Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Comic 645: Backwards

where is my book.
Are we all ready and wearing our xkcd polo shirts? EXCELLENT. let us begin.

Today was one of those rare days when I just did not get it. My nerdiness failed me. Luckily, I know I am not alone. The first 7 (!) posts on the forum were all from confused people who wanted to simply tell the world, "I don't know what is happening in this comic." and I got more IMs than usual from people asking me why this comic was supposed to be funny. [PS - new favorite forumite: Brad.]

To recap what I have learned since then, the joke is based off of what is called "Reverse Polish Notation" where the operation symbol in an equation is placed after the operands which it affects. So, according to wikipedia, 2 + 3 = 5 -> 2 3 + = 5. Or something like that.

Not understanding the joke upon first reading the comic puts me at a strong disadvantage in terms of fully appreciating it, so I will not try to make a judgment on it. OK that's kind of lie: I'll say this - it looks like just kind of a dumb visual pun based on some obscure page he found while getting lost in wikipedia. Not bad, but just kind of simple and dumb.

BUT. as I said, I am not going to be able to fully appreciate this, so I will leave it to those who did get the joke to tell us what they think.

I can, however say this: While it's nice that Randall is back from his elementary science and math jokes that just exist to make 9th graders feel smart and cool, isn't it a problem of some kind if he has to go back and add a link to the relevant wikipedia page for people who don't get it?


The fact that Moe hasn't updated since September 14th is a tragedy for all of mankind.
On the other hand, I loved everything about this MSPaint Adventures installment, the music was perfectly chaotic and sugar-rushed, matching the frenetic energy of the animation just right. I still don't think MSPA is funny but am still enjoying it slightly more each day.


LATER UPDATE: golly, I totally forgot that I had submitted some comics to T-Rex Is Lonely! If you do not recall, that is the website where an upstanding gentleman named Gregor gets people to mix and match different versions of Dinosaur Comics panels 1, 2, and 6 (the ones with just T-Rex in them). When done properly, this leads directly to Fun Times and Much Laffs. ANYWAY mine went up on October 5th and October 7th. You know it's the same Carl by looking at my contributor page.


  1. I don't think that randall should make jokes simply to appeal to larger audience. This comic establishes itself from the beginning that it is for nerds, if you can't handle it then leave (Not specifically at you, Carl), Randall's definitely not going to change.

  2. I totally didn't get it, even though I owned a calculator that demanded Reverse Polish Notation!

    So yeah, I don't know if I should turn in my nerd card of if Randall Munroe should save the lovingly-drawn illustrations for strips that really need them.

  3. I got what the joke was meant to be but I was more annoyed than amused as it makes no sense to me.

    Why would -- in fact, how could -- the sausage-with-mustard-on be the operator and the bread be the operand? It makes no sense.

    It seemed like someone trying to be clever because they'd heard of some thing but didn't fully understand it (or at least didn't really think the joke through) and they're relying on their audience to have an even lesser understanding/memory of the thing.

    Several of the comments point out the errors, which I was glad to see. Many of them, though, are from people basically saying "you made a comic about something I'd never heard of and had to look up, and I still don't understand it enough to know you got it wrong, but I think you're hilarious and very clever because you knew about this thing I didn't." Meh.

  4. I didn't get it, but JWC got it on first read and went into a rage, so maybe that is the true first experience.

    Also, I've been getting the feeling that Randall has stopped doing comics about the actual science and math, but about the meta involved with science and math.


  5. I got it. I thought it was pretty good, not great but about what I feel an average xkcd comic "should" be like.


    Anyway, I did get this one on first read (learnt about the notation on college -- I have a good memory for additional "details" like these). In fact, when I opened up the page, I was intent on trying to see the strip without animosity, and with actual expectation. I was amused at first, but then the effect wore off quite quickly. It's not a very clever joke, but it has all the right elements, and nothing stinky about it. It's just... forgettable. I like it, but I'll pretty soon forget it.

    I don't think it was supposed to make mathematical sense, and visually, the analogy between 2+2 and "bun sausage bun" makes sense, so the visual pun works. It's just supposed to work, and I think going further than that is SERIOUS overthinking. I haven't checked the comic thread, but now I want to...


  7. Art was above par, joke was nerdy enough. It also inspired some Wikipedia vandalism (*cough* shamelessplug *cough*).

    Overall: Better than your average xkcd. Needs sauerkraut.

  8. <3 kirk

    Re: people not getting the joke. I always thought that a big part of the appeal of old school xkcd was the fact that a lot of the jokes were esoteric. xkcd used to sort of be like giant inside jokes for the nerd community-- most people wouldn't get the reference, but the ones who did got to feel sort of special for having done so.

    I honestly don't think that's what xkcd is anymore. Randall posting a wikipedia link for Polish Notation at the very top of the page seems to indicate that. He doesn't want just a select few who learned about and remember polish notation to get the joke; if that were the case, he wouldn't have felt compelled to put up that link. He even said in his interviews that it really bothers him when people don't get the joke.

    It sort of negates the commonly used xkcd fanboy refutation that we're not allowed to criticize the comic if we don't get it. It seems quite apparent to me that he's trying to appeal to a wider audience-- still nerdy things, but more mainstream nerdy things, like Ender's Game and Scribblenauts and Punnet squares. Randall seems to really WANT lots of people to get it. It's just that most of the time, his delivery sucks.

  9. Captcha: foomme. And very tilted to the right. Sounds like an onomatopoeia for a car passing quickly by. Bye, guys! I'm totally going home in my car! FOOOOOOMMME!

    Other captcha: nkiestra. I think this is the name of my 6th degree Russian cousin.

