Category Archives: Thoughts

Attitude is Everything

The following story was written by Francie Baltazar-Schwartz and I re-discovered it in my ‘nice-stuff’ folder. I thought it might be better out here on the web than in the crevices of my computer. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do…

Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!”

He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, “I don’t get it! You can’t be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?” Jerry replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, ‘Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.’ I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining, or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.”

“Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,” I protested.

“Yes, it is,” Jerry said. “Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line:
It’s your choice how you live life.”

I reflected on what Jerry said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it. Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.

I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Wanna see my scars?”

I declined to see his wounds but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place. “The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door,” Jerry replied. “Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live.”

“Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?” I asked.

Jerry continued, “The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, ‘He’s a dead man.’ “I knew I needed to take action.”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me,” said Jerry. “She asked if I was allergic to anything. ‘Yes,’ I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breathe and yelled, ‘Bullets!’ Over their laughter, I told them. ‘I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.”

Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.

You have 2 choices now:

  1. save or delete this mail from your mail box.
  2. forward it to anyone you care about.

Hope you will choose choice 2.

In the beginning, there was NewCiv

There was a time when there were no blogs.

Yes, really!

There were internet providers – the first one for me was, if I remember correctly, Primenet – from which you could get a few MB of space for your own website. That was at a time when you often saw the notice “This site best viewed with Netscape Navigator” on these very web pages. Even though Al Gore had invented the internet he had not yet given us good guidelines on how to consistently access it with predictable results. It was sweet anarchy.

Newciv.org broke into this climate. This was a simple Intel (probably) 386 computer with a modem as a connection to that World Wide Web. Hardly any private person could afford a permanent internet connection, so a dial-up line had to do. With an automatic re-dial when the connection was lost and a repeated access to some page at the provider in order to avoid being hung up due to non-activity.

Flemming had written a whole suite of software that ran the New Civilization Network but I encountered that server initially in Max’s office. It was exciting, there you had this computer to which all of the outside worlds had access, could create accounts, and could communicate.

Part of the software suite was blogging software, and did we blog!

Flemming – obviously – had the very first post. And believe it or not, it is still there:

http://ming.tv/flemming2.php/__show_article/_a000010-000001.htm

Article _a000010-000001.htm – there sure was room for expansion. The reason this blog is still working perfectly is that Flemming kept the domain ming.tv pointing to his blog on the NewCiv server. Some of us had our own domains pointing to our blogs. Max Sandor’s was the Sandorian Grove – sandorian.us. Mine was zensory.com – for whatever reason – I guess it was a cool domain name. Max’s domain was later repurposed and eventually went away when Max went on the greener pastures.

But if you know the internal structure of NewCiv – as Flemming does – that blog is still there, even with many broken links due to the fact that sandorian.us does not exist any longer: http://www4.newciv.org/nl/newslog.php/_v245/__show_log/

My zensory.com first turned into a WordPress blog – on my own server in a data center, obviously connected to some faster backbone. It needs to be said, that at that time, the NewCiv server was co-located in a data center as well, not requiring a dial-up connection to the internet any longer.

Still, my old blog is also still up and running, even though I had to ask Flemming for it’s URL: http://www4.newciv.org/nl/newslog.php/_v286/__show_log/

Flooded with sweet nostalgia, I looked over that old blog and noticed the blog roll (blogs that I followed) in the sidebar. The one that caught my attention was Don To Earth – at that time he was touted as the oldest blogger. His blog was hosted on Blogspot, a free-for-all open blog. The nice thing about those free platforms is, that they don’t go away. Not like a privately hosted blog that goes away when the person paying for it every month himself finds better things to do and leaves this realm (as, inevitably, this blog will go away when I do).

So, yes, I could look up Don!

HP Disabled my Printer

Not only are original ink cartridges expensive, but HP LaserJet toners can also cost about the same as the printer itself. You still would buy the toner cartridges because the ones that come with a new printer have reduced capacity.

So the obvious choice is to use third-party cartridges at often less than half the price. That worked well for my all-in-one HP LaserJet Pro M281 with cartridges from LDProducts.com – until it did not, anymore.

HP had installed a firmware update on my printer that disabled the after-market cartridges, and I now got an error message that there was a “Supply Problem”. I had not immediately noticed that something wasn’t working anymore because I don’t print much and there had been days between the update and the first time I saw the “Supply Problem.”

