Shameless name-dropping

I hold in my hand an extract of a draft manuscript paper-mailed to me by Donald Knuth.

It is titled “TPK in INTERCAL” and it has a handwritten note from Don offering a bug bounty of 0x$1.00.

In it, I am quoted three times.

If my grin were any wider, it would hurt.

I believe the proper item of contemporary slang for me to utter would be “Squee!”

40 thoughts on “Shameless name-dropping

  1. >What is TPK?

    An artificial numerical algorithm designed by Knuth and somebody named Luis Trabb Pardo. Apparently they use it to compare the expressiveness of different programming languages.

  2. This is looking good for my hypothesis.

    (You probably are worthy.)

    What is TPK?

    – unfrozen caveman programmer

  3. “Apparently they use it to compare the expressiveness of different programming languages.”

    I thought that particular task was officially monopolized by Paul Graham! :)

  4. @esr – you ARE worthy… and congratz!

    The best news is that the pleasant feeling doesn’t go away (My best approximation would probably be a math book autographed by this guy : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Arnold (a memento from a math olympiad; and I’m still friggin pleased even though I don’t have the book anymore – autographed books were on a list of items expressly prohibited to be taken out of USSR when emmigrating. $10 to anyone who can logically explain THAT rule :)

  5. In light of this new support for the “VM Smith Hypothesis”, it might be time to dust off the old Han Solo chestnut:

    “Great kid! Don’t get cocky.”

  6. >And if you do find a bug and collect the bounty, will you cash, or frame, the check?

    Frame it, of course. But you knew that.

  7. … Knuth’s right-hand man, not Knutch’s.

    >>What is TPK?
    >
    > An artificial numerical algorithm

    TPK is, importantly, trivial. TPK is simply:

    ask for 11 numbers to be read into a sequence S

    reverse sequence S

    for each item in sequence S

    do an operation

    if result overflows

    alert user

    else

    print result

    it was this algorithm that INTERCAL (or at least your implementation) got incorrect.

  8. Hey, you think that is good, you got a letter and a cite from some dusty old, largely irrelevant professor? Wait for this piece of namedropping: I occasionally get replies to my comments on a blog from ERIC RAYMOND. Yeah, you know, that guy, the one who helped reinvent computing and the Internet.

    (Shameless sucking up ends here.)

  9. >(Shameless sucking up ends here.)

    Jessica, I feel at this moment a very strong need to whack you a good one with a Zen master’s staff of office.

  10. > Yeah, you know, that guy,

    Everyone loves (Eric) Raymond.

    > the one who helped reinvent computing and the Internet.

    I think you’ve gone too far here.

  11. # esr Says:
    > Jessica, I feel at this moment a very strong need to whack you a good one with a Zen master’s staff of office.

    If you believe that will help me reach Nirvana….

    I should say that despite your many qualities you are grumpy, vain and rather lacking in sensitivity for other people’s feelings. However, you may very well consider that more sucking up…

  12. wet behind the ears Says:
    > Everyone loves (Eric) Raymond.

    Completely off topic, but I really hate that show. It represents a monstrous cultural stereotype. What is wrong with men that they consider this sort of thing acceptable humor? A guy who has surrendered his balls to his wife? A guy who considers it OK to be called an “idiot” by his wife? A guy who doesn’t have the guts to stand up for himself? Let me tell you, that it is neither good for the guy, nor attractive to most women.

    I hate the cultural emasculation of men. Most women don’t want to date their girlfriends, they’d rather have a real guy with a set of balls. There are many ways the culture oppresses women, but I assure you men that surrendering your cojones is not a helpful compensation for the sins of the past.

    Please stop doing that.

  13. >There are many ways the culture oppresses women, but I assure you men that surrendering your cojones is not a helpful compensation for the sins of the past.

    Some men understand this. I speak out against such emasculating “humor” when I can; it is ugly and demeaning and, as you point out, no help to anyone.

  14. # wet behind the ears Says:
    >> the one who helped reinvent computing and the Internet.
    > I think you’ve gone too far here.