  10. While I'm not defending xkcd, straw-manning this one as "finding some random wikipedia page and then making a comic about it" merely because you didn't get the comic reference which is actually something that just about anybody who studies mathematics or computer science (or older calculators) learns at some point is kind of retarded.

    Also: Retrograde
    Also Also: Captcha: Youtrax... rifftrax for shitty virals?

  11. "some obscure page he found while getting lost in wikipedia"

    See, why do you say stuff like this? These things are what make this blog laughable. RPN is hardly something that someone with Randall's education would never have come into contact with. The guy is clearly into math and programming and what not. I implemented a stack to create an RPN calculator in my second semester in college getting my CS degree.

    The joke was funny enough and the alt-text expanded and sort of completed the joke. To those that say he shouldn't have posted a Wikipedia link: that's probably a fair criticism, but he did happen to make the line an RPN joke, so it isn't a total loss.

  12. I am an unabashed lover of the references in xkcd, but they have to be tough references. You remember how fiercely I loathed xkcd 643, because the reference was on a low level even for high school science humor (and it was quite derivative of other jokes in the genre).

    Well, thanks to this comic, that one is forgiven. This xkcd made me laugh as soon as I saw it, just like old times. Thanks, Randall.

  13. I've seen it before, but I've only heard it referred to as "postfix" notation. "Reverse Polish" notation just sounds stupid to begin with. Not that that's necessarily a complaint about xkcd so much as the naming convention.

  14. ""Reverse Polish" notation just sounds stupid to begin with."

    Would you care to elaborate on that? What, exactly, sounds stupid about that? It was introduced by a Polish mathematician, so it would've first been used in Poland(assuming that mathematician lived there at the time).

  15. Also didn't get it, although now that I do, it's not the WORST joke ever.

  16. I think many people didn't get this joke because actually they forgot Poland.

    *TA-DUM, PISHH!*

    (come on, SOMEONE would have to do this)

    (captcha: sheic. Sheic Yerbouti.)

  17. Hmm, I was unaware I was so popular

  18. aloria the fans are calling for you


    anyway the comic was pretty blah, i only vaguely remember touching on RPN cuz my very Polish math teacher was like here this is what we do sometimes, you will think we are crazy but that is what we are anyway


    who was alexander graham bell? the first telephoner
    who was alexander graham bolinski? the first telephone POLE!

  19. also retrograde!

    (why is that the word we are shouting, why can't it just be "aloria")

  20. ... retrograde? That does seem like a funny choice of word. Like you're trying to make it sound cool to support the cause of a guest post week with the very person who spied on Randall's "nerd"-fest a few weeks ago, or something. Ah, what the heck...


    Anyway, the comic. I got the joke the first time around, and actually thought it was pretty good. Most of the criticisms on here are quite valid, though, which the exception that Carl assumed Randall had just discovered rpn Sunday night, and decided to do a comic on this wacky new thing he found on Wikipedia. Believe it or not, Carl, people learn about these things in academic environments, not just on Wikipedia.

    But, yeah, the fact that Randall felt compelled to put a link to the Wikipedia article definitely makes it feel like he's trying to pander to larger communities.

    Anon 12:49: "I implemented a stack to create an RPN calculator in my second semester in college getting my CS degree."

    I was introduced to rpn much earlier, during my sophomore year in high school, for much the same purpose: to write a calculator. Although, my calculator actually took infix and converted it to postfix.

  21. R-E-T-R-O-G-R-A-D-E-!!!

  22. I included the line about how he just discovered it on wikipedia because in the Reddit interview he said that when he makes a comic on something obscure like this, people assume he knows all about it but he just read about it on wikipedia. Don't know if it's the case here (perhaps he was reminded of it on wikipedia?) but given what he said I thought it was ok to suggest it. Perhaps not.

    Keep in mind Randall was not a CS major or a math major and may not have done the programming stuff you are talking about...

  23. You could entitle it like

    "How Master Yoda eats his anastrophic sausage"

    I recognise it could be funny because you can say "Oh I get it" but that's it.


  24. "I included the line about how he just discovered it on wikipedia because in the Reddit interview he said that when he makes a comic on something obscure like this, people assume he knows all about it but he just read about it on wikipedia."

    I had completely forgotten about that! I guess, in light of that, you were quite justified in suggesting he had discovered it on Wikipedia.

    I still think it's equally likely he learned about it in school, though, even though he didn't major in CS or math.

  25. @Leo

    It's not the first time.


  26. Firstly why is the hot dog the operator? This confused me to the point of thinking I must have missed something. I realised it was an awkward and lazy joke. After having to think it through any potential for humour was lost.

    Secondly, why use a hot dog at all. It is in no way similar to a mathematical expression. Is it bun hot dog bun? Why is there mustard on the sausage? How is that expressed?

    If we have to use a food stuff as an analogy, a sandwich or a burger would have been much better choices.

    This joke only reassures anyone who gets the reference that they are indeed smart and worthy of the all mighty xkcd, without making any attempt to be funny.

  27. Re: finding it on Wikipedia:

    So, I occasionally will, whilst browsing Wikipedia or something, stumble upon a subject I already knew something about, and then read about it on Wikipedia and then obsess about it for a few days. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that Randall might be reminded of things he already knew about by Wikipedia.

  28. Um, George, it is a Polish sausage. Are you familiar with them? They are a type of sausage, and they are called Polish sausages.


  29. Um, I'm a second-year math major, I think I'm pretty "up" on mathematical notation, and I've never actually seen RPN used. Yes, I'd heard of it, enough to recognize the joke, but in the same sense that I've heard of an abacus.

  30. I am a ninth grader and I thought it was stupid too.
    captcha: gestrup

  31. i got the joke, and it sucked.



