Microeconomics at Walgreens

21 Nov 2014 /

Walgreens pharmacy

“Do you have a Walgreens rewards card?” the checker asks.

“Yes I do,” I reply and I hand it to him.

“Do you want to redeem any reward points today?”

“Can you tell me how much I have available in reward points?”

“Yes . . . let’s see . . . you have one dollar.”

“One dollar?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll let it ride.”


This Magic Moment

21 Nov 2014 /

Bravery is doing
            the same thing every day when you don’t want to.
Not the marvelous but the familiar, over and over again.
            Do that, and the magic will come.

— David Kirby, “This Magic Moment”

Teaching Computer Science: Exam Tips from the Pros

18 Nov 2014 /

When I cover something in a review session or study guide, it’s because I know it’s going to be on the test. There were questions during this morning’s test about the workings of several Java methods, all of which were covered in the review session and the study guide. I can’t answer questions like that during the test so if you have questions about review topics, ask them in advance of test day.

Some people seem to think that having an excuse for not knowing something is as good as actually knowing it. “But we hardly spent any time on Topic X in class.” “But we just learned Topic Y yesterday.”

Even if either one of those were true, what difference would it make? It’s on the study guide and it’s going to be on the test.

Given a choice between knowing something and having an excuse for not knowing it, always go with the first option: knowing it.


Teaching Computer Science: Mindset

17 Nov 2014 /
Studying

Photo Credit: dongga BS

I’m not comfortable giving people advice that they didn’t ask for, so I usually preface it by saying “Feel free to ignore this . . .”

That being said, I want to talk about the mindset I think you should have for this class, maybe for other classes, maybe even for things outside of school.

Feel free to ignore this . . .

Education has allowed me to make a living doing things that I like and things that I’m good at. A lot of people are not able to say that. Most people, I think, are not able to say that. Most people are like “I hate Mondays” and “Thank god it’s Friday” and that sort of thing.

I have had jobs where I spent the day doing things that I don’t like and I’m not good at and it’s painful. And the amount of money you get paid to do it doesn’t seem to make it any less painful.

I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins . . . some of them were serious about education and some of them weren’t. And the ones who weren’t, I don’t want to say they’re all losers, but they’re all . . . disappointments. As I expected they would be. My wife doesn’t like when I say this — she thinks it’s bad karma or something — but I like it when people screw around in school and go on to have disappointing lives because it reinforces everything that I believe to be true about life.

It’s satisfying when people make bad decisions and suffer the consequences, isn’t it? I think it is.

My own mindset, and this doesn’t apply just to school, is that no one is going to outwork me and no one is going to outlearn me. If you’re working on homework or a programming assignment, or you’re studying for a test or quiz, and you get stuck on something, and you try to get unstuck by reading the textbook, or going to the website and reviewing lecture slides or handouts or watching a video or posting a question to the Facebook group, you’re doing things the right way. You should do well in the class, you should do well on the AP exam and I’ll do everything I can to help you do well in the class and on the AP exam.

If you hear yourself saying things like, “I spent the weekend playing 47 straight hours of video games, and by the way, I have no idea what’s going on in this class,” you’re unlikely to do well.

If you’re asking questions about assignments on or after the due date, you’re unlikely to do well.

If you miss a class and don’t check the website to see what you missed, you’re unlikely to do well. Everything we cover in class is on the website, plus a lot of extra stuff as well.

“Nobody’s going to outwork me and nobody’s going to outlearn me.”

Again, if that doesn’t make sense to you, feel free to ignore it . . .


Art is Not a Brassiere

10 Nov 2014 /

Do not imagine that Art is something which is designed to give gentle uplift and self-confidence. Art is not a brassière. At least, not in the English sense. But do not forget that brassière is the French for life jacket.

— Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot

Intelligent Appliances

10 Nov 2014 /

We have two refrigerators in the office break room. On one the status display says REPLACE H2O FILTER; on the other, it says ORDER H2O FILTER. What I can’t figure out is how the refrigerator knows if we’ve ordered the filter . . .


Whatever the Party Holds to Be the Truth

8 Nov 2014 /

“I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.”

— George Orwell, 1984

Proud to Be a Coal Miner’s Daughter

7 Nov 2014 /

Loretta Lynch

If she is nominated and confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first coal miner’s daughter to hold the job . . .


Who Said It: Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula or Miss South Carolina Teen 2007?

6 Nov 2014 /

Regarding Brittany Maynard:

Suicide is not a good thing. It is a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and toward those around us.

Huh? If you said the Monsignor, you are correct . . .


Thanks But I Already Have One

6 Nov 2014 /

Incredibly designed hose

Tags:

It Happened 100 Years Ago to Dostoevsky

5 Nov 2014 /

James Baldwin

You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.

James Baldwin, Interview with Studs Terkel, Chicago, 1961

Teaching Computer Science: No School After Halloween

4 Nov 2014 /
Indonesian scholars

Indonesian students crossing a collapsed bridge to get to school

There was no school yesterday because the Newport-Mesa Unified School District at some time in the past noticed that a lot of kids didn’t show up the day after Halloween, so they decided not to have classes on the day after Halloween. Evidently this applies even if Halloween is on a Friday, followed by two weekend days plus an extra hour on the time change. Kids still need that extra day to get ready for academics again.

