General

General interests that may or may not fit anywhere else.

Rest in Peace Jeff Hanneman

This is obviously not a technical piece but it is something that is important for me so I’m writing it before I forget about it. I regret that I missed several other significant deaths including indeed Ronnie James Dio of Black Sabbath (and others) and more recently Jon Lord of Deep Purple. Today is yet another sad day for metal music, an important part of my life.

I am even more upset now that health prevented me from seeing Slayer when I actually had tickets (in 2011) because Jeff is now gone. He was an amazing guitarist and his music will be well missed. The fact he died from liver failure and that I have a very close friend with liver disease as well as having lost family to liver disease, this really hits me hard. I typically do not think of the past and although that may be sad at times (hard to think of good memories in the past without thinking of the past) I would say it generally helps me cope with losses.

There really is not much else to say as this is truly a horrible loss to the metal heads of the world.

R.I.P. Jeff and thanks for your time and dedication with Slayer.

The Power of 8

Update on 2014/02/19: I erroneously stated that anything to the power of 0 is 1 except 0. The truth is 0 to the power of 0 is also 1. What is also true, however, is in binary, if you have a value of 0 it is essentially ‘off’ or not counted. So although 0 ^ 0 is 1, the fact is 100 is binary for 4 because the trailing 0s do not get counted (that is, added up). Likewise, 1010 is binary for 10 because of this same rule. In other words, if you have the digit 0 in binary you don’t count that position (so you do not do the calculation I describe below, for that position). I should have been more clear on this but what can I do other than fix this? Nothing. Fixed now though. The rest of this post is what I originally wrote, 2 years and some days ago.

So, today I turned 30 years old. Until I wrote this (which was two or three days ago) I wasn’t really sure how happy I was about it. However, as writing is considered therapeutic, I not only wrote a guide on numbers (and different number bases e.g., binary [2], decimal [10], and hexadecimal [16]) I also added some fun ways of looking at age in general, and indeed how so many things can be looked at in far more ways than seems possible. Then I quickly wrote this but it should be clear if you follow the examples. In any case, here’s how to convert between decimal, binary and hexadecimal. It also indeed explains what I mean when I say ‘The Power of 8′. So what makes 8 so powerful?

If you read what is below, you’ll know (at least to some degree). You may know already, but in any case, here’s a more mathematics article from me and something I never thought I’d write about (whether its a precursor to something more advanced I do not know) …

So, firstly, what is so powerful about 8 ? Well, quite a lot. “But, it’s a single digit!” you fire back. Ah, but is it REALLY a single digit? Doesn’t it really depend on interpretation? “Yes, but so does everything in this world!”. Indeed, and that includes numbers. In fact, if you read on, you may realise how 8 is very powerful indeed. So powerful that as you read this, 8 has already crossed your path and gone into the very device you’re reading this from… (Yes, that’s a mere analogy or even a metaphor of a concept and type of data known as a ‘byte’).

To get to the bottom of this, you have to understand that what appears to be a single number isn’t a single number all by itself. Even 10 is a single number yet when you think about it, its composed of two digits; there is no digit “10”. That’s two digits which is each composed of something more hidden – a bit. In actuality, a number is a combination of bits. Remember maths class ? You would study the 1s places, the 10s, the 100s, and so on.

The thing is, ALL numbers can be looked at this way. So what’s so special about 8? Although it depends on other factors, its generally considered that 8 bits is equal to 1 byte (this can also be 7 bits). What is also true is that one BYTE can hold more than 1 ‘number’. Indeed, if you take 8 bits (1 byte), you can count from 0 to 255 or even
-128 to 127 (if signed).

To realise how, you simply have to realise that a single bit is one of two numbers – it can be 1 or it can be 0. If you take that into account, and you also take your mathematics class into consideration, you’ll realise that if its a ‘1’ in that position or place, you add it and if it’s a ‘0’ then you do not add it. That means in decimal (base 10), you would have the following :

 100
+ 10
+  1
----

How do you solve this? You can say you take each value and add it up. But there’s more to it, isn’t there? What you’re really doing is lower level stuff – it’s closer to bits than you might realise. In the ones column, you can say you have (in this example) 1 * (10 ^ 0).

