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Lindsey Kuper

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swapcontext(&bloomington, &ithaca); [Jun. 13th, 2010|12:32 am]
Lindsey Kuper
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Three weeks ago, I did a potentially insane thing. I moved to an apartment I'd rented sight unseen in a town where I'd never been and where the closest person I knew was a four-hour drive away. Then I immediately started a demanding new job, and at the same time began taking an accelerated, semester's-worth-of-material-packed-into-six-weeks course that I didn't feel particularly prepared to take. Alex oniugnip feared for my sanity, and I did, too. I'm tough, but I'm not indestructible, and this particular combination of actions had every right to lead to disaster.

It hasn't. In fact, it's been great. It's been kicking my ass, but in a good way; I can't believe how much I'm learning. Yesterday I turned in the second assignment for the course, which was to implement a user-level cooperative thread library using the POSIX context functions. I'm not going to say my implementation is particularly good, but it seems to work! And I made it myself!

Before this, the last time I took an OS course or wrote C was eight years ago as a terrified and clueless undergrad. Back then, I didn't ask questions much, because I was afraid of being found out as an impostor who didn't know anything. For some reason, it didn't occur to me that it was fine to not know anything because, after all, I was there to learn, not to prove my knowledge. So I didn't ask questions and, as one might expect, didn't really learn a goddamn thing. I barely knew what my own code did.

Alex and I often talk about how if only we could go back and do our undergrad degrees again, we would totally destroy them. That was a large part of my motivation in wanting to take an undergrad OS course this summer and paying no small amount for it out of pocket. I wanted to see if that was really true. Well, I wouldn't say I'm wreaking total destruction! on CS 4410, but I'm more than keeping up. If I don't understand something, I actively address my lack of understanding by asking a buttload of questions, and I never, ever, ever, ever, ever write a line of code I don't understand. I can't believe I ever thought that was acceptable.


[User Picture]From: lyceum_arabica
2010-06-13 06:04 am (UTC)
I've always been one of those people who will go down with the ship as required... I hated turning in work I wasn't proud of, and I never wrote code I didn't understand, but I was perfectly happy to just... not turn things in. I suspect your undergrad GPA is a bit higher than mine :-)

The asking questions part is definitely helpful if you're going to go with the former approach. :-) I was generally too proud to ask the prof/teaching staff unless I had an interesting question... but I'd bug my more knowledgeable friends, within reason. Then the wall you run into is the CS geek who is incapable of explaining technical terms without using other technical terms.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-06-13 08:13 am (UTC)
Yeah, in undergrad I was afraid I'd be looked down on for asking -- I guess that's what it means to be too proud to ask. Doing some teaching myself has helped with that; I end up thinking highly of the ones who ask detailed questions. It's okay if they ask questions all the time as long as they show that they're putting some thought into it.

I just went to check what my undergrad GPA was by department and was surprised to see that I had around a 3.6 in CS courses. Huh, it felt like it was lower than that...oh, yes, right, that would have been because of my 2.7 in math courses.
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