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Grad-school-related program activities - Lindsey Kuper [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Lindsey Kuper

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Grad-school-related program activities [Apr. 10th, 2010|12:14 am]
Lindsey Kuper
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I got my annual review letter from the department program department! It says:

We are pleased to recognize your participation in research with Professors Friedman and Ahmed and your publication activities. We would like to remind you that this is your last chance to pass the written qualifying exams and that you should concurrently start preparing for your oral qualifying exam.

Yeah, it's pretty much like that.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: jes5199
2010-04-10 05:29 pm (UTC)
those jerks.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-04-10 06:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah. Well, I don't know. Do you think that someone getting a Ph.D. in computer science, with an emphasis on programming languages, should be able to answer a set of questions like these given three hours? On the one hand, they aren't about the area in which I'm trying to become an expert. On the other hand, they're about the substrate I have to live in, so it might not be a bad idea for me to know something about it.

Also, would your answer change if it were this set of questions?

Edited at 2010-04-10 07:10 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2010-04-10 08:03 pm (UTC)
actually, I'm balking about the inhumane communication mode. I hear something like "I don't care if you're a world-class marathon runner - the rules say you have to do three backflips by three P.M. tomorrow"

but, to answer your questions:
1) I have few preconceptions about what a Ph.D. is supposed to know. I only have the vaguest notions of what a Ph.D. is for, other than to exist as a self-reproducing social construct. I am poorly qualified to answer the question. But...
2) I would feel distinctly uncomfortable hiring someone at my current job if they couldn't at least talk through possible solutions to almost all of SystemsQuestions06. I find the specificity of it sort of silly: "write a formula", "prove the minimum number" - I'd be happy with "more-ish" "less-ish" "getting slower". But even so, a familiarity with this stuff is so assumed that we don't even think to ask questions about it during interviews.
3) I recognize that FoundationsQuestions06 is asking C.S. questions, and by the name I infer that these are considered "foundations", which makes it a little tautological to consider. Personally, I find the questions to be somewhere between unreadable and impenetrable. And a little boring.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-04-10 08:53 pm (UTC)
actually, I'm balking about the inhumane communication mode.

Ha! Well, I mean, we do have conversations about this stuff too; these two sentences are hardly new information to me. I have no idea what other people's letters say, but based on the content of mine, I think that someone would have to be pretty oblivious to actually be surprised by something they read in their review letter.

Edited at 2010-04-10 08:54 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: keystricken
2010-04-10 10:21 pm (UTC)
To me, it read something like: "Congratulations on your accomplishments! We would like to remind you that you are on the precipice of disaster."
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-04-11 02:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's why I shared it. Much of grad school feels this way, actually.
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2010-04-10 10:32 pm (UTC)
ah, then they're simply violating the cooperative principle!
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2010-04-10 10:47 pm (UTC)
well, mostly I don't recognize the notation.

I can infer that the funny asterisk (∗) means something like "the strings made out of the set of characters"
The long arrow seems to be analogous to type signatures in the Haskell/ML family.
I haven't looked at set theory in years, but since they only ever use ∈, I can assume that it means "is a member of"
{ foo | bar } seems to be a different sort of type signature, maybe for data instead of for functions.
This is not sufficient knowledge to know what this means:
L = {w ∈ {a, b}∗ | #a (w) = #b (w)}

I have so far failed to infer what the jargon "regular" means in this context.

I have so far failed to infer what it means for a machine to "accept" another machine.
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2010-04-10 10:53 pm (UTC)
at work we were discussing a continuum of problem solving from "math" to "natural language", where on the math side, you deal with very complex deductions over relatively homogeneous data types, and on the natlang side you deal with relatively shallow decisions over extraordinarily heterogeneous objects. With "programming" falling somewhere in the middle.
Markus suggested that C.S. was the art of moving programming mathwardly. There is a counterweight movement to that, which as far as I know does not have a proper name yet, which I am a member of.
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2010-04-10 11:01 pm (UTC)
(I seem to be rambling, forgive me.)
the bit-twiddling is boring to me, too, but it feels boring in the way that "fundamentals" are necessarily boring.
I certainly don't spend much time thinking about inode caches.
In fact, I mostly write in a programming language that causes cache misses on practically every level of the system (okay, but probably not disk) on every single instruction - I can't care about efficiency because that ship has already sailed long before I write a single line.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2010-04-11 05:05 pm (UTC)
A PhD is a union card to get a college teaching and/or research job.

Teaching you will either think is important, or (being an autodidact) won't. But no argument will switch a person from one camp to the other.

Research is important because we (as a civilization) need people thinking up new stuff and finding out new things with different motivation than just putting another dollar in their pocket. Some of this can be done by non-pros, but some of it is, quite frankly, goddamn hard, and you need to have a huge bizarre substrate of knowledge and lots of free time in order to make forward progress. Then, once the knowledge has been found out, it's good to have a system which encourages publishing of ideas rather than keeping them secret. (See http://arxiv.org )

The union-card requirement exists because the job sounds pretty great to a lot of people, so it has to be made hard-to-get. The traditional option of "lower the rewards until the market figures the supply and demand out" generally fails here because figuring out whether a person would be good at the job is hard, and nobody wants a marginal professor doing the teaching/research. So the response (in the humanities) has been to only certify people who are over-qualified (for teaching and research gigs) and then let them fight for the jobs. In CS, we have an over-supply of jobs and an under-supply of people, so we aren't so mean.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2010-04-11 06:01 pm (UTC)
Of course, I am pretty sure that, like most certification programs these days, rot and (especially) ossification have taken their toll and rendered the PhD process into something almost unrecognizable to the original designers. But, even after my year o' hell, it seems like CS PhDs are less of a scam than, say, getting an MD in the US (so much debt!) or getting a PhD in the humanities (so few jobs!) or becoming a "Microsoft Certified Software Engineer" (what does that even mean?) or getting an MBA online (seriously scammy).
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2010-04-13 07:29 am (UTC)
I'm gonna push back on the way you're using the word "teaching". You mean "work in a university".
Everyone is an autodidact. Most of college happens outside of the classroom, no? That's why 12 "hours" is a full load, right?
And everyone learns from "teachers". I learned from Paul Graham, Alan Kay, Larry Wall, Jeff Atwood, Damian Conway, Eric Raymond, Linus Torvalds, Chad Fowler, Martin Fowler, Ward Cunningham, Why The Lucky Stiff, Markus Roberts, Don Knuth, Don Woods, Stephan Wolfram, John Draper, David Heinemeier Hansson, Miguel de Icaza, Reginald Braithwaite, Tim Bray, Yukihiro Matsumoto, Zed Shaw, Giles Bowkett, Brad Fitzpatrick, Jamie Zawinski ...
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2010-04-13 07:32 am (UTC)
and on research:
I believe in rough consensus and running code.
I think that open source and the gift economy is exceeding the output of academia.
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