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Interview with:

Michael Parks [karunamon] 


PROFESSION
Are you satisfied with the education that you received?
I kind of wish that I'd gone farther in taking a college education than I had, instead of jumping headfirst into the career game. I've been extremely lucky so far getting jobs based on experience without having the paperwork, but going to a 4 year college is an experience that I think would have made me a better person.
How do you feel about speaking in front of an audience? What experience have you had in this arena?
Deadly nervous beforehand, but I get better once I'm on the stage. I am not formally trained at public speaking. Most of my experience comes from my childhood, as I used to be a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion, and something that younger members are encouraged to do is to assemble and deliver discourses to a moderately sized audience. I did this for the better part of 7 years, starting at age 10, and getting counseling on my performance each time. Without getting any further into the religious aspect, I'd say that the JW's have some of the best training in the world on this matter. I have given the occasional training class in a professional setting as well, with regard to usage of internal applications, policies.. basic IT things.
Would you relenquish some of your income in exchange for more free time?
No, I have no need to. I love what I do, and my hobby, basically, is my job.
What are the things you least like about your job?
I've been through many jobs, in many places, and my answer to this question is always the same: Office politics. Empire building, backstabbing, and other unprofessional, horrible garbage that gets in the way of getting things done. Be a human being, not a politician. Nobody likes a politician.
Your Bible?
The c2 Wiki (the *original* wiki, before there was a Wikipedia!) at http://c2.com/cgi/wiki - People Projects And Patterns in Software Development. I happened along this site one day a couple years back and bookmarked it ever since. The amount of data in here, and the way its presented, is absolutely, mind-blowingly amazing.
How do you handle customer complaints?
Find the problem and solve it. All CS, boiled down to its essence, is this. A customer is complaining because something is wrong. Find out what that thing is, and correct it to the best of your ability.
What do you do to manage stress?
Put an earbud in (or two, if the situation and location allows for it), queue up some chiptunes, and hone in with a laser-like focus on the task at hand. I know this is a cliché answer, but I work best under pressure. Pressure improves my focus.
PROGRAMMING
How did you begin programming and at what age?
Age 10, started by learning MS-DOS batch language. The first thing I ever wrote was a menu screen for my not-computer-literate dad, so that when he turned the computer on, he could hit a key and get sent directly to a DOS card game collection that he used to play. To learn how to do this, I read from a very thick reference book on MS-DOS that I was reading on the side (at the time, in elementary school, there were prizes given out for who was reading the most.. I was in first or second place more often than not) I played around with batch quite a bit, but my programming knowledge and love lay dormant for many years, until I entered the professional IT world again at 16 and discovered Bash scripting. It's been a ride ever since then.
What languages do you code, and in what platforms?
I prefer multiplatform languages, i.e. write-once-run-anywhere. Platform.. don't really care, as the tools I use are also multiplatform. As for languages, in order of preference: MSL (mIRC scripting language - my first language that I wrote anything substantial in) Ruby (Websites, minor scripting, very very versatile) Bash (Also very versatile, but it's too easy to do things more suited for a "real" programming language) I also know Batch, but that's becoming less and less useful as time goes on.. I need to start on Powershell. I know bits and pieces of Java, C++, SQL, and Python.
What machine configuration and operating system do you use?
As of time of writing, my home system is a self built, Core 2 Quad with 8 gig DD3, a single 1TB drive, and a single Radeon 6850 for gaming. I dual boot Windows 7 and Mac OS 10.7 (hooray for hackintosh!). I've got dual widescreens and a backlit keyboard and mouse. It looks a lot more like a gamer setup than it actually is.
Please list web addresses where we can see some of your work
I'm a Github user, you can see that at http://github.com/Karunamon
What part of project development is most gratifying to you?
Seeing the good reviews roll in when your labor of love is out there in the marketplace. People use something YOU built or contributed to, poured your soul into, and come out enjoying the experience. There is nothing like that in the world.
What conditions do you need to concentrate when programming?
Written like average software requirements. I just now realized this is going to make me look incredibly needy and high maintenance :P -- Minimum Requirements: Semi-quiet area, office space or similar. Access to earbuds or other noise-isolating audio device. Unfiltered internet access. Ability to defer interaction for small periods of time in order to preserve mental state (i.e. a lack of constant "DROP EVERYTHING AND FIX" issues). Widescreen display or dual non-widescreen displays for anything more serious than scripting. Recommended (i.e. dream) requirements: Darkened room with natural, muted lighting. Small group of people, no more than 4 or 5. Preference of IM, email, other non-state-destructive methods of communication (anything but in-person meetings) wherever possible. No loudspeakers or paging systems in the work area. Windows XP, apt-based Linux distribution, or Mac OS. Dual widescreen displays. Standard keyboard layout or original MS Natural (none of this slight-curve malarky). Adjustable chair with armrests.
