File APIs for Java Developers
Manipulate DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF and many others from your application.
http://aspose.com/file-tools
The moose likes Programming Diversions and the fly likes Where is November? Big Moose Saloon
  Search | Java FAQ | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies
Register / Login


Win a copy of Android Security Essentials Live Lessons this week in the Android forum!
JavaRanch » Java Forums » Other » Programming Diversions
Bookmark "Where is November?" Watch "Where is November?" New topic
Author

Where is November?

Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
This is a favorite interview question of mine (which I got from Fred Brook's Mythical Man Month. The question is simple:
Where is November?
Post your answers below. Think about your answer before reading other's (just to see how you would answer in a real interview), but then feel free to continue to discuss each others answers. I'll post mine in a few days.
--Mark
PS Want clarification on the question? Too bad. :-p If someone says to me, "I don't understand," I simply say, "Try to answer as best you can." Good luck.
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
Where is November?
Somewhere around 70.
Jim Yingst
Wanderer
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
What is this, some sort of sequel to Tom Clancy's first book?
OK, my real answer: right here. Is that acceptable? Adapt as necessary for a live interview; chances are there's a nearby bookcase or (*ahem*) wall hanging that will help you out. My answer may be flippant, and may well miss the intended point of the question. But it provides a good indication of how I approach a lot of things. (Including the flippancy, and sometimes missing the point, I suppose.)
[ June 01, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]

"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
Hm... If this question was asked in so-called "real life", the meaning could be understood from context. One situation I can think about is a boss looking through some data (month balances, for example) and asking "Where is November?". If the point of the queston is to come up with as many context where the question would make sense, here is another one: "November" can be somebody's name. Well, there was Friday, so why not November?
If instead the point is to stay as abstract as possible, then this question probably means translating time relationships into space relationships. I would answer "between October and December", or maybe "in front of us" or "behind us".
[ June 01, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]

Uncontrolled vocabularies
"I try my best to make *all* my posts nice, even when I feel upset" -- Philippe Maquet
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
But I must admit questions like this make me ! And there are reasons for it!
I already quoted this paragraph from Weinberg's Understanding the Professional Programmer, I'll quote it again:
"Programmers have rules because they love rules.
Programmers are terribly bothered when they must play a game without knowing all the rules. When they know there are rules, some of which are not stated, most programmers will work that much harder - trying to discover the hidden rules. But once they feel there are no rules, or that the rules can be arbitrarily changed, programmers tend to get hostile and quit the game".
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Hm... If this question was asked in so-called "real life", the meaning could be understood from context.

There is no context. The previous few questions in the interview were probably about garbage collection, or talking about previous jobs. It's just another (seemingly random) question during the interview.
--Mark
David Weitzman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 27, 2001
Posts: 1365
This question begs for an absurd answer, so here goes...
"Where?" implies spacial coordinates, of which we are given no details in the question. Clearly we are expected to rely on outside knowledge. Thus the only information we have to work with is November as a month in the solar calendar.
That's more of a "When?" question than a "Where?", though, unless we're talking about coordinates in space-time. However it doesn't really matter since we cannot locate November the month precisely in space-time either. What would we say? Its locatation is about once a year on the planet Earth.
"Once a year" is not a precise coordinate or range in space-time -- that is, it isn't an answer to the question "Where?". So what is it? November is simply a classification we give to sections of space-time based on a periodic interpretation of time which has been developed based on our experience with this planet. A section of space-time either has the November property or it doesn't. As an aside, the November property is closely related to the December and October properties of space-time.
So anyway, "November" is merely a classification system which is neither essentially nor existentially truthful. It is a contrived mental construction that doesn't actually exist at all. The question "Where is November?" is either a carefully chosen Zen koan that is meant to be unanswerable but still didactic, or it's simply evidence that the asker completely misinterprets the meaning of life.
[ June 01, 2003: Message edited by: David Weitzman ]
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
You could always give an answer and when the reviewer says he doesn't understand your answer, just tell him that's because he didn't really understand his own question in the first place.
I still like my answer though, it's poetic.
[ June 01, 2003: Message edited by: Jason Menard ]
Michael Morris
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 30, 2002
Posts: 3451
... meaning of life.
Or the Life of Bryan, if so, I would go with Jim's answer after demonstrating my command of the ancient Roman language by saying "Romanes Eunt Domus".


Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction. - Ernst F. Schumacher
John Lee
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 05, 2001
Posts: 2545
November is in the air, in the dictionary.
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
To deal with the problem in a systematic manner, let's employ "how to catch a lion in desert" method, and divide the solution space into pieces. First, we separate two cases
1) "November" should be understood literally - as a month name and noting more
2) "November" is used to refer to some other object, not a month.
The first case leaves us with only one more enigma, what "where" really means? Here we can perform the same division again. If "where" means what it normally means, location in some sort of space, then we proceed to investigate what kind of spaces we can come up with. (Or say that as a pure mental construct November is nowhere, or to say that it's everywhere if the actual month when the questions is asked is November and "nowhere" otherwise). If not... Well, I am lazy to perform further divisions, one stupid possibility, the asker is, in fact, Russian, and because of poor command of English asked "where" instead of "what"
The second case... Many possibilities for further binary divisions. One:
1) referred object has something to do with actual "meaning" of November (like accounting data for November, or maybe a calf born in November...)
2) it does not. A secret agent's pseudonym, or maybe a sum of positions of the letters that comprise "November" has some significance.
Etc...
Saket Barve
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 19, 2002
Posts: 229
I would relate November to where we are standing right now, and then go from there.
Thus, as of date, it could be said that November is five months away from where we are right now. It is that period of the year when I'd be working for <company_name> as <title> and giving the organization a lot of positive results.
John Dunn
slicker
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 30, 2003
Posts: 1108
If it really was an interview, my gut feeling would be that the interviewee was just 'tossing it out there' to see what I'd say. So I try to not freak out and come up with a quick answer. My guess is that they would NOT want an elaborate answer. Maybe they want to know if one can navigate through some marketing whiz-whaz. If not, it seems like it would be a stupid working relationship...


"No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does."
Jim Yingst
Wanderer
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
I'm with John on this one. I mean, in a real interview I'd have made some more attempts to get clarification, but once it's made clear (as Mark did) that further elaboration is not possible, well, keep it simple, and if they don't like my answer but won't offer useful feedback, well, I doubt I'd be happy there anyway. Or go with MM's answer - at that point, finding out if they have any sense of humor is probably more important to me than their silly interview question. No offense, Mark.
Eric Pascarello
author
Rancher

Joined: Nov 08, 2001
Posts: 15376
    
    6
November + Colder Weather = August Babies
Arjun Shastry
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2003
Posts: 1874
I would immediately write on a pad the word 'November' and say 'Here is November'. .
[ June 02, 2003: Message edited by: Capablanca Kepler ]

MH
SJ Adnams
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 28, 2001
Posts: 925
I would say November is at the end of Jason.
november is a month, so can be 'in' a year, however 'where' implies defining a position. take letters of the month JFMAMJJASOND.
Of course you could also say it is after october by that's not explicit enough to be classed as a 'where' (IMO).
yadda yadda yadda...
Younes Essouabni
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 13, 2002
Posts: 479
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
This is a favorite interview question of mine (which I got from Fred Brook's Mythical Man Month. The question is simple:
Where is November?

I would say November is coming in 5 months.
Just like when you say :"Where is Tom"
Tom is still at home, he is coming in an half hour.
It would be a time spatial representation of November


Younes
By constantly trying one ends up succeeding. Thus: the more one fails the more one has a chance to succeed.
Francis Siu
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 04, 2003
Posts: 867
Where is November?
Reply:
November is in my mind,in the past,in the future, of course, never stop and never end.
or
Reply:
What is the answer good enough for you?


Francis Siu
SCJP, MCDBA
Melvin Menezes
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 03, 2002
Posts: 156
Where is November?
Everywhere. Where would you like to have it?
David Hibbs
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 19, 2002
Posts: 374
Assuming it's an interview for a Java-related position, my answer would be one of the following...
"10."
"java.util.Calendar"
esp since in a verbal discussion, you don't discern a difference between NOVEMBER and november (unless of course they yell.)


"Write beautiful code; then profile that beautiful code and make little bits of it uglier but faster." --The JavaPerformanceTuning.com team, Newsletter 039.
Don Kiddick
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 12, 2002
Posts: 580
Where you left it ?!
The last place you look ?
Nowhere ?
Joel McNary
Bartender

Joined: Aug 20, 2001
Posts: 1817

November is right between Mike and Oscar. (International Radio code words: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.)


Piscis Babelis est parvus, flavus, et hiridicus, et est probabiliter insolitissima raritas in toto mundo.
Carlisia Campos
sanitation engineer
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 22, 2001
Posts: 135
First, I would say: How many answers do you want?


Carlisia Campos<br />--------------------------------<br />i blog here: carlisia.com
Anupam Sinha
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 13, 2003
Posts: 1088
November is after October. So probably the next question is where is October. Then of course the cycle goes on.
[ June 03, 2003: Message edited by: Anupam Sinha ]
David Mason
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 21, 2002
Posts: 56

When you start paying my salary.
Damian Ryan
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 09, 2003
Posts: 117
A little googling suggests it's a creek in Idaho.


Always proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
Amy Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 02, 2003
Posts: 280
I like Joels answer although i think I would have probably just said the usual between October and December one.
Greg Harris
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 12, 2001
Posts: 1012
there is obviously not a "correct" answer to this one. the point is to see how you react to such a question.
i like jason's answer, "70." i take that to mean 70 is the november of man's life.
another good answer (in my opinion) would be, "in five months..." as opposed to, "seven months ago..." the reason being, you are optimistic and look to the future, rather than dwell on the past.


what?
Michael Morris
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 30, 2002
Posts: 3451
Why? I didn't take it. Maybe you've just misplaced it.
Francis Siu
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 04, 2003
Posts: 867
Let me answer again
This recruit is crowded
Where is November?
Are you crazy ?
Just ask this type of question
But in my mind.
I do not know the correct answer.

