"From the first minute of the first hour of the first day of my job," Aaron writes, "I knew I had an epic WTF on my hands."

"I spent a while writing up a 1,600-word long description of this system, only to realize it wasn’t nearly enough. So I kept going. 1,950 words… still not enough. 2,300 words… barely scratching the surface.

"At 3,000 words, I realized there was no way I would ever be able to describe this monster.And that’s when I came across this example from an app.config file. In as single line of code, it tells more than I could in a million words.

<add key="sqlSource" value="
    SELECT TOP REPLACE_NUMBER_OF_ROWS_TO_RETRIEVE 
           History.handle AS ID_FAX_LOG, 
           CASE isnumeric(SUBSTRING (Notes_Doc.Text ,1,8)) 
              WHEN 1 then SUBSTRING (Notes_Doc.Text ,1,8) 
              ELSE NULL END AS ID_STAGE, 
           DocumentUsers.UserName AS NM_DOCUMENTUSER_USERNAME, 
           DocumentUsers.UserID AS TXT_DOCUMENTUSER_USERID, 
           DocumentUserGroups.GroupID AS TXT_DOCUMENTUSERGROUP_GROUPID, 
           Documents.UniqueID AS TXT_DOCUMENTS_UNIQUE_ID, 
           History.TRDateTime AS DT_HISTORY_TRANSACTION_DATE, 
           CASE COALESCE(HistoryPrint.handle,0) 
              WHEN 0 THEN
                 CASE COALESCE(HistoryGeneric.handle,0) 
                    WHEN 0 THEN 
                       CASE COALESCE(HistoryTRX.handle,0) 
                          WHEN 0 THEN '??' 
                          ELSE 
                             CASE (Documents.Flags & 0x10) 
                                WHEN 0 THEN 'Send' 
                                ELSE 'Recieve' 
                                END
                          END 
                    ELSE CAST(HistoryGeneric_Short.Data AS varchar(32)) 
                    END 
              ELSE 'Print' 
              END AS TXT_TRANSACTION_TYPE,

           CASE COALESCE(HistoryPrint.handle,0)
              WHEN 0 THEN
                 CASE COALESCE(HistoryGeneric.handle,0)
                    WHEN 0 THEN 
                       CASE COALESCE(HistoryTRX.handle,0)
                          WHEN 0 THEN '??'
                          ELSE 
                             CASE Documents_Term.TermStatStr
                                WHEN 'Success' THEN 'Success'
                                ELSE 'Fail'
                                END
                          END
                    ELSE
                       CASE HistoryGeneric.ErrCode
                          WHEN 0 THEN 'Success'
                       ELSE 'Fail' 
                       END 
                    END
              ELSE
                 CASE SUBSTRING(HistoryPrint.Msg,1,7) 
                    WHEN 'Success' THEN 'Success'
                    ELSE 'Fail' 
                    END 
              END AS TXT_TRANSACTION_STATUS, 

           CASE COALESCE(HistoryPrint.handle,0) 
              WHEN 0 THEN
                 CASE COALESCE(HistoryGeneric.handle,0)
                    WHEN 0 THEN 
                       CASE COALESCE(HistoryTRX.handle,0)
                          WHEN 0 THEN '??' 
                          ELSE COALESCE(HistoryTRX_Term.TermStatStr,CONVERT(varchar,Documents.TermStat)) 
                          END 
                    ELSE REPLACE(REPLACE(CAST(HistoryGeneric_Detail.Data AS varchar(192)) ,'\t',''), '~u', HistoryGeneric.UserID )
                    END 
              ELSE HistoryPrint.Msg 
              END AS TXT_TRANSACTION_MESSAGE, 

           CASE COALESCE(HistoryPrint.handle,0)
              WHEN 0 THEN 
                 CASE COALESCE(HistoryGeneric.handle,0) 
                    WHEN 0 THEN 
                       CASE COALESCE(HistoryTRX.handle,0) 
                          WHEN 0 THEN Documents.ElapsedSendTime 
                          ELSE 
                             CASE COALESCE(HistoryTRX.handle,0) 
                                WHEN 0 THEN Documents.ElapsedSendTime 
                                ELSE HistoryTRX.ElapsedTime 
                                END 
                          END 
                    ELSE NULL 
                    END 
              ELSE HistoryPrint.TimeToPrint 
              END AS NBR_TRANSACTION_ELAPSEDTIME, 

           CASE COALESCE(HistoryGeneric.handle,0)
              WHEN 0 THEN 
                 CASE substring(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE
                               (REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(
                                  Documents.Destination,' ',''),')',''),'(',''),
                                  '-',''),'/',''),'.',''),'*',''),',',''),';',''),
                                  '\',''),'-',''),1,1) 
                    WHEN '1' THEN substring(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(
                                            REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE( REPLACE(REPLACE(
                                            REPLACE(Documents.Destination,' ',''),')',
                                            ''),'(',''),'-',''),'/',''),'.',''),'*',''),
                                            ',',''),';',''),'\',''),'-',''), 2, len( 
                                            REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(
                                            REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE( REPLACE(REPLACE(
                                            REPLACE(Documents.Destination,' ',''),')',
                                            ''),'(',''),'-',''),'/',''),'.',''),'*','')
                                            ,',',''),';',''),'\',''),'-','')) ) 
                    ELSE REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(
                         REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(Documents.Destination,' ',''),'-',''),')',
                         ''),'(',''),'/',''),'.',''),'*',''),',',''),';',''),'\',''),'-','')
                    END 
              ELSE HistoryGeneric.UserID 
              END AS TXT_TRANSACTION_DESTINATION, 
              
