ZIP Beep #34
THE ZIP BEEP GUIDE TO UNIVERSAL RULES, LAWS, BROMIDES, THEOREMS AND AXIOMS
compiled by Don Fitzwater
Man, and Man's civilizations, run by rules. Man hopes to better control the universe's tendencies towards entropy (or at least understand them) by formulating rules, laws, theories, etc. all dealing with what, when, where, and why something happens. This is all very well and good, but there always seems to be events and situations that apparently defy the laws of Nature, Physics, Chemistry, etc.
These events have generated a rapidly expanding field of human endeavor, of which a certain Murphy and his laws are probably the best known example. We have compiled here, for your enlightenment, some of the lesser known laws.
Amaze your friends, stun your co-workers, explain the inner most workings of the cosmos with THE ZIP BEEP GUIDE TO UNIVERSAL RULES.
The Rules of Any Given Program:
Any given program will expand to fill all available resources.
Any given program, once running, is obsolete.
Any given program, when running correctly, is obsolete.
If any given program is useful, it will have to be changed.
If any given program is useless, it will have to be documented.
Boulton's Law of Ascending Budgets:
Both expenditures and revenues rise to meet the other, no matter which may be in excess.
When in doubt, mumble.
If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into a committee -- that will do them in.
Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.
Bye's First Law of Model Railroading:
Anytime you wish to demonstrate something, the number of faults encountered is proportional to the number of viewers.
Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
Chisolm's Third Law, Corollary 1:
If you explain so clearly that no one can misunderstand, somebody will.
Chisolm's Third Law, Corollary 2:
If you do something which you are sure will meet with everyone's approval, somebody won't like it.
Chisolm's Third Law, Corollary 3:
Procedures designed to implement the purpose won't quite work.
Civilization Law #1:
Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations one can do without thinking about them.
The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to get anything done.
Crittendon's 14th Application of Murphy's First Law:
You can not successfully determine beforehand which side of the bread to butter.
When all else fails, THEN read the manual.
Fifth Law of Procrastination:
Procrastination avoids boredom; one never has the feeling that there is nothing important to do.
Finagle's First Law:
If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.
Finagle's Fourth Law:
Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it makes it worse.
First Law of Advice:
The correct advice is to give the advice that is desired.
A transistor protected by a fast acting fuse will protect the fuse by blowing first.
Glib's Laws of Reliability:
1) Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable.
3) The only difference between the fool and the criminal who attacks a system is that the fool attacks unpredictably and on a broader front.
5) Self-checking systems tend to have a complexity in proportion to the inherent unreliability of the system in which they are used.
7) Undetectable errors are infinite in variety, in contrast to detectable errors, which by definition are limited.
9) Investment in reliability will increase until it exceeds the probable cost of errors, or somebody insists on getting useful work done.
The probability of anything happening is inversely proportional to its desirability.
The Law of Interchangability:
Interchangable devices won't.
It won't work.
Logic is an organized way of going wrong with confidence.
Pure drivel tends to drive away ordinary drivel.
Law of Communications:
The result of improved and enlarged communications is a vastly increased area of misunderstanding.
Lord Falkland's Rule:
When it is not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision.
O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Laws:
Murphy was an optimist.
Variables won't; constants aren't.
It works better if you plug it in.
The chief cause of problems is solutions.
The length of a meeting rises with the square of the number of people present.
Stever's Corollary of Murphy's Law:
The down device will fully function in the presence of service technicians.
The Two Rules of Work:
1) The Boss is always right.
2) When the Boss is wrong, refer to rule 1.
ZIP Beep #34
by Dennis Wallaker
There's nobody reading at the Library Hotel.
The Library Hotel is downtown, above Han's Restaurant, where few people eat (though I did once as a suburban teenager with my suitably slick to the point of pimply pals. We were having ourselves a real "urban" experience; sucking up to the winos for their life stories and ordering the baked apple -- which came old and cold and existing as a strange, almost perilous afterthought of the short order waitress who said, "I made them but I never expected anyone to buy them." I'm still thinking on that one). I remember, as a little boy, passing it at night; streetlights, dashboard lights and the lights on in the Library Hotel. The rooms all looked kind of yellow like it wasn't a clean kind of light, and I imagined the walls to be made out of the same scarey linoleum that my Grandma had down in her root cellar.
