August 26, 2004

URP again

We've launched our second attempt to chase the cisco URP. This one is a significant improvement over the previous try. Unfortunately the process doesn't provide much detailed feedback. In fact, there is none: just a letter that says, gosh, thanks for asking, but go away.

Now, that's a reasonable response for cisco to generate, because I'm sure that they have a lot of these. It is not in their interest to have every reject try over and again, tailoring their proposals to the training of the reviewers. But, as one of the rejects, I really would prefer to have a chance to present a better fitting request the second time around.

We'll see.

Posted by pete2791 at 8:24 PM

August 22, 2004

Phil Barry, head TA wrangler

Dr. Barry was kind and nimble enough to work around an error I made in the application process. I requested a class based on the title, without checking the course content. It turned out to be material that I know little about (JavaScript, Perl CGI, and Java applets). I realized this when I discovered that I had been tentatively assigned to TA the class. I told Dr. Barry by email, and he adjusted the assignments to accommodate my error---so now I'm TAing a class that I'm much better qualified for.

Also, Dr. Barry opened up the departmental new TA orientation to new TAs who aren't also incoming students. That means me (among others), and I'm grateful for the support.

Thanks, Dr. Barry!

Posted by pete2791 at 9:56 PM

WPE progress

While I was out with the sinus implosion, I was thoroughly out, and slept most of the time, so I lost about half a week on my WPE study program. I'm back in the saddle now, and have new reading notes recorded on my wpe.php page. So far I've been concentrating on the three papers on future directions in Internet research. As you'd expect, they are a bit vague, and to my surprise they aren't rich in ideas suitable for dissertation topics. The focus so far is more on the changing environment of the 'net from its origins, and the need to supplement, extend or (gasp!) discard the end-to-end argument.

Posted by pete2791 at 12:37 PM

Swedish chef

That was interesting. I fiddled with a couple of the blog parameters for Route 101, and accidentally changed the language for date display to Swedish. `augusti?' Does that mean I have to start writing the entires in Swedish as well? Many of my ancestors would approve. Except for the Norwegians.

Posted by pete2791 at 11:41 AM


Lost a few days to a throat/sinus implosion. I have no idea what hit me, but it was nasty. Now I'm functioning again.

On a whim, I googled for `sinus implosion' and discovered that such a thing can actually happen. I'm appalled.

Posted by pete2791 at 11:27 AM

August 13, 2004


Still trying to figure out what happened with the cisco URP. Apparently the line about `many excellent proposals' from the flush letter was not mere boilerplate: they funded about 10% of them. So we're in the wrong 90%, but we have plenty of company.

We're proceeding with revisions on the assumption that a set of intermediate milestones with measurable practical applications will help.

Posted by pete2791 at 5:53 PM

The Great Textbook Scam

Earlier this week I picked up my copy of the textbook for CSci2011 from the department office (thanks, Liz). I've paged through the book, the sixth edition of `Discrete Mathematics' by Johnsonbaugh, and it looks like a decent enough text in the MTV mode. The typography is colorful and somewhat sparse, with lots of white space on pages splashed with white-on-blue section headings and other multicolored marginalia. It weighs in at nearly 700 pages of flimsy varnished paper that might not be friendly for intertextual note-taking.

Because I'm a TA for the course, the department gave me a copy that I did not have to pay for. This instructor copy was, in turn, provided to the department by the publisher. This is standard practice in the textbook industry, and I am grateful for it: it would be a burden to buy textbooks for subjects that I already know. Imagine the predicament of a professor who teaches two or three classes a semester: the expense would mount up, high and quickly.

But consider the effect this regime has on the students who have to take the class. They have to pay for their copies of the book, which seems reasonable at first blush. But one of the principles of a market is a feedback link between price and demand: as goods get more expensive, fewer people buy less of them. The textbook scheme has thwarted that feedback: the consumers who specify the purchase (instructors) have no direct incentive to compare prices. We get ours for free. It's the poor bastards taking the class who have to pay.

Two additional tidbits in this case make it even worse. First is the price of the textbook, which costs $145. That (as Jeremy Martin says) buys a lot of ramen. The second aggravation is that the sixth edition just arrived from the publisher in the last few weeks. The standard student dodge of buying used books is not available here, because there are no used copies of the sixth edition.

With 100 students registered for 2011, that's almost $15,000 for Pearson/Prentice-Hall. This is not small change.

Posted by pete2791 at 5:19 PM

August 8, 2004

Course assignment

I've been assigned to TA CSci2011 on Discrete Structures. This is great news---I'm in good control of the material, it's an interesting subject, and it's taught by Carl Sturtivant. The only way it could have been better is if it were in networking. But I'm more than satisfied.

Now to get a copy of the text and get in touch with Professor Sturtivant. I expect and hope that there will be one or two other TAs as well; the course currently has 100 students registered.

Posted by pete2791 at 12:25 PM

August 3, 2004


Finally got the home page in decent shape. Not everything it links to makes sense, but the basic homepage information is there.

Posted by pete2791 at 11:30 PM

URP! Try again!

cisco turned down our URP proposal. Since I'm the guy with the cisco contacts, I'm hunting them up to figure out how to make it work better next time. There's another deadline coming up on 24 August, so we can attempt to submit a revised proposal for that. This is contingent on getting feedback from our champions about what we were lacking the first time around.

Posted by pete2791 at 10:56 PM