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Comment of the Fortnight
15 February 1998
Words of Confusion; Words of Wisdom

I went past a local fast-food franchise a few days ago and saw a brightly-colored sign on the door with something to the effect of these words of confusion:

We are pleased to inform our customers that we have picture menus available.
"Now wait a minute," I thought. "Picture menus are for customers who can't read. Those people won't be able to read the sign that lets them know that the picture menu is available." Am I missing something here?


This weekend I did the scorekeeping for a local high school wrestling tournament using a program I wrote specially for that purpose. About seven-eighths of the way through the day, the tournament director told me that the powers that be had decided the previous week to use an alternate interpretation of a fairly obscure rule, and by the way would I be able to change the way my program does team scoring.

Of course, I freaked out; I saw that this change might cause several small but undesirable problems, and I knew I needed help. Luckily, Duane Morgan was there refereeing. He's an expert referee who knows all the details of running a tournament. He called a quick meeting with the tournament director and several coaches and explained to them what the implications of this change were. He said that he wanted to discuss it right then, before the final round when a team title might be on the line. And then he said these words of wisdom:

You need to make a decision now, before it becomes an emotional decision.
I have rarely heard such a concise, powerful statement that applies to so many situations. I'm still amazed by it.

As for the tournament? Everyone decided to stay with the alternate interpretation, I managed to find a section of the program that I could modify to do the scoring change, and the tournament proceeded nicely to its conclusion.

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