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June 05, 2005

The 'Net is like that...

Back when I was an undergraduate, I used to use this thing called the 'Net - except that it wasn't called the 'Net yet. Instead it consisted of different bits that hadn't joined together - there was mail and remote access (via MHSnet in Australia) and then there was Usenet. Usenet was the Oracle. No, wait a minute, Usenet included the Oracle. The Oracle was cool - you could ask the Oracle questions and get great answers back like this one:

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:
{ How can I keep burglars out of my house? They took my underwear
{ last time.
And in response, thus spake the Oracle:
} To encourage the burglar to keep a distance from the house in the first place
} place extra large feeding dishes by the front door and label them Thor and
} Lightning - or -
} Prominently display a sign warning that Lucy, your pet boa constrictor has
} run of the house when you are gone - or -
} Leave a fresh change of underwear in a discreetly labeled brown paper bag out
} by the mailbox so the burglar won't have to break in to get it.
} A somewhat more reliable method of discouraging unwanted visitors is the
} installation of a fancy and frequently obnoxious alarm system. This does
} require the spending of significant dollars but has one very positive
} effect. It will reduce your disposable income to a level that will ensure
} that you have nothing worth stealing.
} You owe the Oracle a nice reliable baseball bat. (it won't keep burglars out
} but it certainly bolsters the confidence.)
(you can read more about the Oracle here and here).
Now I think I have wandered away from my point but actually that was my point. The great thing about Usenet was that you never knew quite where any path of exploration would lead. You might start out reading about something relevant but before you knew it, you had stumbled across something completely pointless and unrelated but nevertheless fascinating. The bad thing about Usenet is that some bugger spammed it in 1994 (10 years after I got on-line).
Anyway, the Internet took over from Usenet but the best (and worst) thing is still that ability to lead into the great unknown. Still, every now and then, the process turns up a real gem and today was one of those days. While chasing up some entries in the blog roll, I clicked a few accidental links and found an article about a commencement address which quoted this speech by someone receiving a doctorate:
I am honored to be here and to receive this honorary doctorate. When I think back to the people that have been in this position before me from Benjamin Franklin to Queen Noor of Jordan, I can�t help but wonder what has happened to this place. Seriously, it saddens me. As a person, I am honored to get it; as an alumnus, I have to say I believe we can do better. And I believe we should. But it has always been a dream of mine to receive a doctorate and to know that today, without putting in any effort, I will. It�s incredibly gratifying. Thank you. That�s very nice of you, I appreciate it.
Sounds a lot like something Groucho Marx would say (I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members) but in this case it was someone I had never heard of. Mind you, I still think it was funny and an interesting side-track.

Posted by Ozguru at June 5, 2005 10:00 PM


I'd forgotten the Oracle! Thanks for reminding me.

Posted by: Kathy K at June 5, 2005 11:04 PM