Almost two weeks unemployed

I’ve been unemployed for almost two weeks now. Loving it so far. What have I been up to?Kids stuff I got to go to my kids’ music class. I had attended one of the early sessions, months ago; this is only my second session. On the same day, I took my daughter, Lydia to swim class, which, though she’s been doing since 4 months of age, I’ve only witnesses 4 or 5 times. She and I will be visiting the local pool a lot this summer which is only 2 or 3 blocks away. I took the kids to the St John’s parade; a local thing. Robie was in the parade with her Poekelon school She’s training for her brown sash, just before black. We went to a Mother’s Day get-together on Sunday. We were there most of the day. Being a Sunday, I would have been able to do this anyway, but it was different because I didn’t feel anything else pulling at me. I could just enjoy it. I took Lydia to her “Little Monkeys” class at Robie’s Poekelon school There’s another dad on the block that’s a stay at home dad. We met at the park down the street. All kids stuff I hadn’t been privy to before. Oh, and I got the go ahead from Robie to get the old “snip snip”, so workin on that. 1 Garden stuff Much of my free time has been spent in the garden. Since I’ll be at home more, I going to cut my own grass. The gardener we had was mostly great… but here and there something I planted disappeared 2. So Lydia and I went to get a lawnmower, albeit a smaller walk behind model Going for a test drive Last year, I did some hydroponic experiments inspired by this video:
That was very successful for me for growing basil. This year, I’m doing more of that My Kratky Beds I’m also expanding it to include tomatoes 3 based on videos from the same guy’s videos, including this one:
Here’s a row of Dutch buckets I had already setup before leaving Intel: Dutch buckets 1 Here’s a newer row I did last week. The pipe on top of the fence is strawberries: Dutch buckets 2 For my more traditional beds, I planted a bunch of Leeks, some flowers, beets, and yet more tomatoes. I also setup a way to water them more easily which my friend Scott turned me onto. The white pipes have 1/16″ holes drilled into them about every 4 inches. They all connect to the bucket. I have 4 other similar beds IMG_4811 On the topics of “Tomatoes”, I’ve had this thought related to Guerrilla Gardening. I think it would be awesome to get a bunch of MJ seeds 4, do some starts and then plant them around town. I wonder how they would do. It’ll be legal in Oregon soon. Turn it into a true weed. Technical stuff I continue to chair the SystemRDL committee. I did this for Intel, but I can continue as an Allied Member of Accellera. Since we’ll be releasing hopefully this year, it’d be a shame to stop now. I’ve enjoyed working with this group. Generally speaking, the meetings are more productive than most of the Intel meetings I attended. It’s nice to work with such knowledgeable folks 5 I am researching some sort of mobile computing solution. For years, I’ve had an Intel issued laptop 6. There are so many choices. I really just need something basic, like a chromebook or a really low end laptop. I have a desktop that works well where I can do heavy stuff like lightroom and video editing. I’ve tried using the HP Stream 8 that was given to everyone for the winter holidays. It mostly works but doesn’t have enough memory for some stuff 7 Let me know if you have an opinion on this. 8 My current setup includes an Atom based FreeNAS box for storage. It contains two parallel drives for some redundancy. 9 My main desktop machine is a Sandybridge based Ubuntu box running VirtualBox with Win7 in it. This has worked very nicely for me, especially compared to dual-boot. I’ve installed ZFS on Linux to enable me to move the storage drives into this machine. I haven’t moved them yet, but I’m thinking I can use a portion of the new SSD drive I bought to speed up access to these files 10. I’ve also ordered another 16GB of RAM to augment the 8GB I have now. 11 I’ve really liked running Ubuntu Linux at home over the last couple years. The only reason I have windows at all:
  • I haven’t taken the time to give Robie a quick start on linux. I’m sure she’d be fine with it.
  • Adobe Lightroom. While there are a number of things I really don’t like about it, I isn’t a good alternative.
  • Sony Movie Studio 12. I’m not aware of a good video editting application for Linux.
I have several project ideas I want to pursue, but haven’t done anything yet.        

  1. TMI?

  2. not stolen, just weeded away

  3. not to be confused with “Tomatoes” ”

  4. anyone got any?

