Japanese Learners

We had our first meetup of the group of people interested in learning Japanese (moira list: japanese-learners; blanche yourself on if you’re interested!) last Monday, before the SIPB meeting. There were four of us: two reasonably advanced learners and two newcomers to the language.

The two of us who were reasonably advanced went over some basic expressions (different ways of saying “hello” and “goodbye”), the kana and romanization idiosyncracies and things-to-know, and a few tangents occurred here and there (like 吹く(fuku, meaning “blow”) to 服 (fuku, meaning “clothes”) to 河豚 (fugu, meaning “pufferfish”/”blowfish,” commonly known for being a delicacy in Japan)).

We seem to have decided upon Saturday afternoons from 2-3PM as our weekly meeting time, but obviously if there’s some conflict for multiple people some particular week, the meeting will shift accordingly.

Next Saturday, which hopefully everyone will be able to make it to (we have seven people who are reasonably committed to coming, as far as I can tell: three experienced and four newcomers), I’m planning to have the two newcomers who came to the last session get the two newcomers who weren’t able to come to the last session up to speed, and the rest of us will sit around and correct them and/or make more tangents as we see fit. After all, the best way to learn is by teaching, right? And seeing as I’ve already taught some of this material several times (twice for “Learn Asian,” and once for “Introduction to Japanese”), someone else ought to take a crack at it. Also, I’m lazy and bored of repeating myself. And who knows? Maybe someone will mention something that I never thought of mentioning.

Saturday is so far awaaay … so, we’ve commandeered class “nihongo” for speaking in/about Japanese between sessions. If you’ve any questions, bring them on! Answering them is good for us. And when we have conversations in Japanese, feel free to ask for romanization (if you’re lacking unicode support) or a translation (and an explanation of the translation as follow-up, if needed).

Anyway, our mission is to help each other better our Japanese, so join us if you want to learn or if you’ve been looking for people with whom to practice!


As a member of the SIPB community, and as a female member of the SIPB community, I’ve been asked, a number of times, what I think about the SIPB environment, how to encourage people to hang out in the office and thereby recruit new members, whether there is sexism in the office or any other deterrent that is more specific to one gender than the other, etc. I’ve thought about this from time to time, when it’s randomly popped back into my head, but not terribly thoroughly. Some of my preliminary thoughts, though, follow.

Is there some sort of sexism in the office, or else something in the environment that would perhaps make girls feel more uncomfortable than guys, or vice versa? I have heard talk about how, in the past, there were more PDA in the office, and this resulted in the perception, on the part of some non-SIPB-affiliates, that SIPB was a place where the female members were required to be in some sort of a non-platonic relationship with with the male members. I was not personally around during this period, however, and it seems that this is much less of an issue these days. The office does, on the other hand, often play host to sexual jokes that are probably not unexpected in a college environment. And this is, perhaps, where my opinion requires some qualification. I wouldn’t categorize myself as the type to be sensitive to these sorts of issues; if they were pointed out to me, I would certainly see them and understand them, but I might not notice them on my own. I’ve always just wanted to be treated like everyone else, and a lot of what that meant was that I didn’t want to be treated differently because I was a girl, that I didn’t want to be treated differently from the way the guys treated each other.

This is part of the problem with sexism, isn’t it? It’s the same problem you have with other kinds of discrimination, like racism. Some people consider affirmative action to be a form of racism, which, by strict definition, it is, because it involves treating people differently based on race; racism and racial discrimination are not synonymous, after all. Going back to sexism, then: are girls more likely to be offended if they’re not treated the same way everyone else is, meaning that they don’t want people treading more carefully around them because they’re girls, or are they more likely to be offended in an environment where people casually banter about sex, etc?

I can definitely see how girls of the latter type would be turned away by the office environment as it exists on a not-infrequent basis — sexual banter is not uncommon in the office, after all, even if people don’t mean anything by it in particular. What about the former type? I generally don’t have a problem with the office, at least. There have been instances, however, where I have felt that there were insinuations made about the technical ability of girls, which is not something the office should tolerate.

