Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comic 571: Putting me to sleep

i rate this comic a -32786 out of 10
looks like it's back to the good old days of programming jokes for programming nerds! In today's comic, Our Hero is counting sheep to try to fall asleep. But he counts too high! His brain is acting like a computer, and it has an integer overflow, and he starts again from the lowest possible number! You see, he will keep counting forever.

Amazingly, that is all there is to this joke. Instead of counting normally, he gets an overflow thing. But - that's it. He is making a mistake an old computer or simple program might make. But he is human! Does that strike anyone else as an ungodly pathetic joke? It's even worse than most other comics in the "blurring the line between man and machine" category.

I'm going to say this again, because the comic is so petty and simple that I can hardly believe it: The joke is that instead of counting like a human, he is counting like a computer. That is all.

Here's a theory I have: It is not possible to come up with a joke told entirely in numbers. Not counting if the numbers stand for letters or words or something, just with numbers as numbers, you will never get anything funny. Eh?


  1. This is the typical xkcd, and the reason I started to hate it.

    Take X technical concept, but apply it to humans! But the important xkcd-feature is to not add a joke. In fact, you don't need to. Anyone that's familiar with X will instantly love the comic and put it up on their cubicle wall.

    It's fan service of the worst variety.

  2. I actually liked this one, only because of the point of the sheep actually going back because of the overflow. I thought it was funny imagining 65536 sheep massively jumping all at once in the wrong direction, and the person being startled by this and waking up...

    Without that bit, I'd agree with you that there would be nothing in this comic except counting.. But with it, I really enjoyed it...

  3. This was actually really good. It was a funny little concept put up as a comic. Like the old xkcds.

  4. Yes; I'd agree that while it might not have been intentional, I saw the guy's reaction as the thrust of the joke: that the stack overflow has occurred unintentionally, and he is wracked by it. Yeah, so.

    Unrelated: apricot jam.

  5. I'm with ods15—I actually think the comic would be much funnier if the numbers along the top were removed.

  6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9KsvbMxGxE

  7. I liked this comic a lot. So when I read your post, I clicked on the link where you aggregate all the comics that "blur the line between man and machine".

    Funny -- even though I've read them before, I get a chuckle out of almost all of them.

  8. Um, I don't think it was an overflow, rather sheep refusing to jump the right way and so he has to count down...still boring, but not a programming joke.

  9. "You see, he will keep counting forever."

    But Carl, human numbers also go on forever, were you not aware?

    Or is there a predetermined number at which one is allowed to sleep, perhaps 40,000? I don't see what you were going for with that.

    ...that aside, I think the humor value has to found in the visuals: the 65,5335 sheep coming in reverse, and perhaps, that once in negative numbers, he is sleeping upside down? It might be better if, after the overflow, he reversed position on the bed. hm.

    In either case, I think it would be much worse if one's counting sheep were subjected to Zeno's paradox.

  10. I'm a computer science major and I hate xkcd. That, though, is partially because everyone else I know adores it. If it weren't for that, xkcd would be something I would have no opinion about, for utter lack of caring.

  11. it is a programming joke, and if you dont recognize that then you just dont know programming i guess... which is probably for the better. the alt text says do sheepcount as a long int, which would allow it to go over 32thousandwhatever sheep. but why not an unsigned long int? then it would never go negative!

  12. No, anything can be funny in the right circumstances. Even xkcd.
    As I recall that was the premise to a gameshow a while back. They'd try to make the contestant laugh by means of non-jokes. For some reason that atmosphere set people to giggling without much provocation.

  13. Wow. So Randy knows something that you can learn in the first week or so of any introductory CS course. Something that is just kind of interesting. Not funny. Not amusing. But that aside, he took this non-funny fact from the realm of computer science and tried to frame it in a situation that makes it funny. At least he's doing more than just stating an observation (for once).

    Unfortunately, the situation makes no sense. Unless the guy's brain is a computer, he would not do the rollover. He would just keep counting higher and higher. So it's just an absurd happenstance that involves computer science in some way. That's not a joke. It's not funny. It's dumb.

    One could try to make the argument that the guy in the comic is a computer scientist or a programmer (which are two different things), and he's been coding so much that he now thinks of numbers in the same way that computer does, but that's beyond ridiculous. As someone who has spent multiple nights coding without sleep, and who works as a software engineer, this does not happen. It's never happened to me. It's never happened to anyone I know. It's a retarded idea, and if that's the actual premise of the comic, then it's even dumber than I originally thought.

