01 November 2013

Equipment or Intelligence

A cowboy named Billy was overseeing his herd in a pasture in remote countryside one day, when suddenly a brand-new BMW drove towards him out of a cloud of dust.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni® suit, Gucci® shoes, RayBan® sunglasses and YSL® tie, leaned out of the window and asked the cowboy, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?”

Billy looks at the man, who obviously is a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, “Sure, why not?”

The yuppie switches his car off, whips out his Dell® notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3® phone, calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location, surfs to a NASA web page, where he feeds the location to another satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop® and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany … within seconds, he received an email on his Palm Pilot® announcing that the image has been processed and the data stored.

He then accesses an MS-SQL® database through an ODBC-connected Excel® spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry® and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturised hp LaserJet® printer, turns to the cowboy and says, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.”

“That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,” says Billy.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with amusement as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then Billy says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?”

The young man thinks about it for a second then says, “Okay, why not?”

"You’re a Federal politician," says Billy.

“Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing’s required.” answered the cowboy, “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of dollars worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don’t know a thing about how working people make a living – or about cows, for that matter.”

“This is a herd of sheep.”

“Now give me back my dog.”

High voltage rock and roll?

When you have a use for 4kV at up to 300mA, some of the microwave ovens so often discarded in solid-waste collection runs include these.

Driving the primary of a Tesla coil through a spark-gap (or maybe an IGBT-based switch) with one of these would lead to a really fancy-looking electric fence (modulate the pulses to make the fence play Orpheus In The Underworld, or perhaps add a MIDI interface?) which would be absolute death to any near-by electronic devices (iPhone becomes iFried or maybe even iPhirework?) however would also make a clearly visible security boundary...

Ignorance is...? Life-long shame

If you happen to be totally self-righteous and inwardly terrified that others might realise this and scorn you to oblivion, there is a very simple step you can take: realise that you’re not even fooling yourself, that we all make mistakes, that the huge mega-dose of shame you’re accumulating for yourself will be unbearable when it hits, and begin apologising.


Yes, you really are a legend in your own mind. Only.

Apologise to yourself for never having had the integrity to confront this and begin dealing with it. Then pick out, identify, and apologise to yourself for each and every failing in your life. On each such occasion, forgive yourself for that flaw. This may take some time.

With that well underway, apologise to others. It can be a minor thing, to someone you barely know: it’s important to start somewhere.

Eventually, your life can be worth something. By building up your integrity, you’re approaching a time when the world is not so terrifying. Your ultimate goal may right now seem unapproachable, however genuine humility is achievable.