In which I have reason to sound like Master Po

This landed in my mailbox yesterday. I reproduce it verbatim except for the sender’s name.

> Dear authors of the RFC 3092,
>
> I am writing this email on behalf of your Request For Comment “Etymology of
> ‘Foo’.” We are currently learning about the internet organizations that set
> the standards of the internet and our teacher tasked us with finding an RFC
> that was humorous. Me and my two friends have found the “Etymology of
> ‘Foo'” and have found it to be almost as ridiculous as the RFC about
> infinite monkeys; however, we then became quite curious as to why you wrote
> this. Obviously, it is wrote for humor as not everything in life can be
> serious, but did your manager task you to write this? Are you a part of an
> organization in charge of writing humorous RFC’s? Are you getting paid to
> write those? If so, where do you work, and how may we apply? Any comments
> on these inquiries would be greatly appreciated and thank you in advance.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> XXXXXXXXXXXXXX, confused Networking student

I felt as though this seriously demanded a ha-ha-only-serious answer – and next thing you know I was channeling Master Po from the old Kung Fu TV series. Reply follows…


Don may have his own answer, but I have one you may find helpful.

There is a long tradition of writing parody RFCs on April 1st. No
manager tasks us to write these; they arise as a form of folk art
among Internet hackers. I think my personal favorite is still RFC1149
"A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers"
from 1 April 1990, universally considered a classic of the joke-RFC
form.

As to why we write these...ah, grasshopper, that is not for us to
explain but for you to experience. If and when you achieve the
hacker-nature, you will understand.

Sadly, odds are Confused Networking Student is too young to get the “grasshopper” reference. (Unless Kung Fu is still in reruns out there, which I wouldn’t know because I basically gave up on TV decades ago.) One hopes the Zen-master schtick will be recognizable anyway.

Update: There is relevant compilation from the show on YouTube.

69 thoughts on “In which I have reason to sound like Master Po

  1. @esr:
    >Sadly, odds are Confused Networking Student is too young to get the “grasshopper” reference.

    Depends on how much there is to get: I’m in my late twenties and have never seen the movie of which you speak, but I have certainly heard “grasshopper” used in American popular culture as a name given by the ostensibly learned to the ostensibly unlearned in order to inject humor and an East Asian sage vibe. Is there more to it than that? Confused Networking Student would be at most a decade younger than me, and very likely more culturally literate, so depending on how much there is to get in the “grasshopper” reference, he may very well get it.

  2. >I have certainly heard “grasshopper” used in American popular culture as a name given by the ostensibly learned to the ostensibly unlearned in order to inject humor and an East Asian sage vibe. Is there more to it than that?

    Just a little, but the additional nuances are probably only significant to martial artists and would-be martial artists. So what you say is reassuring.

  3. I’ve been promising to write one ICMP over ICBM for…A Really Long Time now.

  4. Well, I’m twenty-five and have watched Kung Fu. Sadly, I couldn’t finish it: the rerun in question was terminated.

    Anyway, feel free to call me “grasshoper”; I already consider myself your apprentice anyway. ;)

    >I basically gave up on TV decades ago

    I hear you. If it weren’t for Animal planet–especially Too Cute–, I wouldn’t watch any TV these days.

  5. @William:
    >I’ve been promising to write one ICMP over ICBM for…A Really Long Time now.

    jon@orthanc:~% ping kremlin.ru
    PING kremlin.ru (555.555.555.555) 56(84) bytes of data
    ^C
    — kremlin.ru ping statistics —
    6 packets transmitted, 0 received, 100% packet detonation, time 2701054ms
    jon@orthanc:~% ping kremlin.ru
    ping: unknown host kremlin.ru
    jon@orthanc:~%

  6. I’m with Jon Brase. I’m 28 and I wasn’t even aware it was a reference, I thought it was mere idiom. (I did watch a bit of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues as a kid, for what it’s worth…)

  7. Don’t worry. Much like The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, Star Trek, and now The Equalizer, Kung Fu will be rebooted — as at least one major big-budget motion picture full of explosions and visual razzmatazz — and none of the spirit of the original. Baz Luhrmann is attached to direct. Oh brother.

