White Privilege Not Limited to White People?

Here’s a radio exchange between CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, a black woman, and Sirius XM radio and Fox Nation host David Webb:

David Webb

WEBB: I’ve chosen to cross different parts of the media world, done the work so that I’m qualified to be in each one. I never considered my color the issue, I considered my qualifications the issue.

MARTIN: That’s a whole, another long conversation about white privilege, the things that you have the privilege of doing, that people of color don’t have the privilege of.

WEBB (dumbfounded): How do I have the privilege of white privilege?

MARTIN: David, by virtue of being a white male you have white privilege.

WEBB: Areva, I hate to break it to you, but you should’ve been better prepped. I’m black.

Wait, so you mean “white privilege” is just a generic insult to throw at people you know nothing about?!


Martin’s response: “I stand corrected.”

CNN Runs “Breaking News” From BuzzFeed

On Thursday, BuzzFeed reported that President Trump “directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.”

Robert Mueller’s office, which in 20 months has never issued a comment on a media report, then released this statement: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

It’s hard to know who to believe!

CNN actually ran with the BuzzFeed report as Breaking News:

For some reason, CNN objects to being called “fake news,” but a real news organization (I can’t think of one offhand) doesn’t broadcast an unconfirmed report from a clickbait site, no matter how bad it makes Donald Trump look, and no matter how much they would like it to be true.

Bucket List: Total a Car and Walk Away From It

Clerks at rental car counters always use the same phrase to push the collision damage waiver: You can total the car and walk away from it.

Unless totaling the car renders me unable to walk.

I’ve added that to my bucket list: total a car and walk away from it . . .

Mary Oliver, 1935 – 2019

Mary OliverMary Oliver was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She died today of lymphoma at the age of 83.

The Poetry Foundation has a biography and a selection of poems, although I prefer the selection at the Peaceful Rivers site.

Her work had a Whitmanesque love of life. I’ve included one of my favorites here:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

RIP Mary Oliver

Teaching Computer Science: Priorities

When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.

— Albert Shanker, President of the United Federation of Teachers (1964-1984) and President of the American Federation of Teachers (1974-1997)

It’s a problem in my profession that the number of schools that want to teach computer science far exceeds the number of computer science majors who want to teach computer science.

The opportunity cost is too high. Computer science majors can earn a lot more working as software engineers than working as teachers.

I volunteer a couple mornings a week to help with computer science instruction at a local high school. This school has a teacher, originally hired as a math teacher, who must be well into her fourth decade of teaching. 

She now teaches computer science classes — poorly, but she teaches them. Because of her professional longevity, she makes a six-figure income with a generous benefits package.

If providing the best possible computer science education were a top priority, the school would take advantage of her imminent retirement to replace her with an actual computer science major at the same salary.

Unfortunately, providing the best possible education is not a top priority. What is a top priority is making sure that teachers are paid based on years of service . . . that there’s no Teacher A who makes more than Teacher B if B has been around longer.

This may not produce the best possible education . . . it may be antithetical to producing the best possible education . . . but it’s a top priority. 

Thus spoke The Programmer.

The Interests of Schoolchildren

LAUSD teacher strikeMore than 30,000 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) went on strike this week. LAUSD serves 640,000 students and is the second biggest school district in the country.

The mean annual wage for LAUSD teachers is $75,000.

In the local reporting I’m seeing on the strike, teachers and union reps are unanimous in saying that they’re striking for the benefit of the schoolchildren.

I’m reminded of something Albert Shanker — former president of the United Federation of Teachers (1964-1984) and the American Federation of Teachers (1974-1997) — used to say:

When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.

I can’t say for certain that the LA union reps are being disingenuous but it does make sense that they’d be representing the interests of the people who are paying them.

EppsNet at the Movies: The Garden of Words

The Garden of Words

The Garden of Words is a beautiful short film about loneliness and love and longing, inspired by verses from the Manyoshu, an anthology of ancient Japanese poems:

A faint clap of thunder
Clouded skies
Perhaps rain will come
If so, will you stay here with me?

