Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Intel Demos 35nm Chip

Just saw on CNN that Intel has demoed a memory chip made at 35nm. For those who don't track these things on a day-to-day basis, current state of the art is 90nm, the next generation process is 65nm, and my most recent chip was manufactured in 130nm.

So that means that for the same size chip, you could put 14 times as much stuff in a 35nm chip as in a 130nm. More to the point, it means computers will still keep getting cheaper for the next 5-6 years.

Oil Consumption

New Year's Resolution: I will learn to edit my posts in a real editor that doesn't suddenly forget everything I typed just because the weather over Burma changed.

But back to my (re-typed) point: Jeff and I were talking over lunch the other day about our presidential woes (He hates Kerry more than Bush, and I'm the opposite), and I mentioned that I thought Kerry's energy platform had merit.

Jeff opined that the problem was simply lack of production in the U.S., and that by increasing production we could adaquately reduce our dependence on foreign oil. My gut feel is that we could drill the ANWR until it looks like swiss cheese and we'd never make a dent in our oil imports. But as usual, we're both pretty much talking out of our ass, so I decided to go find some hard data.

There is a recent article in Fortune that talks about the issue, but doesn't give any real specifics (although, to be fair, they give more specifics than Kerry, who just vaguely mentions that he'll address the issue). But there are some good hard numbers in the EIA web site that track historical oil production and consumption.

What I gleaned from this is that, over the time of the data reported, U.S. Oil consumption has varied between a low of just under 15 million barrels per day in 1982, to a present consumption rate of about 20 million barrels/day. U.S. Production has stayed constant with a slight decrease over the last 10 years, dropping from 9.6 million barrels/day in 1990 to 9.0 million in 2000. Over the same period the total Persian Gulf output moved from 16 million to 21 million barrels/day. The raw data is worth checking out, the re are lots of interesting trends in there.

Finding out information on how much the U.S. Could increase its capacity by is harder. The same EIA web site states that they have no idea how much oil could be found in the ANWR. this article in the Petroleum News said that if approved today, production could start in 2013, with a capacity between 600k BPD (barrels per day, apparently a standard unit in the oil industry) and 1.6M BPD.

The obvious consclusion is stated later in the same article:
Because ANWR coastal oil production in 2025 is estimated to be only 0.5 percent to 1.3 percent of total world oil consumption, it is only expected to reduce world oil prices by 30 cents to 50 cents per barrel, based on an estimated world oil price of $27 per barrel in 2002 dollars. “Assuming that world oil markets continue to work as they do today, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries could countermand any potential price impact of ANWR coastal plain production by reducing its exports in an equal amount,” the agency said.

So I think I'll stick to my argument: the only way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil is to either manufacture it or switch to using alternate fuels like methanol.

Monday, August 30, 2004


I saw "Hero" last night with Katie & Keith. It gets an emphatic two thumbs up. It's told in a surreal fashion, with dramatic use of color as the main part of the story gets told three times from three different perspectives. The martial arts are at the fantasy level -- Jet Li does a handspring off the surface of a lake at one point -- but appropriate to the characters, who are all larger than life. Despite a large cast (there many action sequences where huge armies cross the land), there are really only four main characters in the movie, and it ends up being about the interaction between these four.

The movie ends with a strong dose of Chinese nationalism, which undoubtedly gave it the enthusiastic support of the Chinese government. However, it doesn't seem out of place, as this also ties together the story of the four characters.

Note: not a good pick for those allergic to subtitles.

Friday, August 27, 2004

3D Printing

Interesting article in the Economist about how 3D printers (originally for producing rapid prototypes for engineering) are being used by the medical industry.

One question that occurred to me is when any of this technology will hit the consumer level -- a 3D printer would be invaluable for someone making custom parts.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Dumping my Virtual Girlfriend

Grace sent me this link about a service coming out in Hong Kong. With it you can send text messages to your "virtual girlfriend", and she replies by video mail. In order to keep her happy, you need to placate her with virtual gifts such as flowers and jewelry. Strangely, these virtual gifts cost real money.

I don't even know where to start on this one. My gut reflex this it that this is a product engineered by a woman -- your virtual girlfriend gets attention, flowers, jewelry, and whatnot, all paid for with your hard earned cash, and you get -- that's right -- NOTHING.

I don't think I'm going to sign up for this one. I can get nothing from my non-girlfriend right now, and I don't have to pay a cent. And she doesn't nag me if I forgot to buy her virtual flowers for valentine's day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Fry's Sticker of Doom

I went to Fry's this afternoon to return my Altec-Lansing speakers, because they made a hissing noise, like a radio tuned to static. It wasn't particularly loud, but since the speakers have no off switch, it was constant. I don't care what people say about the soothing power of white noise -- I found it annoying, because I knew it wasn't supposed to be there.

