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Hilary Mark Nelson



I'm currently employed as a Web System Developer/Programmer by the Engineering Computer Network within Purdue University's College of Engineering. In practice, this means that I've gotten friendly with Zope and Python. I've come to like the combination so much that I've ported this site to Zope.

Before falling in love with Python, I'd been expanding my programming skills into Ruby, Java, and SmallTalk. I'm especially interested in Object-Oriented Programming, Aspect-Oriented Programming, Design Patterns, Refactoring, and Extreme Programming.

I started programming during my tenure at BizDat, Inc. (previously known as Woodland Communications), a small marketing and design firm in Madison, WI, where I functioned as the human equivalent of a swiss army knife. My twelve years with BizDat covered a lot of ground: web design and programming, SQL stored procedures, database design, photo retouching, page layout, graphic design and illustration.

My first foray into the world of graphics and communication was a stint as a free-lance illustrator, which lasted from 1983 to 1989.


This site includes descriptions and samples of some of my web and database projects, 3D modeling and animation, Filemaker Pro databases, graphic design and illustration, and interactive media.

Hobbies, Interests & Recreation

I used to love movies, though lately I've lost some of my interest in them. For a while I was one of those L.A. waiters who's working on screenplay, but luckily for me I never finished it. My interest in film got off to an early start: at the tender age of 9, I wrote the Walt Disney Company to suggest that they should make a movie out of the Chronicles of Narnia. They wrote me back, politely taking a pass on the idea, but they eventually saw the wisdom of it.

I've spent some time exploring the world of knots, and I've developed a couple that I think may be novel: the Full Nelson loop knot and "exploding" bend.

I also enjoy woodworking. My most ambitious project is a cherry arts-and-crafts co-sleeper crib that I built for my daughter Linnea, and which I converted to a love seat when she graduated to a full-sized crib. (A long time ago.)

Since I moved to Indiana, I've developed an interest in large insects, since there seem to be a lot of them here: cicadas, two-inch centipedes, praying mantises, etc. My discovery of a six-inch Hickory Horned Devil caterpillar has made me decide to start taking pictures of my more spectacular finds.

I tend to prefer extreme sports over team sports: hang gliding, motorcycling, wind surfing, snowboarding, ice sailing, in-line skating, and recumbent bicycles. The only team sport I really enjoy is volleyball.

In high school I had a plan to become a hippie, build a cabin in the woods, and live off the land. While that ambition fell by the wayside, I still enjoy learning new crafts and making things with my hands: knitting, knot-tying, woodworking with hand tools, sewing, timber-framing, strawbale houses, cooking (especially pies), and gardening. (If you're looking for the antique wood cook stove that I bought for my planned cabin in the woods, and which I never actually used—you're too late, it's been sold.)

I'm also fascinated by technology, be it old tech, high tech, or weird tech: zeppelins, nanotechnology, solar sails, space elevators, solar energy, fuel cells, living-machine waste treatment, air cannons, Tesla turbines... you get the picture.

I have a weakness for some species of "reality" TV — usually the ones which involve some sort of technical challange. The first of these addictions was Junkyard Wars (which now seems to be defunct), in which two 4-person teams had ten hours to build a machine out of whatever they could find in the show's junkyard. They then competed with the machines to see which one worked the best (or survived the longest).

That was followed by my (and Haley's) current favorite, Mythbusters, which I think offers kids a lot of good lessons on how to:

  • Think critically about claims that are presented as truth
  • Design an experiment to test such a claim
  • Try small-scale tests to check the feasibility of your plan
  • Start over and change your plan when something doesn't work
  • Evaluate and interpret your results
  • Take careful safety precautions

The fact that the last point is sometimes driven home by its absence is not necessarily a bad thing. The show has given me a number of opportunities to point out to the kids why it's not a good idea to, for instance, ignite a 15 ft. long hybrid rocket inside a workshop.

I also enjoy cooking, and am especially proud of my pie crust.

Has this happened to you?

Last update: March 04, 2012