I saw this on Twitter, and decided that this was an important phrase to learn in Chinese:



wǎng-shàng xūnǐ jiāoxīn bù yí

web-above virtual entrust not should

You should not make virtual commitments online.


While we’re at it, my Overwatch pals have been quoting D.Va’s comments in Korean, so let’s look at those in more detail.


a̠nɲjʌ̹ŋ ɦa̠sʰe̞jo

Annyeong haseyo!

peace you.have

Do you have peace? = How are you?

That first word is a borrowing from Chinese 安寧— Mandarin ānníng ‘peace, tranquility’. You will undoubtedly recognize the first character from 西安 Xī’ān, the ancient capital of China; also Heian, the ancient name for Kyoto. is very informal and also from the future, so she just says Annyeong!



Kamsa hamnida!

thanks have.assertive

I am thankful! = Thank you!

Again, the first word is a borrowing: 感謝 gǎnxiè ‘gratitude’; the common way to say “Thank you” in Mandarin— which you can hear Mei say in Overwatch— is 謝謝 xièxiè.

And again, D.Va informally says just Kamsa!

Mei’s “Hello” is 你好 Nǐhǎo, literally “you good?”


One thing I learned at the gym: ponytails don’t work as video game animators think they do.

Press F at just the right moment to avoid gruesome death

Press F at the right moment to avoid gruesome death

In video games, ponytails like Lara’s mostly bounce up and down. Playing games before, it looked all right to me. (You can get an idea of how Lara’s hair behaves from this video. It may not be immediately obvious, as her hair is also affected by the wind, and movements of her head.)

Actual ponytails move left to right. The range of motion is surprisingly high– if the ponytail isn’t too big, it’ll go through more than 180 degrees while its owner runs. (You can see this in this video.) A thicker or longer ponytail won’t move as much, but the motion is still left/right. Not surprisingly, it follows the motions of the arms. (If the woman is walking, there’s much less movement, but what there is remains left/right.)

Not a big deal, but a fun physics fact.

The oldsters never like the new music. This is a quotation from 乐记 Yuèjì (Record of Music), from the Warring States period, at least 2300 years ago.

The marquis Wén ask the sage Zǐxià why the old music puts him to sleep, while the new music does not.

Zǐxià duì yuē: “Jīn fū gǔ yuè, jìn lǚ tuì lǚ, hé zhèng yǐ guǎng.
Zǐxià back say / now EXCL ancient music / advance troop retreat troop / harmonious correct with wide
Zǐxià replied, “Now, in the ancient music, movements were in sync; there was harmony, correctness, and amplitude.

Xián páo shēng huáng, huì shǒu fǔ gǔ, shǐ zòu yǐ wén, fù luàn yǐ wǔ, zhì luàn yǐ xiāng, xùn jí yǐ yǎ.
string gourd pipe reed / can observe tap drum / begin play with culture / again disorder with martial / rule disorder with picture / examine quick with elegance
The strings, percussion, and pipes all follow the beat of the drum; they all begin in harmony, play their parts with martial vigor, master disorder with togetherness, play rapidly with elegance.

Jūnzǐ yú shì yǔ, yú shì dào gǔ, xiū shēn jí jiā, píng jūn tiānxià.
gentleman at this say / at this way ancient / repair body and family / level all heaven-under
In this the gentleman speaks and follows the ancient ways; mends body and family; the whole nation is pacified.

Cǐ gǔ yuè zhī fā yě.
this ancient music SUB pattern PT
This is how ancient music was.

Jīn fū xīn yuè, jìn fǔ tuì fǔ, jiān shēng yǐ làn, nì ér bùzhǐ;
now EXCL new music / enter face.down retreat face.down / evil sound with excess / drown and not stop
Now in the new music, movements are dispirited; the sound is evil and excessive; it is like perpetually drowning.

Jí yōu zhūrú, róu zá zǐ nǚ, bù zhī fù zǐ.
with artist dwarf scholar / blend mix son woman / not know father son
There are dwarf artists, men and women mixed together, of unknown family.

Yuè zhōng bù kě yǐ yǔ, bù kě yǐ dào gǔ.
music end not can with speak / not can with way ancient
Such music is not to be spoken of, and does not follow the ancient ways.

Cǐ xīn yuè zhī fā yě.
this new music SUB pattern PT
This is how today’s music is.

