Fall 2013 Semester Retrospective

I noticed while writing the pre- post for the new semester that I lost track of my customary semester review for the past semester while I was moving hosting. Pushing it up now.

I was generally pleased with this one. The class was much more aligned with what I want out of an algorithms class than what I’d been warned to expect. I firmly believe that algorithms is very much a use-the-reference field; don’t go building this shit from memory or trying to re-derive, look up the current most-appropriate-tool, and look up the reference implementation. If there isn’t one, do something straightforward, then try to be clever later if it will actually matter. We ran over various classes of problems, and algorithms for working with them, and focused more on selection and application rather than the traditional horrible algorithms class spent entirely doing picky proofs way beyond the accuracy of the model of computers they are based in.

On the downside, there was a complete lack of feedback. No grades returned, two exams which may have really just been feints to make us study, and some sporadic homework assignments. That was a little disconcerting, but I ended up with an A, got what I wanted out of the class, and avoided the pain of the class I didn’t want to take, so victory all around.

GS600 SPEC TOPICAL GRAD COURSE/ University Curriculum: Chapman
It was indeed a room of jaded grad students, lead by a retiring classicist-turned-administrator, discussing the past, present, and future of higher ed. It was fun. Not a whole lot of value in reviewing it because it was a one-off. Got to use my old notes from when I was gaming the system for three degrees, and to bring in some of the education policy reading I do for fun, which was rewarding.

EE699 TOPS IN ELEC ENGR/ Cameras as Computing Devices : Dietz
It wasn’t a brilliantly organized class – weird non-linearities, out-of-order and repeated content, assignments due “get them in before we run out of semester” and such, but I got to receive credit while playing with a bunch of interesting tech, which is what I really wanted. A little embedded C poking around in CHDK, a little scripting, a little memory-mapped tampering with PPMs. Some practical optics (as opposed to the theoretical stuff we glossed over years ago in general physics), and some exposure to something experimental (the Time Domain Imaging part). I may still end up working some of one of the latter projects into part of a publication. The course materials make a pretty good reference for things that there aren’t necessarily competent references for. Apparently most of the class had trouble with the programming, which is a rather sad note about the job we do teaching our undergrads to program, I didn’t think it was particularly challenging.

It went pretty well, and I feel like I’ve figured out what students need in there.
I had a little skirmish with the primary instructor because I generally carefully held students to the Textbook’s notation, he counted one of the notations used in the text wrong on an exam, and I did my job and defended them, but that ended pretty well.
It’s quite rewarding, but also very time consuming and out of my area. I’m kind of glad I’m not doing it again.

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1 Response to Fall 2013 Semester Retrospective

  1. I couldn’t figure out at first if you were taking 515 or TAing it. I remember that I took the class but I don’t remember anything about it. It apparently didn’t leave much of an impression on me.

    Also, not sure if typo, or if you actually have a TeXbook for 275.

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