Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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:

  • SU1995 - Engineering Graphics 166 - This was before I was a student, between my jr and sr years of high school. I learned that I didn't want to be an engineer, that OSU was a pretty cool place, and how to use CAD software
  • AU1996
    • Biology 101 - AP Credit, tested out of this
    • German 101 - AP Credit, tested out of this
    • German 102 - AP Credit, tested out of this
    • English H111 - Composition and Literature - I hardly remember this, except it was easy and took care of part of the writing requirement
    • German 103 - Intermediate German - It was fairly easy, I believe
    • Math 151C - Computer-based Calculus and Analytical Geometry - Awesome class, we used mathematica and it was all conceptual. I should've tested out of this if I had remembered my caculator for the placement tests, but I'm glad I didn't. I also met a friend who eventually started SFF in this class.
  • WI1997
    • CIS 221 - Intro to programming for CIS majors - My first intro to the brain-damage that is RESOLVE/C++. The prof was cool though, and despite the class being boring to me (I already knew how to program), it wasn't so bad.
    • German 104 - Intermediate German 2 - I don't remember this at all
    • Math 152C - More Computer-based Calculus, a continuation if 151C. Awesome.
  • SP1997
    • Anthropology 200 - Intro to Physical Anthropology - This was pretty interesting - we explored the practice and methods of the field of anthropology. I remember it being kind of difficult in parts
    • CIS 222 - Continuation of 221. The weeding-out of CIS hopefuls continued.
    • CIS 153C - Continuation of Math 152C. Awesome.
    • Math 366 - Discrete Math. Irritating and painful proofs.
  • SU1997
    • Anthropology 201 - World Prehistory - A continuation of 200, examined what we know of human societies before recorded history started. I liked this as well.
    • CIS 321 - Final part of the introductory trilogy of CIS classes. The weeding out was largely done at this point, and things become slightly more interesting as we moved away from the odd theories behind RESOLVE/C++ to doing neat things with it.
    • CIS 360 - Computer Systems - The first class that dealt with low-level computer guts, in this case SPARC. SPARC assembly is pretty simple and clean, and it was neat learning the ISA-hardware boundary and a bit of what lies beneath it
    • CIS 541 - Numerical Methods - Pain in the ass. I hated this class, and withdrew from it this time
  • AU1997
    • CIS 459.21 - C Programming - I mainly took this because I had extra time. It was not that great an idea, because it made me very bored as I already knew C rather well
    • Physics 111 - Intro to Physics - Not that interesting, was my first class taught in a huge lecture hall. The labs took a long time, but were a bit more interesting.
    • PolSci 210 - Modern Political Ideologies - Really interesting, taught by Dr Champlin. This class got me interested enough in the field to start a minor in PolSci.
    • Statistics 245 - Intro to Stat - I found it boringly similar to Middle School Statistics and didn't give it much attention (and got a poor mark in it)
  • WI1998
    • CIS 570 - File Design and Analysis - Dealt with structured file access, kind of a pre-relational-database class. Not super interesting.
    • CIS 675.02 - Computer Architecture - A fullblown and heavy sequel to 360, we designed computers from the gate-level up. This was an awesome class, I learned a lot, but the professor was a notoriously really harsh grader and I got a rather poor mark (he failed a number of ppl). This focused on MIPS.
    • Philosophy 240 - Philosophy of Art - This was a mix of philosophy and history - the history was interesting, but the prof was one of those nutcases who believes paintings have an aura, etc etc, so the philosophy was ludicrous. It was a good class though.
  • SP1998
    • CIS 676 - Computer Architecture - A fairly heavy sequel to 675.02, focusing on x86 architectures. Also awesome, with the same intensely harsh grading
    • CIS 693 - Individual Studies - I think this is where I worked on a project with some other people and a chemistry professor on setting up a lipid database. It was fun.
    • PolSci 367.01 - Contemporary American Politics - I think I enjoyed this. It was the second writing requirement.
  • SU1998
    • CIS 560 - Systems Software design/Development. I don't remember this at all, unfortunately.
    • PolSci 145 - Politics and Global Problems - I think this talked about the U.N. and other regional alliances and the issues they try to solve. It was good.
    • PolSci 245 - U.S. in World Politics - The role of the U.S. in world politics. It was an eye opener for understanding the world stage. Also really good
