EppsNet Archive: Russia

Russian Propaganda on Facebook

31 Oct 2017 /

Facebook says that as many as 126 million people may have been exposed to 80,000 posts from a Russian propaganda group known as the Internet Research Agency over a two-year period.

Who cares? People believe what they want to believe.

Have you ever heard anyone say “I completely changed my mind on this issue after reading a Facebook post by nobody I know”?

Or “I was going to vote for Candidate A and now I’m going to vote for Candidate B”?

Neither have I . . .


That Was Then, This Is Now

12 Dec 2016 /

That was then:

Top Republicans must reject the ridiculous notion that a national election can be ‘rigged.’

New York Times editorial, Oct. 18, 2016

This is now:

[President-elect] Trump should be leading the call for a thorough investigation, since it would be the only way to remove this darkening cloud from his presidency. Failing to resolve the questions about Russia would feed suspicion among millions of Americans that a dominant theme of his candidacy turned out to be true: The election was indeed rigged.

New York Times editorial, Dec. 11, 2016

On This Day

19 Jul 2015 /
A Hospital Corpsman attached to the 3rd Battal...

A Hospital Corpsman attached to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines operating in Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On July 19, 1980, the Summer Olympics began in Moscow with dozens of nations boycotting because of Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.

Thirty-five years later, there’s still a war going on in Afghanistan, so you can see what a shrewd foreign policy move that was.


Teaching Computer Science: Collected Thoughts

10 Jan 2015 /

If you recognize the person on this next slide, please raise your hand. Don’t yell out the name, just raise your hand.

Derek Jeter

About two-thirds of you recognize Derek Jeter. I thought everyone would recognize him, but still a clear majority.

I’m not a Yankees fan or a Derek Jeter fan particularly but the Captain and I are on the same page on this topic. I have to admit I was pretty competitive as a student. I didn’t want anyone to do better than me and I especially didn’t want anyone to do better than me because they worked harder than me.

This Jeter quote reminded me of a quote from another notable sports figure . . .

Bob Knight

This is Bob Knight, college basketball coach, most notably at the University of Indiana. He won 902 games, three NCAA championships, and he coached the 1984 Olympic basketball team to a gold medal.

Notice that he says “everyone” and “no one.” He doesn’t say some people don’t want to come to practice. There’s a universal aspiration to accomplish great results without a corresponding level of effort. I recognize that in myself, definitely. As far as I can tell, this approach rarely if ever works, even for people we think of as prodigies.

Mozart used to say that anyone who thought composing music came easily to him was very much mistaken. While all the other kids were playing kickball, Mozart was in the house practicing his music lessons. In case you’re thinking that kickball wasn’t even a game at that time, you may be right. The point is that if there was kickball, Mozart wouldn’t have been playing it because he was practicing his music lessons.

One more on this topic . . .

Michelangelo's David

This is a quote from Michelangelo. Nothing great seems to happen without a lot of practice.

Once again, please raise your hand if you recognize the person on this next slide.

Anton Chekhov

He looks Russian.

Yes, he is Russian.

Dostoevsky? Tolstoy? Mendeleev? Pushkin? Boris Pasternak?

No . . . he’s known as an author of plays and short stories.

[A student sitting next to a smart but quiet young man from Russia points to the Russian boy and says, “He knows.”]

Who is it? Chekhov.

Right . . . this is Anton Chekhov. He wasn’t a programmer but his advice is relevant to many different endeavors.

Don’t overcomplicate things. A good heuristic – which is a fancy way of saying “rule of thumb” – is to do the simplest thing that could possibly work. Method A could work, Method B could work — which one should we try first? Try the simplest one first.

Note that the heuristic doesn’t say to do the simplest thing. If the simplest thing couldn’t possibly work, don’t do it. Do the simplest thing that might actually work.

One final slide. I don’t think anyone will know these people so I’m not asking for a show of hands.

2 days in a closet

I saw an article last week about a man and a woman who were “trapped” in a janitor’s closet at the Daytona State College Marine and Environmental Science Center for two days. They got themselves in the closet last Sunday and finally on Tuesday, the gentleman on the right got the idea to call 911. Why that idea took two days to incubate is unclear. Police showed up to let them out and found out the closet was not locked. They could have opened the door themselves.

Maybe the lock was meth’d up, like the woman. “Meth’d” up, get it?

Are they students at Daytona State College? The article doesn’t say. Do any of you have Daytona State College on your college wish list? If so, you may want to take it off. Or just keep it as a safety school in case Harvard and the Sorbonne don’t come through for you.

What can we learn from this story? I don’t want to say “don’t make assumptions” but don’t make unwarranted assumptions. Don’t make assumptions about things that you can easily verify. If you’re in a closet, don’t assume the door is locked. Try it and see. A lot of uncertainty can be dispelled by trying things out.

Assumptions can hurt you as a programmer. You might be stuck because you’re assuming some condition is true that isn’t true. Or you’re assuming that some condition can never be true when it really can be true. Don’t make unwarranted assumptions.

I couldn’t help noticing that a lot more people recognized Derek Jeter than recognized Anton Chekhov. If you want to achieve great renown, if you want to be part of the public consciousness, entertain people in a simple-minded way, like hitting a ball with a stick and running around in a park. People can be entertained by Derek Jeter without expending any effort.

Where Chekhov went wrong is that he failed to anticipate a world where nobody reads anymore. Furthermore, he believed that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them. His plays and stories don’t have a traditional structure where everything is tied up neatly at the end, so you not only have to put in the time to read them, you have to go into overtime to ponder the moral ambiguities. Who has time for that in their busy lives?


When Will Snowden Denounce Russian Spying?

21 Oct 2013 /


The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

9 Sep 2012 /

The author, a Russian, displays great heart and insight in this philosophical novel, but at 900+ pages, he needs to learn how to get to the point.

I look forward to his next project, perhaps with a better editor.


Mac Wilkins: What The Discus Can Teach You About Life

28 Aug 2012 /
Modern copy of Myron's Discobolus in Universit...

Modern copy of Myron’s Discobolus in University of Copenhagen Botanical Garden, Denmark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deadspin has an excellent “as told to” story on former Olympic discus thrower Mac Wilkins (What The Discus Can Teach You About Life: Lessons From One Of America’s Greatest Throwers)

Wilkins made four straight U.S. Olympic teams, winning a gold medal in 1976, a silver in 1984, and finishing fifth in 1988. He was also the first man to throw the discus more than 70 meters, and he held the world record for over two years, bettering his own mark three times between April 1976 and August 1978.

Some excerpts:

So one day I go out to train and I say, Oh, what the heck. Let’s just give it a little extra effort today. And I did, and I got better and it went farther. And I thought that was kind of fun. What if I could that again tomorrow? And so pretty soon, I’m hooked on, Can I do it better today? And it was fun. I knew I could get better and I enjoyed it.

It was all about, There are no limits. There are no limits. I have no restrictions. I have no inhibitions. And you can achieve anything that you set your mind to. There are no limits.

I thought that the [1980 Olympic] boycott was a stupid thing to do. We continued to sell wheat to Russia. We continued to sell Pepsi to Russia. We bought vodka from Russia. It was business as usual except for the Olympic Games. And, of course, we only boycotted after we won the ice hockey game in Lake Placid that year. So I thought it was very naïve, and I was very disappointed because I really liked Jimmy Carter. And there’s still a war in Afghanistan, even to this day. So it didn’t do anything.

Is there a moral to the story? Well, probably.

I have so many, so many times when I would fall down or fail. Being a teacher/coach, I have to be … well, it’s exactly like being a parent. You have to be a better person than you really are.