  8. Why is RFC 3092 considered humorous?

    Sorry, but I consider etymology a very serious matter. But then, I consider humor a very serious matter too.

  9. @esr
    “Just a little, but the additional nuances are probably only significant to martial artists and would-be martial artists.”

    I always understood it as a reference to the preying mantis techniques (see Fung Fu Panda films). Too many people confuse grasshoppers with preying mantis. But then, I might have missed the real clue in the TV series.
    (I watched them when they were aired the first time. But I was young then. But I did practice some of those techniques)

  10. @BobW
    I am curious. Do you propose a mechanism that pumps heat from the cold depts to the warm surface of the oceans?

  11. Meh. When you see a number like 0.08 plus or minus 0.72, you know that the author is just handwaving.

  12. The Dresden Files novels (all written this century) have Harry Dresden routinely call his apprentice “grasshopper” without explaining the reference.

  13. @Winter

    No need. Heat makes things expand. Cold makes things contract. If the depths cool, they contract. That would offset surface expansion from heating.

  14. Funny you should mention avian datagrams. I was just pondering a question relating to them, and thinking “ESR would probably be in a position to know, but I’d have to go off-topic to ask.” Then you posted this.

    The question is “What velocity of carrier pigeon is the real internet’s latency equivalent to?”.

    (obviously we’re ignoring the time spent getting the data on and off the bird…)

    It’s easy to look up the velocity of a single data line. That’s two-thirds lightspeed both for typical fiber and Cat5 ethernet, with 99% attainable over copper. But the real internet has to be much slower since it takes time for each router to handle a packet. Internet paths can also veer strongly from a straight line.

    What would answer the question (as much as it can be answered) would be a scatter plot of many RTT measurements between many nodes of known missile address. On one axis would be the great circle distance between the nodes measured, and the RTT would be the other axis. Then half the best fit slope would be the answer.

    And, I understand, you are already building a collection of such nodes as part of your bufferbloat research.

  15. I can’t remember my source for this – I am not sure that it is true, but as I recall, Bruce Lee was sorely pissed off when he didn’t get the lead in the show Kung Fu.

  16. @esr

    Do you buy the arrow deflecting in the show Kung Fu? If the archer released the arrow as soon as it reached full draw, I could see it. But isn’t there a limit to reaction time of about… uh… 0.2 seconds? If the arrow is already pointing at a kung fu practitioner, at full draw, even if he can see the archer’s fingers holding the bow string, can he react fast enough to deflect the arrow when it is released?

  17. >Do you buy the arrow deflecting in the show Kung Fu?

    Attempts to reproduce it in controlled conditions have failed badly. But it’s possible that the modern trials were done at ranges shorter than were contemplated by the original practitioners, and that the originals were plain better at it. Color me skeptical but not prepared to rule out the possibility entirely.

  18. re: deflecting arrows

    ‘Course, there is another aspect – if someone is going to shoot you in the chest with an arrow, you might as well try. If it fails, people say, “He was shot by an arrow.” If it works, people say, “DID YOU SEE WHAT THAT GUY DID!?”

  19. Arrows from “traditional” style recurves typically have a speed of 60 meters/second or so. So I’d expect range to matter: Range 10 meters, time 0.17 seconds. Range 30 meters, time 0.5 seconds. Range 60 meters, time 1.0 seconds.

    By way of comparison, a major-league fastball is about 40 meters/second, and distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate is a bit over 18 meters. So an arrow-deflector at 27 meters from the archer would have about the same amount time to react as a baseball batter does to a 90 mph fastball from the pitcher.

  20. @BobW
    “If the depths cool, they contract. That would offset surface expansion from heating.”

    But how can deep waters cool when surface waters are warming? Where does the heat go? That was my question.

  21. @Jay Maynard
    “When you see a number like 0.08 plus or minus 0.72, you know that the author is just handwaving.”

