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Musings and Meanderings of Robert Kuropkat Posts


What to do, what to do, oh what to do… sigh… I want to get back into programming, ideally professionally. But I’ve been out of hard core programming long enough I have taken on the appearance of an old dog learning new tricks. Even so, an If statement is still an if statement and a while loop is still a while loop. Thus, I’m not particularly worried about jumping back in. In fact, if I didn’t want to get paid for doing what I love, it would be easy. It’s that getting paid part that is tripping me up.

As we all know, the hiring process involves a lot of perception. It has to, because the folks interviewing you haven’t known you that long. Interviewers derive as many tricks and processes to give them as much insight as they can, while interviewees, derive as many tricks and processes to put their best foot forward. But it is a fluid and slippery thing these appearances. In general, no one is trying to lie so that helps the process a lot. Everyone is just trying to maximize their position in a very short amount of time.

Not surprisingly, things change. This is the “old dog” part. The hiring process morphed and changed while I wasn’t looking. Curiously, it almost seems to favor those disadvantaged by previous hiring practices! Bully for them of course, but it leaves me scratching my head as to what my best next step should be.

I won’t belabor it, but it seems my best choice is to “pick a lane” and skill up. This is new and scary for me. First of all, I totally blew it on predicting how long Java would be around! Do I pick Python and maybe gear towards AI? Do I go Full Stack development? Maybe I go C# and Unity. Round and round I go, hmmm….

In the end, for no apparent reason, I recalled the advice I’ve given so many in the past. My answer to the “I want to get into programming, so what’s the best language to learn?” question has always been the same. An if statement is an if statement. A while loop is a while loop. Until you are comfortable with that it doesn’t really matter. Do something that is fun and easy to get started with. If it’s not fun, you’ll stop doing it long before you master it.

Well, I don’t need to learn the structure of a program, but there is value in rediscovering a comfort level with the practice of programming. Install the requisite software, fire up an IDE, write code, execute and test it, check it in somewhere. You know, have fun again.

With that in mind, this weekend I did some cleanup on my old Lenovo Helix. This machine will be a problem later, it’s still running Windows 8.1, but it will serve as a nice, portable playground for now. It will also serve well enough while I get my more powerful laptops going. I have two Lenovo W520s and a T520. The W520s have more RAM and disk space so I can go with a slim OS and then virtualize whatever development environment(s) I want after that.

So while I monkey with those machines, my little bitty Helix now has Strawberry Perl, Smalltalk (Squeak) and TeX on it. It even has an install of NodeJS from a Homeschool programming class I taught, so maybe I’ll update that. I also installed VSCode and Hello Worlded in it with Perl, Perl/Tk and Prima. I need to pick a database and add DBI/DBD as well. Maybe by the time my other laptops are ready I’ll have picked a lane and be ready to get serious.

’till then, be sure to checkout my other blog, Doer’s of Stuff, where I’ll talk a bit about the setup as well as my progress!

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

By which I mean, it’s time to take another wack at budgeting…

Once, long ago, I set off for college. Before I went, my mother took me down to the bank and opened a checking account for me. Through this, I would learn to take care of my own finances as well as provide an easy conduit for my parents to funnel money to me as needed. One thing extra she did though was include what was then called “Overdraft Protection.” It was not a line of credit per se, nor was it a credit card. It was just a small amount ($500) intended to cover those moments when the bank decided to clear the checks I wrote, before the checks I deposited. For some reason, banks always prefer to do things in this order and I guess my mom knew full well who she was putting in charge of this account.

Mysterious Movements chapter 0


Once upon a time there lived a young codeslinger. From the technological backwater of Tucson, he dreamed of coding challenges that would test his wits and determination. Coding challenges that make most coders cower in fear. Coding challenges that would make him a legend.

Tucson was not devoid of technology, but it was mostly technology that once was. The big gangs had pulled out long ago. The others were mostly lone codesligners; IDEs for hire. The important thing though, was none of them had time for a young upstart.

So, he packed his meager belongings and headed further West, the golden hills of California singing a siren song of wealth and challenges for anyone brave enough. He didn’t even bring his IDE (Integrated Development Environment), choosing instead to leave it behind for whomever should take up residence here next. Yes, he’d buy himself a set of shiny new IDEs when he arrived in San Francisco, the .COM capital of the world.

