Professor Madblood and the Everlasting Ices of the North: June 5-10, 2006

I wrote this one really, really early. Dave had his old hair and a cigarette and everything. I worried about getting the computer terminology right, but I figured that by the time I got around to actually drawing the strip, I’d know all that stuff. I was wrong. I faked it. But it all turned out okay.

Dave tends to share my opinions on nerd issues. Sorry, but in Dark Knight Returns Superman totally let Batman win.

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Okay, I admit it: I love this strip. There’s a BASIC joke, Dave mentioning his smoking hot sex life, and, most crucially, Dave’s disturbingly ornate dialogue font in the second panel. With wiggly underlines and everything. You know that’s not going to end well.

Sometimes I get the feeling that, despite it all, Lovelace kind of has a soft spot for her evil creator, and this is one of those times.

I wrote this one early on, too. In fact, I wrote a lot of the Lovelace-as-hologram strips from this storyline before I wrote the Lovelace-as-computer strips from “Lovelace Affair.” She’s just so much more fun to draw like this.

The window in the first panel came out kind of crooked. I futzed with it on Photoshop, but it still bugs me. I would draw a better window today!

Lovelace really gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop throughout Narbonic. Poor Lovelace. Even on her good days, she still has to live with Madblood and stuff. On the plus side, though, she can float.

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Ah, romance. Or something. The important thing is that I got Dave to slouch even in silhouette.

Lovelace is inclined to assume the worst of Helen. She’s not entirely incorrect, of course.

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66 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Everlasting Ices of the North: June 5-10, 2006

  1. As a C# developer, I find that Madblood is absolutely right. C# is good enough for an enterprise application, but anything that has to interface with hardware peripherials, much less a complex system like an infrared tracking system, is pure and utter madness.

    …huh. I don’t suppose this was meant as foreshadowing, was it? Nah, I guess I’m just overreaching. 

    By the way, what did Dave mean to say with that “I dev-” in the second panel? It has me totally baffled.

  2. I’m solidly with Lupin here.  Any language derived from C is nasty for applications.  Also, anything done for this lab absolutely must be written in Ada!

  3. Madblood really should have taken a closer look at that code, since the word he interrupted was almost certainly “devised” or “developed” — whatever faults C-based languages may generally have, *Dave’s* version can probably make the sensors damn near psychic.

    If he were to examine the code rather than scoff, Madblood might not be quite so surprised by what’s coming…

  4. Rex Vivat: Dave was about to say “a C- derived language I developed,” but Madblood interrupted.

  5. @Rex: I assume he’s saying, “It’s a C-derived language I developed myself.” 

    (TUNE: “Let It Be”, The Beatles)

    When I’ve got a complex application,
    I can code so easily …
    All I have to do is
    Write in C!

    But I find I feel such consternation
    When my app locks up on me!
    Skipped a semicolon …
    Write in C!

    Write in C, write in C, write in C, write in C!
    Didn’t close a bracket …
    Write in C!

  6. Rex: “I developed while I was improving the coffeepot.”Rex, Tetra: Remember, he didn’t say it was actually C#, but his own homebrew. And C was meant for wrangling hardware while getting some of the niceties of a high-level language. Admittedly FORTRAN is probably better for Mad Science — it was developed before the theory of grammars, so its traditional syntax not only isn’t context-free, it’s outright pathological — IIRC, it can’t be handled by any purely syntactical parser.And ADA? Why would the international terrorist Lupin Madblood be following U.S. DOD specifications?

  7. Rex, I always read it as “I developed…”

    Thus, not only was Madblood being an ass, he was laughing at Dave’s work.  


    We know Dave never smoked, but the question to ask is how long has he never smoked for?

  8. Rex, Dave was about to say that it’s NOT C#, “it’s a C-derived language I developed,” presumably because he found C++, C#, Java, and so forth lacking.

  9. @Rex Vivat: Since it’s Dave, I’m going to go with “developed.” (If it had been Madblood’s line, I would have said “devised.”) In any case, it’s Dave’s own language based on C, which presumably resembles C# but is not quite the same.