    Perhaps I overestimate him, but I suspect that without Eric our choice would be Richard Stallman or Bill Gates without much in between. That isn’t a pretty picture. Maybe Linus Torvalds would have help fill the vacuum, or perhaps someone else would have stepped up. But without the “Cathedral and the Bazaar” would Android exist? Wouldn’t Google believe that “open source business model” was an oxymoron? I’m not sure. But the world would certainly be a different place.

    We computer people tend to measure contributions in lines of code. However, the reality is that influence, meme generation, and worldview change are vastly more important. For sure that book completely changed my view about a lot of different things.

    Sorry, I think that is a more important contribution than a Talmudic set of reference books.

    Having said that, I hate feeding an already vast ego. So I’d like to remind Eric of the “grumpy, vain and inconsiderate” comment already supplied above.

  15. >Perhaps I overestimate him, but I suspect that without Eric our choice would be Richard Stallman or Bill Gates without much in between. That isn’t a pretty picture. Maybe Linus Torvalds would have help fill the vacuum, or perhaps someone else would have stepped up.

    I’ve actually thought about this a lot. It’s worth a blog entry.

  16. >Perhaps I overestimate him, but I suspect that without Eric our choice would be Richard Stallman or Bill Gates without much in between. That isn’t a pretty picture. Maybe Linus Torvalds would have help fill the vacuum, or perhaps someone else would have stepped up.

    Wow, did you seriously just try to paint esr as a moderate?!
    We are all so very screwed.

  17. > Wow, did you seriously just try to paint esr as a moderate?!

    Well he argues like a moderate sometimes. At least he can see both sides and often shows it. And he tolerates people that advance opposing viewpoints pretty well, as long as they avoid being whatever the opposite of a fanboi is. (It’s not exactly troll.) That’s more moderate behavior than a lot of people who have more moderate political views.

    Yours,
    Tom

  18. Hmmm. Now I want to riff on this a little. Here is a paraphrase of the four rules:

    1) All guns are loaded.
    2) Do not point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
    3) Keep your finger off the trigger until you have your sights aligned with the target.
    4) Be aware of what is beyond your target.

    Eric has riffed on the wonderfully educational aspect of shooting guns. What have the four rules taught us gunnies about how to discuss (argue) ethically?

    Yours,
    Tom

  19. >I should say that despite your many qualities you are grumpy, vain and rather lacking in sensitivity for other people’s feelings. However, you may very well consider that more sucking up…

    LOL. Well, you have at least one of those wrong; I’m not even a bit grumpy in person. You’re probably misled by my tendency to write in an intense and sometimes morally indignant mode. Face to face, I’m quite a bit more relaxed – people who know me in real time even use adjectives like “funny” and “likeable” without irony.

  20. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Eric in a mood I’d remotely characterize as “grumpy”, and my sample set is large enough that I’ll argue he’s not capable of it.

    Curmudgeonly, yes, annoyed, yes, pissed off, yes, sarcastic as hell, yes, but not grumpy.

    And yes, Andrew, on the RMS-Gates scale, Eric’s about as moderate as it gets, I think.

  21. >Curmudgeonly, yes, annoyed, yes, pissed off, yes, sarcastic as hell, yes, but not grumpy.

    Quite. And I will add that at least half the time I’m being “curmudgeonly” it’s actually a form of sly humor.

  22. Andrew Kirch Says:
    > Wow, did you seriously just try to paint esr as a moderate?!

    Hmmh, moderate is always a relative term, right? I’m sure Yeltsin though Gorbachev was a moderate.

    However, moderate is not the right word. I don’t think Stallman to Gates is a spectrum. They are different things, and open source is really a different thing too. See Stallman is about free as in speech, Gates is about free as in beer (as in not being free as in beer.) In a sense they are both about rights in the Thomas Jefferson sense.

    Open Source is far more about pragmatism than rights. It is more about control, access, different models of motivation, reward generation, relevance and placement of software in an enterprise and so forth. So in a sense it is really a different thing than Stallman or Gates, not a mid point on a spectrum.

    Of course that isn’t to say that Open Sourcers don’t advocate free as in speech, or even free as in beer, but I think Eric has made it his business to avoid the moral, rights based argument entirely, focusing on outcomes rather than ethics, politics or morality. To put it another way: saying “your both wrong, we need to look at this entirely differently” is a radical viewpoint, not a moderate one.

