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How to solve a hard problem December 25, 2015

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Computer science, Humor.
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To solve a hard problem, first break it down into pieces. Then pack those pieces into bins, using as few bins as possible. You’re going to want a little help from your friends, so consult your social network and find the largest clique of people who all know each other. Visit the home of each of those friends (making sure to use the shortest possible overall route), and give each friend a subset of the bins whose overall number of pieces equals that friend’s age. Return home, and wait for your friends to send you their results. (While you’re waiting, you can perfect your game of Candy Crush.) Then find the longest sub-sequence common to all your friends’ results — that sub-sequence is (almost surely) your solution!

Note: If the above procedure is taking too long to terminate, try breaking your problem into more pieces; making more friends; or consulting an oracle.


The Magic Dogma Ball December 25, 2013

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Education, Humor, Reason.
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It is certainThis holiday season, take all the hard work out of finding the answers to life’s more perplexing questions: the Magic Dogma Ball™ has all the answers you’ll ever need! Ask any question, no matter how complex, and the Magic Dogma Ball™ will give you the definitive answer (according to your selected tradition). No thinking required!

The Magic Dogma Ball™ answers questions about ethics, politics, metaphysics, fashion, sex, and more. Possible answers include:

  • It is certain
  • Without a doubt
  • It is forbidden
  • Don’t even think about it

The Magic Dogma Ball™ is long-lasting and can remain in your family for generations — no tuning or adjustments necessary. Give your loved ones the gift of Certainty today!

Recommended for children and adults age 0 and up.

Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Scientology, and Aztec versions available.

Caution: Do not mix different versions of the Magic Dogma Ball™ among children in the same household, neighborhood, or school. We are not responsible for the consequences of contradictory answers provided by different traditions.

Who’s who December 24, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Humor, Religion.

Six degrees of Wikipedia October 23, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Humor, Language.
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Some people have too much free time on their hands.

It looks inconsistent September 19, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Humor, Religion.
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The view from my apartment window is dominated by a large Christian Scientist church. Notice the subject of this week’s sermon:

Mark Twain once wrote about how, after falling off a cliff in Austria and breaking some arms and legs, he was visited by a Christian Scientist named Mrs. Fuller — who explained that “Matter has no existence; nothing exists but mind; the mind cannot feel pain, it can only imagine it… Pain is unreal; hence, pain cannot hurt.” After his fractures had healed, he turned to the local horse-doctor, who managed to cure his lingering stomach-ache and cold. Then it was time to settle the bill:

The horse-doctor charged me thirty kreutzers, and I paid him; in fact, I doubled it and gave him a shilling. Mrs. Fuller brought in an itemized bill for a crate of broken bones mended in two hundred and thirty-four places — one dollar per fracture.

“Nothing exists but Mind?”

“Nothing,” she answered. “All else is substanceless, all else is imaginary.”

I gave her an imaginary check, and now she is suing me for substantial dollars. It looks inconsistent.

Everybody has a share June 8, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Economics, Humor.
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In chapter 22 of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, mess officer Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder finally explains to Yossarian why he buys eggs for seven cents apiece in Malta and sells them to the mess halls in his syndicate for five cents apiece:

‘I do it to make a profit.’

‘But how can you make a profit? You lose two cents an egg.’

‘But I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling them for four and a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy them from for seven cents an egg. Of course, I don’t make the profit. The syndicate makes the profit. And everybody has a share.’

Yossarian felt he was beginning to understand. ‘And the people you sell the eggs to at four and a quarter cents apiece make a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when they sell them back to you at seven cents apiece. Is that right? Why don’t you sell the eggs directly to you and eliminate the people you buy them from?’

‘Because I’m the people I buy them from,’ Milo explained. ‘I make a profit of three and a quarter cents apiece when I sell them to me and a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when I buy them back from me. That’s a total profit of six cents an egg. I lose only two cents an egg when I sell them to the mess halls at five cents apiece, and that’s how I can make a profit buying eggs for seven cents apiece and selling them for five cents apiece. I pay only one cent apiece at the hen when I buy them in Sicily.’

‘In Malta,’ Yossarian corrected. ‘You buy your eggs in Malta, not Sicily.’

Milo chortled proudly. ‘I don’t buy eggs in Malta,’ he confessed… ‘I buy them in Sicily for one cent apiece and transfer them to Malta secretly at four and a half cents apiece in order to get the price of eggs up to seven cents apiece when people come to Malta looking for them.’

‘Why do people come to Malta for eggs when they’re so expensive there?’

‘Because they’ve always done it that way.’

‘Why don’t they look for eggs in Sicily?’

