Wambooli Dispatch









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November 2016

October 2016

What the Heck is a Wambooli?

Wambooli is a personal word that has a rich, long history. Basically, I made it up. Here are some personal references for when it was used:

Also some references from the real world:


The College Paper that Started it All

In 1982, in my second Senior year at UCSD, I realized that what I needed to know and what they were teaching me were often two different things. I also picked up on the fact that if I didn't drop all the courses I was enjoying and started taking those that were required, I'd never leave.

In a desperate move to actually graduate, I had to take some "beginner" courses in my field. One of them was a "communications" course taught by a radical feminist with both feet firmly planted in the air. The class was a colossal waste of time and, realizing that I needed only a "C" to graduate, I gave it all the attention it deserved. Basically, I decided I would have an attitude about the class.

The final paper was supposedly a discourse between the various authors we had read. They were supposed to discuss, in full boring academic writing style, how the course impacted our feelings on several wildly stupid topics. I took liberty with this notion and decided to have the authors instead debate the merits of the class.

The debate (which, keep in mind, was my final exam) opens with the only author I liked telling all the other authors to shut-up. He then proceeds to skewer the class, explaining how it is entirely irrelevant and one-sided. This was all backed up with examples and whatnot. After all, you should never tell anyone you hate something unless you have some decent reasons why.

One of my fictitious examples involved an ancient tribe called the Wambooli. These were people who made clay pottery specifically to break it so that anthropologists could find it years later. I made up all sorts of cultural B.S. about the Wambooli and fit them in quite nicely with the class, using the author as my expert. I had no fear about making the whole thing up. I even enjoyed it. (Alas, I don't have a copy of it, or I'd type it in here.)

I proudly turned the thing in.

I got an A- on it. She would have given me an A+, but the final was critical of the class, so she didn't think that would be fair. (Of course, A-, A or A+ means 4 points on the GPA anyway you look at it.) I was floored. She even said I should have brought up some of my ideas in class. (Of course, she forgot that I did and she shot me down each time. Whatever.)

Anyway, the Wambooli were born. I have no idea where the inspiration came from. The word did stick in my mind and I would often use it later in times of technical frustration. The following examples I found on my hard drive in various places. If I had time to sift through my printed papers, I might find even more, but this is a good sampling in any event.


From my unpublished parody of the Oedipus Trilogy

Thesis slipped the knife into the goat's underbelly and made a long horizontal incision. With her hands she parted its stomach making a noise like a thick carpet being torn in two. The many servants and attendants turned their eyes from the grisly ritual. The tiny Nubian woman uttered a blessing in Wambooli and resumed fanning the flies.

[later . . .]

"Polybust! Polybutts!" Dermatitis called out, spewing food out over the table as he did. A small piece of chicken landed on the Wambooli Ambassador sitting across the table. Fortunately, and for some unknown reason, spitting chicken on a fellow human being was considered an honor by the Wambooli.


From the Lighter Side of Computing

Here is a humorous piece I wrote in 1987 about the creeping disease of Peripheralitis, the pang to always buy more goodies for your PC:

Every computer, no matter how sophisticated, no matter how "geared for the businessperson" it is, will always have the capability for the user to plug in a joystick for playing games. It's a staple. Even the monstrous Cray Supercomputer has a joystick port. They'd never sell them without one.

So you buy a joystick. A simple urge. Nothing hereditary here. No hint of the impending danger that peripheralitis is. In fact, some of the stronger-willed computer users will recognize peripheralitis for what it is and just stop cold turkey right here. But for others, it's just the first good intention on that well-paved road to H-E-double-toothpicks.

After you buy your joystick, you may realize how few Ks of RAM your computer has. Or, you might have foolishly opted for the dull, monochrome monitor at the time of purchase -- just to save a few measly bucks over the Wambooli Deluxe Color Monitor. So you buy some more goodies for the computer.


How to Understand and Buy Computers

Wambooli has appeared in many of my books. Here is an excerpt from How to Understand and Buy Computers, a book originally written in 1986. The following text is from the 3rd edition; I don't know in which edition the word Wambooli first appeared:

Q: What about mail order computers?
A: There's nothing wrong with them . . . except you're cutting off your service and support. You can only get so much help over the phone (if they even offer it). And service means shipping the computer back to Outer Wambooli (wherever that is). For a first-time buyer, a mail order computer is a bad choice. But once you know what you're doing, it can be an inexpensive alternative to shopping in the stores.

