Monday, May 16, 2011

Influences, pt 1

Today marks 21 years since Jim Henson died. I couldn't help but think, while I took my walk at lunch, about him and how, while I never knew him, how much he influenced me growing up. So since I don't have anything to complain about at work, I thought I would take a bit and just go over some of the influences in my life.

It is interesting to me how there are people who are extremely significant to the process of becoming who it is that you are, yet you have never met them. Through their work they influence you in so many ways, and yet as important as they are to you, they could never be called friends.

Jim Henson - well he got this post started, so I'll start with him. The muppets were just always there growing up, first on Sesame Street, then with The muppet show - I looked forward to it every week. Then to see him go beyond learning and comedy with Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. It was like a part of my childhood died with him.

Mel Blanc - the voice of Bugs Bunny and so many other Looney Tunes characters. Even though he may not have been the guiding force behind the humor and irreverence of the old Warner brothers cartoons, he was their voice and their soul.

Alan Parsons - along with Eric Woolfsons created the Alan Parsons Project - and since discovering his music back in 1980 with "Time" off the album "Games People Play" his music was a major factor in keeping me sane through high school and college. I can't remember how many times I would come home after a stressful day, put on one of their tapes and lay back with my headphones and let the melodies and lyrics just float me away from my troubles.

Douglas R Hofstadter - I don't read much any more, but back in high school and college I read everything I could find. One of my college professors recommended I read "Godel, Escher, Bach" for a project I was working on, and I had to special order it because in my small hometown no one carried it (we had no chain bookstores). I came in over spring break, and my life was never the same. While I have read several books more than once, I have read this one at least six or seven times, each time gaining more and more from it. From the way music, math and art are tied together to the pure exploration of thought and what it means to think, this book has inspired so much of who I am now. Not light reading by any means, I still find myself picking it up again every few years, if for nothing else than to marvel at the dialogs.

Isaac Asimov - I must have been only in Junior High, if that old, when a colleague of father's lent me a copy of "I Robot". It grabbed me like no book before - the stories of robots and other planets - I had never read anything like it. It was the first science fiction I ever read, and opened me up to so much joy since then.

Stephen R Donaldson - The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were such massive work, building a fantasy world that still today, after over thirty years is unlike any other I have ever found, so rich, vibrant. The anti-hero Thomas Covenant was one of the first characters in a book that made me want to reach into the pages. When I discovered that he was writing four new books a few years ago I was elated - and I eagerly await the final installment.

JRR Tolkien - It took me three tries to get through The Fellowship of the Ring - and now I've read it several times. Finally seeing The Lord of the Rings on the big screen a few years ago brought back so much of my childhood joy in getting lost in another world.

Brian W. Kernighan, Dennis M. Ritchie and Rob Pike - Not just for 'C' - for which I owe them the first half of my career, but also for their excellent writing on Unix, and programming in general. I still refer to "The Practice of Programming" as a text on how to write code correctly, regardless of what language you are writing in.

These are just some of the stronger influences, but some of the people who helped to shape me into the man I am today, for which I will always be grateful.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Zombie Awareness Month

To prepare for Zombie Awareness Month and subsequently the Zombie Apocalypse, it's important to have these items at arms length:   1) A cricket bat. The reason: you know you're gonna run out of bullets.  Also, an actual gun is completely different from a PS3 controller used for Black Ops.   2) An MP3 player full of Queen music. "Don't Stop Me Now" has to be one of the songs!   3) A box of twinkies. They stay preserved forever  4) An assortment of plants that have various fighting abilities (Plants vs Zombies...we figured that not everyone would get this).   Other tips:  1) Get Bill Murray. No look alikes will count.   2) Avoid anyone with the T-virus   3) Destroy the staircase. Zombie's can't climb!!   The most important thing of all is to ALWAYS BE AWARE OF THE LOCATION OF YOUR ZOMBIE!!