête, et un objet qu’il m’était impossible de ne pas acheter.
L’avantage de ce système c’est que je peux à présent recharger mon bonnet sur n’importe quel appareil doté d’une prise USB, ordinateur, naturellement, mais aussi télévision, imprimante, ou simplement un transformateur doté de la prise idoine.
De fait, charger un bonnet sur un ordinateur peut-être quelque chose de risqué quand on ne sait pas d’où il sort. Il est parfaitement possible de mettre dans le bonnet une puce hostile qui tente de pirater l’ordinateur auquel on le connecte. L’idée qu’un chapeau USB puisse pirater mon ordinateur peut sembler saugrenue, mais nous vivons dans un monde où les bouilloires et les fers à repasser tentent de pirater votre réseau local.
Le XXe siècle nous a amené les objets anonymes, fabriqués dieu sait où, la distance nous affranchissant de la respectabilité morale de leur origine. Aujourd’hui, une question plus pragmatique se greffe sur la question morale: on ne sait pas d’où viennent ces objets, et à cause de cela, ils peuvent très bien être hostiles. Une personne responsable ne saurait porter un chapeau dont elle ne connaît l’origine…
One of the tedious aspects of travelling to the USA is immigration check; even though I have a machine readable passport, all my travel data has been collected by the airline company and transmitted to the US authorities, and I have a valid ETSA, which is a visa in all but name, it is quite common for me to wait an hour at immigration.
Someone realised that this captive audience is perfect for some propaganda, so there are always multiple screens playing Welcome: Portraits of America, a movie that presents a sequence of clichés that supposedly depict the people in the US. The main problem of this movie is that it way too short: around 5 minutes. Disney, who donated that movie, should have taken into account the average waiting time in the lines, a longer movie is way better than one that is seen twelve times, after the 10th time, the welcomes at the end seem less sincere…
What I find interesting in this movie, is that this image of the US is basically stuck somewhere in the twentieth century: the most modern element of the whole movie is the space shuttle taking off. What kind of country presents images of a space program of the 80s which has in the meantime been abandoned? Other technological elements in the movie seem to be straight out of the 50s, early on, there is a yellow school bus, then there is a classical, long nosed truck, then there is an old looking tractor, and at the end of the movie, there is a bunch of bikers on old school motor-bikes. There are also some horse riding cowboys and the Canadian view of the Niagara falls…
I know this movie is supposed to depict people, but they are presented in what is allegedly their environnement, and if that movie is the reference, then people in the US live somewhere between the 50s and the 80s.
When I unpackaged my luggage, coming back from California, I found a crumpled bit of paper in my luggage: a notification of inspection (NOI) by private company Covenant Aviation Security working on behalf of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The paper tells me the obvious thing: somebody went over my luggage, there is a scribble that specifies the number of the screener 6541, my flight number (in case I took the wrong plane, I suppose), a stamp on the back marks the place and the date. The paper goes on to specify that if prohibited items were present, they were turned over to the appropriate authorities. So they might or might not have removed something from the bag. Hard to tell. But if they did, I better not complain, because the stuff was, by definition, prohibited.
The paper contains a web-site reference and a toll-free US phone number, which is kind of ironic for a service that screen people leaving the US. They also claim their web-site offers packing advice, which is not really true, it redirects to the page of packing on the TSA’s website. It would have been cool to put the QR-code of the web-site for easy lookup…
The paper also mentions the obvious, if your luggage was locked with something else than a TSA recognised lock, that something is now probably broken. I always considered the locking of luggage a mixed bag, it vaguely makes sense on a rigid suitcase, but most locks look like they could be forced open with a simple screwdriver. TSA-accepted locks have the additional weakness that they can be opened by the members of a 55000 employee organisation, plus the various corporations it outsourced work to, which is not a very restricted club…
One fascinating aspect of US society is its relationship with the French language: while people who can actually speak French are pretty rare, there are a lot of french words and expressions.Either marketing people are trying to sell their wares in Canada or they are trying to add a certain je ne sais quoi to up the cachet of their product or the image of their restaurant. Bottom line: it’s full of French.
The problem is: French is full of accents, and while people from the US seem to grasp the idea that there are thingies on top of certains letters on certains word, they have a hard time figuring-out which of the thingies to put, as french has four of them (é, è, ê, ë) they usually get mangled. Which looks horrible if you know a bit of French.
