2015-08-17

On Lavatories (originally posted on uCoz)

There's a parody of the Christmas carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" called "The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen". In short, the singer enters the wrong bathroom after some prankster switches the signs, where he finds "two nuns, three old ladies, and a nurse" who turn on him before he's realized what's going on. It's played for laughs, but considering he meant no harm and didn't even begin to do anything threatening, it hardly seems fair that he's hit with a can of mace and a handbag before he even gets half a chance to explain himself. Ending up with "two black eyes and one high heel up [his] behind" feels like something he ought to be pressing charges for. I get that men are expected to stay out of the women's bathroom, and vice versa (though apparently to a lesser extent, given that most people seem to be generally fine with women using the men's room when the women's room is crowded), but that reaction seems a bit excessive. Yet he might have problems even trying to go to the authorities, since the laws in some places are such that he's committed a crime just by walking through that door. That honestly shocked me when I first heard about it. Social disapproval is one thing, but legal prohibition? What a waste of law enforcement.

Which brings me to what led to this posting, though I've been sitting on it for a few months. I was disturbed after seeing an article shared on facebook, about efforts somewhere to promote non-gendered bathrooms—instead of, or in addition to, men's rooms and women's rooms, there would just be generic bathrooms, where people could simply go and dispose of bodily wastes regardless of who they were. Now, it wasn't either this proposal or the article itself that I had a problem with. It was the perplexing amount of hostility in some of the opposition to the notion. I recall, in particular, a vehement assertion that only perverts could possibly approve of such a thing. Well. I suppose that all depends on how you define "pervert".

To start with, there's simply too much diversity in people for any statement like that to be plausible. People can come up so many reasons for so many things that it's difficult to imagine that not a single person has any reasons at all that are even slightly legitimate. Whether these reasons outweigh the opposing reasons or whether there would be a better way to address them or whether they're even logically sound to begin with are all separate questions. It's unfair and intellectually dishonest to simply dismiss these reasons out of hand, much less immediately turn to name-calling. To quote someone who put it rather well, "There are very real reasons why people feel the way they do. ...people with strong opinions about various social matters have those opinions for reasons that, if nothing else, are very real to them, and might even have been borne out of pain." (from author commentary for EGS strip posted 2015-04-27).

Anyway, back to the main point. Single-occupancy bathrooms, as a specific case, have no legitimate reason for gender designation. There's one person in there at a time, so privacy isn't an issue, safety isn't an issue, but-think-of-the-children doesn't come into it... seriously, if anyone can come up with a better reason than "that's just the way we do things", feel free to let me know. (EDIT: I've come across one reason, but I wouldn't call it "better". The law in many jurisdictions requires that facilities be available for both women and men. That's understandable, but the way some of these laws are worded means that a building with three single-occupancy unisex bathrooms, for example, legally counts as having no bathrooms. Which makes no sense, but that happens far too often when the law gets involved.) And taking the signs off ought to help mothers with young sons or fathers with young daughters, at least. In the more general case, if it's such a bad idea to provide non-gendered bathrooms—or, on a related note, to formally sanction transgender people using the bathroom that matches their expressed gender—then surely there are more convincing arguments than calling anyone who might consider allowing it a pervert. I'm having difficulty coming up with any that don't fall apart on examination, though.


Does the question of privacy concern you? Any decent bathroom should provide adequate privacy, and if it doesn't, you should direct your complaints at the designers, not the users. On that note, the same could be argued of dressing rooms and even locker rooms, unless you're trying to say that you don't care who sees you naked as long as they have the same bits between their legs as you do, and that frankly seems silly. Whether strangers can see you naked or not at all, or at least whether they're being abusive about it, should matter more than who those strangers happen to be. Shouldn't it?