‘Because they’ve never done it that way.’

‘Now I really don’t understand. Why don’t you sell your mess halls the eggs for seven cents apiece instead of for five cents apiece?’

‘Because my mess halls would have no need for me then. Anyone can buy seven-cents-apiece eggs for seven cents apiece.’

‘Why don’t they bypass you and buy the eggs directly from you in Malta at four and a quarter cents apiece?’

‘Because I wouldn’t sell it to them.’

‘Why wouldn’t you sell it to them?’

‘Because then there wouldn’t be as much room for profit. At least this way I can make a bit for myself as a middleman.’

‘Then you do make a profit for yourself,’ Yossarian declared.

‘Of course I do. But it all goes to the syndicate. And everybody has a share…’

The blasphemous bible quiz June 7, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Humor, Religion.
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So, you think you can tell heaven from hell? Divine from delusion? Holy from hokum? All right, then: Which of the following are in the Bible?

  1. God makes a wager with Satan over how a good man will react to having his family killed.
  2. God provides one of his prophets with a ring of invisibility.
  3. A king of Israel demands (and receives) 100 foreskins as a dowry for his daughter.
  4. A queen of Israel uses a poison apple to put an enemy into a deep sleep.
  5. God forbids women from revealing their shoulders or knees in public.
  6. A dead prophet’s ghost is raised in order to foretell the future.
  7. A prophet uses a brass statue of a serpent to cure those bitten in a plague of fiery serpents sent by the Lord.
  8. An old prophet is killed in a duel with his former pupil, who has turned to evil. The old prophet’s body disappears, leaving only his cloak behind.
  9. God sends bears to kill 42 children for making fun of a prophet’s baldness.
  10. God forbids parents from beating their children.

The correct answers are below:

All true believers break their eggs at the convenient end April 9, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Humor, Politics, Religion.
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In Jonathan Swift’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, Gulliver finds himself in the middle of a prolonged war between the two great empires of Lilliput and Blefuscu:

It is allowed on all hands, that the primitive way of breaking eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger end; but his present majesty’s grandfather, while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resented this law, that our histories tell us, there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown. These civil commotions were constantly fomented by the monarchs of Blefuscu; and when they were quelled, the exiles always fled for refuge to that empire. It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death, rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end. Many hundred large volumes have been published upon this controversy: but the books of the Big-endians have been long forbidden, and the whole party rendered incapable by law of holding employments. During the course of these troubles, the emperors of Blefusca did frequently expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us of making a schism in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Blundecral (which is their Alcoran). This, however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text; for the words are these: ‘that all true believers break their eggs at the convenient end.’

On one of his subsequent voyages, Gulliver visits the Grand Academy of Lagado, where scientists are hard at work on many useful inventions for the benefit of society:

Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for discovering plots and conspiracies against the government. He advised great statesmen to examine into the diet of all suspected persons; their times of eating; upon which side they lay in bed; with which hand they wipe their posteriors; take a strict view of their excrements, and, from the colour, the odour, the taste, the consistence, the crudeness or maturity of digestion, form a judgment of their thoughts and designs; because men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at stool, which he found by frequent experiment; for, in such conjunctures, when he used, merely as a trial, to consider which was the best way of murdering the king, his ordure would have a tincture of green; but quite different, when he thought only of raising an insurrection, or burning the metropolis.

How the British atone for their sins January 22, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Humor.
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This is one of my favorite bits by Douglas Adams, from So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish:

There is, for some reason, something especially grim about pubs near stations, a very particular kind of grubbiness, a special kind of pallor to the pork pies.

Worse than the pork pies, though, are the sandwiches.

There is a feeling which persists in England that making a sandwich interesting, attractive, or in any way pleasant to eat is something sinful that only foreigners do.

“Make ’em dry” is the instruction buried somewhere in the collective national consciousness, “make ’em rubbery. If you have to keep the buggers fresh, do it by washing ’em once a week.”

It is by eating sandwiches in pubs at Saturday lunchtime that the British seek to atone for whatever their national sins have been. They’re not altogether clear what those sins are, and don’t want to know either. Sins are not the sort of things one wants to know about. But whatever sins there are are amply atoned for by the sandwiches they make themselves eat.

If there’s anything worse than the sandwiches, it is the sausages which sit next to them. Joyless tubes, full of gristle, floating in a sea of something hot and sad, stuck with a plastic pin in the shape of a chef’s hat: a memorial, one feels, for some chef who hated the world, and died, forgotten and alone among his cats on a back stair in Stepney.

The sausages are for the ones who know what their sins are and wish to atone for something specific.