So today, I took a little time off work and drove to Fry's to return it. I've found it's good to hit the return line at odd times, otherwise you can spend forever there; there were only about 5-6 people in line at 3pm.

I got to the head of the line and described the problem to the return guy. He looked at my receipt, determined that it was OK, then, without even looking inside the box, he printed out the infamous "Fry's Sticker of Doom*" and a sticker with a discount price on it and slapped them on the front of the box.

This was an object lesson on why someone should never, ever buy a product with the sticker of doom on it. Hopefully someone in the back checks inside the box to see if all the parts are there before re-stocking it.

* For those not in the know, this is a sticker that Fry's places on products that have been returned.

Guy Can Cook

As a result of my recent doctor's visit (high cholesterol), I've been changing my diet, and trying to eat in more. I haven't been hugely successful, but I just cook for two nights in a row, which is especially impressive since I was hungry when I left work both nights.

Tuesday night I had grilled corn, and grilled chicken basted with a mustard and oregano sauce (no sugar and no salt means you need to be creative). Tonight I had plain grilled chicken over ramen noodles with curry and pepper. Tonight's meal ended up a bit on the bland side, so I'll need to work on that one.

Microsoft Busted for Deceptive Ads

In a real shocker, this article reports that Microsoft got busted for misleading advertisements. The shock is not that the ads were deceptive -- when one person says using Linux can save you 30%, and Microsoft says it will cost you 500%+, someone is obviously fiddling with the numbers -- but that someone actually called them on it.

Note that this did not happen in the U.S. Although I don't know if the laws are similar -- it may be that in the U.S. it's enough if what you said is factually true, and that was the case here.

The ad apparently claims that Linux running on an IBM Z900 mainframe is more expensive than a 2 CPU Xeon running Windows. Well, no shit, Sherlock -- a Z900 costs about $400,000 in its cheaper, Linux-only configuration. Needless to say you can get a dual Xeon for slightly less than that.

News Flash: Girls Think Differently

This article on CNN talks about a growing trend in public schools to provide single-sex schools. One of the interesting things about this is that it represents a public admission that men and women think differently, which contradicts one of the basic tenents of feminism, which is that men and women have the same brains but different plumbing (I'm sure there are more eloquent ways of stating this).

On the other hand, this trend looks like it's based in Texas, so it may not be anything other than another flavor of "Screw you -- we're Texas and we'll do it our way".

Monday, August 23, 2004

Marry Ericka

Grace asked me today if the personals on Craig's List were any good. I replied that their primary utility was in their humor value. Case in point, one of the personals was this one to find a groom for Erica. It redirects to a web page which gives the back story to how Erica got to her predicament. The underlying theories here seem to be either a) all men are pretty much the same, so just pick one and get it over with, or b) be careful what you agree to when you're drunk.

I think I'm leaning more towards option b). While there may be some truth that, on average, all men are the same, there are some nasty surprises off in the low percentages (see "Scott Peterson").

I think I'm going to have to follow up on this one and see if she actually got married, which apparently happened today.

The Booth Lives

Just got done looking at the latest pics of Dave's diner booth (an art car project for this year's Burning Man). It's very cool. If you could get it to a golf course you'd be the king.

For those not aware of the history of the driving diner booth, the story (or at least my version of it) starts just after last year's burning man, when Dave was telling me he was done with the nigh-indestructible Honda scooter he'd been using for a few years, and was thinking of doing something new. I was chatting with him and he said he was thinking about doing a driving toilet (I think he'd seen some other piece of driving furniture, and decided that a toilet had the best shock value).

Thinking quickly about all the abandoned items living on my porch (at the time, the porch inventory consisted of one white vinyl diner booth, one black vinyl and faux marble bar, an EX250 motorcycle engine, 4 wheels from various EX250s, 2 motorcycle frames, and a dresser full of assorted bike parts), I said "What about a diner booth?" It took a little bit of convincing, but I was really motivated to get rid of the crap Ash had dropped off at my place "for a month or two" over a year ago.

I also tried to convince Dave that he needed an EX250 motor to power his new infernal device, but in his wisdom he decided to go with a golf cart chassis. My friend Charles later hooked me up with some poor soul who really wanted a whole bunch of used EX250 parts for a bike he was rebuilding.

