Thursday, January 07, 2010

Some Adjustments

Trevor's latest music CD is a masterpiece. I made a special trip upstairs to warn my daughter to prepare herself if she was going to come downstairs.

These sounds are sometimes both inexplicably eerie and hauntingly beautiful in ways only music and life can be.

I needed to backpedal on some misapprehensions I had about Nietzsche, namely that he was Austrian. I made a post hoc change to Philosophy 101, tweaking the time stamp (a ritual gesture, means "shifted" or "adjusted").

Paul Laffoley's blog gives me a new angle on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whom I've been yakking about recently. I'm having some deja vu about all this, not sure why:
My only objections to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) are first, he refused to believe in the existence of Extraterrestrials, meaning that the Earth was the only place in the Universe where intelligent life exists; and second, as a student he participated in “The Piltdown Man” hoax in 1918 in East Sussex England by burying a Neanderthal human skull without its mandible and then substituted a chimpanzee mandible. The attempt was to make the World believe in the existence of the fabled “Missing Link”.
Trevor rightly points out that has this retro 1990s flavor, suggests I convert everything to WordPress, including these blogs. As it is, Synergetics on the Web is a hodgepodge of different styles and fonts, lots of hand-coded static HTML.

My thinking these days is "grunch" and "grunge" go together ("grunge of giants"?), meaning we start from the fact of a downscale planet, don't pretend we're richie rich. Yes, there's this "GRoss UNiversal Cash Heist" connotation (GRUNCH), but that simply means we have nowhere to go but the future, no choice but to invest, one way or another.

Anthony Mason had the right idea in that January 5 piece on CBS News, which Katie said was terrific. Will new shelter solutions be a part of the mix, or is the plan to just do more FEMA trailers from here on out?

A Math Talk

The reason I promote hexadecimals so much has less to do with understanding everything there is to know about bases, including negative and irrational number bases, and more to do with comprehending some details behind the ASCII-to-Unicode story.

Expanding the number of permutations of 1s and 0s, by adding slots, doubling their range with each added new one, means growing by powers of two. At four bits you have 16 permutations, mapping to the digits 0-F.

Since when was F a digit?

Since hexadecimals: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F.

Two such digits represent eight bits and that's conveniently called a byte (I'm reminded of mites, sytes and kites for some reason). Four bytes look like this: 12 AB 5F EC.

8 bits gives 2**8 or 256 permutations, enough for much of Latin-1 (like Roman letters), but not enough for all the world's alphabets and ideograms, math symbols, cursive glyphs in joining groups (ways to connect to one another -- important in Arabic and Syriac scripts).

By widening the field from 8 to 32 bits, one boosts the range to 2 to the 32nd power or 2**32 or 4,294,967,296 (more than four billion slots). Only the first 21 bits are really needed at this time, leaving room for the shared symbol space to double many more times.

Think of at least three reasons we might need to add code points (hint: what if Teilhard was wrong?).

My thanks to Carl Trachte for this blog post.