Now that I live a scant five blocks away (at a place I call the Crypt in the lovely Laurel Apartments -- it's what 221 Baker St. would be if Holmes was a beatnik), I often have the chance to walk past the Library Hotel. And while I found it suitably creepy as a child, now that I am a resident of the area I find it absolutely terrifying. The Crypt has soul and the lovely Laurel Apartments, while not being lovely, are big -- big enough to get lost in.
July 16, 1986 2 AM -- Walking back from a bar that I wasn't supposed to be at in the first place, I pulled out my key to open the entrance marked SECURITY DOOR. Out of the corner of my left eye I saw five large black guys running after me as if to rob and do me bodily harm. As any Lutheran would do, I stopped dead in my tracks and said to myself, "I've had this coming for a long time -- Oh no, Uff Da, I got my street smarts, it's all in the attitude, nobody bothers me -- Yeah right."
They're about five feet away and one of them yells, "Yeah, man, it's like I told ya, it's the white dude in Apartment 11." Ah ha, they want more than my money or me, they want my stuff! My rare books, my rare records, my rare clothes, my rare musical instruments, yes, with the exception of a copy of "SEXUAL POLITICS" by Kate Millett and the sound track from "BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID," it's all rare! And I'm thinking: they can take my money, they can beat the life out of me, but I'll be damned if they're taking my 78 of "Take the A Train" by the Delta Rhythm Boys.
Then another of the guys says, "You're right, it is the white dude from Number 11. He's cool. He'll figure something out." Then to me, "Man, you're hip to a lot of matters, we're all locked out, can you figure out a way for us to get back in?" It looked like time for Bwana Dennis.
"Sherlock Holmes says, 'Eliminate the impossible and whatever's left, no matter how improbable, must be the solution.'" (My other quote is Charlie Parker's, "First you learn the instrument and then you learn the music and then you forget all that **** and just play." But I didn't know if it would be applicable to the situation even if these guys were black).
"Yeah man, but what do that mean, what should we do?"
I said, "Follow me," and began methodically though briskly checking each security door in the ol' complex. Finding one ajar, I said, "Follow me. Stick together, I'm relatively unfamiliar with this part of the building."
One guy said, "White Dude, I'm sorry, man, I don't know your name, but I love the way you talk -- relatively unfamiliar, that's a gas!"
We wandered down endless hallways for what seemed like hours when one of the guys piped up, "I recognize that fire extinguisher, this here is where the guy with the ferret lives! I'll knock, man, and he'll hip us to where we are."
I said, "No, don't, it's three in the morning."
He said, "That's all right, if it's the guy with the ferret, he's cool."
Well, it was the guy with the ferret, but he wasn't cool. Still, there were six of us and just him (and this furball that was struggling to get out of his arms and get in touch with some real humans), so he gave us some E-Z big letter directions and one by one we found everybody's apartment.
Now, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, the comparison between the Crypt and the Library Hotel. Ok, one, two, three and a quick jump --
The Library Hotel is a place that never had any hubris, and the lack of it is so tangible that you can run your hand over it like you would a scab on your leg. It sits there like the Fat Lady in a modern sideshow; not asking for any sympathy, not getting any sympathy. And through the windows, there's something beyond no one there. You can still sense who was there and it doesn't feel good and it doesn't feel right. It feels like the reason people move out of town. In fact, it's evil, but in such a harmless way that you would really feel like a heel trying to do something about it.
Besides, it's good to get an honest shudder every once in a while. In this neighborhood, it dulls the fat man's appetite and makes a skinny guy wish he had some soup.
ZIP Beep #34
by Don Fitzwater
The small principality of Fernando Poo is claiming development of a "new generation" supercomputer that dwarfs the capabilities of supercomputers currently in use around the world.
U.S. computer experts cautioned that it was impossible to assess the claim. The computer has not been tested by independant authorities, and the Poovians have provided scant details about the machine.
To qualify as a supercomputer, a machine must be able to perform 20 million or more floating-point operations, or "flops," per second. A typical home computer has a peak speed of several thousand flops per second. The Cray 2, made by Cray Research of Minneapolis, the world's leading supercomputer manufacturer, performs 1.2 billion calculations per second.
The Poovians are claiming a speed of up to 10 billion per second for their new machine. In addition, it apparently incorporates important innovations in its basic scheme of operation that make it more versatile in solving complex problems.
Poovian computer expert Yul Ook Mahvelous said the computer uses 16 full time processors, plus an additional 12 part time processors. In an approach termed "bureaucratic processing," it requires the computer to solve many aspects of a problem simultaneously, over and over again. Mahvelous is the director of the Institute of Precise Excuses and Computer Technology of Fernando Poo, where the new computer was developed.
