Thursday, December 16, 2004

i had an interesting dream that i needed to retake the 5th grade. i woke within the dream with only 5 minutes to get ready for school. because the elementary school was so close, i could run over there for my shower. i ran there in yesterday's clothes and found the locker room. i had forgotten to bring soap or shampoo. i found a tipped-over bottle of pert plus on a ledge. i scooped up some of it and it made a thick lather on my head. i also found a thinned-down bar of dial soap. i put on yesterday's clothes again and realized i only had one minute until the bell. in the hall was a buffet of desserts, cupcakes, date bars, etc. i took a chocolate cupcake with amber colored gummies on it, needing some sort of sustenance to begin the day. the cupcake fell apart and i tried to shove as much of it into my mouth as possible to avoid making a mess. in the back of my mind I thought that it would be okay to be late on the first day of school, that little kids would be expected to get lost in the hall, therefore the same grace period would apply to me even thought I was an adult. (It always amazes me how logical one can be in a dream while carrying out absurd tasks.) The 5th grade class was mostly adult. I looked around for kids and saw a few of them, many with their fathers. I thought everyone in the class (except me) must have been very stupid to require such remediation. The teacher asked "who knows where World War I started." Nobody answered so I shouted out "Munich" feeling very smug and self-assured. The teacher didn't acknowledge my answer and I assumed that he was intimidated by my brilliance. Julie was sitting behind me, one row over. She admired my self-assured answer. Then the dream was over and I woke up.

My history book was on the shelf next to my bed. I turned to the WWI section and saw that Ferdinand was assasinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia. I was thinking "Munich" because just before the outbreak of WWII, Neville Chamberlain thought he had successfully negotiated with Hitler in that city. The "Munich Analogy" was later applied by U.S. officials to the Soviet Union, justifying the cold war. I.e. Munich proved to them that the Soviets could not be bargained with.

Which leads me to the interesting interview on Fresh Air yesterday with Richard Viguerie, author of "America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power." Viguerie is the third disturbing fundamentalist right-winger I've heard on her show. Senator Rick Santorum (PA - anti-abortion crusader) freaked me out in August, and Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind novels, freaked me out in March. Viguerie's premise is that secular society is waging war on Christian society. He described the Bush White House as OK but not doing enough to "control the courts" or to reduce the size of government. When Gross asked him why it was necessary to frame the current state of politics as "war" he said that the war had already been started by secular society and that he was simply helping Christian America to defend itself.

Now, ask me if I like fundamentalist Christian America and my answer is no. I am not sure that means I am "at war" with anyone. I have watched Pat Robertson on television, and find him to be well-spoken but repugnant. Anyone who leads a mass prayer vigil asking God to "change" members of Supreme Court seems too biased to trust, and un-American. What is American about praying for the death of Supreme Court justices? But more to the point, Christian broadcast media is manipulative and in poor taste. Its goal is not to inform the masses but to convert them, to control them. Ultimately, its goal is to draw public discourse back towards scripture because that is where certain men exercise the greatest knowledge and authority. I think that this is a problem because many problems in the world are important even though they do not pertain to themes in the Bible. Global warming, the environment, human rights. I appreciate the wisdom of maintaining a secular society. I see self-discipline, tolerance, and creativity in secular society. Secular insight thrills me. Am I at war with Fundamentalist Christians? I don't think so. I just don't think their ideas and methods are helpful.

But this is not enough. Fundamentalist Christians are at war with ME. So if I am to speak out against it, I need to know things like "Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, not Munich." For that matter, it is helpful to know that WWII began partially in Spain where the right wingers under Franco defeated a newly formed leftist government, with backing from Hitler. America entered WWII as the new deal wound down. In america the role of government had expanded dramatically, to compensate for economic swings, and to assist the needs of people subjected to new forces of industrialization and urbanization. Americans loved FDR, and the fact that government could help.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

three days until the end of finals. here is a link to an economics paper i wrote this semester.

