Thursday, July 31, 2003

What’s the correct way to make software developers contemplate the prospect of death?

After many meetings in which we discussed conservative scheduling, good project planning, overlapping skill coverage and elegant staffing, I can tell you that there seems to be exactly one way to suggest the unsuggestable. Somehow, no one seems to take offense at, or to be embarrassed to say, this:
Suppose you get hit by a truck?

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Formerly Apathetic Youth Swing Election:

My blog will rarely discuss politics, but this story suggests an amazing change in society. I'm quoting from this Forbes article about the Internet swinging an election: "Koreans realized they had entered a new era after the last presidential elections. By 11 a.m. on Dec. 19, exit poll results showed that the iconoclastic Roh Moo Hyun, 56, a 2-to-1 favorite among youth, was losing the election. His supporters hit the chat rooms to drum up support. Within minutes more than 800,000 e-mails were sent to mobiles to urge supporters to go out and vote. Traditionally apathetic young voters surged to the polls and, by 2 p.m., Roh took the lead and went on to win the election."

Tuesday, July 29, 2003


I’m glad it’s my friend (and not I) who can tell this story first hand. In the 1960’s IBM and RCA both invented mass storage devices popularly called “honeycombs”. The idea was to have a massive container full of data modules that could be sucked (by vacuum) through tubes, mounted and read when needed. A hardware repair guy at RCA turned one of these systems off and then opened up one of the vacuum tubes to do some maintenance. Only somehow he had not turned it off. There was a “THWOCK” and a data module appeared next to the guy, impaled in the wall. The corner of its circuit board was buried more an inch into the gypsum, and it was quivering in the air next to his face. The guy set his tool box down, walked off, and no one at RCA ever saw him again.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Just the Punchline, please:

Please imagine with me what surely happened: a writer thought of the punchline first, laughed out loud at its wonderful appeal, and then painfully, with much brain-cudgeling, managed to fill in the whole joke. Here’s the punchline:
Shoot the chihuahua.
You’ll easily find the whole joke on the web. Just search for that punchline.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The right way to wash dishes rarely:

You say you want to leave dirty dishes in the sink for days at a time? You’ll be happier if you don’t encourage the anaerobic bacteria that create the worst smells. When you stack dishes, put a utensil between every pair to let air in. The worst smells develop in airless pockets between dirty dishes.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Know nothing:

English has this peculiar rule that a double negative equals a positive. People, bear in mind that most other languages use a double negative to accentuate the negative. Are we English-speakers not weird not?

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Rebbe Naphtali’s immortal quote:

Three principal virtues enable man to comprehend and communicate truth. They are: kindness, devotion, and intelligence. Kindness alone leads to promiscuity; devotion alone comes close to stupidity; intelligence alone is conducive to crime. So it is essential that the three qualities be present together for man to benefit from them.
- Rebbe Naphtali of Ropshitz, quoted by Elie Wiesel in Four Hasidic Masters.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Yann Arthus-Bertrand:

Yann Arthus-Bertrand is an extraordinary photographer, backed by a team of thirteen skilled and creative people. Click the link just previous, select your language, then click on “photography” to see his annotated series of landscapes “from above”. This is a long series (click the “right arrow” button to go on and on). After you have viewed many of these striking pictures your feelings about the world we live in are likely to change.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Today’s fortuitous Internet typo has just has an extra word:

Subtract the excess word from this actual headline and it will suddenly make perfect sense:
Friend needs to know who all about person entrusted to child's care

Monday, July 21, 2003

Minuet in anticipation:

Tschaikovsky was once asked what he did while waiting for inspiration. He replied, "I compose music." (Not a silly answer, when you think about it.)

Sunday, July 20, 2003

When you look for something and you finally find it...