Why to the power of 0 ? Well, what if you did not start with 0 ? 0 comes before 1 which comes before 2, and so on, all the way to 9. If you did not have 0 you could not have 10. Therefore we start at 0. So, understand (remember) anything to the power of 0 is simply 1 (including 0 to the power of 0 – it is still 1).

Important part to understand is, each time you move over to the next bit you use to the power of that bit (position). Or to put it another way, you have in the above problem :

(1 * (10 ^ 2)) + (1 * (10 ^ 1)) + (1 * (10 ^ 0))

If you take a calculator that understands the order of operations (I mention this as I hear that in some modes in some Windows versions their calculator does not!) you will get the following :

100 + 10 + 1

And we all can conclude from that that the result is what it should be : 111, or one hundred, one ten, one one.

What about this though ?

 250
+ 90
+  1
----

Is it really the same idea? Not only is the answer ‘yes’, its even easier (in some ways)
than what you might remember from maths class. In that class, you might remember carry-overs? As in, if the column’s values add up to 10 or greater, you will need to carry the >=10 over to the next column. That’s fine for the basic class, but what the end result is, when you evaluate what I’m writing about, is that its really this (realise that there’s not only one single way to solve a problem that has multiple steps and even one step problems could be solved different ways in many things) :

(2 * (10 ^ 2)) + ((5 + 9) * (10 ^ 1)) + (1 * (10 ^ 0))

… which expands to the following :

(2 * 100) + (14 * 10) + (1 * 1)

… which expands down to :

200 + 140 + 1 = 341

So, that’s decimal in a nutshell. What about base 2 (i.e., two digits : 0 or 1 aka binary) ?

It is actually the same idea, only you deal with 1 or 0, and instead of 10  ^ pos you have 2 ^ pos.

So what is 15 in binary ?

Well, since 15 is most certainly >= 0 and < 255, that means it does indeed fit in <= 8 bits.

That means that we actually only need 1 (or not even 1) byte (point : indeed, numbers can indeed take more than one byte but 15 is not such a number).

So, think about it for a minute. We have either a 0 or 1 per place. If it’s 1, you can consider it as ‘set’ or ‘true’ or ‘on’. If 0, then ‘not set’, ‘false’, or ‘off’. This is a rather useful thing to keep in mind as it makes converting to binary from decimal or even from binary to decimal rather simple.  If you realise that we’re discussing base 2, then it’s multiples of 2. What that means is simply the 0th position (1s place) is 1 (if it is set). The 1st position (tens place) is 2 (if it is set), the 2nd (hundreds place) is 4 (if set). That makes it very easy to think of it in those terms, for many calculations.

If you look at it that way, you can easily convert by simple addition. Indeed, 15 is actually 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 which equates to what in binary ?

00001111

(and remember that the leading zeros are not even really required though it does give some way to realise its binary if the base is not specified else where).

And that is why 8 is so powerful: it can hold 256 different numbers, and it also leads into the inspiration of writing this whole piece. I turned 30 today (14/Feb/2012). I was for various reasons – as I think is fairly common among a lot of people when they get close to it – not very happy about it. I wanted to come up with some nicer way to look at it, and at the same time write something technical.

But along with the technical aspect, comes some fun. Because you can interpret things in so many ways, you can make the 30 different depending on base (or even just interpretation). There’s even an old quote (that I read years and years ago) that is something like :

“I will tell you my age but I won’t tell you which base its in.”

So, along those lines, here’s different ways of interpreting the number 30 :

  • 30 is equal to 4 0s followed by 4 1s.
  • 30 can be represented with base 2 (any number can be, even negatives [a different topic entirely, and more technical]) but yet if you divide it by 2 you get 15 (which cannot be equally divided by 2 without getting a fraction) – or its not a multiple of 2.
  • If you consider another base – base 16, which is to say 0 – 9, A = 10, B = 11, … F = 15 (= base 16), then I could say I’m 1E.  The way to determine it is really simple: break it into sets of 4 bits and do the binary conversion. And if you understand it enough, you can do it in your head (that’s actually the inspiration for this article in part; I wondered what my coming up age would be in hexadecimal, and then I did it [away from any mathematical device] and thought it could be fun to write about).

