Saturday, April 09, 2005

finally, finally, i finished the schematic of my ALU. impatience and panic started setting in today. i had earlier tested the comparator block successfully in isolation, the part that detects greater than, less than, equal, etc. around noon today i attempted to put it into the larger design. i was so fed up with the project that i lost any interest in the details, and for awhile i was speeding along connecting the comparator wires, feeling very smart. then at the last stage where i wanted to see all of the correct patterns coming out, it gave bad results and I became upset. in fact, i went over my disk quota at school causing weird errors just as i most needed to be thinking about the design.

i had gone out drinking in honor of matt's birthday last night. matt went home and then will, andy, and i went to the whiskey bar to meet will's friend who is a world renowned animal psychologist. but that went nowhere and the result today was that i was upset moreso than usual with being behind on projects. a mental rather than physical hangover. really hitting a wall. i came back here just as julie showed up with her friends annie and megna from canada. they seemed to detect my mood and proceeded to lavish my roomate matt with warmth for his having met them (annie and megna, in vancouver) for dinner. i was waiting for some kind of stinging coup de grace from the situation, something that would really make me regret everything about myself, but they just said bye and that was that. i ate an apple, a very tart and firm jonagold, muttered vulgarities for awhile, and then went back to the lab. i probed the interconnections of my design looking for the stupid error, the shorted wire, the misnamed pin. actually, i had forgotten a fundamental step which was to make sure that the arithmetic part of the ALU performed subtraction whenever being told to compare. really not that subtle a problem. but in the agony of being behind and having more tests bearing down i just wanted there to be some easy mistake to fix. i had willed myself into a state of denial where i was "finished" and simply needed to debug to be done. since i was not finished, i wasted hours searching for bugs that weren't there. as my bitchy ex boss from general bandwidth used to say, the absence of something is difficult to detect.

another sleighride of the mind is to celebrate prematurely. to want to be "the person" finishing an assignment rather than actually finishing the assignment. all this might seem incredibly obvious. but i am all too human. whenever i finish something or take a test i have a flood of thoughts. good engineers and scientists, like richard feyneman, for instance, would never pause to congratulate, chastise, or overanalyze themselves. their minds were quick and their routes of thought went straight to the essence of a problem. on to the next thing, the next truly big thing.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

i created my first latex document. when matt alden lectured about latex i thought it sounded like the greatest thing since sliced bread. when i was a technical writer my boss told me that a lack of version control (ability to track who changed what file, how, and when) was why i could never gain her feel acceptance or appreciation as a human being. well, i'm exaggerating, but our little ephemeral group of tech writers were never allowed to feel whole because of this.

so here is LaTEx, a document SYSTEM that lets you typeset documents right in unix. with latex you have total version control. you can set up makefiles, check your books into CVS, the works.

well, follow the link and look at the results. it's my first latex document, but it's a fucking pain in the ass to use.

but so are 16 bit funnel shifters for that matter. i spent the whole day building one.

i'm actually posting this because i think the picture in my latex document is funny. you can really just skip to that and i'll be happy.