Do you put it back where you found it, where you first looked for it, or where it belongs? Somehow I think the best answer is: try not to be too consistent.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Red Potion number 9:

If industrial food colors were good for you, they would have names instead of numbers.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Be the Passer, not the Passed:

Do you have a long commute on a multilane highway, and do you wish you were so clever about lane changes that you passed lots of cars all the time? Here’s how to learn to do it: First, as you drive on this road, keep reminding yourself that you really want to learn to know when to change lanes. (That should be easy, you’re probably obsessed with this already.) Second, as you drive, look everywhere and feed as much data to your mind as you can. It’s especially important to keep constant track of the traffic patterns as far ahead as you can possibly see. Look to the sides, check the rear view mirror, and check WAY ahead. Within weeks your mind will recognize patterns and make good intuitive lane-changing decisions, and you will drive happier. Do NOT expect to understand all of your new lane-changing urges. This is neural net stuff, and the winning intuitions can not be expressed in verbal thought.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Leeches are back:

Up to a few decades ago, medical treatment was faddish, unscientific and embarrassingly dangerous to the patients who received it. People have been saying the same thing for hundreds of years.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

What’s the correct way to make software developers contemplate the prospect of death?

After many meetings in which we discussed conservative scheduling, good project planning, overlapping skill coverage and elegant staffing, I can tell you that there seems to be exactly one way to suggest the unsuggestable. Somehow, no one seems to take offense at, or to be embarrassed to say, this:
Suppose you get hit by a truck?

Monday, July 14, 2003

When I drive my Zen Automobile...

You hear the sound of one wheel spinning.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

“I’m narrow but not dim.”

A recent column in the New York Times discussed the coming-out experience of a “Bright.” Bright is a new meme, describing a person whose worldview is free of religious, supernatural and mystical elements; the ethics and actions of a Bright are based on a naturalistic worldview. (What does a Bright say when someone sneezes?) Brights hope that by coining a term for themselves, they can be transformed from a scattering of individuals into a minority group of significance. I practice a major religion myself, but I can empathize with people who reject such concepts as astrology and ghosts. So: how should I express this in my bumper sticker?

Friday, July 11, 2003

No incisions, please:

The porn industry tends to be a leading user of new computer technologies. What will happen when they get hold of the tools being developed so that surgeons can operate remotely? For example, see: 'Staying in Touch' Over the Internet.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Pair swapping is commutative:

How difficult would it be to realize that you were suffering from double dyslexia?

Wednesday, July 09, 2003


George Carlin wrote this as a joke, but in a few years we may be able to answer his question with a simple we don’t:
"If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?"

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Today’s fortuitous Internet typo goes naked:

(“Fortuitous typo” items will speculate about actual typos found on the Internet:)
Please bare with me…

Monday, July 07, 2003


In English you can always tell when someone misuses an apostrophe. Thats because apostrophes are never required to remove ambiguity. Theyre pointless, lets get rid of them. (Apologies РI dont quite have the nerve to take my own advice in this blog. Might look declass̩ you know.)

Sunday, July 06, 2003

When did you stop beating your drum?

There is one thing that makes it easy for scandal to destroy a politician: lack of substance. If a pol or government official has a string of accomplishments, he or she, and the press, will always have something else to talk about.
I believe this was a large part of Gary Hart’s problem. Clinton's, too.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Friday, July 04, 2003

We need more Buglers:

A July 4th thought: These days when our veterans are put to rest, a recording of Taps is often played on a boom box. There are thousands of fine brass players who know - or could learn to play - the bugle well, and could donate their services so that the fine ritual of a live performance of Taps occurs. I hope to learn bugle myself when I retire and take a few trips down to Arlington for this very purpose.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Would you answer that?

In the 1980’s, this was a "fortune" in the BSD distribution of UNIX:
“One good reason why computers can do more work than people is that they never have to stop and answer the phone.”
So now you know why computers do less work than they used to.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Guess who’s blogging now:

The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was caught because his brother recognized his writing style. Here’s the Kaczynski challenge: Author a blog anonymously in such a way that even your dearest ones will not realize it’s you: change your writing style, write about things you know nothing about, and, um, in that case why would you bother?

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Our amateurs are particularly skilful:

Like you, I've received lots of porn spam. My favorite item made this boast: We use professional amateurs.
However I suspect they’re lying. I’ll bet they use amateurish professionals.