    But I live in Bill Gates’ world, so I probably don’t know what I am talking about.

    Oh, and I’ll happily trade in grumpy for curmudgeonly. It is so much more insulting.

  23. Jessica, I disagree with your argument that RMS-Gates isn’t a single spectrum. The critical clue here is that both think the other are highly evil: RMS because he thinks Gates (as with anyone who doesn’t believe in the Four Freedoms) is trampling The Rights of The People, Gates because he thinks RMS’ ideals are fundamentally antithetical to the world of free enterprise.

    It is true that it is possible to have software that is (RMS) free but not (Gates) free (I refuse to accept the term “free as in speech, not free as in beer”, because that’s supporting the fundamentally dishonest FSF method of argument by redefinition) – I am associated with one effort to do that, although not directly – but such examples are vanishingly few compared to the scope of the open source universe, to the point of being newsworthy. It’s also possible to have software that’s (Gates) free but not (RMS) free, but such cases are not illustrative: those who adopt such a distribution model for their software are not in any way declaring their opposition to charging money for software; they’re simply choosing to forego it in their own case.

    The open source movement, in large part, does reject RMS’s philosophy and arguments, while also rejecting Gates’s view that making money is the be-all and end-all of making software. It does both as natural consequences of rejecting pretty much all dogmatic views. That’s what makes it moderate.

  24. Gates is about free as in beer (as in not being free as in beer.) In a sense they are both about rights in the Thomas Jefferson sense.

    I hope you realize that these analogies of yours are quite silly. If you have read any of the authorized or unauthorized biographies, you’ll quickly realize that Bill Gates and ESR are probably more alike than they are different. Both are master strategists, experts in games and game theory. Both are highly intelligent, a bit arrogant, and willing to work hard to achieve their goals. Neither are motivated money, but instead are more motivated by solving problems to intellectual puzzles. And both were bent on changing the world, and both have achieved that goal.

    Probably their main differences are those of political philosophy. Gates strikes me as a corporatist conservative who isn’t nearly as interested in talking about it, while esr is a loudly-proclaiming libertarian anarchist.

    I also think they basically think the same way about software, but approach it from different angles, due to those differences in political philosophy.

    It would be interesting to write a comparison-contrast position paper about that, pulling out quotes from each to compare and contrast their approaches to software and engineering problems.

  25. Jay Maynard: WRT Gates vs. RMS, let’s not forget, the dislike between these two is over 30 years old (dating back to Gates’ Harvard days) and personal. There’s more there than competing ideologies, although those ideologies are what have driven both of them in the directions their careers have taken them.

    Part of Eric’s genius in CatB was that he avoided much that personal confrontation while driving at the specific ideologies and showed that both were well traveled roads, and BOTH were flawed without borrowing from the other. That was the basis for much of the schism between “Free Software” and “Open Source” advocates I think.

  26. Morgan Greywolf Says:
    > I hope you realize that these analogies of yours are quite silly.

    Yes, I am particularly partial to humiliating myself in public.

    What struck me about your comment, and your thesis that Gates and Stallman are “more alike than different” is how it fits in with a common paradigm I see. Another example is this one: “don’t you know that Chimpanzees share 99% of their genetic code with humans.” That is true (or close to true), but the implication is that Chimpanzees are a lot like humans, which they are not, in my opinion. I love to follow such a claim with “yes but humans share 66% of their DNA with cabbages.” I don’t think we are much like cabbages.

    If you take your comment and substitute “Karl Marx” and “Pope John Paul II” for the two subjects, it largely applies equally well (except perhaps the political philosophy.) And Karl Marx and that Pope are about as different as two successful people could be.

    Similarly, Gates and RMS are about as different as two people could be, aside from the natural filtering function that brings them to our awareness: namely that they are driven and smart.

    Every person is similar to every other person in many ways, however, the differences are on the margins, and marginal differences make a huge difference when it comes to the effect and meaning of people’s lives.

    Much related to ESR’s post on history sans ESR — yes, who the point man is can have a dramatic effect on the outcome.

