Archive for April, 2005

pop, pop, pop, like x86 popcorn

Project Stack:

Last night I got the LCD working, with essentially zero memory requirements (okay, 80 colums * 25-ish lines = 2000 bytes…even a PIC has that much) …whee, realtime character generator in software. Stick-On-Fridge Server Monitor, here we go :-)

Also mostly-built the ghetto-blastification boxsubwoofer enclosure I mentioned in…well, the early days of this blogg, anyway, and never got around to. Now to stealgently borrow tools from work and finish it.

And we have….wireless transceivers at 2.4GHz…soon.

Ouching^999, self-defenestration, and things not to say to a nurse

I went down about 11-something tonight to pick up a friend from the emergency room. Anyway, it turns out that if you’re a patient, and say something about being in so much pain you wanna jump out the window, even if you don’t mean it, you’re not leaving anytime soon.

Out at 4-ish with a very tired, painful dizzy wobbly kitten, after the obligatory we-get-our-asses-sued-enough-thankyouvery much psychiatric exam.

I thought I had heard the phrase “24-hour pharmacy” only about a million times back home (and that was in the ‘burbs), so surely a big city like Boston would have to have one, right? …Nnnnnnnegatory. So up at again at 8-something to get the prescription filled. And pull the parking ticket off my windshield. park in parking overnight for $12.00 at at 100% odds of getting charged, or on the street at $25/ticket with a guesstimated 33% chance of getting caught. It was a calculated risk… I staggered into work at about 10:30, but they didn’t say anything. EEs there are hot shit right about now.

Dude, Joe, you are needing therapy.

Session Start (AIM – Me:TheAssWhosBeenHarassingMeForThreeYears): Wed Apr 27 23:12:58 2005
[23:12] TAWBHMFTY: u fucking cock
[23:13] TAWBHMFTY: i should beat ur ass
[23:13] Me: who the fuck might this be?
[23:13] *** Me wants to directly connect.
[23:13] *** TAWBHMFTY declines request; no connection was made.
[23:14] TAWBHMFTY: u can call me Murderous-Maximus
[23:14] Me: state your business.
[23:14] TAWBHMFTY: I am a girlfriend of s*’s
[23:14] Me: riiiight.
[23:14] Me: bye…
[23:14] TAWBHMFTY: she has told me alot baout u
[23:14] TAWBHMFTY: u fag
Session Close (TAWBHMFTY): Wed Apr 27 23:14:58 2005

(I know people who have entire blogs devoted to documenting their stalkers, and now I’m starting to understand why. This is getting downright amusing.)

TTCI, pt2

(There was somethin’ in the city that he said he couldn’t breathe
And there was somethin’ in the country that he said he couldn’t leave)

As laid-back and beautiful as it was, it also seemed kind of.. too small, dead-end and going nowhere fast.

I don’t know why I’m thinking in the context of Places I Want To Plop Myself Down And Start A Family And Stuff. Because I’m nowhere near that.

My inner being screams at the thought of plunking down in the middle of a big city, where I can’t even see the stars, or a tree without a ring of asph(gra(mulch)ss)alt around it, taking up space in a median strip. But as much as I’d like to claim I’d be perfectly content to live naked in a cave out in the middle of some untouched wilderness, I don’t think I really would. And the middle ground, suburbia, is…well, suburbia. Yechh. One thing that really stood out (not so much in Pueblo, but in Denver and points in between) was the sheer number of identical tickytack townhouses, creeping up on the interstate and lurking at just about every residentially-zoned grid coordinate. Anonymous little dwellings stacked against each other, 3,4, in some places even 10 alongside. Even the ritzy stuff, rows of what looked like million-dollar mansions sharing walls.

Houses with different colored doors / So you can tell which one is yours

Maybe I’m just hard to please. Maybe I just don’t like that idea of commitment to any particular place. Anyway, maybe I’ll drop this train of thought for now and come back to it when I figure that shit out :-)

So anyway, more trip stuff. A few Rockies (and some more), some flat stuff, and a Big Ass Burger (this rare species discovered at a small Pueblo diner). We hauled down DOT Road and back once more, at relativistic speeds (look ma, straight deserted road and no cops!), recovered our equipment and the data thereof…everything looked good, so we didn’t really need to stick around there to record a second day of the moving and the shaking. So we cancelled the last night of our wifi fortress and headed back to Denver, where we bummed around most of the day sightseeing, checked out the Red Rock amphitheater, and grabbed some dinner at a place that serves buffalo hamburgers (mmmmm). Somewhere along the line we came back to the house we hung at the first day to see what was left of our snowcastle. I was shocked! Here it is after 2 days.

