Wednesday, January 05, 2005

finally getting somewhere with my idea for this year's braden essay contest. i am tempted to write about the interesting things i found on the web this evening, but somebody could stumble across these ideas and steal them. a 1/million chance of that happening, but why risk it.

came across another interesting science writer named philip ball. i would love to read his new book, but i've suddenly developed a backlog of books. i started a book called "designing embedded hardware" by John Catsoulis. it's cool in that he explains all of the tangible features of computer hardware. for example, he devotes a chapter to printed circuit boards (PCBs), such as the ones found inside a PC or Mac. he talks about what each feature MEANS, why there is a green film on one side of a board and a bunch of soldered bumps on the other side. he explains why subcomponents on a PCB must have individual voltage regulators. etc.

matt (my roomate) gave me Tom Wolfe's "I am Charlotte Simmons" for my birthday. the first few pages are pretty good. a drunk frat boy admiring his own beauty in the mirror.

i also acquired a book about digital signal processing that seems to fill in all of the things that went over my head in lectures with Professor Brian Evans this semester. Evans is an enigma. Of all the professors at ECE he has seemed to do the most work on advancing the curriculum. for example, he has posted a game plan for how EE seniors (such as myself) might be educated to be able to do embedded system design before they graduate. however, he seemed to treat fundamental aspects of DSPs as advanced subjects. i.e. i was led to believe that what he was lecturing about was NOT neatly summarized in a book somewhere. yet this book "understanding digital signal processing" has sections i would have killed for when preparing for the first DSP midterm in october. i am brought back to the cynical conclusion that lecturers often explain things inadequately and that most EE subjects are best learned from books. professors merely stand there firehosing you with information that they had the time to sit down and absorb before you could. evans taught a lot of things that definitely were NOT in any textbook, but he also taught a lot of things that were and i did not realize it. in my automatic control course the situation was worse, the professor never referred to the book and spent most of the class time fiddling around with his self-devised sys ID and root-locus plotting programs. complain complain. i don't even know what i'm going on about. it's late!