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interconnection coincidence?

There's a longish thread over at mitmit from an applicant about what the 'tute is like, etc. I have a bit of a subthread going with pwaa, who has radiaperlman as a friend. Turns out this is the Radia Perlman, author of Interconnections Second Edition. I'm reviewing sections of the book right now to help bring me up to speed on things I will need to know to get a peering coordinator job (or a router software development job, for that matter).


Nov. 14th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC)
Just now reading that thread...pwaa is really irritating the hell out of me. He/she has managed to push two of my major buttons - dismissing a subset of majors as "easy", and claiming that if you work hard you will get a high GPA at MIT and that for those who don't it's due to a lack of effort. But I don't particularly want to start a fight on the thread. Also, I think the claim that you can be truly risk-averse and succeed at MIT is bullshit - there's a reason why Admissions selects for non-risk-averse people.
Nov. 15th, 2006 10:17 pm (UTC)
Umm, no, I didn't claim that high GPA was for working hard, I claimed that high GPA was for choosing major and classes that are easier/grade easier. In fact, I'd argue that some of the hardest-working students at MIT are the ones that don't get high GPA's because they're in really tough majors.

As a course 18 and 21M who took some classes outside my major, and had friends outside my major, I *know* that it was easier to get a high GPA in 18 and 21M than, say, 6 or 16.

As for the other majors I mentioned, I didn't say they *were* easier, I said they had a *reputation* for being easier. Obviously I don't have the data to know for sure.
Nov. 15th, 2006 10:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, and which majors end up being "easy" or "hard" would obviously be dependent upon two things - first of all, your background (if you've been programming since age 10, maybe 6.001 is a piece of cake, but I hadn't done much programming before, and it was hard as hell for me), and second of all, the way the class is set up/graded (people are *known* to spend hours and hours on classes like Junior Lab (8) and Unified (16), and for me, 6.001, and then because the classes are huge and scaled to a C average, you have to not only spend hours and hours, but do better than average in order to get a good grade - as opposed to a class like 18.901 or 21M.301 where the class average is more like an A-, and it's not scaled, so it's possible if everyone does well they could all get A's).

So anyway, I'm sorry if I pushed your buttons but I didn't mean to imply either of the things you read out of my comments.
Nov. 15th, 2006 11:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the clarifications, and I hear you about 6.001 - those projects took me hours and hours too.

My problems (or at least, the ones that make me touchy) are that I'm in a major stereotyped as easy (9), and I have a very low (C+ average) GPA. It is quite true that in general 9 does not have a heavy workload, but that's because nearly all the grade in many classes comes from a couple of high-stakes tests, which works pretty strongly against me, as I seem to test quite poorly (before MIT I didn't believe in the concept of "testing poorly even if you understand the material", because it didn't make sense logically, but now I've experienced it). I suspect that the grading for 9 is pretty medium, with B or B- centering in most cases, but I'm also competing against premeds who think that the world will end if they get a B.

I know that I work hard, and I also know that my grades are poor (though they're shaping up to be pretty good this term, which incidentially is also the first term I've had where most of my grades were heavily based on something other than tests). And I also know that there are a fair number of students running around who think that you have an "excuse" for getting low grades if you're 6/8/16/18 (I've often used 18 as an example of a major that has a more hardcore reputation compared to mine than it deserves, and you might agree, but most people don't), but that if you're in 7 or 9 or what have you and you're struggling, there's something wrong with you.

And that's my more or less full disclosure as to why I overreact to stuff like this. :)
Nov. 15th, 2006 11:54 pm (UTC)
Heh - yeah, even in so-called "easy" majors I believe there are classes that are hard, and that majors are stereotyped "wrong" in lots of cases. I'm glad it's getting better for you in 9! (I also don't test well - in fact, in one of my 21M classes, I got 25% on the one exam in the whole class, when the class median/mode was 100% - but I still managed to get an A- in the class because the teacher was nice enough to base the grade on things other than the exam - and the upper-level math classes don't tend to be exam-based either, plus if it happens to be a really hard class, it's easy to drop it and still finish the major on time because there are so few requirements - I dropped 18.101 in a semester when it was taught by a postdoc who decided to impress everyone by being completely incomprehensible and making the class infinitely more high-level than usual - out of 40 people who enrolled, I think about 10 of them finished the class).
Nov. 16th, 2006 08:37 am (UTC)
Some of this can be inferred from things I've written in my memories. I was put on probation once for failing 6.002 (circuits) and nearly failing 6.034 (AI) during first semester sophomore year. I used to think my problems were a lack of organization and poor test-taking skills, but I have now come to understand that it was due to a lack of IQ-type problem solving skills. Before being laid off by Y! two years ago, I hadn't really thought about this much since grad school, but some interviews with places like Google reminded me of it. More later ...
Nov. 18th, 2006 08:04 am (UTC)
I remember reading the blog of a fairly recent Stuy grad who signed up for 18.901 during first term freshman year. He got a D, but I suspect he was just too overloaded, especially that early in his MIT career. I wonder how he convinced his advisor to approve those courses. Some advisors I knew refused to approve heavy courseloads, while others would ok pretty much anything. I can see both sides: on the one hand, it's the student's time and money; perhaps all the student cares about is the educational experience. OTOH, advisors don't want to see their students struggle or do something that might jeopardize their future.
Nov. 18th, 2006 08:23 am (UTC)
"Fairly recent grad" is probably the operative word here - things change over time, and as the instructors change.

18.901 used to be taught by Munkres, who was really nice and would never give someone a D unless they like, didn't show up to class and didn't do the homework - but even then, he'd probably try to find them (if he could) and try to get them to drop the class, because he'd figure they were signed up as a mistake.

I didn't have Munkres (though I had him for 18.904), but I had a really nice young teacher for 18.901. I had to miss a class for my AMP recital, and I asked him ahead of time what I was going to miss. I didn't even know he knew which student I was, but after the class I missed, he sent me email to let me know that he was wrong about what I'd missed, that he'd covered a different piece of the material.

18.101 was rumored to be an easy math class when I taught it - and probably historically had been, but the semester I took it, there was a new instructor. She taught from a book called From Calculus to Cohomology which started with cohomology (don't ask - I still have no idea what that is). The first lecture was totally incomprehensible. I dropped the class within two weeks. Most of the rest of the class dropped it too. The handful that were left at the end all got A's and B's (but they deserved them - they also spent hours and hours looking all the terms up in books that the teacher assumed we knew - the only prereq for 18.101 is 18.100 which didn't teach that stuff).

So, my guess is, the guy who got the D in 18.901, either he got a really tough/crazy teacher that semester, or he was dumb and didn't do the minimum amount of work (going to class, doing homework - possibly because he was taking to many other classes) and also didn't do well on the exams (likely as a result of not doing homework or going to class). Profs are less sympathetic to students whose face they've never seen.
Nov. 15th, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, and one more thing (sorry gregbo for cluttering your journal)...the not working hard thing, I think I know what you're referring to - that was the comment about some students having a hard time at MIT because they're not used to having to go to class and doing the reading, because high school was very easy for them. But I didn't mean to imply that would be the *only* reason someone might do badly at MIT - so you're confusing the cause and effect of my implication. (Implication is, MIT can be hard if you don't put in effort, not that if MIT is hard that you didn't put in effort, and not even necessarily that if you do put in effort that MIT is not hard, because that would depend upon your major, but there are definitely majors where basically, if you put in a reasonable amount of effort, you will get A's in most of the classes, and I was in two of those majors, so what I'm saying is that I had it easier than others, not the other way around.)

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