About Erik Max Francis
Information about me.

About Erik Max Francis.

Here's some random information about me, in no particular order:

  • I live in San Jose, California. Before I moved here in 1987, I lived on the East Coast in Connecticut and rural New York.
  • I have strong political views, but prefer not to get into political discussions (they rarely accomplish anything other than getting everyone involved more upset). I could be best described as liberal on domestic issues, and conservative when it comes to foreign policy, but there is some overlap. I certainly would not label myself as either a Democrat or Republican.
  • I'm a programmer by profession; I work exclusively on Unix and Unix-like systems. The operating systems I work on most frequently are Linux and Solaris. The languages I enjoy using the most for large projects are C++ and Python (leaning more and more toward Python as time progresses), though I know C extensively, appreciate Java, often use shell scripts, frequently take advantage of m4, and -- fairly reluctantly -- have been known to use Perl. I'm familiar with, although not really proficient, in a variety of other languages, including Forth, Lisp, Logo, Prolog, and Scheme. I make it a point to learn new languages whenever possible; I have a particular fondness for Io. In fact, m4 was used to create these pages. And for those interested in that sort of thing, my shell is Z shell, my editor is emacs, and my window manager is sawfish. My resume is available here.
  • I do a lot of recreational programming as well. There are lots of projects that I work on. Much of the recreational stuff I work on is written in Python; I've released some of the software I've written under GPL or LGPL.
  • I've been continually participating in Usenet newsgroups (mostly science and computer science related) since 1990 September. According to Google Groups, I've posted approximately 25 000 articles in that time, under only four email addresses over the years. My first post to Usenet as max@alcyone.com was in 1996 January. I post most frequently to rec.arts.sf.science, though (and my first post there was in 1992 April). If you check any of these groups you're likely to see one of my posts; Google Groups is a place to look, if you don't have easy access to Usenet newsgroups directly. Here's a link to the Google Groups author posting history for me. Plus, I think trolls are funny.
  • I have a very strong interest in science, and also in how science relates to science fiction (the kind of science fiction that pays attention to science, that is). My interest in science and technology was first piqued as a kid by Carl Sagan's Cosmos, and has taken off ever since, and has been helped along through the years by such other programs as Connections, and The Day the Universe Changed, The Mechanical Universe, Ethics in America.
  • I have a fairly strong background in mathematics and mathematical physics, ranging from the basics to differential and integral calculus, vector algebra and calculus, up to some linear algebra and differential equations.
  • I think cranks -- people with pseudoscientific theories or irrational ideas that are totally incapable of understanding why they are wrong -- are amusing; I've been arguing with them on and off for several years in the various science newsgroups. I set up Crank Dot Net as a storinghouse for information about them.
  • I've had a homepage since late 1994 (at which time it was running on Spies in the Wire; I moved it to Alcyone in 1995 or so). I run a number of other rather popular Web sites, including CatCam, Crank Dot Net, Polly Wanna Cracka?, Bosskey.net, Hard Science, REALpolitik, Sade Deluxe, and 7 sisters productions. I've actually been interviewed about some of them in several venues, including the New York Times, USA Today, and Cheifet's Net Cafe on PBS.
  • I learned some French and Japanese in high school. I retained almost exactly none of each; I still remember the basics but I couldn't hope to carry on a meaningful conversation with a native speaker. A few years ago I played around with Esperanto, and found myself becoming surprisingly good in it (far more than I learned of either French or Japanese in the years that I spent with them). I'm hardly fluent, but I can read at a pretty normal pace, understand practically everything I'm reading, and can carry on an email conversation, or a conversation over IRC or ICQ. (I don't have enough practice understanding or speaking it realtime, though, so I'd probably have trouble in an actual person-to-person conversation.) No, I don't think it will change the world -- that isn't my agenda -- but it's an entertaining and challenging intellectual exercise.
