In the small South Dakota town that is my home to my alma mater, there was a section of sidewalk bordering the college campus that had clearly been laid down long before I was born. As I walked to class one fine autumn day, I happened to look down and noticed that one of the squares of this sidewalk had been lovingly crafted to serve as a frame for what appeared to be some meticulously executed handwriting.
The words in the concrete had been strangely "embedded" there with what must have been streams of sand, carefully poured into the still-wet cement. Although I don't know how long the writing had been visible when I first saw it, I imagine that it hadn't always been so. It was almost as though the words had been engineered to "emerge" from the sidewalk, but only after many years of use.
With a medium so exotic, you might expect a commensurately exotic message, but at first blush these words seemed quite mundane. Rather than being the directions to some colossal cache of buried treasure, or a formula for the True Elixir of Youth, the sidewalk carried this simple message:
Now how could a message so apparently nondescript deserve such a strange and permanent canvas? Could there be some gleaming redeeming kernels of wisdom in this simple rhyme? Or was the artisan just poking fun at his then-distant future by intimating a little piece of undisputed truth?
For my part, I'll try to find some profundity. It's usually there, actually - and even when it isn't you just need to use the word eyebrows a few times and no one will notice.
I'll admit that I like my weather "temperate" - not too hot and not too cold. I'll gladly take my stand as a fair-weather friend of fair weather.
Minnesota has two periods of perfect weather each year - one in late spring and one in early autumn - lasting several minutes each. Would it be nice to have this weather indefinitely? I don't think so, but it's purely academic - there's no danger whatsoever of that happening.
However, if life was always easy, we'd never get anything done, right? There's something to be said for the oppressive darkness and bitter cold of midwinter Minnesota. In fact, there are several things to be said about our yearly Arctic blast, and some of them are printable.
One popular assertion around the programming lab is that the quality of a site's code deliverables is directly proportional to the inclemency of its weather. When my family and I moved here many years ago, I quickly observed that we write great code here in Rochester. I also observed that we are subjected to several months of bitter weather each year.
There being no counterexamples in this experiential universe of exactly one data point, I took the logical leap to a committed, unshakable belief in this principle: seasonally inclement weather results in good computer code.
Each of us needs a logically indefensible religious cause to embrace from time to time; we merely carry on the tradition handed down from our ancestors through the centuries. Naturally, my aspirations to the divine could've been aimed at a somewhat higher plane of consciousness, but I've found there is often comfort (and much company) in mediocrity.
People are basically pretty goofy critters when it comes to belief systems, but far be it from me to say which are the goofier and which the goofiest. I mean, as soon as I say, "I've got the Answer!" am I not automatically wrong in at least half the world's eyes, just based on the language I spoke or the cut of my trouser leg?
Perhaps the Answer I should offer up is, simply, "There is no Answer." Do I win the new 6-ton SUV along with that festooned dream home situated squarely in the heart of manicured suburban splendor? Hmmm...eyebrows.
Blair Wyman is a software engineer working for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota, home of the IBM iSeries.