Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ask and Ye Shall Receive: Getting Back Homework Points

In some of the finance blog I read regularly, they've talked about asking for discounts or waived fees -- often, apparently, companies actually will if you just ask. My mom also taught me to ask for things -- "You never know unless you try" and "What's the worst that could happen? You'll be right where you are now" were common phrases from her.

I had those lessons in mind when I got back a graded programming assignment today in my algorithms class. I'd missed 3 points because I hadn't followed the algorithm in the textbook explicily, but rather done a (correct, but alternative) version found on Wikipedia. I'd ordered the textbook online and didn't have it when I needed to finish this programming assignment, so I had hoped Wikipedia's version would be close enough. But no.

Figuring the professor wouldn't take off more points just for talking to him, I told him why I'd implemented my algorithm as I had. He was sympathetic, so I asked if I could redo it for partial credit. He immediately agreed! No harm in asking, indeed.



Friday, October 20, 2006

Ethical Group Assignment Behaviour

The Way It Was in High School

Ever since I can remember, I've disliked group assignments in school. I was a straight-A student through high school, and this often meant that I had to do the majority of a group assignment myself if I wanted to get the kind of grade I was used to getting. The other students either didn't care enough or didn't understand the material well enough to be entrusted with a fair share of the workload.

So, my choices were either 1) to do most of the work myself, put the groups' names on the assignment, and get the A I wanted; or 2) divide the work evenly and hope the other group members would do high-quality jobs. Option #3, convincing them that it was worthwhile to strive for an A, wasn't socially viable in high school. I almost always opted for #1.

Generally Better in College

I was pleased to find group projects less common in general once I got to college. They still happen, but they aren't the norm. Even better, the people who get into college and work hard to remain in college generally don't need to be convinced of why trying for decent grades is a good thing. Sure, the students who take required support courses or GEs credit/no-credit often just do enough to get by with a C, but otherwise people try. This doesn't mean they all get the good grades, but at least they're making a more or less honest effort.

I feel a strong sense of duty to my group members (this was true even in high school of the free-loading group members). If I do a half-assed job on a solo assignment, only my own grade suffers. On a group project, I don't believe I have the right to pull down other students' grades. I will stay up later, fret more, study harder for group projects because of this.

But Still, Sometimes...

In light of college generally being better for group projects, the situation I find myself in this quarter is fairly unusual.

I've missed a couple lectures in my very early morning (read: 10 AM) class and skipped lab, making up the time at home. My lab partner had dropped class on the second day, so I was working by myself and thus had the freedom to do such things.

But this Monday, my professor emailed me to ask if I'd pair up with another student whose partner had also dropped. Of course, I said I would. We met next lab, but it turned out neither of us had read the sections of the book we needed to do the lab (which isn't due until November). We agreed to read up and meet again next lab.

Today, a third student was left high and dry by a lab partner who'd dropped. (Or at least stopped showing up -- which isn't a cool thing to do to your partner without informing them.) We were grouped into a team of three. The third guy didn't really seem to know what was going on, and it sounded like the second guy still hadn't read the chapter.

For example, there's this chart we're supposed to fill out before we start on one part of the lab. I started working on it, talking out loud about what I was thinking so my partners would have a chance to involve themselves or correct me if I was misunderstanding something. But they mostly said nothing, and generally verbally shrugged when I asked directly if they thought I was writing down the correct answers. It felt very one-sided.

So the point of this post was really just to say that I'm not sure what to do with the group project over the weekend. I think I may just do as much as I can by myself, and see if that will kick-start my groupmates next Monday. If they still don't get in the swing of things, it may be just like old times in high school...

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Recycling at CustomFlix

Taking a quick break from my busy schedule of classes, homework, work, and lots of procrastinating (heh), here's a photoblog entry.

I work part-time at CustomFlix as a web dev. CustomFlix, like many other software companies, is predominantly male. Not 100% male, though.

In the office kitchen, there's a sign above the trash and recycle bins, encouraging employees to recycle: "Real CustomFlix Men Recycle!" The fine print, adding afterward as you can see, reads, "Real CustomFlix women, on the other hand, consume their recyclables wholes. Yeah! Hear me roar! Err... crunch! I mean crunch! (;"


Saturday, October 7, 2006

Reading About Religion

I've been reading quite a bit about religion lately (or rather, mostly things against religion). I bought Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion at the bookstore two weeks ago, and I've been slowly going through it (you can only read so much in one sitting in the bathroom, after all ;)). I read Sam Harris's short book Letter to a Christian Nation, which is more ranty than Dawkin's book on the subject. I discovered the bi-monthly magazine Foreign Affairs, and read the article "God's Country?" by Walter Russell Mead. I read part of the chapter "The creation myth: on the sixth day, God created fruit flies" from Ann Coulter's book Godless.

All this reading about religion is making me want to talk about religion with someone, but I don't know who I can talk to. Forrest doesn't seem like he really feels like discussing it much, Jerry's the choir, and my family parents seem to have become pseudo-religious since Bush (or maybe it's just since I've become strongly atheist as opposed to just agnostic, as I was in high school -- it's hard to tell which is the reason, since they were more or less coincident events). It's frustrating to not be able to really discuss a topic that's been bugging me and that I've been reading up on. Grr, I say.

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Friday, October 6, 2006

Plants Just Want to be Free

While at Home Depot, Forrest and I were trying to get to the potting soil that was blocked by a bunch of boxes. Forrest suddenly noticed that the boxes contained live plants! I pointed out to him on plant trying to escape.

Along with the potting soil, we bought a rectangular planter box and some daffodil bulbs. We have delusions of a little garden to keep my ivy company, you see.

We stopped by the grocery store and picked up a head of garlic and a red shallot -- less than half the price that Home Depot wanted to charge for putting them in a bag and giving us instructions on how to plant them. We don't know whether our grocery store foodstuff will grow (though I can vouch for potatoes, heh), but we figure it's worth a try and it might be cool.



Thursday, October 5, 2006

This Is Not a Blog Post

No, seriously. This doesn't count as a post; this is an excuse for the lack of posting. School's started, work's started, peer pressure requires I socialize at least occasionally ;), multiple times per day I stop to eat, and the apartment still needs major cleaning. Sigh.