American actor Charlton Heston has had some memorable—and not so memorable—roles. In the great cult classic film Soylent Green, he plays detective Robert Thorn. Heston's futuristic detective discovers that, in a world suffering from a food shortage and overpopulation, our government is feeding us liquefied people, called Soylent Green. (Reminds me of the movie The Matrix.) In more recent years and in real life, Heston is also memorable as the National Rifle Association's president. Remember the line "from my cold dead hands," as he is pictured holding up a rifle? Perhaps his most memorable role and maybe why he seems so effective as an NRA spokesman—whether you agree with the NRA or not—was in Cecile B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments as Moses.
Suffering occasionally from insomnia (and long, pointless meetings), I naturally decided to interview Mr. Heston and ask him what he thought the Ten Commandments for programmers might be. (I figure if Ben Affleck and the Boss can weigh in on U.S. politics, Moses could define 10 useful commandments for software engineers.) The following is a brief transcript of our conversation.
Paul: Mr. Heston, thank you for speaking with me today.
Heston: Get your hands off me, you damn dirty programmer.
Paul: Funny. I bet you use that a lot. By the way, did The Matrix knock off Soylent Green with that whole digested people thing?
Heston: Everything but the line "it's people!"
Paul: Well, genius is "hard work standing on the shoulders of greatness" and you were great in that part.
Heston: Thank you.
Paul: Mr. Heston, because you have no experience in software engineering (as is true with many people who try to build software), I thought with your experience as NRA president you could give us some guiding principles. Plus, I really like the whole "let my people go" concept. It has a sort of a "let my people leave early on Friday" or "let my people out of this boring, pointless meeting" or "let me go flying—there are no clouds today" resonance that is appealing.
Heston: Certainly. In the pre-interview, your secretary—is that Heidi Klume?—told me what you wanted, so I have them prepared for you. Now, I have to go. I am helping the Farrelly brothers with The Matrix IV.
Paul: Thank you again. It's been a pleasure.
As promised, here are the Ten Commandments of software engineering from Moses himself:
- Bill Gates is the chief architect. Though shalt not have other architects before him.
- Thou shalt not clone, plagiarize, copy, or hack Windows anywhere under the heavens. Though shalt not be tempted by Linux, for the chief architect is jealous.
- Thou shalt not take the name of Bill Gates in vain, and though shalt not pronounce BillG as "bilge".
- Remember the Sabbath. Six days and 100 hours shalt thou labor and do work, and on the Sabbath thou shalt play Xbox Live and drink micro-brewed beer.
- Honor the chief architect and his wife Melinda, that Microsoft stock may once again soar to great heights and make us all stinking rich.
- Thou shalt not complain about the Blue Screen of Death; it is the third-party vendor's fault.
- Thou shalt not run a dual-boot computer or any computer with Linux on it.
- Thou shalt not steal: Pay for every copy of Windows and license all Microsoft software (see #5).
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against Microsoft by saying an Apple is better.
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's MSDN subscription, Xbox, cable modem, technical books (nor anything else that an author can get a royalty for).
Charlton Heston did not actually participate in this interview. It was conducted through a psychic medium.
Paul Kimmel is the VB Today columnist, has written several books on .NET programming, and is a software architect. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance or are interested in joining the Lansing Area .NET Users Group (glugnet.org).
Copyright © 2004 by Paul Kimmel. All Rights Reserved.