After all, humor makes the world go 'round. Isn't that how the saying goes? I've always been a more-or-less jolly character (with the emphasis on “character”). Humor is important to me; it is both a creative outlet, and a way for me to relieve stress. It is no accident that most (but not all) of the non-technical writing I have done has been humorous. Here is a sampling of my humor. If you don't like it … well, don't tell me!

The Internet Oracle

See the Internet Oracle home page for a complete description. Here is a nutshell description.

The Internet Oracle (formerly known as the Usenet Oracle) is a witty chap who answers all your questions. Well, okay, what really happens is that when you submit a question, it goes onto a question queue. A question is then taken off of the queue for you to answer. Eventually, your question makes it to the front of the queue, and is sent to somebody else. That person's answer is then returned to you. Thus, netizens can exchange their collective wisdom and humor. A Priesthood of the Oracle views each such exchange and picks the funniest for a more-or-less periodic Oracularity. These are posted to The readers of then rate each exchange on a scale of 1–5, with 5 being the best.

Here are my submissions which have been chosen for the Oracularities. Notice that I have received frighteningly average ratings. Maybe I should rename this page to “Jerry's Frighteningly Average Oracularities.” Hmmmm… Anyway, each entry gives a numbered link to the actual Oracularity, the number of people who voted 1, 2, …, 5, the weighted average of all the votes, a “Q” if I wrote the question or an “A” if I wrote the answer, and sometimes a little explanatory content (or a little extra humor).

Jerry's Oracularities
Oracularity 1 2 3 4 5 Mean Q/A Notes
737–01 5 9 33 25 6 3.230769 Q I had submitted the first two lines of this question several times and received dumb answers in reply. So I started suggesting stories in an attempt to jog the creative juices of the answerers. My suggestions got increasingly bizarre, until Kim Moser finally gave me a decent answer.
749–07 11 21 19 21 9 2.950617 A If you have never encountered Eliza before, it is time to pay her a visit.
754–06 7 24 25 25 17 3.214286 Q  
756–09 4 30 28 18 5 2.882353 A  
788–05 6 20 36 21 7 3.033333 A  
824–03 7 34 38 38 11 3.093750 A I was shocked that this one made the Oracularities. I couldn't think of anything sufficiently funny for #1, so I just wrote it off as a lame attempt to make the supplicant smile. And it got picked. Sigh. This was written while the ill-fated Internet Decency Act was being debated in Congress. Note the transition here from “Usenet Oracle” to “Internet Oracle”.
836–01 4 20 48 42 21 3.414815 Q This is based on a real event. My wife was only sort of amused that I actually asked the Oracle about it.
846–02 5 20 15 21 46 3.775701 A The supplicant's name was changed by the Oracular Priest to protect him from ridicule (fortunate man!). Also, some of the formatting in my reply got messed up along the way somewhere, but you can figure it out. Finally, let me note that, even though I poke some fun at Indians (people from India, not Native Americans), it is all supposed to be in good fun. After all, my Ph.D. advisor, 2 of my grad school friends, many of the graduate students who have worked under me, and several people I have worked with professionally are from India. I wish I had thought up a better ending to that answer.
861–04 4 13 32 37 14 3.440000 A If legalities and technicalities interest you, have a look at the related discussion on after this appeared in the Oracularities.
873–06 13 21 43 21 12 2.981818 A Tim (then Kirsten) Chevalier, later a famed member of the Oracular Priesthood, asked a question whose answer made the digest as 873-02. The answer inspired this question. Most of the jokes here would only be understood by denizens of the time. Sorry about that. I guess it should be obvious that a certain database product was on version 7.3 when I wrote the answer.
904–05 11 37 36 28 10 2.909836 A Luckily for me, I had read the Clarke book in question just a month before receiving this question.
915–10 12 26 32 29 21 3.175000 A  
930–09 9 12 22 25 12 3.237500 A This answer was written during a UPS strike.
957–10 4 18 31 26 16 3.336842 A  
979–06 16 36 29 8 6 2.494737 Q Warning: potentially offensive answer.
1005–01 15 25 23 17 3 2.614458 Q Warning: potentially offensive answer.
1012–05 7 23 39 18 6 2.863158 A Hey, does anybody get the joke in the “You owe …” line?
1052–05 2 13 29 23 14 3.419753 A  
1057–09 6 10 19 22 12 3.347826 Q I regret to say that the lament in the question was inspired by actual events. It did my heart good to get back a parody of a parody. For those who don't recognize it, this is a parody of Lewis Carroll's poem, “You Are Old, Father William”, which is itself a parody of “The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them”. Carroll's version appeared in his famous book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
1081–08 5 19 32 16 2 2.878378 A  
1347–03 1 14 18 21 5 3.254327 Q All of the previous Oracularities were written while I was a graduate student at UCSB. I stopped using the Oracle after graduating and becoming a faculty member at the University of Kansas. But one day, when I reached a high-stress point in my life, I thought it might be nice to try another exchange … and both the question I asked and the question I answered made the Oracularities! This marks my first (and so far, only) double appearance in a digest. Those wondering what this question/answer pair is all about should visit the Nethack page.
1347–05 2 17 24 9 7 3.033898 A Need a hint? Try reading every other letter of the question.
1366–04 2 5 9 18 12 3.717391 A Buy this game for your kids.
1369–08 5 9 19 12 2 2.936170 A If you haven't watched Stargate Atlantis, you won't get this.
1442–06 1 3 8 8 7 3.629630 Q  
1449–05 1 9 10 7 1 2.928571 Q Now all you Fozzy Bear and Yoda fans can sleep in peace. Warning: there is one bit of possibly offensive content in the answer.
1505–02 2 5 5 6 6 3.375000 A  
1510–07 1 3 2 8 10 3.958333 A This is now my all-time top-scoring Oracularity. Like my previous top-scoring Oracularity, I thought the end was a bit weak.