Anyway, an example :

E is equal to 14. That’s equal to 1110 in binary. That’s the first set. Then, 1 is 0001. Put them together and you have 11110 which means 16 + 8 + 4 + 2 + 0, which is 30. So to get from 30 to hexadecimal, you can break it down into a combination of numbers (of multiples of 2, ie. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 …). Once you have those, you convert it to binary (or skip it if you can). Then each set of 4 bits can be converted to hexadecimal.
Question: why 4 bits? It’s simple: 0-15 can be represented in exactly 4 bits. 4 1s in binary is 15. It is that simple.

  • With respect to 1E – I could just be E years old (if you consider that is “one” E).
  • And what is an E? Is it an eternity? No but you could call it that I suppose.
  • 30 is represented in 5 bits, so I could be considered much younger than I thought (or maybe not!).
  • Another interesting thing: E in hex is 14 (decimal). And 1E = 30.
  • You could also call it 114, as it is “one” 14.
  • When I turn 60, I’ll be 3C. That means what? 3 Centuries old? I hope not! But you could call it that. You could also say my body temperature is 3 celcius (I must be cold blooded…). Then again, maybe not.
  • If I made it to 144 I would be 90 (in hexadecimal). The interesting thing there is if I actually did make it to 144d/90h, then I’d likely be doing nothing. Well guess what 90h in a computer (intel architecture eg x86 and x86_64) means? Nop whichis short for no operation. Interesting? Maybe, maybe not but it amuses me.

Essentially, the points of this article is that :

  1. You can look at things so many ways, and age is one of those things. You can be positive, you can be negative, but it’s healthier to be positive as you can be. EVERY THING in this world could be worse but you cannot change some things, so you should really only worry about what you can change (and actually do change – hopefully for the good).
  2. It also was to explain how numbers in computers work. Sure, I didn’t go into bitwise operations (e.g., bit shifting, twiddling, bitwise ANDs, OR’s, XOR’s, etc.) but I at least (hopefully) made it easier to see how the computer (and indeed humans) can see something one way or another when its entirely possible that there’s many other ways. In fact, computers typically use hexadecimal (it’s a multiple of 2 so its easy enough).

And that’s how numbers work in their most simple form. You can of course have negative numbers and even in binary, but as I think I mentioned that is more complicated and is more suited for an article by itself (which may or may not happen in the future by me).

In Honour of Charles Dickens

The other day I realized it was soon to be Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday. I was about to write something earlier about him and then got distracted. Well, now – since today it is his 200th birthday – I am writing something.

To me, Charles Dickens brings great pleasure through his literary works. Some might hear the name and immediately think of The Christmas Carol or Oliver Twist… and perhaps many others… but for me I think of the first work I read by him: Great Expectations.

It was required reading in high school (or was about ~15 years ago) and I was (as often was the case) the only one who really liked it. I thought it was a wonderful story.

Now, in the case of  Charles Dickens, I think his books are of the nature of you either really like them or you really don’t. Sure, there might be some of his books that aren’t this way, or there might be some cases where a person only likes some of a story by his, but in general I have heard various things about Dickens’ books :

  • It is too detailed.
  • Its a fantastic book.

That’s what I generally have seen or heard. And the first one even comes from someone who loves to read and has a very nice library, has a lot of good books to suggest and is the same person who introduced me to my favourite author: Jules Verne.

Still, I really enjoyed Charles Dickens. And while it has been years since I read any thing by him, I did want to take a moment to appreciate his books. He is – no matter what some people do or do not feel/believe/think – a fantastic author, a person who is well remembered for his books in different parts of the world. I can only assume he’ll always be remembered in this world, in some way or another.