           CASE (Documents.Flags & 0x8)
              WHEN 0 THEN 'N'
              ELSE 'Y' END AS NBR_DOCUMENTS_DELETED, 
              
           CASE (Documents.Flags & 0x4)
              WHEN 0 THEN 'N'
              ELSE 'Y' END AS NBR_DOCUMENTS_VIEWED, 

           /* Fax Destination */ 
           Documents.ToName AS TXT_DOCUMENTS_TO_NAME, 
           Documents.ToContactNum AS TXT_DOCUMENTS_TO_CONTACT_NUM, 
           Documents.ToCompany AS TXT_DOCUMENTS_TO_COMPANY, 
           Documents.ToCityState AS TXT_DOCUMENTS_TO_CITY_STATE, 
           Documents.FaxDIDNum AS TXT_DOCUMENTS_FAX_DID_NUM, 
           Documents.FromPhoneNum AS TXT_DOCUMENTS_FROM_PHONE_NUM,
           Documents.GeneralFaxNum AS TXT_DOCUMENTS_GENERAL_FAX_NUM,
           HistoryPrint.NetPrintID AS TXT_HISTORYPRINT_NETPRINTID, 

           /* Number of pages */ 
           DocFiles.NumPages AS NBR_DOCFILES_TOTAL_PAGE_COUNT, 
           HistoryTRX.GoodPageCount AS NBR_HISTORYTRX_GOOD_PAGE_COUNT,
           HistoryTRX.BadPageCount AS NBR_HISTORYTRX_BAD_PAGE_COUNT,
           HistoryPrint.PagesPrinted AS NBR_HISTORYPRINT_PAGESPRINTED, 
           HistoryPrint.CopiesPrinted AS NBR_HISTORYPRINT_COPIESPRINTED, 
           /* location of fax image */ DTConfigurations.ServerName AS TXT_DOCFILES_SERVER_NAME,
           DTConfigurations.ImageDir AS TXT_DOCFILES_IMAGE_DIR, 
           DocFiles.BodyFilename AS TXT_DOCFILES_BODY_FILENAME, 
           Documents.FCSFile AS TXT_DOCFILES_FCS_FILE, 
           REPLACE( DTConfigurations.ImageDir, 'D:\Data', '\\'+ServerName )
              + '\'+DocFiles.BodyFilename+'*' AS TXT_DOCFILES_PATH_BODY_NAME, 
           REPLACE( DTConfigurations.ImageDir, 'D:\Data', '\\'+ServerName ) 
              + '\'+Documents.FCSFile+'*' AS TXT_DOCUMENTS_PATH_FCSFILE, 
           Notes_Doc.Text AS TXT_NOTES_DOC_TEXT, 
           Notes_CCList.Text AS TXT_NOTES_CCLIST_TEXT,
           DocumentUsers.RouteInfo AS TXT_DOCUMENTUSER_ROUTEINFO,
           DocumentUsers.RouteType AS NBR_DOCUMENTUSER_ROUTETYPE,
           DocumentUsers.EmailAddr AS TXT_DOCUMENTUSER_EMAILADDR,
           
           /* misc Documents data */ 
           Documents.CreationTime AS DT_DOCUMENTS_CREATION_TIME,
           Documents.FRFlags2 AS NBR_DOCUMENTS_FRFLAGS2,
           Documents.Flags AS NBR_DOCUMENTS_FLAGS,
           Documents.ErrorCode AS NBR_DOCUMENTS_ERROR_CODE,
           Documents.TermStat AS NBR_DOCUMENTS_TERMSTAT,
           
           /* misc HistoryTRX data */ 
           HistoryTRX.RemoteID AS TXT_HISTORYTRX_REMOTE_ID,
           HistoryTRX.RemoteServer AS TXT_HISTORYTRX_REMOTE_SERVER,
           HistoryTRX.Flags AS NBR_HISTORYTRX_FLAGS,
           HistoryTRX.TermStat AS NBR_HISTORYTRX_TERMSTAT,
           
           /* misc HistoryTRX data */ 
           HistoryGeneric.ErrCode AS NBR_HISTORYGENERIC_ERRCODE,
           HistoryGeneric.GenType AS NBR_HISTORYGENERIC_GENTYPE,
           HistoryGeneric.UserID AS TXT_HISTORYGENERIC_USERID,
           