    Tl;DR This comic is dumb, and you should feel dumb for liking it.

    I just calls 'em like I sees 'em, folks.

  14. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

    I once read a short story about that one where an android is taught how to sleep by a naive little girl. She tells him how to count sheep and then the scientists are all baffled how the android crashed and it seems like they didn't give a big enough variable for misc counting.

  15. This one is shitty (negative numbers just don't work with counting objects; you would use unsigned int for counting sheep), but the new one is even worse. It's so fucking bad it made me vomit. What the fuck, Randall? What the fuck?

  16. okay I think the sheeps are cute and they don't appear to be copypasta! I guess fluffy round things are not so hard to draw as ducks (to which I would provide a link but NO I don't wanna).

    okay so latest anon I am thinking Randy just read this short story and was like hey haha maybe I can make this into a comic! What if it's A REAL PERSON TRYING TO SLEEP HA HA FUN TIMES


    Yes. Yes, people. That was the joke.

    I'unno, man. I really got a laugh out of this one. I think you guys are just getting cynical. I mean, yeah, it's a recurring theme in his comics, most of them are chuckleworthy.

  18. I was thinking about this too. Why not just have it be unsigned? It's not like you will need negative numbers

  19. I liked it...though I also hack around with assembly. Oh well.

    Anyways, why do the comics have to be realistic? You complain that human brains don't work like that, but you didn't complain that Randy had a time machine as a premise of a joke (only the execution...).


  20. On a completely unrelated note, "Pushing Daisies" sucked, and I'm glad it was canceled. It just wasn't realistic at all. Everyone knows that people can't bring corpses back to life! And yet, the protagonist acted like a distinctly unrealistic person, bringing corpses back to life! That's terrible and the writers should be ashamed of themselves.

  21. Leave it to complete and utter fuckwits to not know the difference between something which lacks verisimilitude and something which is fantastic.

  22. Why are you trying to ignore the fact that this may be an android and not a human?? Can't android have this kind of error in their "brain"? I thought you might appreciate at least this one, but looks like you have decided to hate EVERYTHING related to xkcd, even if it's good..

  23. http://xkcdsucks.blogspot.com/2009/02/comic-539-outlier-indeed.html


  24. Wow. Rob needs to settle down; he's really getting worked up over others pointing out the objective fact that he's such a fucking moronic asshole.

    </bad trolling>

  25. Any argument about whether or not this is realistic should probably address how this guy, @ one sheep per second, has been counting for nine hours. I don't know much about long int, signed or otherwise, just that digit rollover occurs for powers of two in computers. But if realism is the question, address first that there is a guy who can count up to five digits mentally and not get bored - bored to DEATH.
    Fortunately, the question is not if it's real, but if it's funny.

    re: what if it's an android? Nowhere in the comic suggests this guy is an android, so why make that assumption? Look out for Occam's razor :3

  26. @Emmer

    Yeah, except for the alt-text, which, you know, does....

  27. It's amazing this one is being argued still.

    Though, anything to stop us from moving on to the next xkcd which is so awful it almost circles back and becomes funny again.

  28. "it is a programming joke, and if you dont recognize that then you just dont know programming i guess"

    Fixed: If you don't know it you just don't know programming from 1967

  29. PS Rob: Are you an English literature student by any chance? Or someone who thinks people should use google's Define: feature more?

  30. @Everyone:

    "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" is not something Randall Munroe came up with, nor is it meant to purposefully suggest that the character in this comic is an android. It is the title of a novel by Philip K. Dick upon which the movie "Blade Runner" was based. It is yet another nerdy reference he's just throwing out to give fan-service to his constituency.

  31. I found some small amusement in the fact that all 65536 sheep headed back the _other way_ at the rollover point. Very small amusement.

  32. Anon and McAsh: The problem isn't that it's unrealistic, it's that it's not funny. Time Machines can be used for humor (well, sometimes, like Calvin and Hobbes and sometimes Overcompensating) but here the problem is that the premise leads to...counting. Anyway, I didn't complain that it was unrealistic. I said it wasn't funny. And I was right.

    captcha: fibble, when one quibbles with a fib.

  33. @poore: You are on point about what "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" is, but why are you so sure it isn't meant to imply that the individual in the comic is an Android who has been poorly programed?