Monday, November 01, 2004

currently reading richard wright's autobiography, "black boy." his language in 1944 was, in my opinion, completely modern. the feat he pulls off in this book is in adjusting his narrative voice to complement various growth stages. as a young boy his descriptions and observations are sparse. only by age 17, about 2/3 through the book do you begin to sense that the author is speaking. his perceptions of american culture are still very sharp. it would still seem that we are in a killing sort of system, one that is perhaps not so obviously cruel, but that we still must really use our wits to understand, and feel whole in.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

i am finally moved in to matt's place. there are opened boxes and piles of unorganized crap on my bed which is why i am not sleeping right now. since i have much less personal space, the challenge is where to put everything. i can't move one thing without burying another thing. i've been hoisting and shuffling around my many heavy things for four straight days. it is changing my world view. i noticed in the arts section of the austin chronicle an exhibit called "electricity and me" which features fanciful electric devices. the aesthetics of it seemed wrong. our culture already includes heavy, mostly superfluous electric devices, what is the point of creating new, abstracted ones? i want to see art made out of nothing. an art installation that gives one the feeling of having empty hands and a strong back, rather than hands full and a burden to carry. there was actually a piece of art like this at the Tate a few years ago, a large photograph called "planting a ray of light" or something to that effect. the photograph showed a woman digging a hole with her hands, with the caption saying that she was performing an experiment to reveal dark spaces to the sun for the first time. the photo was taken in the late 60s but the woman had a modern stylishness, anyway i'm about to keel over from fatigue.

Monday, September 27, 2004

the depth of my ignorance was revealed this evening as I read about the Spanish-American war. most alarming to me was the realization that i never bothered, in 32 years of life, to study the geography of the caribbean islands. cuba forms a fairly straight line with haiti, the dominican republic, and puerto rico. in my mind, these places previously had no spatial orientation, except perhaps that i knew that cuba was the furthest north of the bunch. then, i realize, our country had an imperialist war with Spain, not much more than 100 years ago. Spain was cracking down on a Cuban insurgency to the extent that it hurt U.S. sugar interests, in that plantations were being smashed and workers put in concentration camps. we sent in the Maine for show, its boiler spontaneously exploded through no fault of Spain's, and due to intensly biased U.S. press coverage, we all decided to kick Spain's ass. we kicked Spain's naval ass--in both Cuba and the Phillipines--in 1898. our navy was efficient, but our ground troops were put through a meat grinder. teddy roosevelt and the rough riders prevailed in cuba, but took 1500 casualties. over 5000 U.S. troops died in the war overall, many because of poor diet and disease. this they called the "splendid little war."

of course, it was the turn of the century, when whites in the democratic-held south lynched nearly 100 african-americans annually. i am not sure that life in the U.S. then was any less violent than Iraq is today. our sensibilities have changed, in such a way that we are not any more peaceful or empathatic, only fixated more on outsiders. as our indifference towards genocide in Sudan suggests, we only care about violence that is a direct challenge to our sense of superiority. seeing the beginning of al-Zarqawi's staged beheading on 60 minutes the other night, i have busied my mind with scenarios of how we might be able to shoot or blow up the guy. however, brutality such as his is everywhere NOW, and it has prevailed HERE and ELSEWHERE for thousands of years. it is my entitled life here in the U.S. that is the exception. lives can end and do end in absurd, brutal ways. i could turn around and begin wondering why and how my life should be so GOOD in relation to it all.

there are a lot of things left to think about.

Friday, September 10, 2004

in the aftermath of a terrorist hit, the only alternative we seem to be able to accept is a military strike. a key reason that bush & co. may have put the military in iraq was to have a perpetual front available just for this occasion. assuming that the next terrorist attack is inevitable, our being in iraq will at least allow us to take quick, impressive action against militants, even if they are the wrong militants. in this light, the iraq postwar strategy seems shrewd. bush & co. didn't go in because they thought iraq could be fixed; they went in because they knew it would stay fucked up, a hotbed for extremism. as long as there are insurgents in iraq we will have someone to punish. we can be blind to actual threats, but we won't appear blind. since terrorism is nothing but PR anyway, there is some sort of twisted logic to this.

this is how i would do it, though.