Moving on to the more general topic of how welcoming SIPB seems to newcomers, the main problem that people have noted is the feeling of not fitting in. Some people don’t feel technically competent enough to fit into a situation where they feel that everyone else has some high level of technical prowess (which not all of us do, by the way). Some people feel like they don’t fit in because they feel that the SIPB is already its own community, an established social group, and they’re intruding and don’t know anyone. These seem to be the two main issues that are getting in the way of people coming by and spending time in the office.

People tend to be engrossed in whatever their current project is while they’re in the office, which could be contributing to both of these potentially problematic perceptions. The only solution that I can think of at the moment is simply to encourage people in the office to be more expressive about what they’re doing, the way that mystery hunt teams that allow for hunters who drift in and out do. For example, the Simmons team, which tries to encourage resident participation by emphasizing that one doesn’t need to be a hardcore hunter to join in for a puzzle or two, tried to have someone operationally in charge of base so that people drifting in and out would be welcomed by having what was going on explained to them and they wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the fact that there were many groups of people in the middle of  working intensely on puzzles.

Another solution that has been proposed in the past in response to the general problem of recruitment has been a mentor-type of program. Things to consider: Someone needs to be in charge of coordinating it. It has the failure mode of scaring away prospectives who are not so interested in such an arrangement because it is somewhat more formal and feels like more of an obligation than not. It should be optional, of course, but it could make prospectives who sign up for it feel like they “needed more help” integrating into SIPB than prospectives who don’t, etc. Would there be enough members interested to make this work? These questions/issues can be worked around, though, and it would be something worth implementing for the sake of the prospectives who are interested in it, I think.

Dollhouse: “Epitaph Two: Return”

My thoughts as I watched the episode, just because. Yes, this is pretty much just a dump of thoughts, all jumbled together.

The speculation in the jeep is interesting. Maybe they got hit with a blanket signal, maybe they were on a corporate retreat; who knows how they got here? The point is, a lot has changed, and there’s a lot that’s been made plausible by the huge time jump. It’s also reasonable exposition to remind viewers of the current state of things.

Hmm, are those guys possibly Echo’s crew? Ah, no, alas. They’re from Neuropolis. And haha, the term “Death Star” survived.

Wow, that guy is a disgusting pig. That shot could have been cut better, because Ambrose is clearly about to open his mouth and continue speaking, and he looks like he should’ve gotten more out of his mouth before Harding says “Watch it.” Also, it figures that the higher-ups would be trading in bodies and just using and disposing them, which is just terrible. I mean, you know he’s not going to keep his word on the elliptical.

I think that shot of Eliza Dushku getting ready to throw that punch from the POV of the guy she’s about to punch is such a great one ^_^

That kid is so definitely Sierra and Victor’s. Hmm, except they split up, in that flashback from “Epitaph One.” Well, we’ll see. And, “awww, there goes Joss and his strawberries, just like with Kaylee in Firefly, again.”

I’m not sure I think that’s the correct delivery of the line “Aren’t you?” from mini-Echo. She puts the emphasis on “you,” but I feel like the emphasis should be on the “aren’t.” Anyway.

Oh look, Firefly similarities again: “You will keep a civil tongue in {this house,that mouth},” or something like that. But the little-teapot-short-and-stout thing? So cute. <3 Topher.

“World still needs heroes, kid.” That sounds so much like something I’d hear from Firefly. The tone, at least. And I think it’s wonderful how everyone just bursts out laughing, like they really are family, like they really are who their characters are, the way that the Firefly cast was so comfortable around each other, the way that sometimes a scene would just cut to the laughing Buffy cast in the middle of an episode.

“She loves it when you’re corny.” *giggles* That’s so adorable. And true; that is, corny/dorky can be very cute.

So here’s what I don’t get: why do they all storm outside, without cover, when the thing that’s rolling into their yard is so heavily armored? Hmm, what an interesting language. And what interesting tech.