  34. Verisimilitude is a perfectly reasonable word, especially when it's necessary to distinguish from realism.

    I'm not entirely sold on integer overflow breaking verisimilitude here. When a device is the premise of the comic, It think you have to take it as-is and then work from there. I do think it could have been a better integer-overflow-based comic.

    Arguing for someone else's suspension of disbelief is a losing cause though, as it's not entirely voluntary.

  35. Verisimilitude is a perfectly cromulent word.

    This discussion has dug too greedily and too deep for a one-note xkcd that barely has a joke if at all.

  36. @ Poore

    Yes, it's a Philip K. Dick novel. So what? It not's just a throw away reference. It pertains to the point of the comic.

    I chuckled at the comic when I thought about all the sheep flying back over the fence at once (despite seeming a bit out of place for a human). Then I read alt-text, which implied that the "man" in the comic is a future android that was programmed improperly. It's not the best joke ever, but it applied the idea of an integer overflow in a new and amusing way.

    I'd argue that this is one of the better XKCD's in recent memory.

  37. @Anonymous:

    Because the sheep aren't electric?

    Because androids don't actually sleep, and the title is posed as an ironic question that, upon completion of the novel, is meant to be a dark, ironic reminder of the ambiguous nature of identity?

    Because the "android" in the comic has no objects or graphical cues in his environment that define him as existing in the future or being a non-human entity, and the ordinary-looking bed seems to suggest a contemporary setting, thus him existing as a highly-advance robot who is indistinguishable from a normal human makes absolutely no sense in the context with which he is initially presented to the reader?

    Because Randall makes random nerdy references that only semi-relate to the subject matter ALL THE FREAKING TIME?

    Because if the comic doesn't make sense the first time through, thinking he's human, it ruins the joke and makes the reader (in this case, me) think it's a dumb comic with a stupid premise, so I'm less inclined to believe that the alt-text is so important to the initial premise of the comic that the joke doesn't work without it (the alternative conclusion being that Randall sucks shit at timing and execution, which is also true)?

    Just, you know, a few reasons.

  38. "This discussion has dug too greedily and too deep for a one-note xkcd that barely has a joke if at all."

    Yet another candidate for blog subtitle! Coo.

    You people are all sad and I hate you. "Oh, this isn't realistic!" "Oh, maybe he's an android!" "Oh, but what if they're actually GOD?". SCREW YOU SCREW YOU SCREW YOU.

    (man, I thought I was grouchy yesterday, and yet here we are. I love you guys really.

    If by "love" you mean "hate with a burning passion".)

    ( ;) ? )

  39. "PS Rob: Are you an English literature student by any chance? Or someone who thinks people should use google's Define: feature more?"

    Haha, I used to be a writing major, but I stopped that. So, good call?

    In this case, I think people saw the "human brain acting as a computer" and said "wait, what? That doesn't happen." That's what happens when people complain about a lack of realism/believability. It's just not valid to say "man I hated the Lord of the Rings THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS HOBBITS" in response to a complaint about realism or believability, even if you are complaining about it in a fantastic universe.

    For the record I wasn't bothered by the realism, but it was, I think, primarily a visual gag and not very effective at that. Also someone thought it fit to post it on the YawnLog blog, which made me simmer with quiet rage.

    Also to probably-other-anonymous it is an objective fact that I am a NARCISSIST and the SCUM OF THE EARTH and HISTORY'S HANDSOMEST MONSTER not that I am a fucking moronic asshole GET IT RIGHT.

  40. this one pisses me off, but I think Carl and Poore have already made my points as well, so I'll move on to the new comic.

    Well, to tell you the truth, I kinda liked this one. I don't think it counts as a creepy romance one, because there's really not much creepy about it, and the idea is JUST unbelievable enough to work. One complaint with the art, though: what the hell is that cane leaning against in the second to last panel? It shouldn't be floating there like that! (and we all know how Carl feels about things randomly floating...)

  41. Personally, I found the humor not necessarily in the rollover itself, but rather in the visual of having tons of sheep jump back over the fence when it happened.

    Flame away at my terrible sense of humor.

  42. Hmmmm

    After reading over 'Can't Sleep' and the points made thus far I'm convinced the comic is about a hypothetical situation* in which an android attempts to go to sleep by dreaming of electric (programmed) sheep. That sounds stupid because it is. Before you gush a ton of bile in my direction, let me elaborate. The key word that makes me think this is the 'DO' in the alt-text.