    No, this is an author saying that the difference is statistically indistinguishable from 0. But also from +0.80 and -0.64. It can be used to check other (future) measurements.

  22. Brain Marshall: One thing to remember, with practice, reaction time drops significantly. In Deep Lurker’s comparison of the MLB Fastball, the batter has to start his swing instinctively as soon as the pitcher begins his forward motion and then DECIDES whether or not the ball will be in the strike zone. I’m sure that, if one practiced catching arrows as much as batters practice hitting pitches, that same instinctive movement-then-evaluation procedure would come into play, reducing reaction time significantly.

  23. @Winter

    @BobW

    “If the depths cool, they contract. That would offset surface expansion from heating.”

    But how can deep waters cool when surface waters are warming? Where does the heat go? That was my question.

    I don’t know where the heat went. Maybe it was never there. When theory and data conflict you discard the theory. The most you can do to the data is check it very carefully.

  24. > Do you buy the arrow deflecting in the show Kung Fu? If the archer released the arrow as soon as it reached full draw, I could see it. But isn’t there a limit to reaction time of about… uh… 0.2 seconds? If the arrow is already pointing at a kung fu practitioner, at full draw, even if he can see the archer’s fingers holding the bow string, can he react fast enough to deflect the arrow when it is released?

    AFAIK MythBusters confirmed the myth (modified to *deflecting* not *catching* arrows) as plausible.

  25. > When theory and data conflict you discard the theory.

    Only after checking the data!

  26. @Jakub Narebski

    When theory and data conflict you discard the theory.

    Only after checking the data!

    Carefully. Very Carefully. It is vital not to check it so much that you massage it into conformance with your theory.

  27. @BobW
    “I don’t know where the heat went. Maybe it was never there.”

    Cooling == heat transfer. No heat transfer, no cooling.

    @BobW
    “> Only after checking the data!

    Carefully. Very Carefully. It is vital not to check it so much that you massage it into conformance with your theory.”

    Nothing looks like a revolutionary discovery as a bug in the software/faulty measurement

  28. > When theory and data conflict you discard the theory

    If you’re a typical grant whore “scientist”, you just attack any data that conflicts with your theory, and call all your buddies to proclaim jihad against the “deniers.”

    see also: “Global warming.”

  29. Aren’t we all just waiting for the day when the router at a pigeon racing establishment goes down…

  30. @TRX
    “If you’re a typical grant whore “scientist”, you just attack any data that conflicts with your theory, and call all your buddies to proclaim jihad against the “deniers.””

    Any inside knowledge? Because that is exactly what I have not seen. And I have participated in grant reviews at both side.

  31. @Winter

    … Nothing looks like a revolutionary discovery as a bug in the software/faulty measurement

    I agree. You have to recheck your data. If you can’t find a problem with it, that’s when you do the classy thing like the folks at CERN: publish all your data and ask for help.

  32. David S. on 2014-10-06 at 02:31:32 said:
    > @Jon Brase: as long as there is no echo reply … :-)

    Seismographs are used for the back haul.

  33. @ Deep Lurker

    Arrows from “traditional” style recurves typically have a speed of 60 meters/second or so.

    We are probably talking about somewhat slower arrows.

    Range 10 meters, time 0.17 seconds. Range 30 meters, time 0.5 seconds.

    By way of comparison, a major-league fastball is about 40 meters/second…[at] a bit over 18 meters. So an arrow-deflector at 27 meters from the archer would have about the same amount time to react as a baseball batter does to a 90 mph fastball from the pitcher.

    Ok, that’s cool – that leaves a bit of time in addition to a 0.2 reaction time – very difficult (like MLB) but not impossible, although 27 meters is a long way – much farther than the arrow-deflecting on “Kung Fu”. Can a person see an archer’s fingers well at 27 meters?

    @ Don

    …with practice, reaction time drops significantly.

    Does it? Nerve speed is not fast and there is brain time and muscle-contraction time.

