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The Best of Verity Stob 110

Posted by timothy
from the in-jokes-for-in-jokesters dept.
Alex Moskalyuk writes "For 17 years, a British programmer who calls herself Verity Stob has been entertaining the readers of Dr. Dobbs Journal, EXE and The Register with her witty humor and variety of writing styles, which has now been collected into book form. In the foreword to the book, Danny O'Brien from NTK says that before the days of Dilbert, Futurama, User Friendly and Slashdot, the market for geek humor was dangerously under-served. So Verity attempted to add a little humor." Read on for the rest of Moskalyuk's review.
The Best of Verity Stob
author Verity Stob
pages 316
publisher APress
rating 6
reviewer Alex Moskalyuk
ISBN 1590594428
summary Highlights Of Verity Stob's Famous Columns From EXE, Dr Dobb's Journal, And The Register

Stob's writing is hard to categorize. It's both humor and satire, sometimes just overwhelmingly funny and sometimes barely causing a chuckle. It's British, so some things passed way over my head. Since she started her writing back in 1998, there are references to mainframes, Unisys systems and the days when you would call tech support and instantly get a human being on the other end. Nevertheless, the book is entertaining, although it's more of a coffee table book, where you can pick it up and start on any page, than book where you'd go chapter-by-chapter.

Her humor is original and versatile. Poems, stories, scripts, hacked diaries, parodies -- the book has them all: after all, it's a collection of the best of her writing. She's an experienced C++ programmer who had been in the Windows world for a while, so frequently the jokes relate to C++ peculiarities. Such as Thirteen ways to loathe VB (written in 2000):

Calling functions and accessing arrays. In most languages you can distinguish between a call to function F with parameter 3 an a reference to an array F with index 3, because one is written F(3) and the other F[3]. In Visual Basic they're both written F(3). Yes.

Her 2001 article for DDJ is actually nothing but a screenshot of a page called Dotdotdot with the subtitle Where nerds go on and on and on and... followed by a paragraph-long article titled Microsoft does something and a bunch of upset comments from the readers including a poster spelling out Look at me! in large letters in the first post.

Or her parody of George Orwell's 1984 which talks about Way After 1984 and describes Winston Smith's typical day:

As he entered the lobby, a breeze stirred the 60-foot banner suspended high above from the roof. The three oh-so-familiar slogans of the Ministry were printed across the banner in large letters: REGISTRATION NOT LEGISLATION MONOPOLISATION IS INNOVATION WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO TODAY?

See another sample of her writing, which those who've had to go through code reviews will especially appreciate.

The book is organized chronologically, with Verity's early writings listed first, and some of the unpublished material included at the end of the book. Overall, it's a pretty good and entertaining read, although in many cases the chapters made me scratch my head trying to get to the point of the joke. It's especially difficult with parodies, since if you don't quite know what is being parodied, it's hard to get the joke. The Register has another review and those British journalists called it painfully funny.


You can purchase The Best of Verity Stob from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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The Best of Verity Stob

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  • But she's no Thursday Next.
    • Are you from the outland?

      Tell me, if two people are in a room and one left so the other was left, which of them was left? They can't both be left... right?
      • this post comes under the powers of Spec-Ops 31 (Good taste re-education authority). The pair of you are safe this time, but I'd watch your step in future. Any mention of that hack Pratchett and I'll nick the pair of you OK?

        [You won't believe this but I am actually posting to you from Swindon]
  • Typo (Score:5, Informative)

    by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @03:00PM (#12316021) Homepage Journal
    Since she started her writing back in 1998, there are references to mainframes, Unisys systems and the days when you would call tech support and instantly get a human being on the other end.

    That should be 1988. By 1998 things had already gone to hell, tech-support-wise.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'll give her the best head she's ever had.

    Anytime, anywhere.

  • dotdotdot (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Gotta admit, the dotdotdot [ddj.com] article does seem to ring a few bells.
    • Gotta admit, the dotdotdot article does seem to ring a few bells.

      It is currently Slashdotted. Ha, that'll teach 'em! Dotdot that. :)

  • by creimer (824291) on Friday April 22, 2005 @03:12PM (#12316158) Homepage
    The crew is down in Australia... User Friendly [userfriendly.org]
  • Disclaimer: I've been up to my nose in language design lately, as a hobby to distract me from OLTP work. ...yes, I'm a geek.

    The reviewer quotes a passage where the author complains about array accesses and function invocations in VB. Now, as a former VB wonk, I hate it as much as anyone outside of the FSF, but I'm not sure I agree with this.

    From a certain point of view, having array accesses and function invocations be indistinguishable is a good thing. I mean, what is an array, if not a function over a
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday April 22, 2005 @03:53PM (#12316728) Journal
      The reviewer quotes a passage where the author complains about array accesses and function invocations in VB. Now, as a former VB wonk, I hate it as much as anyone outside of the FSF, but I'm not sure I agree with this.

      The author is showing either bias (real or feigned for humor value) or ignorance. Given the context (computer humor) and the medium-old-hand status of someone who has been writing it for (only) 17 years.

      The original language (Fortran) used parens for both subscription and function arguments, as did most of the languages of the time.

      If I recall correctly, there were no square brackets on the 026 keypunch keyboard (though there might have been an overstrike code assigned for them).

