The Turtle Project

My father likes to say that the key to successful humor is “repetition, repetition, repetition.”   He believes that jokes get funnier the more you hear them, and that repeated punch lines breed familiarity which breeds laughter. And as much as it pains me to admit it, my father is right. In this case.  It’s why Who’s On First is still side-splittingly hilarious even after my first grade teacher made us diagram the field, it’s why Talladega Nights quotes will never fail to make my mother dissolve in to laughter, and  it’s why watching Monty Python’s Holy Grail is about 300% better with friends who shout out all the lines.

So, when I make a joke I like to commit. It’s one thing to have a funny one-liner.  It’s another thing to build a joke, through layers and repetition and possibly through the continual annoyance of your computer science professor.

Which brings us to turtles. 

I’m taking a computer science class this semester. It’s two lecture periods a week, plus a Friday lab session where we learn about creating websites and Excel tricks and PowerPoint and whatever else the professor can think to throw at us. I’m not going to lie- I’m pretty good at it. I know my way around a computer, and it shows.

So the first Friday of the semester we all file in to the upstairs computer lab. My class is only seven people, so my professor had us all sit in the front row where she could keep an eye on the work we were doing. Our first assignment was to make a very basic webpage with our name, a picture, and a link to any website of our choosing.

I decided to link to the Google image results for “turtles wearing hats.”   As everyone knows, turtles in hats are humorous and delightful; it simply made me happy. It didn’t make my teacher happy though. She was extremely unenthused.
How can you see this and not smile?

I found her lack of enthusiasm disheartening. But not disheartening enough to, ya know… stop.
So I committed.  Instead of admitting that my teacher found my weird turtle joke not funny (or perhaps because my teacher found my weird turtle joke not funny), I decided I was going to turn all of my assignments in to things about turtles.

I made PowerPoints about turtles and outlines about why turtles are great, and presented research comparing the cost of turtle habitats at various pet stores. I committed, and I committed hard. My professor continued to find it all profoundly unfunny. I continued to find it all hysterical.

When it came time for our big lab assignment -- a series of connected webpages, containing a PowerPoint, pictures, and lots of links -- I knew immediately what my topic would be. Our teacher made us turn in an outline, and I got mine back with the comment “Jordan, this is very strange but not something I can technically take points off for.”  Which is really all I can ask for, I suppose.

So I made my project about turtles. It was rudimentary and it was delightful. I worked very hard and I was very proud. My teacher was not amused. But I was. And that is what’s important.   (That, by the way, is another my father’s true but annoying lessons: the most important thing is to amuse yourself.  Others can never be fully trusted to do so.)

So I stuck with turtles, cracked myself up, and annoyed my teacher.  But not to point of it affecting my grade. I like a good joke as much as anyone, but no matter how much I love turtles they aren’t worth failing computer science for. 

UPDATE 3/10/16

I realized that when I posted this, I didn't include the screenshot of the email that spurred this whole thing. It is the best email I have ever received and ever will receive. Enjoy.

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