The (Other) Four Horsemen

December 29, 2009

The Four Horsemen of Innumeracy

Excess, Lack and The Other One.

The Four Horsemen of Indifference

Apathy, Disregard, Meh and… Whatever. 

The Four Horsemen of Mild Irritability

Peckish, Snuffle, Quibble and The Missed Afternoon Nap.


September 8, 2009

Useful child-speak:

  • Barger-Coo: Barbeque
  • Bixit: Biscuit
  • Blank: Naked (e.g. blank feet = bare feet)
  • Booblies: Blue Berries
  • Eleventy Hundred: A Favourite Number
  • Granny Pommit: Pommy Grannit
  • Harbest Vegetable: Harvest Festival
  • Mixit: Music
  • Tainainer: Container
  • Dee Bee: DVD, TV or CD
  • Hole: Hall
  • Lines: Sugar Strands
  • Plud: Please (the plu-word)
  • Police Whacker: Truncheon
  • Poota: Computer
  • Shoulder: Soldier

Not Enough Water!

September 3, 2009

JB (now 5 years old) complained that there was not enough water in the tapless end his bath.

With a wry smile, I suggested that he use a beaker to bail water from the deeper tap-end into the shallower end.  After 4 or 5 beakers full he proclaimed that things were now “much better”.

Word is Stupid!

September 1, 2009

Writing an application form today, I noticed that Word squiggly-underlines “teammates” in red, and offers “team-mates” and “team mates” as a suitable alternatives. However, it green-squigglies “team-mates” and “team mates”, suggesting “teammates” as the correction. I just can’t win.

Dr Dobbs: Our Inspiration

August 14, 2009

I received an email this morning,  from the people who inspired a generation of programmers. Here’s the header:


Accounts for a lot, doesn’t it!

Waiter, Waiter…

July 16, 2009


Generated with RedKid’s Sign Generator

Computer Science meets Pornography

November 20, 2008

Original Image from

I recently wrote about IT pros using language in a different way from ‘normal’ people.

I’ve seen it again.

Jeff Atwood, of Coding Horror, wrote a controversial article about something called, “NP-Complete”.  What is it? I must be the wrong kind of geek, because I couldn’t make neither head nor tail of the whole business. As far as I could make out, it is some arcane computer science thing that explains why travelling salesmen rarely see their families at the weekends.

One thing that Jeff mentioned does seem to explain a lot:

NP-Complete problems are like hardcore pornography.


At the end of the article, Jeff asked for examples of reader’s, “favourite NP-complete cheat”. One of the few responses that actually answered gave a list. With no hint of titter nor smirk he including:

  • Simulated annealing
  • The great deluge

Frankly, the mind boggles!

Having read the article, I am still fairly naive (about both the porn and the NP thing). One thing’s for sure:

Either computer scientists need to get out more, or I really am the wrong kind of geek.


The Hazards of Programming

November 4, 2008

Every occupation has its hazards. Including mine.

Apparently, I use language differently from other people. Recently, I gave a talk on a programming task I had been working on. It took me quite a while to figure out why people kept sniggering every time I mentioned the use of my public property to expose a class’ private members.

Answers to Microsoft Interview Questions

March 4, 2008

I have not actually been interviewed by Microsoft (yet), but here are some of the answers I’d like to give to some of the questions that they’ve been known to ask:

Why is a manhole cover round?

Don’t you mean a person-hole cover? Either way, it is because the person hole is round.

How are M&Ms made?

They’re made in the M&Ms factory.

How many manhole covers are there in the USA?

I really think you mean person-hole covers. Anyway – roughly 1 for each hole.

One train leaves Los Angeles at 15mph heading for New York. Another train leaves from New York at 20mph heading for Los Angeles on the same track. If a bird, flying at 25mph, leaves from Los Angeles at the same time as the train and flies back and forth between the two trains until they collide, how far will the bird have traveled?

Does it really matter? I think the stupid bird will be dead, anyway.

How would you redesign an ATM?

I would design it to give me lots of money when I typed in a secret code.

What is the difference between an Ethernet Address and an IP address?

You can’t wash your hands in a… no, wait, that’s buffaloes and bisons.

If you could add any feature to Microsoft Word, what would it be?

I would say that I’d make it debit money out of people’s bank accounts and into mine, except that Microsoft has already done that for their own bank account whenever there is an upgrade.

There is a room with a door (closed) and three light bulbs. Outside the room there are three switches, connected to the bulbs. You may manipulate the switches as you wish, but once you open the door you can’t change them. Identify each switch with its bulb.

I’d disconnect the switches. Then I could easily identify that none of the switches actually connected to the bulbs.

Give me an algorithm to shuffle a deck of cards, given that the cards are stored in an array of ints.

52-card pick-up.

How would you test a keyboard?

I wouldn’t – I’d throw it away. Keyboards cost next to nothing these days. It would be cheaper to buy a new keyboard than waste my time trying to test one.

The interviewer hands you a black pen and says nothing but “This pen is red.”

I’d say, “thanks for the pen”, and take it home with me.

Write a function to print Write a function to print the Fibonacci numbers. .

void printFibNumbers() {
print "The Fibonacci numbers."

Explain a scenario for testing a salt shaker.

Chips! Sometimes called “french-fries” or “fries”, they’re pieces of potato that have been deep-fried.

How would you explain how to use Microsoft Excel to your grandma?

I’d shout. Very loud.

Suppose you go home, enter your house/apartment, hit the light switch, and nothing happens – no light floods the room. What exactly, in order, are the steps you would take in determining what the problem was?

I’d ask my wife what she’d done to the light – again.

A Great Trick

November 27, 2007

Cutting a woman in half, then sticking her back together again. Escaping from a straight-jacket whilst dangling from a burning rope. Opening a bottle of beer with your…

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