  5. especially compared to some at Intel, who think they know what they’re talking about. The ones who blow off my advice or predictions of coming problems and then are surprised when those predictions come true. The same folks who insist on going off in bold new directions while understaffed on the current needs they know what they’re talking about. The ones who blow off my advice or predictions of coming problems and then are surprised when those predictions come true. The same folks who insist on going off in bold new directions while understaffed on the current needs

  6. ever since laptops existed

  7. for example, I’ve discovered that editing a google docs document can get pretty slow when the doc is ~100 pages.

  8. Apple products are right out

  9. I picked FreeNAS because the ZFS file system that it uses has some appealing features. The main feature is that it can scrub the files and not just the file structure. In retrospect, I wonder if it really makes a difference for me to offset the hassle. There’s one reader of this blog who knows a lot on this topic. Perhaps she’ll comment with some interesting opinions. FreeNAS is FreeBSD based which, while very similar to Ubuntu, has some differences that would require some time by me to get used to.

  10. SSD caching is another ZFS feature, thought Ubuntu’s LVM has this as well

  11. I effectively have only 4GB right now since virtualbox is usually holding onto its allocation

  12. I don’t use Premiere Elements because it’s overly dumb’d down compared to the full application. Movie studio is just like the pro version except some features are missing, features that sadly I’m starting to want. Like multi-cam editting

Would it kill me to be a manager?

This is actually my second writing of this post. Sadly, I had my first version basically ready to go when I clicked on “Save draft”, something happened and an hour of writing disappeared. Hopefully, my annoyance from that won’t translate into a grumpy or incoherent second try.This post will contain two parts. First I’ll be a bit critical of my recent work environment. While I do believe my criticisms are valid, I think my response may have been wrong. That’s part two. In a nutshell, technical direction is decided and influenced by the managers and individual contributors are left out. Not what I would have liked. On the other hand, would it have killed me to be a manager? On the contrary, there are large aspects of it that I would have enjoyed. My criticisms:
  • In recent times, my group has embarked on some grand directions while missing some necessary technical nuance 1. The ideas are sound, but there were some aspects that could have been done better:
    • We tried to do everything at once. This meant that several of us were spinning our wheels while the more preliminary dust was settling. Dust we depended on.
    • We didn’t have the needed connections between the people in the trenches. The folks implementing the changes didn’t know the folks receiving the work. This continues to be too true today.
    • Given our role helping projects tapeout chips 2, there are aspects that don’t seem necessary. At the same time, the reported successes were often fantasy.
  • Policy is decided by the managers. That’s where the discussion happens. Having a single direct report earns one a seat in the room during these discussions.
  • The chosen directions weren’t communicated very effectively. 3
  • There are resources available only to managers. One example that comes to mind is “FLM Days”. 4 I’ve gotten multiple reports that much of what happens during these seminars is quite interesting. The relevant learnings are supposed to be passed down, but this often doesn’t happen. 5
  • In the last couple years, there are two people that were surely two, possible three grades junior to me. 6. They are managers so they got to help decide. I didn’t.
So why didn’t I just become a manager? Would I have given up everything I’ve loved about the job? Surely, I would have gotten the opportunity had I asked. 7 Reasons I’d have enjoyed it:
  • I like teaching. 8
  • I enjoy mentoring. I’ve been around for a while. I like sharing my experiences. Anyone who knows me, doesn’t come to me with a question if all they want is a two minute answer. I prefer to answer as completely as I can.
  • I like participating in the policy discussions. I’m good at questioning the status quo, at questioning assumptions.
  • I could have help improved communication 9
So why didn’t I? The biggest reason is probably that management is viewed as “The Dark Side” by those of us who really love the technical part of the job. Management tends not to include the wiz programmers. If you can’t do,… coach.  Is this a valid reason to not do something? It shouldn’t be. If someone refuses to wear a particular pair of jeans because it’s not the right brand, they’d be viewed a pretentious. Is this different? Still, this is a trap I allowed myself to fall into. I really enjoy coding. I enjoy problem solving. I didn’t want to lose that. Early in my career 10 I observed a couple managers who actually were very good technically. The problem with them was that they were unable to balance their individual deliverables with the needs of the people reporting to them. Being a manager can mean getting less done overall. I basically rejected the idea of management without giving it fair consideration.

