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August 07, 2009


   So I've made it through the first week on the job, and I even have made major progress on the project I started.  Just today I did my first little "victory dance".  For those of you who have never seen this, it basically involves me doing a slow 360 in an office chair making silly arm motions while chanting some boisterous remarks in a cheerfuller manner.  My old boss Dave has been witness to many a victory dance.
   Shortly after I got home, the cable company showed up with my cable modem, and so I have Internet.  It makes me very happy.
   I'd like to thank Erica for all the feedback she has been leaving.  It's always nice to know what people think of the stuff I post, and so few people leave me feedback.  So thanks Erica :)

2 comments have been made.

From ERica

August 10, 2009 at 7:43 PM

Aw, yay! :D This picture is so pretty; I really like the gloomy/rainy lighting and how the pink stands against it. Also, the image of you victory dancing is humorous. Haha

From Steve

Janes-Hell, WI

August 12, 2009 at 11:40 PM

(To Erica) - If you think Que\'s victory dance is funny, you should see him do one whenever he gets to eat sushi. :D But then again, I always feel like doing a dance whenever I get a chance to eat sushi; it\'s some of the best food ever!
   I've been working on coding something I haven't ever tried doing before, and it's pointed out some weaknesses of the C programming language.  There is no portable way in C to find the code size of a function.  True, it's rare one would want to know such a thing, but there are times.  There are a couple of ways go get this information, none of which are really fantastic.  Since the compiler this project uses is GNU C, I decided to use a custom linker section.  In GCC, one can use special macro __attribute__ along with "section" to place a function into a specific linker section.  Naturally, this requires having a custom linker file.  Since this project is embedded, we have to have one of those anyway.  In the linker file, constants can be created that hold the start, end or size of a section.  Thus, I was able to accomplish my goal.
   The second thing I needed to do was switch to a separate stack space.  In GCC, there is an other __attribute__ option called "sp_switch."  It's designed for interrupt handlers, which often have to switch to a separate stack space.  Unfortunately—and I'm not entirely sure why—the switch didn't work for me.  I simply received a compiler warning that said it was being ignored.  For, I had no choice but to write a stack switching function in assembly.
   I could have, any maybe should have, written this entire function set in assembly.  All of these problem would have been easy to overcome.  However, I was asked to write it in C and it proved to be an interesting exercise.  Why C?  I think because there are not a lot of us who know assembly.  I still stumble around some with PowerPC assembly, but I'm getting better.  But this is my forth dialect of assembly (I also do x86, TI 2407, and AD Blackfin), I've written a great deal of assembly in my past (mostly x86), and so I would say I'm a proficient assembly programmer.  I'm not sure how many programmers are.
   Pictured is my view of the courtyard from my apartment's front room.

August 05, 2009

The book "Infedel"

   I finished reading the book Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  It was recommended to me by Echo and after hearing about it, I had to place it on the "must read" list.  Ali is an atheist who offers a detailed look into the life of a women growing up as a Muslim.  Unlike fellow atheist writers such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, Ali doesn't see the need for religion to disappear completely, but she does share the view that fundamentalist religion is dangerous and repressive.  It is clear from her book that many women are subjugated with the use of Islam, and such subjugation is compliant with the religious teachings.  Ali also points out something often expressed by Pat Condell—the idea of being so political correctness is leading to intolerance.  She openly criticizes the teachings in the Qur'an and speaks contrary to those who say the Islam is a religion of peace (people such as George W. Bush).  Being a critic has made people speak critically of her.  You can condom acts of terror, violence, and repression, but it's taboo to condom the religion used for it's justification.
   In all I felt the book did well.  The autobiographical format makes Ali's book a very strong argument.  It's hard to argue with someone who has experienced the situation first hand.  Her point is made.  Unlike Bill Maher with Religulous, Ali doesn't end the book a warning of self-destruction induced by religious fanaticism—she ends with her real-life situation of being in hiding for expressing her views.  The reality is, Theo Van Gogh is dead, killed for making a film (Submission: Part I) with Ali that was critical of Islam's treatment of women.  It's hard to imagin a more real threat.
   As with almost all my book, I "read" this via audiobook.  I started the reading on the drive to Iowa. The reader is none other then the author, Ayaan Ali.  She has a somewhat British accent, but her English is flawless so it's easy to understand.  English is just one of six languages she speaks.  I was engaged pretty much throughout the book.  I found it a little unease to listen to her experiences with female circumcision when she was 5 years old.  I have a soft spot for kids, and this story resulted in anguish and anger—how anyone could inflect such acts on a little kid and be convinced it was for good seems something only valid to the extremely religious and the insane.
    One thing the book really did for me was display culture gap.  Ali lived in several countries as a child before moving to Europe.  She had to adapt to several new situations throughout her life.  What I think was crucial to this was her education.  She continued to seek out knowledge every place she went.  And perhaps that is what I find the key to overcoming many of the problem caused by religion, and by the world in general: knowledge.  Noam Chomsky once stated something to the effect that he believed the average person, when informed of the truth, makes the right decisions.  I think so too.
    Pictured is the first loaf of bread I made here in Cedar Rapids.  You can't see it much in the picture, but when I pulled it out of the oven I saw right away the loaf had a smiley face.

