There’s a distinctly nautical flavour to May’s Member of the Month, as the award goes to … drum roll … captainccs.
captainccs, or Denny Schlesinger as he is known in the real world, is to be found almost exclusively in the PHP forum, where he offers help and advice based on his many years of coding experience.
I recently caught up with Denny and ask him a few questions to mark the occasion:
Congratulations on being awarded the MoTM badge for May, captainccs. How do you feel?
I see from your SP profile that you’re located in Venezuela. Is that your home country, or did something else take you there?
I describe myself as a “Caraqueño born in Berlin.” We left Germany on account of the war.
Oh, I see. At least that explains why you have a German flag on your blog.
Anyway, I’ve got to ask: your avatar is currently a parrot (a Mitred Conure if I’m not mistaken). What’s with that? You’re not a pirate, are you?
Any captain worth his salt has a parrot.
A little bird tells me (groan) that you’ve been coding for over fifty years. That’s a long time. How did you get started?
When I dropped out of school my dad got me a job as a programmer at the IBM Service Bureau in Caracas. They gave me a desk, a 50 page manual, took me to a client and told them I was the computer expert assigned to their account. On the way back to the office I asked my boss what the difference was between a listing and a tabulation. I’ve never stopped asking questions since.
And what changes have you seen over this period (e.g. the emergence of new technologies, developments in hardware).
Too many to list. Let’s just say that my first mainframe, with 2000 vacuum tubes but with less processing power than a modern hand held device, took up a whole room and required two huge air-conditioners to keep it cool.
Wow! I can hardly imagine that.
You must also have worked with a range of programming languages. Which is your favourite and which do you dislike most? Why?
Programming is more art than science. A good language is one the artist feels comfortable with, one that helps in the creation process instead of putting unnecessary burdens on the programmer.
Pascal was never designed to be a production language, it was designed to teach orderliness. RPN languages like Forth are the most powerful but very difficult for programmers to keep track of things with, so they wither and die. HyperCard and FileMaker are difficult to work with because they are too compartmentalized. Large projects are difficult without objects. OOP is nature’s way: molecules make cells, cells make organs, organs make animals, animals make families, families make clans or tribes or city states or nations. The difficulty is designing good objects. Currently my language of choice is PHP.
People often have asked me if I program in English or in Spanish. “No, in C.” I reply or in whatever was in vogue at the time. LOL
So, how does SitePoint fit into all of this? How did you find out about the forums and what made you want to stay?
SitePoint is one of the best destinations to find answers to your programming questions. Of course, I found SitePoint by googling, by looking for answers to my questions.
There is one other site that might have more professional programming answers but they have too many hoops you need to jump through. They work too hard at keeping themselves pure. SitePoint has the right mix to keep you coming back.
What do you like best about SitePoint and what areas do you think could do with some improvement? Please don’t be shy
I visit the PHP forum almost exclusively. The one thing that bugs me no end is the darn tooltip that keeps blocking what I’m looking at. Too much of a good thing is bad.
With all this talk of coding, I’m presuming this is what you do for a living. Is that correct?
I’m retired with almost no clients left. I now code mostly for the fun of it.
On a culinary note, what is Venezuelan cuisine like? Do you have a favourite dish?
I’ve lost 30 pounds since I switched to my “caveman diet” a quasi vegetarian regime.
Arturo Uslar Pietri was a well respected Venezuelan intellectual and a frequent speaker on TV and radio. He said that the “real” melting pot happened not in the bedroom but in the kitchen! Venezuelan cuisine is a mixture of European, African and Amerind. Although there are two or three “national dishes” the variety is really extensive.
One such national dish is the hallaca (hayaca) which is one of the three obligatory Christmas fares. The hallaca is a savory (not spicy) stew wrapped in a corn dough, wrapped in plantain leaves, and tied up with string. At an IBM 100% Club meeting hallacas were served, of course, to show off our stuff. Someone is reputed to have asked an American visitor: “How do you like the hallaca?” “It’s great but the salad is a bit tough” (you’re not supposed to eat the banana leaves).
I see you have a blog where you share your thoughts on everything from error reporting in PHP to making banana fritters. What inspired you to start that?
I registered Software Times in 1998 to teach myself about the WWW. As the name implies, the site was to be about software but it grew in other directions as well. My first host was a Mac/Filemaker server. At the time Filemaker and Excel were my programming tools of choice with Claris Home Page 3.0 as my HTML editor. But Filemaker and Home Page were neither mainstream nor very practical so I switched to LAMP which turned out to be a great choice.
Software Times remained pretty much private until I got fed up with an investing forum I frequented and I started to post about investing. Other subjects became important enough to have their own indexes. Software Times now has software, cooking, Venezuela, and books as secondary indexes but I’m about to kill the books section.
And finally, as a coding veteran, what words of wisdom can you give to people who are just starting off?
Get organized and keep it simple. A programmer spends most of his time debugging, not writing code. The less organized you are and the more complex your code, the more time you are going to spend debugging instead of coding. Write reusable code which raises your level of efficiency. And most important, write for the website visitor, respect good user interface guidelines. Apple’s are the best and they are freely available online. And remember that Google is half your audience: if your website cannot be found on Google it might as well not exist.
Sherlock Holmes was the best debugger there ever was except he worked on crime instead of on software, but the method is the same. Look for the evidence to trap the criminal bug.
Oops, I almost forgot the obligatory silly question: pirates or ninjas?
Now please join me in offering your congratulations to Denny and thanking him for his on-going help and support on the forums.