Reflection Preface


Who am I? And why did I write this book?

The book might be considered by many to be out in la-la-land. Which is a problem for me, since I don’t really think of myself as a la-la-land sort of person. In fact, just the opposite. I’m a computer programmer, but even more so, a programmer who specializes in not just programming, but logic programming, a form of programming for those who don’t find normal programming logical enough. I’ve written a number of popular books and articles on the subject and have had my own small company as a vendor of logic programming software tools for many years.

Yet my experiences in life have often defied logical explanations. For example, the story of how I became a programmer in the first place.

I was attending Brown University, which I got into, not so much due to my high school B average, but more by the perfect 800 I got in the advanced math SAT. That and being enrolled in a special high-school electronics program that was started right after Sputnik worried my country that we didn’t have enough technical education. Sputnik, in many senses, started my life’s professional journey.

(Being born of parents who were able and willing to make such an opportunity available was, of course, a huge factor.)

When in college, I discovered rock climbing. It totally captivated me, to the point that, in my senior year, I had attended so few classes that I flunked out.

It turns out that many of the rock climbers in the Northeast were from M.I.T., and had become good friends of mine. When they heard I’d flunked out, they asked me if I needed a job. I was pretty clueless about a number of things, and said, I guess so. They asked me if I knew how to program computers. This was 1967. I said I didn’t even know what a computer was. They said, no problem, we’ll teach you.

And thus I started my career, programming to support the backup navigation system of the Apollo project at the M.I.T. Instrumentation Lab.

If I hadn’t flunked out due to spending all my time rock climbing, I would not have made the connections that launched me on my life’s work.

There’s more to the story. I mentioned it was 1967, the height of the Viet Nam war. Flunking out, I lost my student deferment and became first in line for the military draft. Well, there are many who were aware of all the ways of avoiding the draft, but I was not one of them. As I mentioned, I was a bit clueless.

I had a girl friend at the time who also rock climbed. And somehow she got pregnant. Which, although an accident, was a happy thing for us and we got married. It turned out, I didn’t know this beforehand, that married fathers were exempt from draft.

So I put myself up as a role model for youth today — spend your time rock climbing, flunk out of school, have unprotected sex, and everything will work out fine. Well, maybe that’s not good advice, but it’s what happened to me and started me on a life long wonder about the so-called coincidences of life’s journey.

This book is the result of my logical mind pondering the very illogical events of mine and other’s lives.

Dennis Merritt

(For those worried about my advice, I did go back to school to get my degree after I found out those with degrees were making more money than I was. Nobody had quite explained it to me like that before.)