Phil's Blog


Spring 2011 Semester in review

by on Apr.27, 2011, under SFU

It’s finally here:  My last semester!  Due to reasons I don’t want to get into, I took on a somewhat ridiculous workload the last few semesters, and specially this semester.  Here we go:

CMPT 310

Artificial Intelligence

This was actually a very interesting course. It is not often taught by a sessional, but it was this time.  A PhD candidate named Hassan Khosravi was teaching it, and he was by far the best sessional I’ve ever had, and better than many profs as well.

The assignments were not particularly difficult for a 3rd year class (despite what some whiners on ratemyprofessor may have to say), nor was the material (but having taken 405 already and taking 413 at the same time certainly left lots of crossover for me.  I guess it would be more challenging if someone was taking this before 307 and any stats courses.  The department really should work on fixing prerequisites).  My only regret?  We didn’t get to cover neural networks.  The savior?  You can get extra credit in this course by doing a presentation.  Whereas most people opted to just sum up a chapter we had already seen, some of us presented new material.  My friend Dave presented something on Watson (the Jeopardy robot), I did a presentation on neural networks (which forced me to research and learn about them), and my friend Rhiannon did a presentation on a cool lyric-generating project.

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Take Pride in your Work (AKA: The state of some CS TAs at SFU)

by on Mar.11, 2011, under SFU

This started out as a Facebook note, but it has turned into quite the saga.  All emails are posted in their entirety and verbatim, except for obfuscating details that could help identify the guilty parties.

Some interesting parts that aren’t specifically mentioned but which will help clarify:  This was a group project, but I did it by myself.  The project included coding which had to be submitted both electronically and on hardcopy, and a bunch of other material that was only hardcopy.

[Tuesday, March 8th, 2011]

Well, it took 4 years, but I finally found one of the most useless TAs in existence. I got back a 22 page report I submitted (with code) with only two things on it. A checkmark on the penultimate page, and an “88” (grade).

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Fall 2010 Semester in Review

by on Jan.02, 2011, under SFU

For once, I’m actually doing this pretty much at the expected time.  Will wonders ever cease?  On with the usual onslaught…

CMPT 454

Might as well get this one out of the way first.  Don’t take this course.  Was the teacher good?  Yes, he was quite competent.  He knew his material, explained it well, and went through tons of examples.  So why not take this course?  Because it is basically useless and mind-numbingly boring.

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Last semester in review

by on Nov.27, 2010, under SFU

I probably should get around to doing this.  Without further ado:

CMPT 300

This one has lots of material.  I really like the person who was teaching it as a person…not necessarily as a teacher.  The assignments were long and tedious (which is to be expected), but these particular assignments were particularly unclear (a trademark of that teacher, from my observations.), requiring extra office time to figure it out properly.

That being said, I did learn a lot.  Mainly, like Greg likes to say:  ‘The lesson of 300 is that concurrency is hard and you’re probably not smart enough to do it correctly’ (or something to that effect).  Indeed.  It’s a mandatory course, so just take it.

CMPT 354

I thought I would learn lots about SQL and how to use it properly.  I was sadly mistaken. This is only due to the fact that the teacher who was teaching it is, by far, the worse teacher I’ve had at SFU yet.  He added ridiculous stuff like OLAP/Multi-dimensional databases, and spent several lectures on something as ridiculous as XML and XPath.  He was clearly a Mickey$oft junkie, unless it came time to actually demonstrate something with their software, at which point he was useless.

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What is Computing Science?

by on Feb.02, 2010, under SFU

[NOTE:  This article was written in the summer of 2009 for inclusion in a Computing Science Student Society newsletter.  It has since been edited and the newsletter has been compiled.  As of right now, it has not, however, yet seen the light of day.  Here is my article, unedited…]

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you are either a Computing Science student, interested in becoming a Computing Science student, a student in something linked to Computing Science, or associated peripherally with Computing Science somehow. Either that, or you needed some reading material for the next few minutes. Regardless, congratulations on making it this far.

However, it is amazing how many Computing Science students, specially upon entering the faculty, don’t really know what Computing Science actually is. I’d venture a guess that most people associate computer programming with Computing Science, but that is really not what Computing Science is. As a matter of fact, the computer is just a tool sometimes (not even close to always) used in the study of Computing Science.

Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.”

— Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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Last…er…two semesters ago recap.

by on Jan.10, 2010, under SFU

Yes, it’s been waaayyy too long, so I’m now buckling down and writing my recap of last two semesters ago.  As you may or may not recall, I dubbed last summer my Summer of Uselessness due to the courses I was taking.  Here’s the wrapup:

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It’s that time of the semester again…

by on Apr.10, 2009, under SFU

Sit down and grab a beverage, this will take a little while.

It’s time (I say ‘again’ to make it sound like I’ve been blogging a long time, as opposed to a few days now) to give my impressions of the courses I took this semester.

Here they are, in increasing order of enjoyment (or decreasing order of annoyance, depending on the course):

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No, really, we’re not getting dumber.

by on Mar.31, 2009, under SFU

This sign was posted in the window of the entrance door to Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus (the entrance from the parking lot, leading onto the mezzanine level):

Well done...


This was either posted by SFU or by Surrey Central Mall.  One of these is an institution of higher learning.  The other is a business dealing with the public.  Should either of these really ever use “U” instead of “you”?  Perhaps using that ‘holistic approach to English writing’ which they are currently using in high schools is a bad idea.

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