It was a cold and snowy fall, here at the Roesser East household.
The hunting was difficult and the driving was downright treacherous.
So we spend our time in cyberspace, where the air is always clear,
even if our minds are not always so.
Suddenly and without warning a stream of information began
emanating from cyberspace that was so intense and gripping
that we didn't need a browser to sense it. We looked at one
another in stark terror and without verbalizing it asked
each other what could be the source of this nerve-shaking
disturbance? Then slowly the answer began to appear ...
Indeed, the answer did appear, in fact the answer was there all
along but we did not see it for what it was. We were afraid and confused.
We had good reason to be both afraid and confused, for there
before us was the terrifying answer. We tried to deny it but
to no avail. It had a grip on us that far exceeded our
feeble attempts of escaping it. We knew that there was no
alternative but to face it. But how should we approach it
and who should make the first move?
Of course, not everyone was fearful. Some were just confused but
not afraid, while others were very clear but definitely anxious. Lest we
forget, however, we are the Roesser's (and relatives thereof), so
we don't let fear and/or confusion rule our lives. After all,
what possible force could emanate from the ionotronicstratonuclearsubtransdiffusionatrosphere
that could be so bad?
But was it from the ionotronicstratonuclearsubtransdiffusionatrosphere?
How could we be sure? Each one of us reached back to our school
days in Physics, General Science or Applied Home Economics
struggling to remember what it was the teacher was saying
about the itsnstdas. Oh, if only we paid more attention at the
time! We lamented over our lack of wisdom and remonstrated
ourselves for foolishly wasting that opportunity to learn
what was so critically important to us now. Then we thought
if only Pa Roesser was here, he could help. If he could
instantly recall the definition of cement, he surely should
remember the distinguishing characteristics of itsnstdas. Our
collective mind then went to Uncle Harold, clearly he could
help if only he were here. Of course, none of these thoughts
helped. We were faced with the phenomenon here and now and we
had to deal with it ourselves!
The dilemna grew more serious by the day, since even though we don't
really understand the itsnstdas, we know that the vibrations accelerate when a full moon approaches.
Sister Mary Gerald tried to warn us frequently. She would stand at the exit at the end of the school day,
proclaiming fervently that we must beware of the itsnstdas during full moons. I vaguely remember my college physics
teacher explaining that it has something to do with the gravitational effect on
the fat electrons. Or, was that Pa's theory?
It then dawned on us - it's not what we were taught in our
high school and college science courses that would be the
key to understanding this menace but the fundamentals taught
to us in grammar school. The problem wasn't chemical,
physical or even biological. It was arithmetical. Simple
basic arithmetic. That should have occurred to us sooner for
this phenomenon that we were witnessing was a recurance of
of a recent similar incident that affected every single
Pentium processor. Then it manifested itself as erroneous
results for certain arithmetical operations that proved
devastating throughout engineering, science and commerce. But
now it has taken an even more hideous form. Frantically,
we tried to recall our times tables.
Of, course, with all of the misinformation about arithmetic we
learned in school, like trying to tell us that pies are square, etc.,
it's no wonder we got confused.
Just then the doorbell rang, shattering the tense silence
that had engulfed us. It was the Domino's pizza delivery
boy with a deep-dish square pizza pie. We protested that we
had ordered a round pizza pie. The delivery boy apologized
profusely and explained that he had gone to the same grammar
school as us and learned that pie are squared, which is not
only wrong but very bad grammer.
Speaking of our grammer, I'm afraid she would be very upset
about our grammar, and our spelling.
Yes, spelling is a weakness of some of us, but that's not
the problem. The problem is arithmetic. While eating our
pizza we keep contemplating whether pie are squared or
rounded. We know full well from early experience that pies
are round, everybody knows that - but what does that mean
arithmetically? That thought kept nagging at us until
finally the meaning hit us smack in the face. Of course,
when you round a number you simply drop the fractional
part, thus to say pie are rounded (or is rounded to be more
grammatically correct) means to represent pi by the number
3. Now, we felt we were getting someplace - but where?
Following the above logic, we concluded that another long-held truth
i.e. that cornbreads are square, while being so geometrically, is not necessarily
so arithmetically. For example, if you follow Buck's original new and improved raisin nut cornbread
recipe, you will get about 2.2 cornbreads. But since you are only going to bake this mess
in a whole number of pans, you must round off the cornbreads to the number of pans.