Does it concern you that children might seeing things they shouldn't? That gets back to the privacy thing again. It shouldn't be an issue. Besides, if you actually care about your kids, beyond using them as pawns in an argument, maybe you should be keeping an eye them. Beyond that, children are surprisingly resilient, and, more to the point, generally don't care about these things, and probably won't pay any attention to them to begin with, until and unless you make a fuss about them.

Does it concern you that people might abuse their access to perpetrate some improper activity? Anything can happen, but shouldn't people face consequences for what they actually do, not what they might do? Otherwise we're back to the days of trying to ban VCRs (or diskettes, or CDs, or the Internet, or...) because people could use them to make illegal copies of things, instead of focusing on the illegal copying itself (though that's a whole other can of worms). It should be pretty easy to tell when someone is behaving inappropriately (if it's not, then that's again a problem with the bathroom itself), and to respond accordingly. Besides that, it's a possibility no matter who is allowed in. There's no simple way to categorize people so that everyone any given group will be harmless. Ultimately, there's no telling what anyone will do, and what's between their legs is hardly an assurance of innocence. If you take seriously such worries about what other people might do, then you should already be watching your back and wary of strangers to some extent.

Does it concern you because it's against your religion? Well, first there's the question of whether it actually is, and not just a case of your prejudices assuming so and using your religion as an excuse. But either way, try coming back to this one after beef is banned because Hinduism considers the cow sacred, bacon is banned because Muslims don't eat pork, lying is banned because Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness, and rock and roll is banned because it's the devil's music or whatever that particular bit of hysteria is about. That's not how things work here. If you object to something, feel free to not do it, but that doesn't give you the right to make anyone else follow suit.

Does it concern you that letting someone with a penis and someone with a vagina empty their bladders in different private stalls in the same general space will somehow lead to the downfall of society, or something similarly ominous? How? I've seen hysterical claims that similarly innocuous things are causing the downfall of America, but really, now. Maybe you should think that one through a little more.

Does it concern you that people who don't conform to the customary either/or male/female gender binary would be able to deal with a basic biological necessity in a civilized manner, while having a legal recourse in case of harassment or worse, instead of having to worry about potentially being arrested for simply going about their business? Yeah, it's definitely time to rethink your priorities.


And if you think it's acceptable to enforce restroom segregation by checking people's genitalia, then I think it's time to consider rethinking who's really acting like a pervert.


(added 2015-08-28): I also meant to link to the Transgender Law Center's Peeing in Peace guide.

2015-07-02

Tricky Japanese terms: さすが (originally posted on uCoz)

Related to やっぱり, but subtly different, さすが is typically used when remarking on something that affirms an expectation or assumption based on a reputation or role that involves the object of the expectation being noticeably different from ordinary. It could be something good, bad, or just strange, but absolutely not commonplace and boring. It also seems to carry a sense of being impressed despite having already expected something impressive.

A typical usage is to praise people for living up to the expectations of others. As an example, early in Chrono Trigger, a prototype teleporter malfunction results in a young woman vanishing, so Crono, the protagonist, picks up the pendant that apparently triggered the malfunction and steps onto the device, prompting this line: 「後を追うってのかクロノ。さすがは男だぜ!」 ("So, you're going after her, Crono. Way to be a man!"). Putting aside the question of whether this actually has anything to do with being a man, the speaker, at least, has certain beliefs about what a real man is supposed to do in a situation like this, and Crono's actions meet with his approval.

さすが can also be used, often in a form like さすがの~も or さすがに~も and in a negative sentence, where it indicates that not even someone like that is capable of this particular feat, highlighting how difficult or otherwise extreme the action would be. "You may be good," it says, "but you're not that good." Or bad, since it can also express depths of evil even the villains wouldn't stoop to, like 「さすがの暗殺者でもあんなことはしない」 ("Even an assassin [who might be thought capable of anything] wouldn't do something like that"), or just simply weird, like if you want to call something so bizarre that not even your friend with the peculiar tastes would like it. To use an example that isn't in a negative sentence, take this line from an Ar tonelico 2 Cosmosphere: 「だって、この世界に来て早々「生け贄になれ!」なんて言ったら、さすがの貴方でも逃げるでしょ?」 ("I mean, if I said, 'Be a sacrifice!' right after you came to this world, even you [regardless of however brave and loyal you may be] would run away, right?").