A faint clap of thunder
Even if rain comes or not
I will stay here
Together with you.

Rain is a central motif in the film. Like the force of love, it can’t be controlled or stopped.

Highly recommended!

Rating: 5 stars


The Garden of Words

A 15-year-old boy and 27-year-old woman find an unlikely friendship one rainy day in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.


Director: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: Miyu Irino, Kana Hanazawa, Fumi Hirano, Gou Maeda

IMDb rating: 7.6 (24335 votes)

How the Bezos Divorce Rewrites the World’s Richest People List


  1. Jeff Bezos, $140 billion
  2. Bill Gates, $90 billion
  3. Warren Buffett, $84 billion
  4. Bernard Arnault, $72 billion
  5. Mark Zuckerberg, $71 billion


  1. Bill Gates, $90 billion
  2. Warren Buffett, $84 billion
  3. Bernard Arnault, $72 billion
  4. Mark Zuckerberg, $71 billion
  5. Jeff Bezos, $70 billion
  6. MacKenzie Bezos, $70 billion

Since this is an era when many people are concerned about ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice,’ what is your ‘fair share’ of what someone else has worked for?

— Thomas Sowell

In Defense of Apple Crunching


Commercials That Don’t Fit the NFL Audience

Verizon ad

These Verizon and Sprint commercials I see on NFL telecasts, where beta male milquetoasts dispense advice on cell phones, seem misdirected toward what I imagine to be the pro football-watching demographic.

Also off target: the Dove for Men commercials where metrosexuals meet up to lament the demoisturizing effects of their skin care products.

Profanity in Book Titles

Powell’s Books emailed a list of self-care titles aimed at making readers happier and healthier and saner.

A surprisingly high (to me) percentage of the titles — 3 out of 25 (12 percent) — contain the word “fuck.” One title includes the word “shit” but it’s also one of the titles that uses “fuck” so I’m not going to double-count it.

Is this a new publishing industry strategy to reawaken people’s interest in reading? Personally I don’t care for it . . .

Competitive Programming: TopCoder – Marketing

[Link to problem]

Problem Statement

You work for a very large company that markets many different products. In some cases, one product you market competes with another. To help deal with this situation you have split the intended consumers into two groups, namely Adults and Teenagers. If your company markets 2 products that compete with each other, selling one to Adults and the other to Teenagers will help maximize profits. Given a list of the products that compete with each other, you are going to determine whether all can be marketed such that no pair of competing products are both sold to Teenagers or both sold to Adults. If such an arrangement is not feasible your method will return -1. Otherwise, it should return the number of possible ways of marketing all of the products.

The products will be given in a compete whose kth element describes product k. The kth element will be a single-space delimited list of integers. These integers will refer to the products that the kth product competes with. For example:

compete = {"1 4",

The example above shows product 0 competes with 1 and 4, product 1 competes with 2, product 2 competes with 3, and product 3 competes with 0. Note, competition is symmetric so product 1 competing with product 2 means product 2 competes with product 1 as well.

Ways to market:

  1. 0 to Teenagers, 1 to Adults, 2 to Teenagers, 3 to Adults, and 4 to Adults
  2. 0 to Adults, 1 to Teenagers, 2 to Adults, 3 to Teenagers, and 4 to Teenagers

Your method would return 2.


Class: Marketing

Method: howMany

Parameters: String[]

Returns: long

Method signature: long howMany(String[] compete)


  • compete will contain between 1 and 30 elements, inclusive.
  • Each element of compete will have between 0 and 50 characters, inclusive.
  • Each element of compete will be a single space delimited sequence of integers such that:
    • All of the integers are unique.
    • Each integer contains no extra leading zeros.
    • Each integer is between 0 and k-1 inclusive where k is the number of elements in compete.
  • No element of compete contains leading or trailing whitespace.
  • Element i of compete will not contain the value i.
  • If i occurs in the jth element of competej will not occur in the ith element of compete.


