Friday, October 29, 2004

Look down, and see the beggars at your feet.
Look down, and show some mercy if you can.
Look down, and see the sweepings of the street.
Look down, look down, upon your fellow man!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Bleh. So now Thunderchuck has decided that all incoming messages will be delivered to my Junk folder (and none of it will be marked as Junk mail). Oh, and this is with junk mail controls disabled.

Honestly, people. E-mail should not be this hard! It's only been a solved problem since 1970 or so.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Not being at Cadence's San Jose site means that we can't talk to anyone in HR in person. To address this (in as pitiful way as possible :-P), Cadence sends our HR rep to us for a couple days once every year or so.

I had a one-on-one meeting with her today regarding my situation. It went something like this:
Her: Hm. Sucks to be you.
It's about what I expected, really.



And, no, it's not a rehash of Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Mozilla Thunderbird, the mail program I use, decided this morning that "Get messages" really means "Download them off the server and vaporize them."

No, not put them in the trash folder. Nor did it mark them as junk (I know that at least one was not junk). DELETED FOREVER. VAPORIZED. INTO THE ETHER.


Sunday, October 24, 2004

All men are created equal

All votes are not.

I calculated the relative "worth" of a presidential vote in each state by taking into account the number of polls taken in each state and the number of electoral votes for that state. (Exact formula: W = (P/Pavg)^2 * (E/Eavg), where W = worth, P = # polls, E = # electoral votes.) This presumes that the swing states are polled more frequently (generally true, except for California).

If the average vote is worth $1, then a vote in the top five states are worth: Florida, $43.95; Pennsylvania, $41.07; Ohio, $31.31; Michigan, $22.61; Minnesota, $10.12.

The bottom five: Nebraska, $0.0030; Idaho, $0.0024; Alaska, D.C, and Wyoming, $0.0018.

Data courtesy

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


We now have two cats! Mostly back, but with white paws. Pictures coming shortly.

They're not officially named, but we've been calling them B.C. and Robin. See, the previous owner thought it would be cute to call them "Batman" and "Robin." Robin was ok... but Batman was definitely out. Somehow, though, I got on this mind track of Batman => Batcat => B.C.

We don't like what B.C. stands for in that context, but somehow the name B.C. is ok.

I suspect the names will stick.

Monday, October 18, 2004

How common are dacut's interests
computers (266008)
harry potter (126790)
sleep (74482)
australia (11842)
classical music (25623)
dorks (11802)
german (10798)
japan (40926)
japanese (18146)
linux (13523)
musicals (38098)
mythology (42952)
naps (10189)
pirates (38111)
programming (17681)
scotland (13160)
shakespeare (30453)
tea (37189)
bach (6367)
bluegrass (3761)
cirque du soleil (3304)
computer science (3004)
fireplaces (1684)
honda (2591)
irc (6280)
kangaroos (1691)
logic (5619)
macbeth (1537)
maps (3469)
melbourne (1762)
miyazaki (1823)
mozart (9277)
new zealand (5988)
nickel creek (2103)
nihongo (1036)
ninja (1994)
python (1201)
research (3369)
san diego (5620)
sydney (1759)
the princess bride (9999)
watership down (1210)
algorithms (548)
anachronism (180)
auckland (285)
blue mountains (29)
brisbane (564)
cad (270)
caltech (100)
canberra (162)
christchurch (139)
colin powell (121)
computer languages (38)
copland (267)
cymbeline (38)
duality (515)
earl grey (716)
electrical engineering (506)
finesse (40)
flicking (36)
fourier transforms (24)
full metal challenge (19)
group theory (100)
junkyard wars (407)
kawasaki (271)
lisp (399)
mathematica (55)
maxwell's equations (14)
much ado about nothing (655)
new south wales (86)
okinawa (395)
padres (151)
postscript (34)
prince edward island (270)
reverse engineering (224)
rf (45)
robert llewellyn (23)
scheme (245)
scones (545)
scrapheap challenge (52)
semiconductors (61)
state department (28)
throwing rocks (184)
wellington (467)
carver mead (3)
cathy rogers (9)
cult of dork (6)
digikey (2)
jenolan caves (1)
remote procedure calls (1)
unusual languages (2)
wombeyan (1)
wombeyan caves (1)

Enter username:

InterestRank was bought to you by _imran_ and

How is it that none -- none! -- of you on my friends list have Cathy Rogers as an interest? This is simply inexcusable! In - ex - cus - a - ble!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

My VP (i.e., my boss' boss' boss) has reneged on his agreement to transfer a requisition to another VP. So I'm in limbo again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Strange phonecall...