Jīn jūn zhī suǒ wèn zhě yuè yě, suǒ hào zhě yīn yě!
now noble SUB PASS ask NOM music PT / PASS good NOM sound PT
Now, what you ask about is music, but what you like is just sound.

Fū yuè zhě, yǔ yīn xiāng jìn ér bù tóng
EXCL music NOM / and sound each.other near and not alike
Music and sound are similar, but they are not the same!

The sage goes on to offer this useful advice: “The airs of Zheng go to a wild excess, and debauch the mind; those of Song tell of slothful indulgence and women, and drown the mind; those of Wei are vehement and rapid, and perplex the mind; and those of Qi are violent and depraved, and make the mind arrogant. The airs of those four states all stimulate libidinous desire, and are injurious to virtue;–they should therefore not be used at sacrifices.”

In UI design, a user model is how the user thinks something operates. This is my user model for the shower in my apartment.


  • I turn the faucets to a desired temperature.
  • The settings are transferred by mechanical means to the basement.
  • Sensors there determine the position of the controls. These are converted into verbal instructions and communicated by telephone to an old man, who actually adjusts the amount of cold and warm water.
  • The old man is deaf, grumpy, and frequently away or drunk, we don’t know.
  • He’s of mixed Italian and Serbo-Croat descent, and sometimes he hears “cold” as caldo (Italian ‘hot’), or “hot” as Serbo-Croat hladan ‘cold’.
  • Sometimes salesmen call; he takes whatever they say as more commands and changes the water setting. Or maybe it’s just sheer cussedness.
  • There is a range of settings that produces a warm, comfortable shower. These settings are marked “DO NOT USE, FIRING OFFENSE” and he strictly avoids them. However, he can sometimes be coaxed into this range by confusing him with frequent, contradictory orders.

This user model explains and predicts the shower behavior quite reliably.

It’s been twenty years since I wrote the American culture test, so it’s time for an update.

(Mostly it’s new pop culture references, but attitudes about race and sexuality have changed significantly, and there’s more to say about the Internet.)

You undoubtedly know about Ross Scott’s fantastic Freeman’s Mind, in which Gordan Freeman goes through all of Half-Life 1 talking to himself all the way, and turns out to be kind of a maladjusted douche (but an amusing one).    But he also has a series, with Craig Mendel, called Civil Protection.

Dave and Mike, you see, are two beat cops in City 17, trying to get through the day and keep themselves sane in post-apocalyptia. (It’s weird, though, to recognize Scott’s voice, so familiar as Freeman, playing Mike.) Here, warm up on this:

Most of the videos are pretty funny, but this one is the longest and goes into an unexpected direction:

This is one of the best machinima I’ve seen. As a short horror film, it’s actually more effective than this Source Filmmaker one. There’s some genuine mystery to it, and the change in tone as the two goofball cops get in over their heads is cleverly done. Scott’s approach to horror is minimalist, which is refreshing– he doesn’t try to gross us out, and the slow building up of the story allows us to get interested.

(A warning, though– it seems to end on a cliffhanger, and doesn’t offer any closure. FWIW he’s put out another entry in the series, a comedy, but I don’t know if he intends to continue this particular story.)

Sometimes I’m slow to pick up on things… Youtube has been around for ages, and for ages I’ve read about Winsor McCay’s animations and wanted to see them, but I didn’t put these two facts together till now.

As one of the earliest of animators, he’s most famous for Gertie the Dinosaur, available here.  But to my mind, his 1912 How a Mosquito Operates is funnier and holds up better.

The repetitions are a bit weird, but a) probably were enhanced by music, and b) helped pad out the piece, a perennial animator’s preoccupation, magnified in these days before the invention of the cel.

McCay was an amazing and lightning-fast draftsman, which allowed him to personally produce the thousands of drawings needed.  What’s more remarkable is his ability to produce lifelike movement.  Today you can look up in a book how to animate, or use computer tools to preview your animation, but McCay was inventing his techniques.

And even more remarkable is the humor and humanity that he puts into his characters.  I used to watch compilations of computer animations in the ’80s; the technical mastery was impressive, but almost no one attempted stories or characters.  McCay’s mosquito, though horrifyingly large, is in his own way dapper and endearing.  His persistence and greed give the short a story, and once he’s gorged on blood McCay shows off both technical prowess (the skeeter really looks heavy) and humor (he has such a hard time flying an inch off the humanscape).  Not a few contemporary animators could learn from this sequence how movement can be funny.

(For McCay’s comics work, see Bob’s review here.)

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