There goes Godzilla…

In one of my Japanese classes I was studying transitivity pairs of verbs: in each pair both verbs have the same basic meaning, but one is transitive and the other is intransitive. (A transitive verb requires an object; an intransitive verb does not.) For example, one of the pairs was 「出す/出る」, which means “take out / go out”: 「ごみを出す」 means “take out the trash”; 「出る」 means “I’m leaving”.

The textbook then described how the meanings would change in the present imperfect tense (the book didn’t call it that; it just called it the 「+ている」 form). Transitive verbs describe an action, so the present imperfect tense of a transitive verb describes an action in progress; this is a normal use in English. But intransitive verbs describe a change, so the present imperfect tense of a intransitive verb describes a state that is the result of the change. That made sense, and I hope it still does.

But then came the example sentences. They are usually good examples that can be used in normal conversations, so I wasn’t surprised by the intransitive imperfect for “break”: 「このコンピューターは壊れています。」, meaning “this computer is broken”, is a useful phrase. But the corresponding transitive example was 「ゴジラが町を壊しています。」 translated as “There goes Godzilla, destroying the city.”


I’ve just been surprised and amused by an animated picture designed to identify the dominant side of your brain. (I’m not going to post the image here as I cannot find any copyright details for it. You can find it on many websites, including Gizmo Watch and Facebook.) The picture shows a silhouetted dancer spinning, but the direction of spin, clockwise or anticlockwise, depends on your brain.

When I first saw the picture she was spinning clockwise, but when I started to read the text she immediately started spinning anticlockwise! That makes perfect sense now, but it surprised me when it first happened; and it still amuses me every time I repeat it.

The explanation for the change in spin is quite simple: when I first look at the picture the right side of my brain tells me that she is spinning clockwise; but the left side of my brain (and your brain too) is responsible for reading, so when I start reading the left side kicks in and tells me that she is spinning anticlockwise; when I stop reading, she starts spinning clockwise again.

Ripping CDs to ogg

I perform most of my computing tasks with the command line, and that includes converting my CDs to ogg files (an ogg file is like an mp3 file, only better). I hadn’t ripped anything for some time, so I decided to compare a few command-line rippers. I had a quick look through my Debian package list and selected abcde and crip as they seemed to match my requirements. Both programs have simple interfaces: simple type abcde or crip on the command line and they do everything for you. At first there didn’t seem to be much difference. crip claimed to have some advantages over abcde, and one of the trivial ones I discovered was that it normalised the ogg audio automatically; in abcde I had to use the -a replaygain option for that feature. So crip crept into the lead.

But the lead didn’t last long. crip stumbled seriously on the third CD. I live in Japan now, where I buy CDs by Japanese artists who write songs in Japanese. crip couldn’t cope with that, and I couldn’t cope with playlists where all the songs were called "??????". So abcde won. For me its acronym is true: a better CD encoder.