“Tech heads,” eh? Definitely believable from the episode when Victor went all hive-mind on them, and also because he took the extra fighting skills that Topher offered him in the last episode. And awww, Mag likes Kilo! Speaking of which: I’m glad Maurissa’s back. She’s all cute and tough, which is adorable. I don’t know how I feel about this scene with Kilo and Zone, though. He makes a snide comment about how apparently everyone likes girls, referencing his recent realization that Mag does, and there’s this exchange about the thumb drives. Sure, it explains how the tech heads work, but…the humor just doesn’t quite catch me, here, about taking out “mercy” to make room for the “weapons expert.”

It’s evident, though, that Tony loves Priya, despite that he decided to be a tech head against her wishes. Makes you wish you could help her to see, to understand, that.

What an interesting conversation between Paul and Echo, showing how their relationship has developed over the past ten years. I am somewhat amused at the line about how Echo’s got a bunch of people in her head but she’s the loneliest person Paul knows, because it reminds me of the conversation between Buffy and Faith, about how Faith thinks that Buffy is the one surrounded by family and friends, when really, she’s all alone because she’s the Slayer.

Faith: So, here’s the laugh riot. My whole life, I’ve been a loner.
Buffy: That’s the funny part? Did I miss something?
Faith: I’m trying to–
Buffy: Sorry. Sorry, go.
Faith: No ties. No buddies. No relationships that lasted longer than…well, Robin lasted pretty long. Boy’s got stamina.
Buffy: Principal Wood? And you? And in my…
Faith: Don’t tell me you two got wriggly?
Buffy: No, no, no no. We’re just…good friends. Or, mortal enemies, depending on which day of the– was that the funny part?
Faith: Okay, the point: me, by myself all the time. And looking at you, everything you have, and, I don’t know, jealous. Then there I am. Everybody’s looking to me, trusting me to lead them, and I’ve never felt so alone in my entire life.
Buffy: Yeah.
Faith: And that’s you, every day, isn’t it.
Buffy: I love my friends. I’m very grateful for them. But that’s the price. Being a Slayer.
Faith: There’s only supposed to be one. Maybe that’s why you and I can never get along. We’re not supposed to exist together.
Buffy: Also you went evil and were killing people.
Faith: Good point. Also a factor.
Buffy: But you’re right. I mean, I…I guess everyone’s alone. But, being a Slayer. There’s a burden we can’t share.
Faith: And no one else can feel it. Thank God we’re hot chicks with super powers.
Buffy: Takes the edge off.
Faith: Comforting.
Buffy: Mm-hmm.

(Last part is just there for the laughs. Yay Joss ^_^)

Oh, evolution at work, eh? Super-butchers! And that icky cannibalism thing again.

Ohh…Mag. Ohhhh…Paul. Crap. Also, that gunshot…didn’t it exit through his forehead? Aren’t exit wounds normally largish? Anyway, the way Echo tells Victor, “That’s all of us,” it is so much like the ending of Serenity, when Zoe tells the others that Wash isn’t coming. >_<

The way Alpha looks at Echo, off-screen, after she says “we lost him,” you can tell that he still wants her. I was thinking, “Damnit Alpha, he just died.”

Oh boy, rebels. But their logic makes sense. They’ve adapted to thrive in this new world, so of course they “like” it in their own twisted way, since they’re the ones who’re going to come out on top, eventually. Kilo calling Echo “sister” is so interesting — the dolls still recognize each other as some form of equals. And oh, Topher, he looks like a little chipmunk or groundhog or something, perched up like that.

Hehe, Alpha is always so verbose and hilarious. “Because we’re not freakshows. Well, okay, maybe I am. And, Echo. Topher’s a little off, but, Adelle: she’s a class act all the way.” And he can always tell when he’s about to lose his audience, and gets straight back to the point. Very good.

It’s interesting, what Victor says: “I know how good it feels. Skip learning the hard way. Skip the long hours, the sweat, the training. Just to feel the thrill of perfection. But if we’re going to rebuild the world, I wanna do it myself.” Let’s ask ourselves, then, if we had the choice of being able to acquire a skill without having to work for it, would we want it? Would we actually want it? Does achieving some level of perfection at a skill only bring that sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment, if you have to work for it, if you know that you struggled to get there?

Aww, Kilo’s line: “Oh God, she’s so cool.” So adorable. Maurissa is totally awesome in my book. She’s a groupie, just like she was in Dr. Horrible!

