Riddle me this, Google

Riddle me this, Google

  • Comments 36

One of the reasons why I do all this technical stuff in a blog is to leverage the power of search engines like Google.  I wrote a program the other day to go through the referrer log and extract all the Google queries that sent people to my page, and I was quite pleased to discover that the vast majority of the Google queries were from people who would have gotten their questions answered by various articles.  Lots and lots of queries like "vbscript and jscript arrays", "cannot use parentheses when calling a sub" and so on.  I've gotten over 15000 Google hits since I began this project.  Next time I'll discuss the details of the simple analysis program I wrote, but today I want to answer more reader questions.

Looking through the logs though, I see there are many questions posed to Google which were referred to my blog, but my blog didn't actually answer them.  I'd like to take this opportunity as a public service to answer those questions.  (I've capitalized and punctuated the queries, but otherwise they're pretty much as they were typed into Google.)

Personal questions:

Are you a traveling man?

I'm a travellin' man. Don't tie me down 'cause there's just too much livin' goin' all around.  A man has got to see what he can see.  I love the road and I love the air and I don't worry and I don't ever care.  I love my women, and sometimes they love me.

Historical Questions:

Name as many people you can who went before the Committee and did name names.

Elia Kazan, and, um, hmm, he's pretty much the only one who comes to mind. Oh, and Disney of course. That part of history is not my strong suit.

Linguistic Questions:

What does "MSDN" stand for?

Microsoft Developer Network.

What does "foo" mean?

Nothing.  It's a metasyntactic variable used as a placeholder.

What does "FUD" stand for?

Fear, uncertainty and doubt.

What does "elision" mean?

It's a grammatical term. To elide a word is to omit it in such a way that the meaning is still clear.  For example, I live with two people who grew up in Pennsylvania, and they have a habit of eliding the verb "to be" in certain contexts.  For example, they'll say "Do you have any towels that need washed?"  instead of "need to be washed".  The missing "to be" is an elision. (I hardly even notice it anymore.)

We use the term in artificial languages in the same way.  For example, when you say class blah { int foo; } in C#, you've elided the internal on the class and the private on the member.  They're understood to be there, but omitted for brevity without changing the meaning.

What are some opposite words for "boring"?

Fascinating, engrossing, interesting, captivating.

Is there a difference between English and German?

Yes.

How can I write Urdu?

Learn the alphabet first.  Try this page:  http://www.ukindia.com/zurdu1.htm

Romantic Questions:

What are the best ways to get a boy to like you?

Just be yourself -- the last thing you want is to get a boy interested in a fake, put-on version of yourself, because then you'll only have to maintain the charade to keep him interested, and what fun is that? 

If you're having trouble meeting boys, do stuff that makes you a more interesting person and puts you in contact with new people.  Volunteer in your community, join a mixed-sex sports team, take some classes, whatever. That not only increases your chances of meeting someone with common interests, it gives you something to talk about as you're getting to know them.

More generally: I've learned by bitter experience that it is a bad idea to predicate your own happiness on the behaviour of other people.  It seems crazy, I know, but one of the best ways to have a good relationship with someone else is to first learn to be happy by yourself.  Happy single people are highly attractive to MOTASs compared to desperate, depressed single people.

(I am amazed that my blog is number three on the Google page for this query.)

Why do guys string you along?

Some guys are just jerks, I guess.

Health Questions:

What make my eyes hurt when I open them in the morning?

Your planet is in orbit around a giant ball of fire.  Close the blinds before you go to bed.

What are those little things in my eyes?

Assuming they aren't contact lenses, they're probably "floaters" -- little pieces of detached protein.  Unless you suddenly start getting a lot of floaters, they're nothing to worry about.  If you do suddenly get lots, go see an optometrist immediately.

I see things with my eyes.

No kidding?  Me too!

Philosophical Questions:

Why does my clock change?

Because time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future.

Who can say where the road goes?

Any decent cartographer.  Or try stopping at the next gas station.

I have evil powers. How do I use them?

I'd tell you, but that would be morally wrong. 

Am I too smart?

Probably not; few people are.

Practical Questions:

How to tell asbestos vinyl flooring?

I had that stuff in my old kitchen.  Believe me, you can't tell whether it is contaminated just by looking at it.  