Oh yeah, the testing. We got data…lots and lots of data. There’s still a glitch somewhere in my hardware/firmware (small life lesson on eating your own dogfood, when it hasn’t been tested on the dogs yet, so to speak), but it only manifested an average of a few times per hour, so for our purposes we weren’t screwed. (It means more nights of hair-pulling in the lab, but that comes later.) We even got energy, even on our totally untuned harvester (the purpose of all this vibration recording stuff is to figure out how to tune these things). The actual amount is comparable to the feeble glow of a lightning bug’s ass, but that should soon change. Today was the day of grovelling through all these piles of numbers, and cooking the occasional glitches out (the nature of the glitch was to randomly drop a byte or two, so the fix was to identify this in software, and basically just drop more bytes until both the channels and endian-ness synced up again, even though it means losing a few samples here & there), and just for fun, performing parlor tricks like piping raw accelerometer data from one of the channels through SoX and playing back the surprisingly clear and audio-like sounds from the resulting .WAV file. If anyone asked, the purpose of this (besides showing off general l33tness and explaining “what is this data?” to everyone who can’t tell just by looking at the pretty graphs, which is, well, everyone) was to use that big, heavily optimized, massively multiparallel lump of signal processor between my ears to detect which accelerometer channels were saturating heavily, which isn’t really visible by staring at a plot of raw data that’s been through crazy 8th-order antialiasing filters. (Surprisingly, this ‘signal processing’ method actually worked pretty well.) I was a bit too busy to see if I could extract our voices on it during the first couple minutes of data before testing began…(besides, that’s getting too close to just plain fucking off, and sooner or later I actually have to deliver something!), but I was able (in the name of data sanity-checking) to identify the length of the test track and each of its various materials-test segments by their unique noise (or lack thereof) profiles, and roughly recreate the shape of the test track right down to the sharpness of every curve, assuming a constant speed kind of a bogus assumption, but not *too* far off.

Sorry, I just totally geeked out. It won’t happen again. (Okay, yes it will…)

The money shot! All right, a little piece of money shot, anyway. (Heh, I just realized, given where the expression “money shot” comes from… this is engineer porn.) Dedicated to Dr. R.J.W., presumably still dreaming in Fourier (more than I do).

The air in the lab was filled with stars and spirals and crudely-drawn ringed planets and exclamation points.

I’m in the cheapest motel in Pueblo, sprawled out lazily on a bed enjoying some free wireless and pounding out some perl scripts to analyze and reduce some gigs’ worth data I don’t have yet, with some random sporting event on the TV in the background and my roommate sawing steel logs on the other bed. We’ll be back at 11pm, blazing down a deserted strip of D.O.T. asphalt to lie underneath a railcar and activate the data loggers. I’m a little worried about my hardware surviving the test, and really kinda underestimated the sheer size of these beasts that will be vying to destroy it. We attached the loggers in the early afternoon after an extended safety lecture covering everything from rattlesnakes (they like to huddle up against the rails at night because they’re warmer than the surroundings) to the shoe-heel length requirements (min. 1/4″, to catch one’s foot from slipping between ladder rungs, which would result in an immediate broken leg and [on something moving] probably being dragged for miles through gravel and cacti), initial tests, and sealing up all the seams with duct tape to keep moisture out (good luck).

About: DOT Road
From Pueblo, take a highway to another highway to about the middle of nowhere. This takes you to DOT Road, the 20+-mile access road serving (only) the test facility, and ends in the middle of the middle of nowhere.

We touched down in Denver about midnight the night before the day before, just before a freak snowfall would dump a foot of the white stuff on the city, leaving us to awaken to a not-unfamiliar sight (“hey, it looks like Boston!”). We hung out at CL’s friends’ place just outside the city for most of the day, with the girls and I even convincing him to come out and make snowmen with us. And an igloo, which became a castle about midway through building as we realized nobody had the slightest idea how to make the walls curl over into a dome without caving in before the critical last block was laid. And I took pictures of their beautiful snow-covered flowering tree.