- force all airline passengers to wear nothing but soft, pajama-like outfits. no carry-ons.

- deploy an international system of tamper-proof cargo containers that cannot be opened between source and destination without a "seal" being broken. i.e. allow nothing to be snuck around by ship. Frame the goal of "cargo omniscience" the way kennedy fromed putting a man on the moon and fund international teams to solve the problem.

- tougher gun control laws at home and a comprehensive strategy for disarmament abroad. work towards total prohibition of assault weapons, everywhere, and be persuasive about why this is important.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I looked for a news story about the Bush daughters' speech last night at the GOP convention, one commenting on their remark along the lines of "we want to stand up and support our dad, besides, what else do we have to do, we just got out of college!" (I wasn't watching it and don't know which one said it.) I thought it was a pretty severe dig on the economy, but it seems that I'm the only person who noticed.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

No more judging and Dyer bashing. I DO have reasons to be inspired. Yesterday Dillon McKinsey did an amazing “Writing on the Air” (a 30 minute radio talk show I co-produce on KOOP 91.7 FM) with Austin Mayor Will Wynn and his wife, Anne. Dillon interviewed them on the topic of “Poetry in the Public Square.” He had quotes from the likes of Mario Cuomo, “Campaigning takes poetry, leadership takes prose.” His questions were surprisingly good, stimulating. They opened up, talking as people rather than as figureheads. They genuinely like slam poetry; Anne sees more talent in the likes of Wammo than in Bonnie Raitt. (She called Will on his cell as he sat in a Bonnie Raitt concert to call him over to Ego’s to see a slam.) Will, interestingly enough, has all of the songwriter Guy Clark’s lyrics memorized, and he did a beautiful two minute recital of a set of his lyrics.

If the leaders understand the importance of art, and the people play an active part supporting and creating art, then Austin is redeemed. It becomes a place capable of renaissance, not just economic renewal.

Friday, August 13, 2004

i made my way onto a Wayne Dyer discussion board. what a rush! see comment in the next entry.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

i must continue ragging on dr. wayne dyer. his bald head seems to appear on pbs at exactly those times when i least need it. wayne says that you can perfect a life art, where your gradually increasing appreciation of beauty translates into a positive orientation with the universe. the payoff being that people are ATTRACTED to you because you are just so full o' life, so full o' the goodness.

he also says that it is very, very bad to judge people. and he quotes Soren Kierkegaard as saying "when you judge me, you negate me." it occurred to me today that the act of judging another person isn’t so BAD. The only thing bad about it is if you happen to take pride in the judgment. Judging people quickly and correctly is actually what dynamic people do all of the time.

A realtor visited my condo today. She was exactly what I want in a realtor: quick, cute, a DYNAMO. She ran through my place, her mental tape measure whirring. She said that she is a proxy inspector for “a little 78 year-old lady.” I could not have witnessed a more effective surveillance. I’m sure she wasn’t correct, 100% about ME, or my place, but what the fuck? She did not need Dr. Wayne Dyer.

I suppose that there is a philosopher, other than Wayne Dyer, who would appeal to me. I am becoming fixated on the concept of class. What it means to have class. What it means to break through to a life where you approach things lightly, and at the same time are attuned the deeper implications of it all. Attempting to surround yourself with a halo of Emersonian purity just gets in the way of what is important.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

saw "the bourne supremacy" tonight. my mind was already made up about what i'd get out of it before the opening credits rolled. i wanted to see matt damon, uber man, operating at such a high level of cognitive ability that it made my own problems seem small. it delivered. for example, checking into one hotel room and then breaking in to the desired hotel room just down the hall is smart. it buys you time and you'll know when the swat team arrives.

