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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mesmerised as they light the flame

This blog is now closed.

In May, when I graduate, I'll probably post something about that. In the event of my doing further study in the future, I'll consider writing about it here. Otherwise, all my posting is now over at litblog.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road

And so I find myself leaving Victoria University of Wellington, probably for ever. I've been there for six years, and in that time a lot of things have changed - not always for the better. When I was a first year at Vic...

  • It was 2004.
  • Labour was in government.
  • Stuart McCutcheon was the Vice-Chancellor at Victoria (he's now at Auckland, and Victoria has Pat Walsh instead).
  • ITS was known as SCS (for student computing services), and when you told them about something broken, it was fixed within a week.
  • There was no university wireless network. (There was the excellent student-run SWANS, of course, and it's still more reliable than the official network, but with very limited coverage).
  • The math department was allowed to hand back its 500 or so weekly assignments via open boxes, so students could - gasp! - see each other's marks as they searched for their own assignments. This was changed to written-agreement-only during my second year, and by third year the open boxes were abolished altogether, leaving the long-suffering admin staff to hand back 500 assignments every week.
  • The School of Economics and Finance had enough staff to teach all its courses, including more than two specialists in each of macroeconomics and econometrics.
  • There was no myVictoria - access to the various online services was via a link repository called studentVUW, and you had to login separately to each one.
  • Student email wasn't administered by Microsoft, and your student email address expired after you finished your study.
  • There was no Faculty of Engineering.
  • There was a School of Mathematics and Computer Science. Then there was a School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. Now there is a School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, and a separate School of Computer Science.
  • Gender and women's studies was, I'm pretty sure, not part of the Faculty of Education.
  • In fact, there was no Faculty of Education - the Wellington Teachers' College was still an independent institution.
  • I don't think there was a New Zealand School of Music either.
  • All areas of the library were signposted as silent study areas, and none of them actually were. (Now there are some where talking and eating are allowed, but it's not clear whether this has led to more respect for silence elsewhere.)
  • The Rec was... kinda scodie. It was refurbished in about my third year.
  • The library had carrells. They were good for sleeping in. Now the sides have been removed to make them into ordinary desks.
  • Relations between VUWSA and the university were very bad, owing to the university's apparent seizure of several student-owned buildings in payment of VUWSA debts. (The buildings seem to be further from student control than ever now, but relations have thawed somewhat.)
  • The Union, the administrative body for the seized property (made of a bunch of university employees and one member of VUWSA), was still called the Student Union.
  • Galleria sold Wholly Bagels bagels, and had a medium takeaway coffee size.
  • O-week events were well attended. (Is there even still such thing as O Week?)
  • VUWSA tended to have the money to fund them, rather than being constantly on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • The Pipitea campus was still partly under construction.
  • The Quad pizza place didn't sell curry, nor roast veges.
  • Salient contained a rather good comic called Man. I think 2004 may also have been the year of the genius Being Blind.
  • The cafe next to the Overbridge was called the Ilott. It had an awesome mural on the ceiling, with aliens and planets and spaceships, and it sold filter coffee for $1.10, and fruit-flavoured hot chocolate, and used china ornaments as table markers. I don't know what it's called now, and nor do I care, because it has none of those things any more.
  • There was no Unistop.
  • There was a campus pharmacy.
  • There were no Snapper cards. (I still don't know what VUWSA have done about the free bus ticket scheme, with the introduction of Snapper meaning they can no longer give out ten trip tickets.)
  • The library's collection of books was somewhat bigger than it is now, the controversial Collection Appraisal Project having reduced the collection by 10% in, I think, 2006.
  • There was no Westpac ATM on campus.
  • The EdCom computer store on Cotton Street was smaller, darker and less funky-looking.
  • There was only one table in Cotton Street, in front of what was known as "the good sofa". Now there are many tables, and lots of chairs too.
  • Cotton Street had rather icky greyish carpet with greenish stripes, instead of the current green carpet/grey vinyl combo.
  • Cotton Street was full of posters showcasing the work of Science grad students. These stuck out at right angles to the eastern wall and reduced the visual width of the Street.
  • There was no direct wheelchair access to Cotton from the eastern parking lot.
  • There was direct access from Cotton to Laby, with no other building in between.
  • There was furious controversy over the newly-completed entrance to the Easterfield building, which was hugely expensive but inaccessible after the doors were locked at 6pm each evening. Critics protested that this voided its stated purpose of making it safer for students to leave campus late at night.
  • There was no Te Puni Village.
  • The Mount Street Bar was called Eastside, The Mount Street Cafe was called Vicky's, and neither of them sucked anywhere near as hard as their modern counterparts do.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I'm a-singin' you the song, but I can't sing enough