And to those who likes the cartoon Bugs Bunny (and besides the politically correct people that influenced Warner Brothers to take some episodes off the air, who doesn’t?), a very interesting thing related to Dickens. Yes, there actually is the possibility of a link to a character in Bugs Bunny and Charles Dickens. Indeed, this is some speculation; however, it is quite possible nonetheless. To those who don’t know what I’m getting at, there’s a character in some of the Bugs Bunny episodes called ‘Elmer Fudd’. He’s actually is fairly small from memory, and so this could be even more likely. In any case, he’s a little humanoid that replaces r’s with w’s and tries to kill Bugs Bunny (who always outsmarts Fudd), Now, what does that have to do with Dickens? Read on…

To those who know the children story Tom Thumb, there was a person who was a real life dwarf whose stage name was General Tom Thumb (real name Charles Sherwood Stratton, he made fame working under P.T. Barnum). I learned of this last year. In any case, when I saw reference to General Tom Thumb, I found something (on Wikipedia) most interesting. It is a quote by General Tom Thumb and the explanation of it. Since I used to watch Bugs Bunny a lot and thoroughly enjoyed it (and even have or at least had VHS’s of cartoons with him in it), and I also have a liking to Charles Dickens, I realized the possible link immediately. Whether it is the real reason or not, I do not know. However, it is interesting to me nonetheless :

Waiter! bwing me a Welsh wabbit

The explorer John Palliser heard the above quote being said. I don’t know if it was Dickens who originally did this, but he at least popularized the mocking of the British aristocracy and the way they would order Welsh rarebit. And that mocking was done by substituting a ‘w’ for an ‘r’. So again, this may be speculation, or it may not be. I find it interesting nonetheless and I think his 200th birthday is the perfect time to suggest or mention it.

In any case, Charles Dickens will likely never be forgotten. I am thankful that I read some of his books, as I thoroughly enjoyed them. I still have plenty more of his to read, but that’s for another time, another day.

The Perfect Fallacy

2014/06/11: Clarification on what I meant when I refer to literal thinker (and specifically with regards to context). I also went for the more international dictionary (Oxford) for the definitions of perfect. Furthermore, I elaborated on (and reworded) some other points. Interestingly enough, since I originally wrote this, I have come along even further with combating the list (at the end of this post). So much so that I usually don’t have a problem. Still, when I do it is usually quite difficult (and so this post is certainly an interesting thing for me, more so than if I didn’t have this internal conflict). This post, by the way, is perhaps not for the faint of heart and especially not for those that oppose word play – they might fall from the lack of perfection (and yes, that wording right there was very well intended).

So, if you’re a person who likes to think, you may wonder what the title ‘The Perfect Fallacy’ could possibly mean. Indeed, there’s many interpretations. Among those I can think of, are the following :

  • A fallacy that is perfect; it can’t be anything but a fallacy and it is described in a perfect way.
  • An oxymoron: how can a fallacy itself be perfect? It actually can’t be if you look at it in these terms.
  • And what about: perfectionism?

Well, for anyone that knows me enough, they can probably guess that I don’t mean the first. True, all of them can be interpreted literally. Also true is that I am a very literal thinker. While I know very well that context is everything (and have written about it on numerous occasions), I still take the definitions literally and use them in a way that might not be expected (or I think of them in such a way).  The first one isn’t really possible (see the second one). Now, as I love puns, word play in general as well as being satirical and sarcastic on multiple levels, the second one ‘could’ be it. Is it though? Not exactly, and those who know me will know why: I’m very much a perfectionist, to the point of it defeating my tasks (often enough which equates to more than it should; indeed, if perfectionism is stopping a single thing from being done, its too much).

So, let’s take two definitions of perfect from Oxford Dictionary:

a: Free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless.

b: Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.

So, with the first two definitions/meanings, it is seen that you can literally mean something else from the first. But is b) really all that perfect? As good as possible doesn’t really mean perfect in the sense of “no flaws or defect” (much like definition a. suggests). This is especially true if you think of it in percentages. A perfect (pardon the pun) example is: how good are you at typing? What about declaring an animal by its foot print? Looking at it this way, you can see that being free from fault is different from as good as possible. Even if you are usually perfect at something, you’ll make a mistake at some point. The very two definitions conflict with each other, even.

So, realistically, perfect means flawless. To be perfect means you have no flaws and no faults, and you make no mistakes. The list goes on in ways you can describe it.

