[A picture of private offices at Fog Creek Software] Alert! This ancient trifle retrieved from the Joel on Software archive is well-past its expiration date. Proceed with care.

Joel on Software

News

by Joel Spolsky
Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeAlmost everyone who has worked with programmers or mathematicians knows someone with at least a light form of Asperger's Syndrome: the well-recognized symptoms include an inability to interpret peoples' emotions from their facial expressions, incredibly logical thought processes that make math easy but human relations darn near impossible, and fear of physical contact with other people.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is quite possibly the best book I've read this year. It purports to be a novel written by Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old boy who suffers from Asperger's, and it hits the mark spot on. Christopher finds a neighbor's dog dead with a pitchfork stuck in it:

I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.

It's funny, but it's also logical, in the irritating way that so many programmers are logical beyond reason. Poor Christopher can barely take a train -- the man behind the window asks him if he wants a single ticket or a round trip, which he doesn't understand.

"And he said, 'Do you want to go one way, or do you want to go and come back?'

And I said, 'I want to stay there when I get there.'

And he said, 'For how long?'

And I said, 'Until I go to university.'

And he said, 'Single, then'."

Christopher numbers the chapters with prime numbers, and can't resist including a mathematical proof as an appendix, but he doesn't know when people are angry with him and hates being touched so much his parents can't hug him. I must warn you not to start reading it before you go to sleep because nobody I know has been able to put it down without reading through to the end.


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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, a New York company that proves that you can treat programmers well and still be highly profitable. Programmers get private offices, free lunch, and work 40 hours a week. Customers only pay for software if they’re delighted. We make Trello, which lets you organize anything, together, FogBugz, enlightened issue tracking software for bug tracking, and Kiln, which provides distributed version control and code reviews. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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