  • I find artificial life fascinating.
  • My favorite kinds of music are R&B, soul, hip-hop, and rap, with some of the more sophisticated pop and even alternate rock sneaking in. I like almost all other kinds of music, except I can't stand "ambient" music or (ugh) country-western. To give you an idea of my tastes, some of my favorite artists are Aaliyah, Anggun, Barenaked Ladies, Blu Cantrell, Brigette McWilliams, Chanté Moore, Coolio, Da Brat, Des'ree, En Vogue, Ice-T, Ice Cube, India.Arie, Janet Jackson, Jody Watley, Lalah Hathaway, Les Nubians, Mary J. Blige, M.C. Lyte, Neneh Cherry, Oleta Adams, Public Enemy, Salt 'n' Pepa, Sandra St. Victor, Sir Mixalot, SWV, TLC, Vanessa Williams, Whitney Houston, and Yo Yo. But my all-time favorite artist would be Sade, hands down.
  • I occasionally read science fiction (although much less than I used to). The author I've read most is Larry Niven -- the scientific concepts dealt with in his work were intriguing, and were one of the things that got me interested in science.
  • I tend to like various kinds of movies, including, I'll admit, action movies. Some of my favorites are Apollo 13, Casino, Contact, Deep Cover, Die Hard, Goodfellas, The Guns of Navarone, Heat, The Hunt for Red October, Last Man Standing, North by Northwest, Out of Sight, Star Trek II, Supercop, and Unforgiven.
  • I find most computer and software jokes completely and utterly pointless. My sense of humor is, well, fairly crude, although I'm kind enough not to expose strangers to it.
  • I've written two articles for Linux Journal (including one published online), and had about two pages full of my writing published in Clifford A. Pickover's popular science book [reference 1] , about black holes. Listed in the same section are comments from others about the same subject, including such notable people as Steve Crisp, William S. Lawson, Mark Higgins, Warren G. Anderson, and, indeed, Kip Thorne.
  • I watch a lot of television; my favorite show far and away is Law & Order (and its spinoffs). West Wing, Nova, Medical Detectives (and its relatives), Family Guy, Uncommon Knowledge, and Kudlow & Cramer are a few of my other favorite shows.
  • I also play a lot of computer games. I particularly like first person shooters; I've been playing them since the early days of DOOM, Quake, Quake II, and so on. In particular, I've been playing Quake III Arena since the demo test as soon as I first got DSL in 1999 November; I'm rather good at it. I also play a lot of Counter-Strike, the free Half-Life mod; I've been playing that since beta 7.0 (2000, late August or early September). Other games I've played a great deal of are Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Aliens vs. Predator 2, Unreal Tournament 2003 and, most recently, Battlefield 1942. Some Quake mods, such as Urban Terror, get special mention. The name I play under all these games is Product. Because of my inclination toward these types of games, I've gone as far as setting up a guide to first person shooters. I'm good enough at them that I fairly routinely get accused of cheating (even though I have never cheated). I actually run several servers.
  • Outside of the first person shooter genre, I still play a lot of games. Some of my all-time favorite non-FPS games are (in no particular order) Risk II, Frontier: Elite II, the Descent series, the Freespace series, the X: Beyond the Frontier series, Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos, the Need for Speed series, Master of Orion, Dune II, the Wipeout series, and Omega. I'm also a big fan of Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2 for Game Boy Advance, which are both really clean and nicely implemented old Empire-style games. It's nice to see a big game company digging into a classic genre and making a fresh, well-banaced game out of them.
  • Star Trek is amusing, but really, folks, give it a rest. I like Star Trek (despite its embarassingly bad portrayal of science), but people take it too far. Lately the franchise hasn't been doing so well; Voyager was by far the worst, and the latest installment, Enterprise, is pretty much standard fare. I did like the original series, selected episodes of Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine, though.
  • I've been contributing to SETI@Home since it was in early beta under the email address seti@alcyone.com. Here is my stats page.
  • If you are a militant anything, chances are I won't like you.
Erik Max Francis && max@alcyone.com && http://www.alcyone.com/max/
 San Jose, CA, USA && 37 20 N 121 53 W && AIM, Y!M erikmaxfrancis
Black holes: A traveller's guide
Clifford A. Pickover
John Wiley & Sons; 1996
reference 1
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