August 23rd, 2004

krazy koati

I wanna take home a diploma

The first tactical error for the computer labs was my fault. I agreed with a teaching assistant to standardize on file names like ``lab1/q1.c'', but left in the notes names like ``greetings.c''. Never give contradictory instructions, particularly on things that don't make the slightest difference, is one of the first lessons I'd have learned if any education theory were needed to teach university level.

The next error was my TA's, but I wouldn't undermine him by saying so in class. Introducing freshmen, most of whom have never touched a command line, much less a Unix or Linux, to vi in their first hour is ... courageous. I grant vi is fast, always there, and works over a ssh connection from home -- things a friendly editor like Nedit isn't -- but what a challenge. When a student won't follow the instruction ``Type `A'. Type an `A'. Type the letter `A'. Press the `A' key'' and doesn't get why you need ``mkdir'' before the name of the directory you want to make, explaining the line noise of typical vi commands tempts fate.

Also I think a misstep is the TA explained the save-and-quit command :wq instead of save :w and quit :q separately. I don't know how many will never learn you can save without quitting; students repeat the first thing they hear, particularly if it's not exactly right. Next week I'll explain the up-arrow and tab-completions.

In news, the Malaysian bird flu scare prompted Singapore to ban chicken and egg imports. Prices are reported climbing -- I don't buy raw ingredients, so haven't experience -- and one chain restricts customers to at most 20 eggs, and any eggs require a ten-dollar additional purchase.

Trivia: Bell Labs invented an artificial larynx in 1929. Source: New Jersey Firsts: The Famous, Infamous, and Quirky of the Garden State, Harry Armstrong and Tom Wilk.

Currently Reading: Bio-Futures, Edited by Pamela Sargent.