  27. >Bill Gates and ESR are probably more alike than they are different. Both are master strategists, experts in games and game theory. Both are highly intelligent, a bit arrogant, and willing to work hard to achieve their goals. Neither are motivated money, but instead are more motivated by solving problems to intellectual puzzles. And both were bent on changing the world, and both have achieved that goal.

    I accept that these parallels are real and important. However, you are missing a couple of differences that I think are equally important.

    One is temperament. Gates is your classic shadow-autist introvert; I am a shadow-Tourette’s extrovert. The difference in temperament is reflected in tactics. Where Gates changed the world by creating a thick corporate shell around himself to execute his vision, I relied more on personal evangelism and my ability to inspire other hackers through speech and writing.

    Another is ethics. Gates was willing to do things in the service of his vision that I wouldn’t to pursue mine – FUD, vaporware, destructively screwing with technical-standards efforts. What it comes down to is that Gates was willing to tell lies. I’m not.

    >I also think they basically think the same way about software, but approach it from different angles, due to those differences in political philosophy.

    This is an interesting claim. I don’t think it’s true, because Microsoft’s practice would have to look quite different from the way it does if it were true. What is your basis for believing it?

  28. @JessicaBoxer:

    1) Re-read my comment more carefully. I never said anything about RMS.
    2) I think we’re thinking along the same lines, I’m just pointing out that you’re drawing caricatures and pulling your conclusions from that, rather than from a detailed picture of each man’s philosophy (all three) as they and others who have studied their work have expressed it.
    3) In other words, I’m pretty much agreeing with you: there is no single spectrum from RMS to Gates. The three men just have different worldviews.

  29. This is an interesting claim. I don’t think it’s true, because Microsoft’s practice would have to look quite different from the way it does if it were true. What is your basis for believing it?

    You’re both engineers at heart, and thus have that high-level of practicality typically ascribed to engineers Gates wanted change the world through software by creating a corporatist movement around it; you wanted to change the world through software by creating a libertarian movement around it.

    If I misunderstand your goals, let me know.

  30. >You’re both engineers at heart, and thus have that high-level of practicality typically ascribed to engineers Gates wanted change the world through software by creating a corporatist movement around it; you wanted to change the world through software by creating a libertarian movement around it.

    Um, yeah, and an ocelot is like a coffee table because they both have four legs. I’m not seeing an actual point here.

  31. I think Morgan’s point is that both you and Gates wanted to to change the world through software, you though libertarian ideals, Gates through corporatist ones. The goal is the same, even though the details are different. I can’t see an ocelot standing around calmly with books on its back.

  32. That’s odd, I could swear I replied to this:
    @Jay Maynard:

    I think Morgan’s point is that both you and Gates wanted to to change the world through software, you though libertarian ideals, Gates through corporatist ones. The goal is the same, even though the details are different.

    Yes, that’s it exactly. Bear in mind that both “ESR” and Bill Gates were instrumental in starting movements and each changed the way the world views software.

  33. >I think Morgan’s point is that both you and Gates wanted to to change the world through software, you though libertarian ideals, Gates through corporatist ones. The goal is the same, even though the details are different.

    Shhhhhh! Nobody’s supposed to know that “ESR” had any objectives other than fixing the software-quality problem. All this libertarian-subversion stuff is a strictly unintentional side effect. Yeah. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  34. Morgan Greywolf Says:
    > 1) Re-read my comment more carefully. I never said anything about RMS.

    Ah, oops. Well I told you I liked publicly humiliating myself. I’ll slink off to a quiet corner now…

  35. $10 to anyone who can logically explain THAT rule

    Sure.

    The USSR didn’t have big book-signing events like the West, where people went out and promoted their books for sale by signing them. That meant, to get a book autographed, a person had to wind up in contact with someone important in the relatively normal course of life. Which means the person who got the signature likely was a productive member of society, otherwise they wouldn’t have been in contact with a person of importance. But, by definition, the only people who would flee the worker’s paradise were worthless troublemakers, not productive members of society. Allowing the worthless troublemakers to take autographed works with them would unfortunately give them a physical artifact to which they could point to in order to falsely claim they were productive members of Soviet society, casting doubt on the pravda that they were just worthless troublemakers the USSR was better off without.

    (I can come up with others if you’re not satisfied with that one.)

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