Saturday, June 26, 2010


Warning: will not be funny to most readers!

Background: Decades ago, the International Organization for Standardization developed the Open System Interconnection model for data systems (see ITU Recommendation X.200, Sec. 6.1.2). It's founded on seven separate layers of particular protocols or functionality:

source: Wikipedia

To some extent, the TCP/IP protocol driving the Internet uses such layering.

With the Democrats recently proposing to regulate the Internet, the latest inside-the-Beltway engineering joke postulates adding two new layers to the OSI model:

If you don't get it, don't worry--it means you're normal.


OBloodyHell said...

> To some extent, the TCP/IP protocol driving the Internet uses such layering.

Actually, no "to some extent" about it.

The internet protocol suite which drives the internet IS TCP/IP, and includes both of those as two of the seven layers -- TCP is part of the transport layer, and IP is the "Internet" or "Network" layer. "Http:" is the "application" layer.

This is very amusing from a tech point of view. It's very much hacker humor:

META (mayt'@) [from analytic philosophy] adj. One level of description
up. Thus, a meta-syntactic variable is a variable in notation used
to describe syntax and meta-language is language used to describe
language. This is difficult to explain out of context, but much
hacker humor turns on deliberate confusion between meta-levels.
Generally used when relating self-referential concepts.
- 'The Hacker's Dictionary' -

OBloodyHell said...


One obvious simple example of hacker humor is anything such as writing "This is GREEN" in red pen on white paper.

At the heart of all humor is a disconnect of some sort -- either a direct one, in which you play with people's expectations --

"Two men walk into a bar. The third one ducks".

You've set a direction for thought to follow, then you interrupt it.

There is also the indirect one, where someone else does the disconnect as part of the joke:

    Well, there was this tiger, who woke up one morning, and just felt
great (yes, just like Tony the Tiger: GREAAAAAAT).
    Anyway, he just felt so good, he went out and cornered a small
monkey and roared at him: "WHO IS THE MIGHTIEST OF ALL THE
JUNGLE ANIMALS?" And this poor quaking little monkey replied:
"Y-y-yo-ou are of c-course, n-no-no one is m-mightier than you."
    "Very well, you respect me, so I shall not eat you." and he
pats the monkey on the head and walks away.
    A little while later this tiger confronts a sloth, and just bellows
ANIMALS?" The sloth is shaking so hard it can barely speak, but
manages to stammer: "O-oh g-g-gr-great t-t-tiger, y-you are b-by
far the m-m-mightiest animal in the j-j-jungle."
    The tiger, being on a roll, swaggered, up to an elephant that
was quietly munching on some weeds, and roared at the top of
    The elephant looks over at him, then reaches out and grabs the
tiger with his trunk, picks him up, slams him down; picks him up
again, slams him down, picks him up a third time and shakes him
until the tiger is just a blur of orange and black, and finally flings
him across the jungle slamming him violently into a tree.
    The tiger staggers to his feet and looks at the elephant and says:
"Man, just because you don't know the answer, you don't have to
get so pissed."

The disconnect here is the final line from the tiger, whose ego will not allow him to grasp that his question WAS answered, of course, which is quite clear to everyone else.

In programming, you tend to spend a lot of time thinking and operating on meta-levels. That is, in order to simulate or "code" something, you tend to think a lot more of the underlying actions taking place, so you think in terms of "what is being done" -- meta-levels, not on "doing".

As a result programmers/hackers get a lot more mileage from meta-level humor -- disconnects and abuses of those meta-levels -- than the average person, just because they switch back and forth between them a lot.

This is why hackers are so often fond of puns -- they are very much a matter of playing with meta-levels of language, one of the most basic sorts of such one encounters in life -- even children enjoy them (you have to be trained to be "too mature" to appreciate puns... Puns are in fact one of the smarter, higher forms of humor -- stupid people don't make or get puns -- at least, not intentionally -- and along with riddles they are one of the few kinds of humor which are not largely sadistic at heart)


MaxedOutMama said...

I thought it was very funny.

In a horrifying way, of course.

bobn said...

xkcd has a lot of humor that is geeky. Here's one for network geeks:

Carl had one here for xkcd that totally went over my head - something about Paul Erdos. Even after looking wiki, I still didn't get the joke.

And from xkcd for the less geeky:

Carl said...

bobn: The explanation behind xkcd's Erdos carton is here.

Lame-R said...

Great, the tcp/ip stack is going to asplode. The political layer is highly proprietary and VERY buggy.