Good Question

Did you hear about the guy who lost his left arm and leg in a car crash?
He’s all right now.

Did you hear about the man who was tap dancing?
He broke his ankle when he fell into the sink.

How do you get holy water?
Boil the hell out of it.

How does a spoiled rich girl change a lightbulb?
She says, “Daddy, I want a new apartment”.

What did the fish say when he hit a concrete wall?
“Dam”

What do Eskimos get from sitting on the ice too long?
Polaroids

What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t work?
A stick

What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?
Nacho cheese.

What do you call Santa’s helpers?
Subordinate Clauses

What do you get from a pampered cow?
Spoiled milk

What is a zebra?
26 sizes larger than an “A” bra

What kind of coffee was served on the Titanic?
Sanka

And what kind of lettuce?
Iceberg

What’s the difference between an oral thermometer and a rectal thermometer?
The taste

What’s the difference between roast beef and pea soup?
Anyone can roast beef

Where do you find a no legged dog?
Right where you left him

Why do gorillas have big nostrils?
Because they have big fingers

Why are there so many Smiths in the phone book?
They all have phones

More Difficult English

  1. The bandage was wound around the wound.
  2. The farm was used to produce produce.
  3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
  5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  10. I did not object to the object.
  11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  13. They were too close to the door to close it.
  14. The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  15. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  17. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  18. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  19. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  21. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.  English muffins weren’t invented in England nor French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted.  But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.  And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?

If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese.  So one moose, two meese?  One index, two indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.  If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?  If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.  In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?  Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?  Have noses that run and that smell?  How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all.

That is why,when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

P.S. Why doesn’t “Buick” rhyme with “quick”?

Things I Learned In The Movies

  1. Large, loft-style apartments in New York City are well within the price range of most people — whether they are employed or not.
  2. At least one of a pair of identical twins is born evil.
  3. Should you decide to defuse a bomb, don’t worry which wire to cut. You will always choose the right one.
  4. Most laptop computers are powerful enough to override the communications system of any invading alien society.
  5. It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts: your enemies will wait patiently to attack you one by one by dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their predecessors.
  6. When you turn out the light to go to bed, everything in your bedroom will still be clearly visible, just slightly bluish.
  7. If you are blonde and pretty, it is possible to become a world expert on nuclear fission at the age of 22.
  8. Honest and hard working policemen are traditionally gunned down three days before their retirement.
  9. Rather than wasting bullets, megalomaniacs prefer to kill their archenemies using complicated machinery involving fuses, pulley systems, deadly gasses, lasers, and man-eating sharks, which will allow their captives at least 20 minutes to escape.
  10. During all police investigations, it will be necessary to visit a strip club at least once.
  11. All beds have special L-shaped cover sheets that reach the armpit level on a woman but only to waist level on the man lying beside her.
  12. All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.
  13. It’s easy for anyone to land a plane providing there is someone in the control tower to talk you down.
  14. Once applied, lipstick will never rub off — even while scuba diving.
  15. You’re very likely to survive any battle in any war unless you make the mistake of showing someone a picture of your sweetheart back home.
  16. Should you wish to pass yourself off as a German or Russian officer, it will not be necessary to speak the language. A German or Russian accent will do. (It used to be an English accent for the German.)
  17. The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window in Paris.
  18. A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating, but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.
  19. If a large pane of glass is visible, someone will be thrown through it before long.
  20. If staying in a haunted house, women should investigate any strange noises in their most revealing underwear.
  21. Word processors never display a cursor on screen but will always say: Enter Password Now.
  22. Even when driving down a perfectly straight road, it is necessary to turn the steering wheel vigorously from left to right every few moments.
  23. All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they’re going to go off.
  24. A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.
  25. If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you meet will know all the steps.
  26. Police departments give their officers personality tests to makesure they are deliberately assigned a partner who is their total opposite.
  27. When they are alone, all foreign military officers prefer to speak to each other in English.

Things you always wanted to know…

…  but were afraid to ask.

If you yelled for 8 years, 7 months and 6 days you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee. (Hardly seems worth it.)

If you farted consistently for 6 years and 9 months, enough gas is produced to create the energy of an atomic bomb. (Now that’s more like it!)