Until now I've kept my lecturers' full names out of this blog, and during Honours, where the lecturer pool is so small, I've even suppressed their first names. Today I break that rule for the first and only time. Today I honour the special lecturers who really made a difference to me during my six years at university.

These people are from many different disciplines; I encountered each of them at very different stages of my studies; they all taught me completely different things about my disciplines, about study and about life. With some of them I never spoke a word one-on-one; others had to suffer me visiting them every other day. Each of them, during my short time in their classes, changed my life in a definite and often terrifying way. I will always remember our encounters fondly.

To Geoff Whittle, Colin Bailey, Philip Rhodes-Robinson and Chris Atkin; to Peter November, Mike Hill and Chamsy el-Ojeili; to Geoff Bertram, Viv Hall, Vladimir Petkov and Jack Robles; to John McDermott, John Randal and Pian Chen; and to Don Trow: thanks!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

There are two paths you can go by

Got my First. Phew.

In principle, I could now complete a Masters in one year at Vic, enter directly into a PhD program at any New Zealand university, or start grad school from scratch in the USA (after passing the GRE, of course). Note that I'm not saying any of these is a good idea. They're just what the rules would allow me to do.

The alternative is to take up a permanent position at a well-respected New Zealand economic institution, continue my education informally, be productive, get paid, and take some control of my life.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine

Here are my grades for the year. To work out which ones are from this half, ignore all the A+ grades except that belonging to ECON 405. The ones you're not ignoring are my second trimester grades.

I hereby award myself the Inconsistency Prize for the oddest-looking grade spread ever.

Specific comments:

  • The Modelling grade is a slight disappointment. After getting an A+ in the 25% essay and having a good exam, I thought I'd get an A+ in the course too. Oh well.
  • The Metrics grade is a small miracle. My midterm was so bad I would have had to get 84% in the exam to make an A on numbers alone. Maybe we've been scaled.
  • The Micro grade is a relief - the exam didn't go so hot, really.
  • The Macro grade is purely a result of ballsing up the exam. It's not unexpected, but that doesn't keep it from hurting. I knew what I was doing, and I still messed it all up. Dammit, fibby, when will you learn?

Now the lecturers will all get together in a big meeting to determine what "class" of Honours we should each receive. My grade point average should ensure me a First, but the Honours grading process is so arcane that there's no certainty until the results are actually out. That could be as much as a month away.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

That's funny, it looks as if I never got around to posting this when I wrote it in early November...

After my midyear exams I summarised, for each course, the expected number of students answering each possible set of exam questions, given by the quotient of the number of students and the number of possible exams in that course.

Here's the corresponding summary for my finals. This time I'm including detail about the question choices, because it helps make more sense of the value of $E(x)$.

CourseStudentsChoice ofFromE(x)
Macro 14 1 2 7
Modelling 7 3 6 0.35
Micro 8 2, 1 and 1 4, 2 and 2 0.8
Metrics 7 3 4 1.75

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vitriolic, patriotic stand, fight, bright light, feeling pretty psyched

The Metrics exam was good. Prof Metrics had obviously learned from our variously abysmal performance on the midterm, and he gave us a nice present for our last exam - math problems instead of essays! I had fun, except for where I forgot everything I knew about Dickey-Fuller tests, but that bit was only worth around 10%.

Well, wouldya look at that:

What do I do now? Where am I supposed to be? Who am I? Suddenly no one is expecting anything of me. How shall I react to this?