Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Plagiarism in Code

Note I'm not talking about copyright infringement, which is criminal, but mere academic plagiarism, which is a civil matter whose probable worst-case outcome is expulsion and reputation damage. Nevertheless it falls inside the sphere of the often- (and ill-) used concept of intellectual property.

I've always had a problem with plagiarism as a concept as well as something to avoid. In English, here's some teacher asking me to analyze a literary work. Okay. The literary work is simple, so what I turn in is near-exact in terms of information as many other students' work, but with my own phrasing. If I happen to match the phrasing of another student in many instances, or now with modern tools anyone on the entire internet, then the teacher suspects plagiarism. How can I avoid something that could happen due to chance alone? (By lowering the chance but that has to pollute the production in some way. I might normally say "Candy tastes good." To avoid plagiarism accusations, I might say "The bumps on the muscle that resides in my head, in the mouth, normally called the 'tongue', detect the chemicals in this sugary substance about to enter my digestive system and tell my brain it's okay to continue." You can continue that line with asking "why?" to every statement, and adding a "because" for all of them (potentially adding on "because"s to each "because"). I could have gone into evolutionary biology with the above.)

My eventual conclusion on plagiarism is that it's not meant to catch uniqueness of thought, nor is it an effort to catch whether a student understands something, but is an attempt to determine whether work was done according to some specification. Even plagiarizers have to do some work, sometimes more work, depending on the circumstances, but it's not the kind of work desired. So plagiarism is very much an effort to regulate the way of doing something, even if the outcome is the same.

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The Cumber Manifesto

I propose we stop calling imaginary and complex numbers imaginary and complex numbers. I propose we throw them all in the same bucket called "Cumbers". This has several advantages, which I shall briefly enumerate.

First is the instant association with a cucumber. Now I don't have kids, so I don't know if Cucumbers are the new Broccoli, but when I was a kid I loved cucumbers as much as I do today. (Though I loved broccoli too, so...) Cucumbers are cool and green and friendly. When written down, Cumbers can even resemble a long cucumber: (3 + 4*j).

Second is just avoiding the names which can lead to confusion in children and some teenagers. I'd like young children to learn algebra, but young children may not be able to fully grasp that one word can have completely different meanings. So when they hear "Imaginary" they think "This doesn't correspond to anything real", or when they hear "Complex" they think "Oh no this is hard." This is compounded by the more important, sad fact that even high school calculus teachers don't know what complex numbers are useful for. I had a great teacher, he didn't know. He said vaguely "electrical engineering." Now I know better, know more, but that's a different subject. Calling them "Cumbers" gets rid of this potentially emotionally distressing situation in the names.

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Why vim? Or: Why a text editor, not an IDE?

People (mostly at my school) have gawked at me when I say I don't use Visual Studio, or I don't use Eclipse, or I don't use Dreamweaver, or I don't use Word and use OpenOffice less and less. Instead I use vim. And the fact that I only have one substitute for all those giant programs speaks volumes about vim.

Of course, it's not just vim. I obviously use compilers and such. But whenever text is involved, it's almost always vim I end up using. I don't particularly like emacs, but they more-or-less have the same practices as vim users if a different philosophy. (Kind of how Christian Monk/Nun practices match up with Buddhist practices even if the philosophies are quite different.)

So I've grown into the habit of saying "Linux is my IDE." I use vim when I need to edit text, and use a host of Linux programs to manipulate that text. I use ant for my Java projects, Makefiles for C/C++ projects, gdb for debugging, $$\LaTeX$$ for documents and homework, and a browser to parse the templates I handwrite that compile down to HTML.

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Fall Semester Classes

(Update: They canceled my Combinatorics class and bait-and-switched the software engineering course, so I had to change a few things around.) Back to school this fall for the start of my Junior year. Where'd the past two years go?

20 credit hours is the norm at my school, it's actually pretty manageable. (And if you think about it, you spend at least 20 hours a week in high school. Not as much time on homework or projects but actual butt-in-seat time seems greater.) If I only had to take 10-13 credits as is common for "full time" students at other schools, I think I'd blow my brains out from boredom. At least with 20 credit hours chances are you'll like most of the classes and the crappy/boring ones are swept under the rug. If you're only taking three classes though, and two of them are crap, I don't think the other one can make you happy no matter how good it is.

Anyway, here's a list of my classes and their descriptions according to the school catalog along with some of my own thoughts.

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New Comment Messengers Finally Added

Finally added a form feature to let you put in your email address (never displayed) if you want to have an email reminder for new comments on that post later on. You'll also be able to unsubscribe if desired.

I also noticed that jsMath fails in Chrome. I'll be replacing it with MathJax shortly.

Edit: Replacement is finished! I think it looks a lot nicer. Here's an $$inline=\pi$$ test.

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