The human heart creates enough pressure when it pumps out to the body to squirt blood 30 feet. (O.M.G.!)

A pig’s orgasm lasts 30 minutes. (In my next life, I want to be a pig.)

A cockroach will live nine days without its head before it starves to death. (Creepy.)  (I’m still not over the pig.)

Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour. (Do not try this at home… maybe at work.)

The male praying mantis cannot copulate while its head is attached to its body. The female initiates sex by ripping the male’s head off. (“Honey, I’m home… What the….?!”)

The flea can jump 350 times its body length. It’s like a human jumping the length of a football field. (30 minutes… can you imagine??)

The catfish has over 27,000 taste buds. (What could be so tasty on the bottom of a pond?)

Some lions mate over 50 times a day. (I still want to be a pig in my next life…quality over quantity.)

Butterflies taste with their feet. (Something I always wanted to know.)

The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue. (Hmmmmmm……..)

Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people do. (If you’re ambidextrous, do you split the difference?)

Elephants are the only animal that cannot jump. (OK, so that would be a good thing….)

A cat’s urine glows under a black light. (I wonder who was paid to figure that out?)

An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain. (I know some people like that.)

Starfish have no brains. (I know some people like that too.)

Polar bears are left-handed. (Who knew?!)

Humans and dolphins are the only species that have sex for pleasure. (What about that pig??)

English is Tough Stuff

This amusing and exhaustive treatment of the vagaries of English spelling and pronunciation comes from LA jokemeister Michael Klein, who says, “Get through this without having to unwind your tongue once or twice! I still can’t speak a day later!” BTW this piece looks British, judging from some of the spelling; if you are American, it will enhance your reading if you know that many Brits pronounce the word “ate” as though it were spelled (spelt?) “et.”
Multi-national personnel at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters near Paris found English to be an easy language … until they tried to pronounce it. To help them discard an array of accents, the verses below were devised. After trying them, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months at hard labor to reading six lines aloud. Try them yourself.

ENGLISH IS TOUGH STUFF

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Real Programmers Don’t Use PASCAL

I found the following in the deep crevices of my hard drive. It does speak to me but I would guess that not too many today are still getting the humor.

Nevertheless – here we go – for those who lived through those days in the early 80s…

Real Programmers Don’t Use PASCAL

By Ed Post

Back in the good old days–the “Golden Era” of computers, it was easy to separate the men from the boys (sometimes called “Real Men” and “Quiche Eaters” in the literature). During this period, the Real Men were the ones that understood computer programming, and the Quiche Eaters were the ones that didn’t. A real computer programmer said things like “DO 10 I=1,10” and “ABEND” (they talked in capital letters, you understand), and the rest of the world said things like “Computers are too complicated for me”, and “I can’t relate to computers–they’re so impersonal”. (A previous work [1] points out that Real Men don’t “relate to” anything, and aren’t afraid of being impersonal).

But, as usual, times change. We are faced today with a world in which little old ladies can get computers in their microwave ovens, 12 year old kids can blow Real Men out of the water playing Asteroids and Pac-Man, and anyone can buy and understand their very own Personal Computer. The Real Programmer is in danger of becoming extinct, of being replaced by high school students with TRS-80s.

There is a clear need to point out the differences between the typical high-school junior Pac-Man player and a Real Programmer. If this difference is made clear, it will give these kids something to aspire to– a role model, a Father figure. It will also help explain to the employers of Real Programmers why it would be a mistake to replace the Real Programmers on their staff with 12 year old Pac-Man players (at a considerable salary savings).

LANGUAGES

The easiest way to tell a Real Programmer from the crowd is by the programming language he (or she) uses. Real Programmers use FORTRAN. Quiche Eaters use Pascal. Nicklaus Wirth, the Designer of Pascal, gave a talk once at which he was asked “How do you pronounce your name?”. He replied, “You can call me by my name, pronouncing it ‘Veert’, or call me by value, ‘worth’.” One can tell immediately from this comment that Nicklaus Wirth is a Quiche Eater. The only parameter passing mechanism endorsed by Real Programmers is “call by value-return”, as implemented in the IBM/370 FORTRAN G and H compilers. Real Programmers don’t need all these abstract concepts to get their jobs done–they are perfectly happy with a keypunch, a FORTRAN IV compiler, and a beer.

