Wednesday, August 26, 2009


So, it's about time I reviewed Skillet's latest album, Awake. I pre-ordered it a long time ago, and it arrived last Monday. I listened to it once Monday, about 7-8 times on Tuesday, and then another 3-4 times today. (By contrast, I have listened to Comatose hundreds of times in the last three years.)

First, a few notable songs that stand out to me, good or bad:

Hero - Skillet's first single from this album. I was able to download it when I pre-ordered, and I fell in love with it instantly. The lyrics and the music are very powerful. This is exactly what I expect to hear when I listen to Skillet. Hero features Jen's vocals, which I was very pleased to hear. John is a really good (albeit a bit scratchy) vocalist, but a touch of female vocals always goes a long way.

Monster - The second released single. At first, I thought it sounded an awful like like something TFK would do, and I didn't particularly like it so much. The "growl" midway through the song salvaged the whole thing, and it only took a few listens before I grew very accustomed to it, and I now like the whole thing (growl and all).

Awake and Alive - Now this is what I love to hear. I was just as amazed listening to this song as I was when I first heard Comatose. The strings are absolutely incredible, and it's a for sure hit at their live concert. Great to sing along to, and it occasionally gives me shivers. Again, Jen sings in this song, and it adds a lot.

Should've When You Could've - I wasn't so sure of this song when I first heard it. The lyrics are very high-school-breakup-ish, and the music and words are quite repetitive. I found that it easily got stuck in my head, and I didn't want it stuck in my head (unlike every song on Comatose, which I thoroughly enjoy when they get stuck in my head).

Believe - Also a relationship-breakup-ish kind of song (-5 points), but the chord/key progression saves it (+15 points). Not that this is a bad thing, the opening guitar strumming is uncannily similar to Three Days Grace (particularly Never Too Late from One-X).

Forgiven - Musically, not as unique as some of their other songs, but lyrically, very powerful. It has the power to speak for every person on the planet, and is basically worship to God. I love songs like this.

Sometimes - Much harder song, though not in the same vein as previous hard-rock songs like Savior or Better Than Drugs. It sounds much darker, and the lyrics follow the same style. They are actually kind of depressing, so I'll be interested to learn more about it and hopefully gain a new appreciation for the lyrics in the future.

Dead Inside - The first of two "bonus" tracks on the deluxe version, I am surprised they left it off the regular album. Both of them are excellent songs, this one in particular featuring powerful lyrics, excellent supporting string usage, and more prominent guitar riffs.

Would It Matter - Another excellent bonus song! Frankly, I think John's vocals are best on this song over every other. It's a typical bridge between rock and soft/melodic sounding, but it really gives his voice a chance to shine.

So far, I can't say I'm as impressed with Awake as I was with Comatose. With Comatose, I literally liked every single song and could stand listening to every songs a few hundred times, not to mention that most of the album was spent in worship. My overall impression of Awake is that it's less focused on worshiping God but more focused on emo/relationships. I count roughly 4, maybe 5 songs on Awake that can be attributed as some form of worship (Hero, One Day Too Late, Forgiven, Dead Inside, and maybe Never Surrender)--less than half, whereas on Comatose, I count 6 or 7. I feel like Skillet has strayed a little from this focus, especially when I hear songs like Should've When You Could've and It's Not Me It's You.

I also feel like this album is less personal than I would like, but I could be very wrong. I wish that Skillet would do an interview for someone and explain the motivation behind all of their songs...that would definitely help me to appreciate some of the lyrics more.

Musically, it's also somewhat less satisfying than I would have hoped, but I did listen to it a dozen times in two days and am very very pleased with it. I am not at all disappointed...maybe I just set my hopes impossibly high. I was hoping they would do more with strings, but I will settle for Awake and Alive as my goosebump-inducing song. I was also hoping for more harder rock, but not quite as dark sounding as Monster and Sometimes.

At any rate, I am very pleased with Awake, and I would highly recommend it to every single soul who can take a little rock in their diet! I'm super excited for the concert...I still set my hopes high for that...September 24! I can only imagine what some of these will sound like live.

Collide: 8 / 10
Comatose: 10 / 10
Awake: 8.5 / 10

Monday, August 24, 2009


I must have played a dozen games and have lost every single freaking one, sometimes leading my team. I was also told today that I can't move into the dorm until next Sunday, after I was promised to be able to move in tomorrow. Exceptions can be made for other people who DON'T have a job and who DO have another place to stay, but not for me. My hall director shafted me the same way last year when I had an on-campus job and nowhere to live. You'd think that a Christian university would be all about providing shelter to the "homeless" and extending grace and kindness to those who need it, but no, we don't believe in such nonsense.

What an awful way to start the week.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ruby's Complement Operator

So I was doing stuff with bits today and needed to do a bitwise complement. As it seems, Ruby's Fixnum complement operator (~) doesn't actually do bitwise complement. Working with Ruby 1.8.7 on a 32-bit machine, I get the following things:

irb(main):002:0> a=5
=> 5
irb(main):003:0> a.to_s(2)
=> "101"
irb(main):004:0> a.size
=> 4

This tells us that the binary representation of 5 is 101, and that Fixnums are 4 bytes long. Suppose we want to take the bitwise complement of 5. We would expect, for a 32-bit signed integer, that
~5 = ~101
= ~00000000 00000000 00000000 00000101
= 11111111 11111111 11111111 11111010
= -6

Indeed, we see that ~5 = -6, as Ruby shows:

irb(main):005:0> ~a
=> -6

However, when we look at the binary, we see a completely different binary representation:

irb(main):006:0> (~a).to_s(2)
=> "-110"
irb(main):007:0> (-6).to_s(2)
=> "-110"

Indeed, what we see here is not at all a 32-bit two's complement representation of -6, but we see the number 6 (110) with a negative sign in front of it! Apparently, Ruby stores signed integers up to 31 bits, but does not use that last bit for the sign! Instead, it stores the sign separate from the magnitude. So Ruby says, "take the number 6, make a binary representation of it, and then stick a minus sign in front of it to make it negative"...not the universal binary representation you would expect from any other (good) language.