  33. the biggest problem with this comic is the fact that is clearly not a polish sausage at all, it is obviously nothing more than the common hot dog

    1.) the width to length ratio is all off. there are many variations on the polish sausage (or "Kielbasa") but none of them have the dimensions of the dog pictured

    2.) the color is wrong. clearly this dog is made of beef instead of pork, which is what all true kielbasa are

    3.) and the most egregious violation is the lack of kraut! no kielbasa would be willingly spotted wearing only a thin dressing of yellow mustard! that sausage is dressed in the manner of a whore, IE the manner of a HOT DOG

    I rest my case

  34. hahahahha

    please email that as a complaint to randall

  35. One of the better ones of recent months. My first reaction was an actual laugh (a short one, but still a laugh.) It certainly helped that I was already familiar with reverse polish notation.

  36. This is xkcd at it's worst. There is nothing funny about this. It's stupid nonsense.

    Note: To the previous commentators, REVERSE Polish Notation, is the OPPOSITE of Polish Notation, thus there is no Polish link to extrapolate in this comic.

    Polish notation is prefix notation.


    Reverse Polish? If you ever met a HP calculator you probably needed to use this... or maybe it's just Polish, it's been a while... anyway, it's a stack notation, and not the kind of thing I learned before college, but that may be just me... I still like that the art seems to be improving.

    The fact he put that link there probably means he's acknowledging how low his fandom is. I hope that makes him SAD. He DESERVES it.

    What actually bothers me is that, being non-native English speaker, I learned that sausage is a "false friend", and the actual word for a "hot dog" would be "wiener", while sausage is another foodstuff altogether. Similar, but not the same. So it confused me a little...

    Randall Munroe: hit on one side, miss on another.

    CAPTCHA: synsort. I wish it was RETROGRADE instead.


  38. My issue with thing kind of joke is that the buns make me think of paranthesises and the sausage seems more like a number than an operator to me. But oh well for my weird intuitionial analogizing. I suppose I'm a bit retrograde in thinking of of Lisp when it is more Forth that needs to be thought of

  39. "This joke only reassures anyone who gets the reference that they are indeed smart and worthy of the all mighty xkcd, without making any attempt to be funny."

    The Wikipedia link on top argues against that. It seems Randall is not trying to please the "hip and cool" crème de la crème of the nerdy bunch, but is more like BEGGING people to get his jokes and enjoy them.

    Captcha: adminces. The admin minces you all!

  40. Last anon: ok, that is a good reason for why people are getting confused over the joke. I hadn't thought of the "parenthesis" analogy, and it isn't absurd at all. I hadn't thought of Lisp, and my intuition made me think of the sausage as an operator that "sticks" the buns together.

  41. it seems to me like the hot dog and mustard should come first, *then* the bun, since the bun is what sort of combines the two, like the + operator might.

    it's definitely a cute idea, but like usual the execution was poor.

    as for rpn, i don't think it was too obscure of a reference at all. seems like most people who read xkcd would know what rpn is; it's nowhere near uncommon.

  42. Femalethoth (Mal from xkcdsucks): "Um, I'm a second-year math major, I think I'm pretty "up" on mathematical notation, and I've never actually seen RPN used. Yes, I'd heard of it, enough to recognize the joke, but in the same sense that I've heard of an abacus."

    I think it's more important in Comp Sci than in math. In CS, it is easier to write a program that parses postfix expressions than to write a program that parses infix expressions, and it makes for more concise, clearer code. I'm not sure what RPN would be useful for in math.

  43. Loved this one. First laugh-out-loud I've had in a while.

    RPN was talked about a lot in our second-year data structures and algorithms course. We all hated it.

  44. We had to implement a RPN parser in LISP in one of my CompSci classes. Just sayin.

  45. "Took me awhile to get this one, must mean it's really good!" -aldid of the forums

    I hate life.

  46. @Coviza - I'd believe that. I just wanted to point out that it's NOT something that every math student would be familiar with.

  47. Learned it in high-school CS class, although some of my friends who took it with me forgot about it. The pun itself, to me, was uninspired; however, as someone said earlier, at least it caters to the original niche group of xkcd. At least until he put the Wikipedia page up, grrrrrr

    RETROGRADE by the way..

  48. Well, the new comic is up. Looks like it's back to being completely awful instead of just mediocre (which is my opinion of Monday's comic, if anyone cares).

    After I read today's comic I briefly thought he had shown enough restraint to avoid the obvious Oregon Trail reference, up until I read the alt-text. Also, did anyone else have to stare at it awhile before realizing that the dysentery line and the laptop line don't actually connect to each other?

  49. The "joke" in the new comic is either that laptops and dysentery are both things which could cause you to have a conversation on a toilet, or that Randall is very bad at drawing graphs.

  50. Andrew, come join the IRC so we can hate the new comic together, everyone else is there already

    Don't be a loser

  51. I got it after thinking about it for a bit. It's not just random wikipedia knowledge, it's actually used in programming applications with trees and the like. Obscure? Yes, but not entirely.

  52. Wednesday's comic: graph joke. Nuff said...

    RETROGRADE. Never too much of it.

  53. could someone please just link the irc channel? I'm too lazy to download an irc host on my laptop and it's much simpler to just bookmark the link.

    Also comments on both the Sausage and the weird graph thing.

    I kind of chuckled at the image more than the joke really, I got what he was saying, but it didn't strike me as outrageously hilarious, the image and the whole "zomg Reverse Polish Sausage people" thing he seemed to be implying, I dunno what else to really make of it :/

    However, I don't understand what the fuck he was trying to get across with today's, I was wondering if he would somehow relate it to Oregon Trail (which he did -_-) but it... how is it funny? I don't get what he was trying to say, at all. Anyone want to shed some light on this?

