Hunting an Elephant
MATHEMATICIANS 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
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.
EXPERIENCED 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 first animal they see N times and call it an
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.
OPERATION 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.
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
QUALITY ASSURANCE INSPECTORS ignore the elephants and look for mistakes
the other hunters made when they were packing the jeep.
SALES PEOPLE don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling elephants
they haven't caught, for delivery two days before the season opens.
SOFTWARE SALES PEOPLE ship the first thing they catch and write up an
invoice for an elephant.
HARDWARE SALES PEOPLE catch rabbits, paint them gray, and sell them as
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