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I'm a Canadian citizen from the Province of British Columbia with Scottish, English, and Viking ancestral heritage. My interests include philosophy, justice, social responsibility, freedom (of thought and expression, in particular), skepticism, military strategy, business management, Canadian culture and Canadian English, Chinese culture and Chinese language (in both the Traditional and Simplified forms), computers, martial arts, and science fiction writing.
My name in Chinese, Russian, and also its Germanic meaning
My wife helped me with selecting my Chinese name (shown on the right-hand side). The first character, 張 (Zhāng), is her family name, which I preferred not only because a suitable translation for Richardson wasn't available, but more importantly (to me) because she is my wife. The second and third characters, 文 (Wěn) and 道 (Dào) respectively, are pronounced similarly to my first name, and essentially mean "written language" (文) and "reason, truth, ethics and morals, philosophical principles" (道). My name can also be written as "Zhāng Wěn Dào" according to the official internationally-recognized PinYin Romanization system for Mandarin, which is also China's national dialect of Chinese.
One of my friends who is fluent in Russian helped me with the Russian version of my name, Рандолф Ричардсон, which is pronounced like my name in English. Unlike Chinese, there are no special meanings attributed to the characters in Slavic languages like Russian.
The Germanic meaning of "Randolf" is "strong defender." Although it is sometimes shortened to "Rando," and has "Randolph" as a common English variant, I prefer the German version "Randolf" because it's what I'm used to and because it's my proper legal name.
My interest in computers
My first serious introduction to computers was at elementary school, where the Principal noticed my interest and arranged for 1 hour daily access after school to the computer lab (which regularly stretched out to 2 or 3 hours) that was home to three Commodore 64 computers and more than a dozen state-of-the-art green-touch-screen PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) computer systems (with 8" floppy disks) for the adult education program (I also used these computers to casually study Science, Mathematics, English, and other topics).
At school, on Commodore 64 computers, is where I first started learning BASIC and 6502 Machine Language programming (on my own from instructional books that were in the computer lab). Computer programming captured my interest more than video games did (which I also enjoyed, and that I can still remember vividly decades later) because programming allows for unlimited possibilities, compared to games and applications which are designed with specific purposes in mind.
Today most of the software engineering I'm involved in is done in Perl (and mod_perl2, which I use primarily for web sites including this one), and Java. I've found Perl to be a powerful and useful language that satisfies an extensive variety of needs, including data conversions between disparate databases (including some that were popular before SQL became ubiquitous). I use Java primarily to develop stand-alone applications (which run on many Operating Systems, including MS-Windows, MacOS, Unix, and Linux, and without the user needing to install any third party libraries) and internet server daemons (some of which I've also written in Perl).
Science Fiction writing
Since the 1980s I have been working on a science fiction story about an alien with advanced space travel technology who abducts small numbers of individuals from hundreds of different planets throughout the universe (including planet Earth), then relocates them to an unpopulated planet to study the sociological aspects of how the hundreds of different species cooperate (or not) to survive and develop a new society. I am still working on this story today, and I have backstories for some of the hundreds of species and their home worlds defined, but this has turned out to be a very large project that progresses slowly due to having other more important priorities in life such as family, friends, and work. My desire is to eventually complete this story and get it published, but I know there is still years of work ahead before it will be ready for that.
One of the most interesting challenges has been to design unique looking alien species, and some of the ideas I have involved the more obvious points like different numbers of eyes, limbs, fingers, etc., and then there are some less-obvious factors like having two elbows/knees on arms/legs, and different numbers of sexes. There are also some things that are completely different that spawn from thinking about different kinds of eyes (and their visual spectrums), senses, digestive systems, etc. Many of the alien species have different numbers of races as well, and imagining the different cross-continental cultures and social issues requires a lot of creative thought.
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