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Programming

Journal: Programming for kids 1

Journal by cptdondo

I know this has come up before. My 10 year old has been playing some basic flash games, and wants to learn how to "make a game". I have kturtle installed, and I expect that might keep him interested for about a week. Then what?

What good tools are there to allow a normal, curious 10 year old to write something with a fairly quick return on the time invested? I know someone is going to say that I should launch him straight in to perl, or C++, or something. Not happening. Those days are long gone. I need something that can create visual bang quickly and easily, and scale up to allow him to build a simple flight simulator (stick drawing of a plane, a horizon, and keyboard for pitch/yaw/roll).

User Journal

Journal: Oh, shit. 28

Journal by spun

About a year and a half ago, my wife met a really cool lady while doing community theater. Her boyfriend turned out to be a computer nerd, like me. In that year and a half, my wife and this woman grew very close, having similar interests and character. Although I tried to befriend the boyfriend, he always seemed distant. We knew, from his girlfriend, that he had had a "bad" childhood. We just never knew how bad, I guess. Yesterday at six AM, their house was raided by a fifteen man task force including state police, the FBI, and the district attorney's office. Because they had been investigating him for a year, and had the house under observation for a month, they knew they did not need the SWAT team for a flash-bang entrance, as was common in these cases. They were looking for child pornography, and they found it. Not "barely legal" stuff, two to six year olds, in violent and incestuous situations. He admitted guilt, at least according to the police, who questioned him away from his girlfriend. Yes, I realize that could be an interrogation tactic, but he also never protested his innocence to her, and seemed to know exactly why the raid was happening.

The raid was professional and the police were amazingly courteous. They found about an eighth of pot and quite a bit of paraphernalia, and asked whose it was. She admitted that her mom is an old hippie and had left a bunch of bongs there, but the rest was hers, that she used to calm herself down because she had hyperthyroidism, which is true. They let her keep everything and joked that, after this, she'd probably need it. The police doing this kind of work probably look on pot like they look on jaywalking, technically illegal, but not worth their time. They had a list of specific files that had been downloaded and came prepared with the utilities to scan any electronic device or media on the premises. The fact that he used Linux didn't phase them for a second. She gave up all the passwords she knew. As soon as they found the first match, about an hour and a half into things, he was cuffed and taken away. The raid lasted another three and a half hours after that, as the police methodically searched for additional evidence.

She had class, and needed her laptop, so they scanned that and gave it back to her right away, but she couldn't go to class because, if you leave the scene of an investigation, you can't come back until they are done. Which meant she couldn't go buy cigarettes, either, she was out, and none of the police smoked, the poor thing. So she pulled some hair out, strand by strand. The police had a rookie with them they assigned to her, probably like "Watch what we do and make sure she doesn't freak out." They set up two tables in her driveway. Anything potentially dangerous was brought there, as well as electronics and media. Other things were opened, searched, and placed on the floor. They took all hard drives and electronic components. They searched stacks of blank CDs, looking for any hidden amongst the blanks. They took all hand labeled CDs. They felt all cushions carefully, but not finding anything, did not rip them open. They opened all boxes, jars, bags, etcetera, and searched them.

I know all this because we spent about five hours last night going over it with her. If you ever have a friend go through a traumatic experience, this is the best thing you can do for them. Just listen, as they say the same things over and over again. Heck, when they slow down, ask questions to get them going again. Encourage them to show their feelings about it, too, if they cry or rage or shake or whatever, so much the better. The earlier you can get them to do it, the better, because (according to some psychological theories as I understand them) during traumatic, emotional events, the rational mind shuts down and disassociates at least a little. The experience is stored in memory as an undifferentiated lump with heavy emotional triggers attached. If it isn't processed, anything associated with the event can trigger strong emotions, once again causing the rational mid to shut down a little. Having one's rational mind shut down all the time is sub-optimal. She is going to clean up, move all his stuff to storage, and smudge the place with sage, which normally would earn an eye-roll from me, but this is exactly the place for that ritual. It's not magic, it's psychology.