  1. I am, of course, limited in how much detail I can include. Hopefully I’m not so vague it’s just gibberish

  2. Some in my dept often forget this part. We’re not Cadence/Synopsys/Mentor. EDA is not our primary job. We exist only to help Intel design chips. It’s not the same

  3. Perhaps I wasn’t listening. Maybe communication was fine and my vision was simply something different

  4. First Line Manager

  5. If you’re part of the process, many things start to feel obvious. It may not occur to you that something needs passing along.

  6. These individuals are quite capable. I have enjoyed working with them. Still, experience has some value. I don’t actually know what grade they are/were, but given their ages, I think I have a good guess.

  7. I actually was a manager, years ago, of two people for about 6 months. I don’t know that it was a positive experience for them. I had a hard time balancing aggressive goals with the patience required to help them to meet these goals. Still, I think it’s a job I could do well.

  8. One of my aspirations is to become a high school math teacher. I worry about the prospect of managing 30 teenagers. What I don’t worry about is whether I can help them understand. I’ve spent a fair amount of time tutoring young people in preparing to take the SAT. I got a lot of positive feedback through that.

  9. Or perhaps nudge the vision more in the direction of my vision

  10. which is not over. I have a couple projects I want to work on in the coming months

The things I liked about my tenure at Intel

After spending 22 years doing anything, one is surely bound to have some opinions about it. On balance, I’m happy about the time. There are things that I liked and those that I didn’t. For fear of being some grumpy old curmudgeon, I’m going to lead with some of the things I liked. 1Israel I got paid to live in Israel for two years and 8 months. Some of the best of my life. For a while I considered staying but in the end I’m too American and I’m not Jewish. Israel is a wonderful country with lots to see. There’s history, there’s geology 2, the people are great, the work environment was awesome, learning the language was a fun challenge. The list goes on. I spent the first year and a help as a part of the Timna project, which was Intel’s first attempt at a low-cost cpu. It was well run and everyone enjoyed it. In the end, it never sold due to memory shortages, 3 but it was followed by the Banias, Yonah, and Merom projects which were incredibly successful. Those were the first Centrino lines. I remember lots of evenings working late. Intel provided dinner and the crowd was always jolly. Israelis are great at managing stress. We didn’t mind the hours. If I had to pick a favorite part of my career with Intel, it’d have to be Timna. Outside of work, Israel was great too. I had a caring Hebrew teacher, Esti who also helped me navigate the differences of the culter. I managed to date two amazing women, Michal and Shlomit. I spent a lot of time mountain biking. It was a period that I lived within one time zone of my mom.   Autonomy Throughout my whole career at Intel, I can’t remember a time when I was told what to do. I was always pointed in a general direction and had the freedom to use my judgement. This was also true in my younger, junior years. I remember there was one time 4 when my manager came to my cube and asked “what are you working on. it’s been really quiet and that usually means you’re cooking something.” When I worked in Israel, my manager there was not very familiar with what I do 5 During idle times, or just when I didn’t feel like doing anything, I’d walk around talking to the mask design folks that I supported. I’d shoot the breeze with them a bit and eventually ask what they were working on. “why are you doing that?”, “how are you approaching it?”, “why not do it this other way?”. Usually, their answers were nothing I could improve on, but often enough, my response was “I can fix that”. We’d go back and forth on the interface and I was motivated to work again. Back to my cube to write some for loops. Changing the world For the first half of my career, the world anticipated the next wizbang CPU we’d release. Photoshop, excel, games,surfing… all of it benefited from more processing power. The more we provided, the more wonderful things everyone was able to do their machines. Eventually, the improvements didn’t matter as much in laptops and desktops. It was easy to forget the new other side of things. The servers. Facebook, google, twitter,… those became the glamorous companies. They don’t exist without our stuff running on their racks. The excitement of the leading edge During the first half of my career, there was a pronounced buzz of pushing the limits. Everyone around me was reading and discussion the latest books on computer science, and software development. Trying new things. Exchanging ideas. Being surrounded by other focused and intense developers really helped us all grow. Sadly, this spirit has been largely absent in recent years, but I compensated for it by mentoring the more junior members around me. The atmosphere of sharing is what I enjoyed then and I enjoy it today. I will miss the contact with the younger folks.