I just got off the phone with John Cooley.

Now, I doubt that his name will ring a bell with anyone reading my journal, but he's fairly well-known in the electronic design automation (EDA -- CAD software for making chips) industry. He runs the DeepChip website and the Electronic Synopsys Users Group (ESNUG) newsletter. The latter is a monthly-or-so e-mail sent with selected letters and stories submitted to him; despite the name, it has expanded to encompass all of EDA rather than just Synopsys.

The letters in ESNUG are written by all sorts of people -- marketing droids, R&D grunts, the end users in the trenches, and sometimes an exec or analyst thrown in for good measure. The content ranges from marketing spin from EDA vendors to candid stories from the users. EDA marketing droids squeal with glee when they get positive spin in ESNUG, and recoil when the news is less than pleasing.

Anyway, I wrote him a fairly non-controversial update, mentioning the availability of a new open-source code management tool called Subversion which might be of interest to some of the readers. In a postscript, I mentioned that I enjoyed his recent presentation at the Cadence Usergroup meeting (entitled "Cadence: The good, the bad, and the ugly"), though one of my coworkers was disappointed because it was a well-balanced report rather than full of fireworks about all the crappy things about Cadence. (According to my coworker, "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.")

He apparently got a big kick out of this. The next thing I knew, he was on the phone, asking me about how others inside of Cadence felt, and wanted to know more about how the old Neolinear folks were doing.

It was a bit weird, because he is The Press, and only marketing spin droids are supposed to interface with The Press. But he wasn't really interviewing me or anything; just trying to get a feel for how things are inside of the beast-- er, Cadence. It's a bit like Wolf Blitzer giving George Bush a call to just shoot the breeze, but on a much smaller scale.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Lesson learned today: Never, ever, enter "*" in the "project filter" field of the Cadence timecard system. It will sit there for a good 5-10 minutes, and then fill the project list with stuff like:

I-CS0007-02-33z  SALES: Travel, international, Atlantic
I-CS0007-02-45a SALES: Scratch left buttcheck, upper distal quadrant
I-CS0007-02-45b SALES: Scratch left buttcheck, upper medial quadrant
I-CS0007-02-45c SALES: Scratch left buttcheck, lower distal quadrant
I-CS0007-02-45d SALES: Scratch left buttcheck, lower medial quadrant
I-CS0007-02-46a SALES: Scratch right buttcheck, upper distal quadrant

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Last week, I changed the motherboard on my computer to get USB 2.0 support (it was cheaper than buying a separate USB 2.0 card -- go figure) and fix some other annoying issues (I had a voltage regulator fall off; resoldering it fixed it, but it was flaky). Unfortunately, the sound card on it would buzz -- loudly -- every time I moved the mouse. Not surprising, given that the mouse connector was next to the audio out connector, and motherboard designers are not audiophiles and under constant pressure to eke out every fraction of a cent in the cost of making these things.

So, yesterday I purchased and installed a new sound card. The E-MU 0404 looked interesting -- external connectors (gets the signals away from the noisy interior), definitely in the "prosumer" line (it's meant for home studios). And it was cheap enough -- $99 -- that I decided to spring for it.

It is amazing. It's unbelievably quiet when no sounds are being made (with most cards, you get at least faint "ocean" white noise). And playing music on it, after living with crappy sound cards for years now, is like listening to a CD if all you've heard are tapes. And this is on the same old speakers I have.

Very happy. Amongst the best $100 I've spent.

Friday, October 8, 2004

More doodles

As I wait for a return e-mail...

Oh, and I have "Infectious Substance" and "Spontaneously Combustible" hanging outside my cube now.

I think "Dangerous When Wet" would be an excellent name for a swim team.


Thursday, October 7, 2004

To the original writers of this code...

Dammit, what the hell were you thinking when you wrote this crap? "Hmm, I need this bit of functionality. Oh, here's some code which does that. I'll copy and paste it into my code."

Have you people heard of functions? You know, those reusable bits of code they taught you on the first day of CS 1? Hell, we're not even talking about "advanced" concepts such as recursion, which is covered in the fifth lecture.

Oh, look. You wrote your own sort loop. It runs in O(n4) time. You know, there's this nifty algorithm called bubble sort which runs in O(n2) time. I think it's lecture seven.

No, I don't want to be reminded that they pay you to write this stuff.