The thing is, she had broken up with him the week before, and it was under consideration for a long time, because he just couldn't get his shit together after his dad died two years ago. He hadn't worked in years, he didn't do anything around the house, he just didn't do anything. He never wanted to hang out with me, even though we have similar interests and had fun conversations at parties. She would come home and find him crying on the couch. He doesn't remember much of his childhood, what he does remember is terrifying. His dad was a hoarder, and they were divorced when he was very young. His mom treated him like a boyfriend. His girlfriend reported seeing his mother sit on his lap and stroke his hair. He's thirty five. He had not had sex with his girlfriend in six or eight months.

I knew some of this before the incident so if it seems I rushed to judgment yesterday it is only because so many things suddenly made much more sense in this new light. It is still possible he is innocent of everything. It depends on exactly what they found, I suppose, and they have a year long record of someone, using several different IP addresses which they can now connect securely to him, I believe, viewing a great deal of very disturbing things online. They read the titles and descriptions of all of them to my wife's friend. We had a large bust of a child pornography ring here last month, actual production of the stuff, and the police admitted that there were fifteen additional people being raided here yesterday. I believe he had also recently befriended a young autistic man of twenty four or so who has young children. The police asked if he he had had any contact with people with young children, and his girlfriend told them that he had, and who they were, so they could question them. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't get closer to this guy. My cousin has young kids and they are over at our house a lot. Again, I'm not saying this man actually did anything to children himself or intended to. But I see a lot of data points that fit a certain class of patterns of human psychological illness here.

So that's about it. That's all I know at this point. My wife and I are glad that we can be there for her friend while she goes through this, it isn't over for her yet, not by a long shot. Her family owns the trailer park (no snickers, it's very nice) where she lives (in a three bedroom double wide that is as nice as my place, and why am I worried about class issues right now?) She may have to testify, that depends a lot on him, I imagine. We don't even know where he is being held. No local police were involved, it was all state and federal. He called and left a message for her, said not to believe anything they said, asked her to pray for him, and asked her to help bail him out. His bail is eighty thousand, so someone would have to some up with eight. There is no way in hell she is going to put up any money. Note that in his message, again he did not directly protest innocence, he said, "Don't believe them." I believe there is a high risk that if he did get out, he would kill himself, which is why I made the comment yesterday. I was empathizing with what I can only imagine a person in his apparent situation must be going through. That's one of my flaws, I can't really shut off my empathy. It makes it hard to be around people sometimes, or even watch certain kinds of movies or television, like the original British version of The Office took me a really long time to warm up to, I always felt too much empathy towards the character Michael Scott to laugh at him. But I'm babbling now, I guess I don't really have anything else to say at present.

User Journal

Journal: Hey Symbolset - I cleary lost our bet... 1

Journal by Foredecker

Hey Symbolset :)

I clearly lost our bet. This is my public mea culpa.

The bet was that they would be late - not in time for this years holiday buying season. Its my understanding they were on track to ship on-time but canceled is just as bet loosing as being late.

Beers and burgers on me - usual place...

Feh.

-Foredecker

User Journal

Journal: Slashcode Follies 6

Journal by spun

The codemonkeys of Slashdot have obviously been pounding randomly on their keyboards recently. Here's a thought, if you are going to hire monkeys to maintain your code, you should at least test it before deploying it to your live servers. This hasn't been Rob Malda's personal blog for years, it's a fricken' business. Do you Slashdot employees like your jobs? Do you want them to continue to exist? If so, perhaps you should start treating this like a business and not like a hobby. Quit breaking things.

User Journal

Journal: Freedom 5

Journal by spun

I just had an interesting revelation regarding freedom. My mom came down with pancreatic cancer about a year ago, and I felt my personal sense of freedom curtailed. Sure, it was only curtailed by my own sense morality and obligation. but it was limited nonetheless. And I noticed, there is only so much freedom I am willing to give up. I was suddenly much more aware of, and resistant to, all the other limitations on my freedom like my marriage and my job and living in a society where I have to wear pants. Then my mom died, and I inherited a house and quite a bit of money. Now that my freedom is far less constrained by finances, or by dying single mother, only child dynamics, the minor impositions of job and marriage and pants obsessed society don't even register.

I've read that the sense of certainty is simply an emotion, a specific analog circuit that engages and drives our logical mind to come up with explanations. Now, through experience, I believe our sense of freedom is another emotional circuit. While in a strictly deterministic world individual freedom does not exist as such, the sense of personal freedom is a very real part of the chain of cause and effect.

