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  • Michael Krakovskiy 10:35 pm on January 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ATM, , , brilliant programmer, closest bank, computer programmer, DNS, Dr. Watson, favorite support engineer, Hot Air Balloon, , Literature, Natural Disaster, , , Rebecca, Sarah, search algorithms, Shlomo, , Watson   

    Technically Correct 

    “Bureaucrat Conrad, you are technically correct — the best kind of correct.” (Futurama, 2acv11: How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back).

    Today I would like to talk to you about an afflicion that affects a large number ot tech workers: a penchant for finding the most technically correct and the most useless way to answer one’s queries.

    Here’s an example of my interaction with my favorite support engineer at our hosting company. We were chatting about DNS setup, and it was perfectly clear to him that what I meant to ask was “is it an A record or a CNAME record”.

    “2:31 PM me: what kind of a record is it?
    2:31 PM him: A DNS record :)”

    This brand of humor probably has its beginnings in early computer games, like Zork, where the computer would answer your questions only when they were asked “correctly”. Techies often take this kind of humor to ridiculous extremes.

    For instance, I have a high school friend, L. A brilliant programmer, he likes to think that it’s hilarious to answer every single question this way. L lives in New York. I once was talking to another friend of mine, R, who is not a techie and who lives in Boston. I was telling her about L’s penchant for being technically correct. I illustrated this phenomenon with an old Soviet joke:

    “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a hot air balloon ride. A storm took the balloon above the clouds, and after a few days brought it down close to the ground. Below a man was herding sheep.

    • “Where are we?” – Dr. Watson cried to him.
    • The man looked at them and replied – “You are in a hot air balloon.”

    The wind once again picked up and pulled the balloon beyond clouds.

    • “What do you think that man’s profession is?” – asked Holmes.
    • “Why, he’s a shepherd” – answered Watson.
    • “No, he’s a computer programmer”.
    • “Why do you think so?”
    • “Elementary, my dear Watson. His answer was technically correct, but absolutely useless. So, where do you think we are now?”
    • “I have no idea – he didn’t say, did he?”
    • “We are in the Soviet Union.”
    • “Why?”
    • “A computer programmer is herding sheep.””

    My friend laughed, but I insisted that L was really like that in real life.

    A few months later R called me and said, “You won’t believe this story. I was in New York, walking down Brighton beach. I really needed to get some cash. I asked a passerby – “Excuse me, where’s the closest ATM?”. “Why, in the closest bank, of course” – he answered with a smile. R stared for a bit, and then said, “say, is your name L, by any chance?””.

    It was indeed L, whom she randomly met in NYC.

    I laughed, and told her another, old Jewish joke about search algorithms and certain applications of the Drake Equation.

    “Two Jews, one young and one old, are riding Kiev – Odessa train. The old one is looking at the young one and thinking to himself –

    “This young man, he’s either going to get off at Zmerinka or at Odessa. You only go to Odessa to make money or to spend money. He’s too young to make money and too shabbily dressed to spend money, so he’s going to Zmerinka. You only go to Jmerinka for weddings or for funerals. Nobody died for a while, so he’s going to a wedding. He’s not carriying a present, so he’s going to his own wedding. There are only two eligible brides – Sarah and Rebecca. But Rebecca just got married, so this means he’s going to marry Sarah. Sarah is not very good looking and has a bad temper, so only a total putz would marry her. Now, who’s a total putz in Kiev?”

    • “Excuse me, are you Shlomo, Moishe Rabinowitz’s son?” – he asks the younger gentleman.

    “Yes I am, do you know me?” – says they youngster.
    “No, I don’t know you,” – says the old man – “but I figured you out”.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 10:22 pm on December 31, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Happy, Happy New Year, , Literature, ,   

    Happy New Year! 

    This decade left me very exhausted. I hope next year will finally be my annus mirabilis because I’m tired of making the anus joke. Happy New Year and Happy New Decade, everyone.

    You can see the old New Year’s cards are here.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:17 am on May 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Andy Warhol, Atlantic station, Calvin Trillin, car ready, car window repair place, computer science professor, Dandelion Wine, happy car-less years, , Literature, , nearest car window shop, , , , Parking, poor car, , , Tepper Isn't,   

    Three Firsts 

    I always thought that the quote went “I’ll try anything once” and it was Andy Warhol who said it. Apparently the quote is “I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure” and it belongs to Mae West.

    Living in New York, amongst other things, pushes you to try something for the first time ever almost every single day. Here are three things I recently tried for the first time, mostly under pressure from New York City.

    Religious

    Probably every New Yorker that looks even remotely Semitic in appearence has been repetidly asked “Are you Jewish?” by the Hasidim. If you answer yes, you’ll get a Billy Mays-worthy pitch to pray/light Shabbat candles/put on at Teffilin. I will admit to occasionally denying my membership in the tribe when in a hurry, but most of the time my answer is “a little bit”, followed by a firm sticking to plain cowardly agnosticism.

    Ever since I wrote a long and rambling post about Tefillins, I meant to put one on. So this one time, after being approached by a young Hasid in the Atlantic station passageway, and customarily declining his pamphlet, I accepted his halfhearted offer to help me lay Teffilin. He was particularly surprised – I don’t really think he gets to help a lot of people perform this particular mitzvah a lot.

    He produced a Tefillin set from a black shopping bag and a loaner kipah from a pocket, helped me put it on and say the necessary prayers right there on the BMT’s Atlantic Avenue platform, amongst the hustle and bustle of people and trains. It felt strange, yet somehow very comforting – performing this ritual in one of the most familiar places to me.

    He also gave me a pamphlet in which the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains to a computer science professor that Tefillin is a symbolic representation of computers. He was very glad to be able to accomplish such an epic mitzvah.

    Culinary

    I was walking through Union Square farmers’ market, already having sampled and bought a package of organic bacon hawked by an upstate hippie (I’m not a very observant Jew as you might have already noticed in this post). I was passing by a little stall providing free samples of wine made by hippies somewhere upstate. That bit of hippie bacon called for some wine, but I did not want to fight the mob of greedy Manhattan housewifes for a tiny sip, but then I heard a magical phrase – “We also have dandelion wine”.

    I never really finished reading “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury, and always thought that there was no such thing – how can you make wine out of bitter yellow flowers? Apparently this is how. I bought a bottle. All I have to say is that dandelion wine tastes just like they say it should: like summer and childhood. I also bought some salad corn shoots that I’ve read about in New York Times. Those tasted like raw corn kernels.

    Automotive

    You know that nobody really drives in New York because there are too many cars there. I’ve spent many happy car-less years here, but the arrival of a baby forced me to buy a car (a minivan, in fact). Parking is a very sore topic around these parts. I was never willing to splurge on a garage, and had to subject myself to the indignities of alternate side parking regulations.

    There’s a whole book about parking in NYC – Calvin Trillin’s brilliant Tepper Isn’t Going Out. I bought it only because I have a friend named Tepper, but ended up immensely enjoying it. Which is what I can’t say about parking in the street.

    Well, recently, I finally broke down and shelled out $200 for a spot in a garage. The feeling on the “alternate” days is rather novel – hey, I don’t need to move a car! Also new – not worrying about what those loud teenagers are probably doing to my poor car, or if there’s a used car window repair place that just received a shipment of my car’s specific windows (did you notice how they always have a used window for your car ready, no matter how obscure, when you go to a nearest car window shop for a mysteriously shattered one?). It’s a new and pleasant feeling.

    What about you?

     
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