  • AU1998
    • CIS 625 - Automata and Formal Languages - CS Theory. Awesome, and also shocking to me, as I didn't think that formalising different types of computability this way was doable
    • Math 254C - An extra Computer-based math class, kind of neat
    • Physics 112 - I had problems with this class, and withdrew from it too late to get a W.
  • WI1999
    • Geology 121 - I learned a lot about rocks and geology. It was fun.
    • PolSci 672 - Political Theory from Hume to Marx - Another great class, covered a number of interesting individual philosophers in decent depth
  • SP1999
    • CIS 655 - Principles of Programming Languages - Awesome. I loved this class - part lab, part theory, we wrote some more interesting compilers than earlier classes, and the labs were thankfully solo.
    • Geology 122 - Historical Geology - I don't remember this class
    • PolSci 673 - 20th Century Political Theory. This opened with the Unibomber and ended with John Rawls, covering in more depth the philosophies of some prominent 20th century philosophers. It was more thought provoking than most of the other PolSci classes because it's rooted in (and sometimes in response to) a modern worldview that's aware of science (and materialist)
  • SU1999
    • CIS 541M - Numerical Methods - My second shot at this try, with a better teacher. I struggled through. It was dull and painful.
    • PolSci 590 - Topics in Political Science - This was about Political Corruption, starting with greek notions of progressions of political systems and working through to modern times, covering different notions and theories of corruption
  • AU1999
    • CIS 670 - Database Systems - I withdrew from this for some reason, again too late to drop it. I don't know why, or if I ever attended. Hmm.
    • Philosophy 215 - Asian Philosophies - My first significant intro to religious and other philosophies of India, China, and Japan. It was very interesting, and gave me some ideas I still think about today
    • Statistics 427C - Computer-based advanced statistics. Much more interesting than earlier stats classes, and so I paid more attention and did better
  • WI2000
    • CIS 601 - Ethics in Computer Science - I disagreed with most of what the professor had to teach, and made arguments against much of what was said. He respected that, and it was really enjoyable.
    • CIS 660M - OS class that I didn't take because I convinced the prof I knew the material, so I did independent research instead.
    • Stat 428C - Sequel to 427C, similarly enjoyable
  • SP2000
    • CIS 630 - Intro to AI - This was a survey class for AI and machine learning. I liked it, but it didn't go into enough depth into anything (typical for survey classes)
    • CIS 670 - I withdrew from this, I don't recall why.
    • Physics 112 - Second go, this time I did pretty well in the class
    • Psychology 100 - Intro to Psychology. Kind of interesting, although most of my classmates were total idiots and they kept things moving at a crawl.
  • SU2000
    • CIS 680 - Data structures. I withdrew from this for some reason
    • CIS 741 - Comparitive Operating Systems - Awesome class, covering advanced features and their implementation in various OS's. They talked a lot about VMS and Unices that do NUMA, are fault-tolerant, etc etc.
    • CIS 757 - Software Engineering - Software engineering is a load of crap. I felt it then, and I feel it now. I argued a lot with the prof, and he was a good sport about it.
    • History 111N - Civilisation from Antiquity to the 17th century - This was a great class because the teacher (a grad student) really knew how to weave facts into a compelling narrative (the N stands for it being a night class)
    • Women's Studies 201 - Intro to Women's Studies - I had a number of good arguments in this class, but also learned a lot. I love discussion-based classes
  • AU2000
    • CIS 730 - Advanced Topics in AI - This was a sequel to 630. We finally went into depth on some select AI/Machine Learning topics, from implementing vision systems to a number of types of neural networks.
    • CIS 758 - Software Engineering Project - I don't remember anything about this class
    • History 112N - Modern Civilisation - Sequel to 111. Same teacher, similarly awesome.
    • Psychology 371N - Language and Mind - An awesome class on the psychology of speech processing/generation
  • WI2001
    • CIS 680 - Data Structures - This time I didn't withdraw. I don't remember the class though.
    • CIS 760 - Operating Systems - Yet another OS class. I unfortunately don't remember this one either

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..

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