Do you still buy programming books, or do you learn everything from online sources?
Programming books, FROM online sources :) Huge fan of ebooks, and most of my favorite guides are available, online, for free.
Do you think programming should be taught at the basic education level?
On a basic level? Yes, but then again, I may be biased :) Learning to program sets up certain logical structures and thinking in your mind that I think everyone should know. Basic troubleshooting, that kind of thing.
What would be your solution against piracy?
Short, pithy answer: Restructure the law so that there is no such thing any longer. Long, detailed answer: Throw the law out for a minute. Why? Because nobody cares about the law. By making an appeal to law, you are making an argument that only people who have some slavish devotion to the law will even care about. The rest of the world will go "Pfft, whatever" either explicitly or implicitly. It's kind of like low speed limits. You can buy all the politicos you want, you can make all the crazy laws you want, but the absolute fact of the matter is you cannot make people at large follow laws they feel to be arbitrary and unfair. The fact of the matter is this: People will pirate things, and there is nothing you can do about it. You can try to make moral arguments, legal arguments, ethical arguments, buy politicians, write your own laws and punishments - that really changes nothing. Piracy is here to stay. How do you choose to deal with it? Focus on making your real, paying customers happy. More and better content. Amazing CS that people want to write about. Things that can't be replicated in a .torrent file. Things that will make the people who pirated feel like they're missing out on something great, instead of the other way around.
Would you consider yourself rigorous in the organization of the coding that you write and on commenting it?
Organization, not so much, but I'm trying to improve on that day by day. I'm a huge fan of comments, even on things that "should" be self-documenting. Reason being is, just because it's self documenting to you, doesn't mean it is to the next guy who might be reading it.
As machines for development, what opinion do Macs deserve?
They're UNIX systems. They have a complete development toolkit available for free. They are capable systems with a very nicely done OS. In other words, on the same level as any other modern OS.
How do you protect your computer from viruses?
Common sense, an on-demand virus scanner for sketchy files, and keeping any apps exposed to untrusted content up to date. And keeping enough backups that I have no qualms about throwing out everything and starting fresh if I think there might be an infection.
How many breaks per day do you normally take?
Usually no more than 3. One in the morning, lunch, and one in the afternoon. Every 2.5 hours, roughly on an average 8 hour day. That gives me time to page out, grab a soda, a smoke, re-evaluate what I'm doing, and go back in with a fresh start and a fresh mind.
Which websites or forums for programmers do you frequently visit?
Oh huge list here.. but my top three are: Hacker News - http://news.ycombinator.com This site is how I stay on top of the coding world. The community is second to none, and the content is always, bar none, very interesting. c2 Wiki - http://c2.com/cgi/wiki Every programmer should have this site bookmarked and its contents frequently viewed. Stack Overflow - http://stackoverflow.com If you have a question on programming, it's either already been answered here, or will be answered if you ask.
TECHNOLOGY
Please list web addresses where one can see something about you.
My blog is http://tkware.info
How would you describe the emotion that comes from getting involved in a new technology?
Boundless excitement and thirst to learn. It's kind of hard to put the exact feeling into words, but it's something I live for.
Which one is needed to work in technology: great patience, or an especially ordered mind?
More patience than orderliness. I know this, because my mind is especially unordered :) Passion is more important than any of the above two. If you don't get that excited feeling when you see a huge advancement made, and your mind starts to work overtime on what this tech means for you, your company, and the rest of the world, then you're probably in the wrong field. A tech field, in general, changes quickly, radically, and unpredictably. Even if you have the patience, if you don't have the passion, you will be burned out quickly.
Are kids and teens too “technified”? Can one become addicted to technology?
I don't think there is such a thing. Sure, we're becoming more connected, and the usual suspects (mostly those afraid of change) decry this a bad thing. A favorite (techy) comic of mine, XKCD, made the quote that "Those who worry about societal decline do more damage than societal decline ever did" - and truer words have never been spoken. As to the second part.. of course. Anything can become an addiction, whether it be technology, food, sex.. whatever. Those who work in this field probably border on addiction or obsession (tech for tech's sake), but there is such a thing as a healthy addiction. If it enhances your life and doesn't impact it or others' negatively, it can't possibly be bad.
Play futurologist: what will the technology of your sector be like in 20 years time?
