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[Comments] (2) The answer to this question is false.    T  F  : Seth is talking about self-referential aptitude tests, so maybe it's time to tell the story of... the self-referential aptitude test that ripped me off (nb. change to "broke my heart" for inclusion in Readers Digest).

This was in seventh grade algebra. We were given a mimeographed worksheet containing a "test of [our] ability to follow instructions". It had twenty instructions on it to follow. It said "Read this test all the way through before you do anything." So I did. The first instruction said to put your name at the top of the paper. All the rest of the instructions were to write down the answer to various trivia questions, except the last one, which was along the lines of "Stop! Don't write anything on this paper! Just turn it in!"

Ridiculous, I thought. By the time I get to that instruction, I'll have already written all kinds of things on this paper, and there's nothing after it. It's probably a trick to get people to follow the instructions out of order. Anyway, having read the test all the way through, I started on the first instruction. I completed all the instructions until I got to the one that said stop, then I stopped and turned it in.

Well, that wasn't what you were supposed to do. You were supposed to execute the the last instruction before any of the others, and never write anything on your paper. Why should you execute instruction #20 before executing instruction #19? Because #20 looks weird! Geez, Leonard!

I fought it, and lost. At the time I foolishly thought that mine was the only correct solution. But I don't think the worksheet said anything about the order in which you should complete the instructions, so there are actually a large number of correct solutions, including the one the teacher considered correct. So I could have satisfied my own sense of correctness while still getting a good score on the assignment (this was a big dilemma for me in school; it's not so much a factor now that satisfying my own sense of correctness is more closely aligned with doing a good job).

The moral, as always: don't mess with self-reference unless you really know what you're doing. Start by messing with Texas, and work your way up.

[Comments] (3) Gravlax:



             I just got off the phone with Washington. The
             Gravlax is headed towards Chicago. You'd better
             pray this device of yours works, doctor.

                           PROF. TOUCHFEELY

             I can't shake the feeling we're making a huge
             mistake. We haven't been able to establish
             communication with the Gravlax yet. For all
             we know its intentions are peaceful.

                           GENERAL MCBOMBEM

             By golly, I won't see the Earth destroyed
             just to test out your pet theories! Sergeant, 
             activate the atom ray!

                            SERGEANT JONES

             Sir, yes sir!

      CUT TO: 

      There is a huge EXPLOSION (STOCK).


      The area is covered with a fine paste of GRAVLAX.

                           GENERAL MCBOMBEM
                      (scraping GRAVLAX off his hat
                       with one finger)

             What _is_ this stuff?

                           PROF. TOUCHFEELY
                       (tasting GRAVLAX from his 

             It's cured salmon, General. Perfectly harmless.

                       (wiping GRAVLAX off his suit)

             As I suspected, the Gravlax came to this planet
             to lend its salty taste to little sandwiches
             and other light appetizers. But we were not
             ready for it. In our arrogance and blindness we
             assumed that because it had a name like
             "Gravlax" it had to be some sort of hideous
             B-movie monster. Perhaps one day mankind will 

                           GENERAL MCBOMBEM

             It's delicious.

      Enter PETE, frantic.


             Doctor, General. I just heard from the lab
             in Peoria. That signal the Gravlax sent from
             its ship -- it was aimed directly at its
             original point of origin.

                           GENERAL MCBOMBEM

             That could only mean...

                           PROF. TOUCHFEELY

             More of them are on the way.


                           GENERAL MCBOMBEM

             We'll be ready for them.

                               THE END


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