The Father of Terror


One of the oldest photos of the Great Sphinx, from 1880. Notice that much of the Sphinx is still under the sand.

Egyptians call him “أبو الهول” (abu al-hol, the father of terror or the terrifying one.)

Father of Terror 2

The sphinx – profile in 1976 © Old Wolf Enterprises

Built in around 2500 BC, that makes him close to 4,500 years old – an astonishing lifespan. The loss of his nose was attributed to Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr in 1378, when he became angered that local peasants were making sacrifices to the sphinx for favorable crops. Today, however, we know better [1]. Despite weathering over time, for something so ancient, he has survived remarkably well.


The Great Sphinx of Giza in Olfert Dapper, ”Description de l’Afrique” (1665) Notice that there are two sphinges [2]

From Wikipedia

From the Bronze Age, the Hellenes had trade and cultural contacts with Egypt. Before the time that Alexander the Great occupied Egypt, the Greek name, sphinx, was already applied to these statues. The historians and geographers of Greece wrote extensively about Egyptian culture. Heredotus called the ram-headed sphinxes criosphinges, and the hawk-headed ones hieracosphinges.

The word sphinx comes from the Greek Σφίγξ, apparently from the verb σφίγγω (sphíngō), meaning “to squeeze”, “to tighten up”. This name may be derived from the fact that the hunters for a pride of lions are the lionesses, and kill their prey by strangulation, biting the throat of prey and holding them down until they die. However, the historian Susan Wise Bauer suggests that the word “sphinx” was instead a Greek corruption of the Egyptian name “shesepankh,” which meant “living image,” and referred rather to the statue of the sphinx, which was carved out of “living rock” (rock that was present at the construction site, not harvested and brought from another location), than to the beast itself.

There was a single sphinx in Greek mythology, a unique demon of destruction and bad luck. According to Hesiod, she was a daughter of Orthus[8] and either Echidna or the Chimera, or perhaps even Ceto;[9] according to others, she was a daughter of Echidna and Typhon. All of these are chthonic figures from the earliest of Greek myths, before the Olympians ruled the Greek pantheon. The Sphinx is called Phix (Φίξ) [3] by Hesiod in line 326 of the Theogony, the proper name for the Sphinx noted by Pierre Grimal’s The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

The Great Sphinx at Giza is not the only one around – there are countless sphinges throughout Egypt and elsewhere:

Memphis Sphinx

Sphinx at Memphis, Egypt


Rows of ram-headed sphinges at Luxor.

Regardless of the number, however, the Great Sphinx at Giza remains one of the wonders of the world from any century.

The Old Wolf has spoken.



From Goscinny et Uderzo, Astérix et Cléopatre, Dargaud Editeur, 1965

[2] Sphinges is the classical plural for sphinx.



Phix, leading character in Paul Taylor’s Wapsi Square. Read it.

“Wapsi Square is named for the fictitious neighborhood in Minneapolis where the characters live. Its protagonist is Monica Villarreal, a feisty, busty, 4’10” tall latina who has recently moved from a safe world of normalcy where all she had to question was her own inner demons, to a world of supernatural lunacy, drunken college girls who have the power to obliterate the universe, an Aztec golem named Tepoz who can make the best damned martini in the world, a psychologist demon barista, and a host of other characters, some of whom may just live downstairs from you.” (Wiki)

Roar! (1928)

We’ve seen it a million times from the front; here’s what an early version looked like from behind the camera.



The beginning of the Hollywood era: the filming of the MGM screen credits, 1928



Hope there’s a trainer somewhere off camera…

The Old Wolf has spoken.

A View of Paris You Won’t Get Any More



The Statue of Liberty surrounded by scaffolding as workers complete the final stages in Paris. Circa 1885

I wonder how many people really feel a sense of immense gratitude to France for this incredible gift, which became the icon of our country. I know I do – I feel it every time I see her. Both countries cherish Liberty, despite the pains we continue to suffer as we travel into a new century.

Au peuple de la France, un grand merci.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

It’s Not About the Nail

Saw this over at Aewl’s journal and had to share, because it’s funny… but it also brings up some serious issues.