A bit of googling gave me the hint that this problem might be caused by the latest update which was dated 20201021. The obvious course of action was to go back to the last version of the firmware – but this became a few-day quest.

The printer was out of warranty, so getting direct support from HP was not an option, so I resorted to the community support forum. Answers to my post confirmed that this was not only my problem but that others were hit by this “update bug.”

A bit further googling got me the info that the firmware version 20200612 was a good version and that I just had to find that version for my printer model.

But that was not an easy task, and it nearly appears to be intention of HP to suppress that version. One user who answered my post mentioned that two years ago HP had reached a settlement in a class-action suit when it had disabled its inkjet printers that were using 3rd party ink cartridges, and wondered if it’s time for another class action suit – – and he got banned from the forum for that for a day.

But before he got banned I had seen the post and looked up that lawsuit, and – just for the fun of it – left the firm a message that there might be some more HP shenanigans going on. – I have not heard back from them.

That same user had managed to find the right firmware file for his printer model, HP_Color_LaserJet_Pro_M254_dw_Printer_series_20200612.exe, on HP’s website and had been successful in downgrading his printer software and had his machine working again.

I wasn’t quite as lucky, as that file had been removed from the HP website the very day, but with parts of the file name and good old Google I found the file somewhere in the far reaches of the internet. I tried to run it several times, with cartridges in, without, after unplugging the printer for a few minutes to reset, to no avail, until it dawned on me that his model was not exactly the same as mine and that I probably needed different firmware, specific for my M281 printer.

After more extensive googling I found that the name of the right file should be
HP_LaserJet_Pro_M280_M281_Printer_series_20200612
but no executable with that, or similar, name was to be found. The only thing that came close was exactly that file name but with a .rfu extension which probably stands for ‘remote file updated.’ I actually found that info on an HP page.

I had no idea how to use that file. Windows does not know what to do with a file with that extension and I had no idea how to run it or with what application.

Again Google to the rescue.

I finally found it – and it was simpler than I thought. The reason I write this post, just in case somebody runs into the same problem, is that you might not need to spend so many hours with friendly Google.

First of all, I will leave this update file here so you can download it. I had to obfuscate and zip it so that I can upload it here and possibly hide it from HP. Once you have downloaded the zip file, just extract the file inside it and rename it to M280_M281_firmware_20200612.rfu and follow the following steps:

  1. The printer needs to be accessible as a share. My printer was not shared so I just created a share for it as \\MYCOMPUTER\M281 – in case you need help to do this – Google is your friend “How to share a printer.” Replace MYCOMPTER with the real name of the machine you are sitting at.
  2. Then open a command line window and type
    copy /b M280_M281_firmware_20200612.rfu \\MYCOMPUTER\M281
  3. This command finishes surprisingly fast, but the printer then started a lengthy install of that firmware. It took a while – maybe five minutes, while the printer display showed progress and messages ‘programming’.
  4. When it was all done, the printer restarted and the “Supply Problem” was gone.

That’s it – following this my printer is deserving its name again – it prints!

I am happy – but shame on HP!

PS: I wonder if I ever hear back from that law firm regarding a class action…

PPS: I got a message from Jonathan who followed the instructions and was happy to report that he did not have to discard his HP printer. He suggested that you also disable the update feature in the printer to avoid the problem as much as possible in the future.

For this you

  • go to Setup on your printer’s LCD display (the last one)
  • Scroll down to Service and select it
  • Scroll down to LaserJet Update and select it
  • Select Manage Updates
  • Select Allow Updates
  • Select No
  • Go Back to Home

I don’t know how safe that is because I seem to remember that I set that when I installed my first set of 3rd party cartridges, but I think I was prompted to update by HP maintenance software installed and running on my computer. It was years since I had installed the cartridges and forgotten about the warning and so allowed the update.

Somehow I am more and more tending to follow the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when computer updates are concerned, especially firmware.

New COVID Rules in California

Read out text below

From reliable sources we received the following rules that will be implemented in California by Governor Gavin Newsom as soon as practicable:

Mandatory use of face mask is implemented for zodiac signs of Virgo and Aquarius, and for all drivers of Volvos, except when they wear green socks. The provision is applicable only from 6pm to 9:30pm, except you drive an Audi with a 17 in your license plate.

If your house is yellow, you are not allowed to leave your dwelling, except it is located on the right side of the street. The exception does not apply for houses with a parking space upfront. The rule is completely inapplicable for multiple parking spaces, except it includes a handicapped space.

