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I just returned from the Harvard Exit theater where I watched, along with Ben, Jim, Dan, Alex, and others, the movie “Primer.” It was incredible, bar none the best time-travel movie I have ever seen, and it was all done for $7000. FIRST Robotics, which is increasing its fees next year, could learn something here. But I digress. The movie was excellent, I need to see it again, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone when it becomes more widely distributed.

New Cable Modem & Women

Well, the Comcast Guy came and replaced our cable modem. Everything seems to be better now, I am mucho happy. I have yet to se the new modem myself, but my brother reports that it is black (woohoo!). I will ost pictures sometime maybe.

Two weeks and a day until my last final this school year. I’m stiall waiting to hear from the UW.

I saw Uniform at the Seattle International Film Festival today with Dan & co. It wasn’t very good, but I’ve seen worse too. Primer, which I have higher hopes for, is Monday.

Clifton sent me this link, about how to get more women into Linux. My specific interest was different, how to get more women into the TRC… Reading the howto left me feeling a little guilty and a little confused and a little indignant. Guilty because once I made a sexist joke to the two most promising girls on the TRC. I meant to apologize, but I never got around to it, and now I rembmer that I need to again. Confused, because some things seem to contradict. Do we want to treat women like everyone else (as she says to do at one point), or do we want to be extra careful to let them type the commands themselves (as she claims at another point). Finally, indignant because the author cites both at once how we raise males and females differently that leads to discrimination against females. Does this differentiation in raising children not just as strongly (or, these days, even more strongly) “discriminate” against me being a nanny, for example? Of course, this isnt really discrimination, is it, since I don’t really want to be a nanny. But then, what percentage or girls want to be (insert technical field here). Of course it is argued that these preferences come from differential treatment of genders in the first place. But what of that? My parents did not introduceme to the joys of autoworking as a child, and perhaps as a result, I’m not terribly interested in auto working. Does this mean I was discriminated against? If this happened to a girl, would that make her discriminated against?

I actaully wrote all that last night… enjoy!

Day after tomorrow today…

My case against Comcast

 Bad Comcast

 Good Comcast

Seen above are the same portion of two screen captures from two different games of Counterstrike. The info seen is the output of the function net_graph in the half life engine. As is normal, green means good, and red means bad. In fact, each red mark indicates a lost packet or a period of lost packets. Notice how many red marks there are in the Bad Comcast picture. Of course, that information is very anecdotal and doesn’t really isolate the problem – with just that information, you wouldn’t know if the problem were the counterstrike server, my router, my computer, the wireless link between them, or anything else. So I decided to roll in the big guns: the ping test.

I used the following command in four seperate command prompt windows:
ping -t -w 200 host
-t tells ping to ping until I tell it to stop
-w 200 tells ping to stop waiting at 200 ms and
host is either an IP adress or a hostname

Here are the results (grabbed by using control-break and copy/paste):

Ping statistics for a computer on the same subnet, just one switch and two cat 5 cables away
Packets: Sent = 355, Received = 355, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 0ms, Maximum = 0ms, Average = 0ms

Ping statistics for this is my router
Packets: Sent = 1239, Received = 1175, Lost = 64 (5% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 2ms, Maximum = 49ms, Average = 3ms

Ok, so 5% loss is not ideal and I will try to make that better. I think I could get this to 0% with a little tweaking, but 5% packet loss hardly affects real world performace.

Ping statistics for this is my cable modem
Packets: Sent = 1017, Received = 947, Lost = 70 (6% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 4ms, Maximum = 31ms, Average = 5ms

This is on par with the 5% seen for the router, but the test started later and there are more lost packets, so there are definitely some packets lost between the router and the cable modem… how this is possible escapes me, since they are all of a foot apart with a nice cat5 cable in between. But still, 6% loss is not very noticeable in the real world.

Now it gets interesting:
Ping statistics for this is my router’s default gateway
Packets: Sent = 1230, Received = 864, Lost = 366 (29% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 10ms, Maximum = 480ms, Average = 63ms

All of my packets have to go through the default gateway, as this is my only path to the internet. And from here to there and back again (without touching the internet along the way), I loose almost 30% of my packets. This is all after my router, mind you, I have no control over anything at this point.

Now, for the real world test:
Ping statistics for this is
Packets: Sent = 1480, Received = 872, Lost = 608 (41% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 31ms, Maximum = 489ms, Average = 84ms

Once we get out into the wild, nearly half of my packets never find their way home. And this is with no load whatsoever on the system.

“Pour sore misery down on me…” (I’m only happy when it rains)

More Comcast Lovliness

Internet was down most of the day while the cable modem reset itself over and over, perhaps due to line conditions. Its back now, so yay, but really, comcast, get a life.


Good comments on the last post.