Thus, the ~ operator in Ruby means {-x - 1} instead of {~x}. If a programmer wanted {-x - 1}, he would just write that! It's so rarely needed (in my experience) that it does not make sense to have an operator for it! But if a programmer needs to work with bits in Ruby (which is much more common), he is left without a suitable bitwise complement operator. You could implement something like this:

class Fixnum
def ~
self ^ ((1 << 32) - 1)

...and you would get (~5).to_s(2) => 11111111 11111111 11111111 11111010, but this is no longer equal to -6. Since it has overflowed 31 bits, it was automatically converted into a Bignum and now represents 4294967290.

Once again, Ruby has taken something that every other language has and removed it by design. For bit manipulation, use C. For string processing, use Perl. For websites and/or database access, use PHP. For passing around arbitrary blocks of code and not knowing what type your variables are, use Ruby.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Things To Put On My List

  1. Been in New Jersey
  2. Visited a high security facility
  3. Seen the Liberty Bell
  4. Ate a $50+ meal (French Thai Cuisine)
  5. Ate raw fish (and other sushi)

Monday, August 17, 2009


I should be a Canadian. I like saying "Eh?", but I only say it to, maybe I can have a context-sensitive nationality! When I'm around some people, I'm American, but around others I'm a Canadian!

But then again, I'm not sure I want to live in Canada, due to this very important and non-negotiable fact, brought to you by your very own XKCD:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oh My Goodness Gracious

I just ate a meal. At a restaurant.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Amarok 1.4

If you are me (which most of you are not), then you fell in love with Amarok 1.4 and cried when they "updated" to Amarok 2, dropping many important features and settings, and causing it to crash all the time. Fortunately, all is not lost! By adding a custom repository to Apt, you can still get the old version of Amarok. See the tutorial here:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oh, stuff

Today was the first real day of work, starting on my senior research project for Lockheed Martin. I can't really say anything about what I'm doing, other than I'm continuing the research that David Kasper did in writing a program that will help the productivity of Lockheed's researchers. I'm working with Dr. Geisler, which is a huge bonus (a good reason I wanted this project!). It's a little sad coming into the project so late, but I'm here now, and my summer was very worthwhile anyways.

I've been wondering lately what role emotion plays in the Christian faith. You have the old Baptist vs Charismatic debate, where Charismatics uphold spiritual gifts and emphasize very emotional experiences, but Baptists argue more for a more rational (yet more boring) faith. I think there's plenty of room for both, and taking it to either extreme is dangerous. I've been told (and still believe) that you can have a strong faith without the "feel good" emotions, because sometimes your hormones will lie to you, but I do also believe that God can and does speak to you through emotional experiences.

One main area where this applies is my trip this summer to South America. Yes, I felt led in a very emotional experience to devote my summer to overseas missions, and God definitely provided a way for this to happen. But my trip was a very unordinary one...I didn't preach to people on the street or play with orphans or help build churches. Instead, I fixed computers. It's pretty much my life when I'm not in another country, but it was still very different. Anyways, my experience was not life-changing in the sense of being a completely new person now that I've gone. I'm still the same person, I'm back in Upland doing the same things I was doing last summer, and I'm getting back into the old routine. I'm not one of those people who's totally on fire about missions and can't wait to tell everyone. Yes, I did have a wonderful experience, and yes, I'm fully confident that it was God's will for me to go and that he plans for me to go overseas again, but I'm not all emotional about it.

Is this a bad thing, or is it natural? My attitude toward it is basically, I'll listen to where God wants me to go, and I'll follow him wherever he leads me, but I'm not particularly excitable about all the awe-inspiring and amazing things that I "see" God doing. I want to serve God and serve others by obeying him and going where he sends me; is it really a sin to not be so emotional about it?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Back Home

I arrived back to Upland yesterday, and spent the afternoon/evening arranging furniture, unpacking, going for a walk, eating Happy Buddha, and visiting friends in the dungeon. I still need to do more unpacking and moving at Anthony's apartment until I can move into FOSO. Oh, for the days of senior year to come...

Also, I need to shower. I feel gross.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


So I found something really funny, and I was going to put it as my Facebook status message, and then I ran into this:

Account Disabled

Your account has been disabled. If you have any questions or concerns,
you can visit our FAQ page here.

It turns out I violated their TOS (but no one ever reads those things anyways!)...

2. You will not collect users' information, or otherwise access Facebook,
using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers)
without our permission.

Well, at least I have everyone's Facebook pictures now...

Plus, I think my account is permanently disabled, so I cannot log back into Facebook ever again! Good riddance! I must say, this is the most awesome way to be banned from a terrible web site...but I do have that one other account that was created for me, so maybe my relationship can still be preserved. At any rate, goodbye Facebook, for real and forever this time.