In a related nuance, さすがに can be used in a sense that roughly means things aren't likely to work out as well as hoped, or similarly, something like "I had thought I would be capable of more than I'm turning out to be". So 「さすがに入りたくない」 corresponds to something like "[Maybe I'm wimping out, but] I really don't want to go in there." It also overlaps with やっぱり to some extent, though these cases feel more like "it's hardly surprising that X" than "X, just as expected" to me... though I'm not sure I can explain why.

To give a brief comparison of やっぱり and さすが,
  • 「やっぱり行きたくない」 feels more like: I wasn't really interested in going to begin with, but I thought it over a bit anyway. After some consideration, I still don't want to go.
  • 「さすがに行きたくない」 feels more like: Most people in my position wouldn't want to go, and maybe I'm being disappointingly average—or simply sane!—but neither do I.
Or let's say Link just saved a town.
  • 「やっぱり勇者ですね」: Well, that settles it. Some may have had their doubts, but it turns out he really is a hero.
  • 「さすがは勇者ですね」: He's a hero, all right, and he's just gone and done something excitingly heroic again.

2015-03-17

Secret of Mana / Seiken Densetsu 2 / Legend of the Holy Sword 2 in the works (originally posted on uCoz)

So I've finally gotten around to putting together full text dumps from the game, with everything decoded except control codes (movement, sound effects, music changes, and so on are all lumped in with the text, instead of the text being in its own block and called by reference like it is in most of the other games I've dealt with). Aided by a reasonably functional editor, and a gamefaqs message thread with a remarkable amount of technical data as reference, and BizHawk's RAM Watch functionality to test some things, the section is shaping up rather nicely.

It's not ready to be posted yet, but for now, here's a list of some findings I thought were interesting and possibly surprising.

