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Donald Knuth Recommends The Kollected Kode Vicious

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Read on to learn why Donald Knuth recommends The Kollected Kode Vicious.

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Dear DK,
 
My job keeps me too busy to read real books about computer science. And I don't seem have a great attention span. But I know that everything about computers keeps changing rapidly, and I'm afraid that I'll soon be obsolete if I don't keep up with the field.
 
Can you suggest any reliable source of current information, by which I might painlessly improve the quality of my work?
 
Harried Information Hider

Dear Harried,
 
For many years DK has been a fan of the regular columns by Kode Vicious in Communications of the ACM. The topics are not only timely, they're explained with wit and elegance. KV is not afraid to take unpopular views, and he savagely dissects lots of the insanity that tends to be spreading around.
 
So DK thinks you ought to try it out. In fact, there's even a better way now, because KV has gathered his columns together and extended them into a book. That book may be just what you crave.
 
About attention span, on the other hand, that's a tougher problem—especially for people of your generation. Consider spending some time on a desert island, with no access to the internet. Just go somewhere where the weather and accommodations are nice. Take a good technical book with you and lots of scratch paper and pencils and erasers.
 
A pedagogical book that's full of exercises with worked answers would be especially useful. In fact, if you happen to choose one of DK's own books, you might even find that it contains a quotation by KV himself.
 
Of course you should also take a copy of KV's book, to keep you grounded.
 
DK

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Dear DK,
 
Somebody told me that you're a regular reader of Kode Vicious's column, which features answers to letters that he supposedly receives.
 
When I look closely at those letters, however, it seems to me that they are too perfect. Nobody ever sends me letters that are so well written and to the point.
 
Do you believe KV forges those letters, or are they actually real?
 
Skeptical Inquirer

Dear Skeptical,
 
Indeed, that's exactly the question that DK asked KV, when meeting him in person at the Hackers Conference some years ago. And KV shamelessly admitted to ghost-writing. But if you think about it, you'll probably agree that the question-and-answer format is an ideal way to express ideas and to teach others. DK even bets that Plato himself ghost-wrote the "dialogues" that Socrates supposedly once had.
 
Guess what: That format is so effective, DK is now tempted to try it himself.
 
DK

 
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