When I was in high school, my family hosted an exchange student, a girl from Finland, about my age. We became quite close, and on the icy cold (by South African standards, not Finish standards!) winter morning when she had to say goodbye to all her South African friends, the melancholy hung like a dark cloud over our house. On an impulsive schoolboy whim, I devised a diversion – I dared my friend to jump into the cold swimming pool with me before we set off to school together for the last time. This distraction served us well – our brooding sadness was washed away by the icy water and the nervous laughter of excitement it stirred in us.
I’ve been brooding on the idea of starting a blog for a long time. There are a number of reasons for this. First, I have been only a reader for a long time – now I want to contribute. Another is my hope that sharing my technological experiments and musings may lead to input from others, others in a community I would love to collaborate in. And hopefully that collaboration will lead to more discovery, perhaps even move nervous laughter of excitement!
The point I am trying to make with this rather random story is this – I have made the jump into the cold water. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do once I’m in it, but now my feet are wet, and I’m excited. Herewith my brave foray into the world of technical blogging – or any blogging for that matter. A start has to be made at some point, and skill is best learned by exercise. So bear with me as I figure out what I want to say, how I want to say it, and how to best manipulate WordPress to present it as I see fit.
Absurdly, I originally started this post while sitting in the passenger seat of a 4×4 driving through the Caprivi region in the northern part of Namibia, surrounded by small clusters of the mud and wood huts characteristic of this area, and spotting the occasional elephant (no jokes). I realise that this location is more often the inspiration for African Safari adventure blogs than passionate descriptions of algorithms, but these contradictions are part of living in Namibia.
I was born and raised in South Africa, beautiful Stellenbosch to be exact. When I was about 10 years old, my eldest sister, having just started studying electronic engineering, attempted to teach me some PASCAL. My father, himself a seasoned electronic engineer, soon intervened and suggested BASIC as a more appropriate programming language for a child of my age, barely able to speak a regular language other than my native Afrikaans at the time.
I fell in love with programming right away. The ability to tell the machine what to do, and to have it perform tedious calculations I would be far too lazy to do myself, provided hours of pleasure! I went on to study Electronic Engineering with Computer Science at the University of Stellenbosch, and during my postgrad, I started to realise that I enjoyed programming a lot more than the rest of my engineering work. When I shared this epiphany with a friend, she pointed out something I had failed to notice for a long time – whenever I posted a really excited work related status update on Facebook, it was because I had finally gotten some terrific piece of code to work.
One would think that at this point my career choice would be pretty obvious. However, a diversion! I met this girl… Long story short, I ended up moving to her native Namibia and marrying her. In fact, I am playing Scrabble with her at this very moment on the porch of our Windhoek home! So that worked out really well for me.
Namibia has a lot to offer. Wide open spaces, more biltong than could possible be good for you, some of the most picturesque environments I have ever seen, and a wonderfully relaxed lifestyle with a ludicrous number of public holidays (especially in May). However, it does not offer much in the line of professional software development career opportunities. I ended up working as a consulting electrical engineer at a small firm, where I have been for 3 years. It is this position that has afforded me the wonderful opportunity to be driving around in the Caprivi strip with a netbook on my lap. And it’s been good – I’ve seen massive stretches of one of the most interesting African countries (in my opinion), and I’ve had the chance to experience its bizarre blend of German, Afrikaans and African cultures.
But its time for a change. I am hoping to make a shift into a more software centred work environment – overseas if need be. And this blog is a medium for me to chronicle my progress as I attempt to broaden my technological horizons with this dream constantly in my sights.
That concludes my introduction – my next post promises to be much more technical, and somewhat more daunting to write. But at least now I got my feet wet – the swimming part can’t be that difficult…