General technical data:
  • Hit rate and evade rate are, by most standards, weird. Though misses are of course possible, especially against evasive enemies, the main thing high hit or evade does is to minimize both the chance and the severity of penalties to effective attack or defense power.
  • There are also hit and evade rates for magic. Though magic can't miss outright, both offense and defense can suffer from penalties, much like physical attacks.
  • Random variation is added to both attack and defense, but only when not penalized for failing a hit or evade check.
  • Mana energy (number of seeds activated) does more than just increase maximum spell level. The value squared is also added to the effectiveness of attacks and spells, except when they get the penalty for failing their hit check.
  • Critical hits appear to ignore defense in addition to doubling attack power. A hit that is not critical cannot inflict more than (999 - target's effective defense) damage. This is why attacks against the final boss most typically cause a bit under 550 damage (it has a game-highest 450 defense).
Armor data:
  • All headgear gives +23 evasion and +23 magic evade. All body armor gives +37 evasion and +15 magic evade. All accessories give +15 evasion and +37 magic evade. Get a full set of equipment as soon as you can!
  • Some armors give stat bonuses, raising Strength, Agility, Vitality, or Intelligence (or a combination of them) by 5. This is documented on any number of websites, but other than checking your status screen before and after each change, the game itself doesn't seem to give any indication of this. There's also a flag set for some of them that looks like it ought to raise Spirit, but it has no effect.
  • There are some other bits in the stat bonuses byte that have the same value for all armor/headgear/accessories, and might be meant to change the amount of the bonus.
  • Some armors prevent certain status effects. Again, this is documented here and there, but the game itself gives no indication of it. One useful one is that the Ochu Ring (Ivy Amulet), sold in the town by a mountain full of flowers that like to spam Sleep Flower, prevents characters from being put to sleep.
  • The armor data has two bytes that are set to 0x00 for everything. I expect one was meant to give an elemental affinity. The other I'm less sure of, but bonus defense against specific monster groups seems like a good possibility.
  • The Ruby Armet, a 46 defense / 46 magic defense helmet for The Girl, appears to be unobtainable.
Weapon data:
  • Most level 9 weapons have no special traits, not counting slightly higher attack power than the level 8 version. Other than the Sword of Mana (which is deliberately overpowered and only supposed to be obtained by special means in the very final battle), the only exception is the Fuuma Shuriken (Ninja's Trump), which keeps the Shuriken's critical rate bonus. However, that's not generally such a big deal, since it turns out that most of the special bonuses weapons get are largely useless anyway. More specifically...
  • Racial bonuses are glitched and do not work. All those "effective against"s do nothing.
  • Every weapon that has +2 to a stat in its description actually gives only +1. This is generally too little to make a meaningful difference.
  • However, critical rate bonuses and, of course, status effects work just fine, so there's that.
  • Speaking of critical hit rate, Bows, Boomerangs, and Javelins have half the critical hit rate of the other weapons.
  • The Diamond Flail (Nimbus Chain), Masamune, and Deathstrike Bow (Doom Bow) give a critical hit rate bonus of 10 per 256 hits. The Shuriken and Fuuma Shuriken (Ninja's Trump) give a bonus of 5 per 256 hits. (these numbers account for the halved rate for weapon type where applicable)
  • In addition to letting you charge attacks higher, gaining weapon skill levels also provides a small bonus to critical hit rate (3 per 256 hits for most weapons, or 3 per 512 hits for the halved ones).
  • Each character also has an innate bonus to critical hit rate, which is added after all the weapon modifiers (meaning it's not halved regardless of weapon). The Girl's bonus (10 per 256 hits) is twice as large as The Boy's and The Sprite's (5 per 256 hits).
Magic data:
  • At equal levels, Freeze is as powerful as Earthquake (Earth Slide), Thunderbolt, and Explode(r). So are Dark Force and Saint (Lucent) Beam.
  • Burst has the most raw power of any spell, but is hindered by being gained so late in the game and being unable to take advantage of a weakness. Conversely, over a dozen enemies, including several bosses, resist it.
  • Lava Wave is weaker than Fireball. Its only discernible advantage is that it's easier to spam.
  • All Saber spells give a damage bonus based on spell level and number of targets. They also change the weapon's element, but due to a glitch, this normally has no effect. As a result, Thunder Saber and Holy (Light) Saber are only good for the attack bonus.
  • Refresh (Remedy) doesn't remove status effects directly, instead reducing their remaining duration. Usually, though, the spell is strong enough, and durations short enough, that it works out to the same thing.
  • Antimagic (Dispel Magic) works similarly for most effects. When used against Countermagic (Wall), it removes a number of remaining uses, depending on spell level.
  • Evil Gate works sort of like a Final Fantasy-style Gravity spell except that it averages the target's current and maximum hit points instead of going off just the current value. Other spells normally kill faster, though, and don't cost as much to cast. Evil Gatedoes have the advantage of ignoring magic defense, at least.