  • Real Programmers do List Processing in FORTRAN
  • Real Programmers do String Manipulation in FORTRAN
  • Real Programmers do Accounting (if they do it at all) in FORTRAN
  • Real Programmers do Artificial Intelligence programs in FORTRAN

STRUCTURED PROGRAMMING

The academics in computer science have gotten into the “structured programming” rut over the past several years. They claim that programs are more easily understood if the programmer uses some special language constructs and techniques. They don’t all agree on exactly which constructs, of course, and the examples they use to show their particular point of view invariably fit on a single page of some obscure journal or another–clearly not enough of an example to convince anyone. When I got out of school, I thought I was the best programmer in the world. I could write an unbeatable tic-tac-toe program, use five different computer languages, and create 1000 line programs that WORKED. (Really!) Then I got out into the real world. My first task in the Real World was to read and understand a 200,000 line FORTRAN program, then speed it up by a factor of two. Any Real Programmer will tell you that all the Structured Coding in the world won’t help you solve a problem like that–it takes actual talent. Some quick observations on Real Programmers and Structured Programming.

  • Real Programmers aren’t afraid to use GOTO’s
  • Real Programmers can write five page long DO loops without getting confused
  • Real Programmers like Arithmetic IF statements–they make the code more interesting
  • Real Programmers write self-modifying code, especially if they can save 20 nanoseconds in the middle of a tight loop
  • Real Programmers don’t need comments–the code is obvious
  • Since FORTRAN doesn’t have a structured IF, REPEAT, … UNTIL, or CASE statement, Real Programmers don’t have to worry about not using them. Besides, they can be simulated, when necessary, by using assigned GOTO’s

Data structures hav also gotten a lot of press lately. Abstract Data Types, Structures, Pointers, Lists, and Strings have become popular in certain circles. Wirth (the above-mentioned Quiche Eater), actually wrote an entire book [2] contending that you could write a program based on data structures, instead of the other way around. As all Real Programmers know, the only useful data structure is the Array. Strings, Lists, Structures, Sets–these are all special cases of Arrays and can be treated that way just as easily without messing up your programming language with all sorts of complications. The worst thing about fancy data types is that you have to declare them, and Real Programming Languages, as we all know, have implicit typing based on the first letter of the (six character) variable name.

OPERATING SYSTEMS

What kind of operating system is used by a Real Programmer? DOS? God forbid–DOS, after all, is basically a toy operating system. Even little old ladies and grade school students can understand and use DOS.

UNIX is a lot more complicated of course–the typical UNIX hacker never can remember what the PRINT command is called this week–but when it gets right down to it, UNIX is a glorified video game. People don’t do serious work on Unix systems: they send jokes around the world on USENET and write adventure games and research papers.

No, your Real Programmer uses OS/370. A good programmer can find and understand the description of the IJK305I error he just got in his JCL manual. A great programmer can write JCL without referring to the manual at all. A truly outstanding programmer can find bugs buried in a 6 megabyte core dump without using a hex calculator. (I have actually seen this done.)

OS is a truly remarkable operating system. It’s possible to destroy days of work with a single misplaced space, so alertness in the programming staff is encouraged. The best way to approach the system is through a keypunch. Some people claim there is a Time Sharing System that runs on OS/370, but after careful study I have come to the conclusion that they are mistaken.

PROGRAMMING TOOLS

What kind of tools does a Real Programmer use? In theory, a Real Programmer could run his programs by keying them into the front panel of the computer. Back in the days when the computers had front panels, this was actually done occasionally. Your typical Real Programmer knew the entire boot-strap loader by memory in hex, and toggled it in whenever it got destroyed by his program, (back then, memory was memory–it didn’t go away when the power went off. Today, memory either forgets things when you don’t want it to, or remembers things long after they’re better forgotten.) Legend has it that Seymore Cray, inventor of the Cray I super computer and most of Control Data’s computers, acutally toggled the first operating system for the CDC7600 in on the front panel from memory when it was first powered on. Seymore needless to say was a Real Programmer.