Thus cornbreads are both ROUND and SQUARE! Now we are really confused!
While we were puzzling over this Buck decided to whip up a
batch of his famous cornbread to go with our pizza. Sure
enough, the recipe produced enough batter for 2.2 cornbreads,
but he baked it in two pans. Someone asked, I think it was
George, what happened to the extra .2 cornbreads of batter? Also,
Then he asked, what is the error in rounding pi to 3. To
that Bob volunteered if pi is 3.14 than the error is .14.
Quickly Buck retorted, your still rounding, I happen to
have found pi to 10000 places. Then what is the error in
rounding pi demanded Mrs Buck. At that we all began to sense that
the answer to this last question would lead us to the
resolution of the pending problem.
Of course it would, but the sad fact is that there is no answer
to this problem, because pi having an infinite number of decimal places,
(Buck knows 10235 of them by heart),it is impossible to make a perfect circle.
If you put apples and crust in what appears to be a round pan, it will come out OVAL,
because the engineers who designed the pan fudged when they
multiplied it's diameter by some rounded off value of pi. So the real problem is, who will get
the wedge of pie from the elongated side ot the pan? My instincts lead me to believe George has had this one figured out for years.
That's it!! Buck did discover what George knew for years, but
was keeping to himself. In fact many scientists,
mathematicians and even engineers knew it and were
trying to do something about it. First engineers programed
powerful computers to determine ever more digits of pi,
but there was still infinite more digits to be found. So
they looked for more powerful computers. Certain biologists
devised neural computers that would spread out organically
and collectively become more powerful, allowing digits of
pi to be determined faster, but still there remained an
infinite number. Mathematicians devised the internet for
this expressed purpose so that all of the computers
throughout the world could work together on computing pi.
Of course this was to no avail. So physicists attempted
to implement the ultimate distributed computer. They exposed
certain atoms to a specific frequency of itsnstdas energy,
which programed them not only to work on the computation
of pi but to also propagate this program to other atoms.
Soon every atom on Earth was involved in this computation
that would inevitably prove futile. This was the cause of
the stream of information that permeated our senses. Buck
confirmed this when upon second look he recognised a segment
of the information as the 9867th thru the 10456th digit
of pi. A cold chill ran down our spines! This has to be
stopped before our entire world, indeed our entire universe,
would be consumed. But how?
We can't change pi, in fact we don't even know exactly how much pi is. So, our only
hope is to neutralize the ionotronicstratonuclearsubtransdiffusionatrosphere.
This will be a formidable task, as is spelling it.
Hastely but deftly Mrs Buck entered
the Alta Vista search engine. Nervously, we waited the results.
We needed to find out everything we could about itsnstdas
if we stood a chance of neutralizing it. This ray of
hope was quickly dashed. We were too late, the perpetrators
at Digital Equipment anticipated this attempt. Our skin
began to crawl as we viewed the result of are search:
"word ignored, zero matches". We did all we could to hold
back our panic!
But wait a second, Buck just noticed that she inadvertently typed in
ionotronicstratonuclearsubtransdifusionatrosphere instead of
ionotronicstratonuclearsubtransdiffusionatrosphere. No wonder there was no match.
Taking pains to enter the exact spelling "ionotronicstratonuclearsubtransdiffusionatrosphere" this time Mrs.Buck received a totally different but equally distressing response from cyberspace.
The response was "785992 responses found, please re-submit with a more specific term" We don't know any more specific term
for the ionotronicstratonuclearsubtransdiffusionatrosphere. The itsnstdas is the itsnstdas!
