- How to hunt an elephant
Mathematicians hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out
everything that is not an elephant and catching one of whatever is
Experienced mathematicians will attempt to prove the existence of at
least one elephant before proceeding to step 1 as a subordinate
Professors of mathematics will prove the existence of at least one
elephant and then leave the detection and capture of an actual
elephant as an exercise to 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 to west.
4. During each traverse,
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 grey animals
at random, and stopping when any one of them weighs within plus or
minus 15% 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.
Operations research consultants can also measure the correlation of
hat size and bullet color to the efficiency of elephant hunting
strategies, if someone 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.
Lawyers don't hunt elephants, but they will follow the herds and
argue about who owns the droppings.
Software lawyers will claim they own an entire herd based on the
look and feel of one dropping.
VPs of Engineery, R&D try hard to hunt elephants, but their staff
are ordered to prevent it. When the VP does get to hunt elephants,
the staff will try to ensure that all possible elephants are
completely prehunted before the VP sees them. If the VP does see a
non-prehunted elephant, the staff will (1) compliment the VP's keen
eyesight, and (2) enlarge itself to prevent another such 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 seasons
Software sales people ship the first thing they catch and write up
an invoice for an elephant.
Hardware sales people catch rabbits, paint them grey, and sell them
as desktop elephants.
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