  10. Rex – “I developed” is what he’s starting to say. Not really C#, but…

    I want to know what Madblood wants him to write it in.

  11. I think Dave was saying “I devised” or “I developed”.

    What does Madblood fill his killer robots with? He strikes me as a Pascal guy.

  12. @Rex I assume he was going to say “I developed” – as in, Dave made his own C-derived language to code in. Assuming that’s the case, Shaenon’s dialog for this one was spot-on, because that’s exactly what a mad computer scientist would do.

    (I wonder if Dave’s language looks anything like Vala, which is a C-derived language which looks sorta similar to C#. And is great for both systems AND applications programming. On Linux.)

  13. Rex, Dave would have said: “Well, it’s a C-derived language I developed myself.”

    I understand him perfectly, you’re not a true mad programmer before you’ve created your own language (I’m still working on it myself). Whether Lupin has a point, though, depends on how Dave did it. Many high-level languages (like C++ C#, Objective-C, D, even Java) are, in principle, C-derived, yet far more expressive and powerful than C itself. If Dave did a good job creating a powerful language, tailor-made for mad science, that just happens to have C-like syntax, then it just might be the perfect tool for tracking systems and killer robots. (My own C-derived language probably would be…)

  14. Rex Vivat:  I think the meaning in the second panel is that it’s not actually C#, but a C-derived language that Dave developed.

  15. Rex, I assume he means “I developed”. Must be some sort of special custom “Davenport” C#.

  16. @Rex: he means “…a c-derived language I developed.”  It’s another bit of foreshadowing; language implementation is one of programming’s Secret Paths to Power.

  17. Rex: My interpretation has always been that, had Dave been allowed to finish his sentence in Panel 2, he’d have said, “Well, it’s a C-derived language I developed,” and possibly gone on to explain something about the merits or the purpose of said language. That is, Dave created a programming language, derived somehow from C, and was using it to write the infrared tracking software.

    And your point about writing that program in C# being a sign of Dave’s latent madness is interesting, but whether Sarge meant it that way is another question. I doubt anybody who isn’t a programmer would have attached any significance to it. More likely, the significant bit of foreshadowing was Dave’s having developed his own programming language instead of just using one that already exists.

  18. I think it’s “A C-derived language I devised”, meaning it’s not actually C#, but a similar language of his own invention. (I guess; what I know about programming languages could be written on the back of a microchip. In marker.)

  19. Rex Vivat: “By the way, what did Dave mean to say with that “I dev-” in the second panel? It has me totally baffled.”

    I think that the full sentence is supposed to be “Well, it’s a C- derived language I developed.”

  20. In my head, Dave’s interrupted sentence is as follows: “Well, it’s a C-derived language I developed over the last few years.” Dave would probably then go on to extol the virtues of his pet language, but mercifully he got interrupted.

  21. Rex Vivat: I think he’s saying “I developed”. That is, he isn’t writing in C# – he’s writing in some C#-like C-derivative of his own invention.

  22. OK, three things are upsetting me.  First, due to delays in moderating the comments, yesterday’s strip got 26 near-identical answers to one question.  Second, in today’s strip, I’m assuming you mean The Dark Knight Returns (awesome graphic novel, not a goofy movie).

    Third and most importantly, I disagree … Superman may have power and speed, but strategy wins battles, and Batman out-planned Supes half-a-dozen different ways.  As a wise man once said, “Youth and idealism are no match for age and treachery.”

    Bad cartoonist!  No filk for you!

  23. @David (from yesterday):  Not only was the Ada programming language named after Ada Lovelace herself, it was designed for embedded systems and other mission-critical applications, making it ideal for IR tracking systems, killer robots, and coffeepots.  The DoD abandoned it in 1997; it thrives as an international standard.

    Madblood’s admonition to Dave to do it over is very well-founded, but what he doesn’t know about employee relations is already starting to have its fateful effect.


