Essays from the funniest man in Microsoft Research


James Mickens has written a number of essays for ;login: magazine. The wall-of-text presentation is kind of scary, and the first time I encountered them, I skimmed the essays rather than reading them through. As a result, my reaction was, “I got tired.” But if you follow the path and read the essays through, you realize that they are all brilliant.

You can’t just place a LISP book on top of an x86 chip and hope the hardware learns about lambda calculus by osmosis.

and in the “so funny because it’s true that it wraps around and isn’t funny any more, but then wraps around a second time and is funny again, but with a tinge of sadness” category:

I HAVE NO TOOLS BECAUSE I’VE DESTROYED MY TOOLS WITH MY TOOLS.

… because in those days, you could XOR anything with anything and get something useful.

When researchers talk about mobile computers, they use visionary, exciting terms like “fast”, “scalable”, and “this solution will definitely work in practice.”

With careful optimization, only 14 gajillion messages are necessary.

One of my colleagues found the stash of columns in the “Miscellaneous Excellence” section on Mickens’ Web site and reacted with “This is better than getting free cookies.”

Here’s an interview with “the funniest man in Microsoft Research”.

I would have done this for TechNet Magazine if I had known this was possible.

Also if I had the talent.

Mostly the talent part.

Bonus Mickensian reading: What is art?

Comments (16)
  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks, Raymond, for the Christmas present.

  2. 12BitSlab says:

    Wonderful!  Many thanks for posting this!

  3. CarlD says:

    Brilliant!

  4. Décio says:

    I had no idea that nerd humor like this could even exist. It's as if I had always been blind, and all of a sudden I was able to see. Thank you, Raymond, and of course, thank you, James. I wonder if he performs stand-ups somewhere?

  5. Klimax says:

    Looks like somebody does have time machine…

    "•James Mickens, Ed Nightingale, Jeremy Elson, Bin Fan, Asim Kadav, Vijay Chidambaram, Osama Khan, Krishna Nareddy, and Darren Gehring, Blizzard: Fast, Cloud-scale Block Storage for Cloud-oblivious Applications, in Proceedings of NSDI, USENIX, April 2014"

  6. Brian G. says:

    These are awesome. It's like reading Dave Barry, but with humor and computers!

  7. Mike says:

    Here's a funny one: How come Microsoft products still haven't figured out how to stop spyware from infecting their systems ? For about 12 years now, MS products get rooted from a few lines of malformed javascript. The latest, cryptolocker, steals your data and holds it for ransom! Ha ha hah! I guess they have no intention of doing anything for their users. Just a crap mill that churns out defective products and imitation knock offs. Just hilarious, isn't it?

  8. Slashdotter says:

    Raymond, as you are a Systems Programmerâ„¢ I have to ask: is your nickname at Microsoft "Zeus Hammer"?

  9. Deviltry says:

    "Here's a funny one: How come Microsoft products still haven't figured out how to stop spyware from infecting their systems ? For about 12 years now, MS products get rooted from a few lines of malformed javascript. The latest, cryptolocker, steals your data and holds it for ransom! Ha ha hah! I guess they have no intention of doing anything for their users. Just a crap mill that churns out defective products and imitation knock offs. Just hilarious, isn't it?"

    Windows XP is long dead, move on man.

  10. Bhashit Parikh says:

    I was in the office when I opened the pdf link. People were curious why I was laughing so much. Thanks.

  11. Tom Mead says:

    Words fail me…brilliant, man…freacking brilliant!

  12. Joker_vD says:

    "The latest, cryptolocker, steals your data and holds it for ransom! Ha ha hah!"

    How is that Windows' fault? When someone sends a sh-file to a Linux user with "rm -rf ~/*", and the user launches it, that's the user's fault, not the Linux's. And well, if you run a program under your user account, there is nothing surprising it can thrash all files owned by that user account. Don't run executable files of dubious origin, duh.

  13. Reeve says:

    @Mike: XPClient, we really missed you around here. /s

  14. voo says:

    Amazing! Thanks for the belated Christmas present. "I believe (but cannot prove) that PHP developers have souls."

  15. Anon says:

    @Mike

    The operating system has nothing to do with allowing malicious software on the machine. That's all the user. Indeed, most every major vulnerability which has been exploited over the past 15-20 years was patched well before it was exploited, and was only exploited by virtue of people who refused to apply the patches.

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