WSP: The Conceit of the Annointed

While driving north on 405 to work today, I was passed by a Washington State Patrol vehicle doing better than 85 (I tried to pace the car briefly). The policeman behind the wheel was the sole occupant of the vehicle driving in the HOV lane. I smiled to myself when he got stuck behind a driver going the speed limit in that lane just a short ways ahead of me. Then I got indignant when I saw the cop pull off the road to set up a speed trap for other motorists.

I think John Stossel coined the perfect phrase for this kind of behavior in his excellent book: “The Conceit of the Annointed.”

The police view themselves as the annointed enforcers of some select laws of the land, but in that capacity, they often don’t feel that they are subject to the same rules they enforce. This behavior erodes the legitimacy of their mission and the laws they are charged to uphold. Along with the facts that the speed limit law is universally broken and arbitraily and sporadically enforced, the intentional and blatant breaking of the law by Washington’s “finest” damages the Rule of Law which is the foundation of our very society.

If I am ever a cop, I will pull over exclusively other cops to give them a taste of their own medicine. I have been told by some more knowledgable than I that this will lead to me being beaten in locker rooms and fired with the mildest excuse. All I can say is that I will have a camcorder running.

A Letter to the Editor

In response to the Tuesday, May 11th article entitled, “In science and math, our kids need to step it up.

It comes as no surprise to me that Washington State lags behind other comparable states in producing a high number of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. However, these facts, exposed in Tuesday’s article, surprise most people, because everyone thinks of Boeing and Microsoft when they think of Washington companies – two worldwide engineering and technology powerhouses. Furthermore, there are many other technology and engineering companies throughout the state. It would seem then, that students of these fields would find a great amount of encouragement and support throughout high school and college. However, as the founder of a high school robotics club, my experience has been the antithesis of this: Washington State companies largely ignore fledgling engineers and the groups that cater to them.

For evidence, we need not look any further than our largest educational institution, the University of Washington. In 2002 and 2003, the U.W. hosted the Pacific Northwest Regional for the FIRST Robotics Competition. These two years, the competition was largely funded by out-of-state corporations and organizations, with the hope that local companies would see the enormous potential of the event to promote science and technology in Washington State and begin funding the event themselves. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of hundreds of aspiring engineers in high schools throughout the Puget Sound region, this hope was never realized. This year, the Pacific Northwest Regional of this renowned national robotics competition moved to Portland, Oregon, where more corporate support was found.

Unlike Washington, Oregon is not thought of as an engineering or technology powerhouse � yet Oregon is setting itself up to usurp Washington�s position as a leader in technology because its corporations understand that in order to graduate engineers from universities, students must first be interested in careers in engineering. Organizations that reach students in middle school and high school are the best way to develop young people into aspiring engineers. FIRST (�For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology�) and its annual national Robotics Competition, have proven in many other states to be the best method available of promoting science and technology in secondary education. Until Washington corporations step up to the plate and begin to support events like this competition and the high school teams that participate in it, they can expect that Washington will continue to lag behind in the production of the Engineers and the leaders in technology that will enable Washington to remain a world leader in technological innovation.

Programs like the FIRST robotics competition may not be the �Silver Bullet� that fixes all of Washington�s engineering education woes, but I believe it is the closest thing that anyone will find.


Ryan McElroy

Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have concerning information in this letter.

For more information on the FIRST Robotics Competition: or

For more information on a very deserving yet under-funded robotics club, visit

Washington State teams involved in this competition include: Roosevelt High School�s �SWAT Robotics,� Newport High School�s �NRG� (Newport Robotics Group), Eastlake High Schools �Screws Loose� (Second place at the Pacific Northwest Regional!), Issaquah High School Robotics, Bellevue High School Robotics, Nathan Hale High School Robotics, and the 2004 Pacfic Northwest Regional #1 seeded champions, The Bellevue International School�s �Titan Robotics Club.�


Washington�s largest newspaper, the Seattle Times, must share in the blame for the Pacific Northwest regional being moved from Seattle � In the two years when the competition was in Seattle, the Times provided no more coverage than a picture and a paragraph of text. Each of those two years, Seattle-area teams came in second place and received no recognition. For example, in 2003, a well-funded team from Florida competed at the Pacific Northwest Regional and took first place. The Seattle Time�s coverage of the event consisted of two pictures of the winning team and a short blurb about how the team from Florida won the regional. There was no mention of the 12 Washington teams competing or the work they did to help put on the regional. Needless to say, people like me and other mentors of these robotics clubs who put in much of their time and energy to promote the good cause of science and technology in our public schools felt slighted at the gross omission of our cause. Many of us also feel that this lack of publicity helped ensure that no local corporations would step up and ensure that FIRST Robotics stayed in Washington. I would like to personally thank the Seattle P-I for its coverage of the robotics team I work with in 2003 and for its Tuesday article highlighting the issues facing Washington�s Tech companies.