Category Archives: Daily Scribble

My random thoughts of the day.

奇蛋物語 Wonder Egg Priority

文章刊登於蘋果日報

剛剛完結的《奇蛋物語》是一套日劇味濃厚的動畫,由《101次求婚》、《同一屋簷下》的金牌編劇野島伸司執筆,是他初試啼聲寫動畫劇本,訴說一個與別不同的魔法少女故事。

這套動畫的製作超水準,背景繪圖細緻得像實景,彩色繽紛的夢境戰鬥場面,設計獨特有個性的每週一怪,還有優美古典混合電子音樂風格的配樂,技術層面完全無懈可擊。此外野島伸司的劇本野心很大,主題探討敏感社會的材題,少女自殺率高企,校園和網絡欺凌,性騷擾,單親家庭等,有他早年作品《未成年》和《無家可歸小孩》的影子。

主角小愛在學校被同學欺凌,她的唯一朋友插班生小系,因抵受不住欺凌而自殺,令小愛不願上學每天穩蔽在家。有天她得到一顆奇蛋,可以達成讓她死去的好友復活的願望,代價就是每晚要在夢境中戰鬥,在夢世界拯救有自殺念頭的女孩,打倒引至她們自殺原因的怪物夢魘。

與其他魔法少女動畫一樣,小愛在奇蛋世界結識一同戰鬥的伙伴,音瑠是缺乏家庭溫暖的千金小姐,梨花是曾經參加偶像女團的奀星,桃惠外表像英俊男生經常引來女生告白。每個女孩皆受欺凌問題困繞,各人背負著自已的心靈包伏去戰鬥。隨著故事發展,她們互相支持互相鼓勵,慢慢解開心結重新振作。大橋有點公式化的套路,但透過野島伸司感人的筆觸,以他擅長刻畫人性的描寫,編織出一個值得細心品味的故事。

戲中的夢境世界是欺凌社會問題的比喻,若只是一味逃走躲避問題,最終還是會被欺凌的怪物吞噬。只有鼓起勇氣去面對問題,重拾失去的自信心,借助朋友的力量一同戰鬥,最終必會戰勝心魔走出陰影。不過在夢境世界中,女孩手上的文具會變成厲害的武器,還有魔法少女必備的吉祥物會巨大化幫手殺敵,若現實世界能這麼簡單解決欺凌問題便好了。

EX-ARM

文章刊登於蘋果日報

漫畫家桂正和以擅長繪畫美少女聞名,其代表作《電影少女》迷倒無數男生,可惜他近年封筆沒有新作。《EX-ARM》的作者古昧慎也是桂正和的徒弟,繪畫美女盡得師傅真傳。《EX-ARM》很有桂正和早期的風格,走Cypberpunk科幻加美少女路線,不要笑我膚淺,男生就是喜歡看這類作品。

故事講述男主角遇上車禍死了,十六年後變成只剩下腦袋入箱的狀態復活過來,被改造成稱之為EX-ARM的超科技兵器。他被迫加入警察的反EX-ARM小隊,與其他使用EX-ARM超能力罪犯戰鬥,誓要解開EX—ARM之謎並取回自己的肉體。

非常王道少年漫畫的主線,需要動腦筋的精彩戰鬥,有點扭橋折但易明的EX-ARM秘密。最重要是主角小隊中,有很多美女成員,日常戲份亦是主要賣點。隊長是御姐美女,負責裝備EX-ARM有眼鏡娘博士,支援AI人型小蘿莉,拍檔是強氣少女,還有主角需要用身體時,用來上身的美女機械人,讓作者盡情發揮他畫囡囡的專長。

《EX-ARM》動畫版第一季剛剛播完,採用全3D動畫製作,動作場面更以真人motion capture,十分有噱頭。不知是經費不足,還是經驗不足,出來的效果強差人意,角色動作生硬表情呆滞,比傳統平面動畫更差。漫畫中有不少打擦邊球的香艷場面,是桂正和最引以為驕吸引男讀者的手腕,竟然在動畫版中全被潔淨了,故事剩下只有科幻探案的部份,而且非常趕戲,把十四本漫畫壓縮在一季動畫拍完。

這套作品好不好看,視乎合不合閣下口味,喜歡科幻加美少女的朋友,不妨試試。雖說我是在推介這套動畫給大家,其實我更加想推介大家看完動畫後去看漫畫。不論如何這套作品在動畫史將會佔一席位,很多年以後也會經常被提起,作為3D動畫化的反面教材。

My first IPSC competition

I just completed my first IPSC competition today. I took the black badge course last year and it is required to complete one match to be fully certified. Unlike the elaborate match setup in the movies “double tap” or “triple tap”, a real IPSC match is more down to earth. We don’t have old school bus or custom built course with lots of props. All we have are empty barrels and mesh screens pretending to be real combat setting. We also have to help running the match by patching and setting up the target between each shooters. In today’s match, I worked in the morning and shot in the afternoon.

