Author Archive: Paul Epps

Teaching Computer Science: All Are Welcome

I’m volunteering a couple mornings a week in a high school computer science class . . . “Computing,” I tell the class, “is like most professions in that some groups are under-represented and some groups are over-represented. You may have heard that the reason some groups are under-represented is because computing as a profession is more welcoming to some people than others. “I haven’t found that to be the case and I’ll tell you why. “My perspective on this is that if you walk through the workplace at a typical technology company, you won’t see people who look like me. I’m too old and I’ve been too old for quite a while now. At this point, I’m usually old enough to be the CEO’s father. “So to the extent that people want to work with other people who look like them and people who fit into the group, that doesn’t… Read more →

Overheard

“The grass is not always greener.” “No, but it’s not always not greener either.” Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: An Inconvenient Woman by Dominick Dunne

It’s a good murder mystery, but about two-thirds of the way through, I felt like I couldn’t indulge the author’s sexual obsessions any further and just flipped ahead to see whodunit. Every man has either “a dick like a mule” or “a dick like a Tampax.” No one has ” a dick of average proportions.” Sexual relationships are either non-existent (with one’s wife) or preposterously frequent and varied (with one’s mistress(es)). One unlikely plot device is premised on a particular woman’s “most intimate scent.” I’d suggest that the author have his head examined but he’s been dead for nearly 10 years . . . Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: Don’t Worry About Spelling and Grammar?

The following is part of the Code.org online curriculum, asking students to write a brief reflection on starting a computer science class. That seems like an oddball thing to say in an educational context. “Let’s talk about the instructions here for a minute,” I said to the class. “One: it doesn’t make sense to me to compartmentalize education like this. Like spelling and grammar are only important in an English class and this is not an English class so don’t worry about it. “We’ll be taking a holistic view of education here. I hope you’ll learn some things about computer science but I hope you’ll learn some other things as well. “On a practical note, you may find yourself competing for a job someday, and if it’s a good job, there are likely to be a lot of applicants. “No one wants to read a large number of resumes, so… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: Why Was I Not Consulted?

I’m volunteering in a high school computer science class a couple mornings a week . . . If you’re going to work with computers, you need to be able to move around between different number systems, most commonly base 10, base 2 and base 16. As a warm-up, I asked students how many ways they could represent the quantity 7. Answers included the word “seven,” roman numerals, seven dots, a septagon, a Chinese symbol, and so on. “Quantities exist naturally,” I said, “but number systems are man-made. They’re just a set of symbols along with an agreement about how to order them. Why do we use the number system that we do? Who decided that?” Because I phrased it in a provocative way, some students realized that they hadn’t been consulted. “Yeah, no one asked me,” one student said. “Raise your hand in math class,” I suggested, “and ask ‘Why… Read more →

Competitive Programming: POJ 2074 – Line of Sight

Description An architect is very proud of his new home and wants to be sure it can be seen by people passing by his property line along the street. The property contains various trees, shrubs, hedges, and other obstructions that may block the view. For the purpose of this problem, model the house, property line, and obstructions as straight lines parallel to the x axis: Input Because each object is a line, it is represented in the input file with a left and right x coordinate followed by a single y coordinate: <x1> <x2> <y> where x1, x2, and y are non-negative real numbers, x1 < x2 . An input file can describe the architecture and landscape of multiple houses. For each house, the first line will have the coordinates of the house. The second line will contain the coordinates of the property line. The third line will have a… Read more →

Company Picnic

A highly placed manager at work shows up next to me in the men’s room. “You going to the company picnic?” he shouts. He’s a boisterous guy. “Yes!” I reply. “Looking forward to taking a few throws at you in the dunk tank.” “Dunk tank?!” he says. “There’s not going to be any dunk tank.” “Oh . . . in that case I’m not going.” Read more →

Competitive Programming: POJ 2318 – TOYS

Description Calculate the number of toys that land in each bin of a partitioned toy box. Mom and dad have a problem – their child John never puts his toys away when he is finished playing with them. They gave John a rectangular box to put his toys in, but John is rebellious and obeys his parents by simply throwing his toys into the box. All the toys get mixed up, and it is impossible for John to find his favorite toys. John’s parents came up with the following idea. They put cardboard partitions into the box. Even if John keeps throwing his toys into the box, at least toys that get thrown into different bins stay separated. The following diagram shows a top view of an example toy box. For this problem, you are asked to determine how many toys fall into each partition as John throws them into… Read more →

Randy Newman at the Hollywood Bowl

Great show . . . he’s 74 years old and doesn’t walk so well from the wings to the piano but he can still play, sing, tell stories, and he has a song catalog that few can equal. I put the set list into Spotify and included it here. Read more →

Boil the Ocean

My first thought is that “Don’t boil the ocean” is not very good advice because boiling the ocean is not a use case that anyone actually has. Why advise people not to do something that no one would do anyway? My second thought was: why not boil the ocean? Add some onion, garlic, white wine . . . you might get a really nice cioppino! Serves . . . well, I don’t know how many it would serve, but a lot! Read more →

Life Gets Better After 50?

