Many thanks to Hanzík for the Czech translations!

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slightly geeky  slightly geeky

Case 54

Knots

Two nuns were walking along a wooded trail not far from the temple, when they discovered to their mutual inconvenience that the path ended in a sudden drop down a steep-sided ravine. The bottom of the ravine lay over two hundred feet below them; the cliff on the opposite side was nearly the same distance away.

“I pray your patience, Hwídah,” said the first nun, “For my mind has been overtaxed from memorizing too many APIs. But was there not a rope bridge across the chasm at this point?”

“I believe you are not mistaken, Yíwen,” said the second nun. “As I recall it was a sturdy bridge, old and servicable, and indeed I had hoped that we would make use of it on our walk.”

- - -

The wind whistled.

“Again, take pity on me, Hwídah, for my eyes are weak from coding in the small hours. But does that not appear to be the remains of the rope bridge on the far side of the chasm, dangling down the cliffside?”

“I believe it is, Yíwen, and if you look to the two great trees on either side of our path you will see that a portion of the bridge dangles uselessly down our side of the chasm as well. Notice how both halves, near and far, twist in the wind with a few meager footplanks still trapped here and there in the braids, banging fitfully against the rock face. The sound calls to mind a wind chime that once hung outside my window...”

- - -

Both nuns paused to consider the knocking and scraping of the planks against the cliffside.

“A hundred pardons, Hwídah, for my ears are used to little but the clattering of my keyboard. But can you not also discern a voice upon the wind?”

“I believe I can, Yíwen. If you observe the ropes on the far side you will realize that Zjing, a much-celebrated nun of our own order, is clinging to the end and shouting in our direction. My impression is that she would be waving to attract our attention if her hands were not engaged in arresting her fall. Let us not forget our manners.”

- - -

Hwídah waved to the imperiled nun. Yíwen did likewise.

“I hope you will not think me unkind, Hwídah, but have you not found Zjing to be overmuch concerned with the aesthetics of code? Members of our clan complain that she frequently refactors their modules merely because she believes the implementation to be insufficiently elegant.”

“I believe you are fair in your judgment, Yíwen. While her goals are laudable, they are ever at odds with the complexities of our problem domain. Indeed, her efforts have occasionally done more harm than good. Still, that should not affect our decision to come to her aid.”

- - -

Both nuns lingered at the cliff edge and reflected on how best to help their comrade.

“Is it not bad fortune, Hwídah, that the breaking of the bridge has left us with no means to cross the chasm and effect a rescue?”

“I believe it is most terrible, Yíwen, but if the bridge had truly broken then the ropes would be frayed, yet I can see the finished ends quite clearly. As I recall there was a lovely painted gate of red and gold at the exact midpoint of this bridge, and each half was secured to the gate by knots which have somehow come undone.”

- - -

Hwídah pointed to the river far below, where the remains of the gate could be seen floating in an eddy. Yíwen nodded.

“Is it not your recollection, Hwídah, that the knots which secured the ropes to that gate were lamentably large and ugly, and detracted from its beauty?”

“I believe they were, Yíwen. I expect that their ugliness would have been most tantalizing to one who cared about such things—though it seems unlikely that anyone would be foolhardy enough to attempt re-tying the knots while standing at the bridge’s center. Speaking for myself, I never found the ugliness that troubling. I was grateful merely to be able to cross the bridge. Month in and month out, it fulfilled its purpose most excellently.”

Topics...  refactoring, perfection