The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

What is Java?

This is an article I wrote for my Java class at The Iron Yard. It’s being published here with permission.

Writing Software in Java

To write a program is to “speak” in a language a computer can understand. We don’t actually “speak” to a computer, but we can write messages that it can understand. These words aren’t in a natural language, though. Instead, they’re in a programming language.

My class at The Iron Yard is primarily about the programming language Java. Java is just one of hundreds of programming languages, but it has the distinction of being the most popular.

To a fresh eye, programming languages often look like gibberish. For example:

int total =;
return total / scores.size();

This Java code could be translated into english as something like, “Calculate the average score from a set of scores.” This example is intended to illustrate a point: Java isn’t english.

Read the rest of this entry »

Getting Help

This is an article I wrote for my Java class at The Iron Yard. It’s being published here with permission.

Getting help

Often you will run into problems where your debugging strategies just don’t give you anything useful to work with. In these cases, you have to turn to other resources.

Craft a good question

The first step in getting help is to figure out the correct question to ask. Vague questions don’t lead to specific answers.

Instead of saying “when I click this button, it doesn’t work,” explain what you hoped it would do and what it actually does. To do this, you have to understand what it is you’re actually trying to accomplish. It might be a surprise to realize that sometimes you don’t know this. Read the rest of this entry »

This is an article I wrote for my Java class at The Iron Yard. It’s being published here with permission.

If debugging is the process of removing bugs from code, then what is programming?

Undoubtably you’ve already run into a few bugs in your code. Figuring out the cause of these problems can be a frustrating and tedious experience. But, it can also be incredibly rewarding. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of finally squashing a particularly challenging bug.

As a professional programmer, you’ll be spending most of your time debugging. It’s virtually impossible to write code that works perfectly the first time. In fact, code that appears to work correctly on the first test will probably start to set off your mental alarm bells. The worry being, “what am I missing?!” Read the rest of this entry »

I heard that someone going by the name of Doug Hughes landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the capitol building in DC. Sorry, but I am not that Doug Hughes.

It’s been fun and amusing to receive calls of support for the other Doug Hughes. I’ve received half a dozen calls for him. Most have been people gushingly praising him. Some have offered legal and financial support. Others have asked for interviews. Perhaps I should have accepted the cash and given the interviews?

Anyhow, I do support the other Doug’s ideas. We need to get the influence of cash out of our government. Corporations are not people, cash is not free speech, etc, etc.

I recently got ahold of the other Doug’s email address. I’m going to see if he minds me forwarding on these messages, but for now it’s safe to assume that I’m not able to forward these messages.

Ye Olde GyrocopterI’ve Always Wanted a Gyrocopter!

I hear there may be one up for auction in DC soon.


Recently Chris Christie and Rand Paul made some comments supportive of the anti-vaxxer “movement”. This is really gives me pause.

These two are also both in the climate change denial camp. I always assumed that climate change denying politicians only did so because they receive money from climate change denying businesses, and/or pandering to the climate change denial demographic.

You see, I honestly picture politicians as being quite smart and savvy. (I’m not sure whether this is cynical or optimistic of me.) They have to be smart to weasel their way into power. It takes a degree of brilliance to convince the masses that something which is economically bad for them is actually somehow good for them. You’ve got to be sharp to pander effectively to a constituency without actually doing anything for them. You’ve got to be intelligent to find every way to increase your, your friends’, and your corporate overlord’s power and wealth without inciting the population to rise up with pitchforks and torches.

In other words, I have a hard time believing that politicians are actually dumb. I figured they actually believe in climate change, they just have a strong incentive to deny it and legislate against it. I figured they knew it was dumb to disallow scientists from advising the EPA.

But this anti-vaxxer situation makes me wonder if these politicians legitimately don’t understand science. Where’s the political advantage? The anti-vaxxer community can’t be nearly large enough to risk pandering to. And where’s the financial advantage? It’s not like Big Pharma is going to advocate for making less money.

Perhaps that’s it. If more people get sick with preventable illnesses they’ll be able to sell more medications, thereby making more profit? (Perhaps I need to make a tinfoil hat?) This doesn’t pass the smell test.

They only option I am left with is that these two politicians at least actually are scientifically illiterate. They must legitimately not understand the scientific method, how it is used test theories, find evidence, and draw conclusions. You can’t scientifically say that there is no climate change because it gets cold in winter. The evidence doesn’t match the theory.

If these two jackasses are representative of any significant portion of politicians, then we are all well and truly fucked. I for one, will require a lot of pandering to convince me it’s somehow good for me.

I was on my way home today and switched on Marketplace on NPR. They were reporting on how Google and other tech companies are making efforts to diversify their work forces. From there, they branched off into a story of how the New York Symphony diversified their musicians.

It used to be that the symphonies were dominated by white males. To counteract this, the New York Symphony instituted (mostly) blind auditions. They went to great lengths to prevent the judges from seeing the auditioning musician, or being able to determine any other facts about them such as gender, height, weight, etc. This resulted in a 50% increase in the hiring of women!

So, if Google and others wish to (and should!) remove bias from their hiring practices, maybe they should find a way to prevent interviewers from seeing or even hearing candidates?

Consider this, large companies almost always have online forms that candidates fill out to apply for a job. These necessarily collect potentially telling information. For example, a name or email address can suggest a gender and ethnicity. The duration of past employment and schooling can suggest age. When you show up for an interview, whether on the phone or in person, more judgements can be, and are, made.

What if a hiring manager only received the bare bones information about a potential hire? Maybe they see an unsigned cover letter, a list of previous employers, previous responsibilities, areas of expertise, etc, but not length of employment. The hiring manager could exclusively communicate with the user via an anonymized email address generated for the user, or directly through the HR software being used. The phone would not be used. This would help avoid any hints from the user’s email address or voice.

Instead of a traditional interview, an online meeting could be established where there is either a third party relaying messages back and forth (like translation services for phone calls) or they communicate exclusively though instant messaging. Questions are asked, answers given, etc. Additionally, screen sharing and other collaboration tools could be used for things like coding tests, white boards, etc. Now the hiring manager can only judge the candidates based on their responses. With this more restricted type of communication, I think there’s a better chance that implicit bias could be removed from the process.

As I think about, all of the various tools exist, but perhaps not in one place. Perhaps this approach could even be facilitated by the major job boards and/or HR software? They could provide the tools I described in one integrated package, allowing hiring managers to be blind.

Would this be a perfect system? No. But, could this be a better system? Maybe. It might help lead to increased diversity, which has been shown to improve financial performance.

What do you think?


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