Truth be told…

How often do you have to hear something before you decide it must be true? As I recall from my High School English class, you need to back up any claim with at least three credible sources. Ideally, these three sources should have different pedigrees for their research. Their conclusions should derive from different sources. In other words, they should not all just be repeating the same rumor. In today’s world, that means three re-tweets do not make a truth. Neither does three Facebook shares or re-posts.

Paradise Lost

I am sure if we looked hard enough, we would find someone, somewhere who has not been “affected” by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the purpose of discussion however, let’s just go with “everyone.”

Unfortunately, we are not yet to the point we can talk about what effects the pandemic had on everyone because we are still having them. The whole thing has been going on long enough even the ripples are making news. Even the most pessimistic of doom-sayers are scratching their heads wondering just how much longer this will go on. When, everyone is wondering, will we return to normal? When will we finally get a break and be able to heave that much needed sigh of relief?


That’s “Tex” as in “blecch,” not “Tex” as in “Mex” or so the TeX User Group site says.

I have long been interested in Dr. Knuth’s TeX typesetting system. The idea of being able to do my Math homework electronically has intrigued me ever since I got a home work problem wrong because I added 2 and -2 and got 4. You see, I had erased that part of the problem several times and on the final work through, I did not see the negative sign.

Lifelong Learning

I mentioned in a previous post that a career in Software Development or any part of Information Technology is a career of lifelong learning. This would be true even if technology did not change so rapidly for the simple reason the more we solve with computers, the more problems we are able to solve. Computers allow us to do things not only faster, but smarter. This leaves us humans able to turn our attention to more and more opportunities.

After 35 years in software and IT I have become pretty confident in my ability to learn and take on new tasks. This is not because I know more than when I was younger, but because for 35 years I have refused to sit still. Instead, I continue to branch out and try new things. I have never been the “go to guy” for a specific technology. I am not the expert on all things SpiffySoft. Nor am I the local expert of the FrogSnot programming language. For 35 years I have worked in the cracks, seams and edges of the project life cycle. Where algorithms fail and best practices fall short; where others have abandoned all hope; any problems that makes others say “huh?”; these are the tasks I excel at.

As impressed as I am with myself, I was none the less reminded of the danger of over confidence. Fortunately, this was not for work. No client or schedule suffered due to this learning moment. All the same, there is nothing like a good intellectual ass-kicking to restore some humility to my life.

ToDo: Learn to Think Small…

Everyone says “it will take longer than you think it will” and I certainly would not argue this. However, in my case, I’d swear this problem has super-sized itself. I just never seem to have goals with due dates like “next Friday.” To wit:

After a decade or more of what might be termed a “Professional Walk-About,” I decided it was time to return to my primary career as a Software Developer. However, in the time during my meanderings, the industry changed; or more precisely, the hiring process changed. You see, once upon a time, programmers learned new things by taking a job involving things they did not know and were not qualified for. You learned on the job. One did not become a PERL Programmer by going to PERL Programming School. When presented with a task requiring PERL knowledge, you learned PERL. Likewise, one did not go to Financial Programming School to become a Financial Programmer. You got a job with a financial company and learned.

Because of this, nearly anyone in the IT field, programmer or not, will tell you, embarking on a career in IT is to embark on a lifelong journey of learning. So imagine my surprise when dusting off my resume and being advised to remove or summarize the early part of my career to downplay my age. Imagine my surprise when applying for a job and receiving an automated email with a link to a skills test before ever talking to a human.

Math Homework

I’ve always planned to go back to school and finish my degree. I still plan to, but I do have a bit of a conundrum… I’ve already taken my first couple of years of Math classes two or three times. Unfortunately, Calculus is not the sort of thing that sticks with you unless you are using it. So like it or not, I’m pretty much looking at taking everything once again.

This time however, I am thinking to do it differently. This time I’m just going to pull the books from my own shelves and start working through them myself. The plan is, once I am able to actually get back to school, I will already have reviewed everything and still have it rattling around in my brain.