  1. I have no plans to do a post listing only negative things. negative things.

  2. that’s how the Dead Sea came about

  3. Willamette also used the same RAMBUS memory and the company didn’t want to have a negative impact on those higher margin parts

  4. not in band camp

  5. We were starting a local support group and the stuff he worked on was “front end design”, logic stuff. I was a physical design guy, pushing polygons

Restarting after long hiatus

It’s been several years since I’ve posted to my blog. Life has gotten in the way. Well, life has changed. As of May 1 (next Friday) I will no longer be an Intel employee.
Having kids, a full-time job, a wife and other interests can really keep one busy. Recently, it’s felt like life was passing me by and it’s been difficult to be present. I had already been talking to my management about cutting my hours, but then my division decided to offer voluntary separation to anyone who wants it. Since I’ve been with Intel almost 22 years, it’s a nice sum of change.
img007I’m not looking for a replacement at this time. I’m approaching the coming year or two as a journey of discovery. Other than internships or campus jobs, Intel is the only place I’ve worked. The world is a different place from 22 years ago. I still like writing my for loops. The question is what will they do and who will I write them with.
So I’m restarting my blog and I have a bunch of topics I’d like to write about:
  • img006At Intel, everyone is required to write a weekly update. The frequency is no longer weekly, but the concept is still strong. Most weeklies are really boring, mine included, however I’ve been in the habit of including a “random” section with thoughts about whatever. I’ll post some of those here if they are still relevant. My random thoughts were rarely Intel specific
  • As an MIT alumn, I have volunteered to be an interviewer in the admissions process and I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a little over 40 applicants in the 4 years I’ve been doing it. 5 have gotten in. I have some thoughts on what traits do or don’t get one a golden ticket to the ‘Tute. I can at least comment on what I’ve been impressed by and what I generally find almost boring.
  • img005Also for MIT, I volunteer in the Office of Minority Engineering’s mentoring program. I plan on posting edited versions of the mails I’ve exchanged with my mentee.
  • I would like to try my hand (er voice) at podcasting. I’ve approached two friends that I think are a good fit for me.
  • Leaving Intel is not easy and it’s triggered extensive soul searching. I have both negative and positive thoughts about Intel’s career opportunities, values, and the extent to which I’ve capitalized on the opportunities available to me.
  • Perhaps this falls under the “random” category, but I’ve settled on a particular set of questions that I always ask in work interviews. The scrolling portion of my logo above is my answer to one of these questions.
  • Whatever else comes to mind

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Restarting after long hiatus

Using usbasp and avrdude to program 89s52

 I’m working on a project that requires the use of an 89s52. Well, it requires a 8051 footprint compatible part but I want In-System-Programability (ISP). So I need to be able to program the 89s52. The cheap options for programming 89s52 parts are not that well documented on the web. More important, I already have a usbasp. Google’ing hints that it should be possible to program these guys with a usbasp, but there is lots of conflicting information.   Well, it is possible, but it requires some adjustments to the usbasp firmware and some additions to avrdude’s conf. The setup I’m describing is this post is one I’ve used to successfully program an 89s52 and an ATMega328p. Hopefully, no existing functionality is lost. The firmware here has my changes. I also have it here untar’ed: This is my avrdude.conf file:   What did I do? I started with the information here: In particular, it contains a link to a version of usbasp firmare that should work, but I wasn’t able to get it to work. I can’t really say I tried super hard. The issue I had was the it seemed incompatible with recent avrdude versions. Given my new familiarity with the firmware quoted, it should work. Anyway, the modified firmware was done on top of the original 2005 firmware. I took that diff and applied it to the most recent 2011 version. This process was pretty educational. There are a bunch of statements out there that are misleading, so I’ll try to dispell some of the. To be clear, I take no credit for any of the changes. I just merged to latest and tweaked a wee bit. The main point is that the version posted here works for me using avrdude 5.10 and a cheap ebay usbasp on 89s52 and ATMega328p. This the command I used:  avrdude -c usbasp  -p 8052 -b 200 -U flash:w:blink.hex:i It’s just the reset signal. One common statement that’s made is about how the 89s52 (and all other 8051 parts) reset signal is active high whereas most modern microcontrollers are active low. While this is true, it’s not enough to invert reset. There are several other ways that the usbasp assumes it’s dealing with normal AVR parts that also have to be addressed. Is anyone out there? The most important trick that these modifications add is a stronger dependency on calling out to the part: “are you an AVR part?” Silence. Ok are you an 89s part? These calls are referred to as “Program Enable” in the datasheets and they are done differently between the two familes. In particular, AVR parts respond on the third byte. 89S parts respond on the 4th. Also, the responses are different. Again, the usbasp knows what it’s calling out to and it’s expecting a certain response. No amount of inverting changes that. It’s a neat trick though. Flash reset, try AVR call/response. Try flashing reset again (this time active high) and try 89S. I could imagine extending this trick further for other products that support serial programming Change programming assumptions. Once this call/response process matches a product family, the usbasp will know what it’s dealing with and apply the proper assumptions; ones that are appropriate to that part. All of that can be taken into account.
  • Read and write are a bit different. The address component of a read/write instruction is shifted over one. sort of.
  • AVR parts can be programmed using the hardware serial support. usbasp can communicate with this or it has a software implementation. The 89S52 I tried it with didn’t seem to like the hardware way, but software works well.
  usbasps can be purchased off of ebay for less than $4 delivered to American doors. You really can’t beat that. I suggest getting more than one. You can use one to program the other, but more interesting, you could reprogram them to do non-flash programming functions. Two or three AA batteries and you have a 4 I/O microcontroller. I haven’t tried this yet, but $4 is certainly less than Arduinos cost. Puts them in “Jelly Bean Part” territory. I think this is potentially one of my more useful blog posts. If you find it helpful, please do comment and let me know. I’d be curious to hear what projects folks are working on.          

