May 25, 2005 | Category:

Exit Strategy

Yesterday was the day of my final exam and, thus, the last piece of work for my degree. After four years, a lot of headaches and heartaches, strange days and late nights in the lab, it’s finally over. With the exception of various administrative matters and the obligatory celebrations (starting yesterday and ongoing for quite some time), there is no more university for me. This is the first time in four years when I’ve had absolutely no obligation to get on with something, and the first in two when I’ve felt that I’ve really had time to do stuff for myself.

First of all, a brief retrospective of the best moments of university life. While the list is far from comprehensive (being focussed on the last year, drawn entirely from university related matters, and blinkered by tiredness), it should do. In no particular order:

  • DBIT talk. Three of us (myself, Mark and Derek were supposed to give a short demonstration of a system we finished a day or two earlier (a fantasy football web app). We hadn’t prepared a single word of the demo but, by a combination of luck and some top quality bullshitting, we not only did a sterling job, we won 25 of drinks vouchers. Sometimes reading blogs and knowing about web stuff actually pays. In drinks.
  • Which leads us nicely into the bullshit. There is nothing quite like pulling a piece of coursework out of your arse at the last minute and making it look squeaky clean, despite absurdly stinky patches. Time to end that metaphor.
  • Peter Dickman. There is a fairly mixed opinion of Peter, the lecturer who taught us Unix/Linux, the C course, Operating Systems 3, and Distributed Algorithms and Systems 4. On one hand, his lectures and explanations are excellent, with a logical progression like no others and an understanding of the material that is matched by few. On the other hand, there is an almost sadistic elements to his courses. The assessed exercises (and exams) full of sting after sting after sting, the spartan lecture notes (filling in the details as you go), the malicious (but deserved) handling of mobile phone incidents, and many more things tell you that his course won’t be easy. That’s not the point. It’s a “no pain, no gain” ethos and it works. You will learn the course inside and out so long as you put in reasonable time.
  • Another lecturer, who shall remain unnamed but is the number 1 lecturer on the Glasgow DCS wank list (compiled years ago by a former student). He largely maintained his stature as the biggest arse in the department by saying that the web really wasn’t very good (Gopherspace is better apparently), PageRank was a joke, and other statements that he would refuse to back up with evidence. Good job!
  • My projects. Both my team project last year, and my individual project this year (more of which at a later date). Proud of them, and glad to have undertaken them.
  • Pub Friday. A simple concept built around a water tight axiom (“Is it Friday? Are there pubs? I don’t see how we can get out of it…”). Many a good night in Jim’s were had. If you ever came along to one, then kudos. If you didn’t get your round in, shame on you!
  • The people. Obligatory entry, but definitely meant. Without my friends, I may have cracked a long time ago. The good times, bad times, and lab times (where there is neither good nor bad, just lack of sleep); the people were what it was really all about.
  • Myself. I realised yesterday that I’m a better person for having done this degree. I don’t just mean I’m a better computing scientist (which is also true), I’m better as a whole. The changes since 2001 (spanning beyond my 18th and 21st birthdays in both directions), and in particular the last year, are apparent in retrospect. I can evaluate and appreciate things better than I ever could, my outlook and understanding has broadened, my sense of perspective has sharpened, and I’ve got a stronger character (the strength of my convictions and self-confidence without, hopefully, being brash). These are some of the ways in which I think university life has changed me for the better. Plus I do have a goatee now.

Like I said, that in no way, makes up the sum of my experiences, representing just a few things that I enjoyed.

What now? I’m not sure. There is the mandatory celebration period for the next while, a period of taking it easy for the first time in years, and then I don’t know. I know that if I do well enough I should have a graduate job lined up, but given my exam experience this year (not good) I have strong doubts about that.

I will, however, be clearing out my lists. I’ve got a backlog of lists for various things that I’m going to work through. Projects that will appear here, plans for VKPS that have been on hold for a while now, and clearing out my backlog of new music (my “new music” playlist is supposed to be a rating buffer but currently has over 2000 entries) are just a few.

Good luck to all those who did this course with me in whatever they do. We’ve worked harder than most these last years, we all deserve a little recreation and a fruitful life.