for a few moments this afternoon i watched the opening of Dr. Wayne Dyer's four hour PBS pledge drive marathon, "The Power of Intention." he takes the stage in Boston and says "most people think that having intention means getting what you want, no matter who gets in your way... well i'm here to dispel that myth... blah blah blah." if i contined to watch his show i would have probably been told that i needed to focus on the art of forgiveness, or tap into child like wonderment, etc. i won't snap on poor Wayne and write here that he is utterly full of it. but if it's so true that "intention" doesn't have anything to do with navigating human obstacles, then why is it such an adrenaline rush watching bourne outhink and outsmack his opponents. it was, admittedly, incredibly satisfying when the toast popped. people who saw the movie will know what i'm talking about.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

there were a few good hours early this morning. i made progress in "modeling random systems." an exponential random variable models wait times. it slopes down towards zero as time approaches infinity; as long as there is some probablity of rain, there is no chance that a drought can last. i thought about the cassini orbiter. there must be some probability of a space rock ripping through the hull, but it survives because the tail of the exponential collision variable remains vast, even as years go by. stephen jay gould, after being diagnosed with cancer, examined the mortality statistics and realized that it was the dimensions of the probability tail that mattered, not the frightening average. he lived for 20 years after being told he only had a few years to live. probability and statistics can suck when you think in terms of "how" before "why." people have a fundamental need to describe things that don't occur in plain sight. instead of leaving for an appointment at an exact time, we recognize a range of time as "the leaving time." this time begins quietly and then crescendoes into a "now or never" moment, and then trails off into an "oh shit we're not going to make it" moment. we usually give the mean when we tell somebody when we're leaving. we already know the bell curve. however, when you crack a textbook there is this disorienting overload of information. the author doesn't think the way you do. as the day goes on, from a peak in the early morning, the ability to concentrate trails off.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

current runs from infinity to origin via the x axis, then veers right and goes out to infinity again via the y axis. find magnetic field intensity H at P(0,0,1).

the biot-savart formula introduces a deceptively easy looking integrand that will eat your lunch. unless you have a cheat sheet in your back pocket, or a computer, you will have to be, how do they say, clever about solving it. follow the above link, and choose three down and one to the right.

electromagnetics is interesting in that you can think you are very much more informed than people 150 years ago, yet you find yourself wanting for their pencil and paper skills. if you can't draw a triangle and make a few substitutions, there's no point attempting to solve for the EM plane wave, i should think. but i don't think 90% of EE majors can do this kind of thing anymore, or else i would have been taught by now.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

summer school began today. encouraging developments. this past weekend i went to see my friends Meg & Mark get married in Chicago. they met Julie, me, and five other people for Greek food on Halsted. Julie's friends Alex & Iris drove down, and I was amazed to find that they were interested in the topic of frequency response. although with regards to biofeedback. Alex, with what seems to be a self-led understanding of electricity, is trying to design equipment that measures the body's vital signs. they are invested (although i don't know to what extent) in metaphysics. anyway, alex's intense interest in the subject complemented my intense desire to tell somebody, anybody, about it. so he wants to correspond with me about amplifier circuits. it will give me a chance to focus my writing to an audience other than myself. i think that a key reason that professors need to teach is that basic questions from novices can be extremely good a clarifying exactly what you know and don't know. physics and math concepts can sit in you head in a heap and when it comes time to explain, you may realize that you either know the subject or that your concepts are in disarray. in a similar situation, my neighbor Don, also a metaphysicist, brought up the subject of "The Elegant Universe" and string theory. I tried explaining to him that the uncertainty principle does not have much to do with God. Physicists give the probability that an electron will be contained within a certain volume, and this is only math and geometry, not directly representative a faith in the unknown. don seemed very latched on to the idea that extra dimensions was spiritually exciting. i tried to explain the quantum physical processes that occur in semiconductors, i.e. electrons jumping the bandgap due to excitation, but realized that i maybe needed a better grasp. i think that human beings get excited about what they think they know a lot about. so if you spend a long time studying religion, you get excited about religion and not about science. and the converse is true for scientists. if only the influential people of this world could recognize this and stop IMPOSING their respective philosophies upon the world, we'd be so much better off. dialoge can and should occur between people who do not necessarily agree on everything. for this reason, i realize that there might be something to gain from talking to metaphysicists.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

a transfer function H is P/Q, output over input. denominator Q is a characteristic equation, a factored second degree polynomial, in the textbook at least. in signal processing theory H gets a box, and lines are drawn going in and out. many Hs are strung up en masse to model a system. within the H box, a ratio of differential equations.

