Ask Slashdot: Good, Forgotten Fantasy & Science Fiction Novels?
I'm very glad you mentioned H. Beam Piper. He was a favorite of my husband, who died last year. During the course of some remodeling, I ran into a treasure-trove of his science-fiction collection, mostly well worn paperbacks. He succeeded in interesting me in the Paratime book and stories, but I never read any of the other work. I intend to rectify that shortly, starting with Little Fuzzy.
Ask Slashdot: Techie Wedding Invitation Ideas?
If you do it right, you only get one of them. If you consider it important enough to invite friends and family, send a nicely printed card with the following information: (1) Who you're marrying, when and where; (2) When and where the reception is to be held; (3) A means for people to respond; (4) Something to the effect that you hope they will be able to attend. Do this unless you are planning to be married in Klingon garb at a convention.
Why? Because the invitation is actually not about you. It's about the person you're inviting. It's intended to communicate to them that you'd be tickled to death to see them on the biggest day of your life, and then to make it as easy as possible for them to get there. You're asking them for the honor of their presence even if you don't use that wording.
Hire a promising art or design student to design it for you, send it via SnailMail to peoples' home addresses, and then give thanks that in these casual times it does not have to be engraved from a copper plate and addressed by hand.
Zappos Hacked: Internal Systems Breached
Such a cheerful thing to find waiting for you in your inbox. My email was waiting for me this morning.
I suppose it is a small price to pay for my semi-orthopedic, little old lady Crocs, the ugliest and most comfortable shoes on the planet.
Passwords are becoming a bummer.
Programming Prodigy Arfa Karim Passes Away At 16
Thank you. It took amazing intelligence and self-discipline for her to achieve the certification at so young an age. She was apparently also a promising programmer. That's especially true if you consider where she lived--surrounded by a culture where young girls are not normally valued for their intellectual gifts. Her death is doubly tragic--not only has a promising young life been extinguished, but a pattern and role model for other struggling girls has been lost. Her family deserves a lot of credit for encouraging her gifts and talents, and they also deserve our profound and deepest sympathy for their loss.
How Doctors Die
I should probably have added that I was not in the generation in charge when all this occurred, so the decisions were not mine to make. When my own mother got to that point (the daughter of the woman who was so abused), I made certain that we got the medical and legal powers of attorney, the advance directive, and the living will all settled while she was still of sound mind. When the time came for her to enter (the really excellent) hospice care, there were a number of decisions that had to be made. A frank but compassionate discussion was held to help me make those decisions. I had a lot of misconceptions, but once they were explained and made clear to me, the decisions became a lot easier. Her death occurred in peace, comfort, and with dignity. I'm a confirmed convert to hospice care and will be certain my own family is equipped with all those documents when it eventually becomes my turn. The only real struggle that I had was that the hospital was anxious to get rid of my mother once we decided against any more treatment, and they tried to have her placed in an inappropriate hospice setting--a place that had received very low marks during various state evaluations. I was able to stand firm and take the time needed to get her into a good, well-rated hospice/nursing home.
How Doctors Die
Some years ago when my grandmother entered the final stages of her illness--and her life--her longtime physician issued a "Do Not Resuscitate" order. He informed us one afternoon that her end could come at any time. Because she was a religious person, we ensured that she received the appropriate religious rites. Then we settled down, quietly, to watch and wait with her. It was somewhat inspirational and comforting, as she began to "see" friends and family who were long gone and to speak with whoever she was visualizing. She drifted in and out of consciousness. Late in the evening she appeared to fall asleep, we left to get some dinner, and that's when the whole thing went out the window. Her heart stopped, and instead of just letting her go, the DNR order was disregarded, the resuscitation equipment was brought in, and the hospital staff set to "work" on her. It's brutal. It can be like beating up on someone. Fragile old ribs can be broken, the body is bruised, and there is a great deal of noise and pain.
They succeeded in restoring her heartbeat, and she lingered for another two days in pretty severe discomfort. The doctor was livid and handed out appropriate reprimands, but by then it was too late for my grandmother. She was robbed of what had been a peaceful end-of-life interval, and we were left with a boatload of guilt for taking a break and leaving her unguarded from the people who were supposed to be following her doctor's instructions and taking care of her.
