Why is a Manhole Cover Round? Because Microsoft!

I’ve had some friends lately go through the interview process (and some who will be soon). What I always try to impress upon people (and myself when I have to do it) is that the interviewer is bumbling around about as much, if not more than you are. I think the interview at my current job was pretty good, but then I remember this gem:

“Why is a manhole cover round?”

At the time I didn’t know that this was an open-ended question. I thought it was a riddle or a logic puzzle. I’m surprisingly good at these. I say surprisingly, but maybe it isn’t all that surprising when I answered:

“Because the hole is round.”


“Well, is that right?”

“Uh. There wasn’t supposed to be a right answer. It was just an open-ended question.”

“What else would someone even say?”

At the time I thought it was a dumb question, but another way to look at it is that they found out a lot by the way I answered. I work in a job that requires logical reasoning and troubleshooting all day long every day. We quest for the best and most logical answers. I thought I did well.

Still, I don’t know what other people answer this question with, so I thought I’d Google it (about two years after I was asked). Apparently the real reason manhole covers are round is because Microsoft started asking why in their interviews.

I was not the only one who gave the practical, boring answer, but some other answers:

“A round manhole cover cannot fall through its circular opening, whereas a square manhole cover may fall in if it were inserted diagonally in the hole. (A Reuleaux triangle or other curve of constant width would also serve this purpose, but round covers are much easier to manufacture. The existence of a “lip” holding up the lid means that the underlying hole is smaller than the cover, so that other shapes might suffice.)”

Okay, you got me. I’m not an engineer.

“Round tubes are the strongest and most material-efficient shape against the compression of the earth around them, and so it is natural that the cover of a round tube assume a circular shape.”

I’m still not an engineer. This would explain why the internet is so strong, it also being constructed from a series of tubes.

“It’s easier to dig a circular hole and thus the cover is also circular.”

That’s a good point. I spent a lot of my youth in Cape Cod digging holes at the beach and I can’t say any of them were squares or triangles.

“The bearing surfaces of manhole frames and covers are machined to assure flatness and prevent them from becoming dislodged by traffic. Round castings are much easier to machine using a lathe.”

Yet again, these are things I didn’t realize. For all you machinists, score one for you.

“Human beings have a roughly circular cross-section.”

Here are the dumb answers I was looking for! Phew, all of these alternate answers were making me feel inadequate! This one I can totally feel superior to: “We’re kinda (but not really) circle, so they are too!”


…and I burst out into song, from Fiddler on the Roof. TRADITION! TRA-DI-TION! TRA-DI-TIOOOOON! To me, this answer is like saying: “Because that’s how God made it.” or just, “Because.” Even traditions have origins, people. I call FAIL on this answer.

Important to note, upon some investigation, not all manhole covers are actually round. Yes. The question itself makes an incorrect assumption. While round is most common, they also come in square and triangle. I think this easily ties into the message I was trying to send here. People who are interviewing currently, and will be soon as you graduate, don’t be too nervous as you interview. Know that the questions you will be asked and the people that ask them are flawed. They make incorrect assumptions, they steal things from Microsoft, and most have no right answer.

Just do the best to show your best, and you’ll do fine.

So, what do you answer if you get asked why is a manhole cover round?

Because Microsoft started asking people why.

The Game

My biggest issue with my new love interest is that he insists on ‘just dating’ (rather than being in a relationship) even though we’re now going on three months.

I don’t take issue with much. I don’t sweat the small stuff. Snoring? I can deal with that. I wear earplugs.

I’m not the kind of woman that still believes that someday soon before I die some guy will come into my life that is perfect in every way including no snoring. Having flaws is part of being human. If it even were possibly to be that perfect, too perfect is ultimately unattractive since you can’t connect with someone you can’t relate to. How could you relate to an perfect person when you have your own baggage and regiment you follow for self-improvement?

So now that I’m entirely off topic, it’s not just that which makes me uncomfortable, hesitant, and slightly distant. The whole only seeing each other even though we spend a lot of time with each other and have become close is part of it. The other part is part of the why he insists on this.

