Advice for awkward people

Dear Patrick,

I am an attractive female first-year, and all these older guys keep hitting on me. It’s really distracting! So what if I dress in revealing clothes and only go to parties where I can get in for free and then talk about myself the whole time? Why can’t these guys just give me my free drink and then leave me alone?

Earnest Seniors Purchase Every Cup I Acquire, Liquor, Libation, Yet Make Every Opportune Conversation Seductive


That’s a really tough problem. It must be so difficult to be a hot, young first-year. I’m really interested in what you have to say. Please go on. This is so fascinating to me. I am maintaining appropriate amounts of eye contact and nodding at what you say in agreement. While we’re talking, I’m throwing a party this weekend. You should totally swing by so we can hang out. And don’t worry, you won’t have to pay.

Oh wait, it’s past the first month of school? Never mind. For the first couple months of school, all the new students have that “first-year spark.” After their first grades start rolling in, that spark dies, and the first-years become just as unattractive as the rest of us.

I am serious about that party, though. Swing by,
Patrick Hoskins

Dear Patrick,

For reasons I can’t get into here, I need to flee the country immediately. I have 10 items, each of which weighs a different amount and has different value to me, but I can only take some of them with me. How can I decide what to pack so I can stay ahead of the authorities?

Please hurry,
Immediately Need Notice On Collecting Everything Necessary Tonight


Unfortunately for you, you’ve stumbled upon the knapsack problem, a classic problem in combinatorics. The issue is that the problem is NP-hard. As a computer science major, I am required to avoid all such problems. If it can’t be solved in polynomial time, I can’t do it.

Admittedly, actually doing the math to pack your bag wouldn’t take long, but what am I, a mathematician? We computer scientists don’t compromise when it comes to nondeterministic polynomial time! What we should really be focusing on is why you’re fleeing the country in the first place. I’d suggest a sincere apology to get you out of trouble. If in the meantime you happen to discover a polynomial-time algorithm for solving the knapsack problem, go on and forward that to me.

Or just buy a bigger knapsack,
Patrick Hoskins

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