One of my favorite Real Programmers was a systems programmer for Texas Instruments. One day, he got a long distance call from a user whose system had crashed in the middle of saving some important work. Jim was able to repair the damage over the phone, getting the user to toggle in disk I/O instructions at the front panel, repairing system tables in hex, reading registers back over the phone. The moral of this story: while a Real Programmer usually includes a keypunch and lineprinter in his toolkit, he can get along with just a front panel and a telephone in emergencies.

In some companies, text editing no longer consists of ten engineers standing in line to use an 029 keypunch. In fact, the building I work in doesn’t contain a single keypunch. The Real Programmer in this situation has to do his work with a “text editor” program. Most systems supply several text editors to select from, and the Real Programmer must be careful to pick one that reflects his personal style. Many people believe that the best text editors in the world were written at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center for use on their Alto and Dorado computers [3]. Unfortunately, no Real Programmer would ever use a computer whose operating system is called SmallTalk, and would certainly not talk to the computer with a mouse.

Some of the concepts in these Xerox editors have been incorporated into the editors running on more reasonably named operating systems– EMACS and VI being two. The problem with these editors is that Real Programmers consider “What you see is what you get” to be just as bad a concept in Text Editors as it is in women. No, the Real Programmer wants a “you asked for it, you got it” text editor–complicated, cryptic, powerful, unforgiving, dangerous. TECO, to be precise.

It has been observed that the TECO command sequence more closely resembles transmission line noise than readable text [4]. One of the more entertaining games to play with TECO is to type your name in as a command line and try to guess what it does. Just about any possible typing error while talking with TECO will probably destroy your program, or even worse– introduce subtle and mysterious bugs into a once working subroutine.

For this reason, Real Programmers are reluctant to actually edit a program that is close to working. They find it much easier to just patch in the binary object code directly, using a wonderful program called SUPERZAP (or its equivalent on non-IBM machines). This works so well that many working programs on IBM systems bear no relation to the original FORTRAN code. In many cases, the original source code is no longer available. When it comes time to fix a program like this, no manager would even think of sending anything less than a Real Programmer to do the job–no Quiche Eating structured programmer would even know where to start. This is called “job security”.

Some programming tools NOT used by Real Programmers:

  • Fortran pre-processors like MORTRAN and RATFOR. The Cuisinarts of programming–great for making Quiche. See comments above on structured programming.
  • Source language debuggers. Real Programmers can read core dumps.
  • Compilers with array bounds checking. They stifle creativity, destroy most of the interesting uses for EQUIVALENCE, and make it impossible to modify the operating system code with negative subscripts. Worst of all, bounds checking is inefficient.
  • Source code maintenance systems. A Real Programmer keeps his code locked up in a card file, because it implies that its owner cannot leave his important programs unguarded [5].

THE REAL PROGRAMMER AT WORK

Where does the typical Real Programmer work? What kind of programs are worthy of the efforts of so talented an individual? You can be sure that no Real Programmer would be caught dead writing accounts-receivable programs in COBOL, or sorting mailing lists for People Magazine. A Real Programmer wants tasks of earth-shaking importance (literally!).

  • Real Programmers work for Los Alamos National Laboratory, writing atomic bomb simulations to run on Cray supercomputers.
  • Real Programmers work for the National Security Agency, decoding Russian transmissions.
  • It was largely due to the efforts of thousands of Real Programmers working for NASA that our boys got to the moon and back before the Russkies.
  • The computers in the Space Shuttle were programmed by Real Programmers.
  • Real Programmers are at work for Boeing designing the operating systems for cruise missiles.

Some of the most awesome Real Programmers of all work at the Jet Propulsion Labs in California. Many of them know the entire operating system of the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft by heart. With a combination of large ground-based FORTRAN programs and small spacecraft-based assembly language programs, they are able to do incredible feats of navigation and improvisation –hitting ten-kilometer wide windows at Saturn after six years in space, repairing or bypassing damaged sensor platforms, radios, and batteries. Allegedly, one Real Programmer managed to tuck a pattern-matching program into a few hundred bytes of unused memory in a Voyager spacecraft that searched for, located, and photographed a new moon of Jupiter.

