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Breaking fast with the code monks

Sun 18 Nov 2001 by mskala Tags used: ,

[thanks to Brother Headchalk for suggesting "nutella" as topic]

Breakfast was an adventure. I had to get up early to catch the bus back to Redmond; most of the compound's inhabitants were still asleep. Those guys like to get up late and hack all night. I wandered down into the communal kitchen, toyed with the idea of just chugging a couple of beers out of the "FAIB" cooler, and decided that it was still too early for that. Instead I looked in the fridge, finding some bread and an unlabelled jar of brown paste. I opened it and cautiously smelled it, and concluded that it was Nutella or some similar product. I thought I'd have some toast with some of the brown stuff.

The toaster was a bit difficult because it was a locally-designed one. Instead of putting the toast in the slots myself, I had to use the little robot arm. The manual (at least there *was* one, a rare treat in this place) included dire warnings about the likely results if I tried to bypass the arm and just stick the toast in the slots myself. Unfortunately, it then went into a lengthy example of how to use the macro language to make the arm play Towers of Hanoi with slices of toast. The library function for actually making toast in the first place was undocumented, and I had to read the Hanoi game source code three times before I figured out the syntax.

The manual also explained that this was a constant-time toaster, and it went into some detail on how a constant cooking time with variable heat provided better compatibility with international electrical standards than the closed-standard approach of constant heat and variable time. Since the rheostat controlling the heating elements was not labelled, I had to do some trial and error to find a setting that didn't leave the bread either ice cold or black and smoking.

Next I needed a knife to spread the brown stuff. The knife drawer turned out to be the one with the pair of heavy gloves hanging on a hook next to it. When I pulled open the drawer, I saw why. These knives had no handles. The cutting function had been encapsulated away from the user interface. Each blade had a hook at one end for me to link in the handle of my choice, but though I searched the kitchen carefully, I couldn't find anything compatible with it except the gripper on the toast robot, and there was no way I'd trust that thing with a sharp instrument. I also couldn't find the spec for creating my own handle, even had I wanted to. So I put on the gloves, picked a blade out of the drawer, and with some difficulty because the gloves were so clumsy, used it to spread some of the brown paste on my toast.

When I bit into the first piece, I observed the strangest phenomenon I had seen on my whole trip to date. Although I heard a crunch and felt the toast in my mouth, when I lowered my hand with the piece of toast in it, I saw that the slice was still intact, just as if I hadn't bitten into it at all. And yet I could feel the bite of toast and taste the nutty flavor of the spread there in my mouth. I chewed, swallowed, tried another bite, and found that the slice of toast I'd been biting was, again, still intact.

Then I noticed that two other pieces of toast, still sitting on the table, now had bites missing from them. As I took a third bite and watched the toast carefully, I saw another chunk disappear from a slice on the table. It appeared that each time I bit the toast with Nutella on it, or whatever the stuff was, the slice in my hand randomly directed my bite to one of its peers on the table.

That was enough for me. I decided I wasn't hungry after all, left the toast on the table, and went to catch my bus.

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