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Thursday, December 29

Hunting an elephant

Computer programmers hunt elephants by exercising Algorithm A:
1. Go to Africa.
2. Start at the Cape of Good Hope.
3. Work northward in an orderly manner, traversing the continent alternately east and west.
4. During each traverse pass,
a. Catch each animal seen.
b. Compare each animal caught to a known elephant.
c. Stop when a match is detected.
Experienced computer programmers modify Algorithm A by placing a known elephant in Cairo to ensure that the algorithm will terminate.

Computer salespeople catch gray animals at random, and sell any one of them which weighs within plus or minus 15 percent of any previously observed elephant.
Experienced computer salespeople catch gray rabbits, and sell them as desktop elephants.

Consultants don't hunt elephants, and many have never hunted anything at all, but they can be hired by the hour to advise those people who do.
Experienced consultants can also measure the correlation of hat size and bullet color to the efficiency of elephant-hunting strategies, if someone else will only identify the elephants.

Economists don't hunt elephants, but they believe that if elephants are paid enough, they will hunt themselves.
Experienced economists have never seen an elephant, but they try to hunt one by controlling the interest rates.

Lawyers can let hunting a single elephant drag out for several years.
Experienced lawyers can make it last even longer.

Managers set broad elephant-hunting policy based on the assumption that elephants are just like field mice, but with deeper voices.
Experienced managers keep in the project file the written memo which had claimed that elephants are just like field mice.

Mathematicians hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out everything that is not an elephant, and catching one of whatever is left.
Experienced mathematicians will prove the existence of at least one unique elephant and then leave the detection and capture of an actual elephant as an exercise for their graduate students.

Politicians don't hunt elephants, but they will share the elephants you catch with the people who voted for them.
Experienced politicians take the elephant for themselves and blame the press.

Statisticians hunt the first gray animal they see N times and call it an elephant.
Experienced statisticians add that there is a small probability that the animal they hunted is a mouse.

Salespeople don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling elephants they haven't caught, for delivery two days before the season opens.
Experienced salespeople ship the first thing they catch and write up an invoice for an elephant.

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