  • Twinkle (Lucid) Barrier functions similarly to the Golem summon in some Final Fantasy games, taking a set amount of damage in place of the target. The amount increases with level, but is divided by the number of targets, and also capped at the target's max HP. Furthermore, the shield has reduced defense as compared to the target, especially when the spell is multitargeted.
  • Spell animations use new data for every two levels, though for many spells some, or even all, of the data just duplicates the previous levels. The interesting part is that not only do the definitions go up to level 8 (and 9), but each spell also has an entry for level 10 and 11. The data for levels 10 and 11 is identical to the data for levels 8 and 9 in all cases, but that fact that it exists at all is curious.
  • On that note, most spells continue to work normally and increase in strength if spell level is artificially set above level 8. The Saber spell attack bonus and Evil Gate's damage divide by zero when single-targeted at level 10, giving no bonus for Sabers and 999 damage for Evil Gate. At level 11, Sabers continue to provide no bonus, while Evil Gate does apparently nothing at all.
  • Speaking of spell levels... many players know that spells raised to level 8 plus some additional experience have a chance of having a "super" effect that (usually) has a special animation and also stops time while the animation is playing. What's not so obvious is that this is the only time the spell acts as level 8. When a level 8 spell does not use the "super" effect, the game treats it as a level 7 spell.
Monster data:
  • Most monsters have no defense or magic defense. Those with no defense also have no evasion, and those with no magic defense also have no magic evade. However, every monster with any defense also has evasion in the 90s, and every monster with any magic defense also has 99 magic evade. This is presumably due to the odd side effects of low evade mentioned above under general technical data.
  • Nearly every monster has a category (race/type/whatever), but most don't matter due to weapon bonuses against them not working. However undead/demon monsters reverse HP draining effects used against them, and incorporeal monsters reverse MP draining effects used against them.
  • Monsters with the Moon or Wood element seem to resist their own element (which is normal), but unlike the other elements, have no special vulnerability to the opposite. As noted above, this hinders the usefulness of Burst, since it can never take advantage of a weakness.
Status effects:
  • Most status effects have an associated timer and will wear off when the timer expires. Being shrunken is one of the few exceptions.
  • For whatever reason, shrinking someone with the Munchkin Hammer (Midge Mallet) also sets the timer for Moogle to its maximum value (which equates to 85 seconds).
  • Many status effects will remove Saber spells as a side effect. This is reportedly due to them force-equipping special internal "weapons" to trigger their graphical effects.
  • There's an unused status effect, からみつき, which translates to "Tangled" and is called "TANGLED UP" in the list of status effects in the English version. Based on what appears to be the message for when it's inflicted, this status would have prevented its victim from moving for the duration. This is distinct from the status that the Speed Down spell and several weapons cause (that's おもり, which translates to "heavy" or "weighed down" and is called "SLOWED DOWN" in the English version).
Story and events:
  • It's probably common knowledge that Gemma (Jema) will revive The Boy as needed if his fight with the Mantis Ant goes badly. It turns out that it's also not possible to get a Game Over before the fight. If you manage to die before then, The Boy regains consciousness where he found the sword, and continues from there.
  • Weapon Orbs aren't a thing in the Japanese text. The weapons gain Weapon Power instead. This does make it hard to explain how NPCs can give it to you, though.
  • Goblins won't ambush The Boy if he never talked to the soldiers outside the Water Temple who are preparing to go after the witch. It's unclear whether this is deliberate or just the result of reusing event flags without being careful enough about it.
  • Avoiding the Goblin ambush means The Boy doesn't meet The Girl there, so she won't immediately join him if they encounter each other in Pandora, which also means he can go talk to her father and suitor in the meeting room. If he then goes to her house, things get a bit weird, with The Girl vanishing when talked to instead of walking out (apparently the event scripts were never completed), and her father trying to say her name even though it was never set.
  • If The Girl is not in the party when The Boy heads to the witch's forest, he finds her under attack by Werewolves. This can lead to a rarely-seen event. Finish the events in Dwarf Village so that The Sprite joins the party. Then, make sure The Sprite finishes off the Werewolves when The Boy is dead. Having The Sprite talk to The Girl always gets a special reaction, but since only The Boy talking to her can advance the story, if he's dead she'll also revive and heal the party, saying something about an item she bought from Nikita (Neko). Unfortunately, this is the only time she'll provide any healing at all in this event.
Other than playing around with spells, I've only gotten up to saving Undine so far, so who knows what else might lay in store!