      EBCDIC and ASCII had square brackets. But terminals and keypunches using them weren't widely deployed until the late '60s or early '70s.
    • Is there a BASIC that doesn't work this way? I can't blame it on VB when CBM BASIC, GWBASIC, QuickBASIC, VAX/DEC/HP BASIC for VMS, and TI BASIC all do the same.
  • Verity Stob (Score:2, Informative)

    by Merdalors (677723)
    Verity Stob writes the funniest, wittiest stuff on programming I have ever seen. She obvioulsy knows what she's talking about.

    I used to read her column regularly when if was free on Dr. Dobbs, but then they started charging for it.

    I have just ordered her book from Barnes & Noble. I heartily recommend it based on her columns.

    • Verity Stob writes the funniest, wittiest stuff on programming I have ever seen. She obvioulsy knows what she's talking about.

      Agreed. Her pseudo-biblical tales about the descendants of Borland and the Microsofties was some of the funniest (computer-related) stuff I've ever read.

  • Now there's writing. Always amusing.
    Sometimes thought-provoking.
    Stan Kelly-Bootle is the man.
    I don't personally care to Verity Stob.
  • Huh? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Slsahdot a source o geek humor? Well I guess not haha funny, but funny as in kicked in the balls funny.
  • Wait... (Score:1, Funny)

    by merpal (873013)
    A female... programmer? Hahahaha!

    Never thought I'd ever hear of one of those in my lifetime. :)
    • Trinity?
      • script kiddie. Oh sure, she could *use* nmap, but would she know the correct way to use setsockopt() to optimize a send buffer? Not likely...
    • Uhm, my girlfriend is a programmer. Nyah-nyah.
    • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Insipid Trunculance (526362) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:13PM (#12317747) Homepage
      You are an obvious troll but hey i will take the bait.

      Before they invented High Level Languages , the testosterone filled chest thumpers designed just the algorithms. Most of the programming was done by, you know , girls. Because the men couldnt fathom Machine instructions.

      And ummm,what price Admiral Grace Hooper and Lady Ada Lovelace?

  • ...Danny O'Brien from NTK says that before the days of Dilbert, Futurama, User Friendly and Slashdot, the market for geek humor was dangerously under-served.


    But not unserved. There was all that stuff I was churning out...
    • And I hope that at least one or two /. ers remember .info magazine. We were known to slap a joke or a jibe into the occasional article.

      -Mark R. Brown, former editor, .info magazine
    • Dear Mr. Protocol;

      It is unfortunate that most slashdotters don't remember SUNExpert Magazine, and those that do, probably never read it.

      However, those articles were pretty funny, although sometimes it took forever to get to the punchline.

      Keep on Truckin' Dude!

  • The Dave Green [davegreen.co.uk] ,Internet celebrity, raconteur, Oxford graduate but wearing a skirt...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you don't understand Ms Stob's jokes, laugh anway and pretend that you do. Failure to do so will show your PFY status.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Friday April 22, 2005 @03:48PM (#12316629) Homepage Journal
    ...is an absolute classic. So much so that Doctor Dobbs continues to get complaints about it from VB lovers who find it online.
  • BOFH (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What about the bastard operator from hell? That was classic geek humour, and a good role model.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You can read more on Verity Stob [wikipedia.org] at Wikipedia.

    Interestingly, the Slashdot parts [wikipedia.org] were deemed of no value.

  • guys, is it just my connection or did you just slashdot Dr. Dobbs? Their server is *crawling* at the moment...
  • by daviddennis (10926) <david@amazing.com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @04:23PM (#12317162) Homepage
    Don't miss her interview with a bulk emailer [theregister.co.uk], from The Register.

    Side-splitting stuff. If the book's half as good, it's a must-read.

    D
    • Ha! It's mostly better! I used to read my Dad's .EXE mags and pretty much the only bits I got were the STOB columns. Them were the days, with a 20MB hard disk and a 10 meg hard card, that rattled like a prop plane... it all came back when I got this book.

      ...sigh...
  • > > I heard somewhere Microsoft gonna use Pthon for the default scripting

    It their very own fault for the disputing with Sun. It better they use Java. Here we are using Java since three years ago. We not only using Java for the programmer increase (though we are: maybe ten times, maybe twenty times) we also now use it for everything from the commanding line stuff such as grep through to the web engine beans. Same speed C but faster. The security we are finding, and with the IDE too (Borland or IBM).

  • Ms. Stob is a choice writer and a nice person with whom to exchange email. I dropped her a note after one column that was done in a very John Cleese-like exposed internal dialog style. I enjoyed it a lot and my note was done in a similar style. That resulted in several emails back and forth wherein I learned that I was one of only a few people (even those in Britain) that got the joke.

    I may have to pick this one up. Of course, that means I'll also need to get a coffee table.

  • by Pikace (878395)
    Female Programmer. Hah. If she was a real person, she would post on slashdot.
  • I never found Verity Stob's article the least bit amusing whatsoever. In fact, after seeing more and more similar content in DDJ I cancelled my subscription. I was disappointed, but it was clear the emphasis had shifted from good technical articles (like a real journal would have) towards a political and entertainment medium. This may have been driven by the publishers, but it wasn't what I wanted to spend my money on.

    But, VS isn't funny like User Friendly isn't funny. (that'll get me modded down for s

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