Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 13:16:45 PDT
Subject: Hunting Elephants
[As Keith suggests this is an oldie, but it goes to greater lengths than
previous versions I've seen (especially after I corrected one or two obvious
From: vangogh.CS.Berkeley.EDU!bostic (Keith Bostic)
How do you hunt elephants...?
MATHEMATICS grad students hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out
everything that is not an elephant, and catching one of whatever is left.
Experienced mathematicians will attempt to prove the existence of at least
one unique elephant before proceeding to step 1 as a subordinate exercise.
Professors of mathematics 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.
COMPUTER SCIENTISTS 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.
COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS modify Algorithm A by placing a known elephant in Cairo
to ensure that the algorithm will terminate. Assembly language programmers
prefer to execute Algorithm A on their hands and knees.
ENGINEERS hunt elephants by going to Africa, catching gray animals at
random, and stopping when any one of them weighs within plus or minus 15
percent of any previously observed elephant.
ECONOMISTS don't hunt elephants, but they believe that if elephants are paid
enough, they will hunt themselves.
STATISTICIANS hunt the 1st animal they see N times & call it an elephant.
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.
Operations research 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.
POLITICIANS don't hunt elephants, but they will share the elephants you
catch with the people who voted for them.
MODERN POLITICIANS will share the elephants you catch with the people who
financed their campaigns.
LAWYERS don't hunt elephants, but they do follow the herds around arguing
about who owns the droppings. Software lawyers will claim that they own an
entire herd based on the look and feel of one dropping.
VICE PRESIDENTS of engineering, research, and development try hard to hunt
elephants, but their staffs are designed to prevent it. When the vice
president does get to hunt elephants, the staff will try to ensure that all
possible elephants are completely prehunted before the vice president sees
them. If the vice president does see a nonprehunted elephant, the staff
will (1) compliment the vice president's keen eyesight and (2) enlarge
itself to prevent any recurrence.
SENIOR MANAGERS set broad elephant-hunting policy based on the assumption
that elephants are just like field mice, but with deeper voices.
QUALITY ASSURANCE inspectors ignore the elephants and look for mistakes the
other hunters made when they were packing the jeep.
SOCIAL WORKERS help elephants find themselves.
SALESPEOPLE don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling elephants they
haven't caught, for delivery two days before the season opens. Software
salespeople ship the first thing they catch and write up an invoice for an
elephant. Hardware salespeople catch rabbits, paint them gray, and sell
them as DESKTOP ELEPHANTS.
© 1993 Peter Langston