About 15 years ago, economists made an unexpected finding: the U-shaped happiness curve. Other things being equal – that is, once conditions such as income, employment, health and marriage are factored out of the equation – life satisfaction declines from our early 20s until we hit our 50s. Then it turns around and rises, right through late adulthood. — The Guardian So once you factor out all the things that make life miserable, it turns out older people can be just as happy as anyone else! Read more →

Sources Say . . .

We can never allow our sources to make allegations, contentious statements or vituperative attacks behind a cloak of anonymity. It weakens our credibility and gives the sources an opportunity to benefit at our expense. It is fundamentally unfair to the other party and thus biased. . . . If a source wants to make a vituperative attack on an individual, organisation, company or country he or she must speak on the record. — Reuters Handbook of Journalism Read more →

Tom Apple Adventures

http://onegianthand.com/post/176842041416/tom-apple-adventures Read more →

Always in the Last Place You Look

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Competitive Programming: POJ 1905 – Expanding Rods

Description When a thin rod of length L is heated n degrees, it expands to a new length L’=(1+n*C)*L, where C is the coefficient of heat expansion. When a thin rod is mounted on two solid walls and then heated, it expands and takes the shape of a circular segment, the original rod being the chord of the segment. Your task is to compute the distance by which the center of the rod is displaced. Input The input contains multiple lines. Each line of input contains three non-negative numbers: the initial lenth of the rod in millimeters, the temperature change in degrees and the coefficient of heat expansion of the material. Input data guarantee that no rod expands by more than one half of its original length. The last line of input contains three negative numbers and it should not be processed. Output For each line of input, output one… Read more →

The Holy Fire is Now the Forrest Fire

It’s wildfire season here in Southern California . . . The closest fire to us at this time is the Holy Fire, named either for its proximity to the small mountain community of Holy Jim (see map), or because God is purifying us with flame. Jesus returned as a burning bush and inadvertently ignited Trabuco Canyon. A suspect, Forrest Gordon Clark, has been arrested on suspicion of arson. He looks normal. The fire has been renamed from the Holy Fire to the Forrest Fire. 🙂 My wife is in the insurance business. Every summer she gets calls from people living in fire zones wanting to buy a homeowners policy. There’s no concept of guaranteed issue with homeowners insurance like there is with health insurance. — Does your house have a pre-existing condition? — Yes, it’s on fire. — OK, your first month’s premium will be $500,000. Read more →

More Words and Phrases I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Thought Leader

If “thought leader” is a title you can bestow upon yourself, then what is the difference between a thought leader and a crackpot? I am a thought leader, a proponent of unconventional ideas. You, on the other hand, are a crackpot. I am a visionary. I have visions. Sometimes I have them when I’m driving and I have to pull over. It’s a real burden . . . Read more →

First Lines

Newest addition to Lit Quizzes. identify the source and author. Hazel Motes sat at a forward angle on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the aisle at the other end of the car. Read more →

Math Skills of the Average American

My son was home for a visit this past weekend. After a family dinner at the Irvine Spectrum, we found ourselves in a women’s clothing store with a sale going on: 40% Off All Merchandise + An Additional 10% Off. My son said to me, “Isn’t that just 46 percent off? They probably want it to sound like you’re getting 50 percent off.” “You can’t underestimate the math skills of the average American,” I said. Right on queue, a woman said to her husband, “Why don’t they just say 50 percent off?” “Exactly,” he said. Read more →

Was Jim Acosta’s Life in Danger?

It doesn’t look that way to me: Taking selfies with Trump supporters in Tampa. Really enjoyed talking to some of the folks at the rally and hearing their concerns. As I told many of them.. we can’t do the news just for the Republicans and Trump supporters. We have to do the news for all Americans. pic.twitter.com/onOOM6q9l8 — Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 4, 2018 Read more →

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