How I Got Started In Programming

I've got a storied career. I went from being a draft resister hippie type near the end of the Vietnam War to being an expediter at a nuclear power plant construction company near Wall Street, then finally left New York for warmer weather in Florida where I spent a couple of years as a real estate broker and eventually landed at Merrill Lynch as a financial consultant. I stayed at Merrill for about 8 years.

It was at Merrill that I first became interested in programming. I had been graphing the technical indicators from Bob Farrell's group in New York with colored pencils and there was an older guy at the Orlando office who had a TRS-80 and printer. So I learned to program the indicator data in BASIC and print out graphs. Before long I had saved up $3500 to buy an Apple IIe and began seriously studying BASIC. Later I enrolled in an external doctoral program to get my PhD in economics, and a good part of my dissertation was spent coding FFT algorithms in Turbo Basic.

Later on I made plenty of money as a developer with Visual Basic 5 and 6. Then I got into web programming with classic ASP and learned to use javascript. To this day I still recommend that beginning programmers learn javascript as their first programming language.  Finally in 2000 I attended the Microsoft PDC in Orlando and got the first 6-CD set of .Net and I was hooked. It's been .NET and C# ever since, and as an ex Microsoft MVP for 10 years I can say that Microsoft has been very good to me.

Software development is one of the few professions where you can earn six figures with no formal degree. But it takes a certain kind of personality. Programmers are paid to think, and that requires a logical, problem-solving type of mindset - and a lot of patience and motivation to learn.

I hope some readers will get insight from this.


CO2 - What we know


The Redistribution Fallacy

The recent rants of Bernie Sanders about taxing the rich to provide benefits is not really news. Barack Obama said the same thing to Joe the Plumber some years ago.

Those who talk about redistribution often act as if people are just inert objects that can be placed here and there, like pieces on a chess board, to carry out some grand

design. But human beings have their own responses to government policies, and consequently we cannot just assume that government policies will have the effect intended.

The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty. The communist nations were a classic

example, but by no means the only example.

In theory, confiscating the wealth of the more successful people ought to make the rest of the society more prosperous. But when the Soviet Union confiscated the wealth of

successful farmers, food became scarce. As many people died of starvation under Stalin in the 1930s as died in Hitler's Holocaust in the 1940s.

You can only confiscate the wealth that exists at a given moment. You cannot confiscate future wealth -- and that future wealth is less likely to be produced when people see

that it is going to be confiscated. Farmers in the Soviet Union cut back on how much time and effort they invested in growing their crops, when they realized that the

government was going to take a big part of the harvest. They slaughtered and ate young farm animals that they would normally keep tending and feeding while raising them to


People in industry are not inert objects either. Moreover, unlike farmers, industrialists are not tied to the land in a particular country.

Russian aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky could take his expertise to America and produce his planes and helicopters thousands of miles away from his native land. Financiers are

even less tied down, especially today, when vast sums of money can be dispatched electronically to any part of the world.

If confiscatory policies can produce counterproductive repercussions in a dictatorship, they are even harder to carry out in a democracy. A dictatorship can suddenly swoop

down and grab whatever it wants. But a democracy must first have public discussions and debates. Those who are targeted for confiscation can see the handwriting on the wall,

and act accordingly.

Among the most valuable assets in any nation are the knowledge, skills and productive experience that economists call "human capital." When successful people with much human

capital leave the country, either voluntarily or because of hostile governments or hostile mobs whipped up by demagogues exploiting envy, lasting damage can be done to the

economy they leave behind. This happened recently in France. Hollande decided to tax the wealthy at 75 percent. They simply left the country. He ended up repealing the


Fidel Castro's confiscatory policies drove successful Cubans to flee to Florida, often leaving much of their physical wealth behind. But poverty-stricken refugees rose to

prosperity again in Florida, while the wealth they left behind in Cuba did not prevent the people there from being poverty stricken under Castro. The lasting wealth the

refugees took with them was their human capital.

If the redistributionists were serious, what they would want to distribute is the ability to  be productive. Knowledge is one of the few things that can be distributed to

people without reducing the amount held by others.

That would better serve the interests of the poor, but it would not serve the interests of politicians who want to exercise power, and to get the votes of people who are

dependent on them.

Bernie Sanders can endlessly proclaim his slogan of "fairness," but what he is proposing is going backwards to policies that have failed repeatedly in countries around the


Yet, to many people who cannot be bothered to stop and think, redistribution sounds good.