August 30, 2009

Nerdspeak

One of the joys of having my sort of background is receiving a steady stream of junk mail from the professional societies with sentences like these in the body:
"Design and synthesis of ICs considering factors such as: signal integrity, transmission line effects, POC, phase shifting, and sub-wavelength lithography [...] spare-cell strategies for ECO, decoupling capacitance and antenna rule fixing [...] Reliable clock tree generation and clock distribution methodologies for Gigaherz designs [...] EDA tools, design techniques, and methodologies, dealing with issues such as: timing closure, R,L,C extraction, ground/Vdd bounce, signal noise / crosstalk / substrate noise [...]"
Yes, all this from a flyer aimed at getting me to attend some international symposium or other last week. The really sad thing is I understand (or at least recognise) nearly all of what's written in these things. Getting a life's a low priority, I guess.

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August 25, 2009

There's A Riot Going On

"What are we to make of a scientific materialism which formally accepts the findings of physics about matter, yet makes so little effort to link these findings with the class struggle, revolution, or whatever. Does not the abyss between proton and the proletariat conceal an unacknowledged metaphysical conception of man?" — Benedict Anderson in a footnote to Imagined Communities (p10 in my edition).

At first glance this is an absolute riot of category errors (and the context doesn't save it). At second glance it's hard to make enough sense of it to know whether they're really category errors or not. But never mind: this is a frustrating book, but one I keep reading. And reading it is like reading a map prepared by someone who navigates to a completely different (even hidden) set of stars (Marx, Gellner, et al); it's like unearthing a time capsule from a long-vanished era and having to struggle to remember some of the cultural, philosophical, and political references that Anderson must have assumed we'd all get or at least recognise as Important and Relevant (itself a word of its time…). In short, a book that seems colonised by the time and place of its writing.

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August 18, 2009

Encounters

I sit across the desk from the friendly-but-reserved sales guy trying to sell me a new car (he succeeded), dying to ask him the obvious question while he rattles on about accessories and options: what was it like growing up black in the suburban Arizona of the sixties? Instead, we smalltalk about local politics (a much safer topic). A few minutes later S. (from Ethiopia via London) finalizes the finance deal with a quiet but heart-felt rant about Americans and their (our) idiotic health care system and our self-destructive populist politics; it's all I can do to stop myself from asking how a ruthless uber car salesman and finance guy like him can profess such views in an industry like his. He shakes my hand and tells me I'll like my new car (I do). Damn the car, though — it's much less interesting than the stories lurking in the salesroom….

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August 15, 2009

Kindling

Someone asked me the other day whether I'd ever get a Kindle. I suspect she thought I'd disdain the idea, that all the books I'm surrounded by in my studio speak to a love of the old technology. But much as I like books, I'm not sentimental about them: it's words I care about. I'd have a Kindle in a second if I thought I could really afford it.

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August 07, 2009

Sunshine

"Sunshine": a badly-acted mess of a movie, not so much a homage as a series of pastiches, a film you feel you should be playing with a Playstation, a series of visual cliches from the visually-limited world of the music video. Disappointing, mesmerising.

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August 01, 2009

The Rest Of The Story

Corazon Aquino dies, and the front page tributes and obits in the US media rightly stress the courage and integrity she showed in her struggle against the Marcos regime. But what these US sources almost universally don't mention — except in throwaway phrases at the end of the piece or hints here and there — is that that struggle was against a US-backed and US-armed regime that had US support until its last dying moments. As a mark of respect, it'd be nice if the US media had the courage to get the bigger story out there as well…

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