Part of what makes up his self-improvement regiment is that he wants to learn to be good with women, and he’s got it in his head that he has to learn about women by dating a lot of women.

I didn’t know about this when we first started seeing each other, but he is part, or is learning to be a part of, a secret society of pickup artists. Really. I’m serious. Stop laughing. He goes to these meeting things every Tuesday night that I can only guess is where a bunch of guys sit in a circle and talk about how to figure out and get into womens’ panties and build their own self confidence to do so.

Life is so weird, I couldn’t make this stuff up.

He belongs to an online forum for them, they call them lairs (seriously, stop laughing). He has a bunch of books in his house on the subject of picking up women complete with workbooks and cheesiness. I raised my eyebrows at this the first time I was over his house and laughed:

“AD&D Players Handbook Third Edition… Oracle SQL Interactive Workbook… Visual Basic .Net Programmer’s Reference… The Art of Japanese Swordsmanship… Business Plans for Dummies… A Complete Hacker’s Handbook… Palmistry… How to Attract Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace…?”

…and there were worse sounding titles than that.

Until then, minus all of my art books, and a different flavor of programming books, the library reads similar to mine. I expect the nightstand to have porn, but all of the sex self help wasn’t as expected. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about self help. I’ve read interpretations of the Kama Sutra. I approve of that.

I picked up some and read chapters of some of the books he has, but I’ve been avoiding anything too sketchy looking. Anything with the implications that it’s one of those pick up artist (PUA) guides makes me a little leery.

It’s maybe like getting to know someone and getting real close and then finding out they belong to a cult. I’m trying not to judge, but anything that calls itself a secret society registers as cultish anyways. Anything that is dedicated to getting women in bed makes my feminist sensibilities hurt. The fact that I’ve gotten this close to someone who belongs to any kind of secret society makes me nervous. The fact I’ve gotten this close to someone who I guess is some kind of player in training is just… I don’t even know.

Like I’ve said, I’ve been meeting some of the friends. One of them I’ve been over his house a few times on my own to hang out, make cookies, and watch X-men. It occurred to me before I met him that it could be a fellow PUA. As I was meeting him, it didn’t take me long, I was sure. I didn’t see the tell-tale books about his house, but I did spy a magazine on his coffee table that told all. When I picked on him for it, he told me he read it for the cool gadgets they show every issue. I’m sure he also get’s porn for the articles too, right? I told him to stop acting ashamed about it- if you’re going to be something be it. I may not understand the scene at all, know much about it, or even approve once I get to know more, but if you’re choosing to be something, you better be okay enough with it to be able to say, “Yeah, so, and? Fuck you if you don’t approve.”

He asked me how much the boy had told me about PUA. I told him truthfully that I’ve been told nothing directly, but I did find his blog which talks a about it complete with thick jargon without a glossary.

What I didn’t go on about was that I’m smart, though. I read books. I surf the internet. I’ve read between the lines on things he’s talked about with self-improvement and groups things that have helped him. I even read between the lines when he tries something out on me. I know that some things are his own creation, and some things are from things he’s learned that he wants to try out (and some things a combination of the two).

Really, though, I don’t know enough about PUA and the more secretive people act, the closer I get to the boy, the more I want to know.

This friend of the boy’s was asking how much I was told as if he would then turn around and give the boy a talking to. It seemed like he disapproved that the boy leaves stuff around. Maybe he was just disgusted at the lack of style, or maybe he was worried he would reveal their secrets or something.

And yet, he was the one who gave me the idea where to start researching.

A book has come up a bunch, and the friend has it listed as his favorite book. I’m not going to read every book, system, and watch every DVD and video clip at the boy’s house. I’d rather read and study the SQL books, but I probably won’t do that either. Still, I want a better understanding of the thing that makes me uncomfortable about a person I am getting closer to as time goes on. He won’t talk about it, so this book seems like a good place to start.

Don’t get me wrong. Dating and meeting his friends and having him meet my friends and taking trips, it’s taking up a lot of my time. I don’t want to spend all of my time researching this and trying to understand him. I still need to focus on me and my goals. I know my blog has been hijacked by him in this indirect fashion lately, but it’s an outlet to keep it him from distracting me the rest of the time. If it doesn’t go into words on here or on paper, it stays in my head playing a bad game of Breakout. Boing, boing. Get the picture?

