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Parable of the Long Tailed Sheep

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A farmer was moving his sheep from one paddock to another, across a public road. The flock was sizable, and many ewes had just birthed, so it was time to get them all to the barns for inspections, banding, treatments and so on. As this took some time, it was inevitable that a car would come along and have to wait while the farmer shut the gates, got the road cleared and the car could proceed. As the car pulled forward the automatic window rolled down and a bright looking young man in a sharp suit greeted the farmer, who was wearing his best stained coveralls.

"Hi Sir, I was just looking at your sheep while I waited and I got to thinking. If I could tell you exactly how many sheep- just adults, not lambs- you have here, could I have one?If I misguess Ill give you $20."

The farmer paused a moment an considered this. Whether the young business man could figure this out by inspired luck, technology or trouble, the farmer's curiosity got the better of him. "Exactly?" "Yes. Exactly. But I get to pick the sheep I want." Said the young businessman. "Sure" said the farmer.

The young business man pulled out his electronic notebook and, while while having a casual conversation about the weather and the need for road maintenance, looked through dozens of satellite images, databases, analysis engines and other information and tools accessible online. This took all of five minutes, and he said, "Ok, I have number. You have 864 sheep in this flock."

The farmer was impressed; the number was correct. "Well I guess I just lost a sheep. But let me ask why you want one?"

The businessman explained he was a biotechnology products marketing agent, and that he supported biotech research endeavors. He saw the lambs with the long tails and thought that this might have some promise for certain research going on at the university laboratories funded by his company.

The farmer scratched his head, but just said, "Well, a deals a deal, I suppose you want a lamb, then?"

"Oh no" said the businessman. He pointed to an animal by the fence. "I'd like that longtailed ewe." he said.

The Farmer scratched his head again."That there dirty longtailed ewe. You sure, son?"

"Yes" said the savvy young fellow, and opened his car door. The farmer opened the gate and patted his thigh, "Come on old boy", he said and the animal trotted out. The farmer closed the gate and pointed at the open door. "In" he said and the deal was done.

"That was amazing! You have them trained! I bet that's because the long tailed ones are smarter, right?" The dollar signs nearly showed in his eyes.

"Oh, the long tailed ones are smart all right. Now, let me ask you a question." "Fire away!" said the confident fellow.

"How many adult sheep do I have in my flock right now?" The Businessman paused a second, then, half asking, replied "863...?"

"Wrong" Said the farmer. I have 864. That animal in the back seat is my sheepdog. And since you don't know the size of my flock, Ill be taking him back with interest."
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