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Network Engineering, Systems, and Services (NES) "Culture"


In NES we don't argue, we bet donuts.

The idea is that if two people disagree about something for which there is clearly one right answer, especially a technical topic, they should put their donuts where their mouths are. We never bet money, we bet a dozen donuts. The winner calmly tells the loser what sort of donuts he or she prefers. The loser demonstrates grace and aplomb by going out to get a dozen donuts as soon as possible and practical, and delivering "choice of the box" to the winner with a smile. Every witness to the bet is entitled to a donut (which makes for some funny behavior whenever any disagreement comes up :), and remaining donuts are shared throughout the organization.

The Movies

Some of the staff members in NES share a common "culture" influenced by the movies they've seen over and over. It ends up affecting the way you talk and sometimes even the way you think. Many servers are named after characters from these movies, and here's some of the movies.

  • The Princess Bride
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Blade Runner
  • Every Star Wars movie
  • Every Star Trek movie
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Harry Potter

Yankee Swap

A Christmas thing.

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday") is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season and forty days before Easter Sunday. Aside from the religious connotations, there's food associated with this celebration and that's probably why we like this holiday.

On or about Mardi Gras, we encourage all to bring in food that one might associate with the New Orleans celebration and of course to wear beads, masks, feathers and anything else that would make one feel happy. At the least, we should have a King Cake. The "king" of the Mardi Gras is the person who gets the baby that has been baked in the cake. The king gets a crown and gets the dubious pleasure of organizing the next year's celebration along with bringing the next year's cake. The Wikipedia page has links to different recipes for the King Cake.

Theme Days

Periodically someone will come up with an idea for a theme day, a day where we devote our energies to fulfilling a common goal. Theme-days have included:

  • Shirley day - We spent the day calling every male "Shirley". This was especially effective when Deke and Jorj both presented to SUG on this day and got raised eyebrows as they called out members in the audience as "Shirley".
  • Unix command day - We came to work dressed as our favorite Unix command - "kill", "dc", "cal", etc. See examples.
  • Hawaiian Shirt day - Need I say more?
  • Talk like your favorite movie character day
  • Talk like a pirate day
  • Talk in cliches day

We've extended the idea of "theme-days" to a pot-luck lunch where an ingredient has been chosen as the "theme" and everything you bring to the lunch must have that ingredient.

All members on the engineering mailing list are automatically added to theme-days [at] Anyone else who wants to join is welcome.


Since 2006 we've aqcuired the Jeopary daily calendaa,r as a group have played Jeopardy once a week and have been keeping score. We started playing a few years prior to that but 2006 was when we started logging. We keep track of our winnings and one day we will present an invoice to Alex.


Who are they

  • MRL - Mark R. Levinson (1995 - 2003), a Network Engineer, brilliant technologist and coder, known for many eccentricities.

Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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Information Systems and Computing, University of Pennsylvania