December 1st, 2008

Trajedy... for YOUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!

Where's my bailout? Huh?

Last time I checked, the total commitment for the government's assorted bailouts stood at $7.76 trillion. By now, of course, it's probably bigger. Ordinary people have trouble keeping up with it, given its tendency to increase every Monday morning, when many of us are pretty hung over. But who cares? At this point it's all funny money anyhow, too humongous for the human mind to grasp. To be honest, I'm beginning to lose interest in it, more or less in the same way that my fellow Americans have lost interest in the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's so yesterday. I want to know what's hot now.

To be more specific, I want to know when MY bailout will be announced. I check the news every Monday morning with an eagle eye, but for months now I've experienced nothing but repeated disappointments. Bailouts have gone to big commercial banks, investment banks, broker dealers, Fannie and Freddie, AIG, middle-size banks, money market mutual funds, commercial paper sellers, credit card financers, student loan issuers, auto manufacturers, and, for all I know, to massage parlors and tattoo salons, too. But, alas, not one dime has been allocated to failed professors. And I demand to know what's going on!

I spent twenty-six years in the trenches of academia; I paid my dues. I must have corrupted the minds of almost as many young people as Bear Stearns bought worthless mortgage-backed securities. I proved as disruptive and hard to get along with in as many faculty meetings as AIG issued worthless credit default swaps. I wrote scores of papers published in obscure journals nobody ever reads―if you don't believe me, I'll give you a list, and you can dig them out of the dust in a major university library. So, I wasn't just taking up space in academia: I was doing my best to undermine everything the honest, workaday world stands for, and now, when I'm in a jam, I want the federal government to give me some credit for the harm I've caused.

Actually, I want a bit more than recognition: I want an immediate cash infusion and a line of credit at the Fed. A few billion ought to turn the trick; I'm not greedy.
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What's my computer doing while I wait?

The first thing that jumps out is how absurdly fast our processors are. Most simple instructions on the Core 2 take one clock cycle to execute, hence a third of a nanosecond at 3.0Ghz. For reference, light only travels ~4 inches (10 cm) in the time taken by a clock cycle. It’s worth keeping this in mind when you’re thinking of optimization - instructions are comically cheap to execute nowadays.

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Some real good stuff in the reddit comments, including a pointer to Valgrind's cache and branch-prediction profiler Cachegrind. Also there's a pretty good article in LWN about cache, including how to best optimize matrix math for cache coherency.

Of course, always remember the first two rules of optimization club:

1. You do not optimize before profiling.