  54. Just use mibbit.

    Server: Foonetic
    Channel: #xkcd-sucks

  55. that's weird, it can't find you guys >_>

    also I didn't mention this first but RETROGRADE

  56. 646: Graph makes no sense. The top line is apparently frequency of toilet conversations, and the bottom line is either dysentery cases or laptop sales or both, and the whole thing is poorly drawn.

  57. Heh anyone ever drop their phone in a toilet before? AND REMEMBER WHEN OLD GAMES WERE NEW?

    That isn't even a snarky comment, that's how blunt the humor in 646 is.


  58. Couldn't he have just made one line on the graph, found another way to label it "Frequency of conversations..." and then have "Dysentery Cases" and "Laptop Sales" simply be points on that line, maybe with different names, like "Modern Medicine" or some shit and "Invention of the Laptop," or cell phone, or wireless phone, or anything like that. it seems like it would be much clearer, and while still not that funny, at least funniER.

  59. Yeah, I agree that it's weird that Randall has to toss in a Wikipedia link. Poisson distributions were apparently fair game back in the day, but now he's worried that he's being... too nerdy? It's like he's developed retrograde amnesia and has totally forgotten who constitutes his own fanbase.

    P.S. did you catch the way i worked the word in? i thought it was pretty subtle. maybe it was too subtle.

  60. I don't think I'm allowed to comment on this one because I actually have had quite a few conversations from the toilet.


  61. I thought it was pretty clear what he was trying to get across in the new comic. When dysentery was rife, people by necessity had to conduct quite a lot of their conversations while on the toilet. As dysentery disappeared, this practice waned. But now with the advent of laptops, the practice is once again popular.

    What I don't understand is why this is supposed to be particularly funny, and why it's so poorly drawn. As others said, it's not entirely clear that the laptop line is separate from the dysentery one. He's been using colour more frequently lately, why couldn't he just have at least made them different colours?

    ALSO, if you look closely enough, the laptop line actually begins below the horizontal axis!

  62. The sausage comic was the best xkcd in a long time. Today's comic not so much. Aside from shittiness of the topic (pun intended), why the fuck are those graphs in Squigglevision? I'd expect the guy who mostly draws stick figures to be able to hold his pen straight. Even for xkcd the "art" is laughably bad.

  63. @anon 10:33

    I legitimately did not get this comic until I read your comic.

    There are thousands of ways in which he could have done this better.

    I expect the couldbebetter messageboard to be overflowing with improvements.

  64. http://www.murraythenut.com/2009/07/22/web/

    It is I!

  65. the comments to the linked comic are so annoying

  66. Sidenote: I'm looking for editors for my comic. Basically, I just want people to read my comics and tell me if they "make sense" before I publish. Would any of you be interested?

    You would get at least two emails a week from me and all I really want as a reply is an "I get it" or "I don't get it/this is what confuses me". I'm not really looking for criticism on my sense of humor, just on my ability to convey a message in comic form. If ridiculing my terrible sense of humor makes you feel better though, consider the opportunity a reward for your service.

    I won't feel hurt if you don't reply to every one. I just want to make sure I get a few extra opinions.

    email me (ch0000f at gmail dot com) if you're interested.

  67. to get this comic you need to know what reverse polish notation is, and less obviously but just as importantly, know what polish sausage is. (and yes, you do put it on a bun and often put mustard on it, but it is different from a hot dog. calling it a hot dog is the same kind of mistake as calling a bratwurst a hot dog. sausages come in many different types.)

    however, randall seems to worry way too much about people getting his jokes. so he put a link to wikipedia in the header of his site, which doesn't help those who don't get "polish sausage", but whatever - at least he didn't put it in the comic proper like he's done in the past. (here is my artist's rendition of what that comic would have looked like: http://cultofray.net/xkcd645-worse.png - aren't you glad he didn't include expository panels?) well done, randall, and may you continue to make comics like this in the fut-oh god, RANDY THAT IS NOT HOW YOU DRAW A GRAPH

  68. Rob, sorry if I didn't make my point clearly.

    I do realize there is such thing as a polish sausage, I was referring to any bun - sausage combo as a hot dog. Perhaps that's incorrect.

    I managed to nuke this bit in my original post:
    For the joke to work properly, the normal polish sausage in bun would have to be served as a sausage to the left of a bun. It isn't.

    My point was that a normal infix foodstuff would have more humour than a poorly thought out pun. Of course, that would still be unfunny.

  69. Why the fuck isn't the Y axis labeled?

  70. Actually, it looks like the "number of conversations" thing -is- the Y axis label. But for some reason he put it in the graph instead of next to the axis. Also, why are there two lines in the graph? What does the second one mean?


  71. Wait, I just noticed that the bottom line has two labels. So I guess there were an awful lot of laptop sales at first, which dropped when the number of dysentery cases dropped, and now both laptop sales and dysentery cases are on the rise again? What the FUCK?

  72. Man, even the majority of people on the XKCD forums think it sucks.

    Also, those "hi joee" "hi glasnt" people are fucking annoying.

  73. Fred, there are supposed to be THREE different lines: the "conversations" bathtub-shaped curve, the "disentery" cases curve which is constantly decreasing, and the "laptop sales" curve which constantly increases. It looks confusing at first, but I don't think it's THAT hard to tell. And, come on, is that graph REALLY worth to pick apart so heavily? I think whether the Y axis is labelled is a VERY minor detail which is not even worth mentioning. Come on!

    I thought this one was mildly amusing, but even more forgettable than Monday's, and hardly worth discussing much.

    And every time I see that "joee/glasnt" bullshit I feel like smashing my own face in with a sledgehammer. It pisses the hell out of me. I hate those stupid, artificial attempts and making memes.

  74. "He's been using colour more frequently lately, why couldn't he just have at least made them different colours?"