    [In] MLB Fastball, the batter has to start his swing instinctively as soon as the pitcher begins his forward motion and then DECIDES whether or not the ball will be in the strike zone.

    That’s… more “notice” – my question was about:

    …arrow is already pointing at a kung fu practitioner, at full draw, even if he can see the archer’s fingers holding the bow string

    The archer doesn’t have to move much to release the arrow.

    @ Jakub Narebski

    AFAIK MythBusters confirmed the myth [of deflecting arrows] as plausible.

    Right. (I guess – I haven’t really watched TV for about 25 years.)

    So, it would seem to be (just) within the realm of possibility given a slow enough arrow released far enough away.

    I haven’t really watched TV for about 25 years.

  34. @Brian Marshall & ESR

    Is not watching TV disproportionally frequent in hacker circles? I have noticed that I increasingly eschew TV for reading various blogs.

  35. I haven’t watched TV regularly since 1996, when Animaniacs left the air. I haven’t had cable or broadcast TV since 2002. We don’t even own an HDTV; the only functioning TV we have, I think, is a 20-inch Toshiba CRT model. We bought converters on general principles when the government was giving away coupons.

    I’m not at all atypical.

  36. Didn’t take long for the AGW fraud to get in here did it..
    Look what they did to Judith Curry and others,, the AGW hucksters wear jackboots now.
    They have captured all peer review, which invalidates peer review.

    Whatever institution the left has marched thru, thy have destroyed .
    Which, is in their list of objectives, so they consider that success.

  37. > Is not watching TV disproportionally frequent in hacker circles?

    “WKRP in Cincinnati” led to “Head of the Class”. When that went off the air, the (now ex) wife watched game shows and I would go down stairs and code.

  38. Winter doth protest:

    > But how can deep waters cool when surface waters are warming? Where does the heat go?
    > That was my question.

    And:

    >Cooling == heat transfer. No heat transfer, no cooling.

    Warm water rises, cold water sinks.

    There are many mechanisms to move water around. Tidal action and winds. See “ENSO” as as an example.

    There are two huge problems with CAGW:

    1) We don’t know all that much about the planet.
    1a) We understand even less about how what we know interrelates.
    2) CAGW was based on climate models. Some 95 or 98% of which are not matching observations.

  39. There are a lot of tricks attributed to ‘kung fu masters’ in movies and on TV. ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ (a really good film that I enjoyed) has martial artists flying through the air with the greatest of ease. It’s not likely that anyone could close his hand around a flying arrow and stop it. (Those things commonly shoot right through the body of a deer in hunting, longbow arrows could penetrate armor, etc.) These are entertaining fantasies…which are fine and good if you are aware of that.

    My objections to shows like Kung Fu lie in the phony Chinese philosophy put out by the writers. The wise sayings of Master Po and the other saffron-robed idiots of The Temple are usually banal and often stupid. It promotes a rather stereotyped view of the Chinese completely at odds with say, the Analects of Confucius.

  40. @
    “You have to recheck your data. If you can’t find a problem with it, that’s when you do the classy thing like the folks at CERN: publish all your data and ask for help.”

    Indeed, if your data seem to defy the laws of nature. Else, you simply publish and let the discussion sort it out. Given that the science predicting climate change was established in the 19th century, there is little reason to be that cautious.

  41. @William O’Blivion
    “Warm water rises, cold water sinks.”

    Not below 4 C. But even that still does not explain how cold water can cool when it lies below water that is heating up.

    Before we get more uninformed speculation, for the deep ocean to cool, some patch of surface water has to cool and sink. But surface waters are warming. So, please, where is that cold water coming from? Or how is cold water transferring heat to warmer surface waters.

    And about current understanding of deep ocean mixing, see:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v513/n7517/fig_tab/513179a_F1.html

  42. >The wise sayings of Master Po and the other saffron-robed idiots of The Temple are usually banal and often stupid.

    I just listened to a video compilation. Allowing for the fact that it’s Hollywood and dumbed down, a remarkable amount of Taoist and Buddhist philosophy does manage to get through.