By the way -- and I know this comes as a shock -- there's a mechanism which allows you to put arbitrary text into your source code which is ignored by the compiler/interpreter. They're called comments. Yes, I know it sounds a bit weird -- why would anyone want to put arbitrary stuff into their code that is ignored by the computer? Well, see, it doesn't have to be completely random. You could, say, describe what it is you're trying to compute. Maybe mention that there's an obscure side-effect you're relying upon in some call. The type of stuff that might help others reading your code understand what it's supposed to do.

Next week, we'll talk a bit about indentation -- yes, something else which is ignored by the computer but helps others trace out where your spaghetti loops start and end.
I just got spam from a company advertising 30% off my first order of custom peptide synthesis.

They point out that they offer peptide modifications: phosphopeptides, biotinylated peptides, dye-labeled pepties, cyclic peptides, and many more. Free consultation on peptide design. Alternatively, I can have 20% off my first order on amino acids, building blocks, synthesis resins and reagents. And, yes, they offer Wang Resins.

I find this all very strange. Much like the first time I saw chip design software (which can cost upwards of $100k/license/year) being advertised on a billboard.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Woohoo! Caltech physicist David Politzer won the Nobel Prize in Physics! It's shared with MIT's Frank Wilczek and UCSB's David Gross.

From this year's makeup of Nobel winners, it appears that it helps to be named David and be bald. :-)

It's actually quite fun to be on the campus when someone wins the Nobel. I remember when it was announced that Rudy Marcus won the Nobel for Chemistry in 1992. Nate Lewis, Ch 1a prof., scrapped his normal lecture for a lecture on Rudy and his work. Lots of celebrations. General buzz. Everyone seems a bit happier.

[Fixed links -- thanks Carn!]

Monday, October 4, 2004

For those who have not seen it, SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X-Prize this morning.

This, to me, is huge. When I first heard of the X-Prize, I thought there was only an outside chance that it would be claimed by 2010. I figured that the chances of commercial space travel were remote in my lifetime; now, Sir Richard Branson has expanded his Virgin empire to include Virgin Galactic, already signing up passengers for flights in 2007.


Personally, I'd like now to see follow-on prizes for the first commercial craft to do a full orbit in space and an orbit around the moon.

I just realised...

I made it through September this year without anyone dying on me. This is a marked improvement from the previous two years.
My internal clock has been off ever since I took that forsaken red-eye flight last Sunday/Monday. Going to work not long after the sun rises (~ 8 am) and getting home just before it sets (~ 7 pm) does not help. This has the effect of making me constantly sleepy, and what sleep I do get is neither long nor restful. Fortunately, I was able to spend a few hours yesterday doing yardwork in the sun; this seems to have reset things, as I got in to work early-ish yet feel awake.

In between my naps on Friday/Saturday, I managed to reassemble my computer. It needed a storage upgrade; it went from 40 GB to 250 GB (in a RAID-1 array -- I'm paranoid about disk crashes these days). I also used that opportunity to change the motherboard (it was cheaper than buying a USB 2.0 card -- go figure) and stuffed the whole shebang into a new case. Much shinier.

However, around the same time, my DSL modem decided to go kaputt. I put in a trouble ticket with Nauticom, my service provider, on Saturday morning; they claim to have 24/7 service. I called back last night; the tech told me that the DSL people hadn't even looked at it yet. Grr. This annoys me, because I had hoped to get a bit of work out of the way this weekend (and I didn't want to tail over to the office, 45 minutes away). This has angered me enough that I've started the process of switching over to the evil Comcast cable modem service which is cheaper and much faster: $50 and 4 Mbps vs. $60 and 512 kbps.

The primary reasons for using Nauticom in the first place were that we weren't sure we were going to have cable (when we moved, I was looking into a satellite dish), Comcast does not have a good reputation with their cable data service, and Nauticom's tech support was supposed to be phenomenal. Since then, we found that our house isn't suited for satellite, Comcast has taken many strides to improve their service (at least, they've been eliminating spam emanating from their network), and, well, obviously Nauticom hasn't been terribly responsive. Perhaps a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, but both Tamara and I were not able to get bits of work done as a result of this; it's not just a "wah, wah, I can't check my e-mail for two whole days!" thing (though, admittedly, there's a bit of that).

Actually, I did manage to rig my cell phone to connect my computer through Verizon's data packet service. It's surprisingly fast (230 kbps -- much faster than anything one can get through a standard modem). It also eats into my minutes very quickly.

Ok, back to coffee and coding.