My Faults My Own

One's ponens is another's tollens.

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

Reading Feed (last update: April 2)

A collection of things that I was happy 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: Don't Worry About the Vase | On Automoderation -- Zvi concretizes much the the vague disease I was feeling around Automoderation, despite it being an eminently plausible approach to its design specification.


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Blog: JeffTK | Slack tool: predict -- Note that Jeff's implementation is of a market mechanism that's not budget-balanced, and rewards marginal improvements of the "last price", rather than marginal improvements of the "current best price". I suspect that these design decisions have the net effect of denoising the signal of predicter quality.

Blog: Schneier on Security | New Gmail Phishing Scam -- "The article is right; this is frighteningly good."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Baffling Politics

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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

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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

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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

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