“Don’t try to fix it. I just need you to listen.” Every man has heard these words. And they are the law of the land. No matter what.

Piggybacking on my previous post about Shopping Strategies, no one in their right mind would dispute that men and women are wired differently. John Gray has made gozillions of dollars touting that fact, and others before him. Yet we still continue to have difficulty in the area… mostly because as humans, we suffer from the greatest addiction ever know… being right.

<stereotype>Men want to fix. That’s why hardware stores have such a powerful attraction. It’s one of the things we do.  You know, women are good for teaching, nurturing, healing, shopping, managing, cleaning, organizing, loving, supporting, sharing, socializing, volunteering, helping, beautifying, serving… and guys are good for picking up heavy stuff.</stereotype>

But there’s some incontrovertible reality between those HTML tags; for every guy that loves kittens and knitting and cooking and cuddling, and for every girl that loves a good blood-n-guts / sword-swinging / explosions-are-many / bad-guys-get-ground-up action movie, there are a thousand who “fit the mold.” And the little video above is all about staying within the box. Men want to fix, and women want to be valued for nothing else than who they are.

However, as I commented over at Aewl’s place,

For a good relationship to succeed, both partners have to step out of their societal boxes. No, it’s not about the nail; but in the [slightly modified] words of Monty Python’s logician, ‘even given that the activities of listening to your feelings and removing the nail are mutually exclusive, now that the listening is over, surely then, the nail may now, logically, be removed.’ A better response would have been (if one can dream of a perfect world,) “Thanks for listening to what I was feeling. That helps me feel valued and considered. I’m open to input on how to get rid of this nagging pain…”

For open, honest, responsible communication to take place, partners need to give up their sense of entitlement – the concept of “that’s the way I am, you just need to understand me” is only half of the equation. The other part is eminently captured in Emerson’s quote: “Shall I tell you a secret of a true scholar? Every man I meet is my master in some point, and I can learn from him.” So when the rubber meets the road, it’s not about the nail – but if you’re happy hanging on to that nagging pain when there’s someone sitting in front of you with a pair of pliers, then by all means, continue suffering.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

This explains so much


It’s now clear why things such as this happen on a regular basis:

Aardvark & Tuba

Stepping out of the humor track for a second, I just discovered this as well – apparently it’s a very serious matter:

Doctors’ sloppy handwriting kills more than 7,000 people annually. It’s a shocking statistic, and, according to a July 2006 report from the National Academies of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM), preventable medication mistakes also injure more than 1.5 million Americans annually. Many such errors result from unclear abbreviations and dosage indications and illegible writing on some of the 3.2 billion prescriptions written in the U.S. every year.

Read the full article at: Time: Cause of Death: Sloppy Doctors

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Shopping Strategies Compared


Men’s and women’s shopping habits have long been grist for the humorist’s mill.

  • Men shop until they have what they came for; women shop until they’re tired.
  • Men would rather rake their eyeballs out with a cat brush than go shopping; women shop for entertainment.
  • Men shop for what they need; women shop to find out what they want.

But the best humor is rooted immovably in truth, and people often find funny what they resonate with:

A woman was in town on a shopping trip. She began her day finding the most perfect shoes in the first shop and a beautiful dress in the sale in the second. In the third everything had just been reduced by 50 percent when her mobile phone rang. It was a female doctor notifying her that her husband had just been in a terrible car accident and was in a critical condition and in the ICU. The woman told the doctor to inform her husband where she was and that she’d be there as soon as possible. As she hung up, she realized she was leaving, what was shaping up to be, her best day ever in the boutiques. She decided to get in a couple of more shops before heading to the hospital.

She ended up shopping the rest of the morning, Finishing her trip with a cup of coffee and a beautiful chocolate cake, compliments of the last shop. She was jubilant.

Then she remembered her husband. Feeling guilty, she dashed to the hospital. She saw the doctor in the corridor and asked her about her husband’s condition. The lady doctor glared at her and shouted, ‘You went ahead and finished your shopping trip didn’t you! I hope you’re proud of yourself! While you were out for the past four hours enjoying yourself in town, your husband has been languishing in the Intensive Care Unit!