According to Mahvelous, "Many existing supercomputers have a single processor and depend on serial processing. In serial processing, only one aspect of the problem can be solved at a time, with the solution stored in memory before the computer moves on to the next calculation. Parallel processing allows the computer to solve many aspects of a problem simultaneously. Bureaucratic processing requires the computer to work on all parts of the problem at the same time, and further, to repeat this work over and over in triplicate. This is why we have the 12 part time processors. They take over and handle the overtime that occurs. And they cover for the other processors when they are sick or on break."
When pressed for an explanation of just how this seemingly inefficient system could reach the claimed 10 billion flops per second, Mahvelous replied, "Well you know, with that many tasks being performed simultaneously and redundantly, we're bound to generate a high level of flops. In fact, I'm willing to bet that we will consistently have more flops than any other supercomputer in the world!"
One U.S. expert, Chip R. Downes, said that in terms of speed, the Poovian computer would rank "at the weird end" of world technology. Likewise, he said the use of 16 processors and 12 part time processors appears "really out of it." Said Downes, "While this system is technically very, very fast, it is damn near impossible to get any actual results out of it. Its processors speed busily along, processing huge amounts of information, most of which has no practical value at all."
Fernando Poo's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hernando Llamas, described the new supercomputer in a speech to heads of foreign diplomatic missions. Llamas concluded by saying, "The development of this supercomputer is destined to assure Fernando Poo's rightful place among the technological countries of the world. Besides, most of your governments have already ordered one."
ZIP Beep #34
DR. HOWZATT? AND THE SENSE OF NONSENSE
by Chuck Strinz
[He's back! That charmer, that raconteur supreme, that master of time and space (not to mention a great ripoff artist) Dr. Howzzat? has returned to ZIP Beep after a long absence. We never know quite when he'll show up. But due to popular demand (well, one of you asked for him about a year ago, but what's that to a time lord?), the man of this and every other hour puts in his fifth ZIP Beep appearance. You asked for it. Don't blame us. -ED]
"Finish your soup, Romeovera."
The Doctor stood behind Romeovera, eyeing the last few spoonfuls of chicken noodle broth in a bowl on the table in front of her.
"Good, isn't it?" he asked.
Romeovera looked back at him. "It's hard to tell. I've totally lost my sense of smell, and that makes it difficult to taste anything at all."
The Doctor smiled. "Yes, yes, indeed. Strange thing, smell. Seems to affect us, yet we usually take it for granted." He drew a deep breath through his nose, then another smaller breath and a few quick sniffs. "But right now, I envy you."
"Why's that?" Romeovera asked. Then she heard a faint squishing sound and understood.
Into the room walked (if you could call it walking) a large, greeninsh thing that faintly resembled a dog. It was the slime creature they had picked up on the gaming world.
Painfully aware of its natural state, it had taken the form of a canine, hoping to avoid frightening those not of its species. Which included every other species in the universe.
"Slimey! Slimey The Dog, how good to SEE you!" the Doctor exclaimed.
"Hello, Doctor. Hello, Romeovera. How are you feeling today?" Slimey asked.
"I'm about-three fifths okay, considering how smell and taste are so closely related." she said.
"Then I am, for the most part, happy for you." Slimey turned to the Doctor. "Say, Doctor, something's been bothering me. Weren't we in a perilous situation at the end of the last episode? And if so, why are we talking so calmly now? Where did Romeovera catch her cold? And how did I know about it?"
The Doctor waved his hand in the air as if to brush away flies. "Trivial questions, Slimey. A few episodes -- who knows how many -- must have been lost. Happens all the time. Suffice to say we're okay. And probably always will be. We're an institution, you know. But never mind that now. We're about to materialize somewhere."
The TARBABE's cortex stopped pumping. After a moment of silence, the Doctor spoke. "Well, let's go outside and see where we are."
He pulled the lever to open the door and the three of them walked through.
Once outside, Romeovera spoke first. "Why, this isn't 20th Century Earth," she said.
"Our ratings must be up!" the Doctor shouted. "Good for us!"
But all was not good for them, as you might expect. Before they could take another step, they were surrounded by a legion of soldiers.
"Who are you and what do you want?" asked the tallest of them.
"Who am I! Who AM I?!?!!" The Doctor puffed out his chest. "Who do you THINK I am?"
The soldiers looked at one another. "Well," said the tallest, "judging by your demeanor, your concubine, and that large smelly creature there, I'd say you're another olfactorist come to pedal your wares."
