April 11th, 2008

straight to hell

Would we? YOU BETCHA!!

Pic by Deadro, found in fantasygoat.

The 1936 Summer Olympics (officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad) were held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany. Although the bid was won before the Nazi Party gained power in Germany, some leaders in the government saw the Olympics as an opportunity to promote their Nazi ideology. Hitler was convinced by Joseph Goebbels to allow the games to take place in Germany.

Hitler used the Olympics as a tool for propaganda. Film-maker Leni Riefenstahl, a favorite of Hitler, was commissioned by the International Olympic Committee to film the Games. The film, titled Olympia, originated many of the techniques now commonplace to the filming of sports. By allowing only members of the "Aryan race" to compete for Germany, Hitler further promoted his ideological belief of racial supremacy.


Embedded Engineers are a dying breed.

So, does the United States have a shortage of engineers? Well, if we are talking about engineers who understand how computers work, then I’m afraid we do. I can understand not wanting to get into the nitty-gritty of bus transceiver logic, etc. Some folks like that level of design, and I’m happy that we have them. But, as embedded systems developers, we must all understand the effects of memory management units (MMUs), caches, instruction pipeline flushes, scheduling policies, context switches and the like, to be effective in creating working embedded systems.

As for today’s CS programs, it seems that long gone are the computer architecture classes, writing code in assembly language (or even C at this point) and engineering software economics. In fact, a large number of CS majors apparently believe that everything can be implemented in a virtual machine and that both memory and central processing unit (CPU) cycles are infinite. Based on a typical x86-centric desktop computer view, these observations are perhaps less unrealistic. However, the net result of this perspective is the code bloat we perceive in certain operating systems and applications. Certainly, our “lean and mean” perception of what it means to be an embedded system is not consistent with the infinite CPU and memory viewpoint.

The educators and curricula developers are quick to claim that they are simply teaching their students what the industry is demanding. This is often based on a quick look at the local want ads or a search of employment sites on the Internet. Java, PHP and HTML developers all seem to be in high demand. However, these are again skill sets that are easily outsourced. Proximity to the hardware and the hardware designers as well as test equipment is precisely why it is so much harder to outsource embedded development jobs.


Embedded engineering requires understanding both circuits and compilers, and as the article says, that kind of cross-disciplinary teaching is not done in modern US colleges. The only way I can think of to resurrect embedded engineering is to get serious about teaching mechatronics (i.e., robotics) in schools. You'll be forced to learn a little mechanical, electrical and software engineering if you want to build robots. In this, Dean Kamen is far ahead of the rest of us.

Beating down the Concurrency demon.

In short, the easy pickin's have long gone, and now we need complex tools and complex coding styles to get more performance from more cores using the existing languages. While I think we can go farther with what we have, it's time to get serious about exploring serious language changes. Somewhere, Out There, There's a Way to write large programs without me having to sweat out Every Bloody Little Detail about how my parallel program communicates internally. Screw Java: I got a JVM with a super GC, fantastic JIT and decent concurrent libraries; it can do loads more stuff than just run Java. I got reasonable OS's and an ever-growing mountain of (parallel) CPU cycles. Isn't there Some Way to beat back the Concurrent-Programming Demon?



Larger then a grizzly bear one and a half times over, Andrewsarchus was the most sophisticated killing machine since the Velociraptor. It was the largest mammalian terrestrial carnivore in the history of life on Earth. It was almost 15-feet long, and the first three feet of that was teeth. It was quick, agile and even had a pretty sophisticated brain for its era.

That finely-tuned killing machine's closest modern relative? A sheep or goat. The Andrewsarchus' Order, Mesonychia, has close ties to the modern Order Artiodactyla, of which Ovis aries and Capa aegagrus are a modern example of. Yes, that pitiful thing that smelled like its own feces when you awkwardly encountered it at that petting zoo is all that's left of the most powerful mammalian predator in history.

The Ice Age essentially wiped Andrewsarchus out of the mammalian gene pool. All that's left are these warm, fuzzy remnants. This includes what has to be the utter bottom rung of evolutionary failure, the fainting goat. Nice job, evolution.


Jan 2008: Previous world record for crude oil production is broken.

The EIA’s newest International Petroleum Monthly shows World C+C production for January was 74,466,000 barrels per day, eclipsing the heretofore peak of May 2005 by 168,000 barrels per day. (thanks to Ron Patterson for the heads up and to Khebab for the quick graphics).


Anyone who tells you that there's a crude oil shortage as of 2008 is full of crap. There may be an oil shortage in 2009, or 2010. But there is no shortage of petro as of 2008.

Why young feminists are supporting Obama.

As the media noted (perhaps correctly) that by remaining in the race Clinton might be jeopardizing a Democratic White House for four more years, Obama stood up to say that Clinton has every right to remain in the race. How easy it would have been for Obama, even coyly, to have egged on the calls for Clinton's withdrawal. In fact, he came to her defense, showing both a difference in style and principle. Ironically, it was the male candidate rather than the female who exhibited one of the values of feminism, the unwillingness to accept the old style politics played by men for decades.

This pattern of old-style politics and adherence to un-feminist values is part and parcel of the campaign Hillary Clinton has run - let us also not forget her old pal James Carville calling Bill Richardson "a Judas" for endorsing Obama. The Clinton pattern is why most of the young women I know on my all-women's campus and elsewhere are supporting Barack Obama.


I've ranted many times that "feminism" has become so diluted, so individualized, that the term itself doesn't actually mean anything specific any more. I see the above attitude as being far more about supporting fundamental change,1 rather than being about liberation and equality for women.

But I'm still happy to see people supporting Obama, whatever their reasons.

1 Something which I believe is impossible in the USA of today.