It’s just as well you went ahead and finished, because it will more than likely be the last shopping trip you’ll ever have! He will require round the clock care for the rest of his life and he will now be your full time career!’

The woman was feeling so guilty she broke down and sobbed.

The lady doctor then chuckled and said, ‘I’m just pulling your leg, he’s dead. Show me what you bought.’

Heartless! But why would jokes like this even surface if there were not a grain of truth to them?

A friend of mine, Mark Stanley, author and illustrator of the webcomic Freefall, came up with what seems like a very cogent explanation for the difference in shopping patterns, at least from an energy-conservation standpoint. In this scene, Florence Ambrose, a gengineered wolf (and an engineer in her own right) is shopping for clothes, when this interaction takes place:





This makes a lot of sense; there’s even science behind it. Of course, it doesn’t touch the psychological differences between men and women, or how they tend to think; have a look at these two representations of the shopping decision process (click them for larger versions):

men_women_buy_1   men_women_buy_2

These are funny, but again there’s truth here. Men evolved with a basic biological thought process:

  • Kill food
  • Reproduce

Women, on the other hand, have always had a list of responsibilities that this blog entry wouldn’t hold:

  • cook
  • clean
  • nurture
  • teach
  • drive
  • heal
  • support
  • manage
  • counsel
  • etc., ad infinitum

This mindset may be represented by the following device:


Like it or not, as genders we think differently. Even our visual cortices process input differently, as illustrated by how men and women perceive the shopping environment:


As long as people insist on living as couples, shopping together may always be an area of divisiveness. Remembering that expectations are essentially pre-planned resentments, it might be helpful to keep the following things in mind:

Talk to each other. Find out what your partner likes and enjoys. This prepares a playing field for good communication.
If you love to shop and your partner doesn’t, for the love of Mogg’s holy grandfather, don’t insist that they follow you around to every store under the starry vault.


Some husbands/boyfriends/partners may enjoy shopping with you simply because they know you enjoy it; others would rather be stung by a thousand bees. Either way, roll with what’s there. If you really enjoy shopping with someone, find a like-minded friend and go with them.

Split up for the shopping trip if necessary. If you’re out for necessities, divide and conquer. Just remember that even guys have some hangups when it comes to certain kinds of shopping, and plan your route accordingly.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear Home Depot calling me.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

R U teh g33XX0r? (A compendium of computer humor)

Listen, I know leetspeak is paleolithic and not funny anymore, but it’s a great lead-in to this awesome infographic about programming. If it got you here, mission accomplished. Suck it down.


Although I was a programmer for years, having started with FORTRAN on a Univac 1108, and progressing through PL/I in the IBM environment to Algol on Data General machines, and using Basic, PL/M, Javascript and C in the PC environment, this chart forces me to confront the fact that I only really danced around the core of the programming world. But having done as much as I did, I thoroughly respect the people who code for today’s computers, tablets and smartphones.

Programming is a fertile field for humor, mostly as a stress-reliever. I shared a poem by Dan Nessett previously, and I’ll give you a few more examples of his work – and that of others – below.


Special Forms, the Lady Tells Him” – Dan Nessett

This poem appeared in Droll Science by Robert L. Weber (1987), and was noted as an original submission for that volume. However, I first saw it printed off on a Tektronix thermal printer at Washington State’s Office of Financial Management in 1980, so I’m not sure quite what to make of that.


Another poem by Nessett, also chanted to the cadence of “Hiawatha”:

The strange tale of Jeremiah Hoop

Jeremiah Hoop, a stranger,
came to be advised concerning
The addition of some figures
Needed for his Income Tax.

To the University of
Hoopla State he brought his query,
“Please explain what I must do to
Add these on your fine computer.”

“Please attend,” the first man told him.
“The error in your computation
Will depend on the solution
Of this Eigenvalue problem.”

“Epsilon in this case surely
Will destabilize your answer
And your round-off will truncate so
That your sum must disappear.”