Women are not allowed to leave the house or apartment if they are married, but only if they don’t have children, except they are at least two in number and of the same gender with an age difference not more than two years. The rule is not to be applied to children between the ages of four and ten.

This is, as announced by the governor’s office, only the first part of the ruling in order to not confuse the good people of California. After the election further rules and regulations will be published for the subsequent days.

In an updated notice it was announced that you are ordered to be aware that the above rules are valid for citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 as long as they are between 5’3″ and 5’9″, otherwise the opposite has to be adhered to by every Californian except he or she is blond.

This is a free translation from a post with Dr. Ferdinand Wegscheider – look for him on the YouTubes if you speak Austrian and want to know more.
To make this post relevant for a later time period, please be aware that it was written just a few days before the 2020 presidential election. At the time of this writing we do not know who will be elected and if, indeed, the covid scare was ended right after that election.

About Propaganda

Narration of the following article

Did you ever ask yourself how it could have been possible that some 70, 80 years ago a whole people – the Germans – hailed one man who then turned out to be a pretty bad guy?

I am not very surprised since I became someone who yelled “Hail!” myself.

Adolf Hitler Reading

Up to the days I stopped yelling “Hail! – or the equivalent thereof – I, myself, definitely did not understand how a whole people could be so blind and miss what was going on in the 3rd Reich.

It was simple arrogance, through ignorance.

Fortunately, I was able to uproot my arrogance of looking down upon the ‘poor, misled people of Germany’ and gain a more humble understanding.

In order to accomplish this, I first had to stop yelling “Hail!” myself, and then realize that I had indeed been shouting “Hail!”

I’m not old enough to have lived through the Hitler regime – so where the heck did I get a chance to yell “Hail?”

I’m not going to give you any names here because that would take away the fun for you to find out yourself, but I do tell that it was a group that many of you might know. You might have experienced it already, but for all of you who don’t – go out and find it.

It was a group that started out great – several decades ago. This group – not yet religious – offered a lot of information and processes that allowed you to understand life a lot better. I joined thirty years after its inception when this group had already fallen into the trap of considering itself the one and only, becoming dogmatic and eventually considering itself a religion.

I have seen this phenomenon in many areas of life. The very good account of this human behavior was told by Thomas Thouw, who was the assistant at the physics department at the university in charge of me as a graduate student. He had grown up as the heir of his uncle’s karate mastership. Originally from Indonesia, he ended up, after an odyssey, in Heidelberg, Germany. There he started to teach a karate group stressing the real principles of this mainly spiritual art, not the type of karate as seen on TV.

Fortunately, he was strong enough to see that his students had turned from pupils into disciples instead and had started to worship him as a guru. He knew that this violated all the principles of karate he wanted to teach, so he kicked them out, advising them to get a life.

This tendency of a group to find a guru, and make him a god, seems to be very prevalent. I have noticed this in movements from Macrobiotics over Chi Gong to even urine-therapy (yes! Look it up!).

The quality of the technology behind these movements seems to be rather irrelevant. Good technology gives better results for more members but as long as something works really great at least for some professional followers, the danger is there.

The group I had become a disciple of and had learned to yell “Hail!” happened to have really good data and technology, so it was easy for members to ‘believe.’

The next step then was to ‘press the help button’. We all want to help. Especially after we got something really good, something that helped us tremendously, we want to give back. This is the stage of the missionary. Obviously the missionary is ‘better’ than the subjects of his mission, but he definitely wants to lift them all up to his level.

Do you see now where the arrogance is entering the picture?

Unfortunately, there are stubborn people who don’t want to be helped. The situation escalates and so we created the next required element – an external enemy.

That’s all the elements required to form a closed system in which internal propaganda can do whatever it wants. External data to measure the propaganda against are no longer available, so whatever the propaganda says becomes true. Anything that questions the propaganda data is considered infiltration from the enemy and only makes the propaganda data more true.

I was lucky enough to have kept one little anchor out there in the other world. It was not strong enough to directly question the validity of the data that was fed to me and that I asked to be fed. But it was strong enough that I grouched sufficiently to be eventually kicked out of this group. Any tight-knitted group will expel members that are not fully behind the cause as they are a danger to keeping the rest of the group indoctrinated.

This is when I stopped yelling “Hail!”, but it still took me years to face the fact that I had, indeed, yelled “Hail!” During this time I lost my arrogance that expressed itself in a righteous “HOW COULD THEY?”