           /* Handles */ Documents.handle AS ID_DOCUMENTS_HANDLE,
           History.handle AS ID_HISTORY_HANDLE,
           HistoryTRX.handle AS ID_HISTORYTRX_HANDLE,
           HistoryGeneric.handle AS ID_HISTORYGENERIC_HANDLE,
           HistoryPrint.handle AS ID_HISTORYPRINT_HANDLE

    FROM Documents 
            INNER JOIN Users DocumentUsers ON Documents.OwnerID = DocumentUsers.handle 
            INNER JOIN History ON Documents.handle = History.Owner 
            LEFT OUTER JOIN DocFiles ON Documents.DocFileDBA = DocFiles.handle 
            LEFT OUTER JOIN Groups DocumentUserGroups ON DocumentUsers.GroupID = DocumentUserGroups.handle 
            LEFT OUTER JOIN HistoryPrint ON HistoryPrint.handle = History.handle 
            LEFT OUTER JOIN HistoryGeneric ON HistoryGeneric.handle = History.handle 
            LEFT OUTER JOIN Notes Notes_Doc ON Notes_Doc.handle = Documents.NoteDBA 
            LEFT OUTER JOIN Notes Notes_CCList ON Notes_CCList.handle = Documents.CCListDBA 
            LEFT OUTER join DTConfigurations ON DTConfigurations.ServerGUID = Documents.ServerGUID 
            LEFT OUTER JOIN Globalization HistoryGeneric_Detail ON 
               HistoryGeneric_Detail.Namespace = 'RightFax.SQL.HistoryGeneric' 
               AND SUBSTRING(HistoryGeneric_Detail.LocKey,5,20) = 'DetailMsg' 
               AND SUBSTRING(HistoryGeneric_Detail.LocKey,1,3) = CAST(HistoryGeneric.GenType AS varchar) 
               AND HistoryGeneric_Detail.IsoLanguageName = 'en-us' 
            LEFT OUTER JOIN Globalization HistoryGeneric_Short ON 
               HistoryGeneric_Short.Namespace = 'RightFax.SQL.HistoryGeneric' 
               AND SUBSTRING(HistoryGeneric_Short.LocKey,5, 20) = 'ShortMsg' 
               AND SUBSTRING(HistoryGeneric_Short.LocKey,1, 3) = CAST(HistoryGeneric.GenType AS varchar) 
               AND HistoryGeneric_Short.IsoLanguageName = 'en-us'
            LEFT OUTER JOIN HistoryTRX ON HistoryTRX.handle = History.handle
            LEFT OUTER JOIN (
               SELECT distinct CONVERT(varchar,G.Data) AS TermStatStr, 
                      T.StatusCode AS TermStatCode, 
                      T.handle AS TermStat 
                 FROM Globalization G 
                         INNER JOIN TermStatToStatusCode T ON 
                            ( G.LocKey = 'HistoryTRX.BTHUSTAT' 
                                 + RIGHT('0000' 
                                 + LTRIM(RTRIM(CONVERT(char(3),T.StatusCode))), 3) 
                              AND G.IsoLanguageName = 'en-us' 
                              AND G.LocKey like 'HistoryTRX.BTHUSTAT%' ) 
                  ) AS HistoryTRX_Term ON HistoryTRX.TermStat = HistoryTRX_Term.TermStat 
            LEFT OUTER JOIN ( 
               SELECT distinct CONVERT(varchar,G.Data) AS TermStatStr,
                      T.StatusCode AS TermStatCode, 
                      T.handle AS TermStat 
                 FROM Globalization G
                         INNER JOIN TermStatToStatusCode T ON 
                            ( G.LocKey = 'HistoryTRX.BTHUSTAT' 
                                 + RIGHT('0000' 
                                 + LTRIM(RTRIM(CONVERT(char(3),T.StatusCode))), 3) 
                              AND G.IsoLanguageName = 'en-us' 
                              AND G.LocKey like 'HistoryTRX.BTHUSTAT%' ) 
                  ) AS Documents_Term ON Documents.TermStat = Documents_Term.TermStat 
    WHERE 
       NOT ( 
          /* The outer join on the HistoryPrint, HistoryGeneric, and HistoryTRX results in 
           * rows that just have null history data. One of the three must have a value. If 
           * all are null, the row is a result of the outer joins and the rows have no useable data so they 
           * filtered out. */ 
          HistoryTRX.handle IS NULL 
             AND HistoryGeneric.handle IS NULL 
             AND HistoryPrint.handle IS NULL ) 
       AND DocumentUsers.UserName IS NOT NULL 
       
       /* THIS VALUE is inserted into a NON NULL column in the FAX_LOG table. */ 
       AND DocumentUsers.UserID IS NOT NULL 
       
       /* THIS VALUE is inserted into a NON NULL column in the FAX_LOG table. */ 
       AND Documents.UniqueID IS NOT NULL 
   
       /* THIS VALUE is inserted into a NON NULL column in the FAX_LOG table. */ 
       AND History.TRDateTime > 'REPLACE_WHERE_CLAUSE_CRITERIA' 
   ORDER BY History.TRDateTime"
/> 
(note: line breaks and formatted added for clarity)