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Beyond the valley of the drolls

Please quote me on this

Stob There's another of those lists of supposedly amusing/sage/cute adages going around, bouncing from blog to email, accumulating fresh contributions and occasional edits and doing all the meme-ish things that memes do. This one differs from all the others that you have deleted irritably from your email inbox in that it includes a contribution taken from this very column.

It is very flattering, to find oneself rubbing virtual shoulders with the likes of Donald Knuth, Albert Einstein, H L Mencken and even the great Francis Glassborow. (Hello Francis, how are you doing?) I would just like to say that I couldn't have managed it without help from all the wonderful team here at the Reg, who so diligently pluck out all my elegant curly quote marks and replace them with the ugly straight ones acceptable to the ASCII tendency, and of course most of all I couldn't have done it without YOU dear reader, whose ongoing support and love have been to me, over the many, many years that I have written this column, the single most important

Paltrowing aside, there is something not quite satisfactory about being tipped into this valley of the drolls. For one thing, I have always been a bit suspicious about the habit of pickling a joke: jokes are made from different stuff than onions and gherkins. The first person who thought to tape a typewritten notice into the quarter light of his or her rusting Ford Anglia "My other car is a Porsche" was a bona fide wit. The next person to do it was merely a plagiarist. If there hadn't been a next person, then the great British car sticker industry of the early 1980s would never have had its moment in the sun; but I am afraid I don't think this is a good enough excuse.

Another problem is that the selectors of others' bon mots don't seem to have any taste. For example, the most common version of this list quotes the great Bjarne Stroustrup exactly once, saying, "C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot; C++ makes it harder, but when you do, it blows your whole leg off."

I suppose this is all right as far as it goes but, if you are limiting yourself to one Stroustup quote, wouldn't you much rather have Bjarne at his best? The document I believe to be the primary source for this list contains the following quip: "I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone." On what basis was that left out, and the much flatter foot-shooting thing put in?

Of course, here I am pretending to be indignant on behalf of the inventor of C++, but not one of you is deceived. What I am really complaining about is their choice of my quote, which is a small, technical joke I made about exception handling. It isn't really for me to judge, but surely I have often done better for you than that? And where is all my other stuff? Why have they only got one quote?

For example, and while we are close to the subject of C++, I have never seen my (rather fine, say I) pastiche of the great poet Harry Graham quoted:

Our careless C++ girl Claire
Bashed out her brains upon the stair.
Java Johnson found her dead.
His emailed message quickly spread:
"The prospects for the build look bleak,
Claire's got another memory leak."

Or there again, I once wrote a mock defence of abandoning one's principles in exchange for dosh:

Their money is as good as yours. In fact it is better than yours, because they have rather more of it, which is the only generally acknowledged metric.

I believe that is nearly as good as weak tea Saki on an off-day, and certainly good enough to make this list.

At any rate, it is better than Bill bloody Gates, a man whose writing always reminds me of his speaking voice, and whose speaking voice (dropping easily and gracefully into ad hominem) is dull and whiny: it makes one feel as if he is reading out one of his own damn licensing agreements. Anyway Gates contributes the following: "Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight." Oh, blah. Very clever Bill. Have a biscuit.

But back to lovely ME. I feel I am the victim of serious injustice. With quotable material like mine, I should have pages and pages on Wikiquote. As it is, I have zip. 

Very well. Luck comes to those who make their own. What I need to do is write stuff, clearly delineated, and pre-packaged in an easy-to-copy  form so that these quoting anthologists know how to treat it. A successful quote, of course, doesn't need to be funny or correct: it suffices that it is glib and pompous and maybe contain a hint of a grain of truth. I think I am up to that.

Get you cut and paste buffers warmed up, you quoters, here I come.

Madrid is a mathematical city of two halves: real and imaginary.

I have never understood all the fuss about good old printf(); 98% of the time it works fine, it's only the odd 1400000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­00000­0% that causes trouble.

It is not necessarily true that a developer with two monitors attached to his PC is better equipped that a developer who does not have two monitors attached. I speak as someone who can just get by with four.

Intermittent bugs are theatrical creatures. Pursue them in private with a debugger and they will hide their shy faces. Put them on stage in front of the customer and they will trample you as they rush willingly into the limelight.

Using OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office is like eating organic food instead of conventional. It is not the experience, or the expense, or the convenience that matters. It is the knowledge that you are a better person for so doing.

Traffic news. The road to hell is currently impassable. To serve you better, the Devil has taken up all the good intentions while he lays down broadband fibre.

Some people, when confronted with a problem, think "I know, I'll use <whatever it is you want to slag off>." Now they have two problems - Verity Stob's superior, adaptable, data-driven template version of an original quote by Jamie Zawinski

Downloading an update: the displacement activity undertaken in the time between discovering that a piece of software doesn't do want you want it to do, and giving up.

Girls think Sudoku is maths.

How to tune your PC
Performance not stunning?
Adobe Acrobat Reader 8, instantiated awkwardly inside FireFox, running.
Virtual memory thrashed?
Adobe Acrobat Reader 8, instantiated awkwardly inside FireFox, crashed.

I miss the wonderful back-up devices that we had in the old days. Most of all I miss the WORM drive: Write Once Rue Many.

I met this programmer once - a fat, slippery man, sweating profusely in his unnecessary woollen jumper. A slug in sheep's clothing.

I have always been a bit suspicious about the habit of pickling a joke: jokes are made from different stuff than onions and gherkins.


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