Do what you can to safeguard your elderly relatives from this. It's brutal, violent, pointless, and turns a quiet death into a three-ring circus of pain for the victim.
Ask Slashdot: Most Efficient, Worthwhile Charity?
While I'll confess I have a fondness for "lending" through KIVA (http://www.kiva.org), you may find that your charity dollars go a lot further with local organizations, some of which are struggling. I live in Baltimore and have several favorites: The Ark, a pre-school that provides special services and a comfortable environment for kids living in homeless shelters; House of Ruth, our local women's shelter; Our Daily Bread, a formidable soup kitchen and feeding operation run by the Catholics. I've also found some fascinating new efforts. One that impresses me greatly is providing clean, properly fitted suits, shirts, shoes, socks, and ties to unemployed men, along with a grooming kit. (Jobless women have long had several "career clothing" options.) The donated suits are suitably altered for their recipients just as they would be if purchased at a clothing store. Charities like The Ark and the clothing operation strike me as effective, creative ways to fill community needs. Charities like House of Ruth and Our Daily Bread have support infrastructures in place that ensure they won't be spending inordinate amounts on fundraising or highly paid executives. Keep your eyes and ears open and you will find similar organizations meeting needs in your own area, and you'll be able to find one that fits your interests, religion or philosophy (or not), and pocketbook. You will also see the dollars you give stretched much further.
How Does a Self-Taught Computer Geek Get Hired?
I agree with you wholeheartedly. WordPress is keeping the wolf away from the door here, and no one could be more surprised than I am. I came at it from a slightly different angle--I quit ten years ago after 20 years in IT in order to pursue my interests as an artist. While I always had a few Web clients, sudden widowhood and some acute financial worries made me take a closer look. A little attention to my "product" has paid off. My suggestions would be:
1) Run your business like the big guys do. Learn how to prepare a proposal and a statement of work, and use them properly.
2) Engineers and project managers are two different species. When you run your own business, you have to be both. Watch your time and billable hours. Beware of "scope creep," which can be your worst enemy.
3) Develop a website for yourself as your first reference account. Lavish all the time, love and care on it that you possibly can. While it would be nice to use it to generate online leads, don't hold your breath for that. Use it instead as your online business card and portfolio--something prospective clients can review. It is the developer's equivalent of the artist's online portfolio.
4) Consider doing at least one "pro bono" site for a local organization or charity you care about. Local is key so they can become a reference.
5) See if you can find a niche. I fell into one related to my artwork, and it's a comfortable spot.
6) Consider eventually offering hosting services. I found that a berth on a cloud site was not all that expensive. I house my clients there and provide them with backups, maintenance, security, and upgrades. They pay a monthly fee for the hosting and pay separately as needed for maintenance and upgrades. Small businesses appreciate not being abandoned to the wolves, and they like having a Web droid available by telephone.
I'm not trying to build the next Apple. I'm just making a living, and it seems to be working quite well.
Ask Slashdot: Touchscreen Device For the Elderly?
I'm wondering about the new Kindle Fire. I have no direct exposure to it at all, beyond what I've read and seen on the Innertubes, but if your grandmother has all her mental capabilities, she might enjoy some reading matter as well as puzzles and games. The Kindle would give her access to books and magazines in a format where the print can be made extra-extra large if that is what she needs. I don't have anybody elderly at the moment, although I cared for my Aged Mum. If I did have somebody, I'd be looking closely at the Kindle for them.
(Incidentally, the "grandson with a deck of cards" device referred to in an earlier post also has great potential benefits for both grandmother and grandson.)
What Happens When the Average Lifespan is 150 Years?
Oh, it doesn't make me not want to continue living. I have exactly the same wish to live as I had before, and that hasn't changed. My willingness to "move along" is, I think, based on the same biological clock that made me wish to give birth to my children while in my twenties. That's more-or-less the optimum time. At this point, the biological clock seems to be instructing me to enjoy my life, work, and family for as long as I can before gradually winding down. I don't have a problem with that. We have a traditional "three score years and ten," and I suspect I'll make it well past that, but I don't want to keep going halfway into a second century.