Updating the firmware of a usbasp

  This post is mostly for my personal reference and my “regular” readers will probably not care. I want to program a 89s52 microcontroller. I could buy a specialty programmer, but I already have a usbasp. The issue is that the usbasp that I have came with the original firmware. There’s a newer version that supports 89s52 chips. To update it, I need another programmer. I could buy a second usbasp but I don’t want to wait for it to arrive from the usual chinese ebay sellers. (cost is not the issue since they cost $3.77 delivered) Instead, I’ll use my Arduino. So here is the sequence of steps:
  1. open arduino SDK and load the ArduinoISP sketch from file->examples
  2.  compile and upload
  3. The comment section of the ISP sketch describes which pin is which.
  4. you need to connect the J2 jumper. In my case, I don’t have header, so I just used a piece of wire.
  5.  I found that it wasn’t obvious which pin of the ribbon cable connects to what on the usbasp
    1. If you’re looking at the ribbon connector, the tab is up and the ribbon goes left. Going from away from you to nearer, the connections are Miso, sclk, reset, unconnected, Mosi. The pin beneath the far pin Miso, is gnd and the pin beneath the close pin is pwr.
  6. To test, I first read the existing code:
    1. avrdude -c avrisp -P com3 -p atmega8 -b 19200 -U flash:r:abc2.hex:i
  7. To write:
    1. avrdude -c avrisp -P com3 -p atmega8 -b 19200 -U flash:w:usbasp.atmega8.2011-05-28.hex
This is the output I got:
avrdude: AVR device initialized and ready to accept instructions Reading | ################################################## | 100% 0.09s avrdude: Device signature = 0x1e9307
avrdude: NOTE: FLASH memory has been specified, an erase cycle will be performed          To disable this feature, specify the -D option.
avrdude: erasing chip
avrdude: reading input file “usbasp.atmega8.2011-05-28.hex”
avrdude: input file usbasp.atmega8.2011-05-28.hex auto detected as Intel Hex
avrdude: writing flash (4700 bytes): Writing | ################################################## | 100% 8.32s avrdude: 4700 bytes of flash written
avrdude: verifying flash memory against usbasp.atmega8.2011-05-28.hex:
avrdude: load data flash data from input file usbasp.atmega8.2011-05-28.hex:
avrdude: input file usbasp.atmega8.2011-05-28.hex auto detected as Intel Hex
avrdude: input file usbasp.atmega8.2011-05-28.hex contains 4700 bytes
avrdude: reading on-chip flash data: Reading | ################################################## | 100% 5.78s avrdude: verifying …
avrdude: 4700 bytes of flash verified avrdude: safemode: Fuses OK avrdude done.  Thank you.  
Updating the firmware of a usbasp

Is the cost of big name schools worth it?

