Roving Thoughts archives


A comment on Katanagatari's ending

(Warning: there are indirect spoilers here for the endings of both Katanagatari and Haibane Renmei.)

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anime/KatanagatariEndingBit written at 14:19:29; Add Comment


Why I have a camera slingbag but you probably shouldn't

Camera slingbags are inherently a compromise. Backpacks (and some belt systems and the like) provide better support, while shoulder bags and belt systems provide faster access to gear. This compromise nature is why I think you probably shouldn't get a slingbag since you can do better on either aspect and in the long run I think the compromises inherent in a slingbag will prove irritating.

(Especially I would not get a big slingbag because slingbags just don't provide enough support for carrying a relatively heavy load.)

Why I have a slingbag, and specifically why I have a Lowepro AW-series slingbag, is that I am an impatient bicyclist. As a bicyclist I need to carry my camera in some way that keeps it both stable and out of the way; this rules out both belt systems and anything like a plain shoulder bag. As an impatient bicyclist I want my camera to be relatively quickly accessible so there is not a big time-consuming production involved in stopping to take a picture; this rules out backpacks. So I'm left with the Lowepro slingbag; it's stable enough to stay in place even with relatively aggressive bicycling and being able to just unhook the stabilization strap and sling the bag around keeps the camera accessible enough to make me happy when I stop to take pictures. I live with the relative lack of support (which I can definitely feel on long days with relatively heavy loads) and the relative lack of fast access because I need the particular combination in the middle.

(Why the Lowepro specifically? Because it has a second stabilization strap that holds the slingbag firmly in place when it's clipped on to the main strap. I've been unable to find any other slingbag with such a stabilization strap, although I haven't looked everywhere.)

PS: in some ways I'd be better served by a handlebar bag that was big enough for my camera (and lens), padded enough so I could trust it to not rattle the camera too much, and detachable so I could take it with me when I get off the bike. Unfortunately you really want drop handlebars to create the cable-free space for such a relatively large handlebar bag and, well, I don't have them on my current bike.

(Update: it turns out that I'm wrong about the Lowepro being the only slingbag with a stabilization strap; they're actually reasonably common if you look around and read specifications in detail. Due to not having seen or played with any of the alternatives in person, I have no opinions on the relative merits of my Lowepro versus the alternatives.)

photography/SlingbagWhyNot written at 00:06:04; Add Comment


Checking in on the Winter 2013 anime season 'midway' through

It's time for the traditional look back at my early impressions of this season. I've delayed this long enough that it's not really 'midway' any more, at least in time. Partly this is because I've been only watching shows slowly myself for various reasons.

This is in order:

  • Sasami-san@Ganbaranai: This is the clear hit of the season for me. It's nothing like I was expecting at the start and as far as I'm concerned this is a good thing. (I like good surprises.)

    (Episode 8 has an unfortunate drastic drop in animation quality but episode 9 recovered.)

  • Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo: This is full throttle, no excuses popcorn entertainment. I'm watching this to cheer as villains get beaten up and amusing things happen, and it's delivering those with no pretenses of any depth.

  • Yama no Susume: This needs more focus on the characters doing interesting things instead of mountaineering gear. I feel a degree of affection for it and I like it when I bother to watch, but I don't feel any particular push to watch more most of the time.

  • Hakkenden Touhou Hakken Ibun: While I'm still watching this I feel ambivalent about it. Some aspects are nice (especially some of the secondary characters) but other bits of it are alternately annoyingly predictable or just stuff that I'm not interested in. I've recently been watching this only in bursts of several episodes at once; I may well not watch any more.

    (I just looked this up and it's apparently only scheduled for 13 episodes, which means that there's no chance of it having a real conclusion. I think my motivation to watch more just took a major nosedive.)

  • Vividred Operation: The longer this runs, the more soulless it feels and the less interested I feel in watching more; it very much lacks some sort of vital spark of life. If I was smart I would drop this and use my time for other things; as it stands I still haven't bothered to watch the latest episode. Part of the problem is that the show still hasn't made me really care about any of the characters (cf).


  • Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman: In the end I just felt unmotivated to watch the third episode. I think that part of the problem is that the setup just feels too much like a kid's cartoon.

    (I may well be missing something good here, but lack of motivation is lack of motivation.)

  • Senran Kagura: I dropped this almost immediately after my initial impressions post as too empty and boring, among other things, and then managed to forget about it so much that I left it out of the first version of this entry.

De facto suspended:

  • Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (#15): In the end I lost most of my interest and motivation for this when it turned into a love triangle. Actually, I think I'm going to admit things and call this dropped outright.

  • Robotics;Notes (#12): Too slow and not focusing on things that interested me. In theory I might try to marathon a bunch of episodes at once to see if I like it better that way.

In (other) series carried over from last season, Shin Sekai Yori, Zetsuen no Tempest, and Psycho-Pass are all still being excellent. They rank ahead of everything from this season except perhaps Sasami-san. If it was not for them, this season would be basically a desert for me.

(I'm not convinced that that would have been a bad thing; if the season had been a total bust I might have dug into Chihayafuru and/or AKB0048, or even some other old shows that I have vaguely queued up.)

Updated: I forgot Senran Kagura. Now fixed.

anime/Winter2013Midway written at 17:17:01; Add Comment


The best N anime that I saw in 2012

This is much like last year's best N, namely what I consider to be the best or the most enjoyable N anime that I saw in calendar 2012 (regardless of when they were made or released). This is much more delayed than usual for various reasons, including that nothing that finished in calendar 2012 really set me on fire the way shows have in past years. I was also trying to make up my mind about how to handle the strong crop of fall 2012 shows that haven't finished yet. In the end I've decided to declare unfinished shows ineligible at least for 2012.

(This is a real pity as it takes out a number of strong shows, one of them (Girls und Panzer) only because they didn't manage to get two episodes finished in time to air them as scheduled.)

More or less in order, at least at the start:

  • Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita: Subtle and clever but also in your face obvious, biting yet with a heart, Jinrui is not really an accessible show but I love it anyways because in the end it made me think. I've written lots more that I'm not going to try to repeat.

  • Wasurenagumo: This is a short bit of very well executed cute horror with a disturbing ending that only gets worse the more you think about it. If you squint at this carefully you can see a classical tragedy underneath. It has absolutely no blood and is by far the better for it.

  • Lupin III - Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna: Ambitious, different, and not entirely successful but still a journey that was worth it; it helps that its high points were excellent. In the end it gave us the only answer to 'who is Mine Fujiko' that was really possible. (See also.)

  • K: It's difficult for me to condense the appeal of K down to a few words. In the end I think I like it so much because it hits the mark so well and so often in its short run, and it makes everything fit together without feeling artificial. It's the rare show that is exactly the right length.

    I wrote a bunch more words about it in my fall retrospective.

  • Giant Robo: This is a deserved classic that has a lot going for it. I think it's good and well worth your time, but in the end it didn't entirely click for me; I found myself questioning things about it that I shouldn't have been if it had fully swallowed me up in its magic. Perhaps I am too old and too cynical to really appreciate it.

Shows that I consider good but not memorable over the long term:

  • Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror: A nice movie in the general Ghibli line of 'kid has encounter with the supernatural'; you should not be put off by the use of basic 3-D rendering.

  • Hotarubi no Mori e: Touching and bittersweet. I think it's just the right length for its story.

  • Ano Natsu de Matteru: I enjoyed watching this and it's a worthy successor or sequel (depending on your views) to the old Onegai series. But I have no urge to rewatch either them or this.

  • Campione!: I think that this is better than it was generally given credit for; it had several interesting novel aspects and things that we rarely see. But it was not so novel and so well executed as to lift it out of the 'good but not memorable' class. (See also.)

  • Moretsu Pirates: This was enjoyable and good but in the end there it didn't have enough substance to make it really memorable. That it didn't really come to any sort of conclusion didn't really help. (See also and also.)

