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The Moat

Jan 8 2011

Once upon a time there was a programmer. The programmer had heard tales of great wealth in a far off city -- wealth that a skilled and canny programmer could acquire. So, one day, after years of perfecting his programming skills, he packed his laptop bag and backpack and set off to find his fortune.

His journey wasn't too short, and it wasn't too long, and it had its share of obstacles that won't be discussed here. But suffice it to say that eventually, he arrived outside the walls of the city.

And found The Moat.

The Moat was wide. It was hard to say how deep, just like it was hard to say what the fins circling inside of it belonged to, though chances were good it was the same thing that suddenly yanked the tree branch he used to try to probe the depth down into the nearly opaque murky water.

The programmer looked at the walls, curving slowly each way. The city was big. The walls were long, but not high. Easy enough to climb. If he could get across The Moat.

He sat, and considered. He wrote a program that took photos of the moat, processed them with complex visual processing algorithms, crunched engineering requirements with the crunchiest data crunching code. He sketched out a CAD program, and then used it to sketch out a bridge made of tree branches. He then began to build the bridge. There weren't enough tree branches.

He sat some more. He took the measure of the nearby stock of boulders, and then wrote a program that emited sound from the laptop speakers and listened at the microphone and estimated the landscape of the depths of the moat via primitive sonar calculations. And then simulated rolling boulders into the moat, calculating which boulders at what locations would likely result in a crossing.

They sank without a trace.

He sat further. He thought for a long time.

He stood, and began to walk around The Moat. After some time, he passed other solitary programmers, or crews of them being directed to lash together their laptops -- sometimes even themselves -- into bridge-like patterns. Then he was alone again.

He sat further. He thought for a long time.

Then he threw his laptop into the moat.

It sank without a trace.

He walked back home. He turned on his desktop system, opened a terminal window, and began to write, rather than CAD software, or sonar programs, or boulder simulations, what pleased him.

The binary boulders still sometimes settled in the digital depths, leaving the surface unchanged. But the frontiers were wider, the number of fins in the water smaller, and there were no walls on the other side.

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