Monthly Archives: September 2014

Confirmation Bias: Myths of Youth and Age

A common statement is that younger people are more mentally flexible and amenable to new things than older people. This statement is on the same level as that blacks have rhythm or any other racist statement.

Yes, you can find young people who are doing new things and old hidebound people who refuse to change, but there are also hidebound young people and older people doing new things.

Why has this statement been given such credence? I think that it is confirmation bias.

Naturally, young people will tend to do things new to them. After all, they have not done so much yet. What sort of thing will they pick? I suggest that there is tendency to get into an area that is not already filled with competitors.

Jo[e] Youngperson gets into something and that is about all Jo[e] is doing. Sam[antha] Olderperson is already doing things and may simply add one more thing.

Walk down a commercial street that you know. You will readily notice any new businesses. It is rather harder to notice that an older company has just added a new product line.

I think that rather than pitting youth against age, that they should work together. Sometimes, a younger person comes up with a great idea, perhaps based on some material that he recently studied. (He is more likely to have recently studied.) Other times, the idea is only new to him and is thoroughly known already.

This might be due to the idea having already been developed. I have come up with ideas myself, that later, I saw had already been developed and much more fully than I did. (After all, many other people had worked on it.)

It may be because it is a bad idea that looks good at first glance. In a newsgroup on database theory, newcomers frequently presented an idea (Entity-Attribute-Value) and were quite effusive about it. Many of them took it rather badly when it was pointed out that it was an old idea and why it was a bad one. (There is a reason why the elders say not to eat the white berries, but go ahead if you insist.)

Between the two groups, which really should be just one, we can come up with genuinely good ideas and implementations. If we spend our time disrespecting each other, it will not happen nearly as often as it should.

Odd Language #67: With With

I recently wrote this sentence in a job application: “More generally, I look at systems that I deal with with a critical eye to possible problems on the edges.”

The issue: While it is correct, there is an odd duplication of “with”. The first one is part of “deal with”; the second is part of the prepositional phrase “with a critical eye”.

Puzzle #70: Candy

You put your quarter in the candy dispenser, gave a twist, and got some candy to munch on. There were six pieces: two red, two orange, one yellow, and one brown.

1) If you select two of them to eat, what is the probability that the remaining ones are one each of each of the four colours?

2) If you select four of them to eat, what is the probability that the remaining ones are the yellow and brown ones?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #68 Solution: Binders

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow


Public grade K-12 teachers are on strike in British Columbia. The provincial government is holding firm despite twice losing in court. The premier sends her child to a private school.

This is starting to have ripple effects. An article in Kamloops This Week, “Strike Has Impact on Bottom Line”, 2014-09-12, pp A3 and A6 relates how some businesses have been affected. Some businesses are close to schools and do a lot of business with students and teachers.

It has affected me personally, because I applied to a Petro-Canada location which apparently has student employees. Since they are not going back to school, they are staying on, and this means no hours for me.

On the plus side, a local toystore is seeing some more business from parents looking for things for their kids to be doing. (This from the KTW article.)

I could do with less confrontation on a basic service.

Late Edit: I just noted one of the provincial newspapers stating that a deal has been reached and kids could be in school on Monday.

Odd Language #66: My Pleasure?

The standard response to “Thank you” is “You’re welcome”.

Some people use alternatives. Petro-Canada has their employees reply with “My pleasure”.

The issue: I have applied to Petro-Canada and have been speaking with a manager about hours. Because of a teacher’s strike, teenaged employees have not gone back to school, so no hours for me yet. After I got this information, I said thank you; the response of “My pleasure” struck me as odd.

Puzzle #69: Majors

A university created a sample containing information about 100 of its students.

1) There are 30 Arts majors, 50 Business majors, and 40 Computing majors.
2) 6 students are majoring in Arts and Business, 8 in Arts and Computing, and 10 in Business and Computing. They might be majoring in more.
3) 25 students are majoring in Computing only.

How many fit into each of the eight possible combinations of the three majors (including none)?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #67 Solution: Coloured Blocks

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow

More on Promotion

Last year, I wrote Promote! Promote! Promote! and covered the necessity of promotion. I just had my nose rubbed in this again.

Last Friday, Thompson Rivers University had their Welcome Back event. Clubs and other groups were promoting themselves. There were also free hamburgers and hot dogs, and there was loud music.

As a result of this, I became aware of three points of promotional failure:

1) It turns out that there is now a gamers club. Great! Apparently, it had existed in previous years. I never knew. Oops!

2) This year’s promotion sheet that the club was handing out had few contacts and no details as to locations and time of day. There were two contacts listed. The first was Facebook. I have never used Facebook because of concerns about security of my data. I reluctantly tried to set up a Facebook account only to be told that I did not have cookies enabled. Unfortunately, I did. Not being able to set up an account, I could not get into the walled garden. The other point of contact was an E-mail address, but my two E-mails got no response. I ended up guessing where they might meet and was fortunately correct.

3) I had a great time. Towards the end of the evening, I asked if the people there would be attending the Attack-X gaming convention this weekend. It will be held in the same building where we started gaming that evening. They had not heard of it! I said when and where and gave some details.

Promotion is all-too-easily forgotten or done minimally. Do not let that happen to you and your event.