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Programmatic Thinking and the Google Doodle

There's a joke (or as my former professor might have said, "it's like a joke, it just lacks humor") about how programmers think:

Programmer: "How do I make pasta?"
Recipe: How to make pasta:

Fill an empty pot with cold waterBoil itAdd pastaProgrammer goes home and wants to make pasta. She sees a pot of boiling water already on the stove. So she pours it out, fills it up with cold water, boils it, then adds pasta.
Again, like a joke, but potentially lacks humor.
For those not "in the know," the joke is that programmers tend to reduce problems to ones they've already solved. In this case, the programmer already had a solution for making pasta. So, she changed things around until she could use it.
In this case, we end up doing more work than necessary, but in general, this can be extremely effective.
This week, the Google Doodle is pretty great. It's a coding game geared toward kids, in the same vein as Scratch or Alice, where instead of writing…
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How Long is "The Blacklist's" Blacklist?

I'm almost always late to the game on pop culture*. I didn't know about Firefly until it was off the air for many years, and am much more likely to wait for shows to hit Netflix than I am to see them when they first run.

Such is the case with The Blacklist with James Spader (note: the show is not for young viewers -- I'm not sure if I'm even old enough to watch some parts of it -- but this post is more than safe). I watched the pilot earlier today and found it interesting. But you probably want to know what it has to do with statistics.


It's the list itself. The so-called Blacklist that Spader's character references in the pilot. A list of all the baddies in the world. Each baddie has a number, and each episode of the show focuses on one baddie. However, these numbers aren't presented sequentially, which begs the question:

How long is The Blacklist's Blacklist?


Here are the titles of the first two episodes (after the pilot):
The Freelancer (No. 145)Wujin…

The Cereal Box Prize Distribution

In October 2015, General Mills introduced a line of Star Wars prizes in some of their cereal boxes.
Much like the boy who asked, "Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" I wanted to know:
How many boxes of cereal do I need to buy to get all the prizes?
If you looked at the image, screamed "6!" at your screen, and wondered why there are additional sections to this post, let me clarify: we don't know what prize is inside until we open the box.
It's random.
Now, we're in statistics country.

In statistics, we're all about distributions. That is, models that say how likely something is. You're probably familiar with at least one, the normal distribution (a.k.a. the Gaussian distribution, a.k.a. the bell curve).
If we think about GPA, the normal distribution says (if the average is a C), that C would be in the middle, which is also the most common. A would be far out to the right (which is less common)…