The truth is, getting those accents right is hard, I had to learn this in school and it was not really fun, so I would suggest marketing and those who write menus in fancy restaurant use the same technique I used then: fake-it. To be honest, eventually my teachers found out about my ruse, but we are talking about the general public so it should be fine.
The secret technique is to replace all accents with a macron, i.e. a flat bar, e.g. é, è, ê, ë all become ē. This is, of course incorrect, but it can pass for a graphist’s fancy, in particular if you use a sans-serif font like Helvetica, and in today’s world it is much better to look like an arrogant designer than somebody who does not know french…
A long time ago, I remember reading an article discussing the advent of broadband, and which technology would dominate: DSL or Cable. The author of the article made an interesting point, technically, cable was better, as a coax cable can carry way more data than a phone cable, yet he predicted that DSL would dominate.
His reasoning was that telecom companies had decades to do any possible mistakes and stupid designs for data transmissions, while the cable companies were new at this. His prediction turned out pretty true, at home I have a DSL connection, and they are pretty common. Optical fibre, which is technically the best data carrier, is still the exception.
People working in software tend to underestimate the amount of time and work to get a new N to N system working in the field. Writing good specifications is very hard, and it takes multiple iterations to get all the implementations to work nicely together and to clean up all edge cases. This is why data formats and network protocols tend to live much longer that software.
Recently I used the same argument to explain why NFC would not work well for a few years, and certainly not supplant Bluetooth. Bluetooth is now 15 years old, so people have plenty of experience about bad drivers and complicated compatibility issues. This also means that Bluetooth now works: I regularly use Bluetooth HID devices (mice and keyboards), Bluetooth internet tethering on my on-call phone, my iPhone syncs with the stereo system of rental cars and external speakers just work. In contrast, NFC as only been deployed in closed loop systems: public transport tickets mostly, where there is a limited number of suppliers and a single entity overseeing the deployment.
In a sense NFC is not competing with Bluetooth, but with barcodes: most of the contact-less data transmission that I have used these days does not involve radio-signals, but an mobile phone app displaying a QR code to a scanner. Again, this is way less efficient than transmitting a radio-signal, but QR codes are a mature technology that have been deployed widely since the nineties.
This was a very rainy autumn sunday, so I went to see Thor – The Dark World at the cinema. Believe it or not, this was the first time I saw a movie in 3D, I had somehow managed to escape this new trend for ages, I also don’t go often to the cinema. I had seen the first Thor movie and found it fun, and I had also liked the Avengers, so I went into the cinema with reasonably good expectations.
On the positive side, I found the visuals and the costumes of Asgard gorgeous, this movie has given that place more depth than any of the preceding one of the Marvel franchise. It is really a shame that this beauty was sabotaged by the 3D. Basically my position relative to the 3D oscillated between two modes: not noticing it, and noticing it. When I was not noticing it, well it was fine, put pointless, because I was immersed in the story, like in a ordinary 2D movie. When I was noticing, this felt either like a trick, which distracted me from the story. The worst was when the 3D camera plays around with the focus, this felt like somebody was trying to f💣k around with my eyes. I really hate that, in particular when I’m supposed to admire some panorama.
Thor – The Dark World
I found that the movie took ages to get started, with a lot of needless plot exposition, it took half the movie to get the whole story moving, to say that the plot is classical is an understatement (spoiler): dark elves want to destroy the world using a magical thingy. We get the tension between Thor, his father, his mother and Loki, again, nothing ground-breaking. Nathalie Portman’s character plays a very secondary role which I felt was a shame given how fun the character was in the first movie, and this time, she is possessed by the evil magical thing, and… nothing. Tchaikovsky’s Black Swan is darker that the magic thingy. Very disappointing.
The end of the movie confirmed my problem with Iron Man Ⅲ: the Marvel franchise went to great length to introduce some common elements between the movies of the franchise in the form of SHIELD. In this movie, again, this organisation does nothing, even though one of the physicists of the previous Thor incident runs around naked, there are perturbations in the space time-continuum and spaceships ripping out bits of London. The francise is just an excuse for some stupid cameos.
Clearly Alan Taylor is neither Kenneth Branagh nor Joss Whedon, and the result shows, Marvel’s accountant have just given out this part of the franchise to some random Hollywood director, and the result reflects this.