About: Aeroplanes and ticking packages
Our flight was delayed by about a half-hour as some uncannily nervous-seeming flight crew explained that we’d be delayed slightly while mechanics changed a tire on the plane. About 15 minutes after the initial announcement, flight crew announced that the tire was changed, but they had to wait on some paperwork to get taken care of before we could take off. I was kind of curious about how they could change the tire of a 747 in 15 minutes, why they’d do it right at the terminal with passengers on board, and how they’d manage to do all this (including, probably, jacking the plane up) with no detectable bumps, noises or changes in elevation. It was only later we discovered a bolt missing from one of the loggers’ enclosures, and other evidence that it had been opened; then it kind of hit me that “changing a tire” sounds a lot nicer than “we have a bomb squad examining some very suspicious hand-machined aluminum boxes with a couple LEDs on them, with several sealed black cubes inside with wires running out of them to a stack of circuit boards held together with duct tape and 5-minute epoxy packages we found in the checked luggage”. Whoops. Come on, how could you possibly mistake this for a bomb?

About: Snow
Denver isn’t used to getting large amounts of snow. And with above-average daytime temperatures year-round, it normally just all melts away the next day. So they don’t really see a need for keeping an army of snowplows on-hand to scramble in the early morning to clear the roads for rush hour. A lone snowplow may drift occasionally past, but for the most part, it turns out that if the snow’s still there, they kind of just close the highways until it isn’t anymore.

We were figuring on getting moving toward Pueblo at about late evening, as we had a big day starting early tomorrow. Luckily we saw the snow coming and upgraded our rental car to a monstrous 4WD beast suitable for transporting elephants and driving over the top of smaller cars, so we figured we’d make excellent time and have enough night left over to check out the town and maybe hit the pubs for a bit. But even more luckily, we checked some weather / road reports first, and found out that the INTERSTATE WAS CLOSED. The fricking Interstate. Fricking closed.

This didn’t change the fact that we still had somewhere to be early the next morning, so the conversation that followed kind of went like this:

CL: “No problem, we can make it.”
TG: “They just put up this flimsy little barricade, and only on the incoming side. It’s drive-around-able.”
Girls: “No you won’t, you guys are going to get yourselves killed.”
TG: “Hey, we know what we’re doing. I grew up driving in snow in Chicago.”
CL: “We’ve got four wheel drive…”
Girls: “You guys are crazy.”

Eventually they convinced us to cool our heels for a bit and see if the roads reopened, and crash at CL’s friend’s BF’s place if they weren’t opened by a reasonable crashing hour, which they weren’t. So we hung out there (pigged out on, irony of ironies, Boston Market I’ve never actually seen one in Boston), watched some movies, and crashed out. All right, at least one of us did. And he sno-o-o-o-o-ored. SNO-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-ORED. The walls shook and plaster rained from the ivory plaster sky, that kind of snored. I vaguely remember constructing some kind of makeshift earplugs out of wet toilet paper, and eventually falling asleep myself.

To give us plenty of time to show up for our 8:15 meeting, we woke up at 4 and dove immediately (bedheaded and unshowered) for our snow-covered behemoth. Didn’t really bother uncovering it because we assumed tearing down the highway like bats outta hell would clear it off soon enough. So we hit the road and… yeah.

*Homer Simpson voice* “Ree-lax, it’s a rental!”

So we crawled onward, 20mph through the dark and high winds, not always sure where the road was, guided by the frozen-over lumps that were cars spun out in the ditch. But we made it, and only maybe 20 minutes late, even with a stop along the way to snag some gourmet coffee at a gas station. The Gas Station Coffee turned out to be surprisingly good, at least way better than you’d expect from a middle-of-nowhere gas station, and the next hour or so was smooth sailing – the snow gods had drawn a line in the sand, and snowed only on the Denver side of it. (Seriously, it went from blizzard conditions to sunny and dry in the span of about a mile.)

CL: “Sorry we’re late, we got here as quick as we could.”
Luis: “Late, I’m impressed you guys made it here at all. Last I’d heard all the roads out of Denver were closed.”

