Bernard J. Hughes

aka Timedancer (td)

A sort of resume:

Major Job Skills

Reframing

Reframing? That's when you move around a situation to see it from a novel direction. From this new place, features that were part of the problem become part of the solution. Reframing is an essential skill for an agent of change. Without reframing my other skills would seem like defects.

Changing reality by brute force is tough. More effective is to circle to problem, find the right spots to push, and let the tension of the situation do the most of the work. Of course, you have to able to recognize when a reality is ready for a new configuration. I'm good at that.

Laziness

The value of laziness if much underrated. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a whole book "In praise of idleness" but the field hasn't been studied much since. Making too much effort with too little consideration is a common failing, one I try to avoid. I believe in "Creative Laziness", achieving goals without really working. In fact, if I feel work coming on, I figure I'm taking the wrong route to my objective.

Poor memory

My area of expertise is novelty. My poor memory is a great asset in this field. Even situations I have faced repeatedly seem quite novel to me. I have forgotten what happened last time. Hence I am very good at dealing with situations from first principles. Most people tackle recurring problems by producing the appropriate response from memory. This is not my strong point. But faced with novel situations, I am in my normal world, and perform well.

Bad eyesight

Since I was born, my eyesight has been poor. Hence the detail of a situation often escapes me. But I'm good with the big picture. In my rather vague and blurred view of the world, I sometimes see the patterns that are obscured by detail for other people.

Carelessness

Though I think long and hard about my goals and route to an objective, I am rather careless about implementation. Hence I make more mistakes than most people. When working with new systems, this is a great asset. My error recovery is very good, so I have made most of the available mistakes, and recovered from them, before I have to lead other more careful people down the same path.

Some Achievements

Spelling

As a child, I had a lot of trouble with spelling. It seemed unfair that such an absurd, mechanical process could get in the way of my writing. I figured this was really a job for a machine. When the personal computer first became possible, I developed the first personal electronic dictionary (5000 words in 4K of memory). When floppy disks came along, I put 30K words on an 80K disk and sold the first personal computer spelling checker. The idea caught on.

My first computer

For my first attempt at building a computer, I couldn't afford electricity and had to use water. This is not as strange as it sounds. Long ago, when only dogs had been into space, and electronic computers were as big as houses, fluidic computing was serious stuff. I guess I was the only teenager in my town (or maybe even country?) with a one-bit adder in the wash house. My mother never did get the point of pouring beakers of water into the top of a maze of pipes, and catching the "result" in beakers at the bottom. But I figured it would catch on eventually.

Travelling

I love maps. When I was a student a bought a detailed roadmap of Africa, the only one made at the time. It had all sorts of useful extra markings, like This road impassable in the rainy season. Right in the center of Africa was a river crossing, marked crossing by dugout canoe. I didn't really believe it.

A couple of years later, I was sitting in the dugout canoe, crossing the Congo river. To get there I had hitchhiked across the Sahara, through a couple of wars, and met some wonderful and alarming people. Few had seen a European carrying his own pack before. As in other cases, I was a little ahead of the crowd.

Web Publishing

In early 1995 I headed up a project to produce prototype Web editions of two daily newspapers in Canada. I concluded the delivery speed of the pages had significant impact on the reader experience, but couldn't find any suitable tools to measure it. Hence the development of the OnTime Delivery web page monitoring system. The system was very successful, with major website like CNN, BBC and IBM using the service, and was almost totally automated. For a while produced a steady flow of money with very little work, a successful piece of "Creative Laziness".

It also illustrated the limits of "Creative Laziness". To minimize my effort, I had used some timing hooks embedded in the early versions of the Netscape browser. Netscape decided to drop these, to "streamline" the product, and rendered my system obsolete. My users in IBM were interested in bringing OnTime Delivery in house as an IBM product, but the institutional barriers to that proved insurmountable.

Online Worlds

As the publishing project faded, a whole new field opened up on the Net. The 3D graphical worlds that were being built to support games like EverQuest and Acheron's Call. As a Traveler who had rather run out of places to travel in this world, these new worlds were a gift. The games they supported were kind of fun too. My main interest in such worlds is in visiting places that have never been seen before. Hence I am interested in the fantastic and alien rather than "realistic".

My own attempt at creating a world, Gardens of Kyresoo , was aimed a creating moments of beauty, rather than the moments of destruction that power most online games. Creating a complete world proved over ambitious, but I did develop a novel and effective method of generating digital flowers. I am now using that technology to create a flower growing game for smartphones and laptops.

Last updated 12 Sep 2014 by bernard@timedancer.com.