February 4, 2014

A Slight Change in Schedule…

5 minute read

Three months ago, I posted my tentative schedule for this semester, my final one in undergrad. At the time, I was very optimistic about taking Systems Programming because I had been recommended the professor, Brian Russell, by my roommate. In the end, I switched it out for a seminar in Gender and Sexuality in Judaism. Here’s how.

Overlap Between Systems and Network

Originally, I signed up for both Systems Programming and Network-centric Programming, both of which are low-level programming courses in the C programming language. Although they both involve programming at a similar conceptual level, and involve writing programs of similar size and complexity, I decided to go with Network-centric instead of Systems because I feel it covers more advanced materials in addition to the basics already covered by Systems.

Systems, as the name says, is mostly about programming for systems, which in plainer terms refers to studying fundamental program operations such as process manipulation, memory management, and multithreading. Although it’s hard to describe what this means in layman’s terms, the gist is that it involves writing programs that exist alongside the operating system. (Nonetheless, one would probably want to take this class before taking a class in Operating Systems.)

On the other hand, Network-centric is programming for networks, and it is slightly more clear that it involves writing programs which communicate with other computers, possibly across the world (IE over the internet). In this class, one could (conceivably) write programs like (the backends of) Skype or Internet Explorer. In doing so, much of process manipulation and memory management is covered, although multithreading is not covered to quite the same extent.

Quite simply, Systems Programming (at least how it’s taught at Rutgers) is a sophomore level course to teach the fundamentals of programming, while Network-centric Programming is a junior level course which glosses over the same fundamentals in order to teach their applications to programs which allow communication between machines. As a senior who already knows many of the bare-bones basics, and is primarily interested in the applications of the tools at my disposal, Systems simply wasn’t worth taking at the same time.

Dabbling in Philosophy

After realizing that I was not going to stick with Systems, I started scrambling for alternate classes I could take that didn’t have prerequisites and wouldn’t interfere with my other classes. Oh, and which met between noon and six. And never on Fridays.

One such course was Introduction to Philosophy. I’ve always had somewhat of an interest in Philosophy, although not enough to make my own individualized study. It met on Tuesdays and Thursdays around 2, which was a pretty good time, albeit on Douglass campus, which is kind of out of the way for someone living on College Ave. After getting into the course website, I immediately did the first two weeks worth of reading and took extensive notes in anticipation of the second week of class (having fortunately missed the first week).

I was immediately underwhelmed. Although the ideas “discussed” (lectured by the professor) were all interesting, they weren’t anything which I couldn’t gain by just studying the readings. As I had already done so, I was left to sit in lecture as the professor reviewed some of the salient points of the readings in abstract, as if nobody had bothered with the readings.

It was then I realized I had signed up for the wrong class. Nobody had done the readings. I was in a first-year course, and who is going to put in extra work in studying for a course where all the material is presented on a silver platter? That is not to say that the material is not interesting, or valid, or that there are not advanced ideas taught farther into the course. But I am an engineering student, damnit! I am accustomed to being challenged in lecture with concepts that are so mind-bogglingly difficult that my head spins ‘round a half dozen times before I realize that I’ve already missed half the slides and the professor has already moved on to the next topic. I wasn’t going to sufficiently stimulated in this course to even justify going to class, let alone stay awake. (Those who’ve taken classes with me know that I can rarely stay awake through a full lecture, due to a combination of lack of sleep, short attention span, and ease of understanding.)

On to Gender & Sexuality

At the same time I was struggling to decide which course to end up taking, my roommate was also switching around his schedule. He had originally signed up for a seminar on Gender & Sexuality in Judaism a sort of combination of a traditional Gender course with aspects of Jewish popular culture and the inclusion of various Jewish texts, but had to drop it in order to take another class (ironically, Operating Systems). Although I don’t have a vested interest in gender studies beyond a slight sociological curiosity, I am very interested in the ever-changing role of women in Judaism. Specifically, I’m intrigued by the persistent question of whether Orthodox Judaism is inherently chauvinistic, and how women have been perceived in Judaism through the ages. (I’m somewhat leery about the dogma of millenia-old religions, with there being such vast room for retconning, especially when many of the primary texts are rather arcane.) Therefore I decided to sign up for the class.

Although I’ve only been to one class (because today’s class, which would have been my second class, was canceled due to snow), I was fully engaged by the one I attended. The class size is small, students in the course are more prepared, and the material is rather interesting (although I’m glad it’s not longer).

I’m also somewhat excited (and also anxious) about the prospect of the term paper required by this course. Being an engineering major (along with a rather fortuitous series of events) allowed me to not take a single writing class in my time at Rutgers until now. However, I’m thinking that I would actually like to cut my teeth on such a prospect, if only once, before I graduate. Especially if it gives me the chance to flex my LaTeX skills.

My final schedule is posted below.

Final Schedule for Final Semester

© Jeff Rabinowitz, 2023