Fun_People Archive
22 Oct
Pure logic is like a purple stretch-velvet minidress...

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 96 11:30:23 -0700
To: Fun_People
Subject: Pure logic is like a purple stretch-velvet minidress...

Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <>
Forwarded-by: Gregory G Rose <>
From: zwicky <>

I did like the lightswitch on the stairs.  A lot of people have a switch at
the top of the stairs and one at the bottom, but only David and Pat had a
switch that ran continuously from the top to the bottom; rather than doing
a proper wiring job, they put a really long pull cord on the light and
strung it along the wall all the way from top to bottom.  This is better
than the traditional way because you can turn it on at an *infinite*
*number* of different places, which is obviously much better than being able
to turn it on at only two.  Of course, it is rather rare to develop a sudden
desire to turn on the light in mid-staircase.

David only likes doing things perfectly.  Sometimes this means they take
him a few extra decades to get done...

David did have another reason for liking the long pull-cord solution, it
occurs to me; he objected to the way that normal two-switch setups leave
you with switches that may incorrectly indicate the state of the lamp (that
is, the switch may be up when the light is off).  The pull cord, since it
never indicates state, is at least never false.  This reminds me of an
engineer at SRI who reported to me that the lights in one of our labs were
broken.  I accompanied him to verify this (I am not a trusting soul), and
when I flipped the switch, on they came.  I inquired as to why he thought
they were broken.  He had observed that the switch was up and the light was
off, and had logically deduced that the lights must be broken.  I pointed
out that it was a room with multiple light switches.  He pointed out that
he had walked around the end of the building to get to the doors on the
opposite side and checked there, and those switches were up too; did I think
he was an idiot, to report things broken without checking them?  I contented
myself with pointing out that the room had 3 doors, and suggesting that in
future, it might be faster, although less elegant, to check whether the
light switches worked by actually flipping the switch.

This is the sort of thing that gives logic a bad name. Pure logic is like
a purple stretch-velvet minidress; when it's the right thing to use, it's
a killer, but it's not practical for everyday wear.


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