 My fraternity email list recently had a short debate on the future or higher ed, online ed, who goes to college and whether it’s worth the cost.  This post contains two of the mails that I wrote as part of that:   I have a kid now (cutest baby ever. A year and 3 months). Will I be willing to pay for her to go to college at an expensive big name school. Probably not.  Would I have gotten an education somewhere else like the one I got at MIT? Probably not. Was MIT worth it for me? Absolutely. (easy to say, since I got a lot of aid)  What was the difference for me? I think it comes down to motivation. I was motivated enough to apply and do what I needed to get in, but I didn’t have a lot of discipline. In high school, I could punt on most of my homework because the rest of the class didn’t do it either. By doing some of the homework, I knew the teacher had to either give me an A or fail the rest of the class.  Not so at MIT. For every problem set, I knew that most of the class was doing most of the homework. I either had to focus or flunk out. Living in this environment for 4 years changed my work habits.  That was benefit #1 for me, but there were others. Being in a place with so much buzz of excitement was awesome. Being in a place were being good at math was normal made me feel normal. It reset my outlook on what normal should be. (I realize that our definition of normal is anything but)  So why wouldn’t I pay for Lydia to go to an expensive school, even one that may actually be worth it? (most universities are expensive but don’t offer the big name) I think that MIT is probably a waste for half of the folks that went/go there. Those that hardly went to class… why are they at MIT? Why study in a place that’s so specialized if you’ve not passionate about what you’re learning?  At the time, I took the HASS classes only because I had to to graduate. 3 of those were spent taking German, I language I already spoke. I don’t regret that at all. I’ve filled in the “well-rounded” blanks since then and know more about the world than most.  So is MIT just the Harvard of Devry. No. Trade schools teach useful skills. When I was at the Tute, you had to go to course 1 to take a C class. I haven’t used CLU or scheme since graduation. What I have used is my knowledge of how compilers work? Why O(n^3) is a big deal? Anonymous functions. What’s a pointer really? What it can really mean to set a high bar. I had access to big wigs. I did a UROP for Ron Rivest. If you’ve bought something online, he’s touched your life. I went to office hours taught by some of the best people in their fields.  Had I just taking MIT classes online, it would not have been as good of an experience. I would not have had the focus. Would not have learned the drive. My bar would be lower.  If Lydia convinces me that she’s truly passionate about something, I’ll find a way to pay for whatever environment is most appropriate for that passion. Otherwise, I’ll save my money. There are cheaper ways to drink a lot and play video games.  If online experiences can find a way to spark the drive to succeed, they’ll have a winner. If they can find a way to open a new world to students, even better.  Some fun videos from the MIT EC newletter: Miles       One of the guys replied that he thinks it’s sad that I don’t have high expectations for Lydia. >”drink a lot and play video games”?  Very strange that I would have >higher expectations of Lydia than Miles seems to have for his own >daughter!   <other stuff deleted>   Here is my retort: In addition to my young daughter, I also have my 16 year old niece living with us. This experience has shown that expecting something doesn’t make it so. I will encourage Lydia in every way that I can. I will try to impart every wisdom available to me. I will expose her to the wondrous things the world has to offer. It will be up to her to take advantage of those opportunities.  Lydia will know that going to a big name school is nothing if the passion is not behind it. She’ll go to a school for reasons other than name dropping. She will know that the value of college goes well beyond the price of tuition.  The high expectation I will set for her is that whatever she does, she should make it count.  The parents of many of our MIT peers did not set this expectation and it was apparent in the amount of drinking and video game playing that went on. I drank a fair bit, but I also went to my classes. I did my homework. I followed my dreams. I feel fortunate to have known my MIT cohorts and our PKT brothers in particular, but I feel that many would have been happier at another school or perhaps not in a normal university at all. Think of the folks who barely graduated. Were they not as smart? They were plenty smart, they were just in the wrong place.  Going to a school like ours costs $200k now when all is said and done. Ballpark correct? “well, of course we will spare no expense.” I don’t think so. Not blindly.  I have a bunch of folks in my family that have taken non-traditional routes. Drop out of high school early, do the community college thing while figuring it out. Work in the peace corp. Travel the world for a bit. Military service.  For most people going a prestigious school is not the best way to spend $200k. Lydia won’t “need” that to be successful. If it’s a clear part of what where her spirit is driving her, then I’ll eat ramen to make it happen.  I have high expectations for her. Going to a prestigious school so her dad can put a sticker on is car is not one of them.  As I think Dale used to say, maybe it was Dan. Andrei can put that in his pipe and smoke it.  I think I’ll stop playing video games AKA writing too much personal mail. Gotta do some work.   Miles   I love Lydia very much. I hope I manage to teach her the real value of things.