With that pointed out, it does kind of push the ‘practice makes perfect’ claim rather ridiculous. But let’s put that aside, because that’s not what I’m trying to get at (I have a quote on that, of my own, although it came after the original post – this is the edit on 2014/06/11). I’m most certainly not trying to say you shouldn’t practice, or you shouldn’t try. You should practice the things you need to be good at, and you should try your best. Some say you shouldn’t try but you should only do. However, its worth pointing out that this would depend on the person and the specific thing they are referring to. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t lift 200 pounds even, for example. I wouldn’t get it it off the floor and I would likely strain my back (or feel like a complete idiot for trying it knowing full well I should start out smaller and work my way up to it).

And that’s the key: you need to work on your skills, work on your abilities. Improve upon them.

Question is, why am I writing this? What made me think of this? I think I thought of it  as I know I am often critical of certain things but the irony is I’m both a perfectionist and I know full well I am NOT even close to perfect  (and in actuality, no one is perfect). I for example am critical of a lot of Microsoft’s decisions. Sure, they may be valid but you know what? They aren’t perfect and that by itself is perfectly (there goes the puns) acceptable. And something else is, they are a very successful company. No matter their flaws, they have a lot of customers and make a lot of money. In that way, they’re successful. They might not be the best with other things, but as a friend I recently talked to (this being in 2012, last time before that was 2005) used to always say: You can’t have it all. Truth right there.

As for why I’m writing this? It’s really simple: I feel that we ALL can improve. That includes me by a great deal (and I admit that fully). I also wanted to touch upon the above paragraph: that no matter the mistakes someone or some group makes, it is OK! We as humans are not perfect. Actually, I’m glad of that. If you think about it, any thing that is perfect cannot be improved, so what’s the point? What would you do after you became perfect? You certainly wouldn’t be improving yourself.

Case in point: No one is perfect, and that’s a strength; it is NOT a weakness. If we were perfect, and we had everything we wanted, what would we then gain? Nothing. We might even get overzealous or arrogant and ruin our image.

It might seem ironic that a rather extreme perfectionist is writing this. But you have to remember I’m a very logical person (hence why I really enjoy programming and other computer related things). If you ever think you’re having a perfectionist episode (so to speak), then try to fight it. Put it this way: if you have to have everything perfect, then you’ll never have anything AT ALL. What’s the point in that? I know for me I’ve far too often not finished things because of REALLY stupid things. These stupid (and I do stress really stupid) include the following:

  • I couldn’t think of a “perfect” name for a function in a program. This one gets me a lot, and far more than I’d like to believe.
  • I can’t think of a “better” or “perfect” name in ANYTHING – not just a program.
  • I couldn’t think of a “perfect” way to write something. It’s not like I’m even an English major, so why should I care? I know I write well (that is when I’m not stoned from sleep deprivation or some such), and that should be enough. The point of language is to get a point across – to here we go: communicate. Its not to sound smarter or better than someone. It is to communicate. You show how you are through not just words but also ACTIONS (more so the latter I would say).
  • If I lose something I’m writing, then I don’t write it all. The reason? Because I know (laughable really that I “know” that) I can’t write it better. In fact, if you think about it, it could be a lot better. It could open up a new thought… or a new way of working on something. And if you think about it – some of the most important inventions were accidents and that includes medical discoveries. Imagine that: a scientist discovering something by accident and it being more important than other things he set out to discover intentionally. As I recall, one such example is the microwave (as in the device to heat food, not what it emits).

That’s only a small portion of things that stop me cold in whatever it is. That itself is a huge flaw/problem with me. The fact I’m not perfect does not matter. What does matter and is a huge problem is that I try to be. I’m not. No one is.

In short:

The Perfect Fallacy is both an oxymoron and also not an oxymoron: being perfect actually IS a fallacy which means it isn’t an oxymoron (as being perfect is a fallacy and impossible). Yet, at the same time, there’s no such thing as being perfect, so surely its an oxymoron (perfect versus fallacy – they’re opposing terms). Take your pick, but if you can think in logical terms, and see the bigger picture (and in colour) then you can see how it can be both at the same time.

As for not being perfect, that does not mean you shouldn’t improve or learn something new. It means you can get better and better. No matter how good you are, there’s likely someone better than you (This also applies to illness; no matter how bad you are off, there’s others who are much worse). Practice does not make perfect but it does something even better: it makes you a better and ever improving person.

