Waiting

Less than six hours before the first exam, business administration, 2 PM today. It’s about time this whole thing got started. I have had quite enough of studying.

I haven’t been feeling well for quite some time, getting a nasty cold before Christmas that just wouldn’t go away. Seems everybody else has it too. And in spite of being reasonably well prepared in all subjects except math (and I don’t think anyone ever feels really well prepared in math), my subconscious is beginning to take over. Tonight I had trouble sleeping in spite of really not having anything to worry about. That’s usually a sure sign. Mind you, when I finally got my Habilitation, I assured myself that at least I would never have to take an exam again in my life. Boy, was I wrong.

Two co-students are hanging out here with me in the Cafeteria. Both are not really doing anything except waiting. One says she hasn’t slept in 23 hours. In comparison, I am doing fine.

Business administration this afternoon is going to be easy. The professor basically all but told us what the questions will be. Tomorrow is the practical programming exam. We did yet another mock exam in the last practical exercises course and it was quite easy, though I barely finished in time because I had problems with two tests not passing, in one case because of a stupid error on my part, in the other because of a bug in the test itself. This likely won’t happen in the actual exam. But in fact, programming usually is fun–I particularly enjoy getting tests to pass–, so the only thing that worries me is that the exam is going to lasts three hours and as rumour has it there is a weird rule that prevents us from leaving the room once the first student has handed in their test. We might be conspiring outside, after all. But imagine some idiot gives up after 30 minutes. Will none of us be allowed to use the bathrooms then for the remaining 150 minutes? That might be nasty. I fervently hope they won’t be stupid enough to try enforcing that rule, at least not in this admittedly unlikely, but after all not impossible case.

Coming back to the mock exam, there was one problem that asked us to find as many different ways as possible to calculate a sum. I barely managed four, whereas my programming partner easily did six. So that’s the one thing I did in preparation for the practical exam: Practice to speed-write different implementations of simple calculations, like factorial or Fibonacci numbers. May it help me to at least save time.

Math is of course still the major cause for worries. Two more lectures and practical courses and many hours of studying after I last wrote, it’s still the one thing where I expect nasty surprises, and whether I get a good or an average grade is quite left to chance. All will depend on how many stiff problems there will be in the exam, and how many of those I will have any idea how to solve. I did an old exam at home on Friday and did surprisingly well, coming out with an A- in spite of giving me credit for only those solutions that were sure to pass by our professor’s high standards. But in the last lecture there was an exercise where none of us did even understand what was expected of us, and even when being told we couldn’t believe that the awfully confused term we finally calculated could by any chance be the actual required solution. One of those in the exam, and the whole course will drop one degree.

And if I’m anxious now, at least subconsciously, imagine how I’ll feel next Monday before the math exam. The last time I wrote a math test was in 1989 for my high school diploma examination. I handed in an empty sheet; I had no idea what they were asking from me. Mind you, I was taking the math honours course, embarrassing too. Some precedent for next Monday. But of course, this time I am infinitely better prepared. I do doubt though that my subconscious knows that.

Oh well, only five hours to go. It will all be better once it has started.

You know, the point is, I am quite fed up with studying, particularly math. Sure, math is the kind of subject where you make headway only by banging your head against the wall very hard for a very long time, but I have been doing that for the past months. And now I am at the point where I really have to force myself to do any more math. In fact, I haven’t been doing any for several days now. It feels like I can’t cram any more into my head right now. Procrastination has set in. I can’t stand math any more, and I can’t think of anything useful I could do for any of the other subjects. So thoughts are straying ahead to the things we will be doing next term. For some days I tried to wrap my head around the logical programming language Prolog, of which we will be seeing quite a lot in the coming years. For a while I actually liked it, but then I crashed into a concrete wall trying to implement a simple flatten function. I still haven’t solved it completely, in spite of stubbornly trying for many hours.

We will be moving from Ruby to Java in the programming courses, which is kind of a pity, because we’ll never do Ruby again it seems. Of course I like Java as well, but compared with Ruby it’s sort of everyday, sober, and somewhat inelegant. And I don’t want to confuse my mind with doing Java so shortly before the Ruby exam, so I am saving that for until after the exams. Mind you, it will be interesting next term, because our professor will be teaching in China in a cooperation program between our university and one in Shanghai for the first two months of the term, so we’ll be quite on our own. Probably means we will have to support some of our co-students in their self-study program. My programming partner is quite fluent in Java.

In fact we will be doing a lot new things next term. “Machine-Oriented Programming” will get us in touch with Assembler and C–can’t say I am looking forward to that! “Automata Theory and Formal Languages” doesn’t sound too inviting either, and it seems we will be seeing our math prof again there. In “Logics and Computability” a new professor threatens with a reputation that far exceeds hers in terms of being exacting and demanding. Databases will be another new subject, and with another new professor as well.

So there will be a lot of new things to digest, and I am beginning to have second thoughts about the wisdom of our decision to look for a project so early in our course of studies. My programming partner and I have always been kind of bored by the simple programming problems in the practical courses, so we usually did an awful lot more than was expected from us, generalizing the solutions, reading in parameters from files instead of hardcoding them into the program, doing GUI’s when none were required, and so on. We also did a  Java solution for reading and displaying machine sensor data for the guys who build racing cars in the second sub-basement in the next building (and they call us the nerds!). For that I submerged myself entirely in Java FX for a couple of weeks, customizing a GUI that I insisted should do something FX just didn’t come with. Quite a valuable experience, I suppose, though not something I could easily translate into study credits. So we thought we should better be looking for something that involved one of our own professors and asked the CS 101 professor for a project. He vaguely pointed us to something involving gesture recognition with MS Kinect, but so far nothing has come of it. I suppose we will look into it after the exams. To be sure, this would have to be the kind of project you only work on when you have time to spare. I am not sure we will have a lot of time to spare the next term, or the one after that.

Still over four hours. More people are coming in. Some are surprised to find the PC labs locked, supposedly in preparation for the exams. I think I should now do some studying myself. There is always the chance to cram something into the short-term memory just in time for the exam.

 

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