Week of Insanity is over, and with it the dreaded fifth term. We–my family and I, that is–survived the impossible experiment. Five courses, three exams, two days of work per week, and that all with three kids and my wife working as well: we did it. Everything else, from here on out, can only be a breeze in comparison.

I slept not too well last night, but well enough to not feel handicapped by lack of sleep, this time. Five hours or so. And the distributed systems exam was very well doable. A tad longer than we had expected, judging from the Altklausuren, but still, the time was quite sufficient to do it well and review the solutions before handing in.

And there was nothing really nasty or even tricky. Everyday stuff. The usual yes/no/optional matrix, with the equally usual border cases where you could say yes as well as no; as I had planned to, I noted “optional” a few times and else just commented on the reasons for my selection. Another matrix, contrasting ring and tree topologies. Compare the three variants for mutual exclusion in a distributed system (easy enough with a crib). Tabulate the messages exchanged, and the corresponding logical clock settings, for an example transaction in the 2-phase commit protocol for distributed transactions, plus draw a scheme (a triangle with criss-crossing arrows). Explain ACID (a paradigm for database transactions: atomicity, consistency, isolation, durability). Describe advantages and disadvantages of six different topologies for a distributed transaction system, with servers in Hamburg and Berlin. The matrix aside, I never had any doubt that I knew how to answer.

We were a very small group that went to the local pub at 11 a.m. 64 people had taken the exam, but only about a dozen from the remains of our semester group. And only for a minority of us–those who had attended the process mining “compulsory choice” module whose exam was yesterday–today was the last day. Most of the others still have one exam ahead of them, unless their “compulsory choice” module came with a paper presentation instead.

Still, it was a nice afternoon, even though some who came left early. But for me there was a whiff of sentimentality mixed into the relief of having survived the insane three exams in three days. It’s nearly over now. I will almost certainly see none of my co-students for the next six to seven weeks. And only comparatively little of them even when our sixth and final term commences in late March. For we will have only one more course, IT security, in common. Only one co-student, my practicum partner from process mining, will be with me in next term’s compulsory choice module, “certified tester.” In fact, one of our group I likely won’t ever see again, because she has already completed IT security this term. That’s a very sobering thought. I really like these people, I like our course of studies, and I find it hard to imagine that all this will, very soon, just have been a short, temporary phase of my life.

And of course, after a whole exam period compressed into three days, on top of an already unprecedentedly stressful term, a lot of pressure has been built up. Mental and emotional resources have been mobilized that should, by the standards we have become used to, have lasted me through five exams over 10 to 12 days, yet I needed them only for about 48 hours. And now all that energy should suddenly evaporate? Can’t work. I will certainly be quite keyed-up for at least another couple of days. And I expect the inevitable drop into my usual post-exam low to be somewhat worse than the other times.


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