My instructor gave me some good advices, for the first match, try to finish last. It is better to finish the course last than being disqualified. The most common mistake is finger in the trigger while moving or changing magazine or the muzzle of the gun points more than 90 degrees when running to the side or running backward. Once your are disqualified, you are done for the day. Following all the procedures and do not violate any safety rules has the absolute priority.

The second advice is take your time and focus on accuracy first, don’t rush the course. On the stage that an average player takes 30 seconds to finish, while the best players take less than 20 seconds, it took me over 2 minutes to finish. I have fairly good accuracy and had completed a couple stages with most my hits in the A zone. However, at the last stage, I was very tried and start losing focus. I totally missed two targets and screwed up big time. That is partly due to I have to wake up at 5:30am in the morning to arrive at the shooting range on time at 7:30am, and partly due to the stress of shooting over 150 rounds in previous stages really worn me out.

People are friendly at the matches and I learn a lot just by watching how other people shoot. I also meet some interesting person in the match, an old lady play the match to company her husband, a mom using a baby stroller to carry her ammunition, a teenage boy shooting in the match with his dad and his time beats everyone in the group. The majority of the people are middle age men or old men, just like me. To my surprise, I see a lots of Chinese faces, probably a third of players speaks either Cantonese or Mandarin. Looks like shooting is a popular sports among the immigrants.

Playing IPSC is a very unique experience, totally unlike target practice. I felt the excitement and adrenaline rush, but at the same time I have to stay calm and stay cool. A match day is pretty slow, you are sitting there watching other people shoot most of the time. I stayed in the shooting range from 7:30am to 5pm, even longer than a normal work day, but the total game time is probably less than 15 minutes. However, this 15 minutes make the other 9 hours worth waiting for. It would be more fun if there are friends shooting the match together. I should starting promoting IPSC to my friends and lure them to join the game.

When the Problem Is the Problem

This is the only thing I learned from my master degree. Asking the right question is half way done to get the right answer. In fact asking the right question probably more important than getting the right answer. Once you stated the question correctly, things magically fall into place and you can outsource the work to someone else.

Finding the right problem is half the solution
By Robert W. Lucky, July 2011, IEEE Spectrum

A problem well stated is a problem half solved.
– Inventor Charles Franklin Kettering (1876–1958)

We’re all fairly good at problem solving. That’s the skill we were taught and endlessly drilled on at school. Once we have a problem, we know how to turn the crank and get a solution. Ah, but finding a problem—there’s the rub.

Everyone knows that finding a good problem is the key to research, yet no one teaches us how to do that. Engineering education is based on the presumption that there exists a predefined problem worthy of a solution. If only it were so!

After many years of managing research, I’m still not sure how to find good problems. Often I discovered that good problems were obvious only in retrospect, and even then I was sometimes proved wrong years later. Nonetheless, I did observe that there were some people who regularly found good problems, while others never seemed to be working along fruitful paths. So there must be something to be said about ways to go about this.

Internet pioneer Craig Partridge recently sent around a list of open research problems in communications and networking, as well as a set of criteria for what constitutes a good problem. He offers some sensible guidelines for choosing research problems, such as having a reasonable expectation of results, believing that someone will care about your results and that others will be able to build upon them, and ensuring that the problem is indeed open and underexplored.

All of this is easier said than done, however. Given any prospective problem, a search may reveal a plethora of previous work, but much of it will be hard to retrieve. On the other hand, if there is little or no previous work, maybe there’s a reason no one is interested in this problem. You need something in between. Moreover, even in defining the problem you need to see a way in, the germ of some solution, and a possible escape path to a lesser result, like the runaway truck ramps on steep downhill highways.

