Greetings, explorer! I’m Cameron, an independent programmer, web developer, author, and all-around tinkerer.
People often ask me where I’m from. There is no easy answer. It is easiest to say that I had childhood in rural North Carolina, a coming-of-age in arid New Mexico, and an education in and around Philadelphia. But, to quote Robert Frost, “At present I am living in Vermont.”
In 2003, I took a Scottish country dancing class, unsure where it would lead me. I could not have imagined a deeper, more delightful rabbit hole to stumble into. And even now, after enough time has passed to encrust with jade the most enthusiastic of converts, I still feel it. Whether it’s the first jingle of bells on May Day morning, or the last skirl of pipes on Hogmanay, I still feel it: the giddiness of having fallen into wonderland.
“Turing realized that it should be possible to build a meta-machine that could be reconfigured in such a way that it would do any task you could conceivably do with information. It would be a protean device that could turn into any tool you could ever need. Like a pipe organ changing into a different instrument every time you hit a preset button.” — Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
Programming computers was never my dream. But at every stage of my life, there I was, typing away. I now find myself always in their midst, for better or for worse, and my desire and need to explore their potential has never been stronger. Coding is my attempt to master the most versatile and extraordinary tool ever devised.
Nowadays, a bookworm is someone who reads a lot. Kind of a compliment, or an identity badge. But for the Anglo-Saxons, a thousand years before the internet and its ubiquitous information stream, the wyrm was the literal devourer of knowledge. Moth larvae chewed up and digested tomes and libraries — the cultural memory.
Even in the modern age, with its endless archives and backups, I find it hard to separate the knowledge and actions that will truly change lives and the world, and those that are ultimately worm food. How can I affect people in a deep and lasting way? How can I be a good person? How can I create something that can withstand the maw of edacious time?
I came to astronomy for the big numbers: the fastest winds in the solar system, the size of the Great Red Spot, the number of stars in the Milky Way, the pressure at the core of a collapsing supergiant, the gravity of a black hole. But the theory is what hooked me. We can, right now, sitting at a desk on a planet orbiting a star adrift in the near-vacuum of a galaxy on its path from the beginning of the universe to infinity, write down and understand equations that govern the past, present, and future of the planet, the star, the vacuum, the galaxy, the beginning of the universe and its infinite fate. This is incredible. The big numbers are only the flashy pop-up ad for the true scope of the astronomer's art, no less grand than the comprehension of time from beginning to end, and of all that occurs therein.