So yes, practice your skills. Improve. But never let yourself get to the point where you think you’re perfect or you think some other person is perfect. When you get to that point, or try to get to that point, the game is actually lost because its impossible to get to the end. It’s a maze with no end and the start makes little difference. In fact, the maze is quite a long, convoluted and infuriating one. Lots of puzzles to solve, lots of obstacles, yet when you get around them 10 more show up – ad infinitum.

30 Years In One Night

So, although a lot of this year was rough for me, there’s definitely some important and positive things in this year, too. I’ll reflect on this as I think it is inspiring and it’s always something to keep in mind – no matter how hard or bad things seem to be, good can come if you let it.

In I believe it was August of this year, my favourite band Metallica announced four very special shows for Metallica Club members only. The reason is that in October of this year, it would be 30 years of the band. So, to celebrate, they gave clubbers the chance to win tickets to one, two, three or all four shows. The shows would be December 5, 7, 9 and 10. Now, I’m very thankful and fortunate to have won the first night. I’m especially lucky as I actually lost the ‘four pack’ drawing (meaning you pay $19.81 for four nights) and then I also lost the first drawing of individual nights. Well, I thankfully won Night 1 in the second chance drawing. So, for $6 plus $2.50 for convenience, I got a ticket. I actually ended up spending more as I was allowed two tickets.

So, on December 4th, my brother, my brother’s fiance, my mom and I all went up to San Francisco. The very first time for me, and oh what a reason to go there! On the 5th, my brother and I ended up being on our feet for 15 or more hours. We got in line (already quite a line) at around 11:45 in the morning. The venue did not let us in until 6:30 and the concert did not start until 8. Further, we didn’t get out until after 2am. Well worth the sore legs and sore everything, however. Lots of laughs both inside the venue and out.

During the last song, their common closure Seek and Destroy, balloons were dropped from the ceiling. I caught one and later realized there was a coin in it. I got the large green coin (green was the colour for Night 1 – each night they had a different colour). My brother was given two by someone (If I recall from Australia) – one large and one small. My brother asked me if I wanted the small one and I was thankful and indeed did take it.

The night was absolutely incredible and something I will never forget (unless I get dementia perhaps…). It was a memorable experience and the most important experience in my life, for sure, as they mean so much to me and have helped me in so many ways.

A bit about the show:

First, ‘testimonials’ by a bunch of people, including Beavis & Butthead (that was really neat to see, and I remembered them always [especially Beavis] liking Metallica). Then, the comedian Jim Breuer hosted a Metallica trivia contest. That was really neat to see. Then the Soul Rebel Brass Band played. That was actually really cool. Also opening was Apocalyptica – yes, the cello Metallica cover band. Then Metallica came on stage. They actually opened with The Call of Ktulu! Following that, many other cool songs, including three songs never played, one never released:  Carpe Diem Baby was played for the very first time. Then, they played a song never released called Hate Train. And later in the set, (along with Brian Tatler and Sean Harris of Diamond Head !!) they played Its Electric (never before played live until Dec 5 of this year).

I got some nice items there, and I have a picture of some of them (all but the 4 poster set I bought too, but have not hanged anywhere yet).

Speaking of 30, it’s near my 30th birthday too, so that’s another neat aspect of this (it’s less than 2 months away). In addition, this year was the 25th anniversary of the tragic loss of Clifford Lee Burton – the second bassist of Metallica that lost his life in a bus accident in 1986. Thank you Cliff for your beautiful music, your inspiration, and influences you had on the band and the fans, from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you also goes to Ray Burton (Cliff’s father) who was at the first night and spoke of Cliff there too. That was awesome.

So, with that said, that’s how 30 Years can possibly fit into one night. Technically it was a week long celebration but I only had one night, so for me it was one night.

Remember, no matter how hard things are, there’s good somewhere to be found. You just have to look hard enough and stay strong. As the back of the coins say, 30 Years Strong! There was a time I never thought I’d reach 30 but I’m basically there, and that is something HUGE.

And now for the things I got while at the show – minus the four poster set:

30 Year Anniversary Memorabilia

30 Year Anniversary Memorabilia, Night 1 (5 December 2011).