Luna, the big dog, came into our lives in the spring of 2021. I’m not a dog person, but Holly Ann’s son picked Luna (an Alaskan Malamute) so I became a dog grandpa. I don’t know much about training dogs, but Holly Ann and Joseph stepped up. Luna seems to be a pretty smart dog, and I think she knows quite a few dog tricks like shaking hands and lying down and such.

I, on the other hand, only know “sit,” “stay,” and “okay.”

Yes, I’m limited. Yet it’s remarkable how well those three commands work. I can get her to stay still while I leash her, or to leave people alone when they come into the house. I can get her to stay out of the way when I’m working on something. I can (sometimes) stop her from getting into trouble when we’re out in the wilds. “Okay!” is the best command, she says, because it means she can go back to doing the Very Important Dog Things that I, in my selfish ignorance, interrupted with Sit and Stay.

Richness in commands is a good thing, because it lets people pick a simple, effective subset of commands that work for them and not be forced into doing things in a certain way, or learning a complex lexicon just to complete the occasional simple task. I’m a certifiable Unix graybeard, having ported BSD Unix (System III) to a new hardware platform in 1982. I was using vi as an editor then. Forty-two years later, I’m using vim, mostly with the same subset of commands I learned in the prior century. I doubt there are many people who regularly use more than a tiny subset of the commands available in vim… or git or their phone or their car. All but the most dedicated of tax preparers likely know only a tiny subset of the tax code. Cooks only know a fraction of the ingredients available to them and the ways they can be combined. Doctors only know a subset of the pharmacopoeia or surgical procedures. And I only know three of the many words that Luna can understand.

—2p

← previous