The current plan for Gallileo spacecraft is to use a gravity assist trajectory past Mars on the way to Jupiter. This trajectory passes within 80 +/- 3 kilometers of the surface of Mars. Nobody is going to trust a PASCAL program (or PASCAL programmer) for navigation to these tolerances.

As you can tell, many of the world’s Real Programmers work for the U. S. Government–mainly the Defense Department. This is as it should be. Recently, however, a black cloud has formed on the Real Programmer horizon. It seems that some highly placed Quiche Eaters at the Defense Department decided that all defense programs should be written in some grand unified language called “ADA” ((C), DoD). For a while, it seemed that ADA was destined to become a language that went against the precepts of Real Programming– a language with structure, a language with data types, strong typing, and semicolons. In short, a language designed to cripple the creativity of the typical Real Programmer. Fortunately, the language adopted by DoD has enough interesting features to make it approachable–it’s incredibly complex, includes methods for messing with the operating system and rearranging memory, and Edsgar Dijkstra doesn’t like it [6]. (Dijkstra, as I’m sure you know, was the author of “GoTos Considered Harmful”–a landmark work in programming methodology, applauded by Pascal Programmers and Quiche Eaters alike.) Besides, the determined Real Programmer can write FORTRAN programs in any language.

The Real Programmer might compromise his principles and work on something slightly more trivial than the destruction of life as we know it, providing there’s enough money in it. There are several Real Programmers building video games at Atari, for example. (But not playing them–a Real Programmer knows how to beat the machine every time: no challenge in that.) Everyone working at LucasFilm is a Real Programmer. (It would be crazy to turn down the money of fifty million Star Trek fans.) The proportion of Real Programmers in Computer Graphics is somewhat lower than the norm, mostly because nobody has found a use for Computer Graphics yet. On the other hand, all Computer Graphics is done in FORTRAN, so there are a fair number of people doing Graphics in order to avoid having to write COBOL programs.

THE REAL PROGRAMMER AT PLAY

Generally, the Real Programmer plays the same way he works–with computers. He is constantly amazed that his employer actually pays him to do what he would be doing for fun anyway (although he is careful not to express this opinion out loud.) Occasionally, the Real Programmer does step out of the office for a breath of fresh air and a beer or two. Some tips on recognizing the Real Programmer away from the computer room:

  • At a party, Real Programmers are the ones in the corner talking about operating systems security and how to get around it.
  • At a football game, the Real Programmer is the one comparing the plays against his simulations printed on 11 by 14 fanfold paper.
  • At the beach, the Real Programmer is the one drawing flowcharts in the sand.
  • At a funeral, the Real Programmer is the one saying “Poor George. And he almost had the sort routine working before the coronary.”
  • In a grocery store the Real Programmer is the one who insists on running the cans past the laser checkout scanner himself, because he never could trust keypunch operators to get it right the first time.

THE REAL PROGRAMMER’S NATURAL HABITAT

What sort of environment does the Real Programmer function best in? This is an important question for the managers of Real Programmers. Considering the amount of money it costs to keep one on the staff, it’s best to put him (or her) in an environment where he can get his work done.

The typical Real Programmer lives in front of a computer terminal. Surrounding this terminal are:

  • Listings of all programs the Real Programmer has ever worked on, piled in roughly chronological order on every flat surface in the office.
  • Some half-dozen or so partly filled cups of cold coffee. Occasionally there will be cigarette butts floating in the coffee. In some cases, the cups will contain Orange Crush.
  • Unless he is very good, there will be copies of the JCL manual and the Principles of Operation open to some particularly interesting pages.
  • Taped to the wall is a line-printer Snoopy calendar for the year 1969.
  • Strewn about the floor are several wrappers for peanut butter filled cheese bars–the type that are made pre-stale at the bakery so they can’t get any worse while waiting in the vending machine.
  • Hiding in the top left-hand drawer of the desk is a stash of doublestuff Oreos for special occasions.
  • Underneath the Oreos is a flow-charting template, left there by the previous occupant of the office. (Real Programmers write programs, not documentation. Leave that to the maintenance people.)

