Monday, September 25, 2006

Virgin Music Festival, 2006

I have a really sore neck this morning, from the Virgin Music Festival in Baltimore. My wonderful wife bought me two tickets for my birthday, so we found a kind hearted soul who wanted to play with my four kids for the day, and drove up the Beltway into Maryland.

After parking the car about three kilometers away, we walked in the direction of the pulsing drums up to the pimlico race track, where the event was held. I felt a little old, hanging out with these kids, but we managed to sort of fit in.. (maybe?) Twenty Dollars for two beers was a bit steep...Old guy whinging at the bar.

When I was a kid, me and my brothers would be driven around town in our big red family van, and Dad would blast The Who on the crappy cassette player. We grew up singing along to tunes like 'Boris the Spider', 'Magic Bus', and 'Can't Explain'. When I heard that The Who were re-forming and coming to town, I just had to go. To be honest, I thought they would probably suck. I mean, when half of your band is dead, maybe it might be time to pack it in...

Well, I was wrong. When Pete blared out the opening chords to 'Can't Explain', the whole crowd (Not just me) just went completely crazy. It was a pretty amazing show, and the band sounded great - with Zak Starkey (Ringo's son) on the drums, and Pino Palladino replacing John Entwhistle on bass. Sure, these guys looked grey, but they didn't sound it. Although it was a bit amusing hearing Roger Daltrey sing " I hope I die before I get old..."

But the real reason I was there in sunny, smog-ridden Baltimore, was to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers close the show.

Seeing this band live is the most joyous, soul-restoring, incredible thing I have ever experienced. It's better than any drug I've ever tried, and is right up there with the birth of my children for sheer levels of emotional intensity. These guys are some of the most intense, honest and talented musicians in the world today. From the onset, Flea, Chad and John began to carefully improvise and craft this tasty funky groove that rung out across the arena for a few minutes - it sort of reminded me of a jazz gig - and then suddenly they exploded into the killer funk opening of 'Can't Stop', and for the next two hours, I was gone...

The whole show was incredible, but the highlight for me was John's solo in 'Scar Tissue' - I have never heard a guitarist wrack so much emotion out of his instrument. The poignancy of his playing reached out to my very core - like every note was being played just to me. The man is the greatest living rock guitarist, bar none. He can move you to tears.

Some other great moments - Flea's baroque classical Bach piece that sounded like Jaco Pastorius was alive and well ...the bassline from Fugazi's Suggestion making a surprise appearance in the intro to 'Give it Away'...'Me and my Friends', (because all the straight college kids around me had never heard it before, while I just went crazy) and 'Give it Away' itself, because it reminded me of my brothers, (whom I love dearly and miss terribly), and our last adventure to see the band. "Feeling good my brother gonna hug me..."

At the close of the show, Flea walked off on his hands, and I slowly started returning to earth.
It will probably take me a good three or four days though...

The greatest living rock band in the world. Go and see them. Give yourself up to the funk and let the music run your body for a few hours. Just go. That is all.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Negative Data?

Here's a truly special idea - via those crazy Thrashers, I ran into this intriguing article from The Economist, which points to the world of Negative Databases, and how they might be able to help the world of encryption and data security.

In a world where sensitive data gets frequently lost, Data security folk are always trying to come up with the most secure way to store data. And it doesn't take a six year old to tell you that the best way to keep your data safe, is to not have it there in the first place.
"Pshaw!", I hear you say, "You can't store it and not store it at the same time!", and in a way, you'd be right.

But then, in another, more accurate way, you'd be a bit wrong. Consider the following statement:
"All Ravens are Black"
From here, you could make all kinds of crazy assertions about all black things being ravens, but these are incorrect, despite being amusing. What's not incorrect, is that:
"All Non Black-Things are Not Ravens"
Which , it turns out upon some reflection, is true.

So, the concept of a negative database is concerned with storing the absence of the things you'd like to store. If your customer database has a 20 char field for customer name, you'd then store in that table, every single permeation of the alphabet of your choice, up to 20 characters, excepting the names of your clients. Let's call that table Non_Customers.

Let's also say you used the standard 26 letter English Alphabet - that's 560,127,029,342,507,827,200,000 possible combinations of letters that you can cram into that field, based on my amateur permutations math of n!/(n-r)!

Let's be really generous, and say that you have 500,000 client records. So we end up with a table containing 560,127,029,342,507,826,700,000 records, all of which are precisely NOT your customers names.

All of your SELECT statements are now a bit harder to write, but with a little work, you could theoretically piece together the precise data that was missing from the table. And if someone was to find the database table lying around on a laptop, they don't actually have the data. They have everything else!

These numbers are stupidly big. When you consider that a very large database is classed as one with several billions of rows, you can rest assured that the non_customers table isn't going to be working it's way into your stored procedures anytime soon. But, as big as they are, they aren't infinite. Which means that as processing power increases, maybe one day it will be possible to store your entire backup as a secure database shadow...

Page 123 Blog Meme (Washington DC Edition)

Simon has the rules of this blog meme over at Exceptionally Uncaught.

I had to seriously look around for the closest book - the first two I found were "Good Night Goz", which I discounted because it only had eleven pages, and the websters dictionary, which I discounted because it didn't technically have any sentences - (well, no full stops, anyway, which I believe maketh the sentence) So I ended up with:

Hotel George
$$$$ Capitol Hill Modernistic Posters of the first president adorn the hotel, which attracts lobbyists, celebrities and others who dig hip surroundings and proximity to power. See Map P.102.

From Washington DC for Dummies, 3rd Edition. ( I really have no idea how I came to own this book. No, honestly...)

So , yeah - you're all 'it' and that...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I was shocked and stunned when I woke up this morning to hear of Steve Irwin's accident.

I never met Steve personally - to be honest, for a while I thought of him as a bit of a joke - some hyperactive ocker maniac, giving us Aussies a bad name overseas. (I mean, over here, as soon as you say you're from Australia, it's a matter of time before an American asks you if you know the 'Crocodile Hunter'...)

But that all changed the day I took my kids to visit the Australia Zoo, up on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland. There, built around his parent's original reptile park, is a fantastic and huge zoo that is focused on protecting animals and educating people as to the way the natural world works. My Family and I spent the whole day attending shows and walks, and feeding Elephants and Kangaroos, and by the time I walked out, I felt privileged to have been a part of Steve and Terri's passion and enthusiasm for the natural world, and the way that they managed to manifest such a great environment to share it with everyone.

There's a strange irony about the way he died - I remember my Dad telling me that the only way a Sting-Ray ever killed anyone was by stinging them right in the heart. Plenty of other people have been stung by sting-rays and survived just fine (well, maybe not just fine, there's usually lots of blood and screaming, but it's not like you die or anything...)

I'm sure there are a plenty of people who share in my sadness today - I just thought I'd add my voice to theirs - It's horrible when a family loses a Dad.

Thanks, Mate.