Dave's latest pics show the amazing transformation the booth has gone though; from being porch clutter to a pimpin' playa-crusin naked-lady-mud-flap sportin' sex machine.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Back From LA

Just got off the plane from L.A., where I went for the weekend. Grace and Jordan organized an outing of 14 people to go trap shooting, which sounded like as good a reason as any to pop down and say hi. I took my shotgun with me, which posed surprisingly few complications. The only restrictions were that I had to check it (for some reason, they don't let you take it as carry-on. Probably because it wouldn't fit in the overhead compartment), and that it needed to be in a locked container. At check in they had me open it up and checked to see that the chamber was empty, and then it had to be checked again by the TSA people.

The biggest problem of the whole affair was that odd-sized luggage gets processed after all normal luggage has gone on to the carousel, so I had to wait (along with the lady with the surfboard) for about 20 minutes for it to come out.

The range in L.A. was a pretty nice set-up. It was about 45 minutes from Jordan's place, and was pretty big -- they had about 10 trap ranges. Since it was a large group of mostly non-shooters, Jordan arranged for an instructor, Warren, and a beginner's package, including loaner guns, birds, and ammo. I thought Warren did a pretty good job as an instructor; he's obviously been a coach for a while and could spot everything you were doing and tell you exactly why you missed the target on any given shot. Unfortunately, a coach will not let you continue to perform an activity with bad form, and he began to grate on some of the shooters by the end of the day.

Nonetheless, a good time was had by all, and we ended up with a bunch of spare ammo. Again. Since it's not clear how much (if any) ammo I could take back with me on the plane, I left it in Nate's good hands, as subtle encouragement to go shooting again soon. Nate, by the way, turned out to be one of our natural shooters, and was hitting about 80% of his birds by the end of the day.

We left the range at about 5pm and headed to the beach to hook up with Jordan's brother, who had a bonfire and beach party arranged. Neither Grace nor Jordan read the directions closely, and only remembered that it was "near the volleyball nets," a misleading phrase from the evite. Naturally, there a large group of volleyball nets on the south end of the beach, which we saw when we pulled in to the parking lot. We walked all the way down the beach, confirmed that there was no one we knew, walked all the way back up the beach, checking out the groups along the way, and then decided to call it quits after wandering up and down the beach for about two hours.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, Jordan's brother gives him a call and tells him exactly where the party is. It turns out that we walked right next to them, but there was no one Jordan recognzied as we walked by. So, we turned around, said hi, and hung out for a few minutes, before achieving group consensus and heading back home for food and showers. Best idea of this portion of the expedition was ordering for pizza delivery while driving back to Jordan's house.

After food, showers, and (for me and Nate) more food, we headed over to the night's party, at Howard's house. Howard is a friend of Jordan's, and another one of those people who knows everyone. My intel on Howard at this point was that he throws cool parties and mixes a mean Long Island.

We went and mixed with the beautiful people of L.A., and had a good time. Nate said he was off his game, which was somewhat dissapointing since it was a target-rich environment. A couple of Jordan & Grace's friends (met earlier that day at the gun range, names now long forgotten) are counting sexual coup with J&G, and scored (literally) in the bathroom. There were threats to even the score before departure, but to my knowledge they were not carried out.

I must admit that I didn't look at the bathroom quite the same way after that. Fortunately I'm a guy and I pee standing up.

Spent sunday being hung-over, surprisingly so since I had so little to drink (two mai tais, one long island). Sadly, this too is becoming a theme. Worked my way through half of a Tom Clancy novel that I've already read, and this helped keep my mind off of the small angry dwarf pounding relentlessly on my skull with a sledgehammer. Fortunately queasiness and small dwarf cleared up a little into my plane flight, so air sickness bags were unnecessary.

Also found out while catching up on my email that Mark has started a blog, after a little prodding from yours truly, and that he's taking the plunge and becoming a permanant, landed resident of Minnesota. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Alien Swarm

I've been playing a mod for Unreal Tournament the past few days called Alien Swarm. Not only is it one of the highest-quality mods I've ever seen, but it's also the best game I've seen that captures the look and feel of the movie "Aliens".

All of the key elements are there: The standard issue guns are indistinguishable from pulse rifles, and the minigun from the marines' steadicam-mounted machine guns. Cat, one of the gunners, is a dead ringer for Vasquez. Your marines can seal doors with a miniature welder, set up automatic sentry guns, and use flamers and shotguns.

The other thing that gives a cinematic feel to this game is the pacing. Unlike the franchised Aliens and AvP games, you don't have to start out with wimpy pea-shooters and work your way up. Instead, you go in with a full squad, loaded for bear. The first few aliens that pop out and rush you are blown away with contemptuous ease. As you get deeper, they start to swarm in larger packs, and jump out from walls and ceilings. Eventually they're coming at you in all directions in a near-continuous wave, and having to pause to reload can prove fatal.

