October 22nd, 2006


Imperial Treasures

Yesterday, we hopped in the car to visit the Van Gogh Museum. Not to see works by Van Gogh (somehow we're not really interested in those), but because there was an exhibition of Meiji-era artworks.
After the Meiji restoration, traditional Japanese craftsmanship was preserved even though the rest of the nation was modernised very rapidly. Through world exhibitions, the Japanese sold their wares to the west to bring in hard currency -- they even let a westerner choose which objects would be on display. Some professor has acquired a collection of over 2000 of such Meiji-era artefacts, and the exhibition (which had its last day today) showed a sample of that.

It is really hard to describe how beautiful some of the things on display were. There were things that had been made really detailed with lots of fiddly bits. But there were also things that had this simple, straight, pure beauty -- and only when you looked closer did you see the intricate details.
There were lots of things decorated with cloisonné enamel -- a technique afmetalsmith uses, which is why I am familiar with the basics. At first I couldn't believe it was actual enamel, so fine and detailed were the works, and so rich in color. There was an embroidered silk tapestry, which simply showed the sea -- but because of the threading in the silk, it was as if the waves actually moved when you looked at it. There was a document box wich showed a multitude of golden dragonflies, made with cloisonné enamel. There were silver vases enameld in rich, deep colors.

I am really glad we took the time to see this exhibition. And I am jealous of a guy who could collect 2000 of these things. If I had a collection like that, I'd never leave the house. Seriously.
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Glowing LED


After some experimentation, I have found that a delay-loop counting backwards from 127 to 0 is enough delay between changes in the clock line to reliably send a byte from one PIC to the other. This means that I could use the Timer-overflow-interrupt to send the individual bits -- two overflows per bit.
This means that I could (theoretically) send 244 bytes per second on to the next PIC. Sure, 244 baud is horribly slow for any sort of high-throughput data, but it is more than enough for my purposes. I think I would only need to send two bytes per 'light' that enters the next display segment, and there won't be a hundred of 'lights' travelling at such speeds that they will cross over into the next segment within a second.

I am pleased.

Finished series: Black Lagoon

We've finished watching Black Lagoon (which strangely enough I didn't do a first episode review for).

The Black Lagoon is a torpedo-boat, owned by Dutch, the 'director' of the Lagoon Company. Dutch is a veteran of the Vietnam war, who lives in a Thai harbor town. He has assembleed a crew consiting of Californian college student Benny (who does electronics and systems maintenance) and Levi 'Two-Hand', a Chinese American (who is a crack shot with her two pistols). Technically, the Lagoon Company is a transport company -- which is a nice way of saying "pirates".
In the first episode, their prey is a disc that Okajima Rokuro, a low-ranking salariman, is carrying. The disc contains sensitive data about the routes his shipping company takes, and Miss Balalaika, of the Russian maffia (operating as 'Hotel Moscow') is very interested in the data on that disc. On a whim, Levi decides to take Rokuro along as a hostage -- but soon it becomes clear that the higher-ups value his life less than the data on that disc! Rokuro is forced to cooperate with the pirates to survive, and in the end he decides to stick with them. His nickname becomes 'Rock'.

Rock is a pure-bred white-collar worker. While the rest of the crew wears whatever they like and find convenient, Rock keeps wearing his white shirts and ties. This straight-faced exterior makes it easier to conduct various types of transactions -- after all, even if you're buying weapons, it's still a commercial transaction.
Of course, Rock does get mixed up in the less savoury aspects of his work -- and the fact that there are less savoury aspects than buying automatic weapons from smuggling nuns should tell you something about the job.

Rock's colleagues are an easy-going bunch who can dish it out if the need arises. But Rock's working relationship with Levi is... problematic. For some reason those two rub each other the wrong way, but there seems to be something else going on, just below the surface. The series is a mix of Rock trying to fit in with his colleages (and sometimes getting in trouble because of his straightness), and gang-land violence (often perpetrated by Levi, who does not know how to back down).

Animation-wise, the series is pretty good. The character designs are executed in a realistic style, and there is quite a bit of detail. The stories themselves are interesting, though sometimes a tad bizarre. Obviously, there is a lot of violence, all quite matter-of-factly portrayed. The voice acting is superb, with Toyoguchi Megumi (Sato Sei from MariMite) doing a real number on Levi's voice.

Good points:
- Original (at least in the realm of anime);
- Doesn't pull any punches;
- Surprisingly character-driven for an action-series;
- Great voice-acting.
Bad points:
- Quite violent (if that's not your thing).

All in all, a good time. An 8.