*CL and TG exchange glances*

About: Rattlesnakes
We didn’t see any. I was disappointed. (They also aren’t lurking in the ball pits of fast-food playlands, sorry to disappoint anyone else.)
The safety lecture for today told everyone to step over, not on top of, things commonly found on the facility grounds, particularly the rails (extremely slippery when wet, and pretty slippery when not wet, these things get polished by metal-on-metal contact at least several times a day). But everywhere else in the world, the woodland wisdom is to step
on (stumps, logs, boulders), not over, so as not to take a blind step where a rattler happens to be snoozing against it…being stepped on tends to really piss them off. I decided I’d rather take my chances with falling on my indestructible duff.

So we had the safety lecture, the grand tour, got down to business attaching the equipment, then came back and checked into our motel. Which brings me to…right now. I think I was supposed to be whipping up some crunchy little scripts or something. Wow, I can’t believe how much I’ve forgotten perl. Think I’ve spent more time Googling syntax than actually coding. Who’d have thunk $39.99 a night would get you free wireless? Anyway, I should probably try to catch a little sleep before we head back down DOT Road – today has been a long couple days, and tomorrow morning ain’t getting any further away.

A surreal day…

Today in the life of Tim:

At work, my PM guy abruptly resigned, making me a project manager as of 4:45pm today. Yeeks. I’m going to be managing people, handing out Things To Do and specifications and timelines, and be the guy chewing peoples’ asses when it doesn’t get done. Me + responsibility = a bad bad thing. I’ve already branched into a few work-related rants lately (oddly enough, not here in the ol’ bloggg), so I won’t go into the grisly details, but this means I’m going to be spending a lot of late nights this week getting things that don’t yet work to work. (Dude, you haven’t sent out the board layouts yet? Just started? We’re leaving for testing this week, and the hardware that’s going to be recording the test data hasn’t been designed yet. Fucking beautiful.)

Very-relatedly, this also means I’m now in Colorado next week bolting things (ahem, if the boards get delivered in time, and there are no fuckups, and…) underneath railcars. Bombs? (Heh, you know me too well…) Nah, wireless, strain gaugey, power harvesty, accelerometery, shake-rattle-n-rolly gigabytes-of-data recordery things. (and yet you’re still asking….bombs?…) In other words, getting to play with stuff, maybe do a little sightseeing, slacking off, taking a trip, not having to pay for it.

Walking to the T, saw this hand-lettered sign taped to a parking meter. Brainlocked for the next 20 min. trying to make it make sense…

Swung by J.R.’s for some lateish pot-luckery with her and Z*. He (a professional cards guy) taught us how to play poker…or tried to, anyway (read the deck, and me, like a big fat pop-up book with extra large print, haha). J.R. concocted a drink that layered red-yellow-green, and tasted no less than orgasmic, so I gave it the official name of Roadhead. (Hmm…ought to be documenting these concoctions on a webpage somewhere.) I got a phone call but my hands were too greasy (mmm, reference burger. Now with enough garlic to drive Boston’s vampire population underground for at least a week) to pick it up, so she did. It was F*, and he hit on her with great vigor :-)

Caught a bad vibe tonight, somewhere between midnight and 3am when I went to bed, concerning someone I consider a good friend (but who’s been sort of distant and disappearish lately). I’ve never known that to mean anything good (why don’t I ever get a good vibe, like “hey, my friend just won the lottery, developed a cure for cancer, met the girl/boy of his/her dreams and invented melt-proof ice cream, all in the same night!”). On the other hand, I was playing HalfLife 2 alone in the dark at the time, and getting the crap scared out of me about every 15 seconds, so I kind of just wrote it off as the noise floor coming up to hit me in the nose like it does sometimes. But now I’m curious…

QOTD (okay, 2005/03/30)

*Ring Ring*
Salesdroid: (yap yap yap)
GJM: “Head of electronic engineering? Yes, speaking.”
Salesdroid: (yap yap yap)
GJM: “What are you talking, is this books, magazines?”
Salesdroid: (yap yap)
GJM: “I’m sorry, but I can’t read.”

*Ring Ring*
Salesdroid: (yap yap yap)
GJM: “What? IQ department? Yes, I’m the head of the IQ department at MIDE.”
Salesdroid: (yap yap)
GJM: “No, IQ department.”
Salesdroid: (yap yap)
GJM: “I handle the IQ for the entire building. Yea… all the stupid ones go on my right, and all the clever ones, they go on the left.”