Let’s Share Funny Stories About Programmers

Reader Tim says,

 I too have noticed increased social limitations in some IT folks. I can’t cite s study, but it seems to be that this depends on the size of the IT/Programming/Network department they work in. As a rule of thumb, the larger the department, the more inept they are. I have met programmers from 5 person companies who were social wunderkinder and programmers from huge programming mills who pretty much spend their entire life among other IT folks.

Social limitations are a nice way to put it. 🙂

I remember how my father’s second favorite programmer had to come by my house to test something on my computer. I was told it would take 10 minutes at most.

I brought her to the study where the computer was and left, closing the door. One hour 10 minutes later I was already fuming because I had my own work to do and the programmer wasn’t coming out of the study. So I went there to ask when she was going to be done.

In the room, I found the programmer sitting completely still and staring at a dark screen.

“Erm. . . are you OK?” I asked.

“Yes. . .” she said in a slow and completely indifferent voice. “This computer isn’t on.”

I approached the monitor and pressed a button. The monitor turned on.

“Ah. . .” the programmer said.

Update From the Seinfeld Chain

I have discovered that the best thing to do is never to get off the Seinfeld Chain for any reason. I was on one for almost 3 months in the spring, and after about a month it became as easy and natural to write every day as it is to brush my teeth. Then I went off it to go on vacation, and now it’s a struggle to start a new chain.

I’m now thinking that my plan to stop working on August 1 and not do any work at all until the end of my maternity leave is an idiotic idea. My sister said that when she tried to stop working a month before her due date, she started feeling every single symptom of being in her third trimester very vividly. She says that when you have nothing to distract you from the symptoms, your whole life becomes about the symptoms. So she worked almost straight until the due date, and in an office, too.

I’m extremely lucky in that I don’t have to heave my huge belly to an office in order to work. I can work while lying in bed, and I never need anything like 8 hours a day to be productive. Just the opposite, if I tried to write for 8 hours, I’d be incapable of doing any more research for at least a week.

Don’t mind me, I’m just thinking aloud to figure this stuff out.

Whiny Programmers and Angry Hispanists

Reader Tim asked me to take a look at this article titled, “Why do women try to get ahead by pulling men down?”

The moment I see a title that says things like “Why do women / men. . .” I can’t read any further. These generalizations tell us absolutely nothing about the world. They tell us a lot about people who project their own experiences on the world and hide behind the generalizations from an honest discussion of him or herself.

For people who are really interested in why women in the US are not very present in STEM fields, I recommend turning away from chatty articles about elevators and towards real scholarship. Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine is based not on strange fantasies about elevators but on a mile-long bibliography and years of scholarly research.

The only part of the linked article that I found interesting is how it presents people in IT as childish, whiny and immature beyond belief. I grew up surrounded by programmers who were constantly congregating at our house. (They worked with and later for my father.) The programmers (of both genders) that I have met throughout my life were exactly like the ones described in the linked piece: very socially and intellectually limited in all areas other than the area of their expertise.

I’m in no way suggesting that all IT people are like this, of course. I’m saying that the ones I have met are. And we tend to encounter exactly what and whom we passionately want to encounter. This is why I suggest that if you keep meeting whiny programmers (nasty women, immature men, angry Hispanists), you don’t ask, “Why are programmers whiny, women nasty, men immature and Hispanists angry?” Instead, I believe it is a lot more productive to ask, “Why do I have this overpowering need to meet whiny programmers, angry Hispanists, etc.?”

We can never hope to know anything about all women, all men, all truck drivers, or all schoolteachers. We can get to know a lot about ourselves, though, and that’s a lot more useful than generalizing about programmers or anybody else.

Katherine Webb’s A Half-Forgotten Song: Monstrous Women and Weak Men

So I finished Katherine Webb’s A Half-Forgotten Song and I highly recommend it. If you are planning a beach vacation, do take the book with you, and you will have a blast.

The novel is filled with these monstrous, horrifying female characters who walk over anything or anybody to get what they want. They are surrounded by completely weak and pathetic male characters who dissolve completely when faced with the power of the female protagonists. This phenomenon is presented as multi-generational and not a product of any specific place or time.

The book doesn’t attempt to offer any explanations as to why the female characters are so unrelentingly evil and the male characters are so helpless and bumbling. This is simply a reality that is shown as in need of no reason or justification. I find this unapologetic way of constructing a narrative to be very curious.

I also liked the author’s way of depicting evil.  We see a character who personifies every horror we can imagine but who is completely oblivious to how destructive she is. There is this degree of terrifying stupidity in this protagonist that is precisely the characteristic which makes her so dangerous. The scariest people are not the ones who plot and scheme but the ones who never stop to think at all.

If my impressions of the novel made you think it’s some sort of a Gothic thing, you can rest easy because it isn’t. There are no zombies, no weirdness, no pale-faced shadowy heroines. Just a very unusual story with unexpected characters.