And Topher, again: so adorable, in his almost-childlike state. He’s so free, and bounces around, and is just…so innocent. Alpha, also, offers his personalized funny: “Eh, it spoke to the schizophrenic in me. Well, both of them, actually.”

This scene is wonderfully done. It’s wonderfully set up, because they forced us to ignore his death earlier, or, at least, didn’t give us enough time to process it. And the dialogue segues nicely, so long as you’re not metagaming. What she says is so true, for both her and Sierra, until she gets to the point where she says that he’s dead. And this is where Priya’s chance to rebuild her family also really hits: she’s got to see it, now. She’s got to take advantage of it. The monologue is wonderfully done because it sets you up, emotionally, to start thinking, “that’s right, stop moping and take advantage of the time you have left,” and then it hits you that there is no time left, because we’re not talking about Priya and Victor anymore, and instead we’re talking about Echo and Paul. There are a few parts where I dislike the delivery of the lines, because her intonation is slightly different from what I feel like it ought to be, but on the whole, the scene is still nicely designed and executed.

Topher’s feelings for Bennett, Adelle and Topher’s relationship…it’s all evolved the way one might expect, over the time that has elapsed since we last saw them. And when Adelle realizes that Topher’s not coming back, and Topher says that he didn’t want to cause any more pain…you kind of realize that Topher has realized just what he’s done with his tech, and he wants it to be buried with him.

Mm, good for Priya, that she’s come to understand Tony’s motivations, and that they can all be together again. They’ll make things work, I know they will. It’s like Echo said: they erased Tony’s brain time and time again, and he still loved her. It occurs to me, then: is this a commentary that there are certain connections between people that just can’t be explained, that simply are, and that there are people, or maybe a single person, out there, who completes you the way that Priya and Tony so obviously complete each other and belong with each other?

Mag and Zone have a hilarious relationship. “And you, stumpy, aren’t going anywhere. Except maybe down…” (referring, of course, to Mag’s liking Kilo). And then she rebuts, “Try not to have any influence on her of any kind.” Huh, a landscape architect? People really do change and adapt in unpredictable and amazing ways in the face of adversity, don’t they.

Hmm, Alpha’s planning to revert? Is he really going to be wiped back as cleanly as everyone else is, back to the killer that he was (after all, the Dollhouse recruited him from a prison), or will he retain some of his Alpha personality, and have evolved? That would be an interesting story to watch unfold, or speculate on.

Here’s a terrifying thought: what if they timed their emergence into the world too early, so that the butchers slaughtered them before Topher could set up and set off the explosive? Anyway, that shockwave from the building reminds me of the watchers being slaughtered.

I wish Zone had smiled a little more. It felt a little insincere, the way he said it. A little…cynical? As if Boyd were saying it, but he had some hidden agenda, or didn’t mean it, or something. Maybe even sinister, in the case of Boyd.

And now, we finally get to see what’s underneath all of the memories in Echo’s head, behind the scenes that pop out of the screen and leave behind… Echo and Paul. So here’s my question: what version of Paul did Echo get, exactly? Did she get the Paul that loved her before Alpha damaged his brain so that Topher had to rewire him without the fond memories of Echo? If so, was he told that ten years had passed, the way the Victor was apparently expecting to awaken with extra fighting skills in the last episode? Or maybe she got some version of Paul that had evolved inside Alpha over the last ten years, and the favor he’d wanted was from Topher, to help him dump that Paul onto a drive for Echo?

Lastly, this is kind of silly, but watching Echo take a jump-step into her pod, I am vaguely reminded of when Felicia Day “stepped” off the stage in Dr. Horrible, but in reality, it was a six-foot drop or something.

All in all, a reasonable wrap-up to the show, I think. Rather hurried, sure (I’d have liked to see them spend more time on Boyd’s history instead of just blowing him up last episode, and I’d have liked to see more a lot of the other development as well, although that’s more easily extrapolated), but on the whole, it really did wrap things up nicely, and gave some amount of closure to many of the story lines that I think a lot of fans were hoping for.

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