    Bingo bingo, daniel daniel. My thoughts exactly. Why Randall keeps disappointing me?!

    PS.: Ch00f, you'll hear from me! ;D

  75. It looks confusing at first, but I don't think it's THAT hard to tell. And, come on, is that graph REALLY worth to pick apart so heavily? I think whether the Y axis is labelled is a VERY minor detail which is not even worth mentioning. Come on!

    Labelling the Y-axis isn't a minor fucking detail when your ENTIRE JOKE is a graph and your ENTIRE JOKE depends on the quick legibility of that graph.

    Similarly, when the entire joke relies on being able to distinguish between the "Dysentery cases" data set and the "Laptop sales" data set, maybe it's a problem when he makes them look like the exact same curve.

  76. "My point was that a normal infix foodstuff would have more humour than a poorly thought out pun. Of course, that would still be unfunny."

    Polish notation. Polish sausage. You're an idiot.

  77. I think Brad might be Randall's editor.

    "This commic was very very funny. Even more funny then an Oregon Trail reference!"

    He forgot the commic with an OT ref. had not yet been published this week!

  78. Yes, I do think the confusion between the two curves that look like one is a relevant complaint, because it's very confusing; but I figured it was easy to deduce that the Y axis referred to quantity, but that could be a source of confusion too... yeah, never mind what I said.

  79. The Y axis is clearly the "Number of [Reported, Estimates] cases of X" where X is the subject of one of the three data sets, being a laptop sale, case of dysentery, or pooper talk.

    Would the graph have benefited from colored lines? Definitely. Was the comic funny? Absolutely not. But anybody who's passed High School should be familiar with the concept the sketch of a graph or trend and has no excuse why they wouldn't be able to figure out this comic in less than 30 seconds.

  80. I have heard of Polish Notation and actually thought to myself, "Is...is that a polish notation joke? I guess it might be..." but it's still so unfunny I was pretty sure I was missing something. I guess not!

    I wouldn't say RPN is so obscure Randall must have accidentally stumbled upon it surfing Wikipedia, though. I learned about it in my undergrad intro logic class. I think computer people are somewhat familiar with it.

    Mostly what annoys me is, is a normal Polish Sausage served to the left of the bun? Nope! To my mind, that is the biggest reason it fails to be a funny pun.

  81. "Most what annoys me is, is a normal Polish Sausage served to the left of the bun?"

    No, it is served in the bun in the same way that "regular" notation puts the operator in between two numbers. RPN puts it after the operators. You don't understand RPN.

  82. People still die of dystentery. Just saying.

    Those lines ought to cross.

  83. No, Anon 10:35, it is you who does not understand the meaning of the words "Reverse Polish Notation". "Polish Notation" is prefix notation: + 2 2 is 4. So "Reverse Polish Notation" is prefix notation reversed, ie. postfix notation: 2 2 + is 4.

    So, if the analogy between Reverse Polish Notation and Reverse Polish Sausage actually worked, we would expect Polish Sausage to have the sausage first, then the bun.

  84. Thanks for the math lesson. Notice that regular is in quotation marks. I guess Alison probably does understand RPN, but that part of the analogy doesn't have to hold for the joke to make sense. Her assertion only makes sense if Reverse Polish Sausage were where the joke began, but it begins at Polish Sausage.

    Polish Sausage: bun sausage bun (2 + 2)
    Reverse Polish Sausage: bun bun sausage (2 2 +)

    That's the joke. Dropping "reverse" doesn't move the sausage to the other side, it puts it in the middle of the bun. Starting at Reverse and expecting it to hold going the other way is taking it too far. That would be like complaining that dogs don't talk in a talking dog joke(hey, I just used a flawed analogy!).

  85. I also wondered about the line or dysentery cases dropping to zero. But I don't know enough to be like "people still get dysentery" but APPARENTLY THEY DO.

  86. "But I don't know enough to be like "people still get dysentery" but APPARENTLY THEY DO."

    Not in Oregon Trail lolz

  87. Polish Sausage: bun sausage bun
    Reverse Polish Sausage: bun bun sausage

    Polish Notation: + 2 2
    Reverse Polish Notation: 2 2 +

    The joke kind of depends on this analogy; it would be nice if it actually worked, wouldn't it?

  88. No, it doesn't depend on Polish Notation for anything, only Reverse. There is no sausage bun bun thing that exists, however, a Polish Sausage is something that exists. If you make the analogy that a Polish Sausage is like a math equation in that bun sausage bun is like x + x, than the RPN version is x x +. It's a fucking pun. That's the joke. It does not require an actual Polish sausage to be sausage bun bun because a Polish sausage is already a known object. Polish sausage has been established.

  89. Anon,

    Associating the thought of "Reverse Polish Sausage" with "Reverse Polish Notation" implies that "Polish Sausage" should be associated with "Polish Notation." It clearly isn't given the example, so the joke fails to make the analogy work.

  90. That reverse Polish one looks like gold compared to this latest graph.

  91. Jon,
    No, it doesn't imply that. Bun sausage bun is normal to people, as 2 + 2 is "normal" to most people. And if the RPN version of 2 + 2 is obtained by removing the middle part and moving it to the front, than the analogous RPN bun sausage bun can be arrived to in the same way giving us bun bun sausage. Why are we talking about hot dogs like they are equations? Because they both have "Polish" in the name. That's the pun link. Now, while the analogy isn't perfect(analogies are often imperfect but serviceable), the humor is plain to see and isn't diminished by finding a flaw in the analogy by starting at the RPS and working backward.

  92. Maybe a more obscure joke would have been to get the analogy perfect.

    Reverse polish sausage = polish sausage.

    Just draw a hotdog.

