Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Give it to me easy

I always loved easy classes in school. People who specifically seek out easy classes get a bad rap, especially amongst those who consider themselves particularly intelligent, and I think that's undeserved. It was so rare that I got to study things that I wanted to study in school, or that I got to work on what I wanted to at work (working the deli counter was way more fun than battering chicken). Taking easy classes or taking shortcuts on assignments allowed me to get the less interesting things out of my life as quickly as possible, and let me focus on the things that I actually cared about. Given the choice between (1) a poetry class that required a total of a couple hours' worth of effort and a class that was not painful to attend, and (2) a computer science class that was undoubtedly taught by an incompetent professor and covered topics ranging from boring to totally unengaging, I would choose the first one every time. Being almost wholly self-taught, I haven't really gained much respect for computer science professors. I'd much rather just study things that I like.

One of my best teachers, actually, was Mr. Janssen, a high school algebra teacher who I went to be with for a few hours each week in elementary school. He didn't know much about programming, but enough to teach a high school introductory class. What I liked about having him as a teacher is that I got to work on essentially whatever I wanted. He was just there to spur me on, give suggestions, bounce ideas off of, and so forth. He was also the one who inspired me to write crossword software. That was his ultimate challenge—he had never come up with a good way of having a computer build a crossword puzzle, and said that he would have respect for anyone who could do it. (The other impetus for making software to do it for me was the experience of typing up crosswords into Excel as a TA for Mr. Kingery, my history teacher.)

This is one reason why I fear that I'll never be as happy programming at work as I am just for myself. When I program for me, I work on exactly what I want to work on. When I program at work there's always someone higher up who has final say. But I like being final say. I like to eliminate things from my life that I see as low-value, because it gives me more time to work on stuff I care about, and play games. That was really easy before college. It was sometimes easy during college. It hasn't been easy since I've started working full-time.

There's nothing inherently wrong with doing things the easy way. Just because I don't want to waste time on whatever you want me to do doesn't mean I don't want to learn or grow or contribute.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah I guess that mekse sense, since you are the smartest man alive. You are so lucky to have been born with the seed of all your life's knowledge implanted in your brain, you just have to listen to yourself, how dare those icky professors try and teach you anything. You already know what you need to learn! Way to go Spomey!!

Travis said...

Welcome back! It's been a while. I'm glad you feel the same way.

Anyway, respect is earned. Most of the computer science professors I've had have still have the baseline respect I have for another human being, and a few have earned a little more. My Automata professor—can't remember his name—earned bonus respect points for not overall sucking. But, the fact is that a lot of computer science professors are just not good teachers; professors who are not good teachers do not get bonus respect just for being a teacher. This, of course, isn't limited to computer science; it's just the area where it was most obvious to me. And, it's not their fault that they're teaching me things that I don't care about. I just signed up for their class because it was the least-uninteresting one I could find that satisfied degree requirements.

Travis said...

A good teacher can make even an inherently uninteresting subject seem totally engaging. Women in European History was an incredibly interesting class despite a total lack of interest in history.

Ian Cottingham said...

Since Helzer forced me to create a blog I might as well stop posting here anonymously. Although, I suspect that I received credit for some nasty comments on this blog that I never made.

I agree with you completely about earning respect. My comments weren't geared at your general angst towards CS professors; you are correct, a great deal (particularly at UNL) suck out-loud. My comments were more aimed at your attitude in general, there is a lot you can learn from people, even if they do suck. While you are ok at what you do, you really could benefit from being more open to gaining from the knowledge of others. Case in point: your code review. Stay how you are if you like it, but good Lord, doesn't it get old being so close minded all the time? I am probably one of the most opinionated people you’ve ever met, but I still fuck up from time to time and realize that I can learn a lot from others, even people that I think are drooling idiots. You and I don’t agree on all that much, but I have found some of the few discussions we’ve had, and more of the posts on your blog and IT, to be rather insightful. As a matter of fact, the only real “problem” I have with you is the way in which you completely dismiss something or someone based on what you THINK about it rather than what you take the time to KNOW about it.

And incidentally, I'm not really back, I just read this post after Jon sent it to me.

Travis said...

I thought about referring to your anonymous comments as Ianonymous a while back, which I found particularly hilarious, but would make me look like a real ass if you weren't actually the one who posted them.

Travis said...

I told myself I wasn't going to respond... but every so often I change my mind. I can think of two posts that involve a code review...

It's over, May 31, 2005
Here, I bitch about style rules I think are stupid.

Two principles of software engineering, June 22, 2005
Here, I mention that people called me on my stupid string usage in some temporary code.

Which one of those was your case in point?

I do feel that there's plenty for me to learn from people; more than I will ever have time to learn. I've learned plenty from drooling idiots. Sometimes it's not even what they intended to teach me, if they were trying to teach me something at all. I'm terribly interested in the experiences I can learn from others; I mean, I couldn't be the totally self-centered narcsissist you seem to think I am if I weren't. No, what I dislike is a general feeling from some people that those who are very selective about what they care about are in some way inferior or closed-minded or stubborn.

The topics that I speak about on my blog is not a representative sample of my brainwaves. Trust me; you don't want a representative sample of my brainwaves.

Anonymous said...

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Ianonymous said...

The stylistic one, where you were unhappy with the results of your code review at work. In that case, IMNSHO, if you want to advance you sometimes have to play the game, even if the rules are stupid.

Travis said...

And that's what I did. I did what I have to. They're stupid, misguided rules, but I followed them, because sometimes you have to. The fact that I still think they're stupid doesn't necessarily mean that I'm closed-minded. It means (1) that I've reevaluated things since then and still feel that they're stupid, or (2) I'm closed-minded and I refuse to see the hidden readability benefit by leaving three-fourths of the horizontal space of Visual Studio empty (and thus pushing the a ton of useful context out of the view) because the lines are so short.