Jeremiah’s admiration
Of this man’s remarkable grasp
Of the gallic language did not
Rid him of his pressing question.

So he sought and found another
Fine distinguished-looking teacher –
“Ah! A fine example of the
Non-deterministic parsing
Requisite in PDL
Automata and T. M. Scanners.

Here, I have a proof that this is
Quite unsolvable,” he answered.
“Huh!?!” was all that Mr. Hoop
Could muster after this Greek lesson.

Once again he posed the question.
Once again a Rorschach answer.
“If we generalize your question
Into one of n-dimensions
We can then apply the Tensor
Calculus and Einstein’s methods.”

“With but one Christoffel symbol
And ignoring oscillations,
I believe we’ll find the answer
To our question in three years.”
Again and once more Jeremiah
Questioned those of higher learning –

If we write a microprogram…”
or, “An SVC exists…”
“Pooh!” was all that Jeremiah
Could respond, exasperated.
“In the time I’ve wasted asking,
I could sum the list by hand.”

Wiser, Jeremiah Hoop turned
And in silence walked away.
Went back to his farm in Clodville.
Laughed out loud occasionally.

-Dan Nessett


(This one reminds me hauntingly of “Ozymandias“)


One day while cleaning off my desk there came
Into my hands a scrap, upon it writ
Five lines of code – a subroutine whose name
Was “Magic” which required no arguments.

My curiosity began to itch.
I wrote a simple driver with but one
“Call Magic” statement – and submitted it
And walked outside to bask beneath the sun.

Four hours later I awoke in pain.
A sunburn had decided it should
Take out a lease and dwell upon my skin.
So I returned inside in no sweet mood.

I claimed my job – my reason was enraged.
Queer looks were given me when I exclaimed,
“Great Caesar’s Ghost,” for on its final page
Was “For your sunburn try some Solarcaine™”.

Three times I ran that job – three times amazed.
For once it solved a problem that had been
My tormentor for months, and, sans arrays,
It gave a winning strategy for Gin.

The second run output a proof which showed
That every map with four colors may be
Completely marked and all adjacent nodes
Have different hues for their identity.

The third described a model of the skies
Which made the Einstein formulation seem
As trivial as one plus four is five,
And yet could be explained to a Marine.

Just one more time I ran that job and while
It executed I sat deep in thought.
I concentrated all my earthly guile
On making “Magic” show the key to Luck.

The world is full of greed and avarice.
It spins on axes hewn from Mankind’s lust.
Small children learn – avoid the precipice
Of grabbing for that final piece of crust.

No trace of “Magic” could be found by this
Sad author after I turned in that job
Which disappeared with all the previous
Results collected – dust to worthless dust.

– Dan Nessett


Ode to a Programmer


“No program is perfect,”
they said with a shrug.
“The client is happy –
what’s one little bug?”
But he was determined;
The others went home.
He dug out the flowcharts,
Deserted, alone.
Night passed into morning,
The room became cluttered
With core-dumps and punch-cards.
“I’m close,” he muttered.
Chain-smoking, cold coffee,
Logic, deduction,
“I’ve got it!” her cried,
“Just change one instruction!”
Then change two, then three more,
As year followed year,
And strangers would comment,
“Is that guy still here?”
He died at the console
Of hunger and thirst.
Next day he was buried
Face down, 9-edge first.
And his wife, through her tears,
Not accepting his fate,
Said, “He’s not really gone,


Even though times were undoubtedly simpler in 1978,


I’m sure programmers have always had the same challenges.

Joys of Being a DP Professional

Quoted for truth



On that note, a bit of history. Back in 1984, the company I joined was running on Wang OIS hardware, at one time the foremost word processing system available in the business world. Their famous V2 editor, designed in tight assembly code to run in 32K of workspace (although most workstations by that time had 64K) was stored in the Wang headquarters in Lowell, Massachussetts, in a tall rack of drives. Source code and backups, all in the same rack. Which got knocked over. Hence no improvements were ever made to the editor; when it came time for Wang to release WP Plus, they basically had to re-write the code from the bottom up, emulating the function of their own editor… and of course it was slower than molasses. Source code is important…




While Mike Royko praised the virtues of the Macintosh in 1995, it was not always popular; at the Macworld in 1986, Philippe Kahn, then CEO of Borland International, raised hackles when he called the Mac a “piece of shit.” He later did an about face when he woke up and smelled the money, but it was a gutsy thing to say in the middle of a convention of Mac enthusiasts.

