Friday, March 29, 2013

How To count sheep in binary

Have you ever counted sheep, or maybe clouds to fall asleep?

Chances are the answer is -Yes. It is a customary to many cultures to ask someone trying to get asleep or suffering from light insomnia to visualize a large space (like a green, wide field) and start counting objects in it (like white curly sheep). The goal is to occupy one's mind with repetitive and rhythmic task, which presumably introduces boredom, and that will make one fall asleep sooner.

I have been told to try this when refusing to go to bed many times as a kid. However the boredom trick never worked for me, starting to count sheep actually got me more awake, trying to come up with the optimized ways of sheep counting... See, counting them one-by-one would get me confused on which sheep were already counted, and I felt responsible for not counting the same sheep twice. One of the things I envisioned was building a gate in the middle of the field starting with all sheep on one side and none on the other, and send sheep to the empty side of the gate and increment the sheep count, maybe with a digital sign (like modern day parking lots showing the number of available spaces). 

Of course there was still lot to do: instead of counting one-by-one you can be sending a pair of sheep trough the gate at once counting the evens only 2, 4, 6, etc sheep helping to save time! You don't need to stop here,  you can go by the increments of 5 or better yet 10. This was already enough, at this point there is no point already of thinking about falling asleep. My complains to my parents that I reached ten-thousand sheep after two minutes would surprisingly leave them disapproving. 


As a graduate student at University of Michigan, I found myself at the same dilemma getting more and more anxious about not being able to fall asleep for the few precious hours before the final exams. I would spend hours on the typical task of counting if I fall asleep this exact second how much time would I be sleeping before the alarms start buzzing... This is by far the worst way of trying to fall asleep besides maybe drinking Red Bull right before going to bed.

Then, one day I recalled the sheep counting task from my childhood. It wouldn't work in the original version, since it never did, so it needed to be updated to make any sense at all... I "reinvented" a slightly geeky version of Sheep in the Field. By counting sheep in binary! Counting goes as 00001, 00010, 00011, 00100, 00101, 00110, ... Boring and confusing enough, isn't it?

This is how I envision the field with sheep: 

There is a possibility that I made a mistake the sheep counting/numbering on this picture already. Additionally  coming up with this wonderful picture on MS Paint really bored me. The morale of this story - counting sheep in binary(*) worked for me. You should try it out as well!

(*) Binary numbering system:

Decimal (base 10)
Binary (base 2)



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Girly geek or Geeky girl

I like the word Geek. These days the meaning of the word has shifted from the synonym of rather negative words looser or dork to a rather positive meaning, like a "successful technologist" or "technology enthusiast".

If you think about it... Today we would not call everyone in technology a geek - neither the guy who can code, nor the cliché character from movies wearing very thick glasses and collecting rare varieties of butterflies automatically qualifies as a geek. The word has become descriptive of a person who truly likes technology and is good with it.

Attention Geeks & Girlfriends of Geeks! MicroSoft geek Definition T-Shirt (L)
Merriam-Webster definition of geek.

To support this theory just search for the word "Geek" on Bing or Google. You will see no negative results at among top 10. Microsoft company store is full with gear – cups, T-shirts, hats, toys with the trademark "geek" on them.

I take no offense in being called a geek. At times I have felt almost proud that a classmate, teammate or a colleague has seen enough passion in me for making things better in technology and I have demonstrated the depth of knowledge to be called a geek, and qualify for the membership of Elite Society of Geeks.  

How would the ladies of the Elite Society of Geeks should be identifying ourselves? By ladies/girls(*) I mean besides the obvious anatomical differences from men, species of humans that including but not limited to the list, may: display fondness of shopping, wear makeup daily, possess extensive knowledge of the designer brands, willingly choose walk on high heel shoes for extended period of time and intermittently become overly emotional about stuff.

Lately I needed to provide a brief bio - and I thought of being slightly funny to take the pressure off and identify myself as a "geeky girl". However on the second thought I realized that it is more related to a Halloween costume of a girl wearing a short skirts and oversized glasses than a computer programmer, and that it does not assume about one's technical overachiever status or membership in the unregistered society of Geeks. But then what was the alternative to put in the bio?  

Next I thought about the a little wordplay and expression "girly geek". Well, maybe I didn't come up with it myself - but it represented exactly what I meant! It is a person with strong intellectual skills and high level of knowledge of the field who also satisfies the definition of a girl(*) from above.

Therefore, I hereby declared myself a proud "girly geek". Join the club ladies!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

We're Back! [to blogging]

Dear reader, for a long time I have been planning to comeback to blogging, but between the constant travel, work deadlines, busy schedule and overall high stress it has been difficult to make the time commitment and start again. Now that it the blog is linked to my site I am excited to be posting again!

So with the nearing closing of chapter now in Rainycity and a new coming up  in Sunnyvale please read, comment, share. Welcome to my blog.