Monday, May 30, 2005

Group Work

Lately, the Big Party has been receiving hits from places outside Canada and US. And they want to hear about our world famous education system.

One thing I hate about school is group work. Its not because I don’t like working with others, its because they don’t like working with me. Actually, it has nothing to do with me, because they don’t like working at all. The best way to do group work, is to do it individually. Essentially, the workload is broken down into several parts and distributed evenly (a la divide and conquer). One problem with this is that some parts are more equal than others (somebody has to do the dirty work). The second problem is that most people don’t show up with their work done [well] (and most often the mark is split evenly too).

In Canada here, we have another problem: often the task is dumb, and people just can’t agree how to break it into parts. Unfortunately, we are too damn creative (I don’t only mean it in the good sense). Oh, we also have in-class group work: Basically, we are split into groups of 3 and 4 to brainstorm a topic, write our ideas in point form on a large piece of chart paper, decorate it and present it to the rest of the class (who were doing the exact same thing). Yeah, school is fun.

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 05:53 PM / Comments (10)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Integration Trick

I have not posted for a few months now, but this has nothing to do with my workload in university. My workload has been a joke. Now, I am alive and well in Halifax, stumbling through a 16-week work term in the Dahn Group. I will be posting more of those long winded IPhO stories shortly.

Before that, however, let me digress and tell you about a neat integration trick I learned from working in the research group.

I was plotting some voltage-current graphs, and wanted to integrate them. These are not your simple Ohmic V-I graphs where the slope is constant, so the task is quite a bit more difficult.

Anyway, the lab here has many computer programs that can do numerical integration, but I needed to select only a portion of the graph, and editing the data file proved to be too much trouble. So, the professor walks in and tells me about a trick.

You see, we have these extremely accurate electronic balances - they are accurate to +/- 1 microgram. Jeff, who is the professor, explains to me how I can make use of this fantastic piece of lab equipment to integrate “as he did back in his day.” Basically, I was to print two copies of the graph in question. I can cut out a rectangle that includes the entire plot and the axes from the first copy, and the area of interest from the second copy. After weighing both cutouts on the balance and calculating some ratios, the result emerges! Much better than using Simpson’s method, right?

Now I just have to petition for the university to let me bring an electronic balance to my final exam instead of a calculator…

Posted by Tout Wang, 03:31 PM / Comments (4)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Beginning of The End

You know it was hot outside today… this reminds me of something: school is going to be over soon. Strangely enough, thats a bad thing, the reason being that the final days are going to be awfully tough. Actually, tough isn’t the right word for it… annoying, yes - thats the word I am looking for. Passing through them will only take time… (yet) somehow I feel indifferent about the potential frustration of mindless ISP (independent study project) bashing.

But ending is also a strange period. Its a time of rapid change. Chaos. So, I don’t know - anything can happen. Its not a time to idly sit down and get bored, its a time to take advantage of the situation… and have some fun.

Update: Ok, ok. Nothing is happening. So I was wrong, its not the end. Actually until its over, it always feels like its never the end.

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 09:56 PM / Comments (1)

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Visit to the Apple Store

A while ago, I heard that the first Apple store was coming to Canada… the “Grand Opening” being today at 9:30am, and so I decided to pay a visit. With this purpose, I left home at 6:50am and arrived shortly after. There were around 200 people already there before me, the first few of which have slept-in-wait overnight.

Behind me, there were a few movie people talking about Final Cut Pro 5, and how good it was, and how they were standing in line to buy it but were afraid it would be out-of-stock by the time they entered the store. Something was so familiar about them, I have definitely seen them before. Somewhere. In front of me were two sobs discussing Tiger, and how you could write a virus using widgets. “Its hacked,” one of the guys exclaimed.

And there was this one Second Cup agent who offered to reserve people’s place in line, for anyone who wanted a drink. One guy took this opportunity to go to Starbucks. The store itself was very nice, I got a chance to screw around with equipment including a G5 attached to 30” monitor (trust me, its big). I also got a chance to pull the iPod cords and crack a few jokes at the “geniuses” in the “bar”.

By the time I left, the line was well over a 1000 people (half were outside the mall). Being in the first 1500 visitors, I was given a complimentary T-Shirt on my exit. Its kind’da crappy, but its the good kind of free crap. :D

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 09:00 PM /

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Those unfriendly people

Today, during English, we had several visitors from OISE and they gave us a presentation about “Teaching as a Career”. It was all very nice and well, they even gave us a pencil… but sadly, I didn’t learn any English (which is fine with me, considering that we wouldn’t have been doing anything in English anyway). I don’t know why they came, and I certainly don’t know who in their right mind let ‘em in, but they did ask a very good question: “What qualities do you expect teachers to have?” — My answer: honest, knowledgeable, dedicated.

You know, I actually liked it… because we were in a classroom setting (as opposed to an assembly), and I got a chance to do some math (and also to make this Boring poster). Sweet. I am looking forward to seeing them again. A good excuse: “They came to visit us, so we should visit them.”

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 05:50 PM / Comments (2)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Biking to school

No, I didn’t bike to school or anything, and am not planning to do so in the near future… but there is one who did: a rather little but persistent creature by the name of Peter Yung. Ok, ok, he is not that little. Well, anyways, it was time to go home… the company and I took the bus, and Peter took his bike.