If you have any requests for NPC dialog or other text you'd like to see that I might be inclined to skip otherwise, or anything to try doing along the way that might have interesting results, feel free to share in the comments.

2015-02-13

Tricky (or at least often mishandled) Japanese terms: やっぱり (also やはり) (originally posted on uCoz)

An actual site update is in the works, with the largest part being alternate endings and other additions to the Chrono Trigger page, but in the meantime, have a blog entry.

I've seen やっぱり all too often blindly translated to "as expected". While that isn't a bad approximation of the meaning, it's frequently unnatural in a sentence. So, that brings up the question of what exactly やっぱり is used for. Basically, it appears when a situation is confirmed to be in agreement with previous expectations or assumptions.

やっぱり is derived from the more formal and proper やはり. The kanji 矢(っ)張り are ateji, chosen based on pronunciation with no regard to meaning, and this may be why both forms of the word are typically written in hiragana.

The goo online dictionary that I like to use lists three common meanings:
  1. Having no difference from what had previously been, or from what a comparable other is like. One example given is 「あなたは今もやっぱりあの店へ行きますか」 ("Do you still go to that shop now?"), where the assumption is that a situation that used to be the case (you go to that shop) remains true. Asking the question at all suggests that I don't know for certain whether you still do, but including やっぱり means I'm fairly confident that you probably do.
  2. Turning out just as anticipated. This is the flavor that's closest to the stock "as expected" translation. Their example is 「彼はやっぱり来なかった」 ("As expected, he never came.").
  3. Coming to the same conclusion after thinking things over. One example given is 「随分迷ったが、やっぱり行くのはやめにした」 ("I had a heck of a time deciding, but decided to pass on going after all."). Using やっぱり here means that while I might have wavered, my first impulse had been to not go, and in the end I didn't change my mind about it. An alternate interpretation in some cases is to take as the initial default case what an impartial observer might expect, so here that would mean that someone reading the story of my life would have expected me not to go.
Taking an example from Chrono Trigger, one of the time-traveling characters has the following line in the ruined future, after discovering footage of the catastrophe that is dated nearly a thousand years after what they know as the present: 「じゃあ、やっぱりここは私達の未来なの!?」 ("Then this really is our future!?"). To this point, they had speculated that they might be in the future, but only now are they certain. This fits best with meaning (2).

There's a fairly good example of meaning (3) in the third Legend of Zelda game. One necessary step in the quest is to visit the Zora king to buy flippers that enable swimming in deep water. However, he charges an outrageous 500 rupees for them (in a game where you can't carry more than 999). At this point in the conversation, one of your options is 「やっぱりやめる」—basically a "never mind that after all". This may seem like a change of mind, and therefore clashing with the meaning explained, but I think it works here because backing down at this point would agree with your likely initial reaction of "That's crazy!" to his demands.

Another flavor of meaning I see now and then is a reaffirmation of an opinion already held. Anyway, as an example, one of the NPC lines in Final Fantasy VI goes 「やっぱり自由が一番!」 ("Freedom really is the greatest!"). It's not as though this is a new idea for the character, or a confirmation of a suspicion, but it's the first taste of real freedom after a time of occupation, and it's every bit as good as remembered. This probably fits best with meaning (1).

Similarly, やっぱり can be used when coming to a conclusion that seems obvious in retrospect, such as in Breath of Fire II when Sten decides he wants a date with both Nina and Lin Pu (Katt) instead of just one of them: 「あ、やっぱり りょうほうに しよう」

If you're translating something, try adding a little variety with phrases like "it figures" or "I knew it!" instead of the lackluster "as expected" when used as an interjection, or at least consider something a bit more natural like "I thought so" or "I figured as much". "I should have known" also works well in some contexts. Meaning (3) often equates well with phrases like "it really is" and "after all" depending on usage. Meaning (1) tends to be trickier, in that the essential meaning is often well represented by "still" (or "also" when comparing to a similar person or thing), but that doesn't do a very good job of conveying that it's expected to still be that way. Experiment with a few variations to see what works best in a given case.