(And thus, a personal conundrum is resolved, cognitive dissonance is decreased, and pants are worn.)

User Journal

Journal: Changing my sig 1

Journal by spun

After nearly a decade with the same sig, I've decided to get rid of the Python quote and replace it with something even more combative. I saw it in an Empire: Total War loading screen, heh heh.

"None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license." --John Milton.

Liberty is a social contract, it requires active participation to achieve it. License is "I get to do what I want."

User Journal

Journal: You've been served 13

Journal by spun

So I served a guy a restraining order today. He'd beat up my friend a couple times, gave him a concussion the last time. So my friend got a restraining order, but he's a waiter and this is the dead time of year for that in Santa Fe, and he doesn't have the money to pay the sheriff to serve the papers. So I volunteered. This guy is a punk ass gangster wannabe who hangs out with a crowd of (snicker) Santa Fe toughs. But they kicked the shit out of my friend in public a couple times, and they are cracked out of their heads a lot of the time, so yeah, I was a little scared. But it was the right thing to do, and the fact that you have to pay someone to serve a restraining order sucks balls, so I had to do it. I had to track the fucker down, too, because he didn't show up for work tonight. He was off at some bar with his friends. I walked right up to him, made sure it was him (I've never met the guy), handed him the papers and walked out, calm as you please.

My hands are shaking a little bit now, though.

User Journal

Journal: Mom passed away Christmas morning 9

Journal by spun

Pancreatic cancer. You just don't recover from that one. This last year has been pretty hard. I'm the only child of a single mom, so this has all been on me and my wife. And of course, being my mom, she had to go die oversees. In a little tiny village outside of Peterborough in England. Well, she actually passed away in a Sue Ryder hospice in Peterborough, Thorpe Hall. The building is older than my country. She was staying with her old friend Marianna and her husband in Nassington. So there we were, my wife and I, in a foreign country experiencing the snowstorm of the decade, staying with virtual strangers in a tiny village with all of 20 or so buildings, for Christmas. I'll just say this, my mom died like she lived: weirdly.

Editorial

Journal: Where will we get our Murrows and Cronkites now? 1

Journal by Nefarious Wheel
"If we confuse dissent with disloyalty -- if we deny the right of the individual to be wrong, unpopular, eccentric or unorthodox -- if we deny the essence of racial equality then hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa who are shopping about for a new allegiance will conclude that we are concerned to defend a myth and our present privileged status. Every act that denies or limits the freedom of the individual in this country costs us the ... confidence of men and women who aspire to that freedom and independence of which we speak and for which our ancestors fought."

Edward R. Murrow, from Wikiquote, written in 1953. Have we really advanced that much in journalism since then, despite the advances in media technology?

I wish we still had journos like this old philosopher from the last century. People who could keep presidents in check, people who could have thrown a few spears in the puff when we need it, especially - as is often too well known by people in power - truth is the first casualty of war.

Where - and who - are the journalists who can replace these old veterans? The thoughtful people who were more concerned with uncovering the truth than where their audience demographic swung?

Where are our effective idealists in the media today?

PC Games (Games)

Journal: Learn To Spell 1

Journal by Nefarious Wheel
"Learn To Spell" is the name of my little World of Warcraft alt's guild on Aman'Thul server. Horde, natch. Guild master (me) is "Kreutzfeld". He's a Taurean, as you'd expect (Kreutzfeld-Jakob syndrome is commonly known as M _ _ C _ _ disease.)
User Journal

Journal: Technology in Legislature

Journal by AB3A

Where are the Technocrats in Legislature?

Here we are, with legislatures asking for a "smart grid" and nobody knows how to build it in such a way that it will be secure. We want "green" energy. But nobody's willing to put up with hydro-electric dams, wind-farms, or even the transmission lines to places where such things can be built.

The explanation is above. Don't blame those people with liberal arts educations, you're just as much at fault as they are!

Space

Journal: Hubble Repair Misson - Amazing!

Journal by Foredecker

The converge from NASA on the current shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope has been just amazing. The photographs and videos are excellent.

What impresses me most though are the live audio and video feeds from the space walks. Watching the astronauts work on the Hubble form the comfort of my home is just incredible.

While all this is great, what Im even more pleased about is that NASA has spent the money, time effort and energy to build a good web site and provide high quality and timely content

The first version always gets thrown away.

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