  93. Anon 3:31, 2:54, etc.

    "Polish Sausage" not implying a hot-dog-like construction in the first place aside, the "Bun Sausage Bun" analogy falls apart once you start talking about treating it like an equation. A sausage is in no way like an operator. It is a value. An operand. Arguably the most important operand in the equation. How can you argue that the sausage (with mustard already on it) is supposed to be an infix operator BY PLACEMENT ALONE? If that is indeed how lazy you see the joke's setup to be, than you should understand why many people who saw it that way think it wasn't clever enough to be funny.

    P.S.: Please tell us how using the result of Sausage Mustard + as an infix operator is valid under any analogy. Disagree with it being lazy and not clever because he only postfixed a single "operator". We want to hear your defense. I am insulting your intellegence by saying you think the joke was clever. You are being trolled. You decide how much of this was serious. I don't expect it to be accurate.

  94. As someone who actually uses RPN, I found this to be funny. I'm not sure if Randall is saying that he thinks RPN is stupid (because obviously it doesn't work when it comes to sausages) but I was entertained nonetheless.

    For those of you who are interested, I feel that RPN is often more similar to one's thought process than infix notation is. I used it last year in my high school chemistry class. It's very useful when you have to calculate a number of different values and then later use those values in a different equation. You can also avoid having to store your values in variables and then having to remember which values were where.

    I've never encountered an actual RPN calculator, but there's a great one here. At school, I programmed an RPN emulator on my TI-83, which also includes a number of functions you wouldn't see in other calculators, RPN or not. My advice to anybody who really likes math and science is to write your own calculator.

  95. I've been staring at 646 for like ten minutes and I just can't make heads or tails of it. Someone please explain what the joke is supposed to be, I'm totally lost on this one.

  96. "A sausage is in no way like an operator."

    I completely agree.

    Seriously, your post exemplifies what I'm trying to say.

    "Sausage between two things...that's like an equation...RPN of that equation would look like this...Rever Polish Notation, Reverse Polish Sausage."

    It's a lame pun/weak analogy, but it's discovery makes sense. To hold it to more stringent standards is ridiculous. If I was with a friend and he made this joke, I might laugh. Then I might point out that a Polish sausage under his analogy would look different than the hot dog that inspired the joke, and he'd probably laugh. But, I would never present that as a valid reason for finding a "glaring" mistake in a joke.

    Have a sense of humor. Say it's a lame joke, but don't so strictly attack the logic of a joke that semi-equating Reverse Polish Notation with hot dogs.

  97. How is it so hard to get why Randall put the polish sausage to the right of the hot dog buns? Seriously, a normal hot dog looks about like this ([]). Notice: the polish sausage is IN BETWEEN the two buns. Kind of like the + or - symbol in an equation 2+2= etc. So with reverse polish notation where the thing in the middle is on the right...

  98. #646... it's so bad, even the xkcd forumites are pissing all over it. Is he even trying?

    To Cuddlefish Prime... the key to figuring this one out is to realise there are three lines on the graph, not two as it first appears. So... as dysentery went down, so did conversations where one person was on the toilet... but as laptop sales went up, such conversations... uh... apparently went back up again? No friggen idea why that makes sense, but that appears to be it.

    Possibly the worst xkcd comic ever drawn.

  99. Retrograde.

    Cuddlefish Prime: When dysentery was more common, there was many conversations where one of the parts were on the toilet. When dysentery cases sank, the number of conversations sank. When people started getting laptops, they started having conversations in the toilet again. That's the entire joke.


    I got the joke, but it would have been a lot easier if the three lines had different colors! Also, someone suggested that the lines should cross -- not only would that be more accurate, but it would have made the graph easier to read, too. Of course, the reason the Y-axis isn't labeled is that the three lines have three different units of measurement: One is conversations, one is cases of a certain disease, one is sales of a certain product. Putting all that information into the y-axis would have been difficult.

    Retrograde. And for things like the x-axis and the y-axis, I wish Randall would have used a ruler. Retrograde.

    645: I tolerated it as a decent comic until he added the Wikipedia link. I'd never heard of RPN before, so I didn't get it, but that wouldn't be a first -- some of the best XKCD comics are the ones I don't understand. What was the purpose of adding that link? Seriously?


  100. Joal: The connection between laptops and toilet conversations is that people now have conversations online (IM, IRC and we could possibly call these comments a conversation as well), and when we got computers which let us bring the computers anywhere, according to Randall we did that. So it's a conversation in the sense of "people are discussing the latest xkcd strip / soccer game / whatever with their friends while pooping with a laptop on their knees". I doubt that this is as common as this strip suggests, but hey, exaggeration is a common trick in comics and the strip, sorry, the graph, would be LESS funny if he hadn't exaggerated.

    (I've never played Oregon Trail, and I feel like such a freak.)

  101. @Joal and olafmoriarty

    Okay, I think I get it now. Thank you! So um... yeah, that seems like kind of a stupid joke after all. I am disappoint.

    (BTW retrograde)

  102. "But anybody who's passed High School should be familiar with the concept the sketch of a graph or trend and has no excuse why they wouldn't be able to figure out this comic in less than 30 seconds."

    Yeah, actually, as opposed to this one, all those graphs were actually made with an effort to easily convey information about a trend at a single glance, because you know, that's kind of the WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF A GRAPH.

    It's getting annoying, but even judging from the forum reactions Randall would definitely have benefited from HAVING A FUCKING EDITOR which could have told him that the graph could be clearer. Of course he's not going to have any trouble reading it himself, he came up with the concept.

  103. Oh yeah... retrograde.

    And I'm the other person who hasn't played Oregon Trail (apparently) and therefore finds this "hilarious" reference meaningless... pleasure to meet you.

    olafmoriarty: yeah I see what you're saying, and well... maybe there's are a whole bunch of people who use laptops in the toilet. Can't say that I do.