particularly cool for descibing waves, electromagnetic, sonic, whatever. anything you see or hear.

we're going to the lavender fest today. it's one of julie's favorite scents. scent isn't a wave phenomenon. it's diffusion. i intend to bore nobody with these grasping observations, except you dear reader.

grades came out well, nothing lower than a B.

inbetween semesters one gets to believe that he is actually smarter than he is.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

the input resistance of a common-gate MOSFET amplifier is only 1/gm, and what praytell is input resistance. it is the resistance across which Vsig (our old friend) is "felt" by the circuit. i am no longer an enemy of Vsig, at least with regards to simple transistor models.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

EE 438 questions center around achieving gain, arranging transistors, resistors, and capacitors so that a small signal (Vsig) can become a large one (Vout). right now i'm no friend to the small signal. let's put it that way. my path is strewn with murdered small signals.

Vsig is the EKG blip, the caller's voice, the link to the landing gear; you can't be careless about Vsig. somebody has to safeguard Vsig from its enemies.

Monday, April 05, 2004

i placed in a writing competition sponsored by the UT college of engineering. (second place)
the essay is here
the lovegren essay won.

rob and tanya had their farewell party at jeff's today. their leaving splits up (at least geographically) the powerpuff girls. old alignments give way to new ones and it's better to be identified with who we are becoming than who we were.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

an EE 313 midterm exam question asked for a definition of the continuous time unit impulse function. i provided a definition of that, then i also provided a definition of the discrete time unit impulse function. they aren't mathematically equivalent, the continuous and discrete time functions, although the book uses the exact same lowercase greek delta symbol.

a lab problem in 319 asks me to write a trap that mimics the behavior of an HC12 instruction, EMAXM. the hypothetical reason i need to do this is that i'm writing software for a "cheap chip" that doesn't have EMAXM.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

this is my fourth semester here. holes, electrons, acceptors, donors, pnp, npn, drain, source, gate, collector, emitter, base, fermi level, diffusion, drift, saturation, triode, hybrid pi model, t model, assembly language!, (insert 150 motorola HC12 instructions, such as LEAS, BEQ, and STAA here. don't forget STAB.) then there are linear, time-invariant systems. we're at the semester/2 mark.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Oh Joy, Another Morality Alert
(read on KOOP Austin, 91.7 FM)

This holiday season brings with it an orange terror alert and practically meaningless appeals to the public for a quote-unquote “heightened state of vigilance.” It comes at a time when we already feel prodded towards standards of heightened morality that are equally meaningless. It’s not that we wouldn’t benefit from being more alert, or more considerate, but I think it’s time to admit the absurdity of the ways in which we prod ourselves towards these ideals.

Consider how readily we absorb and re-absorb the message of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol:” You are not good enough, so be good. It’s hard to deny that Scrooge was bad, easy to identify with his joy at being granted the time (and resources) to undo his mistakes. We admit to ourselves that we can also be bad and that Christmas is giving us a chance to be good. It’s supposed to be psychologically cleansing.

But if we made frequent attempts not to be bad throughout year, and many of us do, it would seem that this ritual of identifying with Mr. Scrooge is an admission of failure, on some level. We let Dickens prod us, annually, towards an abstract, heightened state of morality that we know we won’t maintain. We might also ignore that in his pre-reformed state, Scrooge possesses what many of us need: Scrooge is assertive, career oriented, in control of his finances, and not co-dependent. Many of us would find it easy to have his radical change of heart, it’s a radical change in our credit card balances that we might actually need, or the radical ability to communicate to others how we feel at any given moment.

I have not read Dickens’ book; it may contain many subtle messages that didn’t carry through to the film adaptations. But in future Christmases, I will question the authority of “A Christmas Carol,” before I question my own integrity. With less room for doubt, maybe I can be a better person, or at least more vigilant.