Now, when I look at my fellow Americans and see what they allow their government to do to them, we can see the reason why I can no longer proclaim… “How could they?”.

All elements are there:

  • the initial good technology – the wealth and way of life in America,
  • the belief in the system
  • the mission
  • the enemy

There is the war on terrorism, the weapons of mass destruction, the Patriot’s Act, and the latest  “Orange Man Bad!”

All pretty hefty subjects to swallow for a reasonable person, but listen… I really believed that it was reasonable that – if I wanted to walk across the bridge to total freedom – I first had to knuckle down to a system that demanded to control every single aspect of my life.

Funny, isn’t it??

Meeting the Enemy

Instead of reading the text below you could just listen to it…

At the time of this writing (July 2020) the US of A experiences mayor racial upheaval. I am convinced that this is mostly politically motivated to discourage the population to reelect Donald Trump, but there must be some fertile grounds for this seed of discourse to flourish.

At this time mostly racial discourse is pushed and the gender questions are put on the back burner. But at one point the man vs woman question was a preferred area to create separation and establish hardened fronts.

I still have faith in the American People that they will not fall for the instigated war of the races, and the presenter of the following TED talk is one of the shining beacons that gives me that hope.

She had been a proponent of solidifying the fronts between genders, which usually is a cherished subject of politicians to create controversy. But she was fortunate to see through her self-created biases and was able to start to break down those walls.

Without further ado, here is Cassie Jaye…

Subject: The Year is 1901

The year is 1901, one hundred years ago – what a difference . . . .

The average life expectancy in the US was forty-seven.

Only 14 Percent of the homes in the US had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone. A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost eleven dollars.

There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union.The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average wage in the US was 22 cents an hour.

The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More the 95 percent of all births in the US took place at home.

Ninety percent of all US physicians had no college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as “substandard.”

Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee cost fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason.

The five leading causes of death in the US were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza;
2. Tuberculosis;
3. Diarrhea;
4. Heart disease;
5. Stroke.

The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn’t been admitted to the Union yet.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented.

There were no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

One in ten US adults couldn’t read or write. Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist,”Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.”

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic.

There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire U.S.!!”

The Camera

Capturing a moment and freezing time has always been fascinating for mankind. It always required a skill to turn a moment into a lasting image. Cave drawings are the first known attempts to do just that. Over the millennia many great, and not so great, artist practiced this skill.

With the invention of the camera and film the game changed. It was suddenly much easier to trap the moment and make it last. The first photographers still had to be very skilled because you could not go to a store and buy a role of film – the first photographers made their own plates for their box cameras.

But by the 50s and 60s photography had become so easy that every American tourist traveling the world took his or her camera along. And in the recent years the prevalence of digital cameras has brought picture-taking everywhere.

The main areas in which photography is used today are snapping memory shots, documenting events and facts, and artistic expression.

Probably the most pictures take are from the first category – capturing memories. Here is the camera, especially the latest very small models, which can go everywhere and that fit into your shirt pocket. As there is, beside the initial cost for the camera, no cost involved in photo-taking, many, many photos are taken, many of which might only be looked at once before they are forgotten on a hard drive or deleted.

The second use of the camera for the documentation of events, facts and objects requires a much bigger skill level of the photographer if he really wants to create an image that tells a story or shows a situation. Point and click does not work any more. The photographer has to have the ability to isolate something specific from a sea of distraction. A wide-angle shot where, way in the background, you see the dog biting the kid while there are more prevalent objects in the foreground will not document the dog attack.

Artistic use of the camera requires a total synergy of camera and photographer. Just like the painter knows exactly how the brush will apply the paint to the canvas, so does the artistic photographer know every nuance of his tool of the trade – the camera. But just as a great painter will paint a great picture with an expensive brush or a cheap pencil, so is the great photographer able to even use a cheap camera to take great pictures.

The camera, in all three fields of application, has opened up the entry into the respective area to nearly everybody. But it still remains true that to create great pictures, great skills are required. Today’s advertisement tries to make it appear that if you spend bundles of money to purchase the latest and greatest camera, you will automatically take perfect pictures. This is certainly not the case as the photographer and not the camera takes the pictures. Lowering the bar to enter the field allows many more people to get started but only the person who sticks with it and trains himself in the art will obtain stunning results.

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