    The graph just doesn't work, is clumsy, whatever, but even if you believe that it is perfectly executed, the concept behind it is terribly terribly unfunny and boring.

  104. "How is it so hard to get why Randall put the polish sausage to the right of the hot dog buns?"

    It's not hard to get why he did it; it just doesn't work.

    "Seriously, a normal hot dog looks about like this ([])."


    "Notice: the polish sausage is IN BETWEEN the two buns. Kind of like the + or - symbol in an equation 2+2= etc."

    You're associating a Polish sausage with "normal" notation (infix), when it should be with Polish notation (prefix), if the analogy actually worked.

    "So with reverse polish notation where the thing in the middle is on the right..."

    No, the thing on the left is on the right.

  105. Honestly? I think trying to "go back" from Reverse Polish Sausage to good ol' Polish Sausage is serious overthinking, and is not required to make the "analogy" work. Come on, it's not even an analogy: it's a VISUAL pun, not even a mathematical pun. And you can even take it as a mathematical pun if you consider that, in computing circles, the RPN is much, much more familiar than the regular PN (but I might be very wrong about this!).

    I even think that, if the comic were the sausage to the left of the buns with the caption "Polish Sausage", the joke would be exactly much the same, but that would be EXTREMELY obscure and even less people would get it. "Reverse" Polish Sausage is used simply because the pun becomes more distinguishable.

  106. But nerds are supposed to be pedantic and obsessed with detail, aren't we?

    Let's all argue about the right way to lace and tie our shoelaces.

    oh, and retrograde <3 <3 <3 You guys make me feel all special.

  107. No, nerds are supposed to love Randall Munroe and want to suck his dick. ... what? You don't? No, you TOTALLY are not a nerd, and I have absolute authority to say that even though I've never seen you before.

    [/assorted cuddlefish]

  108. This is the first comic in months that I laughed at. It was clever and concise.


  109. What the fuck is Randall's deal? The past 3 months of his comic has just been terrbile. I used to look forward to my MWF routine of "Read xkcd, Read CAD, Check Email".

    Everyday I navigate to xkcd, and CAD for that matter, in hopes of some glorious new comic, and all I get in return is a slap in the face, a pat on the ass, and a good luck wish.

    It's hard for me to be polite when talking about the recent trend in ALL webcomics. This is a prime example. There is no humor in this, unless all you do is click through Wikipedia ALL day and try to find the most obscure, useless bullshit you can.

    Signed, Anonymous Bastard.

  110. wait

    CAD still had fans after the miscarriage strip?

  111. I read CAD primarily as a "CAD Could Be Better!" measure. The potential for superior edits to those comics is just... immense. Truly wondrous.

  112. I didn't understand that comic at all. I thought it might, for example, be a reference to some sort of video game or something.
    While it's good that Randall's jokes are moving closer to his original brief, a joke nobody gets is worse than a joke everyone gets but doesn't find funny.
    If you have to spend 5 hours Googling a topic to get the joke, its humour will be lost on you.

    CAPTCHA: gunth

  113. Easily one of the better xkcd's, particularly because none of the 13-year-old fanboys who think they're engineers or whatever but are really just losers who like to think of themselves as intelligent and sophisticated because they understand xkcd (which doesn't take much engineering knowledge to understand, really) understood the joke. I got the joke as soon as I read it. My parents (both scientists who had to work with RPN calculators back in the day) both loved the joke.

    This is my favorite recent xkcd. It's simple, it caters to the more intelligent of xkcd's audience, and it's doesn't have cartoon vaginas. This is a comic I will be sharing. Probably printing out too.

    For those of you who didn't understand it, well, frankly, I don't care. I really liked this one.

    Now all we need is an xkcd comic about slide rules, and we will have hit all of the old-style engineering jokes.

  114. oh, i can see some confusion arising. I'm referring to RPS, number 645. Randall comes up with an amazing comic one day, then slips and falls flat on his face with the next one. Conversations, 646 sucks soooo much. I realize there must be an oregon trail joke in there somewhere, but....what? Wwhat?

  115. CAD still has fans, there's like 632 of us left. But it is progressively getting worse. The miscarriage thing was...un-needed, but i looked past it.

    xkcd on the other hand, has almost always been funny, smart and clever with a few lemons stuck in there. Now it's all lemons. It's a party of lemons.

    I don't see how anyone can defend the RPS comic. If he could have done something clever with it, it would have been better, but he didn't. I see it as Randall was making a polish sausage, saw a piece of bread sitting next to it, remembered some obscure reference he had in his head and "lol'd" to himself.


    -Anonymous Bastard

  116. So, I read back through some of the latest CADs, because I used to enjoy it. I stopped reading at around the miscarriage, and stopped enjoying somewhere around the time he started incorporating serious stories. I was surprised that I didn't utterly abhor them all--but this is probably because they weren't part of his horrible, horrible story comics.

    Buckley is really at his best when he is just throwing out comics which have no continuity to them. Granted, his sense of humor is crude and unsophisticated and tends to rely on random violence almost exclusively, and his narcissism still shines through most of the time, but some of them were at least average.

    When I got to the comics featuring his 'characters' they immediately went back into 'all of them are terrible without exception' mode.

  117. The only reason I read CAD is for its storyline, which more or less sucks now, it's just a nature of habit to read it. I always thought his "one comic, no storyline" comics were generally retarded, and like you said, narcissistic. His single posts came off as being "holier than thou because my video game opinions are greater than yours".

    Some of them are good though, and do catch a lot of the stuff I tend to agree with.

    His comic has gone downhill for about the past year, and will continue to go that way until it ends up being useless to anyone who reads it except people with an IQ of 4, and will jizz their pants when they hear the "Ow My Balls" show is going to be made.