Well, we were both going up Don Mills, and the race was on. Well, the bus went ahead at first, but then traffic allowed Peter to catch back up… we opened up a window and cheered him on. But, man! The bus driver just picked up the pace, he just zoomed ahead. He definitely got pissed off moving too much schoolers around the town, and he certainly wasn’t going to let one of them beat him. Hehe, dammit: finally a bus driver with a good sense of humor, :).

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 11:28 PM / Comments (1)

Friday, May 6, 2005

York Science and Engineering Olympics

You know Science Fairs? Well I’ve been to York… and was involved in two events: Robocoding and Fermi Questions. We wasted half a day sitting and 30 minutes competing, but I guess I skipped school… so it was a fun waste of time (this time).

For Robocode, Ivan and I had made two robots, which we named after ourselves. During qualifiers, our robots achieved an early lead: alternating 1st and 2nd; however at round 7, their system crashed and all but two robots were paralized and could not move/rotate/shoot (essentially were stationary targets). The two robots quickly took advantage of this, and got extraordinary points by shooting down the dummies. When the York people had realized that their program crashed, they stopped the simulation and awarded the victory to one of the abusers, and thus, we did not qualify. What a disappointment: our robots were just so well made!

As for Fermi Questions, we pretty much dominated. We finished a few minutes ahead of time, only to find out that we have made a slight mistake in one of our calculations. Of course, we fixed it (and finished the contest again). In the last few minutes, I remember myself being bored; I was dancing on desks and flicking the lights on and off. The door had a window, so the graders outside thought that I was out of my mind… and that we would never win, but guess what? We won (and got our 1st place golden T-Shirts).

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 05:47 PM /

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Unpleasant Surprise

I have been using the wretched computers at school again. Here is a news flash: MathWorld doesn’t work - it banned our school IP. Oh, wait, our school doesn’t have an IP, it is shared between the entire TDSB network (at least with all the schools in the East York area). Considering the relatively low amount of people actually needing math resources, it is doubtful that this banning was a result of proper use.

I tell you what happened - some idiot had to spam the damn website, and spam it hard to make them notice. Well, thanks buddy: you had to ruin it for me - you are an idiot. I will make the probabilistic assumption, that this did not originate from my school, so told you - people from other schools really are dumb.

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 05:16 PM /

Report from CS Lecture

I am in a computer science lecture right now. Yes, I am not listening to the professor. I’ve brought my laptop to lecture most of the time; it’s not like listening to the professor will help. So why, you ask, do I bother to go to the lecture at all? Because I have class before this, so I might as well go. We are supposed to be doing some stupid paper handout, but I don’t feel like doing it. 2-dimensional arrays in Java… so difficult! Java’s indexing of arrays is intensely annoying. Well, class is almost over. Back to playing bridge on Yahoo!

Posted by aSo, 09:32 AM / Comments (4)

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Midterm Evaluations

You can’t write this, but if you gotta be honest:

Goals: Get outta here.

Achievements: Learn K-Theory.

Action Plan: Skip class.

Community Involvement: Talk about it.

Speaking of which, I still haven’t handed in that blue form, I wonder when the office will start yelling at me, :).

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 07:47 PM /

Monday, May 2, 2005

Hacking the Online Grader

Recently, I wrote this peculiar DWITE (computing) competition, you know… its not actually a competition because its not like you are competing for anything (no prizes) and the problems are also dumb (something do with geese and lasers). The rules are simple: the problems are posted on Thursday, and you are able to post your solutions during specified times (11am - 3pm, Friday and Monday), and they will be automatically marked for you. Now, the thing is, if you don’t like how your program works, you can always try again.

However, since the test case data doesn’t change, you could experimentally establish the test result data and hard code to start your algorithm close to the answer (by changing the program on-the-fly, or by saving a text file on the grader’s hard drive - you should have permissions, because you do have to output a file). [Ed. This will allow your program to know which test case it is working on.]

Now, if you have the added ability to use net resources (which is very probable considering the computer needs internet connection to receive the program in the first place), you may even upload the test case data to your web space or email account, and bash it out with any crappy algorithm over the weekend. Will try this next time!

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 09:22 PM /

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Our Readers Read

A bunch of new questions came in (previous questions: February, March, April). But first, I have to thank Jay, 17 * 4.7 = 100+ of fun. Indeed :).

Broken any more bests on the Chess Club? Actually, I haven’t even logged in the last month (got other things to do). Speaking of which, during this time - my favourite chess player has played 5000 more games.

You still keep up that no coke-and-blog commitment? Sorry, no… lol: its too addictive. Oh well. Come to think about it, I am drinking coke right now, :).

Your friendly farmer, what happened to him? He is still sodbustering, refusing to admit that me and Ivan got 3rd place in the last DWITE contest. Speaking of computing, computers at my school still suck (and now with Script Logic 6).

Oh, a small update: right now, I am working on a special features section - to be filled with math problems and some of my best articles here, so stay tuned… more next month, which reminds me of another question:

What are you going to call the monthly reviews when you run out of titles? Badly formed, but okay. If something like that were to happen, I’d have to consult with Ben.

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 03:04 PM /

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