I know people like this. Me, I’ll use whatever’s at hand, whatever works, whatever’s cheapest. I love the Mac platform but have never been able to afford it for my own personal machines (fortunately I was able to dig deeply into Apple technology at work, and for years attended the Macworld conventions in San Francisco, where I serendipitously encountered some of my favorite music. I’ve never dared navigate the Unix learning curve, despite being told by all my friends that it’s the only way to go. So I’m happy with my core i7 machine, which will probably meet my needs for the foreseeable future. Running Win7 Pro 64, I finally feel as though I have a machine that is really fast enough for everything I care to do. Heck, I can even play Duke Nukem 3D (Forever was a huge disappointment) using the eduke32 port – what more could a man ask for? [1] – and XP is still available as a virtual machine for the few programs that choke at Win7.


One of the earliest iterations of this joke that I’ve seen.


I think this has happened in real life more than once.

Norwegian Internet

A friend of mine in Norway posted this one.

-Did you have your own computer when you were little?


-We didn’t even have the Internet.




-Why is your iPad so big and clunky? Is it a first generation?


-That’s a TV.



It’s somewhat disturbing to take note of the fact that there are young people alive today who don’t know a world without the Internet. Problems, of course, are always grist for the humorist’s mill:

Windows Surgery

Despite Microsoft’s best efforts to manage 1080 lines of operating system code, this still happens:

Data Blue Screen of Death

Fortunately they give their valued users an opportunity to provide feedback:


If you’re not satisfied with the bounteous information provided when things go wrong, you can always call Microsoft Customer Support

Naturally, as the above recording indicates, they will always try to redirect you to their website:


On that note, users who need help need to make sure their tech support agents are competent, and not evil:

FoxTrot - Delete File

Computer humor goes back a long, long way – Byte Magazine enjoyed throwing an April Fool’s advert into their “What’s New” section. Interesting technology from 1981 – can you spot the joke? Byte1981

A year earlier, Datamation published a lovely send-up of Poe’s “The Raven” which still resonates with coders of today, even though the architecture has shifted a bit (many versions of this can be found around the internet, but I believe this one is the original).

Of course, many people even today are afraid of technology, and the supermarket rags wasted no time exploiting those fears:


As technology became more mainstream, people needed to learn how to deal with it in everyday situations:


(From Ernie, later The Piranha Club)

Email Texas Instruments

Dave Barry had some interesting things to say about technophobes in 1995.

Some were more successful than others:

Nuclear War
Duffy - Stress
Stock Values are 0

But students did their best to adapt and take advantage of all technology had to offer:


Working in a software development environment is never easy. There are so many bosses and customers and dotted lines that situations like this are fairly common:

How the Project Developed

Every new technology has to work the bugs out:

Naughty Robot

We’ve come a long way since the early days of computing. Moore’s Law[2], outsourcing and competition have done a lot to keep consumer prices on a downward trend (except for Apple, of course):

Old Computer Ad (1989)

This state-of-the-art computer from Tandy would cost $15,937.75 in 2013 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you wanted to add a 28K Modem, it would only cost you an additional $800.00;


Whereas a 15 Megabyte Hard Drive would set you back $2495.00… plus $495.00 for that “required installation kit.”

Vintage Hard Drive Ad

Hardware back then was ruddy expensive; that Tandy 5000 would cost $16,004.44 in 2013 dollars, and for that you could buy the best, fastest system available today with every conceivable bell and whistle, and still have enough left over for some nice add-ons.