    -Anonymous Bastard

  118. I never liked the story. Mostly because the characters are terrible and the plot doesn't go anywhere. THere wasn't much of one at first; now he does this annoying thing of trying to balance story and video game jokes, and sometimes making stories about video game jokes.

    He should definitely pick one and stick with it. Unfortunately he thinks being a gamer is hella profound.

    Oh Buckley...

  119. The plot didn't really "need" to go anywhere, in my opinion. It was about a couple of gamers, and that was the extent of it. With the introduction of drama, love and another god dammed robot, is where it started to go downhill. Which I guess could date back several years.

    I liked the storyline when it was about gamers, and had jokes about gaming. I.E. Ethan's addiction to Fallout, funny. Miscarriage, not.

    The theme of CAD seems to move around a little bit too much. Like you said, he should pick something and stick to it. Either be a comic about games, or be a comic about some retarded love story. Either way, quit deviating the comic so far.

    -Anonymous Bastard

  120. I used to like CAD because, well it was the only webcomic I was shown so I didn't know what to compare it to. It seemed interesting at the time, then he turned on the drama at about the "I'm pregnant" arc, then we got a miscarriage and it went kind of stupid after that.

    Within, what 4 months, of that miscarriage Buckley takes all of the humour of that storyline and shits it out with the stupidest amount of drama ever, I was wondering when he was going to say he would stop because the story was so hopeless. Now he's got a 2nd robot and she's taking Zeke out of the comic for who knows how long, thanks Buckley, taking one of the most interesting characters out of your now subpar webcomic >:(

  121. Well now that I know what it's supposed to mean I can see how it's supposed to be funny. That counts for something, I guess.

  122. Okay, quick reading into the new comic...

    Observational, it seems. Something about nostalgia, or being old, I guess, but at one in the morning it's hard to get the real deal... I'll check again later in the morning. (The more I read, the less I get...)

    But I'm especially bit annoyed that this one looks lazy as heck, Randall didn't even bother trying to make a background.

    See ya later on the next review. Mole out.


  124. Man I got out reading CAD before he even got to the miscarriage. Right around the time the "super intelligence" with black hair managed to disprove God's existence with a single sentence, I decided that Buckley's comic probably wasn't for me anymore. Which was a bit of a shame, Chef Brian was often entertaining.

    Man today's comic, bah. Surely this comic is more of a tweet, "8 year olds weren't even born when 9/11 happened. Spooooky. LOL". I observe this frequently, particularly when leading on a primary school computer camp, and some of the campers were younger than Starcraft, which we were playing. I frequently get weirded out by this sort of thing.

    In spite of all this, the comic is lame. Yes time passes, we remember events that don't seem like they happened before these young whippersnappers were born. But that's not funny. And the presentation is just so fake, no way an 8 year old says that. 8 year olds don't understand why that sort of thing would freak out a 24 year old. And RM's art is not good enough to make the guys trembling with a fear the punchline.

    I didn't mind the gray background, added an air of fear and mystery, but then the comic didn't live up to the set up provided by the title and background-color: #dddddd;

  125. If I was Uncle Bob I would've smacked the kid for his disrespect. Also, how are you supposed to be spooked by that? I think an 8 year old with the cognitive abilities to speak like a 12 year old is a tad spooky, but the rest is kinda dumb and not really funny.

    Also, Randal your alt-text just makes you look like an even bigger douchebag.

  126. Wouldn't intelligent children be a sign of hope years after 9/11? Did the latest xkcd take place in Children of Men? Good gravy, what a cop-out of a comic. Can we love the 80s, too? :(

  127. Randall has already touched upon this topic a few times before. But he really jumped the gun on this one, this conversation doesn't make sense for another 4 years or so.

  128. This comic was pretty lame. Haha, time passes! People keep on being born! Whotta twist!

  129. 'Man I got out reading CAD before he even got to the miscarriage. Right around the time the "super intelligence" with black hair managed to disprove God's existence with a single sentence, I decided that Buckley's comic probably wasn't for me anymore. Which was a bit of a shame, Chef Brian was often entertaining.'


  130. @Jay,

    You're right. What on Earth was I thinking? I didn't even realise I did so many mind altering drugs back then. Maybe it was because he lives in a tomato and has an apple as a friend.

    I hope I could look back on the archives and think it was once funny, or maybe nostalgia has blinded me yet again.

  131. Chef Brian always made me want to smash my face into a solid object repeatedly until I could no longer function.

    Chef Brian, to me, was a rip off of some of the "shorts" in JTHM, which was retarded in and of itself. Maybe I am too dumb to understand the humor in random words like "I HAVE A HAT? FUCK YOU!". Random violence and cursing just isn't funny anymore, maybe when I was 12 it was, but now it takes a little bit more than saying "fuck" a couple of times to get me to giggle.

    -Anonymous Bastard

  132. This one was actually very good, and funny. Refreshing. I came on here to see if it was welcomed and am disappointed to see it wasn't even understood.

  133. It doesn't matter if it wasn't initially understood. It still fails after proper analysis.

    Captcha: inapt. Randall is very inapt at comic-making.

  134. I find it amazing that there isn't a single post here letting the audience know that there is a sizable population of (admittedly probably older) working engineers, physicists, etc. who have real difficulty using a calculator _unless_ it is RPN because they are so used to the operand order (that really is superior once you are used to it). I have thrown regular calculators across the room out of frustration. Before no longer using my trusty HP calculator, I had to wait for a Palm emulation for it. I waited to get an iPhone until there was a decent RPN HP calculator app for it. Yes, full-blown nerd, but one that burst out laughing at the cleverness of this particular cartoon.

  135. man, get out of here old man. we don't serve your kind.