    Poore, the fact that Randall hasn't put any signifiers about the date in this comic doesn't mean anything. Randy is such a lazy artist I doubt he can imagine the last dump he took let alone draw the future. It could be the year 7345 for all we know, the only reason we think it's a contemporary setting is because the disgracefully drawn sleeping apparatus looks kinda like a 21st Century Earth bed if you squint and turn your head a bit. Also note that the person/android in the comic never actually sleeps, they are only trying to (there's no way Randy would forego the Zzz.. if they were actually sleeping).

    I agree that Randall often puts token references in comics for no reason which pisses me off immensely. However he also seems to regularly be inspired by things which blatantly relate to (refer to? rip off?) scenes in movies or TV shows. How much do you wanna bet he'd been watching Amelie before writing this one? http://xkcd.com/563/ I'm guessing he was just watching Blade Runner late at night and decided to make a boring joke.

    Note that I'm not defending him here, I just don't think you've got his weak-minded train of thought totally down. Re-read the alt-text and the comic again with an open mind and see what you think. It doesn't make much sense, it's not big and it's *defnitely* not clever, saying that it's probably better than the last few tho :-\

    Or you could just call me names. Whatever.

    * I realise almost all comics are hypothetical but the alt-text implies Randalls awareness of the fact it is hypothetical as it refers to what he hopes people do in a real life situation - meh.

  43. "Also to probably-other-anonymous it is an objective fact that I am a NARCISSIST and the SCUM OF THE EARTH and HISTORY'S HANDSOMEST MONSTER not that I am a fucking moronic asshole GET IT RIGHT."

    But, Rob! You make it so much more fun (again, objectively) to GET IT WRONG.


  44. holy shit this is a dumb comments section

    and the comic is not funny and yes I know enough programming to get the "joke".

    The people who say the visual image is worth a chuckle are cool though, I can at least pay that

  45. 120 lbs, to be exact, Rob.

    And you are... ?

  46. Hey, Anon, the nineteenth century called; they want their units back.

  47. Maybe, just maybe, pounds are the new retro.

    I'm glad to see mah fellow Americans discussing this terrible American webcomic.

  48. Holy God you're 120 lbs overweight? FAAAAATTY

  49. A Sleepy CuddlefishApril 23, 2009 at 11:39 AM

    Hey Rob, completely off-topic, but I just tried that YawnLog thing you mentioned. It's pretty cool; I think it might help me achieve more reasonable sleep hours, because I have something to be accountable to (assuming I don't lie or give up).

    Anyway, thanks.

  50. Excellent! I am glad you like it. It is a project some friends of mine and myself did back in... I guess February? I think the devs have lost interest in maintaining it, which is sadface, but who knows, maybe it will get better!

  51. In the story "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and the movie based on it, there's some ambiguity about whether the main character is human or android ("replicant"). And here we are arguing over whether the comic character is an android.

  52. I certainly hope Carl fucking posts soon, because the contents of this comment section are getting abysmally stupid.

    Being that the entire central conceit of the joke is that his brain is NOT working like a normal human brain, I think the comparison to saying "WTF Hobbits aren't real" is entirely valid. It's like the equivalent of someone reacting to a priest-minister-and-rabbi-walk-into-a-bar joke and saying "WTF, rabbis don't go out with religious leaders of other faiths." Maybe they do, maybe they don't, but the joke relies on you accepting that so it can deliver the punchline. If you're going to stop in the middle and say "WTF No," then yeah, it might not be funny to you, but that's more your fault for wanting to find a flaw in the comic than the fault of the comic.

  53. "the contents of this comment section are getting abysmally stupid"

    At this rate, we're going to need to make the blog tagline rotating.

  54. Trismesuxstis, you are an idiot with a complete and utter lack of understanding about the most basic tenets of writing. It is the author's responsibility to make people believe his premise. You can't just say "that is the premise." It is quite possible to get people to accept the premise that a brain is not working like a human brain. Randall did not do this.