{"1 4","2","3","0",""}
Returns: 2
The example from above
Returns: -1
Product 0 cannot be marketed with product 1 or 2. Product 1 cannot be marketed with product 2.
There is no way to achieve a viable marketing scheme.
{"1","2","3","0","0 5","1"}
Returns: 2
{"","","","","","","","","","", "","","","","","","","","","", "","","","","","","","","",""}
Returns: 1073741824
Returns: -1

Solution below . . .

Read more

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Caveat: The book advises against saying things like “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

So you can be an influential person with lots of friends but you’ll have to put up with a lot of nonsense . . .

2018: The Year in Books

These are the books I read in 2018, roughly in the order listed. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion.

Books of the Year: Middlemarch by George Eliot (fiction), Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders (contemporary fiction) and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling (non-fiction).

How Our Careers Affect Our Children

Mothers spending time on themselves — on relaxation and self-care — and not so much on housework, was associated with positive outcomes for children. It’s not just a matter of mothers being at home versus at work, it’s what they do when they’re at home with their non-work time. If mothers were not with their children so they could take care of themselves, there was no ill effect on their children.  But to the extent that mothers were engaged in housework, children were more likely to be beset by behavior problems.

“How Our Careers Affect Our Children”, Harvard Business Review

We’re studying the effects of working mothers, mothers spending time on themselves, mothers engaged in housework . . . I wonder what is the effect of mothers actually spending time with their children?

Competitive Programming: UVa 612 – DNA Sorting

[Link to problem]

One measure of “unsortedness” in a sequence is the number of pairs of entries that are out of order with respect to each other. For instance, in the letter sequence DAABEC, this measure is 5, since D is greater than four letters to its right and E is greater than one letter to its right. This measure is called the number of inversions in the sequence. The sequence AACEDGG has only one inversion (E and D) — it is nearly sorted — while the sequence ZWQM has 6 inversions (it is as unsorted as can be — exactly the reverse of sorted).

You are responsible for cataloging a sequence of DNA strings (sequences containing only the four letters A, C, G, and T). However, you want to catalog them, not in alphabetical order, but rather in order of “sortedness,” from “most sorted” to “least sorted.” All the strings are of the same length.


The first line of the input is an integer M, then a blank line followed by M datasets. There is a blank line between datasets.

The first line of each dataset contains two integers: a positive integer n (0 < n <= 50) giving the length of the strings; and a positive integer m (0 < m <= 100) giving the number of strings. These are followed by m lines, each containing a string of length n.


For each dataset, output the list of input strings, arranged from “most sorted” to “least sorted.” If two or more strings are equally sorted, list them in the same order they are in the input file.

Print a blank line between consecutive test cases.

Time limit: 3.000 seconds

Sample Input

10 6

Sample Output


Solution below . . .

Read more

Heaven’s Door

Did you know Bob Dylan has a line of American whiskeys?

Merry Christmas to me! (From me.)


Student Loan Debt Sets Record

U.S. Student Loan Debt Sets Record, Doubling Since RecessionBloomberg

What happened to parents saving up to pay for college? Is that not a thing anymore?

I don’t find it morally defensible to encourage a kid to incorporate academics into his or her life from an early age, to emphasize the importance of education, then when the kid is admitted to college to say “Congratulations, here’s your student loan application. Have fun paying that off till you’re 60.”

More Christmas Songs That Should Be Banned

Perry Como Christmas Album

A pair of hop-a-long boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben
Dolls that’ll talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen

— “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”

Baby dolls for little girls and guns for little boys?! Continuing to segregate and advertise toys based on gender just works to perpetuate nasty sexist stereotypes, plus it severely limits the development of all young people.

Be sure to engage in a conversation about sexism with your friends and families over the holidays!