We decided we better contemplate this situation a little
further, so we settled back and had some more of Buck's
Original Famous New and Improved Walnut Raisin Corn Bread.
It was Mark that then said well why don't we try some of
the other search engines? Great Idea! we all exclaimed in
unison. So one after another we tried Infoseek, Yahoo,
Inkatomi, Web Crawler, Excite, Point, and a few others that
we haven't seen before. Alas, all produced similar results.
Then Pete sprang forward with the idea that we use
object-oriented programming with dynamically linked
libraries and a hyper-class table hashing lookup scheme to
write our own special-purpose search engine to handle our
specific need. We all agreed that was the right approach,
but first we had some more of Buck's Original Famous New
and Improved Walnut Raisin Corn Bread.
You can't beat BOFNIWRCB (which is square) when you want to kick back and do some heavy thinking. We could wash it down with some of
Uncle Bobby's Mackinaw Fudge ripoff, but the last I heard, Linda was still in her kitchen trying to make a batch without burning it like she did the first seven tries.
While we were waiting for Linda, who we fully trusted since
after all she is a home economics major, to finish a batch
of Uncle Bobby's Delicious Mackinaw Fudge Ripoff the door
bell rang out again. After we recollected ourselves we
debated who should be the one to answer the door. We didn't
know who it might be. Aunt Pat mustered enough courage to
volunteer. It was Elsie Spitznagle. She explained that her
father finally managed to drive their Ford up the candy hill
on the other side of East Aurora and scarf up enough
chocolates and other candy to fill there
trunk and back seat. She wanted to share some with us,
especially Nancy because her father was never able to
make it all the way up the hill.
Elsie went on to say that she and her husband, Stooney Hedderts
have been retired from their rural pizza delivery jobs for a year and
a half now. They still enjoy a quiet ride in the country now and then, especially
since their new Ford can make it up the candy hill easily. They had attempted that hill
hundreds of times previously in GM cars, but never were successful.
Uncle Bob smarted from this last remark, but no matter we
had a much more important problem at hand from which we
digressed. Pete finished the algorithm for the custom
search engine that we needed but had yet to choose the
programming language that would be most appropriate in which
to write it. We decided we would take a vote but first we
had some Buck's Original Famous New and Improved Walnut
Raisin Corn Bread topped with Uncle Bobby's Delicious
Mackinaw Fudge Ripoff that Linda never got to solidify.
Buck suggested that the search program be written in C++, since that
was his usual grade in college.
Aunt Nancy brought up Turtle Graphics, George alluded to
Lotus 1-2-3, several people mused over Basic but differed
whether it sould be Quick Basic, Apple Basic or Visual
Basic, Mike wanted some sort of Assembly Language, Bob
preferred Fortran, Eileen thought TCP would be good and
Mrs Buck said why not HTML. Others brought up but quickly
dismissed Algol, Pascal, PL1, and APL. After much debate
we finally settled on C++ afterall.
Carrie suggested that we do it in Swahili.
Carrie's suggestion was well received. Yes, that definitely
was an interesting idea and we decided to pursue it. Jim M.
(Mugs) threw out the idea that we go one step further and
write it in Swahili++, that way we can still incorporate
object-oriented programing. Yeah, that's it! we all chimed
in. Wait a minute! wait a minute shot out Mark D., isn't
Swahili++ the prototype for C++? That fact was quickly
confirmed with a simple search performed by Web Crawler. So
we came full circle.
Buck concurred that we had come full circle, yet the question he pondered was "Unaenda wapi?" with this.
While he was pondering this, something in the back of his
mind suggested mahindi mkate! Meanwhile Pete was making
great progress in programming the search engine using
Swahili++. There were some subtile differences with C++,
but he was able to resolve them by referring to the
Swahili dictionary project.
Pete made sure to include enough artificial intelligence in
the program to sort out the myriad responses to a itsnstda
query and provide only that information pertinent to our
problem. Soon the program was done and we were ready to test
it by clicking on the button:
We all stared at the response. It was Georgie that first
replied: C6H12O6, isn't that sugar - glucose to be exact.