[ June 03, 2003: Message edited by: siu chung man ]
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
This debate (particularly Greg's response ) sounds oddly like the dual of wits between the Sicilian and the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Question
The question posed was: Where is November? For the record, Brook's question is "Where is next November?" although personally I don't see a significant difference.
Motivation
Software often deals in the abstract. By its very nature, software is not tangible. It is created from thought and manipulated in the ether. Good programmers are good at abstract thinking.
Software also involves modeling. A model is simply a representation, often in a different medium. Industrial designers, for example, take a product's specifications and create foam models for the development team to play around with. By definition, a model is not the actual concept or item (or reality) itself, but a limited representation of it. A cell phone, for example, would never be made of foam, but by creating a model of it in foam, we can better work with it; e.g. we can design accessories for the not-yet-fully-developed phone based on the foam model and other specifications.
This question helps the interviewer understand how the candidate thinks. It demonstrates one or more of the following the following:
1) How the candidate interprets the words (e.g. literally, conceptually, physically) and/or models the concepts.
2) How the candidate deals with an inherent contradiction.

My answer
Note: There is no "right" answer. I offer this simply as another perspective. Granted, it's hard to separate my original answer from my thoughts over the years as to the interpretations of this question.
It's not a question with a single answer. We are basically trying to represent a temporal concept spatially. To do this we most construct a model, or possible two models with a transformation between them. The most obvious include a calendar and relativity. With the calendar we have a physical page representing November, located between the pages of October and December. With relativity, we have mappings from the time domain to the space domain, as given by the equations of relativity.
Interpretations
This question lends itself to many answers ranging from flippant to deeply technical. Most people make reference to it being between October and December. That answer doesn't always tell me much because so many people give it.
Some will find a calendar and point to it or flip to it. This tells me two things. First, they tend to be physical/concrete people. Second, in my cases they show some initiative, by either getting up out of the chair, or touching something on the interviewers desk. Both are abnormal actions for candidates who usually find themselves psychologically tied to their chairs.
Some people talk about the Java calendar representation, or general calendar object representations in software. This gives me an insight into how they think about (software) objects.
Some people get very technical. They might talk about the relationship of the earth to the Sun. In my case, I started talking about relativity (this is not very common, but I happened to be a physics major in college). These people tend to be hard core nerds and like knowing and discussing deep technical details and/or fundamental concepts.
The google answer I hadn't heard before, although it perhaps had to do with someone reading it while on a computer, as opposed to being asked in an oral conversation. That shows a proclivity towards seeking external information.w
As with most questions of this nature, it's not the answer itself that is valuable, but rather how you got it. A one sentence answer doesn't tell me as much as a detailed answer, or discussion about why they choose that answer. The key insight of the question is how the candidate chooses to model the problem to derive the solution. The trick, for an interviewer, is to make sure that in talking about the problem or the answer, s/he gains an understanding of the candidate's mental model.
--Mark
[ June 03, 2003: Message edited by: Mark Herschberg ]
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
My favorite answer is, "java.util.Calendar"


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
Amazon Top 750 reviewer - Blog - Unresolved References - Book Review Blog
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 60810
    
  65

My cousin, named November, lives in Albany.
bear


[Asking smart questions] [Bear's FrontMan] [About Bear] [Books by Bear]
Jim Yingst
Wanderer
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
For the record, Brook's question is "Where is next November?" although personally I don't see a significant difference.
Not in terms of the goals and general interpretation of answers. But some specific responses would be different. For myself I might point to a dictionary for "November", but not for "next November". Also, if the interviewer has a strong accent indicating English is not their first language, I might just assume they really meant "when" and just say, uh, in five months. Of course in this case I generally assume Mark can speak English reasonably well, most of the time anyway...
John Dunn
slicker
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 30, 2003
Posts: 1108
Careful ESLs (English as a Second Language): - the motivation for a question like that ~could~ be a politically correct way of discovering how good you are in dealing with the kinds of stupid exchanges you may need to deal with in a given company. I've worked in companies where you need to have a few developers who can argue and fight effectively in English. Sometimes business types take advantage of the fact that some developers are not proficient in English. If an interview REALLY needs to know how good your analytical skills are then they'll shoot another question at you.
lenin laker
Greenhorn

Joined: Apr 02, 2003
Posts: 10
ahah..
November is in all calenders even in my wallet.
..
Varun Khanna
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 30, 2002
Posts: 1400
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
[QB]
Where is November?
QB]

Wrong.
"Where" is an adverb.


- Varun
 
wood burning stoves
 
subject: Where is November?
 
Similar Threads
Please help us It's urgent
FAQ asked interview questions & coding @ interview spot in java and j2ee
why are HTML checkboxes sometimes problematic for managing true/false values
Please explain jar files
why start() ??