What is this site?
Haggis Hell is a personal site that belongs to Robert Kiraly, also known as OldCoder, a professional software developer since 1978.
Note: Some readers are aware that OldCoder graduated U.C. Berkeley in 1981. The 1978 date is consistent because he started formal software work 2.5 years before graduation.
This is one of a group of several OldCoder sites that includes laclin.com, minetest.org, oldcoder.org, dansu.org, and others.
Most of the original content on the sites is distributed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 or other open licenses. The sites will eventually be available in the form of multi-GB tarballs.
Ideally, the content will outlive the primary author-editor and will prove to be useful to others.
220701. July update.
I've started to move old posts to subpages.
The following is a letter that I received today from Marco, an edutech startuper in Perugia, Italy.
The context is a new video that mentions me in the credits. There is a screenshot further down and an older video in the Christmas newsletter. The new video will be linked here in due course.
I will fall asleep in some minute. I was watching the TV with my daughter (Captain America — The Winter Soldier, 2014).
You know, movies are movies, something that lasts 90 minutes, 2 hours... when you finish one, you have the following movie already available... kids can't barely image what's to wait a week or a month to read the next story of your heroes... (and I said READ... you know... a comic book can be divored in half an hour... so you will have 6 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes to wait...).
We live different times, we own different tools, but inside we are the same old flesh and blood machine, with needs that Meta, a smartphone, Netflix can't feed.
I see that parents and teachers say that this kids are not normal, that they listen disgusting music, that they read (when they read something) bad manga, that they see horrible movies... It's the same thought that my parents and my teachers had about my tastes about what to read, see, ear, think... And I am sure that it was the same for my granpas and granmas about my mother and my father tastes...
I think that we can only build better people, by encouraging them to think (not obligatorily "think different" - that it's good... but it's great too "simply to think"), giving them confidence in their thoughts, attitudes, dreams... Choosing to say a good word instead than a bad one.
OK, I don't know where I wanted to go with this email. Only say thanks again. We did a great job. I mean: you and me. That's why I am stalking you a little :-) It's just to remember to you that in a small town in the center of a small region in the center of Italy there is a group of 60 people (or more, considering parents) that has a debt with you. And that considers you as an hero.
Maybe is this the reason of my letter. I saw a movie of superheroes. And I have mine in my real life. It's you.
So thanks again to be you.
200410. Easter 2020.
Sherrill was a neighbor of Grace Kiraly's 50 years ago. Laurie, one of her daughters, is now a woman in her 40s who I remember as a toddler. I'm old.
This post shares a 57-page story that went to Laurie in Spring 2020:
Laurie told me, “I'm no Erin Brockovich” but she found the legal details intriguing regardless.
This post is old but will remain on the front page for the time being.
140313. Jeff Jenkins posted these questions and others recently at Ask Hacker News:
What happens to older developers? Is there a plateau in pay? Is there a drop in pay switching jobs after a certain number of years? Is becoming a specialist rather than a generalist the answer?
To read the original post, click here. Note: The link was valid as of March 2014. However, it may have broken since then.
This is my response:
Developers who go on long enough are expected to obtain high-level titles by their 50s or to retire at about that time.
I'd like to discuss an issue that you might not have thought about: What's going to happen if you lose your job?
Employment in the 50s can be problematic. If somebody is skilled and employed, and has a high-level title or is a specialist or has useful connections, they should be able to obtain a new position.
Otherwise, they might go from well-off to homeless. It happens. I'm 55, my resume is pretty good, and I was worth $1M a decade ago. I'm a transient now. I've got some medical issues, no medical care, and no dentists. Potential jobs are largely unskilled physical labor, which I'm not able to do.
I'm taking a shot at tutoring. However, I don't expect that to provide more than gas money. The head of an admin assistant firm said that I can't be a secretary unless I already am one.
Two people considered sending me to care for elderly relatives, but we didn't proceed. My title at one of those positions was going to be “poop scooper”.
Don't let this happen to you. For what it's worth, here's my advice:
1. Don't fall off of the employment ladder.
2. Become a specialist. Try to remain broad enough, though, that you don't become obsolete.
3. Build a network of people. Make it a large one.
4. Diversify your investments.
5. While you're employed, don't let medical issues, even minor ones, go untreated for long. If you lose your job and your assets, you'll lose medical care too and the issues may become serious.
6. Be kind to people. But don't be a fool. Most people that you help are not going to return the favor.
Regarding specialists, I did recruiting for a while in 2011 and I can confirm that the filters are weighted against generalists.
I've spent about 35 years myself as a generalist. My jobs called for it. The place where I spent most of my career took any project that came along, code of any type. At a dot-com that followed, after the money ran out, I handled all of the technical roles; IT, websites, development, support, documentation, etc. I was able to do a bit of everything.
Later on, none of this made a difference. There are few job listings that say “a bit of everything”.
After the dot-com shut down, 2003, I made $1M in the stock market. Lost most of it afterwards and reentered the job market. Learned that middle-age generalists were not in high demand.
In my case, there were other factors that won't apply to you. It's a story for another time. But if you're a generalist who falls off of the ladder in middle age, you can expect things like this:
“With a resume like that, why isn't he a CTO? Why doesn't he even have a job?”
You'll be asked questions about algorithms that you haven't thought about for 30 years. Or you'll go through coding tests under adverse conditions that don't allow you to show what you can do.
Plan ahead. Understand that the best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.
My own resume is located at:
These are my links. Yes, the technical site needs Twitter Bootstrap :P
Regards, Robert (the Old Coder)