The 10-year anniversary of this blog is rapidly approaching and it is not lost on me that it has been laying rather fallow of late. I know others with long-running geospatial blogs have experienced similar situations at around the decade mark, and that only seems natural. If you are living your life well, the motivations and interests that prompt you to start an online presence such as this evolve over the course of a decade.


When I started this blog, it was simply to create the kind of resource that I had been looking for: code-heavy posts that showed how to accomplish tasks I was working. I did that in the hope that others would find it useful, but also to serve as my own personal archive. Now, such resources are abundant as companies and projects recognize the need to engage via blogs and social media.

Of course, all such outlets now seem to be some sort of “official” arm of a company or organization or project. It seems to be increasingly difficult to find a “sole-proprietorship” blog that’s being kept current. It’s not for me to say whether that is positive or negative. I speak from experience when I say it is difficult to maintain such a venture over time, and I certainly see where being part of a content team has advantages.

Continue reading “Directions”

Other People’s Code

It’s something of a running joke that, you hand existing code to a developer, that developer will stay up all night completely re-writing it. I wish I could say it was completely a joke but, not only have I seen it happen numerous times, I’ve done it.

Counter-intuitively, some developers find it easier to use an existing application as a storyboard for a re-write rather than simply digging into the existing code. This is because programming is not only an extremely mental activity, it is quite psychological as well. When you are asked to take over existing code, as has happened to me a few time recently, you are not only learning the code, you are are also become familiar with how the previous developer(s) approached problem solving. You must train yourself to think like the previous developer in order to understand their approach.

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My Path to GIS

TL;DR: This post is long and there is no summary.

When you reach a certain stage in your career, you start fielding more and more inquiries from those younger than you about how you got started in your field. In my case, the field is GIS. The short answer, and not a particularly uncommon one, I’ve discovered, is “by accident.” I have previously documented that I landed my first job through one of my regulars at the bar I was tending at the time. I’ve also documented how I became interested in maps and programming at an early age. There are, however, a few more dots to connect.


My love of maps remained avocational and really went dormant as I got more into programming. During my middle school and high school years, I wrote BASIC code on my Commodore 64 to automate Dungeons and Dragons tasks. This was in a time before the internet was available in homes and, since we lived in a pretty rural area of Maryland, every call was long-distance. As a result, there was no way my parents would let me dial into bulletin boards. So I did it the old-fashioned way: checking out programming books from the public library. I had a few other friends who were into programming as well so we shared what we learned.

Continue reading “My Path to GIS”