An Engineer's Literary Notebook

Exploring the real and surreal connections between poetry and engineering

Archive for the ‘FPGA’ Category

The Malleability of Time

Posted by xbanguyen on May 15, 2011

The word elegiac comes to mind today for no discernible reasons because conventionally elegiac is a wintry word and we are well past that season, aren’t we. The primroses have run their course, the disheveled leaves a fair price to pay for the boisterous beauty of the flowers enjoyed earlier.  Thankfully, the leaves on the rose bush “Jude the Obscure”  are glossy, sturdy foils for the swollen buds from which fat buttery blossoms will surely emerge. June is but a couple of weeks away, but it is easier to be in tune with the passing of time when gardening.  So then why elegiac? Could it be because I lack the ability to stay in the present but race forward already to winter while summer is not yet here even while aware that spring will come again?   A competent engineer specialized in digital design should be more mindful of the cyclical nature of most matters as she must ensure that the clocks governing the digital FPGAs are precise in their cyclic property. On the one hand, it is desirable for a clock to have a narrow spectrum so that the timing budget for setup and hold is maximized as there is no wasteful uncertainty to be subtracted from the clock period. On the other hand, having all energy concentrated at a single frequency carries some perils, most notably causing interference to other signals in wireless communication. The spectral density of signals in a system influences the electro magnetic interference (EMI) emitted.  One method of reducing EMI is spread spectrum clock generating (SSCG) by which the clock signals are distributed across a wider band of frequencies.  Here randomness has its use because a noise-like signal from a pseudo-random number generator is applied to spread a clock in one technique.(1)  And if you happen to be in need of hiding a signal, this technique is also useful.  In the heart of that apparent randomness, a precise signal dwells. Is there an analogy to that of what dwells in the human heart?

The wind blows

through the doors of my heart.

It scatters my sheet music

that climbs like waves from the piano, free of the keys.

Now the notes stripped, black butterflies,

flattened against the screens.

The wind through my heart

blows all my candles out.

In my heart and its rooms is dark and windy.

From the mantle smashes birds’ nests, teacups

full of stars as the wind winds round,

a mist of sorts that rises and bends and blows

or is blown through the rooms of my heart

that shatters the windows,

rakes the bedsheets as though someone

had just made love. And my dresses

they are lifted like brides come to rest

on the bedstead, crucifixes,

dresses tangled in trees in the rooms

of my heart. To save them

I’ve thrown flowers to fields,

so that someone would pick them up

and know where they came from.

Come the bees now clinging to flowered curtains.

Off with the clothesline pinning anything, my mother’s trousseau.

It is not for me to say what is this wind

or how it came to blow through the rooms of my heart.

Wing after wing, through the rooms of the dead

the wind does not blow. Nor the basement, no wheezing,

no wind choking the cobwebs in our hair.

It is cool here, quiet, a quilt spread on soil.

But we will never lie down again.

Deborah Digges

The imagery within the poem resonates. The teacups full of stars bring back a childhood desire to raise a ladder leaning against the sky to paste more stars there. The wind comes alive in the poem. It could be the same wind painted by Edward Rochester’s Jane depicting her interior landscape. Refraining from analyzing the poem, I find it a pleasure just to quietly acknowledge the electrical signals emitted  in those four chambers of mine, gentle like a sign, as I read it one more time.  How much of that is physiologically induced – what the eyes read, the mind comprehends, the heart empathizes, I do not know.  The number of neurotransmitters  involved in the entire process is an esoteric matter.  I’ll continue to be grateful for the power that poetry can induce, unquantifiable though it may be.

Thank you for the subject, dear muse.


2. The rose photo is from
3. The spread spectrum waveform is from
4. The neurotransmitter image is  from 

Posted in Colors, Deborah Digges, Digital, FPGA, Gardening, Time, Visual | 2 Comments »

Of Multiple Dimensions and Dingbats

Posted by xbanguyen on July 5, 2010

Do you write to remember or to forget? Do you write to prolong or to negate an experience? Do you think it is better to tie up loose ends or just  go with the flow in this meandering sort of days when this particular summer can not make up its mind whether to dazzle or to play hard to get? I vote for jumping off the pier of  uncollected thoughts, unsolved equations and unfolded laundry to plunge headlong … into a book, lest a sense of being too late overwhelms. Why too late? Is the ever increasing amount of logic that my profession of ASIC/FPGA design has been able to implement in an ever reducing area of silicon not enough to gain purchase on time?  Let’s not go on yet about the importance of timing analysis in my line of work but just consider how a 3D FPGA enables more processing to be done in less time in the same amount of space. There are 3D FPGAs and there are virtual 3D FPGAs.  As you know, a conventional FPGA  is a semiconductor device consisting of  a 2D array of logic blocks  connected via configurable horizontal and vertical routing channels.  And in the extravagant visions that sometimes visit this engineer, their metal junctions glisten like teardrops. The size of the transistors that make up a basic logic block keeps getting smaller, 28 nanometers currently, to enable more logic to occupy the same space. In  a 3D FPGA  there are multiples of such layers – one technique is to put the configuration logic on a separate layer on top of the active logic [1] to provide higher capacity.

In the same universe,  the third dimension of a virtually 3D FPGA is time — the same amount of logic is rapidly reconfigured at GHz rate to implement multiple portions of a function [2] expressed in RTL. Similarly,  multiple layers of meanings exist in this astonishing poem:

Space Bar

Lined up behind the space bartender
is the meaning of it all, the vessels
marked with letters, numbers,
signs. Beyond the flats

the monitor looms, for all the world
like the world. Images and
motions, weeping women,
men in hats. I have killed

many happy hours here,
with my bare hands,
where TV passes for IV, among
the space cadets and dingbats

Heather McHugh

I’ve found anodyne in this poem as I sit facing the monitors at work, too many hours and not enough, knowing full well that the pleasure of arriving at an elegant RTL implementation is not enough.  The repeated appearance of the likenesses of the world in the poem helps me see my surrounding anew while the layered meanings insouciantly conveyed  add texture to the way the keyboard feels under my fingers as I type.   The act of killing time using such surprisingly elemental devices on the heels of the weeping women and hatted men invokes a thrill almost illicit to make writing an untamed art.  And the space cadets bring Dylan Thomas to mind, perhaps because  the sloping forwardness of the font has some resemblance to his lilting Fern Hill. Instead of the typological dingbats,  my wayward mind’s eye sees bats in the swallow-thronged loft by the shadow of his hand. For a brief moment, Thomas’s swallow, Keats’s nightingale and Hardy’s thrush take flight upward together into the air scented with Khayyam’s roses, a mirage conjured up by poetry to counteract the cold of this summer evening.

Thank you for listening, dear muse.


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Posted in 3D, Fonts, FPGA, Heather McHugh, Multi dimensions, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

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