Créer des définitions est une activité très commune chez les humains, on nous apprend ce qui est bien, mauvais, ce qui est in, ce qui est out, et avec le temps on réalise que ces définitions sont largement bancales. On apprend à l’école qu’il y a 26 caractères, avec parfois des accents, qu’on les assemble de telle ou telle manière, et que cela donne des mots qui forment des textes. Puis on réalise que d’autres cultures ont d’autres caractères, certains représentent une syllabe, d’autres un concept. Puis on se rend compte qu’on comprend tout une série de symboles qui ne sont pas des caractères français à proprement parler.
Vu que la majorité des textes aujourd’hui sont encodés dans un format numérique, il semble logique d’avoir une représentation de toute la ménagerie de symboles présent dans les textes – tous les textes – mais aussi de ce qui a été considéré comme un caractère pour une raison technique ou une autre durant les quarante dernières années… Unicode est le standard qui régit la représentation des différents caractères dans le monde informatique, chaque nouvelle version apporte son lot de corrections, mais surtout d’ajouts. Chaque fois qu’un nouveau lot de caractères est ajouté, la première question qui se pose c’est s’ils ne peuvent-être unifiés avec des caractères existants, ce qui amène toute une discussion sur la sémantique et l’historique de chaque caractère.
Le standard contient par exemple une section concernant les cartes à jouer, qui sont encodées dans l’intervalle 1F0A0 – 1F0FF. La version 7.0 d’Unicode, qui devrait être finalisée à la fin de l’été 2014, contiendra un ajout pour les arcanes majeures du tarot. Ce qui est amusant c’est que la proposition discute, comme il se doit, des différentes variantes de cartes à jouer et de la question d’unifier ou non les différentes cartes, en particulier les arcanes mineures et les cartes à jouer classique. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est que les cartes à jouer classiques contiennent déjà la distinction entre chevalier et page, vu que le système est supposé supporter les cartes de Jass Suisses, ce qui permet une meilleure unification avec les arcanes mineures. C’est toujours amusant de voir une tradition très locale (les cartes de Jass ne sont utilisée que dans une partie de la suisse) mentionnée dans un standard international.
I have vague memories of one of my childhood friends being very enthusiastic about The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, it was around the time when the song Video killed the radio star came out. I never saw the movie, time passed and I forgot. One day the word popped in my brain, and thanks to internet I watched the trailer online and ordered the DVD.
Buckaroo Banzai is a top neuro-surgeon, rock star, but also a test pilot. He drives successfully a car through a mountain and across dimensions bringing back some creature from the elsewhere. The newly discovered capacity of dimension travel attracts the attention of other aliens and cold-war earth ends up embroiled into a cross dimensional feud.
Buckaroo Banzai is a typical product of the eighties: a mix of early pop-style, cheesy science-fiction, positive attitude (despite the ongoing cold-war) and low level stuff: labs are small, equipment cobbled together. Buckaroo Banzai has a rock band and a adventurer group, yet the bus that acts as his base is probably smaller than the one used by today’s rock stars (who are certainly not neuro-surgeons).
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
Earl Mac Rauch
Despite the absurd scenario and the crappy special effects, I found the movie quite fun, there is certainly a certain amount of nostalgia, but the movie’s raw nature mean that the story has some pretty unpredictable parts, in particular when you are used to the formulaic movies of today. Some of the ideas are quite quirky, like the fact that all aliens are called John. Quite a strange watch, in particular when you realise that the male characters are way cuter than the only lonely woman in the group – like all science movie of that time, it includes Jeff Goldblum. Add a nice satirical bent to the mix, and you have a fun watch.
The movie only yesterday was a really good surprise, so I’m slowly watching other studio Ghibli productions. The next on my list was 借りぐらしのアリエッティ, usually titled just Arietty in European languages. Arietty takes an English novel from 1952, the Borrowers, and adapts it to the Japan of 1960. So, a sick child of a divorced couple is sent to this house to get some rest, by chance he meets Arietty, one of the borrowers, one of the small people living in the house.
Kari-gurashi no Arietti
Mary Norton (novel), Hayao Miyazaki, and Keiko Niwa (screenplay).
As usual with Ghibli studio movies, the graphics are amazing, the level of detail of the house, the vision from the small people’s perspective is outstanding. The characters are interesting, but I found the story too formulaic and completely predictable (if logic). Each character is bound by the rules of his side, their brief relationship brings destruction and chaos and flight is the only resolution. I suppose this is something to be expected from a British book from the 50′s, but I’m not sure this is the best message for a kids movie.
While this movie is not bad, some parts are actually very nice, it suffers in my opinion of a weak story…