My Faults My Own

…beleaguered by the same

negation and despair,

show an affirming flame.

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: October 15)

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: Marginal Revolution | Is the World Bank lending too much to China? — "As I understand it, the World Bank makes money on these loans and there is a cross-subsidy of other Bank activities, most of all aid. A World Bank that stopped such loans would be poorer and less skilled, and over time could devolve into one of the poorer, less effective poverty-fighting parts of the United Nations, without much of a political power base at that."


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Blog: Marginal Revolution | Blade Runner 2049 (some Straussian spoilers) — "It hardly makes any concessions to the Hollywood vices of this millennium and indeed much of the Tysons Corner

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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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