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How to spot a SW developer at lunch

When cafeteria pricing meets mathematics
(Or, How to Spot an Engineer at lunch)



My theory is that the cafeteria people just don't expect their customers to think.
In out cafeteria the food is weighted and you pay something like 95 cent for 100g of meat, 35 cent for 100g of vegetables (or fries, rice, etc) and 65 cent for 100g of a mixed plate.

When they introduced this scheme some time ago, the cashiers were extremely surprised when suddenly most software developers ate two plates, one with meat and a bit of rice or a few fries and another one loaded with vegetables (and more rice or fries).

The cafeteria is shared by differtent companies and it is surprising how good one can identify the guests: Someone who is 'optimizing' will almost certainly work for my (software) company and not for the PR, transportation or other offices.

Mr. Analogy
Thursday, July 08, 2004

At my company, the SW developers are the ones that eat out of the sandwich vending machine, and everyone else goes out to a 90 minute lunch.

Bob
Thursday, July 08, 2004

What's this "lunch" that you guys are talking about?

Dennis Forbes
Thursday, July 08, 2004

We have free lunch in our office! :)

JD

JD
Thursday, July 08, 2004

How many of them would have eaten 200g of food if it wasn't for the "discount"? It's like buying everything in sight just because it's on sale -- you've spend your last cent on stuff you'll never use, but look at all the money you've saved!

Derek
Thursday, July 08, 2004

So much for the "SW developers are highly paid" theory.

We had a handful of places to go for lunch, and were going to build a database of them & our eating habits and have it choose where to go for lunch next because we'd waste a good 10 15 minutes saying:

"So where do you wanna eat? The sandwich place? The pizza place? The cafeteria? The salad bar? etc."

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, July 09, 2004

> What's this "lunch" that you guys are talking about?

Yeah I see it mentioned with food, which I believes comes from Alaska, because they are always frozen. And what's dinner and breakfast anyway?

Li-fan Chen
Friday, July 09, 2004

Isn't posting this one place enough? http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2004/06/22/162361.aspx

I'll miss JOS comments, but I never miss a TONT comment.

Brian
Friday, July 09, 2004

Breakfast is what you eat after a hard nights coding.

Not sure about dinner though.

Ged Byrne
Friday, July 09, 2004

http://weblogs.asp.net/oldnewthing/archive/2004/06/22/162361.aspx

KayJay
Friday, July 09, 2004

TANSTAAFL

Simon Lucy
Friday, July 09, 2004


I worked at a facility that did this and they used the highest price item on the plate to determine the price.

We also figured out that if you put salad dressing in the little cups, they didn't charge you for it.

KC
Friday, July 09, 2004

----"TONT
TANSTAAFL "------

Are they items on the menu?

Stephen Jones
Friday, July 09, 2004

Bell Labs (Holmdel NJ).  Summer Job.  1987.  5000 engineers. The cafeteria priced the salad bar by size of the plate or bowl, rather than the weight of the food.

This led to an ever-increasing implicit competition on who could build the biggest salad for a given container.

One common technique (which I used) is to start with a medium bowl.  A little bit of lettuce goes in the bottom for anchoring.  Then a spiral of cucumber slices goes around the edges, extending the sides of the bowl, sometimes for two complete circuits, filling the newly-enlarged bowl with other salad contents as you go.  You'd be surprised at how stable this "cucumber-cantilevered" salad is.

Until you get to your seat and try to eat it, that is....

By 1989 they had gone to the salad-by-weight pricing.

-=$>Dave<$=-

Dave Torok
Friday, July 09, 2004

"You'd be surprised at how stable this "cucumber-cantilevered" salad is."

LOL !

Imagine how big the salads would've gotten if Bell Labs had been filled mainly with Mechanical Engineers instead of EEs  <g>.

Mr. Analogy
Friday, July 09, 2004

The purpose of a lunch hour is to give you enough time to go out and run 3 or 4 miles, or lift some weights in the gym. Consuming food can be done at any time during the day sitting right where you are. That's why they make replacement keyboards.

old_timer
Friday, July 09, 2004

TANSTAAFL -- Thank you, Robert Heinlein.

It comes from his SF novel, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress".  It means "There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch". 

The idea is that even a 'Free' lunch has a price to be paid for it -- the person 'giving' it to you has a purpose in mind by doing so.  Remembering TANSTAAFL reminds you to try to figure out what you are really 'paying' for this thing that looks so 'free'.

AllanL5
Friday, July 09, 2004

Isn't Stephen Jones the guy who gets so irked at "grok"?

Two data points indicate he's never read any Heinlein, if he is the same person.

Aaron F Stanton
Friday, July 09, 2004

> We had a handful of places to go for lunch, and were going
> to build a database of them & our eating habits and have it
> choose where to go for lunch next because we'd waste a
> good 10 15 minutes saying:

> "So where do you wanna eat? The sandwich place? The
> pizza place? The cafeteria? The salad bar? etc."

We solved this problem by adding an easter egg to our software that randomly selected a lunch destination.

Michael Eisenberg
Friday, July 09, 2004

I think at the end of the day, the actual human interaction & standing around for 15 minutes while our friend smoked a cigarette was more valuable than any program we could've written.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, July 10, 2004

-----"Isn't Stephen Jones the guy who gets so irked at "grok"?"-----

No, though I don't know what it means

---"Two data points indicate he's never read any Heinlein, if he is the same person. "---

I read "Stranger in a Strange Land" about thirty years ago. I seem to remember the first two-thirds was OK.

The only other Heinlen I've read is a 1945 story called "By his own bootstraps". One of the greatest short stories ever written. Read it now if you haven't before, even if going out to buy it means you miss lunch.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, July 10, 2004

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