The title of the book is The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. Okay, now you’re laughing again.

I just started reading it, and am doing so slowly and hesitantly. It’s like the time I tried reading the Bible (Old to New Testament). I didn’t get far. I did it with the idea that doing so would give me a better understanding and respect for people who chose to follow it. At some point while reading, it started to do the opposite. Then I realized most people who call themselves religious or followers of the Bible have read snippets at best, so reading it wasn’t going to help me understand them anyways.

I hope this doesn’t do the same, but if it does, then I at least will be able to have a rational issues with it. Right now it’s more that I’m wary of it because I don’t get it, and I shouldn’t be afraid of it for those reasons. I don’t understand why when things are going so well between us, when he has no time for much else, when he has other more important seeming goals that he feels like he needs to spend time seeing other women or study being a PUA. Who knows if he actually does even see other women. If he does I don’t know when he has time to. It’s not something I want to ask about because it’s not something I think I’d really want to know the specifics of.

Maybe it has something to do with building self confidence and stroking ego. Maybe it has to do with exploring masculinity and breaking away from societies conventions and definitions of what being man means, though one could argue PUA is just following yet another ‘supposed to’ for men. Right now, though, I don’t have much of a basis for my ideas, so I begin to read.

My first impression of the book left me both impressed and disgusted:

If you are reading this, I want you to know I wasn’t running game on you. I was being sincere. Really. You were different.

I laughed and threw up a little in my mouth.

But then he quotes The Feminine Mystique:

Men weren’t really the enemy- They were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.

Food for thought, yes, I do believe sexism is not just an issue that women face. Men have their own stereotypes and issues to overcome that I will never fully know or understand having faced my own journey being a woman. I’m not sure what this has to do with the game exactly, yet, but the use of the quote does intrigue me. Is it a rationalization for behavior, or a statement that the Game is learning to breaking from it?

You might be wondering why I don’t discuss this with the boy, as communication is the way as I’ve said over and over on the blog. The answer is that it’s a secret society. I can’t even get him to say what really goes on Tuesday nights. The only reason I know he meets with a group was vague answers, and then once I’d assumed he was doing worse things, he clarified.

I have tried to push this with direct questions as well as jibes and joking and so far I haven’t been able to draw him into conversation on the subject, so I will continue my outside research.

Maybe you think I should leave this alone, but I’m not one for ignorance. If I’m going to be with someone who plays this game, I want to know what it is.

Being Involved

(from May 7th)

Even though I’m technically not in an actual really real relationship with this guy, I’m still seeing him multiple times a week and being extremely involved in his life, and his mine. I’m starting to feel like it looks like a relationship, smells like a relationship, feels like a relationship, and even quacks like a relationship except it’s technically not officially a relationship.

Oh, the blurring of boundaries when we become involved- and decided to stop just before the point of deciding precisely what this is… Welcome to the gray areas, the neutral zone, and other uncharted waters…

Is is like when I tell customers that something isn’t supported, but it will work? Well, then who cares? It’s a label that doesn’t effect anything. It’s untested, but it works. Okay.

Is it more like when you’re told, “Oh, yeah, the cheap one works just as well,” which sometimes it doesn’t? Often times you end up losing and paying for it twice because it didn’t work.

Is this actually like Santa Clause, when you believe something even though deep down you know it’s not true. If you want it enough maybe it will make it true, but one day you realize you need to grow up and quit fooling yourself?

Is this just a bad time for a half-baked comparison?

So today we were supposed to have an “us” night and he decided he needed a “him” night to explore the question of self improvement. Specifically he wanted time to explore his inability to commit to things, him being a hermit and withdrawing rather than dealing, having a hard time figuring out what it is he really actually wants exactly, and being a sheep to his parents, society, and other forces trying to control him. So, am I the only one that thinks exploring one’s withdrawal from people is best done by canceling plans with people is incredibly funny and sad? Explore lack of commitment by breaking commitment is classic. Then, let’s turn around and say “But I really do want to see you!” and while contemplating what you actually want. Well apparently it’s not seeing me, because if it is… well… can I get a fail? If I totally wasn’t the person involved in the joke, this would be hilarious.