My comments about losing my husband were really more culturally based, though they do have a great deal of bearing on the original story. In the U.S., there's somewhat of a regrettable tendency to "warehouse" the elderly in uncomfortable and meagre institutions. That's bad. Obviously, in China, young people carry their old people like burdens while they're trying to manage their own families. That's not so great, either. I don't know where the happy medium is between the two extremes, but it would be good to find it before extending peoples' lifespans. It would also be good to ensure that there's enough food, work, housing, and money to go around. I'm not so sure there is.
(Back in the mid to late eighties I operated a BBS, which was great fun and a great technical challenge. I had a number of friends who were doing the same thing. We used to contemplate our old age by saying that we would all check into the same old folks' home and buy laptops (a great expense in those days). Then we would sit on the porch and argue about who got to be the sysop that day and who got to be the callers.)
What Happens When the Average Lifespan is 150 Years?
Currently, a lot of people need to continue working until age 71 in order to receive their full Social Security. That includes most Boomers who are hitting sixty right about now. You can retire with diminished benefits starting at 62. You can begin manipulating and using your 401.k at age 58.
As for me, I'd like to get to hold a grandchild or two, and then I'd be happy to move along. I was widowed (suddenly and too young) this past summer. It's gotten an interesting reaction from neighbors who are here from China to study. They're absolutely incensed that I didn't leave off working immediately and move in with one or the other of my two grown sons. Apparently my daughters in law are supposed to be taking care of me in addition to working at their regular jobs. The fact that I still have a meaningful job that brings in an income is incomprehensible to them. It's been a fascinating cultural discussion.
The best computer upgrade I've ever done was:
...and replacing it with a new, faster NEC-V20 microprocessor. I don't know if I actually got more speed and power, but I was tickled to death with myself for doing the transplant.
"Wi-Fi Refugees" Shelter in West Virginia Mountains
In addition to being an area of "radio quiet," the area also incredibly scenic, loaded with state parks and national forests, home to wild and scenic rivers, and in general a great place to camp, fish, hike, hunt, canoe, or commune with Nature in your chosen fashion. There are relict populations of assorted plants remaining from the retreat of the last glacier for the amateur botanist. There are plenty of bears around for people who like a little danger with their nature walks. It's also one of the few really dark areas near the East Coast, so the visible "seeing" is wonderful for amateur and duffer astronomers, people wanting to catch a sight of meteor showers, and people like me who just want occasional reassurance that the Milky Way is still out there. There's a well restored logging railroad (as opposed to a tourist trap) for day trips for bored children and/or rail fans. We've been camping in that area for years on end, and I don't think I ever encountered any refugees of the sort mentioned in TFA. I hope the word doesn't get out, because there aren't many people around there in general which is what makes it such a nice place to get away.
What Is the Most Influential Programming Book?
K&R as far as long-lasting impact. But my sentimental favorite? Doug Cooper's "Oh! Pascal!" I still have a copy of it.
Hurricane Irene Prompts Unprecedented Evacuation of NYC
I have a strong case of it, and the storm isn't supposed to hit here (Maryland) until Sunday at dawn. Thus far, I've been treated to:
1) CNN showing the idiots surfing at Wrightsville Beach, NC. Why encourage it?
2) An interview of some guy from the Discovery Channel with a supposedly hurricane-proof automobile.
3) An ever increasing national media frenzy replete with dramatic, spooky music and lots of interviews with people whose opinions don't count for much.
4) As the storm has decreased in power (so they can't rave about how Katrina-like it is), they've begun speculating about what the poor, benighted, ignorant citizens of New York will actually DO if they're stuck in their apartments for two or three days.
5) An absolutely jaw-dropping interview with Candidate Ron Paul who opines that we should go back to the way hurricanes were handled in 1900. He hails from Galveston, where the most destructive hurricane ever recorded happened in 1900. In other words, he wants the states to help out with funeral pyres so affected cities can burn their dead without Federal intervention.
Since I live in an area that gets the backlash of at least one good hurricane a year, here's what I've done to (gasp) protect myself:
1) Listened to the governor and the state emergency people, as well as the local weather forecasts.
2) Bought gas and hit the ATM.