Timing is critical. If a good problem area is opened up, everyone rushes in, and soon there are diminishing returns. On unimportant problems, this same herd behavior leads to a self-approving circle of papers on a subject of little practical significance. Real progress usually comes from a succession of incremental and progressive results, as opposed to those that feature only variations on a problem’s theme.

At Bell Labs, the mathematician Richard Hamming used to divide his fellow researchers into two groups: those who worked behind closed doors and those whose doors were always open. The closed-door people were more focused and worked harder to produce good immediate results, but they failed in the long term.

Today I think we can take the open or closed door as a metaphor for researchers who are actively connected and those who are not. And just as there may be a right amount of networking, there may also be a right amount of reading, as opposed to writing. Hamming observed that some people spent all their time in the library but never produced any original results, while others wrote furiously but were relatively ignorant of the relevant literature.

Hamming, who shared an office with Claude Shannon and knew many famous scientists and engineers, also remarked on what he saw as a “Nobel Prize effect,” where once having achieved a famous result, a researcher felt that he or she could work only on great problems, consequently never doing great work again. From small-problem acorns, great trees of research grow.

Like a lot of things in life, it helps to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes all the good and well-intentioned advice in the world won’t help you avoid working on a dead-end problem. I know—I’ve been there, done that

Double Down

It seems everyone is crazy of KFC’s new double down sandwich. It is two piece of fried chicken sandwiching bacon and cheese. Colleagues at work made a trip to KFC during lunch just to try it out. When I was in KFC today, everyone is ordering a double down. I don’t think it taste that great and it’s really greasy. Probably after the novelty wears off, the hype will fade. The hype partly thanks to the stupid Ontario Premier who propose ban the selling of it and make it a national news. It sounds very unhealthy but it’s actually not worse than a Big Mac. Both of them has 540 grams of calories and 30 grams of fat. A double chess whooper at Burger King is worse, which has 670 grams of calories and 30 grams of fat. If Ontario going to ban double down on the risk to health, they pretty much have to ban all fast food.

My New Computer

I have being using my old computer for almost 4 years, it is about time to retire. It took me a while to put together the specification for my new computer. The new branding scheme of Intel processors is very confusing. I had to read a lot to understand what’s the difference between i3, i5 and i7. At the end, I figure that I don’t really need hyper-threading, so I am OK with a quad core i5.

I picked i5 760 based on the review on Tom’s Hardware. It suppose to give me the most bang for the buck. I picked a medium range graphics card, AMD 5750, base on Tom’s review as well. I do not play much games so I don’t need a high end graphics card and save my budget. I am big fans of Asus motherboard, I forgot how long I have been choosing Asus, probably since high school days when I built my own computer. I got a Asus P7P55D-E which support RAID, SATA3 and USB3. Motherboard is something too much trouble to upgrade, so I better pick one that can address the need in the next few years.

Since I got a SATA3 motherboard, I get a Western Digital SATA3 hard drive as well. It seems SATA3 is still pretty new, WD is the only manufacturer has SATA3 offering. I settle for a 1TB hard drive since I can reuse my two 500GB SATA2 hard drive, run a RAID0 and turn it into another 1TB hard drive. My computer has 2TB internal disk space, plus an external 1TB hard drive for backup, that makes it 3TB in total. Moreover, hard drive is pretty easy to upgrade in the future if I need more disk space. I also have another 2TB backup drive connect to my router and three hard drives with a total of 800GB in my old computer. I have almost 6TB of storage in my house.

I go cheap on RAM this time and only got 4GB. The moment I installed Windows 7 and virtual PC, I regretted my decision and wish I had bought more RAM. My major concern is there is virtually no 4GB dimm on the market. If I want to get 8GB of RAM, I will have to buy 4x2GB dimm and used up all my RAM slot in the motherboard. I will just wait a bit and get another 8GB of RAM when 4GB dimm is more common.

I was talked into getting a pretty good computer case. I used to get the cheaper case on sales, but this time I got a Fractal Design R3 computer case. It looks really cool with the shinny pearl black look. Other than the looking good, it is very functional. It has air filter to prevent dust building up inside the case. All screws of the case has padding so the case is very quiet, it won’t have the annoying humming sound when the parts gets loose. The internal design is very smart, the opening of the hard drive bay turned 90 degree and facing up instead of facing the mother board. The wiring is a lot more tidy and make changing hard drive very easy. I keep my old mouse and keyboard, but I get rid of my old 4.1 speakers and get a pair stereo speakers. My old 4.1 speakers just has too many wires.