Romeover and Slimey spoke at once. "Concubine!" "Smelly!"
"Exactly!" said the Doctor. "And you, sir, I assume, are our escort."
The tall one turned to the other soldiers. "Dismissed!" he shouted. Then, to the Doctor, he said, "This way, please."
"Doctor," Romeovera said in an irritated whisper, "what's this about a concubine! I don't think I like that."
"And I object to being referred to as a 'large smelly creature,'" Slimey said. "Creature, okay. Large, yes. But smelly!"
"Pay no attention," the Doctor told them, "it's of no consequence. Just a plot device, that's all." His answer seemed to satisfy them.
After a long walk, they found themselves before a big granite building. "I recognize this place," Romeovera said. "Doctor, it's the Broadcast Museum."
"Yes," he said in a sad tone, "and judging by the surrounding buildings, I'd say we're on Earth, in the 21st Century. Our ratings must not be as good as I had hoped."
The soldier led them into the lobby and stopped. "I presume you can find your way from here," he said.
"Oh, yes, yes, of course," the Doctor answered. "Sure."
The soldier marched out the door.
"What now?" Romeovera asked.
"Why, develop the plot, dontcha know. And it looks like some help is on the way."
Behind them, outside the door, came a crowd of people. The people were shouting in unison. "Nose no! Nose no! Nose no!"
"It's the noseys!" exclaimed the guard at the door. "Quick, men! Take action!"
He slammed the front door in time to block the entrance of three noseys, then punched a blue button. A cloud of smoke billowed forth from air jets just outside, and several soldiers inside began donning gas masks. But there was no need. The noseys quickly ran away, and the gas jet was shut off. The soldiers breathed a collective sigh of relief.
"They're getting harder and harder to control," said the guard to the Doctor. "Thank heaven for people like you."
"What's that?" asked the Doctor. Then he said, "Oh, yes, of course. Thank heaven."
"I presume you want to get the animal right to the lab. I'm sure it will be appreciated."
"Now just a minute," Slimey started, but the Doctor cut him off.
"Yes, yes, certainly," said the Doctor.
"And he talks, too!" said the guard. "Pity, isn't it?"
The Doctor responded, "Yes. Pity." He drew his finger to his lips. Slimey opened his mouth, then shut it.
The Doctor continued. "Isn't it customary to get the tour first?"
The guard gave him a puzzled look and said, "Well, not really, but I guess it would be okay. This way, if you please." They stepped on an elevator. When the doors opened, they saw a huge bank of video screens. Sitting in front of each screen was a technician wearing an air mask.
"This, of course," the guard began, "is what it's all about."
"I see," said the Doctor. "But my, uhm, my concubine is a little slow. Could you -- OW!" He whinced from the kick Romeovera gave him. "Could you explain, in some detail, just what we're looking at?"
"As you know, Mister, uh, Mister --" the guard started.
"Doctor. Just Doctor."
"Howzzat?" Asked the guard.
"Exactly," said the Doctor.
"Well, as you know, Doctor Just Doctor, smellivision is the wave of the future. In this room and others just like it, technicians work to add smell to pre-smellivision broadcasts. With the aid of computers, the process is quite simple once the correct smells are established. All new shows are smellivised, of course, and have large audiences. Mr. Burner, who owns the rights to these old programs, has commissioned the museum -- actually, he bought the whole thing, building and all -- to revitalize them now that he owns the rights to practically every old show. Any questions so far?"
"Well, naturally, I don't have any," the Doctor said. There was a long pause, after which the Doctor kicked Romeovera. "OW!" she shrieked. "Why did -- Oh, yes. Of course. Uhm, how does The Doctor fit into this?"
"She is a little slow," the Doctor said. "OW!"
"As you know, Doctor Just Doctor, we put out a general call for unusual smells to add to this process. But the noseys, who are against adding smells to old programs, have become such a problem that there is a premium on rancid smells, such as given off by this animal here."
"Hey!" Slimey said. "I didn't -- Is this true?" he asked Romeovera.
"Usually," she said. "But not right now."
"She has a cold," the Doctor whispered to the guard. "Please go on."
"Your creature is under control, isn't it?" the guard asked.
"Oh, yes," the Doctor said.
"Good." The guard continued. "We will boil this creature in our lab to extract its smell, then put that in the defense system you saw downstairs." There was another long silence. Romeovera finally spoke. "Let's see. Uhm. But why not stay with the smell that drove the noseys away just now?"