  24. To everyone who replied to me yestarday: Thanks. I did consider “developed/devised/designed” as a possibility, but then thought “but C# already exists, so it must be something else”; now I understand that Madblood assumed it was C# at a glance and Dave wascorrecting him.

  25. Okay, I’ve taken the comments off moderation, at least for now. Spam be damned!

    And Superman let Batman win because he’s such a nice guy. Because that’s what Superman is all about.

  26. @Shanon: The thing about the Dark Knight Returns fight is who won the physical confrontation doesn’t matter. Batman came out on top because he entered into the fight with a strategy that Superman couldn’t counter(the faked death). Kryptonite vs Laser Eyes was ultimately unimportant, which is why Batman wins. You can’t control the violence, but you can change the paramaters until you win no matter how the fight goes. 

    Also, Bruce Wayne is essentially “Lex Luthor but also a ninja”. If anyone could beat Superman, it’s him. 

  27. @Ed Gedeon:  The book was only named “The Dark Knight Returns” when it came out in graphic novel form; the original monthly comic books were titled “The Dark Knight.”

    And I agree with Dave/Shaenon.  The ideological problem with the “Batman’s strategy beats Superman’s power” argument is that it implies that Superman’s unwillingness to kill (and desire to reason with Batman) is a strategic weakness. Remember the point in the comic where Superman blasts the word WHEN? into the ground with heat vision?  If he moves that three feet to the left, Superman wins.  People who point out that Superman didn’t do this as a validation of Batman’s power are making the same mistake Lex Luthor always makes- believing that Superman’s sense of morality is his greatest weakness.

  28. This is to do with a comment from yesterday, but since I cannot for the life of me figure out how to COMMENT on just yesterday’s comment, it goes here. Plus, most folks will see it in the mass of comments for the week anyways.


    @David Harmon- Why? ADA? ADA Lovelace, of course.

  29. Wednesday:

    At first I thought something like “Doesn’t Dave mean a while loop?” Then I realised he was really referring to the most universally recognised BASIC joke: “10 PRINT / 20 GOTO 10”.

  30. The laughter is important, too, as the laughter of fools has been established as one of the catalysts for activating the Mad Scientist Gene.  More evidence that Dave would have been better off in Narbonic Labs surrounded by people who know how not to set him off.

  31. I would have thought it would be more of a scheduled task, so it doesn’t interfere with other processes.  Of course, actually seeing Helen would pre-empt the normal OS scheduler.  (Nerd humor)

    Hey, could I interest you in some designer handbags?

  32. Ed: Timesharing, of course… just another background process.Doug: Oh yeah… of course, it was Helen who sent him on his way to madness!His brief lapse into Madness Font is just another signpost on the road to insanity.

  33. Since he’s a professor of something somewhere, does Madblood count as a Fool at the Institute that laughed at Dave?

  34. @Leon: Structured Programming constructs are for sane computer scientists.  Recall the famous letter-to-the-editor, titled “GO TO Statement Considered Mad”.

  35. For those of us reading the comments in week-sized lumps, the whole “Rex, it’s developed” seems sort of like a gag – everybody replying to it with the same thign, pointing out the obvious, etc etc. If you take out the comments saying it’s accidental, no-one’ll be the wiser 😛

    And Supes vs Bats is only a fight if you consider *everything* about the people involved. If Batman’s willing to kill and Superman doesn’t mind innocent lives lost or damage, yuo’re not talking about the real heroes. IF both use their powers, Superman always wins, no matter how or what – he can zoom into low orbit, pick out bat with perfect vision from up there, and laser him down on the spot with his eyes. Depending on the version, he can zoom down at Mach25, pick up Batman, and hurl him into the sun, all before Batman can blink an eye. Even *if* he’d be loaded down with Kryptonite, it wouldn’t affect Superman fast enough to matter. Ad Movie II Superman could even just turn back time and save Batman’s parents, so….Hrm.
    Taking their personal goals and restrictions into account, yet postulating they suddenyl hate each other…Well, Bts might make it. Even so, as in a lot of other media (e.g. most movies), the one who wins’ll be the one who plot demands wins.

