Software development meme

I've been tagged by Isaac, my personal go-to guru. How old were you when you first started programming? When I was 11 (1992) my parents sent me to computer camp. Living in the third world, it was also the first time I'd seen a PC, and only the third computer of any kind I'd ever seen: I'd previously bumped into a Commodore 64 and an Apple II, but nobody around at the time had any idea how to do anything with them other than turn them on. At computer camp we were building toys in GWBASIC, and I was immediately drawn to the ability to draw shapes and colours on the screen. What was your first language? I guess GWBASIC, then a little bit of QBASIC and some PASCAL at school. The first programming language I built anything for myself in was HTML -- or, if you don't consider that a programming language, then PHP. What was the first real program you wrote? It depends what you consider a program. I have been a web guy right from the very start. The first real website I built was called H.O.AM (short for Home...
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A personal note from Donald E. Wildmon

As you may be aware, I am a subscriber to the newsletter of the crazy religious right-wing group the AFA (their website is a joy), mainly for the humour value but also to keep an eye on what the right are up to. Today's letter, titled "If you think things are bad now, just wait" is a doozy (emphasis mine): The upcoming election is the most critical election in the history of our nation. The very future of our nation’s foundation is at stake. Every person will be affected. If the liberals win, then our foundation will no longer be based on the traditional Judeo-Christian morality. It will gradually but assuredly be based on an ever shifting, ever moving foundation. If the liberals win, the damage can’t be stopped with elections two, four or forty years from now. America will forever be changed. We will keep seeing a gradual and growing hostility toward people of faith, especially Christians. The morals of our nation will continue to decline. Our children and grandchildren will pay the price. In case...
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10 Things I wish people knew about me

Ten years ago I was 17, a closeted gay teenager in a deeply homophobic Caribbean island. Thanks to Internet access, I had learned what "gay" really meant -- an aspect of yourself, not a choice or an affliction. I had also used it to reach out, anonymously, to other kids my own age going through the same experiences, via the wonderful Youth mailing lists. But everyone on the Youth lists was in North America -- at home there was nobody, not even any acknowledgement that gay teenagers existed. A local newspaper, the Trinidad Express, had at the time a youth-oriented Sunday supplement called Vox, which stood for "Voice of Original eXpression" or something similarly twee. It had its own letters to the editor section, and one week in it I read a letter which casually expressed some sort of positive sentiment about homosexuality; I forget the exact details. It inspired me to email in my own letter, anonymously of course. The following weekend I opened the paper and hunted for my message in the letters page: it...
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Vote No on California Proposition 8

Donate to protect gay marriage in California. Need persuading? Okay folks, here's the deal. You know I'm a big fan of Obama. I have in the past mentioned that, if you feel like it, you could donate to his campaign. But now with Barack holding a sizeable lead in all available polls measuring both national support and likely electoral votes, it's time to focus on an issue closer to home: California's Proposition 8. Here's what Proposition 8 says, but the clue is in the title: it's titled Eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry (after the attorney general heroically changed the title from "defence of marriage"): Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact to...
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This is a picture of a puppy

Because it's my blog, and I don't need a reason.
tagged with
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His name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American.

Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama on Meet the Press this morning is a great read but a wonderful watch. It is a slight to McCain and more so to Palin, a strong endorsement of Obama himself, but above all it is a stinging, hard-hitting attack on the recent direction of the Republican party from one of the most senior members of that party. Powell in particular takes issue with the Muslim smears of Barack Obama: not just that he is being smeared as a Muslim, but that being Muslim is for some reason considered a smear: I feel strongly about [the Muslim smears] because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth,...
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Signal

The work was nearly complete. The junior officer watched as an almost unimaginably vast section of light-absorbent supersteel, completely black in every portion of the spectrum, was maneuvered into place. Or at least, he watched a diagrammatic overlay on the screen in front of him, since it is very hard to observe something that is completely black against the background of the rest of the universe, which at least in the visible spectrum is also almost completely black. The piece in front of him was, according to the signals coordinated amongst the construction fleet, scheduled to be the very last plate inserted into the Dyson structure. Of course, the fact that it was the last was the result of sub-par construction work on the part of their team, which had delayed completion, and was therefore not to be celebrated. But still, it was fun to think that you'd be involved in the very final completion of an effort that had consumed your whole species' attention for several hundred generations. No ceremony was...
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The Bradley Effect is a myth

Say it after me: there is no such thing as the Bradley effect. The Bradley Effect -- the theory that voters tells pollsters they're going to vote one way, but in the polling booth are overcome by their own racism -- is minor at best, and possibly entirely apocryphal. It may be that it used to exist: the effect was named more than 25 years ago, and the country has come a long way since then. In the 2006 races it was not detectable at all. In fact, in 2006 black candidates outdid their polling figures. Nate Silver of the excellent FiveThirtyEight in fact speculates that there may be an "elephant effect" where people say they're going to vote McCain because they have to socially, but vote in their economic self-interest in the polling both, thus boosting Obama. Furthermore, the largest percentage difference the Bradley effect was ever alleged to have created was a 3% gap. To swing this election back to McCain, there would have to be a nationwide shift of more than 6.5% at the last minute. Even if the Bradley...
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Motivation unknown

Ed: these fucking mormons are crazy yo me: What? Ed: with their donating like a billion dollars to prop 8 i don't get why people give a shit about dudes hooking up Ed: i really don't like, ok, you find dudes kissing icky luckily, you live in UTAH i mean, i see guys kiss an average of like twice a year and I live in SF and lived in NYC aka sodom and fucking gomorrah seriously, what is the deal with these people? why can't they get this animated about solving other things that don't affect them in any way, but are actually causing people harm? me: Yeah, it's really odd. I think it's just become a symbol for them Of God vs. Godless Like Abortion 2.0: this time, we can win! Ed: i guess? but we're already godless in CA just write that shit off me: Expecting rational thought from the religious is itself irrational Ed: man, they should make this IM exchange into a no on 8 ad
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