The Real Programmer is capable of working 30, 40, even 50 hours at a stretch, under intense pressure. In fact, he prefers it that way. Bad response time doesn’t bother the Real Programmer–it gives him a chance to catch a little sleep between compiles. If there is not enough schedule pressure on the Real Programmer, he tends to make things more challenging by working on the same small but interesting part of the problem for the first nine weeks, then finishing the rest in the last week, in two or three 50-hour marathons. This not only impresses the hell out of his manager, who was despairing of ever getting the project done on time, but creates a convenient excuse for not doing the documentation. In general:

  • No Real Programmer works 9 to 5. (Unless it’s the ones at night.)
  • A Real Programmer might or might not know his wife’s name. He does, however, know the entire ASCII (or EBCDIC) code table.
  • Real Programmers don’t know how to cook. Grocery stores aren’t open at three in the morning. Real Programmers survive on Twinkies and coffee.

THE FUTURE

What of the future? It is a matter of some concern to Real Programmers that the latest generation of computer programmers are being brought up with the same outlook on life as their elders. Many of them have never seen a computer with a front panel. Hardly anyone graduating from school these days can do hex arithmetic without a calculator. College graduates these days are soft–protected from the realities of programming by source level debuggers, text editors that count parentheses, and “user friendly” operating systems. Worst of all, some of these alleged “computer scientists” manage to get degrees without ever learning FORTRAN! Are we destined to become an industry of Unix hackers and Pascal programmers?

From my experience, I can only report that the future is bright for Real Programmers everywhere. Neither the OS/370 nor FORTRAN show any signs of dying out, despite all the efforts of Pascal programmers the world over. Even more subtle tricks, like adding structured coding constructs to FORTRAN have failed. Oh sure, some computer vendors have come out with FORTRAN 77 compilers, but every one of them has a way of converting itself back into a FORTRAN 66 compiler at the drop of an option card–to compile DO loops like God meant them to be.

Even Unix might not be as bad on Real Programmers as it once was. The latest release of Unix has the potential of an operating system worthy of any Real Programmer–two different and subtly incompatible user interfaces, an arcane and complicated teletype driver, virtual memory. If you can ignore the fact that it’s “structured”, even ‘C’ programming can be appreciated by the Real Programmer: after all, there’s no type checking, variable names are seven (ten? eight?) characters long, and the added bonus of the Pointer data type is thrown in–like having the best parts of FORTRAN and assembly language in one place. (Not even talking about #define.)

No, the future isn’t all that bad. Why, in the past few years, the popular press has even commented on the bright new crop of computer heros and hackers ([7], [8]) leaving places like Stanford and MIT for the Real World.

From all the evidence, the spirit of Real Programming lives on in these young men and women. As long as there are ill-defined goals, bizarre bugs, and unrealistic schedules, there will be Real Programmers willing to jump in and Solve the Problem, saving the documentation for later. Long live FORTRAN!

REFERENCES

[1] Feirstein, B., "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche", 
    New York, Pocket Books, 1982

[2] Wirth, N., "Algorithm + Data Structures = Programs", 
    Prentice Hall, 1976

[3] XEROX PARC editors....

[4] Finseth, C., "Theory and Practice of Text Editors -or- 
    a cookbook for EMACS", B.S. Thesis, MIT/LCS/TM-165, 
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May, 1980

[5] Weinberg, G., "The Psychology of Computer Programming", 
    New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1971, p. 110

[6] Dijkstra, E., "On the GREEN language submitted to the DOD",
    Sigplan Notices, Vol. 3 No. 10, Oct., 1978

[7] Rose, Frank, "Joy of Hacking", 
    Science 82, Vol. 3 No. 9, Nov. 82, pp. 58-66

[8] "The Hacker Papers", Psychology Today, Aug. 1980

Thoughts on Reality

I ran into the following article today and just have to share it:

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions — sights, sounds, textures, tastes — are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it — or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion — we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like…

Continue reading at The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality

It doesn’t seem like many people in neuroscience or philosophy of mind are thinking about fundamental physics. Do you think that’s been a stumbling block for those trying to understand consciousness?

