David Hammond is a 27-year-old web developer and standards expert from California whose works have been featured in five web design books to date.
Don't panic, this page is very informal.
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Hello, world! My name is David Hammond. You're here because you care. If the previous sentence was a lie in your context, then you are misplaced.
The following is a brief (but not nearly brief enough) description of my life. I'll try to make changes here and there whenever I need to update something, but you can be pretty sure that something here is no longer correct. That's life.
Disclaimer: The following in no way expresses the views of my employer, my hosting company, my pet bird, or anyone else whose views the following in no way expresses. I'm not even sure if I agree with half of this.
I was born out of a human in 1986 CE, on the third day of the tenth month. It was a dark and stormy night, or something — I don't really remember. I was the second creature to come from that human, and she had two identical creaturelings a few years after that. My parents divorced, diverged, and divvied up our time between them, although I lived mostly with the female. She remarried with some dude in pest control and they later had the first and currently only female creatureling. Meanwhile, my male manufacturer also remarried and had yet another male creatureling, born just a few months before the female one. As of the moment of writing this, they are both still miniature.
After the great maker split-up, I lived mainly in Chico, California, where I currently reside. I went to school for three seasons, took a summer off, went to school three more seasons, took another summer off, and so on through high school. I then moved on to Butte College, a little community college far out in the uncharted backwaters of something or other.
Right now, I'm mainly known for my web browser standards support documents. I designed those pages for two main reasons: firstly and mostly, I personally wanted a resource like this, and nothing I found on the Internet met what I wanted; and secondly, I wanted a bit more of a concrete way to show the relative levels of standards support among Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera. You see, I'm a big web standards advocate. I have worked in both worlds: the old fashioned table layout designs and the fully CSS-based layouts. Standards-based CSS layouts are simply easier than designing to Internet Explorer's proprietary/buggy nonsense. And not only is it easier, but it's more powerful and can actually do more. As a web developer, Internet Explorer is a tremendous thorn in my side and I would love to see the beast finally fall to its doom. For this reason, I have also written and maintain a document entitled “Internet Explorer is dangerous”, which details on how Internet Explorer is dangerous both to the user and to the Internet as a whole. I wouldn't have any problem with it if Microsoft could pull a miracle and get Internet Explorer caught up on all those years of lost development time, but so far they haven't shown that they can. *Thumbs down*
My web browser of choice is Mozilla Firefox. I do tip my hat to the Opera web browser, also a fine piece of work, but Firefox wins me over with its extension system, among other things. I use Ubuntu Linux as my operating system. When I first decided to make my move to Linux, I was reluctant and kind of afraid that Linux would take a lot of work to learn. As it turns out, I find Linux much easier to use and more convenient than Windows, at least for the things that I do. I used to use GNOME, then KDE, and now GNOME again. Both are good desktop environments, but KDE just had a ton of stability issues, particularly in regard to its sound system, so I was kind of forced to switch. The one piece of paid-for software that I do prefer is Adobe Photoshop, which I run on Linux through WINE.
My favorite currently active musical group is Dream Theater, a very talented progressive metal group. I also listen to some Billy Joel, Blue Man Group, Celine Dion, Delerium, Dido, Don McLean, Evanescence, Kansas, Metallica, Neil Diamond, Nik Kershaw, Queen, and Weird Al. What? I like variety! Music is good because pressure changes in the air vibrate my ear drum in ways that make me happy.
Now, I need a good segue to my next section, but this sentence is the best you're getting. I'm an agnostic atheist. “But wait, you can't be both!” Of course you can, and the vast majority of atheists are. A theist is someone who leans toward the belief that there is a god, while an atheist is someone who leans toward the belief that there isn't a god. Meanwhile, a gnostic is someone who claims to be absolutely certain of his or her belief, while an agnostic is someone who doesn't claim to be absolutely certain. So the two qualities overlap. All things considered, I believe that there probably isn't a god, but I don't pretend to be 100% certain about it. Hey, I'm not absolutely certain that there isn't an invisible unicorn in my room right now. I believe that there probably isn't, just as I believe there probably isn't a god. “But I have here a piece of paper with hoof prints on it. Hoof prints! What other explanation could there possibly be?”
Religion, as I see it, is an unwarranted line of thinking which requires one to accept an extremely elaborate, unverifiable, and unfalsifiable set of premises without question. At best, it serves the combined purposes of fantasy literature and political punditry, and at worst, acts as a fuel for willful ignorance, bigotry, and all-around nastiness. That is, unless that one particular religion happens to be true and all others are false, in which case getting lucky and falling into the right one could save you from eternal damnation and/or grant you eternal bliss. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't choose to worship a god who damns you to eternal torture just because every religion is just as unverifiable as the next and you happened to draw the wrong card. I don't respect people for their power, I respect them for their ethical qualities, and no amount of power allows you to redefine ethics for your own exemption.
In my eyes, anyone who unquestioningly worships something is religious. There have been many terrible theist armies in our world's history (see: Nazis, The Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, all of that Middle East nonsense...) and there have been many terrible atheist armies as well (see: the various falsely named “Communist” forces), but what they largely had in common was the religious mindset of blindly following orders from those of higher power. Ethics are not arbitrary codes of conduct handed down by authority figures, they're descriptions of measurable cause-and-effect reactions that are verifiable and falsifiable. In other words, they are scientific principles. The problem is that they are most often stated in generalized dogmatic language rather than as ground-up sequential reactions and their measured impact on a predefined goal.
