February 2nd, 2003


The news

The space shuttle, though one of the most analysed and well-designed vessels ever created by humans, has a 20% failure margin. I know this because I have spoken to and worked with one of the people that performed the safety analysis on the shuttle before it went into service. The engineers knew that. The NASA bods knew that. The astronauts knew that. When Challenger blew up, that's what it was. The 20% coming back to metaphorically bite the world on the arse. And that's what it was with this one. Nothing deliberate. No cut fuel lines, surface-to-air missiles, secret laser satellite death weapons or anything like that. It was, when it boils down to it, nothing but blind chance.

Don't get me wrong, I believe astronauts are some of the bravest people that exist. They put their lives into the hands of chance. This time, the dice fell against them. That's what it was. If anyone tries to claim it was anything but direction-less probability in the end, they are both lying and stupid, and must not be allowed to spread their message, especially if they use it as a chance to propagate hatred.


I've left everything to the last minute again. No excuses to the tutor, I need to have my algorithms ready by two in the afternoon tomorrow. Of course, the week's been mostly a mess of trying to get Linux working optimally (damn soundcard still isn't working), doing stuff with Matt as he left yesterday, and playing Gundam Battle Assault 2 on my PlayStation.

Yup, Matt's gone. The first morning I've been here and not seen the poster on his door or the sound of WWE from his room. Everything has been stripped out and shipped back leaving the room in the same state it was in before he got here. It's rather weird to know that one of the four of us ain't here any more. Still, good luck to him and all that.

Goldreich is on crack. His is one of two cryptography books I have on near-permanent loan from the library (as in, I've had them long enough I could buy my own copies with the fines I've paid and then some). I find his impossible to progress past the first chapter, though I'm keeping it around in the vain hope that I can quote from it and appear to be a fuck of a lot more intelligent than I really am. Foundations of Cryptography: Basic Tools doesn't sound that bad. However, having read through it it's a final year text for those doing an MSc in pure mathematics. It makes my head hurt, not because I can't do it (I can do the maths, I'm good at what I do) but because working out what the author is going on about is painful. Everything is outlined in pure mathematical language that makes the book unreadable to anyone not over-used to seeing "Proof of Theorem X.Y" every other page. I'm a self-trained mathematician for the most part, and I just wish some people would leave their high horses and their fancy linguistic predicates the fuck at home. Especially at eleven thirty on a Sunday morning.

In contrast, Trappe and Washington's Introduction to Cryptography with Coding Theory is a book I can get along with. The language is a lot less pretentious than Goldreich, and though sometimes the explanations verge on being overdone the book is still a lot more readable than any other text I've found on the subject[1]. Everything is done in a logical order, the various bits of mathematics are brought in at the right time, i.e. after the explanation of the basic principles that the authors are trying to communicate. Yeah, I'll stop my hideously biased review of encryption textbooks now. If it annoyed you to find it here, deal.

Of course, the only reason I'm doing them in the first place is because it's something to do rather than work on my algorithms. Fuck. I need motivation. Motivation. Need get work done...

Whoever at HP came up with the idea of an all day breakfast in a can should be praised. Tim Rice also does a hell of a good job with all of the dross that Lloyd-Webber gives him. And people think Lloyd-Webber is the genius. Fucking retards the lot of them.


[1] I never include Foo for dummies or The complete idiot's guide to bar in such comparisons even when they do exist. This is because I am neither a dummy nor a complete idiot thus these books would only be insulting my intelligence.
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