What if you could teach a computer to have a sense of humor?
The Irish Computer
Margaret O'Henry worked diligently in the computer laboratory. She tested theory after theory. Every program designed to teach the computer to learn, but all of them a failure. The computer viewed each problem as if it hadn't seen the hundreds before that were all the same. Teaching a computer to reason seemed an impossibility.
Margaret O'Henry sat in her chair, lay her head down on her arms, and began to cry.It was ten o'clock at night, and the cleaning crew had already been on the upper floors, but Margaret O'Henry didn't pay any attention to the vacuum growling along the carpet.Her tears grew more copious, and her sobs wailed like a banshee who can't find the body she's been sent to claim.
Shaun O'Cleary entered the room, pushing a large-wheeled garbage can. When he heard the wails, his first thought was that the banshee must be after him, but then he saw it was one of those scientists, white-frocked and glassy-eyed with visions of the future.
"Ah, Lassie," said Shaun O'Cleary. "Do not be a crying. A bonny young lass like you should be dancing, not reddening your eyes."
Margaret O'Henry raised up her head. Her eyes were a fine mess with streaks of black mascara running down her cheeks. She lifted a hand and wiped at the tears that waltzed down her cheek.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm so tired, and nothing I try works." She stood up and began to collect her things, but her words poured out with her tears."I feel like I'm wasting my time."
"Ah, now don't be taking it so hard. Morning brings wisdom more often than night."
The wrong thing to say. Margaret O'Henry wept louder than before and cried out, "In the morning I have to prove my research achieved results, but I've discovered nothing!"
"There, Lass, there." said Shaun O'Cleary patting her on the shoulder. "Nothing can be as dreadful as all that." His eyes grew gray as the sky before the rise of the morning sun. Small streaks of blue flashed as though carrying his thoughts,. His brow grew stern. "I can't be a helping you, lessen you tell me the problem, Lass."
Again the banshee wailed, but Shaun O'Cleary didn't shiver. His eyes studied the scientist's small perky nose, and the way her bangs stroked her forehead.
"You can't help me. Nobody can," she sobbed.
Shaun O'Cleary pulled off his heavy rubber gloves. The last one snapped like a gun shot, pulling up Margaret O'Henry's reddened eyes. For the first time she looked into the face of Shaun O'Cleary.
She sat up straighter then, as a fleeting moment of admiration informed her that Shaun O'Cleary was a fine specimen of a man. With her flowered hanky wiping at her eyes, Margaret O'Henry began to explain about computers, and just why they couldn't learn. "A computer makes no correlations," she explained to Shaun O'Cleary. "It has no reasoning skills, and I've been attempting to teach it to learn to correlate, so in essence, it will learn to think."
"I see," said Shaun O'Cleary. He stepped in closer, and extended his hand for the hanky. Then he wiped her face free of blackened streaks. Finished, he sat down on the corner of her desk.
Margaret O'Henry tried not to notice the thickness of the muscles in his thighs, but a moment later when his eyes lit up and the gray receded, leaving the robin's egg blue of his eyes more pronounced, her heart began to beat more quickly.
"Perhaps you're going about it all wrong," said Shaun O'Cleary with a smile that flashed teeth so white they dazzled her. "Perhaps the computer needs to learn a sense of humor first. The humbleness of humor allows a body to learn a bit better. Why not a computer?"
Margaret O'Henry, for a moment, wondered where his Irish brogue had gone, but his eyes, the color of cobalt blue, watched her. She gasped, suddenly breathless, "A sense of humor? A computer doesn't even understand a joke."
Shaun O'Cleary reached out a hand and stroked her long black hair. It had fallen down from where she'd clipped it. "Well," he said. "I think it's a fine place to start. I have in my pocket a book of limericks. By the time morning comes I guarantee that computer, if it has any Irish programming, will be chuckling away."
Margaret O'Henry shrugged her shoulders, but she scanned the pages from the book into the computer, and then Shaun O'Cleary walked her out to her car, stealing a kiss before closing the door of her small black Toyota.
Shaun O'Cleary returned to the lab to finish his cleaning. He'd just turned off the light when he heard a gravely growl of a groan. At once he switched the light back on, but everything was silent. Shaun O'Cleary rolled the trash on down the hall, whistling "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."
The next morning Margaret O'Henry was ashamed to enter the lab. She couldn't believe how ridiculous she'd acted the night before. Not only cried, but she'd asked advice of a cleaner for heaven's sake, and then kissed him!
She tossed her head, raised her perky nose, threw back her shiny black ponytail, and marched into the lab. No sooner did the light flicker on than she heard the computer make the oddest noises. It groaned and growled like a wounded polar bear.
Just as Margaret O'Henry walked over to the machine, it began to print. She reached over, picked up the paper, and read:
There once was an IBM
Whose lights were a little bit dim
They fed him a rhyme
He had a good time
But now he's out on a limb.
Shaun O'Cleary came walking in as Margaret O'Henry read the limerick. At once her heart sped up, and she noticed how strikingly handsome he was with his longish brown-blonde hair falling into eyes -- eyes blue as a mountain lake.
"Look," she said sadly. "It didn't learn anything. It's just copying limericks from your book."
Shaun O'Cleary read the limerick over her shoulder. At her words he began to laugh. "Lass, that book I lent you, be you noticing the date of publication?"
Margaret O'Henry opened the limerick book and turned to the front. "1905?" she gasped. "I don't understand it. No IBM's in 1905!"
Shaun O'Cleary smiled. "If your computer composed a limerick, Lass, it's my guess it's learning."
Margaret O'Henry was glad the printer started to type at that moment. She could barely stand not to throw her arms around Shaun O'Cleary, and feel his warm lips making music on her heart.
She reached over and picked up the new sheet. Together they read the words of the computer:
There once was a metal computer
Who had almost no sense of humor
They gave him some limericks
But they left him no chicks
It's a good thing that he is a neuter!
"Oh my!" said Margaret O'Henry, blushing an enchanting rosy, red.
Shaun O'Cleary laughed. "Now that's the spirit! And it certainly has developed a sense of humor!"
Margaret O'Henry didn't answer. She was too busy kissing the wide, warm lips of Shaun O'Cleary.