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Random acts of kindness, part 2: The Wrath of Khan

Saturday, August 28, 2004 10:52 PM

In part 1, I've responded to some of the search phrases people use to get this site. Obviously, these people have needs, and those needs brought them here. To display my enormous gratitude (or to compensate for the guilt brought on by luring these unsuspecting souls over here), I will, once again, do what is within my power to answer your questions, address your concerns, rise to your challenges, or recommend upping your medication.

By the way, I've been working non-stop over the last few days, throwing whatever was left of my so-called sleep regime out the door (then pouring water over it and sending it to shamefully go bother someone else). Since I have to get up early tomorrow ("early" for Real Programmers means "sometime before 9" - the equivalent of 4:00AM for other people), I took a sleeping pill about an hour ago. It should probably kick in pretty soon, so bear that in mind when trying to understand some of my answers.

Naming questions

Apparently, as a pregnancy's due date approaches, people turn anywhere in their quest for new and interesting names to inflict on their unsuspecting, defenseless children. Not only do I get repeated requests for "cute names" (some people, worried I might not take the request seriously - like that's even possible - make a point of asking for "really cute names."), but apparently my previous suggestions have been so well-received that I now get requests for "cute couple names" and "giving positive names".

Like obscenity, "cute" is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it. In fact, the line between cute and obscene may sometimes be very difficult to find. Here are some suggestions for couples seeking cute names for themselves.

The easiest method of getting a cute couple name is simply to find a single cute name, then have both of you change your last name. Thus, you will be known collectively as "the Smurfs", "the Puppies", "the Daffy-Ducks", "the Stalins", and so on.

If, on the other hand, it what you need are cute names to call each other, you can choose names that are both cute and intimate based on your partner's deformities. "Snaggle tooth", "Lopsided", and "Onion breath" come to mind, but I'm sure you'll come up with something more fitting. Another option is to choose famous historical and literary references - "Bonnie and Clyde", "Tweedledee and Tweedledum", "Pooh and Piglet", or "Mickey and Malory". 

Name your child after this inspiring messageAs for "positive names", I suggest naming your children (or cats, you didn't specify) after strong leaders  - George, Tony, Osama, Adolf, Julius, Hannibal - you get the drift. If that's not positive enough, I suggest naming your kids after motivational posters - noting says "positive" like introducing your newborn as "In our World Loosing is not an Option Smith", "Don't Quit Jones", or "Visualize Positive Images Brown, Jr.". Alternatively, simple use key words from these posters ("Success", "Inspiration", "Dedication", "Compliments", or "Opportunity"), allowing you some freedom to further cripple your children's social life by giving them hideous middle names.

Note to readers: I can see where this trend is going, so - as a preemptive measure - I may consider suggesting cute names for body parts. If you want me to name your breasts, though, I'll have to install a new policy that includes writing the new names on said parts. In person.

"Examples of Peopleware and its task"

Now that's an interesting issue. One of my consulting clients is a fairly large software company, and I spend there about two days per week. All of the programmers are placed in cubicles (typically, 4 programmers per cubicle). The cubicles themselves are placed in a large hall with tall ceilings, meaning a word uttered in one cubicle is easily heard across the entire room. All of the programmers have phones on their desks, which they are expected to answer (that is, they cannot silence them), and cell-phones, furiously competing fur the title of most annoying digitized rendering of a classical or popular musical piece. In addition, internal communication is handled using e-mail and instant pop-up messaging. Since there's obviously too much noise to communicate (never mind working), programmers communicate by shouting at each other over the cubicles.

This is a glaring example of just about everything discussed in that amazing book, Peopleware. As for the task - well obviously, there are many to choose from, but the best course of action might be just to set the place on fire and start over.

"Funny Israeli sayings"

Actually, there aren't many of those left. The current state of the country takes the humor out of even the funniest comments. Commenting on the recent reports that Israeli soldiers in the Gaza strip mark little X's on their assault rifle after a successful kill, publicist B. Michael suggested a new marking system, one which will more accurately reflect the value of each kill:

  • X with a belt-bomb: a suicide bomber.
  • X carrying an AK-47: an armed terrorist.
  • Little X wearing short pants: a dead child.
  • X carrying two bags: a woman returning home from the market.
  • X with crutches: ending the misery of a disabled person.
  • X with beard: An old, limping, poor Arab man.
  • A large X surrounded by lots of little X's: a slightly too heavy bomb.
  • Little X's with nothing in the center: A too heavy bomb on the wrong building.
  • X with glasses: A doctor.
  • A large X with glasses next to a little X with glasses: The doctor and his nerdy son.
  • X with pacifier: A baby.

Which brings us to another funny Israeli saying, which was also a search phrase leading to this site: "IDF moral army".

Now, I realize this is not as funny as, say, a rubber chicken or words like "aardvark" and "badger", but that's all I got these days.

"Don Box cute"

What did it for you? Was it the beard? Or were you just turned on by the COM stuff?

Or perhaps you were just trying to help me with my quest to provide cute names. If that's the case, your contribution has not gone unnoticed.

"Allen Bauer Hejlsberg"

While we're on the topic of celebrities, I think the time has come to relay the tragic, yet surprisingly boring, story of legendary superstar programmer, Allen Bauer Hejlsberg.

Born in 1964, young Allen - the son of a tree psychologist and an interior urn designer - was almost immediately recognized as a genius, when he learned to write at the age of 2. Unfortunately, he only learned the alphabet at the age of 14, and began to read shortly afterward. His earlier writings are still the issue of a heated, but not very interesting debate between scholars and their pets.

Having spent most of his school years humiliated by his schoolmates for his inability to pronounce the word Yggdrasil, young Allen found comfort in the world of computers, who did not judge him, and in blowing things up, which scared the hell out of the neighbors. It was during that time he wrote his revolutionary article, "semicolons considered harmful." Like most revolutionary work, this too was scoffed at by the experts at the time.

Undeterred by the public reaction to his unorthodox opinions, Allen went on to produce an impressive body of work, the highlight of which was his article "Oh, Yeah?", which includes a stunningly beautiful yet utterly ridiculous mathematical proof of the existence of the Bit Bucket.

Tragically, Allen's bright star did not shine for long. He died in 1998, having reached the age of 37, twice, due to some bizarre experiments he was never willing to discuss, even when offered free drinks. His death, which remains a mystery to this day, was the result of a freak accident, involving a rubber band, some gummy bears, and the third volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Many scholars agree (although only under the influence of illegal narcotics) that Allen Hejlsberg's work will one day receive the credit it deserves, the story of Hejlsberg's life has since faded into legend, then myth, then the stuff you put on turkeys. Today, the story of Allen Bauer Hejlsberg is a bed-time story, told by programmers to their children to teach them the value of proper source control.

That's it for now. Next time, I'll tackle some mote of the baffling questions search engines seem to think belong here.

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Copyright 2004 Yorai Aminov