arts & entertainment

It’s time for another book report, but now also with anime and gaming.

The Ministry For the Future was a bit surprising overall. As I said before, it’s a science fiction story about how humanity finds the leverage to make the changes to cope with climate change, climate justice and related social justice issues. However, some of those levers and some character arcs were unexpected. Overall I found it mainly plausible, and both heartbreaking and heartening, if that makes sense. People are people — both foolish and wise, selfish and generous, callous and compassionate.

Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower is a shortish book by the author of Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth. This is a very different book — simpler, even predictable, but a fun and subversive parody of fairy tale and fantasy RPG tropes and a satire of traditional gender roles. It kind of is and isn’t a children’s tale, so parents of younger children might want to read it themselves first.

I’m most of the way through rereading/semi-skimming Musimathics Vol. 1. Not so much entertainment, in fact it’s very dry and textbookish at times. But it covers some of the science of sound, from basic physics to harmonic motion, vibrating systems, the anatomy of hearing and psychoacoustics, tuning systems and scales, and composition.

I figured I’d go back through it looking for inspiration. Haven’t really found much this time, but I do understand the Bohlen-Pierce scale a bit better now. (It works very well with cross-FM on the 4ms Ensemble Oscillator because the intervals are very consonant.)

Volume 2 — which I don’t have but have just ordered — covers digital audio, musical signals, spectral analysis and resynthesis, convolution, filtering and resonance, and other topics extremely relevant to sound synthesis and processing.


Scissor Seven is a Chinese anime, or I guess donghua, about a hairdresser / soup cook / would-be killer for hire who never kills anyone, the blue-feathered chicken who rescued him, the martial artists that are out to get him, the technocratic empire out to get everyone, and a pheasant with a taste for vengeance.

It’s as wacky as it sounds, and it has no trouble whiplashing between utterly goofy, deadly serious, super cute, disturbing, tragic, and romantic. But it’s pretty consistently good no matter which emotional buttons it’s pushing at any given time.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K is completely silly. The main character is a super-powerful psychic, with clairvoyance, mind control, psychokinesis, teleportation, invisibility, super strength, super speed and whatever else the plot needs… and he hates it and just wants to keep his secret and live a quiet, unremarkable, normal life, avoiding attention. But of course, there is nothing “normal” about life in high school, and attention inevitably falls on those trying hardest to avoid it.

“But the pink hair and the antennas,” one might protest. But he knew you were wondering about that, and explains in one episode that he’s used his mind control on the entire world to make them think unusual hair colors are completely natural. It’s not just a convention to help audiences distinguish dozens of simply drawn black-haired people, and for more information we can read his manga, he says.

A major part of the fun is that we get to hear his inner monologue, and he can hear the inner monologue of everyone around him (except for his “pal” Nendo who is too dense). And nearly everyone is either incredibly shallow, completely ridiculous, or likely to get him into trouble.

Yes, I’ve been playing Dirt Rally 2.0 fairly solidly since its release. But my employer gave out Amazon gift cards for Christmas and I decided to splurge on a Logitech G29 force feedback racing wheel.

A far cry from the old Atari paddle controllers or the plastic wheel thingy you can fit a Nintendo Switch controller in, wheels like this are motorized so they can transmit simulated friction, road bumps, the tendency of a car to straighten out on its own (or oscillate wildly under some conditions), and so on. It feels much more like actually driving a car, and gives feedback that helps you react more quickly and accurately.

At least in theory. It’s going to take some practice, particularly with the faster and less stable cars, to figure out how to correct my course each time things get a little off kilter. It took a while with a gamepad too — where there was very little physical feedback aside from rumbling, where instant swings from left to right were simple (but translated indirectly into wheel turning in the simulation), and quick little full-range flicks were often the most effective adjustment.

The wheels comes with a set of pedals, which are much more precise feeling than the short-throw triggers of an XBox style controller, but I can say that stomping a “real” brake pedal leads to a more convincing sense of panic than squeezing a plastic button. And it allows for a clutch, which is optional in the game but provides another method of control for turning or regaining stability. It’s just a matter of trying to play Dance Dance Revolution below the desk while armwrestling with a robot atop the desk.

I didn’t get the optional H-shifter accessory. There are shift paddles on the wheel itself which I thought I would prefer anyway, since I liked them on the Steam controller. But it’s pretty hard to downshift while also turning the wheel hard, so for now I’m mostly sticking with “semi-automatic” transmission so I don’t have to worry about it. Reversing is a bit awkward either with sequential paddle shifting or automatic — requiring either rapid taps of the left paddle to get all the way to reverse, or a sort of double-stomp on the brake pedal to start rolling backwards. But even with an XBox or Steam controller, if you ever have to back yourself out of being stuck you’re already going to lose several seconds and possibly slide around like a fish out of water and find more cliff faces and trees to ram into.

So my racing times are much worse right now but should improve with practice. It’s a lot more fun and exciting this way though, and a little bit of a workout too.

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