My job, metaphorically, is to herd pandas into brightly colored forest glens, where they can be safe and happy and make little pandas. I don't go out in the wild and just, you know, shove them into the nearest glen. That would be silly.
Instead, I load them into The Device. The Device teleports them to the appropriate forest clearing, clean and simple. MY job, then, is to make sure that they got there safely.
So. I have to examine the pandas before they go into The Device, and then examine them again after they are teleported to their new home. Are we all with me, then?
What, gentle reader, would you imagine would be the hardest part of that particular task?
If you said, say, "finding a suitable habitat in which pandas might properly breed successfully", then you're sort of missing the point, and I think we can both agree you're above that sort of thing, no?
If you said, instead, determining which freakin' panda is which, then right you are! Pandas, you see, are remarkably uniform. REMARKABLY.
The difficulty, however, is The Device itself. It wants all of the pandas to look exactly like all of the other pandas, so it engages in a quick bit of trimming of the fur, here and there, as the panda passes through it. A spot of dye to even out a black spot, bit o' bleach where the white's not quite right.
In order to identify the panda I'm looking for, then, I have to work backwards, and undo the bleaching, and wash out the dye, and sort of paste on the fur where I think it's looking a bit thin...
Then I have to compare my reconstructed panda with the photo I had of him from before The Device had its filthy way with him, and try to decide if it's the same panda, or if I just want it to be the same panda, and am once again confused because of all the freakin' pandas...
And, of course, there's the third, horrifying option:
There might just be something wrong with The Device.
If THAT'S the case, then no matter what I do, my reconstructed panda won't match what he looked like before The Device rubbed it's slimy little hands all over him.
But, fair enough; it's good work, and I'm happy to have it, right?
Today we introduced a new little wrinkle. After teleporting the panda, The Device turns it into a tortoise, and then sends it through ANOTHER DEVICE, again polishing up a bit, fixing a shell pattern, shining the shell a bit.
And then it sends it through ANOTHER DEVICE, and turns it into a small blue rock, and again goes to some effort to make them all look alike, slightly altering it yet again.
And again, into a tennis racket, and again, with the slight polishing.
And again, into a piece of toast, and again, the crusts are trimmed just so.
And AGAIN, into a bobble-head.
And AGAIN, into a star in the heavens.
So I reconstruct the star into the bobble-head into the piece of toast into the tennis racket into the small blue rock into the tortoise into the panda, and after all of that, I have to be able to say, authoritatively, and with a straight face:
"THAT STAR, RIGHT THERE, IS DEFINITELY THIS PANDA!"
...I have a very weird job.
Tomorrow, ADVENTURE! :)
ps I know you're thinking what I'm thinking, which is "Why don't you just mark the pandas in some way, so that you can always know which one it is at any point in the process?" Have you ever tried suggesting tacking on identifying data to a database architect who favors a highly normalized hierarchical design? Because if you ever do, I promise you, he'll look at you like you just offered to slather his wife with mayonnaise.
pps Some of you may be wondering why I switched it up from the snail herding that was happening earlier, and whatever happened with all that salt, anyway? It turns out that, while I was right about the salt, I subsequently determined that they weren't snails at all, but, instead, slugs with pennies nailed to them. No one had noticed until I started asking why the shells were so coppery. So the salt was killing them, but they were going to die anyway. We're... ahem...trying to get some new snails.
...I have a very weird job.