I have to install drivers and software for both my new and old computer. I reformatted my old computer and put it in living room using the LED TV as a super size monitor. It is nice to have a second computer in the living room so I can use the living room space as well. The two computers are hooked connected in home network and all the hard drives are mapped. I set up VNC for them so I can control one machine from another. The living room computer is connected to my Wii USB hard drive, so I can use it to transfer downloaded Wii games. Setting up my two computers took up all my free time in the past 2 weeks, that’s why I am really falling behind in my blog update. The old computer is up and running with essential software, I can focus in finishing setting up my new computer, so my life can go back to normal.

Wii

I finally got a Wii, 3 years later to the party. I didn’t buy it, I inherited it from my cousin who moved back to Hong Kong. Although the console is free, but it does not come with any controllers. So I have to spent some money to buy a few controllers. $15 a Wii remote with nunchuk from eBay, much cheaper than buying from Future Shop.

Believe it or not, I never own any gaming console. I never have a Red-white Nintendo, no a Sega, not Playstation, no XBox. I am used to playing games on my computer. Wii is the first console I have and I did not even buy it. The feeling of playing games on TV is quite different. I feel I have less piracy because anyone walk by can see my screen. Playing games on the couch is actually not as comfortable as sitting on office chair in front of the computer. The couch is designed for sitting lay back, passively receive the content from the TV. Playing Wii requires active interaction and naturally draw your body closer to the TV, which is not the most comfortable position.

I have been debating whether or not soft mod my Wii for a few days. On one hand, I don’t want to go over the trouble of soft mod the Wii and risk bricking it. On the other hand, I would never spend $50 on a game. At last I swallow my pride as an engineer, paid $40 and let someone soft mod it for me. Soft mod is a must for Wii to play download games. So far I have downloaded a dozen of games, I have spent a bit more some time playing Super Mario and the Gundam Wii game which I think eventually I may finish them. For the other games, I opened each one of them and lost interested pretty soon. I found playing Video game is just a waste of time in general, especially some games won’t foster any collective memory.

Other than playing downloaded games, the bonus of soft mod my Wii is the Home Brew Channel. (Read more at Wiibrew) I can run all soft of applications and thinker with my Wii. I installed Google Earth for Wii, a VNC client to copy my desktop from my TV over the Wii using the Wii remote as a mouse. The gold mine is really tons of ancient gaming console emulator. I can downloaded ROMs of old games from Snesorama and ROM Nation. I have played old games with emulator on my computer, but it’s different. You gotta play console games on a TV. I found I enjoy playing those ancient games more than the new Wii games. I feel like the Wii emulators finally filling the hole in my heart that I did not own any console game in childhood.

Free money

I just got $90 from BCLC (British Columbia Lottery Corperation) totally risk free. BCLC is the government charted lottery company in BC. They just started a new online casino business. In order to attract customers, they give out $100 token any new registered customer who deposit $100 into the account. As an engineer who had learn probability, I know those are free money at once. I can easily cash out the $100 by playing sicbo (big-small), betting on big and small at the same time. I lost a few games to triples, but since I only bet a small mount each time, I still have $90 out of the $100 after all the tokens are converted to cash.

I wonder how much money BCLC loss by luring customer this way. BC has 4.5 million population, times $100 per person, that comes to $4.5 billion. According to BCLC’s balance sheet, it only has $3.1 billion of net asset. If everyone in BC did exactly what I did, take the money and never come back again, we can bankrupt BCLC! Maybe anti-gambling organization should mobilize everyone get their $100 free money. What’s a better way to fight against gambling by bankrupting the casino?

On top of that, I suspect how many customers will BCLC get for their online casino. Gambling in a real casino, at least you can feel the physical atmosphere of a casino. Gambling in an online casino, it’s like just playing a crappy video game with poor graphics. Your money only shows up as a number on screen and all you can do is just making a few mouse clicks. What’s the fun of that? Since the odd is against gamblers, you already lost the moment you bet. Why would anyone want to lose money by clicking the mouse? I can click the mouse for a lot less money. Any reasonable mind would not find any amusement from gambling in online casino.