Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The binary number system (base-2) seems pretty strange to those of us who normally use numbers only in decimal (base-10) notation. The first 20 base-2 numbers look like this: 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000, 1001, 1010, 1011, 1100, 1101, 1110, 1111, 10000, 10001, 10010, 10011, 10100.

Who'd have guessed that 10100 = 20, eh?

It's easier to see what's going on with binary notation by rewriting in columns the numbers listed above, like this:

______01:___ 00001__________________11:___ 01011
______02:___ 00010__________________12:___ 01100
______03:___ 00011__________________13:___ 01101
______04:___ 00100__________________14:___ 01110
______05:___ 00101__________________15:___ 01111
______06:___ 00110__________________16:___ 10000
______07:___ 00111__________________17:___ 10001
______08:___ 01000__________________18:___ 10010
______09:___ 01001__________________19:___ 10011
______10:___ 01010__________________20:___ 10100

The rather large number 4,294,967,296 in decimal notation pales in comparison to its incredibly lengthy binary equivalent: 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. (True binary system notation wouldn't use commas; I just wanted you to notice more easily that there are 32 zeroes after the first digit.)

Were it not for the binary system, as simple yet cumbersome as it seems, we wouldn't be using computers as we're doing at this very moment.

How's this for pretty useless information for the vast majority of us?

Today is day 591 (decimal notation; including today) since I've been on Active Duty orders (so much for one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer!), which in binary notation is 0b1001001111. (Math geeks often place "0b" before the first digit of the base-2 number, to indicate binary notation.) Assuming full 24-hour days, that would work out to be 51,062,400 base-10 seconds. In base-2 that would look like this: 0b11000010110010011010000000.


That's a lot of seconds of being away from home and the people I love most in the world. But it's also a lot of seconds I've gotten to spend in the company of wonderful and courageous young women and men, and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity. 

I wouldn't change it (but I'm not certain these days there aren't others who would....)!

I got to thinking about the binary system today because of the number 11111. If that were a base-2 number, 0b11111, it would mean 16+8+4+2+1 = 31 in base-10.

But it's not a base-2 number, and for that, I'm immensely grateful. It's a decimal system notation (which, since I'm on a binary system tear here, would be rendered as 0b10101101100111 in base-2) for the number of days in a row I've been sober.

But who's counting?

That's a lot of days God has had to work overtime on my behalf, wouldn't you agree? Hooray for the Higher Power! My friends who go to a lot of AA and Al-Anon meetings keep reminding me that gratitude is a key to gracious and graced living, one day at a time.

I'm also reminded that in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes:
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (NRSV: 2COR 4:8-10)
This passage took on a new meaning for me shortly after I got sober, and that meaning has broadened and deepened as I've stayed sober, one day at a time. I say again: Hooray for the Higher Power!

Eleven thousand one hundred and twelve days ago, I could not have imagined my life as it is today. Not only was I still drinking then, and not only was my hair long, but I also didn't even (and still don't) like war *movies* in 1979.

In the late 1970s, Army Chaplaincy figured into exactly none of my plans for the future, nor into what I presumed God's plans for me were.

And for that matter, neither did sobriety.

Yet here I am at sobriety day 11111. What once seemed to be a curse has morphed into incomparable blessing. I've learned that God is like that.

In 1979 I could never have imagined volunteering to put on a military uniform, knowing it would mean having to go to a war zone; yet I now am authorized to wear a deployment patch on the right sleeve of that uniform.

Go figure.

All those intervening years of "praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out," and look what those prayers brought me!

(Sobriety and a life of unimaginable richness.)

Assuming I continue not taking a drink one day at a time (and that I live that long!), I'll be in my mid-80s before I see the (decimal notation) number 22222 in this regard.

With my luck, I'll be deployed *then*, too.

Or perhaps, still.

(No matter whatever else (so no one is confused), if I'm still blogging, my opinions will still be unofficial -- but nevertheless correct, that's for sure!)

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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HighJump said...


Congrats on the 11111 days! I remember Tom W telling me about the 10000 day event, which happens about 27 years + 3 months.

BTW, I would say that it's "computer geeks" that use the 0b prefix, not "math geeks". Welcome to my world!!

Ron H, from Los Gatos; Lynda B says congrats, too.

Flyingpig said...

Happy 11111 days of trudging the road to happy destiny!

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