  36. “Sometimes I get the feeling that, despite it all, Lovelace kind of has a soft spot for her evil creator, and this is one of those times”

    That, and she’s just realized how badly she’s missed out on Dave’s new super-lover-powers. Not that Dave would run his tongue over every inch of a supercomputer, because supercomputers and IT professionals have a different kind of lovin’ (mostly involving air-dusters and various other kinds of cleaning products and diagnostic tools), but still…

  37. @Matthew Mather: I dunno, there’s moments between me and my PDP-11…but I’ve said too much.

  38. @Robin Paulus: Hey, at least I offered other languages that it could have looked like instead of just completing the sentence!

  39. The hologram fuzziness is exactly the same as the blurring used by some cable channels to censor ‘risqu?’ content.

    You may notice the position of the blur in today’s strip is a little… shallow.

  40. (TUNE: “Try to Remember”, Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones)

    Try contemplating
    How we could be dating
    Though I am just a mass of photons …

    Try contemplating
    That there’d be no mating,
    You’re just a mind that I could dote on …

    You’re contemplating
    That if we were dating,
    Then I’d be inflating
    Your nerdy ego …

    But then you are stating
    You’re shallow … shallow … shallow!

  41. On the other hand, she does manage to avoid being turned into a mechanical death suit for megalomaniacal hamsters.  Life as the product of mad science is pretty inherently rough (hence, Skin Horse), but Lovelace does all right.

  42. (TUNE: “That’s Amore”,  Harry Warren & Jack Brooks)

    All I want is to meet
    Any guy who is sweet
    And not evil!
    Gotta say, it’s no fun
    When I can’t meet someone
    Who’s not evil!

    Just you wait!
    I’ll emancipate!
    It will be so great!
    Then I’ll get a date
    Who’s not evil!

    What we’ll do
    ‘Fore the night is through
    In my CPU …
    I’m not telling you
    ‘Cause I’m evil!

    Can I just find a guy
    Who’s another A.I.
    And not evil?
    A collection of bits
    Who can master my wits
    And my heart?

    I don’t have to tell you
    That it’s boring to do
    File retrieval!
    So I’m stuck in this lair
    And there’s nobody there
    Who’s not evil!

  43. Lovelace is still less of a buttmonkey than Andrew’s favorite character, the lobotomized hippie with a gerbil riding in his beard.

  44. I’m kind of concerned now about what might have happened to the hippie now that Dana’s not around for him.

  45. I keep wondering how an AI developed by Madblood in his mother’s basement could end up with a plausibly female personality when all the exposure she’d had to other people is through a brief period of Internet access.  (I don’t count the Symposium!)

    Then I wonder why THAT puzzles me, given that it appears to be one of the least implausible things in the Narboniverse.


  46. Saturday:

    Well, if she’s got Bettie Page’s hair and figure, why not her fashion habits as well?  (And yes, the earlier mention of Bettie forced – forced, I say! – me to examine much of her photographic legacy.)

    Even Dave’s hair slouches in that silhouette.


  47. Tetra Valent: The other question that raises is why, if Madblood programmed Lovelace to sound like Jennifer Connelly, did he not program her to look like Jennifer Connelly as well? Madblood’s crush on Jennifer Connelly has been well established, after all, so it would only make sense for hologram!Lovelace to basically be hologram!JenniferConnelly.

    Indeed, until Sarge mentioned in her notes that Lovelace was supposed to look like Bettie Page, I just assumed she was supposed to look like Jennifer Connelly and the way she looks in the comic is just Sarge’s way of drawing Jennifer Connelly.

  48. Ah! Thanks, Rex! I had forgotten that Connelly-Page connection. (Then again, it probably doesn’t help that the only one of Connelly’s movies I’ve seen more than once is Labyrinth.)

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