Book recommendation from a stranger

 So I recently had the idea of asking folks for a book recommendation. The way I phrased it was, 
  “a stranger approaches you on the street and asks you for a book recommendation. What do you say?
I got a lot of great answers. One of them, Handi’s sleep book recommendation, I’m reading right now. It’s very interesting.
What did I hope to achieve with this question?
Well, I do a fair amount of reading. A lot of that reading is on similar topics or genre’s. If I just ask someone for a recommendation for me, they’ll base their recommendation on what they know about my views, interests and opinions. If that was what I really wanted, I would have phrased the question:
“my opinions are: x,y and z. The topics I like are a,b, and c. Can’t you recommend a book that reinforces my existing preferences.”
Some people responded with “deep” non-answers. “why would a stranger ask me?“, “are they trying to rob me?“, or “only the reader of a self-help book would ask such a thing“. That was only a minority of people.
I was surprised by the variety of answers. I expected more “preachy” answers like my own (Omnivore’s Dilemma), or Fast Food Nation. Some of them are pop non-fiction. Outliers and Freakonomics. Some classic fiction made it in there. History.
I plan on reading several of them.
Below, I’ve compiled the list of them all. A couple notes:
  1. Since I was providing a bunch of Amazon links, I took it as an opportunity to embed a Amazon Affiliates tag. If you click and buy, I get a kick-back. I hope everyone believes that this is not the main motivation behind the list. I’ll be happy if I get $10 or $20 out of it. Enough to buy one of the books on the list 😉
  2. I’ve tried to make everyone’s name identifiable yet not have it show up on a google search. If you know the individual, you’ll probably recognize the name I attached.
1. Daleen
Dawn’s Early Light Elswyth Thane
2. Liisa H
3. Candace (Candy)
4. Konradi
5. Doug T
6. J Arasmith
7.Rod H
8. Shy
9. Top
10. Maidment
11. Handi
12. Miles
13. B Baxter
14. Brian Miller
15. Riedener
16. Gyuszi
17. Marina
18. Nanda K
19. Narasimhan N
20. Trey
21. Geoff G
22. Quentin P
23. Slava
24. Halpin
25. M Frazer
26. S Burns
27. C Burns
28. A Burns
29. Kedar
30. A Miller
31. Drew
32. Silvija
The synagogue of Satan – Andrew Hitchcock
34. Scott Little
Book recommendation from a stranger