    The stuff that is closest to martial-arts practice – like using redirection rather than force-on-force blocking – is the least distorted. The droning on about the unity of life and the wonderfulness of nature is, as you say, banal, but the banality reflects Taoist mysticism which was quite high on these things.

  43. @ Winter

    Re: AGW, I said:

    3) You can only get a big grant to study it if you restrict your results to those that the government wants.

    I admit that I was thinking about an aspect of American politics, but in any case, my sentence is hyperbole, which is to say, that I assume that it isn’t strictly true even in the US. But there is an important political aspect involved – governments want more power, and AGW is wonderful for this purpose.

  44. Since we’re talking about Eastern mysticism…

    You once wrote: “I’m not a Buddhist (and someday I’ll explain why I’m not in detail on this blog)”. I hereby encourage you to blog about that. :)

  45. Winter on 2014-10-08 at 01:51:07 said:Successive Australian governments want to sell coal and are blocking actions to curb carbon dioxide emissions, but they fund a lot of research in AGW.

    Do not confuse the policies of the political rulers with the actions of the Deep State. The current Australian ministry has rescinded the previous ministry’s carbon tax and supports coal exports; that does not mean they control what CSIRO awards grants for.

  46. @Rich Rostrom
    “The current Australian ministry has rescinded the previous ministry’s carbon tax and supports coal exports; that does not mean they control what CSIRO awards grants for.”

    Which is to show that the whole “we deliver the results you want” argument is bogus. Climate change results are found because that is what the scientific process delivers. Whatever the people who pay want or not.

  47. @Brian Marshal
    “governments want more power, and AGW is wonderful for this purpose.”

    AGW is simply the next big disaster coming our way. Ebola and the water crisis in Central Asia and the Middle East are just some others that are hitting right now. More are waiting in the wings.

    In other words, “we” do not have to spin global problems out of thin air, we just have to pick one we want.

  48. @Rich Rostrom

    When you see something that is not attributable to a policy established or continued by the current government, when is it private action and when is it the “deep state”?

  49. @Random832
    “when is it private action and when is it the “deep state”?”

    I am afraid this deep state is not made up of people. It sounds much more nefarious.
    ;-)

    The commitees that decide on grants in funding bodies are peopled by (former) scientists, btw.

  50. > Nothing looks like a revolutionary discovery as a bug in the software/faulty measurement.

    Which of course can go either way:
    * faster than light neutrinos, which turned out to be hardware glitch (partially unconnected cable)
    * discovery of superconductivity, which looked like hardware bug when measuring resistance vs temperature (most probably by undergrads)

  51. Dammit, *I* want to work for “an organization in charge of writing humorous RFC’s” !

    On the other hand, I kind of feel sorry for kids who’ve grown up thinking everything has somebody in charge of it.

  52. > jon@orthanc:~% ping kremlin.ru

    Pinging kremlin.ru [195.208.24.95] with 32 megatons:
    Reply from 195.208.24.95: megatons=32 time=179min TTL=50

    …at that point, my computer overheated ;)

    (Note: actual IPv4 address courtesy kremlin.ru and network-tools.com …and… as it was with http://www.moscow.com (I got a real kick out of it really being Moscow, Idaho), adapted from a normal ping in real life.)

  53. Something else to keep in mind, Terry: there’s a Write Only Protocol (Revised) that has a lot of automated support for ICMP over ICBM. The downside I found is that after several simulated transmissions, it suddenly becomes very lossy.

  54. Could that explain why my internet connection crapped out (really, lol) for half an hour while I was watching this?

  55. It works for me in Chromium on Kubuntu 14.10. Since that was surely unhelpful, I will note that I have had “funny things” happen, including total freezing, when I try to view HD YouTube content on a live USB for any length of time, and I wonder if the buffering is exceeding some memory limit you may have.

  56. I am rather young and am a huge fan of _Kung_Foo_, so I guess it depends on where you are coming from.

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