Skip to content

Author: Robert

TeX-Talk

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.

Winds of Change

All things change. We know this inherently, even though we try to deny it. Sometimes these winds are gentle breezes stirring our hair and cooling our skin. Other times it seems there is no wind at all. Things are changing, but only under the surface. Then there are times when the wind comes in like a hurricane.

Generally speaking though, these changes are not very interesting. After all, if a tree falls in the forest and you are not there to hear it, will it make the Starbuck’s Drive-Thru line move any faster?