    Let me repeat that, you mindless fuckwit: IT IS THE AUTHOR'S RESPONSIBILITY TO GET HIS READERS TO ACCEPT THE PREMISE. If your readers, especially if a LARGE NUMBER OF THEM, are not accepting the premise, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG. This is a basic fucking rule of writing. You have a responsibility to your audience. If your audience doesn't like your premise, it's not because they don't "get" it, it's because you are doing it wrong.In this case, Randall did not convey his premise well, at all. He could have done! But he didn't. He conveyed it badly. This is the writer's fault. The job of the writer is to successfully communicate his ideas and premises to the reader. Randall has not done so. He has, in fact, failed on that point.

    Blaming the readers is just idiotic. It's the sort of thing kids in high school English classes argue when someone tells them that their writing is bad, and they are like "no, I did that on purpose, you just don't get it!" "No, I get that you did it on purpose; you just intentionally did something which makes your writing bad." You are communicating with an audience. You can be held accountable for your failures at communicating that point.


  55. rob i love how you just add in "sux" into people's names to be like a double zinger

  56. I need to start posting inflammatory trolls so that Rob will yell at me too.

  57. LOL, John's caught on. :)

    Rob, it's so funny that you responded to my first post, which I clearly signed <bad trolling> (as in, poorly done). And then you just kept responding.

    I'll have to amend my first post. You're a fucking stupid dumbass.

    That's right; you're not holy anymore.

    Oh wait; you might consider that a compliment. Oh shit!

    And, BTW, I like how you trolled too, by taking my post "120 lbs, to be exact" to mean 120 lbs overweight, when I clearly didn't mean that.


    the_metricfish: if it's any consolation, I hate the customary system that we Americans have to deal with with every vein in my body. But I still have to use it, because we don't have so many kilo scales over here, and no one would understand if I spoke in kilos anyway.

  58. To amend that before you get on my case for a genuine error: no one IN AMERICA would understand if I spoke in kilos anyway.

  59. I'm sorry, Rob, I thought we justified our arguments here with logic, not with exclamation points and repetitions of the phrase "he didn't do it right."

    You'll excuse me if I don't waste time responding to your "argument." I think it's pretty goddamn clear that people did accept the premise of the comic, and I'm not here to masturbate your ego regarding your other points.

  60. Trismegustis:

    If you want serious academic debate, go do it in an academy. This is the Internet, and you are a fucktard.

    Good day.

  61. FAQ:
    "me and the regulars around here are startlingly rational."

    "If you want serious academic debate, go do it in an academy. This is the Internet, and you are a fucktard."


  62. ...AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!1!1!!!eleventy!!!

  63. ...HAHAHA

    *wheeze* *pant* *pant*

    Oh, my!

    Boy, that hurt!

  64. Did I mention you're a fucktard?

  65. Doesn't "eleventy" imply that there will be zeroes in your series of exclamation points and ones?

    And I would say that poore's comment was quite rational. Nowhere did Carl say we host academic debates.

  66. I only yell at people because the useless ones get all indignant about it and are like "man I guess I win the debate class for the day" and then the intelligent ones are like the anonymous who understands exactly what I am doing! Trolling for trolls is fun. Hi anon!

    Trismosux or whatever his name is is not clever enough or useful enough to merit responses where I treat him like a person! If he can't understand basic premises of writing for an audience he has no place in human society. He should be shunned as the diseased, freakish monstrosity that he is, denied food and shelter in civilized places, and cast into the mountains. He will survive on insects, rodents, and spring water for a while, but the winter or the drought will come and he will perish, if not from the exposure to the heat or cold, then from dehydration when water is no longer available, or starvation when he can no longer find his prey. May God have mercy on his useless, useless soul.

  67. "At least I have chicken."

    NOW you're getting the idea of arguing on the internet. Also, can I have some of your chicken?

  68. It's been two days. I've run out, man. My apologies.

  69. Kurt said:
    "'At least I have chicken.'

    NOW you're getting the idea of arguing on the internet."

    Trismegustis said:
    "My apologies."

    Well, you had the idea.

  70. AWWWW

    That sucks. Now I have to, like, buy my own... and, uh, stuff.

  71. I still have chicken! Bwah-hah!

  72. You know, there is also the fact that at the end, He can't get to sleep because since the number is negative, all of the sheep are jumping back over the fence because there are TOO MANY SHEEP!!!1!1!. I guess that might not help much, but It pains me when you oversimplify the comic and decry it as lame if the underlying joke is sub-par. There are little intricacies that do enhance it. But you don't seem to like this comic, and I'll let you do that, but try not to ignore those little things. They can save an otherwise boring comic in the right situations.