I can't speculate too accurately that. 20 years ago, the technology landscape was nothing like it is now, and I doubt many people would have been able to guess the events and advancements made in that time. The next 20 years are just as opaque. I do know that the status quo will be disrupted, multiple times, and that it will be as exciting as it was the last time it happened.
HARMONY
Is faith necessary for spirituality to work?
Faith is belief in things not yet seen. Since the very core of spirituality rests on things that cannot be quantified or empirically proven, faith is absolutely necessary. One with an overly analytical mind may have problems with spirituality simply because they're wired different and cannot process the lack of evidence.
What is your concept of free will Vs destiny, fate, karma?
To borrow a over-used quote from an over-used movie: M: Do you believe in destiny? N: No. M: Why? N: Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my own life. That really sums it up. Karma is either a supernatural or a subconscious (and I'm not sure which at this point) process that I keenly believe in. Those who do bad (that they know is bad) tend to have bad things happen to them, and the reverse is true for good. Ever heard the old addage "What goes around, comes around"? Karma, summarized.
Is there a false face to positive thinking; an obsession about appearing happy that is not healthy?
This is a bad question, as those are two completely separate things. "Appearing" happy is a facade, a mask. Positive thinking is an internal process where you always try to see the good side of any situation, but it doesn't mean that you can't be fazed. In my experience, one who goes out of their way to appear happy all the time, usually drop their mask explosively, suddenly, and sometimes violently under the right (or wrong) circumstances. Keeping your emotions bottled up is never, ever a good thing.
BLOGGING
How do you promote your blog?
I'm an on and off writer, so the usual methods of promotion don't work out too well for me. I'm trying to increase my search engine relevance right now (tricky, when you share a name with a director, a painter, and other much more famous folks). As to promoting my blog, I suppose we can use this page for that a bit :) http://tkware.info This link is to a "hub" I'm using to link to everywhere else (mostly for SEO purposes): http://michaelparks.brandyourself.com
POLITICS
What matters more in deciding your vote: the party, the candidate, or the ideas?
The ideas. The party concept is antiquated, pointless, and a hinderance to progress in this modern world. I also don't care much about the individual candidate... the bum on the corner, if they have the drive, ideals, and fortitude to throw their hat into the ring, deserves the same chance as the ivory-tower intellectual born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
Do you think religion has a place in politics?
Absolutely none. Religion is an inherently personal and subjective thing to each person, and is hence incompatible with politics, which attempts to find the best solution to serve the greatest amount of people. Hundreds of years of history show that any combination of the two only leads to disaster.
Why did the economies of communist countries fail?
Communism, while a noble concept, assumes complete cooperation toward the common good on the part of all followers. A human being, with few exceptions, will always do what benefits them, personally, first. To do so is human nature, and a system of government based on the opposite of human nature is destined for abject failure.
Do you believe in any of the conspiracy theories regarding 9-11?
Not in that it was an inside job with bombs and the like (which is silly), but rather that it was allowed to happen because it was politically expedient. Kind of a huge difference, there. The jets not being scrambled, the Bin Ladens being flown out of the country in the midst of the FAA lockdown, the whole thing doesn't smell right.
Are there too many taxes?
This could be taken two ways. "Too many taxes" meaning too many individual taxes, yes, absolutely. Look at the cluster of mess that is income tax. Even people who go to school to learn the tax code don't know everything about it. The system needs to be greatly simplified. "Too many taxes" meaning too much cost is also a big yes.
Do you believe in affirmative action?
No. Affirmative action is, in itself, a form of discrimination. Equality means equality, the way to do this is to treat everyone equally, not to simply discriminate in reverse.
Should consensual offenses such as drug use or prostitution be legalized?
I am a firm believer in individual rights, especially if those rights don't infringe on anyone else's. The government has no business telling me what I can or cannot put into my own body - so yes, drug use (all drug use) and prostutituion should be legal. As George Carlin once said, "Selling's legal, f*cking's legal, why isn't selling f*cking legal?"
Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
Pro choice, up until approximately 6 months. "Potential" is a meaningless term in this case, you're not taking a life until you actually take a life. Up until 6 months or thereabouts, the fetus is nothing more than a non-sentient collection of cells.
Are you in favor of or against the death penalty?
Completely opposed under all circumstances. Humans are not animals to be put down, less so when the state is the one doing it. Governments should not have a right to kill those they govern.
Should homosexual couples have the same right to adopt as heterosexual couples?
Yes. There is no data that suggests a homosexual couple can not raise a child as successfully as a heterosexual couple.
 

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