  • Aquarion EVOL: Gonzo and crazy in the best way and it has an epic troll in episode 23. But everything else is a bit lacking, which means that it has no actual depth; the entire point is the crazyness. This may be worth watching once but I don't think there's anything there for a second visit. (See also.)

  • Dantalian no Shoka OVA: As time goes by it becomes clearer and clearer that Dantalian has wormed its way into my heart somehow; I have an unreasonable affection for it and wish I could see more. Seeing this OVA tugged at my heartstrings and left me as wistful as I expected.

I wish that I could put Dog Days' into this list with a clear conscience, but I can't because nothing happened in it. I'm not so enamoured of the setting and characters that I was really happy to have watched thirteen episodes of nothing much.

Things that were enjoyable fun and that I want to throw into this entry for various reasons without saying very much about:

  • Moyashimon Returns: This isn't as memorable as the original series but that's not because this isn't good, it's because the original series was so relatively crazy.

  • The Princess and the Pilot: A good adventure movie with a bunch of interesting flying.

  • Hoshi o Ou Kodomo: Movies are spectacles in a way that TV anime is often not. This doesn't have a really deep and complex story, but it does things well.

Although I saw A Letter to Momo this year I don't think it's good enough to make this list.

(I find it a bit hard to figure out where to place movies in this sort of end of year list. Movies are almost invariably much better made and more interesting than four or five episodes of TV anime, so how do I really evaluate their merits properly?)

In the end I completed 28 series and movies this year. To my surprise this is only slightly less than the 30 from last year; before I actually got these numbers I thought that my watching was way down. I do think that I watched more movies this year than usual (if I'm counting right, six).

anime/BestNIn2012 written at 19:32:58; Add Comment


A brief, opinionated summary of Linux RAW processing options

For reasons that don't fit in the margins of this entry, I've been looking at and doing brief tests with a bunch of Linux RAW processing programs lately. Rather than have all of this fall out of my mind in a bit, here's my views written down.

(If you're coming here through a web search you should pay attention to the publication date of this entry. The information here will probably be out of date in six months and will definitely be out of date in a year or two. I'll put in a link to any future updates I make.)

Update (April 16 2013): I now recommend darktable over Rawtherapee. See DarktableVsRawtherapee.

As a starting point I will note that I do not want a program to do catalog management for me. I have my own system for that and I've got no interest in shoveling all of my photographs into some opaque black box. What I want out of a RAW processing program is processing a directory of RAW files and generating output; I will take it from there, thanks.

  • Bibble 5: Apart from not being buyable any more, not having been updated for any cameras released since mid to late 2011, and a certain paucity of plugins, this works great. It's what I use now and will be using for as long as possible (ie, until I get a new camera that it doesn't support). Yes, it costs money; it was worth it (on Linux).

  • AfterShot Pro: This is what Bibble 5 was upgraded into after Corel bought out Bibble Labs. It may work well for some people but for me it was strictly worse than Bibble 5 (except for some plugins). The straw that broke the camel's back was realizing that its handling of white balance was so broken that I couldn't change white balance or use spot white balance at all (if I did, it added bonus colour casts and white wasn't). This bug was known and had not been fixed across multiple updates and releases.

    (If ASP did not have this bug I would probably be using it today as my best option. But the other problem with ASP is that there is a great deal of uncertainty over whether Corel will keep updating it to, for example, add support for new cameras. That they fired the entire Bibble development team is broadly not seen as good news.)

  • Rawtherapee: Tolerable (assuming that you're using the latest source code or 4.0.10; 4.0.9 mangled colours in some of my D90 NEFs). I have various gripes with RT and it's often rather clunky and nowhere near as fluid as Bibble, but it ultimately does work. I could use it, although I would grit my teeth periodically. Rawtherapee is your best current option on Linux even though it doesn't fill me with enthusiasm.

    (One problem is that RT offers you too many options for doing things and no guidance on which one is usually the best approach. I feel fairly strongly that RAW processors should pick one best option for as many things as possible and then put it front and center, relegating any other versions to the distant sidelines.)