Get a spray bottle and soak a small area with water.  Keep spraying it as you use a sharp knife to cut off a small sample.  (If there are asbestos fibers, you want them wet so that they fall out of the air.)  Immediately put the sample in a zip-lock bag, or, preferably, two, and take it to an asbestos testing lab. 

I can also give you some tips on do-it-yourself abatement if you decide to take it out yourself.

Where do cufflinks come from?

When a mommy and daddy cufflink love each other very much…

Seriously, any good formal wear store can hook you up with a nice pair of cufflinks.

How can employees give good service to the customer in order to get more customers in a restaurant establishment?

In general, good service is straightforward: treat the customer like you appreciate their business and want them back!

Remember, good service doesn't get people in the door; good service gets repeat customersAdvertising gets them in the door.  Of course, there is always word-of-mouth, but that's more likely to be about the good food than the good service.  Regular customers are the lifeblood of most restaurants.

How can I break my foot?

Dropping a really heavy object (for instance, a bunch of bricks, or perhaps an anvil) is the "classic" method.  You can also get it caught in a door or some machinery or get run over by a heavy vehicle.  There are lots of ways -- be creative!

How can I add two numbers?

Start by adding the ones digits, then the tens, and so on.  Make sure to keep track of the "carry".

How can a monkey be interviewed?

Lock James Lipton in a room with a monkey and a tape recorder, see what happens.  Better yet, lock James Lipton in a room with a couple dozen monkeys.  I'd pay good money to see that.

[This is part one of Riddle Me This, Google.  See also Part Two and Part Three.]

  • A better answer for the "I see things with my eyes" one might be: http://www.weebls-stuff.com/toons/22/ :-)
  • It's linked in that Wiki article on Foo, but if you've never read it, RFC 3092 http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc3092.html is a hoot.

    I've never seen something that seems so much like a joke talked about so seriously.
  • The whole thing is entertaining and hilarious, but the best line, by far, is the one explaining that we live on a planet that orbits a giant ball of fire. I am supposed to be working right now and that one tipped off my wife.
  • Thanks -- though, obviously, I stole the line from Tycho and Gabe. Sincerest form of flattery, theft.
  • >> the vast majority of the Google queries were from people who would have gotten their questions answered by various articles.

    Eric, I first learned of your blog via Google while trying to get answers to some VBScript questions. Now I'm hooked!
  • I thought foo and bar evolved out of fbr or fubar, as in "f***ed beyond all repair".
    True they are commonly just used as symbols or place holders now, but everytime I see them still this is what comes to mind. A little bird told me this when at university. As in when things did not go quite right in the old days it was considered "foo bar'ed".
    In fact I will often say (when pissed off), "Oh FOO!", etc. That you can get away with when saying it outloud in your cubicle.
    Well regardless, quite a few programmers do of course swear out loud anyway.


  • I’m on week 3 of my 3 week trip to Europe, lots of blog material but I am tired, grumpy, sat in a...
  • This post by Eric Lippert is pretty high on my list: Riddle me this, Google. I've been collecting interesting...
  • Simply stunning... and fascinating, interesting, engrossing and captivating. Well done, Eric.
  • Inspired by "Riddle me this, Google", I will answer your questions. The following are all from my Google referrer logs:...
  • you have a good sense of humor. no wonder you had that girl for six years! girls really go for the guys that are funny, oh, and don't forget tall. but i'm not that shallow. i don't care how tall guys are. some girls are just stupid.
    And going on sports teams is a good way to meet guys. i played on a three on three hockey team and we were the only girl's team in the leage. lots of guys were there.
    (the url up there is my website)
  • Apparently I've sparked a discussion amongst the super-geniuses of LtU on various innovative language

  • FYI, I will be live and in person available for questions about C# 3.0, working at Microsoft, relationship

  • Eric, you are still talking about your floor!  Long time no see, wondering how you r doing?

    If it would be okay with you I would really appreciate a visit to your kitchen to take some

    pictures, and do a 36 month evaluation- with your input- as to how everything has held together.

    Hope all is well with you, couldn't help but think of you this week with your "Longhorn" work

    Finally coming out! Congrats!

  • This might help... j_kovarik@hotmail.com

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