Many thanks to Tristan Morris for creating a beautiful illustrated hardcover print edition of the site


The head monk of the Swooping Falcon Clan asked master Banzen for assistance with a difficult customer. The customer was a maker of silk-and-bamboo kites, and the clan’s application allowed her to curate her large online catalog.

“I simply cannot make her happy,” complained the head monk.

“Tell me what makes her unhappy,” said Banzen. “Then perhaps you can do the opposite of that.”

“Laziness,” the head monk declared; “for she says that our interface makes her do too much work, yet the work is her fault, not ours.”

“Explain,” said Banzen.

“First,” the head monk said, “for each kite, she wishes to allow only certain silks. So our interface must have her specify the silks on a kite-by-kite basis—yet always she says this task is too tedious. It is not our fault that she is so particular!”

“Indeed,” said Banzen.

“To make matters worse,” the head monk said, “she has hundreds of bolts of silk in her shop, of which dozens may be offered for any given kite! We have tried every widget in our library—multiple-selection lists, dual listboxes, typeahead-enabled drop-downs—yet always she says this task is too onerous. It is not our fault that she offers so many choices!”

“Absolutely,” said Banzen.

“Finally,” the head monk concluded, “new silks are always being introduced and old ones are always being retired. So she must revise the list of silks for each kite throughout the year—yet always she says this task is too burdensome. It is not our fault that fashion is fickle!”

“Agreed,” said Banzen.

So Banzen went to see the kite-maker.

- - -

The kite-maker’s complaints were exactly as the head monk described. After hearing them, Banzen wandered her workshop, and indeed found many hundreds of bolts of silk, each a different pattern and hue.

After pondering a moment, Banzen pointed to the bamboo skeleton of a kite on her workbench.

“What silks will you offer for that one?” asked Banzen.

“Blue cloud designs only,” said the kite-maker. “But I have dozens of silks with blue cloud designs.”

“And that one?” asked Banzen, pointing to another.

“That is one of my ‘crow’ series,” said the kite-maker. “Blue feather designs or black feather designs, but no lightweight silks.”

“And that one?” asked Banzen, pointing to another.

“That is one of my ‘dragon’ series,” said the kite-maker. “Black solids, red fire designs, or white earth designs, but no heavy silks.”

When he was certain that he understood the kite-maker’s algorithm, Banzen returned to the head monk.

- - -

“It is as you described,” said Banzen to the head monk. “What makes the kite-maker unhappy is laziness.”

“Yet how can she be corrected?” asked the monk.

“Wú,” said Banzen, producing a thick envelope from his robes. “Here is the means of correction, which I will deliver to you each week until the kite-maker has achieved happiness.”

In one quick motion Banzen tossed the contents of the envelope into the air. Hundreds of minuscule squares of colored paper spiraled gently down around the room; each like a tiny kite adrift on the wind.

“Lovely,” said the head monk, “but what is it?”

“It is called confetti, said Banzen. “I made it from your week’s pay. Using small bills, of course.”