What's the predefined goal? Well, there is actually a perhaps surprising amount of agreement for something as important as the goal of ethics. It's been worded a number of different ways, but the gist is that ethics attempt to basically make life better for as much of the world as possible for as much of the future as possible.
We humans are a social species. Back when the world was much harsher for mankind than it is today, it was important to your survival to work well with your tribe. If you didn't get along with others and couldn't work as part of the unit, you wouldn't get the full protective benefit society offers and were thus more likely to die an early death. That's often called “natural selection”. So those who survived were the ones who worked well with society. Now, what's one of the chief factors that helps you work well with society? Some level of altruism — selflessness, compassion, willingness to make personal sacrifices for the good of the tribe. For the good of the tribe? In other words, you're trying to make life better for society for as long as possible; our goal of ethics.
What drives you and me to be ethical? Isn't it in my own best interest to simply screw others for my amusement? It actually isn't, and a large reason is that we have an internal drive to be ethical. It's called the conscience. When you hurt others, you feel guilty. When you help others, you feel good. Some people may try to ignore these feelings or go for temporary feel-good moments at the expense of the long term, but unless you're somewhat broken, we all have a natural conscience. It's just part of our bodies, like our urges to eat or sleep. To argue that we can simply ignore our conscience to seek money or power is like arguing that you can likewise ignore when you're hungry. Although you aren't likely to die of guilt, it isn't exactly the most pleasant way to live life.
The conscience is the natural motivating force behind ethics. It's part of our genetic make-up, and thus something that evolved. People with genes which emphasized the conscience were better able to function in society than those without, and were thus better able to survive and pass those genes on. The conscience can be thought of as our “instinct” for ethics.
But we don't just use our conscience anymore. Just like your sense of pleasure (an internal motivating factor) from taste can deceive you when presented with a great big candy bar, the conscious conscience isn't necessarily the definitive measure of whether something is ethical or not — in other words, whether or not it provides the most benefit to society. For healthy individuals, the conscience is often a pretty good measure, but it largely ignores long-term consequences and has a tough time handling complicated or unfamiliar situations. That's where science can step in and do a better job. For example, our conscience tells us that it's horrible to sexually abuse a child. That is easily verifiable using science, since sexually abusing a child clearly causes harmful long-term effects. But our conscience often makes a generalization that it's wrong to seek sexual pleasure from depictions of children, thus suggesting that things like lolicon (drawings of fictional children for sexual purposes) are somehow harmful. Science clearly shows a different story: countries with a higher availability of lolicon tend to have much lower occurrence of child sexual abuse. Japan is a shining example, with an absurdly high availability of lolicon and yet among the lowest child sexual abuse rates in the modern world. Evidence does show that the two are connected, since rate of child sexual abuse decreased dramatically once lolicon began to grow in popularity; and conversely, countries that have recently banned such material consistently show an immediate upswing in child sexual abuse rates. The general explanation for this is that pedophiles — believe it or not — also have a conscience and many would much rather pleasure themselves in the comfort and isolation of their own homes than seek out a real victim.
I like corn on the cob.
One of the main things that has driven my interest in computers is the need to do things that others believed couldn't be done, or things that I previously believed I couldn't do and then realized I could. I love to break down these kinds of imaginary barriers. It gives me a clear sense of progress and accomplishment, like I've made my mark in history, no matter how small the deed was.
Another pleasure of mine is creating some piece of order and perfection amidst a field of disorder. This is why I take such a keen interest in services like Google and the Wikipedia. They create a kind of organized gateway to the world's wealth of information, and in an open and respectable manner.
In late summer 2006, I got a job at the California Community Colleges technology center, doing this and that and occasionally some of that but very seldom this. I started off as a part-time student worker but am now a full-time temp. It's a nice gig: I'm doing the kind of work that I enjoy, the work environment is flexible, nice boss and coworkers, and it's a decent chunk of cash for someone my age. The plan was for me to take one or two classes at a time on the side so I could inch my way through college, but it seems I might be getting a job at either Mozilla or Microsoft in the near future. We shall see what the future entails.
I've never really cared for school environments. I find that if I can just get my hands on a project, I can learn it a lot faster than I can sitting at a desk and taking notes. Schools are set up in attempt to maximize the quality and rate of learning on a school-by-school or class-by-class basis, not necessarily a person-by-person basis. I'm a person, not a class. You could say I'm an object or instance of a Person class, but then you'd be a nerd.
I'm single and have never dated. There are a few main reasons: I've never been all that outgoing on my own time, partly because I've always been busy with my own personal projects, and the types of girls who have come on to me so far have been — for lack of a better word — scary. You know, that “I will kill you in your sleep” kind of vibe.
I've never done recreational drugs (that is, any drugs besides legitimate prescriptions or your occasional headache medicine). Unless you consider caffeine to be a recreational drug, in which case I've done plenty. But as far as things like marijuana, cocaine, tobacco, or even alcohol, I've always chosen to stay clear of them in the interest of preserving my insanity. I'm naturally high. Red Bull puts me almost instantly to sleep. If I started taking shrooms, the world might actually start gaining consistency, and that would be unbearable.
There are seven basic stages in life: innocence, loss of innocence, façade of innocence, rejection of innocence, appreciation for innocence, melancholy for innocence, and bingo. I'm not at bingo yet.
This section got way too freaking huge, so I moved it to its own page. Read up on my SAQ.
Don't hope for books of history to matter in a fight, for war itself is made by those who cannot read or write.
Love is the difference between a rock and a pet rock.
Silence is golden, but gold is malleable.
The difference between a pet and a meal is not a matter of the bird.
A sound without ears is a thought without voice.