October 12th, 2006


Married to the Mob Rule

Every time I go over to J/R's, there's the reflexive, constant criticism of the government whenever G's around. G's intelligent, but I think the criticism doesn't come from the mind so much as emotion, nor are the factual claims in his arguments well grounded or thought out. I agree with some of his ideas -- that current government and parts of our society are quite corrupt, and that fixing that corruption is difficult. I don't think that his analysis beyond that is very well thought out. I tend to find it kind of depressing to be exposed to that level of toxicity though, as one of the biggest differences I have with him, apart from admiration of the idea of societies in general, is optimism and concern for humanity. I believe that people exist who are not corrupt and greedy, often in positions of power. I've worked for some of them. While my first boss wasn't an admirable person in many ways, all the people in the second company I worked for seemed genuinely nice people. My third and fourth (current) bosses, in academia, are even better in my eyes -- they are people not driven by money so much as intellectual curiosity. They are an example of malleability of the human spirit -- that humans are not all greedy, selfish bastards that can't deal with any social arrangements besides living in primitive conditions with primitive societies out on a farm somewhere. I admire my present and past bosses - both of them are professors with tenure, incredibly intelligent, curious, devoted people who seem to be all about the science. The life of an academe is not about wealth when lived properly, and I can see that their mind is captivated instead by ideals and curiosity. This is what we should be encouraging, and what we need to see more of in government and all other sections of society.

Tonight, instead of walking the whole way there, I used Google Transit, giving me a pair of busses to go there and back. Overall, it went pretty well, although there were some quirks. The way there went very well -- taking the 61C from my place to North Craig, and then the 54C from there to Liberty is a good way to get neat J/R's. The first bus was right on time, the second was about 10 minutes late. For the way back, things were not quite so smooth - the 86A was a bit early (although I made it with time to spare), and the place it dropped me off at was not, despite Google Transit saying so, the same stop I was to be picked up by the 64A. After bring picked up there, it had me get out and walk at the border of Squirrel Hill, despite the 64A going much closer to my apartment. Still, I made it home on time using bus routes I didn't know existed without needing to plan the connecting parts much. Google Transit is useful, even if it doesn't quite get some of the important details right. It makes Pittsburgh's public transit much more usable..

My neck and back are incredibly, horribly sore right now. I'm feeling decently well otherwise though...


Thawing in Winter

Stroucki brought a cool game to last night's gaming session, whereby people play politicians and squabble over percentages of the votes. It's fun and fast-paced, and everyone had a ball. I also think that I'm no longer really mad at him..

Today, in my ever-present (and ever-dull) usenet moderation duties, I came across some spam from an entepreneur in Pittsburgh who never seems to find other jerks .. I mean entepreneurs with whom to start a compamny. It's kind of funny reading the endless stream of "Didn't have any luck yet"s -- given that he's contributed to the decline of usenet, I hope he never finds anyone.

Finally, for the first time at CMU, I've had a joke played on me (I think) by the janitors -- they turned the volume all the way up on my desktop speakers, so when I finally played a song, it blasted out loud enough that I'm sure people in nearby offices heard. OTOH, perhaps I just had my volume settings very different yesterday -- either way, it's funny.


Well-fed Concepts

At work, I just taught a coworker the bare basics of SQL -- enough to do queriesplus some examples of updates, inserts, and deletions (which she hopefully won't need to do). She's rather bright -- I've seen her pick up a *lot* of knowledge over the time she's been working here -- a reminder that one's personality does not need to be geeky to learn all the science and computer stuff. I like teaching people things -- I think it's better teaching people the basics of something informally and giving them the time to play with that knowledge before going further in a rigourous way -- playing on one's own in fields, when the field permits, helps people turn on-paper knowledge into practical, tested, and eventually expert knowledge.

This got me on to thinking about all the things I learned at university, from in-class learning, research projects, work, and academic-but-non-college-locale things. The first database class I took was taught by an experienced DBA (who wasn't, AFAIK, a professor of any sort) - at the time I only understood primitive non-relational databases (mainly DBase). Given how often I've worked with/designed/etc databases since then, it was probably the most job-useful thing I learned from University. My Unix knowledge did mature from being a casual user (I dialed up to several Unix-based BBS's and other things in Middle and High School) to being sysadmin-qualified mainly through University, both from the CS environment and having a job as an apprentice sysadmin. I don't know if I would've gotten that elsewhere or not, but it certainly is something I'm glad I have. The computer architecture and compiler design classes were probably the most interesting things I got from the classroom, although I haven't used them much directly since. I think the most irritating class I took was CIS 541, a numberical methods class - it wasn't useful for many other classes, and was more of a math class (the dull kind of math) than anything else. Some of the CIS theory classes were pretty cool too - I liked the computability and distributed computing (which also covered fault-tolerance, IIRC) classes. If I had no schedule conflicts and just went with the vocationally super-useful stuff, I could probably have finished University in two years or less, but I don't think I'd be as confident with new technologies or my ability to adapt to new subfields of CS-work I might eventually shift into without the other CS classes. As for non-CS stuff, I'm incredibly glad that I had the chance to explore as much as I did. The political science minor and associated related classes gave me a much deeper understanding of the world, weakening the hold my old philosophy had on me by making me see the big picture.

Now, more detail than you probably want to know about everything I took:Collapse )

It's funny how much I've forgotten from those years. There are two things I remember believing strongly in at the time:

  • It should be no big deal to drop a class, even if it gives me a W or an F (there are deadlines for each)
  • Interesting but unnecessary classes are usually worth taking
Sorry for the size of this entry..