Wednesday, 11/7/01

I wrote another computer program. kamaileon lets you send emails that appear to be from someone other than you. Nothing especially original, but I like it. The purpose was to easily allow band announcements to be sent from "" instead of the somewhat less professional-sounding "". I was tired of having to send out all the announcements myself just because I'm the only one who speaks SMTP. As for the name, I would have preferred "chamaileon", but it appears to have already been taken and even trademarked. "kamaileon", on the other hand, seems to be unused except as the handle of some virus hacker kid. Ah, Google is truly a wonderful resource.

The ICCAD conference was on Monday, or at least my part of it was. My presentation went quite well, except for some issues with the microphone. The little clip-on lapel mic seemed offended by my lack of lapel, and demonstrated this by falling to the floor in the middle of my talk, leading to some awkward pausing and fumbling. And then at the end of the presentation, amidst the thunderous applause, I carefully removed the (reattached) mic and walked proudly off the stage, forgetting that the microphone connector apparatus was still in my pocket. If it hadn't been for someone pointing out that I was still tethered to the PA system, I probably would have taken the whole stage with me.

But other than that, it went well. Probably the most difficult part of the morning, other than waking up at 5 am, was when the moderator asked me for a brief bio, including a line or two about my "research interests". I couldn't easily say, "Well, I'm actually... not interested in research." Instead, I thought for a while and finally wrote, "information theory and its applications to logic and circuit design", which is roughly a category that my present talk would fall under, although it's a bit like saying I'm a sci-fi fan because I caught a Star Trek episode once.

The truth, of course, is that my "research" was simply a class project gone too far. Something I pursued because the math was fun and because I saw it as my ticket out of the hell-pit that was UC Berkeley. Despite some recent clues, I really don't know what my research interests are. Everyone else seems to know.

One incident which will probably stick in my memory for the rest of my life... It was the first day of a DSP course that I was taking at Caltech. I was waiting for class to start, kicking back in my usual posture with my feet up on the desk, when a grad student walked in and sat nearby, placing his bookbag next to me. Embroidered on his bookbag was his name, and underneath, the words "Analog VLSI for DSP". Now at this time, I was in the midst of grad school applications and was feeling quite a bit of pressure from my lack of direction and ambivalence toward research areas. This guy did not lack direction. He had no ambivalence. He knew exactly what he wanted to do, to the point where he had it embroidered on his fucking bookbag. "Analog VLSI for DSP". Those self-assured, permanently etched words stared me in the face, saying "Even if I'm not that good at DSP (he wasn't), I will still succeed where you fail, because I have a purpose." And here I am, three years later, still trying to find my purpose, while he's probably happily designing analog circuits for DSP as I type this.

Those embroidered words made a huge impression on me because they symbolized... commitment. A permanent desire. And for all I've done and made, I've never felt that level of certainty about anything, or anyone.