mwolson.org Blog - /Personal

Sun, 16 Dec 2007

My Commencement experience

I thought I'd jot down a few of the things that I did for the Commencement ceremony today. None of the 4 family members that I invited were able to make it, due to heavy snowfall during the night, and lots of ice on the roads, which was disappointing.

We had to be there an hour early to get in line. While in line, I enjoyed a few of my favorite things. I read part of the most recent issue of the Linux Journal magazine. I played my very own port of NetHack on the GP2X. I'm still very proud of the user interface that I rigged up for that port of NetHack — moving around in the game using the directional pad is a very fun experience, and "clicking" the directional pad to repeat the last action also feels good. I was wearing my "+20 shirt of smiting" T-shirt underneath the commencement robes, since the colors matched, which added to my own satisfaction of the experience.

I also played a very recent port of OpenTyrian to the GP2X, which I blogged about earlier. I contributed slightly to that project, along the lines of reporting a few bugs, offering some suggestions, and fixing a few #include lines.

I reflected on my own college experience. It was really more about doing interesting things than excelling academically for me. I became involved with contributing code to Free Software projects for the first time while at Purdue. Until Fall 2004, I had never worked with anyone else on these kind of projects.

I wanted to take the interesting and challenging classes, even though one of them bit me in the ass and had the effect of keeping me here for another 6 months. Computation Theory was a novel experience: it was a class that really helped me to be able to talk-the-talk around CS people. In particular, I was able to understand what the inimitable MC Plus+ expresses in his rhymes. Collaborating with Ryan on a nearly-exhaustive 12 page study guide and distributing a printed copy in the guide to each person in our small class was a poignant memory.

Taking the grad-level programming class was a trip to CS Mecca for me — it helped me land a interesting Scheme research project, provided me with a very first mention of Lisp in the classroom (huzzah!), gave me some small experience with ML, and got me excited about continuations, order of evaluation, and the scope of let-bound variables with respect to inner lambda forms.

Switching focus back to the nearer past, we were lined in groups according to our "school". In my case, this was the school of Science. As we prepared to walk to the place where the ceremony was held, our advisors yelled "Go Science!" and gave us high-fives. To hear "Go Science!" totally made my day, and made me glad that I had opted for this particular degree, and glad further that I transferred away from my previous college.

The ceremony itself was a mixed bag. I was disappointed that they were playing Christmas songs that had religious content (though without lyrics) while the diplomas were handed out. Keep that cult-of-the-majority shit out of important public events, I say — I expect a proper secular ceremony which evokes higher sentiments than religious mythology when I attend a public school. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony would have been a decent fit here: I'll settle for music espousing deist Enlightenment values in a commencement ceremony. They also had a minister on stage to give some vacuous let's-all-love-mystery sort of words near the beginning and the end, which was annoying: I most emphatically (and symbolically) kept my "thinking cap" on during his appearances. On the plus side, the band played better tunes at other times during the ceremony, and some of the music had parts where the oboe stood out.

After the ceremony, I treated myself to some chicken strips and southwest dippers at Buffalo Wild Wings. I really dig their Asian Zing sauce. After that, I saw The Golden Compass in the local movie theater, and ended the day with a Wendy's frosty. I enjoyed some of the values presented by the movie, though the talking-animal hero-story really doesn't resonate with me anymore. It would be interesting to know what the target age group of the movie thinks of The Golden Compass, compared to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.