It's challenging. It's addictive. I haven't even managed to finish the first mission yet. And when you get better, you can do co-op play with other people on the 'net. And did I mention that it's free?


Saw Tom Cruise's new flick "Collateral" last weekend with my sister. I thought Jamie Foxx did an excellent job as the cab driver, but Cruise was a bit chatty for a career psychopath. The romantic interest and the "twist" ending were fairly predictable; the big draw of the movie is the internal struggle that Jamie goes through in helping Tom carry out his hits.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Dating Crazies Builds Character

Grace just mailed me a link to this guy's web page, where he describes all of the completely insane things he and his girlfriend get into arguments about. I read until I was about to die of hunger, then decided to post it up here because a) I have a certain affinity for men who date women that are certifiable, and b) sometimes I have the memory of a gnat and I'm sure if I didn't post it I'd never find it again.

The most amazing part is, apparently, that they're still together.

Late Night With Guido

For reasons unbeknownst to me, my body has decided that I need to be awake at 4AM. Since that's the case, all I have left is to try and be vaguely productive and hope that it changes its mind soon.

Just flew back into Silicon Valley yesterday evening after visiting my parents for a week. My dad turned 70 not too long ago, but my parents were in Canada on their sailboat at the time, so the celebration was delayed until they were back in town. My sister and I flew out and met them in Sidney, B.C., and then spent a couple days sailing back to Anacortes.

By the way, in this context "sailing" means "travelling on a vessel equipped with sails" rather than "being moved by wind power." Most sailboats in Washington spend more time motoring than sailing. In any case, my parents' boat had cracked its bowsprit earlier in their trip, so sailing was pretty much out of the question.

My dad's belated birthday party was a fun affair. My father has always had fun with language, and creates occational bits of random poetry (think "clever doggerel" rather than Yeats or Frost). So to more properly hoist him by his own petard, my mother sent out with the invites to his birthday party requests for limericks on the subject of my father and his quirks.

Some of these were quite funny. Some of them even named names. Apparently when my father was around my age, he moved into an apartment complex that had around 5 men and over 50 women. "Good odds," as my father put it. One of the women living there was my mother, and another of my dad's friends then-future wife lived in the same complex.

Another of my dad's friends happened to be the father of my best friend from high school, who I've pretty much been out of touch with for the last 10 years or so. We would occasionally shoot an email back and forth in that time, but his access to email has been erratic. Mostly I would get the occasional bulk email and vague updates would get passed back and forth between our respective fathers at the local tavern. So I met up with Janusz' (that's my friend -- pronounced "YAW nuh shh") on sunday and spent an hour or two and a couple beers catching up on old times and recent updates. Neither one of is married, or, I gather, will be any time soon.

I will post my limerick, on the subject of my father's ill-fated motorcycling career, when I get the final version back from my mom.

Monday, August 09, 2004

On Vacation

I took this week of to visit my parents in Seattle. Mike dropped me off at the airport this morning -- it hasn't changed much since I last visited it, which is a surprise for SJC -- and I had an uneventful flight up. No one was here when I arrived, so I snagged the keys to Dad's Miata and went for a spin around town.

I had forgotten how beautiful Seattle is when it's not raining. It's "hot" today -- in the low 80's, which would make it comfortably warm for San Jose. On the other hand, people in Seattle can get around in the rain without applying for federal disaster relief funds.

Went out to grab dinner at a restaurant and bar not to far from my parent's house. While eating, I came to the shocking realization that there isn't a single fast-food restaurant that I can think of within two miles of my parents' house. And, unlike the bay area, it's not because my parents live in a developer's wasteland, with nothing but housing around. There are easily 30 restaurants and cafes within the same radius.

This is one of the surprising things I never realized about my home town until I left it. Living in San Jose I've gotten used to the idea that there are never less than 3 Taco Bells and 2 7-11s within a mile of any given point, and that the challenge of dining is finding a place that isn't a national chain. In Seattle, there's probably a Cheescake Factory or P.F. Changs around somewhere, but you'd have to drive a long ways to find it.

The Village

Went to the Century 21 saturday night with Mike and saw The Village. The movie was a bit slow, which seems to be typical of M. Night's movies, but not so slow that I lost interest. The various characters were strange and intruiging, with lots of potential back-story, but (somewhat frustratingly) this is never explored.

