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Case 90

Not A Number

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Master Kaimu was approached by a monk of the Spider Clan, who said: “In Javascript, zero is divided by zero, the result is NaN: not-a-number. Yet typeof(NaN) is number. What sense may be found in such a language, where a value is both something and not-something?”

Kaimu gave the monk a coin, saying, “On the Road of White Nettles lives a baker who sells flatbreads as round as the most perfect zero. Purchase as many as you are able and bring them to me.”

The monk did as he was told. When the baker received his payment he threw the monk bodily out of the shop and flung the coin after him.

“Counterfeit money,” said the baker.

- - -

Upon returning to the temple, the monk found one of the gardeners, switched clothes with him, and sent the gardener to see master Kaimu alone.

Kaimu was amused by the obvious deception. “Monk!” he said. “Where is my bread?”

As instructed by the monk, the non-monk replied, “Divided equally among all who helped me carry it.”

Kaimu was satisfied.

Qi’s commentary

Worthless money, imitation monk, fictitious bread, false ending.

Qi’s poem

Kaimu met an ancient soldier: a lost and desperate man,
for he could not remember his own name.
The master gave him coin, saying, “This to you from Kaimu.”
The soldier cried with joy, “Then I must be Not Kaimu!”