My Faults My Own

…willing to sacrifice something we don't have

for something we won't have, so somebody will someday.

IN WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo, a sometimes-poet and erstwhile student of Computer Science and Math, oc­cas­ion­al­ly writes on things of int­erest.

Reading Feed (last update: November 24)

A collection of things that I was glad I read. Views expressed by linked authors are chosen because I think they're interesting, not because I think they're correct, unless indicated otherwise.


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Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Republican Club — why is this painting interesting? — Tyler plays art critic; see also The Democratic Club, by the same artist.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | A Time to Fast — on calorie reduction strategies.


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Blog: Marginal Revolution | The best results on assortative mating and inequality I have seen — "Individuals face a large degree of uncertainty about their permanent wages early in their careers. If they marry early, as most individuals in the late 1960s did, this uncertainty leads to weak marital sorting along permanent wage. But when marriage is delayed, as in the late 1980s, the sorting

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"Weedout" Courses Considered Harmful

"The Perils of JavaSchools", by Joel Spolsky, is a wonderfully fun read for students of computer science. A veritable demigod of the software world tells a story -- ringing with appealing truth throughout -- of a tragic fall from grace in modern CS curricula...and at its core, that great deluder Java.

It's relentlessly snarky, and feels relentlessly true, as it lays out in gruesome detail the extent to which kids nowadays are being coddled and left tragically unprepared for the big scary world where pointer arithmetic, abstraction, and recursion are inescapable necessities. It's hard to read it without coming away with the sense that Spolsky has hit upon the great uncomfortable truth in computer science -- that some curricula simply fail to properly train young minds in key concepts.

It's a fun read.

But it's got some problems.

Though I am loathe to disagree with such a titan of my field, I respectfully submit that Spolsky not only misses the broad point of a computer science education, but gets

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Scariness and Self-Selection: A Shopping-Week Meditation

nb: For those outside of the Harvard ecosystem, "shopping week" is the first week of classes, during which all courses are open to drop-ins. It's only at the end of shopping week that we submit study cards and are assigned final schedules.

One of the things that inevitably happens during shopping week is that classes are overfull. Since almost all students shop weakly more courses than they end up taking, even classes with correctly-sized rooms end up crowded, short on chairs, and/or with students sitting on the floor.

I've noticed that this problem is remarkably bad in upper-level CS / Math / Stat courses (it might also be bad everywhere else; I just don't have enough data to say). Once you get past the intro-programming and intro-theory sequences, concentrators have almost-infinite freedom in selecting technical electives in the department, so there's a lot of comparison-shopping going around.

To make it worse, a phenomenon I'll dub "window-shopping" is particularly egregious in the CS department -- in-the-know concentrators will show up for

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107

Well, I'm in the middle of a 72-hour Topology take-home final and the run-up to the submission of a semester-long Operating Systems project, so I'll try to keep this one short. But I couldn't miss the opportunity to blog today about the intersection of two of my great interests: computers, and awesome people.

Today is the would-have-been-107th birthday of Grace Murray Hopper, 1906-1992. If you don't know who she was, then I assume you're capable of clicking the above link, and so you've now learned that she left an associate professorship at Vassar to enlist in the Navy Reserve (only after securing an exemption for being underweight at 105 pounds), co-authored papers with Howard Aiken on the Harvard Mark I, and later declined a full professorship at Vassar to remain a research fellow in CS at Harvard.

When Navy regulations forced her retirement at age 60, she was recalled to active duty, and later promoted to Commodore (or Rear Admiral) by an act of Congress. Why did she remain in

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