Synchronicity

Let us look at synchronicity, and do so without using the faith that there is something outside of me (or you, as it is you, reading this.)
 
In order to try to break the faith-based thinking, that there must be something outside of us, I will, from now on, speak with your (dear reader’s) voice: If I don’t make any faith-based assumptions, then the only fact I can be sure about is I, the reader of these lines. The writer might or might not exist as a separate entity. But the only thing I do know is that I perceive these lines and thoughts. I can not discard the possibility that these are my own creations just as images in dreams look external to me but are in fact created by me.
 
Now back to synchronicities – if they are my creations, then I created the two events, that are connected by meaning, myself in this fashion and any surprise about the connection of these events is very illogical – how could I be surprised by something that I designed and created in exactly this fashion and with these characteristics?
The cast of LOST
I contemplated this today when watching an episode of the old TV show ‘Lost.’ This is a show that just lives on synchronicities. One character, Hurley, is fighting to distinguish what is real and what is his imagination. No solution is offered to the viewer and when, in the last scene of the episode, his friend, a psychiatrist who tries to show him what is real, is shown as an inmate of a psychiatric ward, I had to admit I admired the writers for their skill to mess with my mind.
 
Running into  these shows of Lost, and this messing with my mind right after just writing my last post, I first considered this to be a “wow-synchronicity.” But on deeper contemplation there was no synchronicity, just causality – if I just wrote an article questioning the so-called reality and calling it faith-based, then – obviously – I would create incidents occurring thereafter being in alignment with these thoughts.
 
If I create my world all by myself, I can at least construct it in a fashion that entertains me and gives me a few surprises. I have to admit, though, that it is a neat trick to surprise oneself – it requires a good deal of forgetting.
 
Now I just have to figure out how I create coming events in a fashion so that it contains some challenges, but none too difficult ones that would give me suffering.

Exploring the Senses with Your Senses

In one form or another, we all have heard the old philosophical wisdom “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am), proposed by René Descartes.
 
Meditating over this statement, we eventually realize that this is pretty much all we actually will ever know with certainty.
 
To illustrate this, let’s look at a very lucid dream we might have experienced once. I, for example, remember one where I had gained many riches in the form of money or gold. Not sure what exactly it was, but I remember that I could really feel this valuable possession in my hand. If you right now take your mouse into your hand and feel its surface, its weight, its temperature – this is very similar to how I experienced these riches.
 
Then, to my great dismay, the thought crept into my mind that I will be waking up. It became more and more certain that these riches would be gone when I woke up, so I fought waking up. If you ever tried to not wake up, you know how hopeless this undertaking is. As I slid more into my waking state, the thought became more real that there was nothing in my hand, yet I could still feel it.
 
I ended up having to consciously open my hand to convince myself that nothing would fall out of it – and, obviously, nothing fell.
 
Looking back at that incident I could not help comparing it with my immediate certainty that I sit here in front of the computer screen, typing along on my keyboard and definitely feel the keys moving under my fingers. I feel my feet touching the carpet, I sense its structure and temperature – all very comparable to my sensations of the riches in my hand while I was dreaming (as I know now.)
 
Why am I so sure that my perceptions of the environment I experience now are different than my perceptions while dreaming? Looking at it philosophically, I have to admit that this certainty is completely unfounded.
 
We perceive our environment through our senses and that dream-experience showed me clearly that I can not trust my senses. There is no proof possible that this table I am sitting at is something that exists outside of me. Any means to prove its existence depends on my senses:
 
  • I can touch it – my sense of touch
  • I can see it – my sense of vision
  • Somebody describes it to me – my sense of hearing

et cetera.

There are perceptions, we would all agree, that are not quite as solid as these perceptions of elements of the physical world. Let’s take a religious perception for example, where somebody is certain that she experienced god. For this person it might be as real as the pain I feel when the hammer hits my finger instead of the nail. But most people will agree that this is a more subjective reality.
 
In principle, though, there is no difference between these perceptions.
 
Therefore you will have to accept as you read this, that the existence of a person who wrote these lines is purely a matter of faith – you believe, that there is, or was, a person who sat at his computer at one time and wrote these words – but you certainly have no proof.