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.comment: British Beer, American Politics, and glibc-2.2

Yes, there is a connection

  • November 21, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

It is time to praise the floating widget.

At about this time each year the great Yorkshire ales arrive in the northeastern United States. The Tadcaster Christmas ales aren't here yet, but the others have trickled smoothly in. The best I've encountered this year is Tetley's, from Leeds. Each pint can bears the news: "This can contains a Floating Widget."

Of course, this required research and, pain me though it did, I undertook it. After emptying the first can--and hey, it wouldn't be right to let the contents go to waste, would it?--I pried the can open and found a plastic ball a little smaller than a ping pong ball. I have no idea what its purpose is, but if it is the floating widget that gives Tetley's its fine qualities, I encourage the KDE and Gnome people to consider what a floating widget might do for those projects.

The Yorkshire ale arrived just in time. I do not know if anyone is going to measure the productivity in the United States for the last couple of weeks, but my guess is that it has dropped tremendously. The country that some of us still love and respect has found itself in crisis. What was a close election has been made far worse. My friends email me with the news that they've scarcely slept in two weeks. Me, too. Election night was scarcely over when the lawyers began to emerge. And not just garden-variety lawyers, either: These are the result of a fiendish genetic experiment seeking to merge human genes with those of reptiles. (An earlier, failed, experiment, tried to hybridize humans with tree frogs and toads, resulting in Slate's Michael Kinsley and proud Electoral College corrupter Bob Beckel, respectively.)

These lizardmen are all over the television, telling us that people in South Florida who cannot read a ballot are capable, however, of reading punch cards. Gimme a break! And people who cannot put together a shell script can write in machine language.

I suppose this was to be expected--U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri is said to be able to snag a fly in flight from six feet with his lightning-quick sticky tongue, and there are supposedly photographs of him using that appendage to clean and moisten the strangely elliptical pupils of his eyes.

(By the way. A friend at IBM informs me that knockouts on data processing cards aren't chads, they're chips.)

This kind of thing causes one to become the unofficial Tetley's quality assurance guy, and it led me to make sure that floating widgets had been consistently placed in all the cans. They were, best I can remember. At some point, my widget verification became unreliable. I was now qualified to re-recount votes in Florida.

But after awhile, one needs a better diversion, something to prevent the kind of behavior that annoys the neighbors. Around here, that involves bold computer projects that more often than not result in a seriously broken machine.

Time had come for drastic action. A huge and terrifying piecemeal software upgrade seemed just the ticket.

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