Some time ago, I saw a news story about kids in Indonesia who had to cross a river via a rope suspension bridge to get to school. Then the bridge partially collapsed so it looked like the photo on the right. And of course the kids are determined to get an education so they’re all basically climbing their way across the river and back every day.

If the bridge collapsed completely, they’d probably swim across.

Meanwhile, American kids need 3 days off to bounce back after Halloween. I showed the class the photo of the kids crossing the river. “This is why everyone hates us,” I told them.

I don’t understand this policy of “kids don’t want to come to school after Halloween so we’ll just take the day off.” I don’t think kids want to come to school any other day either. It’s inconvenient. You have to get up early, sit at a desk and listen to people talk all day. Let’s just cancel school entirely!

If I were in charge of education, not only would schools be open after Halloween but I’d make sure that we covered a ton of critically important material that day so that anyone who wasn’t there would be hopelessly behind and never catch up. I want to see who the competitors are. You don’t want to show up after Halloween? OK . . . have fun at community college.

Work is the same way . . . on the plus side, it gives your life the illusion of meaning but on the other hand, it really cuts into your day. Get used to it kids . . .


As Bad as the Real Obama

1 Nov 2014 /

Obama mask

We had a big batch of trick-or-treaters show up at one time last night, about 9 kids age 12 and under.

“Who are you?” I asked the first kid.

“The Hulk.” I gave him some candy.

“Who are you?” I asked the second kid.

“Thor.” I gave him some candy.

“Who are you?” I asked the third kid.

“Obama.” He showed me a wadded-up Obama mask in his hand. I didn’t give him any candy.

“Put the mask on,” I said.

“I don’t want to. I can’t see.”

Meanwhile, the other kids kept coming to the front and announcing their costumes . . .

“Superman.” “Batgirl.” “Pink lady from Grease.” “I’m John Cena.” “Witch.” “Minnie.” They all got candy.

Finally no one was left but me and Obama.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Obama!”

“Put the mask on.”

“Come on!”

“You’re not doing your job. Geez, you’re as bad as the real Obama.”


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Brain Cancer Patients

31 Oct 2014 /

Brain cancer patients are worse than vegetarians — meddling busybodies telling everyone else how to live their lives.

Ever since Brittany Maynard announced her intention to end her own life, brain cancer patients have been coming out of the woodwork to tell her that she has no right to do that (see here, here, here and here).

Some people don’t want to die the kind of lingering death that exhausts the emotional and financial resources of their loved ones. In fact, I think most people don’t, but I think most people with a terminal illness imagine themselves dying a kind of radiant death like people with terminal illnesses in movies. By the time reality sets in, the dying person is past knowing or caring.


Women Need to Get Into New Professions Where They Can Be Shot

30 Oct 2014 /

Robbery headline

A man in Texas shot two people breaking into his home, which probably wouldn’t be terribly newsworthy except that the two people were both women.

Armed robbery is like technology and engineering in that it’s a profession in which women are seriously underrepresented so I endorse this as a step forward for diversity and inclusiveness.


Teaching Computer Science: Diversity for Girls Only

27 Oct 2014 /

NCWIT photo

I called the class’s attention to the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which honors young women at the high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. Awardees are selected for their computing and IT aptitude, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education.

The website features a photo of a black girl, an Asian girl, a white girl, and in case you’re not in any of those groups, there’s an ethnically ambiguous girl on the left you can probably identify with. Diversity and inclusiveness for all. All are welcome.

You still have to be a girl of course, they’re not that inclusive . . .


It’s Election Season in Irvine

26 Oct 2014 /

It’s election season . . . campaign signs dot the Irvine landscape.

As I drove to lunch with co-workers, one of them pointed out a sign for Ira Glasky, who’s running for school board or city council or something.

“He’s probably trying to cash in on the name recognition of Ira Glass,” he said.

“Who’s Ira Glass?” I asked, and he told me but I’ve since forgotten. A person on the radio, I think.

If I were a campaign manager, I wouldn’t be advising my clients to coattail on the popularity of people no one’s heard of.

“Maybe he’s trying to play into the popularity of Dashiell Hammett’s 1930s crime novel The Glass Key,” I suggested.

Another Irvine candidate, Lynn Schott, is in a local women’s networking group that my wife belongs to. I offered her a free campaign slogan — “Lynn-sanity!” — but she’s not using it.


A Recipe for Confidence

26 Oct 2014 /

If you know very little, and have a coherent story that explains the little that you know, you can be a very confident person . . .


UC Berkeley Roller Hockey

25 Oct 2014 /

Cal hasn’t fielded a roller hockey team since 2011 but the boys (and one girl), including our kid, got a team together this season, rejoined the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League, and they’re playing their first tournament this weekend, with games against UC Santa Cruz, USC, UC Irvine and UC San Diego.

No scholarships and you pay for your own unis and travel expenses.

GO BEARS!

Cal roller hockey uniforms


Baldness vs. Malaria

25 Oct 2014 /

Why is there so much more research done on baldness than on malaria? Because rich people go bald, and they don’t die of malaria.


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