This, combined with the stilted dialog and the reserved manner of the characters, results in a cast that feels dry and leeched of emotion. There's an essential liveliness missing, like they're black-and-white people. Actually, black-and-white is a good metaphor -- there is an overall lack of color that makes the village look bleak and desolate, reinforced by the scary leafless trees which surround it. After watching the village and its near-lifeless inhabitants for a while, the emotion which strikes me isn't pity or fear but a question -- why on earth would anyone want to live here?

Friday, August 06, 2004

Music Man

The other day a brochure from the Santa Clara Adult Education center showed up in my mailbox, listing the classes they had available. This looked pretty attractive, not only because it's a non-profit and the classes are pretty reasonably priced, but because it's about half a mile from my house. So I flipped through the course catalog, and decided to sign up for a class on bass guitar.

I'm not sure what drove me to do this, other than it was cheap and it sounds entertaining. Jeff heard on the radio that Guitar Center was having their "40th Anniversary Extraviganza" (Guitar Center is always having a sale), so we went there over lunch and picked up a moderately-priced bass guitar.

Random fancy? New passion? Only time will tell. Either way I'm sure it will make a good story.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Linking Mania

Added a bunch of "favorite things" to my profile, mainly because I wanted to see what other sort of odd people are interested in the same stuff. "Dark City" yields some predictably Goth characters, and Cryptonomicon... Well, you can see for yourself. Let's just say that they're overwhelmingly male, white, and in their 30s. Including, of course, me.

I hate fitting a stereotype.

I must remember to stick "Pi" in my favorite movie list, I'm sure that will generate some interesting results...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Cross-Cultural Slang

I learned a new term from one of my co-workers today: ABCD, which stands for "American-Born Confused Desi". I was greatly amused. The term is used by Indian immigrants to describe Indian-Americans (not to be confused with American Indians -- and thanks, Columbus, for screwing up your navigation and leaving us with this grammatical problem 400 years later). ABCDs use the term "FOB" to describe recent immigrants (as far as I can tell, this is universal, since my Asian friends -- admittedly all twinkies -- use the same terminology).

Share and enjoy.

After reading the definition of "twinkie" under the second link, I wanted to point out that the definition on that page, while amusing, is somewhat extreme. Almost all of my Asian friends can speak their native language. Usage of "twinkie" by said group seems to be similar to the usage of "geek" about five or so years back -- how it is used and whether you label yourself as such depends on how much you associate with the given group/culture. A self-labeled twinkie may be fully conversant in their native language and culture, but simply choose to spend the bulk of their time in mainstream American culture, just as a self-labeled geek is proud of their high degree of skill in an area that most people consider boring or strange.

Wow, that was deep. I think I need to go shoot something to balance my ying-yang.

Second-Day Blues

Woke up this morning sore all over. My neck is really stiff, which implies I went down harder than I thought in Sunday's hockey game. I'm being punished for taking a month off and then playing two games in a night.

Since my chip came back, I've been spending all of my time in the lab. Spent most of the day today probing the board, having parts re-wired, and theorizing, only to find out that the error was that the configuration was wrong -- one of our guys added '8' and '1' together in his head and got 'A' instead of '9'. Four hours later we fix the problem, and poof! the chip's running like clockwork.

For those who have wondered, this is why hardware engineers have to be able to convert hex to binary in their heads.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Can't Sleep, Therefore I Blog

Played hockey again for the first time in over a month. Thankfully, I acutally remember how to play, and came out of both games without re-injuring my ankle (or any other joints). Unfortunately, my second game started at 10:45, and finished up around 12:30. So now I'm left with the result -- it's 1AM and I'm not tired in the least.

Fortunately, start time at my office is pretty lax. And that's putting it mildly.

I went to Jamba Juice this morning (standard breakfast most mornings -- I'm too lazy to make my own), and there was an all-new crew there. During the week, the guys there know my name and just key it in, but on the weekend I have to take my chances. For some reason, no one can ever grasp the elegant simplicity of my name, and try to shoehorn it into something more mundane. Particularly in high-noise environments.

Today I ended up as "Clyde." I thought that was quite inventive, I haven't been Clyded before. More common variants are Sky, Fly, and Die. Umm, excuse me -- who would name their son "Die"? Talk about being born under a bad sign. For this reason I frequently revert to an alias, particularly if there are a lot of people and I risk missing my order because my name has mutated into "Steven". I prefer "Gary" or, when I'm feeling a bit saucy, "Guido" (which I'm more likely to respond to).

I once asked my parents why they picked "Guy" as a name. I was expecting a story about some long-lost beloved relative on some side of the family. Instead, I was told they picked my name because it couldn't possibly be shortened into a nickname. I suspect some long-standing mutual trauma in their past, because they gave my sister an un-shortenable name as well.