The Universe of Discourse

Tue, 28 Nov 2006

favicon.ico Results
A couple of days ago I asked for suggestions for a favicon icon to represent the blog in people's shortcut menus. There were only two responses, but they were both very helpful, and solved the problem.

My first thought was, of course, to use an octopus, but I immediately rejected this idea since I didn't think I would be able to draw a recognizable octopus in 16×16 pixels. Neil Kandalgaonkar was braver than I was: .

However, the concept I decided to go with was suggested by David Eppstein, who provided this attractive interpretation: . To explain this, I need to explain my domain name, which I haven't done here before.

For nine years I was an independent consultant, working under the name Plover Systems. Why Plover? Many people assume that it is an abbreviation for "Perl lover"; this is not the case. The plover domain predates my involvement with Perl. (Some people have also interpreted it as "piss lover", a veiled statement of a fetishistic attraction to urination. It is not.)

A plover is a small bird. Typically, they make their nests on the seashore. The Egyptian plover is the little bird that is reputed to snatch food scraps from between the teeth of the crocodile. The American golden plover migrates all the way from Alaska to South America, and sometimes across the ocean to Europe.

Immediately prior to my becoming an independent consultant and setting up Plover Systems and the domain, I was employed as the senior systems engineer for Pathfinder, the Time Warner web site. I did not like this job very much. After I quit, I joked that my company had grown too big, so I downsized most of the management and employees, divested the magazine business, and cut the organization's mission back to core competences. Time Warner, the subsidiary I spun off to publish the magazines, was very large. I named my new, lean, trim company "Plover" because the plover is small and agile.

There is another reason for "Plover". For about thirty years, I have been a devoted fan of the old computer game Adventure. When time came to choose a domain name, I wanted to choose something with an Adventure connection. Here the obvious choices are xyzzy, which was already taken, and plugh, which is ugly. Both of these are magic words which, uttered at the correct spot, will teleport the player to another location. The game has a third such magic word, which is "plover"; from the right place, it transports the player to the "Plover room":

You're in a small chamber lit by an eerie green light. An extremely narrow tunnel exits to the west. A dark corridor leads NE.
This room, with its green light and narrow tunnel, is depicted in David Eppstein's icon.

The Plover room is so-called because it contains "an emerald the size of a plover's egg". A plover's egg is not very big, as eggs go, because the plover is not a very large bird, as birds go. But an emerald the size of a plover's egg is enormous, as emeralds go. The description is a reference to an off-color joke that was current in the early 1970's when Adventure was written: a teenage girl, upon hearing that the human testicle is the size of a plover's egg, remarks "Oh, so that's how big a plover's egg is." I think this was somewhat more risqué in 1974 than it is today.

For his contribution, M. Eppstein has won a free two-year subscription to The Universe of Discourse. Neil Kandalgaonkar gets the runner-up prize of two free six-month subscriptions, to run concurrently. Thank you both!

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