Mock Vivas

I participated in a mock viva (ie thesis defense) today.

I weirdly enjoy them…much more so than real viva. (No paperwork! Less stress!) I also enjoy them a lot more the research progress reviews or end of year interviews (Completed work! The student is “mature”! You get to see the finished project!)

I actually enjoy all those things but the mock viva hits a sweet spot that makes it a pure kind of fun.

(And a part of me enjoys when I’m asked to be super mean and tough. I don’t let that part have as much free reign as I used to.)


Two Months of Nearly Daily Blogging to Go

I just might make it.

It’s been touch and go with classes and illness and feeling overwhelmed. I’ve not had the energy to write enough analytical stuff. My backlog there is growing.

I did fix a superfun bug in my exam authoring tool. It is a classic “dynamic typing plus truthiness” bug that gets static typing folks very excited.

I have a Python object that represents true-false questions. It inherits from an abstract question object. So far, fine. It is parsable from and printable to a simple format eg:

Q: This sentence is true!
+ F
Marks: 1

(Yes the sentence is true if you assume it’s true and false if you assume it’s false.)

This is fine until I used the “shuffle” option which reorganises the exam and question options. What I was getting out was:

Q: This sentence is true!
+ T
Marks: 1

This is bad! And has nothing to do with shuffling. The culprit looked like this:

options = '+ T' if self.key else '+ F'

This would have worked if the key was a Boolean. But it was a string: “True” or “False”. Any non empty string is truthy so the else never gets taken.


Either types on variables or no truthiness would have flushed this out. It was damned hard to spot esp when I wrote tests that constructed the object directly and set the key to a Boolean. (Unit testing didn’t work! It needed an integration test at least.)


Two months to go…

The Week’s Getting Worse

Tipping points and thresholds can really suck. I got a random duty for this year to cover for a person’s sabbatical. They were “Programming Competition Czar” which really means the ACM algorithmic programming compeition which means UKIEPC 2018…this weekend.

I’m sure the duties committee said, “Hey, this isn’t a fuck ton of work and it’s the kind of thing that Bijan likes, so it’s a lightweight thing to throw his way.’ It isn’t a fuck ton of work and it is the kind of thing I like…but the first competition happens in period 1 which is my Hell Period of Doom. On top of the normal hellishness of two full day classes a week, plus 3rd year projects starting, plus MSc project marking, plus exam writing (3 exams because I have a period 2 class too!) I have first time first year tutorial, plus people are scheduling all day project meetings, and project management meetings, and initiative launches, etc.

Even the easy things get hard. Novelty, esp dealing with new tasks and new people, easily throws me into a tailspin, which is why I’ve got an unnecessary late night of class prep: What parts of today that weren’t dealing with UKIEPC were spent crying or dry heaving or both.

So that sucks.

Random think from the news…one of the Marvel Netfflix shows, Iron Fist, was cancelled. Since it was the utterly unwatchable one…yay? One thing thing this random pointless news story which was somehow plastered all over my feeds really highlighted is how impoverished the Marvel and DC catalogs are. There’s a notable paucity of good plots or stories, hence the tendency to rehash origin stories. Origin stories are easier because they rely on the process of worldbuilding to provide momentum and interest. But they tend to introduce character designs rather than characters, which is why subsequent episodes tend to be meh. There very little character development because there’s very little character to develop. The plots are weak so they can’t carry much. Conflict seems very forced (hence the villain problem…the villains are bland because all the characters are bland. Adding more and more characters replaces developing the characters that were already there.

Of course, there are some gestures toward characterisation. If you follow Tony Stark over the Iron Man movies and the first two Avengers movies (oy), they are clearly aiming for him to have some complexity. But we’re mostly told the complexity rather than shown it. Even in Iron Man 3 which spends a lot of time trying to set up character complexity (he was a jerk, being a jerk has long range consequences (really? people become murderous supervillians because someone was a jerk to them?! what?!), he got super religion, he sacrificed himself and has PSTD, and…he goes from “I am Iron Man” to “I’m not just suits”) it is pretty weak. In particular, a huge swath of the plot exists to mimic or fake character development.

In the end, growth is minimal and symbolic gestures (blowing up the suits) are without consequence (cf Age of Ultron) at any level.

The fundamental problem is there’s little there there. The source material is voluminous but not rich except in loads of character designs. Now, evidently, you can go a long way with a big catalog of character designs esp if you get awesome and charismatic actors to wear them.

I do wonder what’s going to happen when the first generation actors move on. I mean, they have some awesome new ones for sure so maybe there’s enough overlap to keep the showcases of character designs going. But maybe there’s a fast collapse coming.

Entering month 10 of nearly daily blogging

Three months to go!

I will almost certainly have >365 posts. That’s…a bit bonkers really.

Sept was pretty smooth except I missed Saturday for no obvious reason. I think I thought I had an extra in the queue. I did a doubly post day of Friday so.

I’m amazed at how much friction WordPress has even with the app. Esp for research based posts. But even simple things like categories or recurring themes are very tedious.

I have to think whether to keep this up in 2019.

An Ageing Grace

Today I enter the last year of my 40s, never to see the like again. After an early start with a range of hats I went through an extended period of hatlessness which I believe is about to end. I finally found a boater that fits and is comfortable:

This may be the breaking of the first seal.

Uli, per usual, made me a lovely card:

And gave me jam! Uli jam! Yay!

I’m off to London tomorrow for a baking class that Zoe’s arranged.

All in all, quite nice.

8 Months Of Nearly Daily Blogging

August was a struggle and I imagine the rest of the year will be. The last leg of Zoe being away was hard and working on some programs ate up lots of time and mental energy.

But I think I’m at least averaging one a day still. We’ll see how it goes!

(Like right now, I’m punking on a Music Monday because I’ve meant to write up a new “President Sang” post but haven’t gotten it together.)