3) Laid in a good supply of food and snacks that don't need to be cooked--sandwich materials, fruit, cheese, cookies. Likewise laid in a bit of beer. And dry dog food for the dog. Bottled water for self and dog.
4) Frozen up the picnic ice to add to the freezer if the electricity goes out.
5) Made a mental note to charge everything up--laptop, Kindle, iPhone.
6) Checked the flashlights and re-supplied on candles. The kind that Jewish people burn as memorials (that come in little glass jars) are available at grocery stores and make great, safe emergency candles. Blown the dust off the transistor radio and re-supplied it with fresh batteries.
7) Gotten out some lightweight cotton clothes because if the power goes out, it will be hot, unbearably humid, and damp.
8) Put my wellies by the front door.
The practice of people from different regions comparing their various disasters is ludicrous. If you don't think so, try listening to somebody from North Dakota comparing their flood this year to Katrina. It's not worth bothering with unless you happen to work in emergency services. People begin to sound like idiots after a very short time.
Tomorrow night, I'll probably go to bed. I'll be awakened by the storm sometime in the middle of the night, at which point I'll lie there and think about Nature's power and all that maudlin crap. Then, if it sounds bad, I'll get up and fill the bathtub with water (so I can flush), make sure the dog is OK, and curl up with a book until the lights go out--at which point I'll switch to my Kindle.
The only thing I can't do is persuade the dog that it's OK to pee and crap on some newspaper. He's going to be tying himself in knots.
When Schools Are the Police
It worries me because of things like the recent "Kids for Cash" scam in Pennsylvania in which kids, unrepresented by lawyers, received huge out-of-state sentences for infractions that should have netted them a suspension or a week or two in jug. Two judges received millions in kickbacks. At least one kid took his own life. Who knows how many basically decent kids were introduced to lives of crime or otherwise psychologically damaged. In other words, I don't trust the governments that implement this kind of stuff.
On the other hand, we have parents assaulting teachers over a bad grade, big kids bringing in arsenals, little kids showing up with Daddy's (or Mommy's boyfriend's) handgun that they found under a sofa cushion, kindergarteners arriving with stashes of crack cocaine--the list is endless, and obviously teachers can't deal with these sorts of infractions. It's a huge problem, but I'm not sure police forces are the answer. Otherwise, all of the sudden every childish misbehavior is going to start looking like a major felony.
The Five Levels of ISP Evil
I have it, and they have solemnly informed me that there is no way their business customers can opt out of the evil Domain "Helper" Service. That came all the way from some vice president's office in Philadelphia after I spent two weeks on the phone with them about a year ago. Since they were kind enough to send their apologies via SnailMail, I wrote back and solemnly informed them that I would never, ever click on one of their sponsored links, and that if I ever saw that page, I would shut the browser window immediately. It wasn't much--the equivalent of throwing a spit wad, but they know how pissed off I am. I know I can make other DNS arrangements. It's about 87th on my list of crap to worry about.
Ask Slashdot: Am I Too Old To Learn New Programming Languages?
Properly, it could be "assembly language" or you could also say, "I got my start on 8086 Assembler," which in my case would be true. But there's nothing wrong or incorrect with calling it "assembler." Frankly, I've never heard it called "Assembly" without the qualifier "Assembly Language." Harrumph.
Comcast Launching $9.95 Low Income Broadband Plan
I had a similar thought. Affordable broadband access is an excellent idea, but it doesn't do much good to a family whose electricity and gas service have been turned off.
FOX To Host New Cosmos
Well, then I suppose my spouse must have been a lucky man, since we watched every episode together, purchased and read the book, and sought out Sagan's various works of science fiction. Our children were a little young to have benefitted from the original airing of the series, and I don't recall whether they ever saw it in reruns. But both of them read and enjoyed our small collection of books by Sagan. And I'd have to assert that we weren't the only young couple watching and enjoying the series together.
Sagan was a confirmed atheist, and there's no way I can see that Fox will be able to do an honest job of this. I hope Ann Druyan is maintaining some sort of control.
As for me, my husband died last month. I take a great deal of comfort in Sagan's assertion, which I can still hear clearly in my memory, that "we are made of star-stuff."