His big success tonight I guess was not being a sheep to me… oh, wait, I’m not trying to control him. Remember my pathetically small push for girlfriend status a few posts back? My big hard line was asking him if he thought we’d be able to maybe one day see each other exclusively, him saying no, and me saying, “Well, that sucks but okay.” Way to represent!

Do I need a night of contemplating why I’m such a sheep to certain attractive men with commitment issues?

I regress as this is really not normal for thoughts concerning the boy. Last weekend was amazing and it would take me pages to detail the amount of life I got out of a couple days with him. That’s why I’m still being patient with this. He still makes me happy when we’re together. I need to be careful and watch for the day when he makes more more anxious and the happiness begins to fray. The final option at reasonable signs outweighs waiting for the inevitable to trickle like water torture.

Normally I wouldn’t have this kind of hard line opinion, but we’re not actually in a relationship after all.

The reason he stated for not wanting to be in an actual relationship, besides just not being into me enough (these signals are so mixed, Batman is responding to calls to the Ghost Busters), is that he felt like he had not improved himself enough to be in a relationship.

I’m all for self-improvement, but I think a huge point I’ve been making right along is that life is for living and you don’t improve anything by putting living on hold. Introspection is key, but withdrawing completely from life is useless, pointless, and fruitless. I’ve done enough of it to be somewhat of an expert, and yes, small jaunts down the lane of spending a day playing a silly, pointless video game or laying in bed reading a book are great. Contemplating your situation is healthy. If you do this day in and day out to the point where it interferes with what’s really important or actually doing things, that is a big problem.

If you find yourself with this problem, don’t combat it by staying home and thinking about it. It’s like treating a wound by picking at it rather than slapping on a band-aid and letting it heal while moving on and doing other things.

The positive thing for me here is that though I got a little upset and am ranting a little, I’m handling this little rejection with little worse than a frowning emoticon, this blog post, and pointing out the illogic to him.

I mean, I could be spending tonight along side him as if I was in a relationship with him, helping him deal with his demons. Instead I’m going to go home and take care of me.

A part of me certainly wants to be along side him, but keeping this distance is probably good for my sanity.

Entering the Neutral Zone! Go to yellow alert.

The bigger, looming question of how far and how long I let this go on in this nebulous gray area is still there, but I’m not going to sit at home and pick at it.

I check in with myself from time to time, but not enough to keep myself from making a move forward. I’m going to go on with living.

It’s a tarp.

Some people are very good at forgiveness and some people are very good at betrayal.

When two such people link together, arm in arm, it’s a terrible combination and very sad to watch.

Forgiveness, loyalty, love, and even hope can be a bad thing to have concerning the right people. It sets up a cycle of pain hard to break from.

The hindsight of escaping such an cycle can be just as worse. We figure we’re stronger and smarter now, but deep down we know we’d do it again. Really there are some things about us that don’t change so much. We all have an outer aura that is subject to change, but everyone also has a core of what makes them who they are.

I’m not sure what that core consists of is the same for people, but I do think that he bigger traits that I’m talking about usually reside in the core of a person. The further into the core the trait, the harder it is to change.

Words like ‘should’ don’t apply, only will. They shouldn’t lie, but they will. You should let them go, but you will hold on until they leave you defeated. You come back until loyalty has reached its limit, hope is hollow, and the entire experience leaves you empty.

Some people have a very strong will that accompanies things like loyalty and hope. Some people don’t ever know when to quit.

And when it’s all over, we ask why. The why of it doesn’t really matter, but still we ask it every time. You’re never going to be satisfied with the answer. With or without, these things are and continue to be this way.

The question isn’t why so much as it’s why not. Why not work out? Why not change for the better?

It’s so much easier as an outsider looking in. I say maybe you shouldn’t (again), watch with horrible fascination, and tell you to be careful even as the outcome is apparent.

Look out. It’s a tarp.