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I don't expect that everyone will understand every technical term that I've used in this home page. In ordinary conversation, most people just smile and nod at me. For example, this is an actual conversation I had a couple of days ago.

ME: Hello!
OTHER PERSON: Hi! How are you?
ME [face lighting up in moment of epiphany]: Oh my God! I must have forgotten to reinitialize my loop counter the second time through the for loop! Of course!
OTHER PERSON: [smiles and nods]

So that you don't have the same problem online--I'd hate to get a dozen or so emails that just say "[smile and nod]"--I've prepared the following glossary. You can read through it right now or you can just come back here when you get to a difficult place in the text. Enjoy!

access counters
Just for the record, there are no access counters on this page. I think they are hideous monuments to virtual vanity. I would like to reassure you that any access counts you might see on this page are pulled completely out of Charles's ass. You are the 1729th person I have reassured about this, by the way.
boolean (boo - LEE - un)
In computer science, boolean refers to something that may either be true or false. For example, you've got your boolean expressions (like: Is x equal to 3?), boolean variables, boolean operations (like the and operation in: If x equals 3 and y equals "Yo' momma," then commit hara kiri), etc.
Boys' Life
The official magazine for boys of the Boy Scouts of America. I'm an Eagle Scout, I'll have you know. And I owe it all to Boys' Life. Um, yeah.
categorical imperative
This is a philosopical term Kant made up. It has something to do with ethics. It's one of those things that somebody'll mention in philosophy classes but I don't really understand because I haven't had a class in ethics yet. It's a very imposing term, however, and it certainly sounds very confusing. Mentioning categorical imperatives is great fun at parties, especially when you want somebody to leave you alone. You just have to hope that they don't ask you what it means.
core dump
These basically exist in UNIX. When a UNIX system crashes, it records the entire state of the system into a file on disk. Needless to say, they take up a lot of space. If you knew what you were doing, and knew about the programs in question, you could theoretically figure out why the system crashed. I have never actually seen someone do this.
Cathode ray tube.
Descartes, the one about
I forget exactly, but the one about Descartes goes something like this:So Descartes walks into a restaurant. The waiter says, "Would you like the soup du jour?" and Descartes says, "I think not," and disappears.
despair, existential
In the most general sense, despair arises when we realize the essential nothingness of existence. If that last sentence didn't make perfect sense to you, you're in denial.
faults, segmentation; faults, general protection
Segmentation faults (in unix) and general protection faults (in Windows) arethings that happen to a computer program when it runs out of memory, when the programmer has screwed up, or when something generally bad has happened.
fire engines, the joke about
It goes like this:

ME: Why are fire engines red?
YOU: I don't know, Charles. Why ARE fire engines red?
ME: Because books are read, too, and two plus two is four, and four times three is twelve, and twelve inches is a ruler, and Queen Mary's a ruler, and Queen Mary's the name of a ship, and ships sail the ocean, and oceans have fish, and fish have fins, and the Finns fought the Russians, and Russians are also known as Reds, and fire engines are always rushin', so that's why they're red!

I got that out of a Boys' Life, which actually explains a lot about that joke, when you think about it.
haute couture
I think that's when you make the mac & cheese on the stovetop instead of the microwave.
Hexadecimal is an alternative number system to decimal. Okay, bear with me. here. You know how in decimal there are ten digits (0 - 9), so to express a number larger than nine, you have to use two digits. Well, hexadecimal has sixteen digits (0 - 9 and then A - F--kinda like high school), and it doesn't have to start counting over until it gets to numbers larger than sixteen. So 10 in hex equals 16 in decimal. The reason programmers use hex is that computers think in two digits, 0 and 1 (that's called binary). Since binary uses two digits, hexadecimal uses sixteen, and sixteen is a power of two, this gives hexadecimal mystical properties, which I won't take the time to explain, that basically make hex a shorter way of writing binary. That explanation kind of reminds me of the joke about fire engines.
HTML (or Hypertext Markup Language) is the language of the Web. If that doesn't mean anything to you, go onto the File or the View menu of your browser, and choose the option that sounds something like "View Document Source." Now, see those little funny things with angle brackets <> around them? That's HTML. If you're interested in learning HTML, just use a search engine to find "HTML introduction" or maybe "HTML tutorial".
Yeah. I have a staff of interns read my mail, help with the HTML (see above), and so on. They're in middle school. (Meta-comment: How time flies. This joke was funny when I was an undergrad, a little strange now that I'm a grad student, and in a few years, I'll need to just remove it—once I'm senior enough to really have interns. –1 Jan 2006)
inverted triangle
A style of journalism (specifically newspaper) writing, useful for your basic news story. The idea is that you want people to be able to read your article and get the information they need as fast as possible. Thus you put the most important and most recent information in your first paragraph (the lead), and progressively less important information and more background information in later paragraphs, until your last paragraph is something like "The nation is expected to have an economy again next year."
Well, I assume you know what "Junior" means, specifically, when attached to a person's name. But my family has a funny tradition about that. We don't use them. "Charles Aloysius Sutton" (my name) is a venerable family name. The first-born son of every previous Charles Aloysius Sutton is named in turn Charles Aloysius Sutton. We don't use "Jr." or "Sr." because they are not correct: there are three of us around currently. We don't use numbers because they're pretentious. As a consequence, my name, my father's name, and my grandfather's name are exactly the same. This drives the insurance company absolutely up a wall. As another consequence, no one knows how far back the tradition goes by now, but estimates range as high as X or XV. In addition, one of my cousins married a guy named Charles, and they have a son named Charles. This means that we can have as many as five Charleses in one room, three of whom have exactly the same name. It gets pretty crazy.
A junta is a collection of a few individuals with complete political power.Sort of like multiple dictatorship. In addition, the word "junta" sounds something like the name of a brand of coffee.
lab assistant
I used to work as a lab assistant in the computer lab. This means that I would sit in the computer lab for a three or four-hour shift, and wait for people to ask me computer questions (for example, "Hi, my computer won't print," or "Hey, Netscape isn't working," or occasionally one like "I'm really sorry to bother you, but my computer just ate my grandmother. Do you know if life insurance covers this?").
Mr. Wizard
You remember that show. It was called "Mr. Wizard's World," on Nickelodeon. It was this guy who had a group of kids help him do science tricks. I wonder if he's dead yet. Er, I mean, I wonder what he's doing now. I'll ask my interns (see above) and get back to you.
For those not versed in computer gaming lore, Myst was one of the best-selling (and one the of best) CD-ROM games of all time. A couple years ago, they made a sequel, called Riven. In 2001, there has been a third game, called Myst III: Exile.
pseudocoelomate (sou - doh - SEAL - oh - mate)
[frantically scrambling to find old biology book] According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, pseudocoelomates are organisms that have no tissue inside their body cavity (that is, they lack mesoderm). They include the nematodes, rotifers, gastrotrichs, and introverts.
"Telemetry" literally means "measuring from a distance." That's pretty much what it is. You put some sensors in a place where you don't want to put a person with measuring equipment (e.g., the wing of an aircraft). The sensor is connected electrically to a transmitter which radios data from to a central processing station.

The computers built at Veridian Systems do the work of the "central processing station". (Actually, you can put them in aircraft, too; they analyze data, whether it's been telemetered or not.) Basically, the computers take in the data, convert it into digital form if necessary, chop it up into individual measurements, maybe archive it, do numeric processing on it, and print it on a screen for an engineer to read.

Virtual reality markup language.

Enough with the definitions! Go back to Charles's front page.

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