Friday, April 22, 2005

What's up with Blogger?

The service had problems last week, but I thought they had all been fixed. Every time I've begun a post recently, Blogger has erased the text after a few paragraphs! That partly accounted for the long silence; the rest was sheer laziness. Thanks to Mridula for pestering me to write!

Does anyone know what the problem actually is, and how I can fix or avoid it?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

An Introduction to Recursion

Moebius Stripper has a fabulous post describing her first experience with runaway recursion. It made my day last week when everything else seemed to be going wrong. If you haven't read it already, check it out (and while you're at it, check her blog more often).

Tall, Dark and Mysterious also has a discussion of grading. I'd like to write on the subject, but I really have to get to work on my Operating Systems assignment. I'll update this post soon.

UPDATE: After every CS 225 mid-term, I dread the mind-numbing chore of grading over 200 exams. It has its moments, though, perhaps because American students seem to be much less repressed than their Indian counterparts. Every few exams, you'll find someone who was inspired to deliberately add a relevant joke for the graders benefit. I'm always tempted to go a little easy on someone who's made me laugh. (Perhaps we should have a policy of extra credit for humour, so we can reward them!) I was thinking of posting some examples here for my readers to enjoy, but decided against it after talking to Jason (who I TA for). You'll just have to take my word for it that they're hilarious.

Unforunately, the smiles don't last for long because some answers make you contemplate tearing your hair out. You occasionally wonder if you've been a complete failure as a TA... if you couldn't even communicate the key ideas to the one-third of your class that actually showed up at discussion. Grading a previous exam, I was sinking deep into depression when 6 students in a row couldn't correctly write a simple 5-line recursive function (Forget correctness; they weren't even close!). I almost gave up when I noticed that the next exam belonged to a student I'll call X. X had been struggling with the material all semester, largely because her understanding of the pre-requisites was weak. She worked extremely hard to catch up, though; I spent hours with her every week, helping her review her notes and debug programs. Still, she had not done well on the previous mid-term, and in no mood for further reminders of my failures, I was not looking forward to grading her exam. Five minutes later, I was in shock: X had perfect scores on every question I graded.

Moments like that make it all worthwhile.

Opera 8 released

Download it and give it a try. I normally dislike even minor changes to an application's user experience, but Opera 8 is prettier and more responsive than earlier versions. Best of all, Gmail works (out of the box), as does almost every other site I've tested it with, including those that Opera 7.54 choked on.

If you haven't used Opera recently, you don't know what you're missing.

Cardinal Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI

I don't know enough about his theology and positions to comment on the implications of this choice (besides, you can find such commentary anywhere you look), so I'll merely wish him well.

Fitting, somehow, that this post marks my return to blogging after a two-week absence.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II is dead

There were few men I admired and respected more. May God rest his soul.

The Washington Post describes his life and message.

Friday, April 01, 2005

DeLay on the Judiciary

I had decided not to post again on the Schiavo case and matters related to it, but I can't ignore the comments Tom DeLay made yesterday. Talking to reporters in Houston, he said, "We will look at an unaccountable, arrogant, out-of-control judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president ... The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

To begin with, the judiciary didn't 'thumb their nose' at Congress and the president: Congress brought the issue into federal courts, most of which ruled against Terri Schiavo's parents. Congress asked for judgments, and the courts gave it to them. Rep. DeLay seems to be crying foul simply because the rulings went against him. (To be fair, though, one court did rule that the law transferring appeals to the federal courts was unconstitutional. Tom DeLay may think of this as being disrespectful, but it's an important component of the system's 'checks and balances'.) And anyone who complains about how the unelected judiciary abused its power is ignoring the fact that Florida elects its judges. The Post is carrying an editorial strongly critical of Mr. Delay's remarks and arguing that the real problem in the Schiavo case was an arrogant, out-of-control, irresponsible legislature that thumbed their nose at Florida's judicial system.

Instead of worrying about a non-existent problem with the judiciary, perhaps Tom Delay should spend time worrying about his own ethics troubles. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal had a scathing editorial concluding, "[DeLay's] real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out." For the sake of Congress and its credibility, unless his behaviour changes, I hope it's sooner rather than later.