Yes said Linda, remembering from her home economics class,
but how can be get sugar molecules to generate
dextrorotatory waves. From the dictionary we found that
dextrose is a form of glucose that is characterized by
its ability to do just that - generate dextrorotatory waves.
Ray then uttered isn't dextrose found in certain types of
grain - where can we find some and how can we suspend it in
an amorphous matrix of complex hydrocarbons? Just then
George reached for the last piece of Buck's Original
Famous New and Improved Walnut Raisin Corn Bread.
Aside from the lack of cornbread, Buck felt we had everything under
control now. What with his vast beer and winemaking experience, making an
amorhic suspension of complex carbohydrates would be a snap.
Just get about 20 pounds of barley, yeast, some hallertau hops and some
water. First we have to malt the barley, (Linda volunteered to do this)
then cook it up with the hops and water. Then we let it ferment for a week and
bottle it. After a month we have some of the finest tasting amorphous matrices
of complex carbohydrates and dextrose you can imagine. The dextrorotary waves will
be flowing like crazy. And if it doesn't work, we will drink it all and who cares?
Oh No! Buck blew it! Having been no
more than a C++ student in chemistry, he forgot that the dextrose
in the concoction would turn into alcohol, making it useless
as an anti-Ionotronicstratonuclearsubtransdiffusionatrosphere
substance. This was getting serious.
You bet it was getting serious! To some of us, who are
tea-totalers, fermented dextrose would be useless. In fact,
worse than useless - not only would we have to put up with
the unrelenting generation of an irrational number but also
the unrelenting ranting of irrational relatives.
To which George quickly pointed out,
of course there are a certain few relatives who rave on unrelentlessly even without the benefit of fermented beverages!!
We all reluctantly agreed with George and lamented that
along with being pied we had to forebear those that were
obnoxiously pie-eyed or overbearingly pious.
The debate continued over which group of relatives rants more.
Meanwhile, Linda was in the kitchen attempting for the 848th time
to get Uncle Bobby's Mackinaw Fudge Ripoff to turn out. But alas, as it
had the previous 847 times, the recipe produced only a runny, gooey mess which
could only be consumed with the aid of a spoon. "Darn, she
lamented, if only I could make the dextrose in this amorphous
matrix of complex carbohydrates crystallize, I would have FUDGE!"
As she spoke, the group all realized what she had just said!
Could FUDGE be the answer to the isntnsdas problem???
Yes fudge must be the answer to our conundrum. It is
so ironic and appropriate that this menace that arose
from the need to fudge pi would be conquered by fudge!
Then a sense of sobriety came over us when we realized
there were only enough ingredients left to attempt one
more batch, the 849th. It was imperative that we do not
fail. We all consoled Linda trying to build up her spirits
and condition her for this challenge for which failure
As she prepared to try still another batch of "the Fudge", we all checked her recipe and
list of ingredients carefully. But something was wrong, terribly wrong. Instead of butter, it seems she had been substituting "I can't believe it's not butter!". So the dextrose never crystallized to the point of producing the needed dextrorotatory wav
es to defeat the isntsndas. We made a quick trip to the store for real butter and stood by anxiously as the corrected recipe was started.
She painstakinly measured out each ingredient and gently
blended them together in the pan. We tried to reassure her.
No pressure! no pressure we keep repeating to her. We knew
we were lying. She applied heat and tenderly stirred the
mixture. Soon it came to a boil and everything seemed to
be going well. The aroma was tantalizing. George walked over
carrying his beer and munching on the last piece of corn
bread in order to get a whiff. Oh no! he accidently dropped
his corn bread in to the bubbling mixture. In trying to
retrieve it he spilled his beer into the mixture also.
The instant the beer hit the fudge, an ionic transmogularfumination cascade occurred. The result was instantaneous crystallization of the dextrose with a concomitant release of massive numbers of dextrorotatory waves, obliterating all traces of the i
tsnsndas energy fields. The universe was saved!!!
Stay tuned for the second episode of Fireside Chat