Remember: That was written in 1989 -- or earlier. I now have no problems recommending mail-order computers. In fact, the publisher of ComputorEdge magazine (who also published the book) was specific that he wanted mail-order computers toned down since all of his advertisers were local.

In Chapter 12 of my book on Lotus's Magellan software appears the following:

The "or" mode is good for looking up files where either word is important. For example, suppose your company, "BLECH CO.", asked you to write a speech on its efforts to clean pollution from the Wambooli river. You could enter a search string as follows:

All files con "blech" or "pollution" or "wambooli"

This is from Chapter 17 of the Magellan book (almost the definitive Wambooli text):

This chapter covers the works of sociologist Tina Berke concerning her experiences with the Marxist Wambooli tribe of Africa. She discusses their need for creating antifascist pottery. Also mentioned was her introduction of espresso to the tribe's culture, which increased their mock behavior of pseudo American college student intellectuals who dine on tofu and sing anti-capitalistic songs.

To design this course, you need to assign reading material. Your first week will cover the Wamboolis, so your job is to create a syllabus.

[boring tutorial removed....]

Using the same information, you might also be able to draw certain conclusions for the course. For example, you could see if there is a pattern between the introduction of Espresso to the Wambooli culture and their dislike of the breakfast drink Tang. As an explore group enter:

C:\WP50\WORK\COURSE\*\*.* con "wambooli espresso"

Use the Gather command to select those files at the top of the List window (those with the highest percentage of good matches) and paste them to a file on disk. Then do another search:

C:\WP50\WORK\COURSE\*\*.* con "wambooli espresso" and "Tang"

Here is some text from Chapter 16 of my book on the Macintosh SuperCard program:

Resources originated from the concept of the Macintosh as an "every language" computer. Rather than put any English text into a program, or "hard code it" as the programmers say, anything with English was put into a special part of a file called a resource. This meant the English text you read in a dialog box, pull down menu, window, or anywhere else was put into the resource fork of a program. Only the programming code remained in the data fork. That way, just about anyone could go into the resource fork, translate the text from English into Wambooli (or whatever their native tongue is), and have a program that runs in Wambooli.


A funny column on Computer Art

Wambooli was mentioned again in a column I wrote on computer art.

From Chapter 2 of DOS for Dummies, explaining the various versions of DOS:

What this book calls "DOS" is really a computer program created by Microsoft. Their version is called MS-DOS, for the Microsoft Disk Operating System. The one they make and sell to IBM is called PC-DOS, for the Personal Computer Disk Operating System. They sell other versions as well. Various computer hardware manufacturers label DOS using their own names: Compaq DOS, Tandy DOS, Wambooli DOS, etc. It's all DOS.

The Concise PC Laptop Book Handbook Whatever They Called It

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of my laptop book from TAB, in the section on taking your laptop on the road:

Here is a suggested list of things you might want to toss into your laptop carrying case. Be frugal; If you're just going to the local Café du Wambooli you may want to travel light.


Here is a question from Chapter 4, Lesson 8 of C for Dummies:

4. Which of the following cryptic statements multiplies the value of the variable wambooli by 34?

A. wambooli*34=;
B. wambooli**34;
C. wambooli=*34;
D. wambooli*=34;

Dan Gookin's Web Wambooli

Back in 1997, Ted Nace of Peachpit press asked me to do a beginner's book about the Internet. Titling the book proved to be a problem, so we went back and forth with titles like Web Salad and Web Confetti. I shot back a handful of titles and, natch, stuck the word Wambooli in there.

It stuck. The book was named Dan Gookin's Web Wambooli and from that this website was named Wambooli as well.

Dan Gookin's Web Wambooli

Originally the web site was designed to support the book. But since Peachpit never bothered to fulfill any reorders for the book, Web Wambooli died an early death. It can still be found in most city libraries and those who have read it really enjoyed it. It even got a kind mention from Jerry Pournell in the old BYTE magazine!

Foreign Languages

I have done some research into other languages regarding any use of the word Wambooli or anything sounding similar. Quite a few dictionaries exist on the Web, and of those I've searched, none contain the word Wambooli. If you want to check them out, refer to the Ethnologue Languages of the World database.

Foreign Names

Apparently (and this is as of 2002), there is a common African name Wambooli, but it's spelled Wambuli.

Another odd and scary coincidence is that one of the assassins of Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, was named Khalid al Islambuli. This was in 1982, which coincidentally was the same time I first made up the word Wambooli. So there may be a connection between "iz-lam-boo-lee" and "wam-boo-lee."

I hope this clears up the entire Wambooli issue for you.