Today’s internet connection speeds make this seem like stone-age technology (although working for Washington State’s Office of Financial Management in 1980, I was connecting to WASU’s IBM’s over a 300 BAUD AT&T TTY terminal, and felt incredibly blessed when our new TI’s bumped that to 1200 BAUD – all things are relative!) (Keep in mind that  my HTC Incredible 2 smartphone, already 5 years old, has a 1 GHz processor, 786MB of ram, and a 32GB memory card that’s smaller than my fingernail, and I paid around $200.00 for it.)

There may come a day when we begin to regret making our computers smarter than we are:

\Let the Machine Get It - Bizarro

Duffy - Gotcha

But until that time, we will just have to accept the fact of what computers really are: wonderful servants, but harsh taskmasters.

Robot Beggar

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] Well, maybe smoothly-working versions of all of the Myst series. The first one is a bear to get working in any emulated environment.

[2] Moore’s law simply says that computer power doubles every eighteen months. First stated in 1965 by Gordon Moore, one of the founders of the Intel Corporation, this simple law has helped to revolutionize the world economy, generated fabulous new wealth, and irreversibly altered our way of life. When you plot the plunging price of computer chips and their rapid advancements in speed, processing power, and memory, you find a remarkably straight line going back fifty years. (This is plotted on a logarithmic curve. In fact, if you extend the graph, so that it includes vacuum tube technology and even mechanical hand-crank adding machines, the line can be extended over 100 years into the past.)

Exponential growth is often hard to grasp, since our minds think linearly. It often starts deceptively slowly. It is so gradual that you sometimes cannot experience the change at all. But over decades, it can completely alter everything around us.

According to Moore’s Law, every Christmas your computer games are almost twice as powerful (in terms of memory and processing speed) as they were the previous year. Furthermore, as the years pass, this incremental gain becomes truly monumental. For example, when you receive a birthday card in the mail, it often has a chip which sings “Happy Birthday” to you. Remarkably, that chip has more computer power than all the Allied Forces of 1945. Hitler, Churchill, or Roosevelt might have killed to get that chip. But what do we do with it? After the birthday, we throw the card and chip away. Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969 when it sent two astronauts to the moon. Video games, which consume enormous amounts of computer power to simulate 3D situations, use more computer power than main frame computers of the previous decade. The Sony Playstation of today, which costs $300, has the power of a military supercomputer of 1997, which cost millions of dollars.

-Kaku, Michio, Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100.

Billy the Kid, ca. 1879


The only authenticated photo of William Bonney, taken around 1879. “He was said to be friendly and personable at times, and it’s been said that he was as lithe as a cat. Contemporaries described him as a “neat” dresser who favored an “unadorned Mexican sombrero”. (Wikipedia) Note: the Wikimedia Commons image has been enhanced and mirrored.

Personally, I like Morris and Goscinny’s take better: Billy ends up getting his just deserts.





The Old Wolf has spoken.

One of those photos…

… that gets shared around and around and around with nary an attribution. I looked, and was not able to find anything credible; two friends with greater Google-fu than I were able to identify a source, and thanks to them.


Parents Selling Children

Original caption: August 4, 1948 – Chicago, Illinois: They’re on the auction block. These small children of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Chalifoux of Chicago, Illinois.

For long months 40 year old Ray and his wife, Lucille, 24, waged a desperate but losing battle to keep food in the mouth and a roof over their heads. Now jobless and facing eviction from their near barren flat, the Chalifoux have surrendered to their heart breaking decision. Photo shows mother sobbing as the children pose wonderingly on the steps. Left to right: Lana,6. Rae, 5. Milton, 4. Sue Ellen, 2 years old.

Image: © Bettmann/CORBIS
Date Photographed: August 4, 1948
Location Information: Chicago, Illinois, USA

One wonders at what happened after the photo was taken. Hard times are hard.

[Edit: Many thanks to reader Jen who found a recently-published followup:

Lana (top left) was likely adopted and died of cancer in 1998; RaeAnn (top right) was sold for $2 along with her brother Milton (bottom left) to an abusive family. Sue Ellen (bottom right) was adopted. David, inside mother Lucille Chalifoux’s womb in this picture, was adopted as well. Lucille would have four moure daughters; “She kept them; she didn’t keep us,” David says.

Bittersweet; click through for the full article.

The Old Wolf has spoken.