"They'll be back with defenses. They've found some way to neutralize bad smells as fast as we can extract and install them in our defenses."
Just then, the alarm sounded. On the monitor, they saw another group of noseys approaching. The gas jets were turned on, but to no avail. When the smoke hit the air, the head nosey lifted the nozzel of what looked like a fire extinguisher. Then, behind him, the noseys came forth to rush the door.
"It's too late, it's too late," the guard said. "If only you could have been here earlier. What can we do?"
"I'll handle this," said Slimey. Before they could stop him, he was on the elevator and the doors shut. The guard, Romeovera and the Doctor watched the monitor. They could see the crowd draw back in shock. Then Slimey walked through the door and into the midst of the crowd. Everyone drew back in disgust -- except the leader, who sprayed Slimey.
"That won't work," said the guard. "Their offensive weapons are smell specific."
But he was surprised to see the rest of the noseys come forth.
"Oh, no," he said. "Just what we've always feared: a mass spectrum smell offensive/defensive device."
"Now, hold it!" Slimey said, and drew himself to his full height, which caused him to lose his canine shape. The noseys were aghast, frozen with fright. Then several tried to rush the door. But Slimey was there first and covered it with his disgusting form.
"Listen to me for a moment," he said, and they stopped, wiping slime from their faces and arms.
"I'm sorry I had to do that, but aren't you forgetting something?"
The crowd exchanged puzzled glances.
Slimey continued. "Don't you have olfactory controls on your smellivisions?"
"Yes," said the leader, "but there's a principal involved."
"Principal, schmincipal," said Slimey. "Do you ever watch these old shows? How many here ever watch them without smell?"
A few hands went up, but only a few.
"Why?" Slimey asked.
"Well, because," one of them said, "because we like them. And we don't think anybody should be mucking around with the art form."
"Yeah," another said. "If God had intended old shows to smell, they would have smelled when they first went on the air."
"And besides," said a third, "Burner's a despot."
"That may be," said Slimey. "In fact, I'm sure it's true. But let me suggest another solution. First, when an old show with smell comes on the tube, simply turn the olfactory control all the way to the -- what would it be -- the left, I suppose."
"Yes," said one nosey, "and then?"
"And then," said Slimey, "watch the show in its original form. And be sure to watch the commercials."
"Why?" asked several noseys in unison.
"Because," Slimey continued, "you will want to know who is paying to broadcast them. Now, these poor people at the museum -- and believe me, it's hard for me to take sides with them -- anyway, these poor people are merely doing a job. Burner is the one in control. And he gets his power from advertising dollars."
"So?" asked the nosey leader.
"So if you focus your rather formidable forces on the sponsors; that is, if you let them know you will refuse to buy their products, and even make it clear you will buy their competitors' products...."
The leader's eyes brightened. "I see," he said. "I see! What a wise creature you are. And just who are you, anyway?"
With a great effort, Slimey reformed himself as a green mongrel. "I, sir, am Slimey The Dog."
"Hooray!" they all shouted. "Long live Slimey! Long live Slimey The Dog!"
"Well, yes," Slimey said, "thank you. The problem is not living long as much as staying awake. Perhaps there is an old episode of Dr. Howzzat? in the museum that will explain my remark."
"Thank you," said the leader, "and we're sorry we used the mass spectrum desmeller on you. What can we do to make up for it?"
"No problem," said Slimey. "In fact, I think there are some who will greatly appreciate your action."
Later, as the Doctor and Romeovera stood with Slimey next to the cortex of the TARBABE, they watched the planet disappear from the monitor. They were on their way again.
Romeovera had picked a rose, and was smelling it.
"I see you're finally over your cold," the Doctor said.
"Indeed," Romeovera answered. "Care for a whif?"
"Don't mind if I do," the Doctor said, and he smelled the rose.
"Slimey?" Romeover held the rose out for Slimey.
"No thanks!" Slimey said. "I have no sense of smell anyway. And besides, those things are dangerous."
"Dangerous!" exclaimed Romeovera. "What could -- OUCH!" This time, the Doctor's foot was not near her leg. Romeovera's finger was bleeding. A thorn on the stem of the rose had pricked it.
"Oh, no!" she said. "Blood all over my white chiffon dress."
"That's okay," said the Doctor. "It's about time for you to regenerate a new outfit anyway. And now that your nose is working again, perhaps you'll regenerate something a little more tasteful. Ha ha! That's a good one. OW!!!
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