A Categorical Approach To Compatibility Theory


I read in the newspaper this week that scientists have discovered why men are better at reading maps, while women are more able to find things like car keys. It seems that it all goes back to pre-history behavioral patterns and responsibilities. Men had to travel long distances hunting, and so had to be able to navigate. Women foraged locally for food, so needed a keen eye for detail. Now I don't want to appear sexist, but I have to say that, at least in our house, reality tends the match that assertion. Mind you, one guy wrote in to the paper to say that his wife was really good at map reading - as long as they were heading north.

Even more interesting, I've come to the conclusion that, for some indeterminable reason probably long lost in the mists of time, women who like cats tend to marry men who work with computers. It's kind of hard to justify this on a "back at the dawn of time" basis, or in terms of a theory based on studies of Stone Age cave paintings. Mainly, I suspect, because there was a noticeable scarcity of computers in those days. And it's probably a long shot to try and find some comparison between map reading abilities and an innate ability to absorb computer language syntax and structured architectural design patterns. Other, of course, than using a sat-nav.

Not being one to jump to wild conclusions, I have obtained solid statistical evidence of the marital preference assertion. My wife is a cat-lover, and does a lot of work raising money for our local cat sanctuary. The lady who runs the sanctuary is married to a guy who writes medical software for hospitals. One of the ladies who help to run the money-raising jumble (rummage) sales is married to a guy who works for a well-known manufacturer of routers and switches. And her friend is married to a guy who runs a business doing computerized accounting systems.

And what's really weird about the cat rule is that, when I first met my wife, I didn’t actually work with computers. I was a salesman. OK, so I was selling windows at the time, but they were ones you put into buses, trains, and office blocks - not the one I spend my days fighting with now. So obviously the theory extends to future employment prospects as well.

Perhaps this could be adapted into some kind of suitability test for prospective employees. Instead of all those long and complicated interviews, psychological profiles, and adaptability tests, you just need to ask the geek the other side of the desk how many cats they've got. It would work on a sliding scale: one moggy, suitable for general development tasks. Two Seal-point Persians, obviously a prime candidate for program manager. A British Blue and a Cornish Rex, would do well in technical support and systems administration.

Of course, what would be really useful would be to establish if there is some reason for this amazing compatibility situation. While avoiding any puerile reference to mice, what subtle traits do cats and computer programmers share that attracts a woman to both? Is it the inscrutable independence, the haughty view of the world as being there only to satisfy their whims, or the fact that - despite giving every outward appearance of being asleep for 23 hours a day - they are actually alert to everything going on around them? Or maybe it's just that both have an inbuilt sense of independence. I suspect that the term used to describe some hopeless task as being "...as easy as herding cats" might work just as well as "...as easy as herding computers". I mean, how often does your computer do exactly what you expect...?

Meanwhile, I've also discovered that women who like dogs tend to marry plumbers or policemen. OK, so I only know one plumber and one policeman, but we're getting 100% compliance to the rule here as they both have very large dogs.

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