3 comments have been made.

From echo

August 08, 2009 at 7:35 AM

i\'m glad you liked it. i thought her perspective might be interesting to you and you\'re right, it\'s really hard to argue with her personal experiences.

From Simeon Becker (


August 09, 2009 at 9:22 PM

I enjoyed reading your review. I always like hearing recommendations for new reading material. (I already have \"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass\" on my to-buy list, thanks to you!) The way you felt about \"Infidel\" is the way I felt about \"How to Win Friends and Influence People\" when I first picked it up. I\'m already close to done with it. It\'s obviously nothing like \"Infidel,\" but it\'s impossible to put down.

From ERica

August 10, 2009 at 7:50 PM

I am really interested in stuff like this. I will see if the library has the book. (I really enjoyed Religulous; it was funny AND it made me think.)
   Here it is, in all it's glory—my apartment.  My computer bench consists of two 8' 2x12" boards, 6x 2x4x32", 2x 2x4x24", a 6x24x1/2" board, and about 12 drywall screws. It took about 20 minutes to screw it all together, and it's strong enough to hold anything I can find to put on top of it.  My bed lays in the front room and I leave the bedroom completely empty.  There is a closet behind the camera with the water heater in it that has plenty of room to hang my work shirts, and clearly I don't need the space.  So if anyone wants a bedroom, come take the thing—I'll even help you move your stuff ;)

August 03, 2009

Back to work!

   First day on the job—just like I never left :)  It was nice to see all the faces I left back in January, and it felt even better to dive right into coding.  Exam on the 29th, moving on the 1st, coding on the 3rd—who's wasting time now?!
   My first day was more productive then my previous first day.  Made it through most of the checklist of "things to get working."  I had to leave early because I didn't correctly jump through all the hoops for my apt. building.  Seems I misunderstood the directions I had been given.  I was to make out a money order for some given amount, and then have a check for a separate amount.  I went and got a money order for the full amount.  Blasphemy!  How dare I think applying efficiency was appropriate!  So I had to leave work early to go and get a money order and get it to the office before they closed. 
   It should be noted that every US bill has the following words written on them: "THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE".  Interesting how businesses can refuse to take paper bills and require some other, not universally recognized tender.  On top of that, money orders cost money beyond the amount they cover.  I do wonder, how legitimate is requiring money in non federal reserve note form?
   Picture is me just before heading off to work.  Sometimes I pretend I can look professional :)
   My apartment is in the same complex as last time, the same price, but noticeably smaller.  It is on the ground floor though, which is what I wanted—makes getting the bike in and out easier.  And the building has a better entry way then the other building too, which makes getting my bike in and out (without scuffing up the halls) easier, which I suppose is good for them.  An other thing I like about ground level is the window.  Here you can see my system of getting in and out—two 8' sections of 2x12 out the window.  Makes moving things inside much easier then having to unlock that front door, open the fire door and then open the apt. door with each item taken in.  Since I discovered the walls are painted with the cheapest paint in the world, I've been very careful not to touch them.  Trying to wash the walls only takes off the paint—so it's better not to get anything on them.
   Pictured is the move in mess yesterday. 

August 01, 2009

Here I come Iowa!

   Moving... this time I remember to snap a picture on the drive.  I recall waking up just before 6:00am after going to bed around 2:00am.  I had the truck loaded and driving down the road by 11:00am and made it to Cedar Rapids around 3:00pm.  It was just how I left it.  After moving my stuff inside, I went out to fill the refrigerator with the basics (i.e. milk, cheese, and bread yeast), then went to bed.  Pictured is my driving view—pick any location along the 210 mile drive.  In the picture are Kayio (the koala) and Vicious (the dog), my driving buddies.


   I don't like to waste time (although I'm good at doing just that).  Exam on the 29, moving tomorrow morning.  It's nice not owning much of anything—makes moving quick.  I designed a device that effectively locks my sleeping box shut (it's ingenious, I'm fantastic), but that's really about all the preparation I've made.  The Red-Dragon was being a turkey (dragon turkey?) and Tyson came by to pick it up—hard drive IO errors I assume are from a bad controller.  About the only packing I did was to pull my mattress from the loft and get out my bike trailer hitch carrier.