  • darktable is my dark horse hope. I'd like to love it but I just can't in the end because every time I use it I'm left with very divided opinions. On the one hand, there's a bunch of stuff that it gets right (and better than Rawtherapee). On the other hand there's also a lot of things that I feel it gets wrong and some things that are plain out in utter left field. It's also even more complex and scattershot than Rawtherapee, which makes for a very frustrating experience; at one point I almost gave up on it over my inability to find basic adjustments for saturation.

    (It turns out that in the darktable way there are several different saturation adjustments; one in 'Velvia', one hiding inconspicuously in the colour correction module, and one in 'Vibrance'. I had to Google this to find a blog entry from the darktable people. RAW processors should have a prominent panel of standard image options like brightness, saturation, contrast, etc, all using the best version that the processor has.)

    Although I'm sure that it's an illusion, darktable really feels to me like no actual photographer tried to use it for serious work (even more so than Rawtherapee, which has some of the same issues). It has so many usability issues and things that I think should be different that it feels more like a project by enthusiastic programmers who shoved as many nifty image processing tools into it as they could without sitting down to process photographs and then ask themselves 'does this actually work in practice?'.

    I can imagine using darktable and in some ways I feel that it's better than Rawtherapee but I don't think I'd really enjoy it in the state that darktable is in today. Also, every so often in my testing I ran into UI glitches and bugs. One way to put this is darktable is a program that you love despite itself.

    PS: the best way to make darktable just process a directory of files instead of trying to import everything into a collection is 'darktable --library :memory: /your/dir'. (Thanks go to <hanatos> on the darktable IRC channel.)

  • Lightzone is the great white hope of Linux RAW processors, a commercial RAW processor that failed in the marketplace but was then released as open source (see the Wikipedia entry). Unfortunately there are no actual opensource builds yet. But lots of people quite liked the commercial version, so maybe someday.

  • rawstudio is either too basic or too good at hiding its more advanced options. I stopped looking at it after I couldn't find an option for spot white balance.

  • fotoxx: I found the version of this packaged by Fedora 17 to be clumsy, awkward, annoying, and limited. I think its interface is a terrible mistake for getting real photo processing work done and I dislike its habit of silently writing out .tiff files for any RAWs that it appears to look at. I consider it unusable in practice.

  • digiKam: I don't want a 'photo management application' that insists on swallowing all of my photos. I just want to develop my RAWs. In the interests of fairness I gave it a basic try and it immediately failed the 'has spot white balance' test, which is not surprising when they basically steer you very hard away from actually processing your RAWs when you import them.

  • Photivo: Not evaluated.
    The Fedora 17 package that they supply failed to run due to a missing file that should have been included. But the documentation on their web site doesn't make me encouraged about the program's likely features and power.

    Update, April 16 2013: I built Photivo from source and it turns out that it's purely for processing a single file at a time. This makes it useless for me regardless of any other merits it might have.

  • UFRaw offers no viable way of going through a directory of RAWs to select which ones are worth working on; it's strictly oriented to processing a single one. This fails my usability criteria regardless of any actual RAW processing features it may have.

While this is every current Linux RAW processor that I know about, I probably don't know about them all. Please feel free to mention any that I've missed in the comments.

(Explicitly not considered: using Wine or some other Windows virtualization method to run various Windows software options.)

Sidebar: Macs and Windows are better for this

I'm going to say it straight up: the overall quality of the RAW processing software you can get on Macs and Windows clearly exceeds any of these Linux options. The closest that Linux can come is AfterShot Pro, and that is somewhere around third tier software in the Mac and Windows worlds. If good, high quality photo processing is a significant priority for you, you should not be doing it on Linux.

(My vague impression is that Macs are currently a somewhat better choice than Windows for reasons that do not fit in the margins of this sidebar.)

I don't process my photos on Linux because it's a good idea; I do it because I'm welded to Linux for other reasons and I'm not yet at the point where I'm willing to buy a second system (it'd be a Mac) and find the space for it. If I was more committed to my photography, this would be one of the things that would change.

photography/LinuxRAWProcessors written at 23:01:15; Add Comment

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