Out With The Old!
2009.12.13 in school
Fall semester is over! That's 5/8; just three to go!
I finished the Programming Languages final at 3:00 or so on Friday, stood up, and walked not only out of the DCC, but out of the semester, too! There's a little bit of cleanup left (a final in AI on Thursday, primarily), but after that I'm homeward bound.
I guess I'll say a few things about each class, since that seems to be the thing to do...
Intro to AI was — unless I'm way off base, which doesn't seem likely — the easiest full-sized class I've taken at RPI. The assignments were easy (and even relatively fun) — straight out of AIMA, implement in whatever language you choose, spend two weeks on it. That gave plenty of time to overdo the assignments, which doesn't seem to have phased/angered the professor. The tests weren't too bad; the first one was a little surprising (I came out of it thinking it was either the easiest test I'd taken here, or that I'd missed something vital and failed it, and ended up with a B), and the second is on Thursday.
Programming Languages is an interesting beast. A bunch of ex-Cary people took it along with me (as well as Mike, who dropped the class a week or two in, and has to take it some other semester); a good number of the ones I've talked to about it since believe (along with myself) that the class as it stands should be scrapped, in its entirety. I'm not sure I can/should totally explain why, just that the class is a mess and needs a rethink. It's a good idea — certainly! — to teach various paradigms and languages; I'm not completely convinced it's a good idea to use the professor's pet language to do so. Drop Erlang in in place of SALSA, a Scheme or a Lisp and/or Haskell in place of Oz, keep Prolog; this would help make the class a lot more real-world useful (I can't believe I'm putting Lisp, Erlang, and Haskell in a sentence about real-world usefulness...) without sacrificing (at all) the various lessons about language design and use (except the ones about how things should not be done, in the last few weeks). The other problems (the real ones)... I'll leave for people who take the class to discover on their own!
Intermediate Video was awesome. Well... there was a lot of strange contained within the videos we watched in class, but I suppose that comes with the territory! The awesome part was two things: a) getting to spend time working on video again (I bought FCS a few years back and have been upgrading it every once in a while since then; I don't get to use it very often these days, though), and b) the class. It was a tiny class; there were only nine of us! The nice part about it was that everybody got along; they made someone who didn't belong (me) feel like he fit right in, even if he sometimes took issue with being asked to find meaning in things which clearly didn't have any (I'm cool with art-for-art's sake, but leave it there, and don't try to make that sort of art have meaning!). And I had a lot of fun with the three projects during the course of the semester.
Quasars and Cosmology doesn't even count. One credit, no work (literally). Sit down for an hour once a week and look at pretty pictures of space. Awesome!
Machine Learning was really tough. It's yet another case of me distinctly lacking math experience (multivar and linear algebra, mostly, in this case, but there was also the fact that most of the calc I've studied has (yay!) rotted out of my brain). It sounds like it's going to have quite the curve, too, which is good! There was a lot of cool stuff in this class; it's the only CS course this semester where you could see something you were writing really work. I now know (and have implemented) a dozen different ways to classify digits from the USPS zipcode database — that's always fun! It was nice to not have any tests to speak of, but the homeworks were killer, and a very large chunk of the book (which is currently being co-written by the professor) never ended up getting posted to the website.
On the slate for next semester: Introductory Biology (YUCK, but that finishes my science requirement), Typography (I love being a fake EMAC), Parallel Programming, Advanced Computer Graphics (Cutler again!), and Intro to Economics (I need to take a bunch of humanities stuff, I figure ECON will go better than PSYC or PHIL).