My advice to my student going to Wellesley

During the school year, I volunteer on Saturday mornings wit Mind Matter helping local underadvantaged high school kids prepare to take the SAT. One of my students will be going to Wellesley college next year. I’m very excited for her and it brought back lots of awkward, but very fond old memories. I felt inspired to pass some wisdom on to her and I wrote down some words of advice.This post is dedicated to some of the wonderful MIT and Wellesley women I’ve known (by initials): CT, JW, LG, JB, KR, DC, KB, and CO (though I only met you after graduation) 1) College is one of the best times of life for many many people. It’s a time to explore who you are, have some fun, experiment, and enrich your mind in a way you’ve never done before. 2) Academics is the main reason for college, but it’s not the only reason. Do other stuff. Explore the area where you’re going to school, take a ballroom dancing class, participate in athletics (intramurals in particular). Meet people. 3) If you choose to drink, know how much your body can handle. Take notes. X beers == buzzed. Y beers is too much. The only differences between drunk and really drunk are: a. The hangover you have in the morning b. You embarrass yourself by being sloppy drunk. 4) I recommend you stay away from other drugs. You have plenty of time in life for that. Most colleges have pot, lsd, and coke available. I know plenty who tried these and were still ok. I also know people who struggled with these. I did without and I don’t regret it. a. A lot of people pick up smoking in school. It’s a gross habit. 5) Get to know your professors. People don’t become profs if they’re not passionate about their subject. If you take an interest in their field, they will take an interest in you. a. Go to office hours. I did and it never counted against me. I saw it as free tutoring from top notch teachers. 6) Find study partners. People who approach things differently from you are particularly valuable. Talking through assignments really helped me. 7) Read your assignments they day you get them. This usually only takes five minutes. Read your assignments every day to remind yourself. This enables you to think about the work before you actually do it. With this method, when it came time to actually do the work, I often had to just write down the answer. 8) Set aside times on the weekends to study. College classes require more work than what you’re used to in high school. As an example, I had a study group of three of us. We worked on the homework on Sunday after one of the guys in my group got out of church. We alternated between the three fraternity houses that we were in. 9) College classes should be hard and require a lot of work. If this is not true about the classes you’re taking, you should consider finding something more challenging. Remember this when you’re frustrated. You should not take this as a sign that you’re not smart enough. If you got into the school you’re most likely totally capable of succeeding. A large part of college is persevering when it’s not easy. For example, the math classes I took had homework consisting of no more than 10 questions. Problem 10 was more difficult than 9 and so on down. Sometimes I just had to sit there and stare at that one problem for a while. Try different angles. This is why it’s important to read the assignments early. Gives you a chance to digest the problems. But always remember that “hard” is not the same as “can’t”. Just keep poking at it. Wellesley specific advice.
  1. I was not a student there, so I am not the final authority, but I’ve known and loved people who were (dating and as friends). Also, I’ve been out of college for just about 18 years now. Of course, generalities often don’t always apply to individuals.
  2. Wellesley encourages you to find your strength. Feminism is very strong there and that’s a wonderful thing. One mistake I saw many women there make is to equate that with giving up your womanliness. It is possible to be a strong professional woman AND still be sexy, feminine, gentle, beautiful, caring, sensitive, passionate, and all those other things.
  3. I encourage you to spend time off campus. The Boston area has so much to offer. Visit both MIT and Harvard.
  4. I encourage you to reach out to the women of MIT. This will be difficult at times. There’s a bit of rivalry between the two groups. I’ve seen Wellesley friends of my fraternity feel like they were competing with our MIT women friends. This doesn’t have to be the case.
  5. MIT women have a lot to offer that is different from what Wellesley women give.
  6. Wellesley women and MIT men come together in some conflicting circumstances. Wellesley students are busy finding their strength and discovering who they are. Many of them come from protective environments and are making their way out from under that. MIT men are often less socially mature and they’re also trying to figure things out. The combination can be awkward and I encourage you to keep this in mind. Be understanding of the insecurities around you. Be aware of your own insecurities. Don’t let these things pull you in a negative direction. Use this to temper your reaction when others are behaving irrationally.

Sous Vide Immersion Heater

I recently happened up this article about making a sous vide immersion controller. I peaked my curiosity since I’ve had difficulty in properly cooking steaks. Once I got to reading, I found a pretty good website on cooking sous vide. So I decided to try it myself. I got a PID controller off ebay (~$20) and a solid state relay (~$6.50), wired em up to controll my crock pot and gave it a try with some chuck roast. The results were quite tender, but I need to do better on the finish. I seared it on my BBQ but I think I need to let it sit there longer.Some implementation notes. The PID controller claims to control an SSR, but the ebay ad lied. The seller claimed to be ignorant on the products they sell, but I think it’s BS. I recommend against them. Women of the world should feel ashamed at this person (I’m just a dumb woman, hee hee) (jinpengcart2011).:
Dear mmccoo,
hi my friend,thanks for your msg

in fact, may be i will know less this items then you .i am a worker (lady)
i really know litter about this kind of products
so i aslo feel very comfuse
i have send the instruction to you ,
you can have a check wether it can help you
is this ok ?
i believe you are more better then me .i believe you will find the result
when you have result you can come back to me
no matter what ,i can protect your profit
is this ok?
waiting for your reply and wish you have a nice day

Not all was lost though. I figured out a way to wired it up for SSR control. I patched into the control signal to the relay (the red and black wires. click on the image for a larger shot): IMG_4724.jpg Here are some addition photos. I still need to add wall plates. IMG_4727.jpg IMG_4728.jpg