Report Card, Semester 1

Written on 2008-07-22 15:58:17
So, I've been trying to do this self-study thing for 30 weeks. I probably should've stepped back to evaluate my progress before now but I've allowed myself to be distracted with other things. You know, moving out, working my first full-time job, learning how to cook, clean and take care myself. That's no excuse though. Rather than beat around the bush some more let's just get to the heart of it:
"You got an F. What the hell's the matter with you? Ya big failure.
Final Grade: 20.786516853932586%
To be fair, you would've had to do 14.0 problems a week to finish the book in 26 weeks.
They are pretty hard problems. Just keep at it man. You may want to revise your strategy though."

We're 30 weeks into 2008 and I've only done 74 of the 356 problems in that legendary text, the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, which was the central object of my study this semester. That's about two and a half problems a week. Not my brightest shining moment. This whole experience definitely gives me new appreciation for the people that tried to structure and/or educate me in the past. Clearly, I need one of two things:

1) A good kick in the ass to really get going.
2) A new gameplan.

Personally, I'm going to try a mix of the two. Where 1) is concerned I recently wrote a self-study program (the biggest program I've ever written, actually) to help me keep abreast of my own progress and help me chart my course a bit. Where 2) is concerned I'm going to have to start making concessions to maintain momentum and I'm not entirely comfortable with that.

What concessions do I mean? Well, some of the SICP problems are hard. Really hard. Unreasonably hard (see Exercise 4.79 at the bottom for which a good answer is "probably worth a Ph.D."). The book has it's reputation for a reason. It's a reputation of difficulty but also of enlightenment. A lot of very smart people say it's the best way to learn Computer Science and probably the best book on the subject yet written. I'm willing to take their word for it. Anyway, there are problems that I get hung up on and I haven't been letting myself move on to the next section of the book without solving all the problems in the current section. That just isn't scaling well. I'm already hung up on the last 4 problems in Section 2.1. God knows what would happen come 4.4. I'll surely never finish the thing if I don't let myself move forward.

With that in mind, a week or so ago I did let myself move forward a bit and work on Section 2.2. I've already got about a third of it done. Maybe even half. I'm worried about this because I want to stay honest. I don't want to shirk the hard stuff. I won't move past problems unless I'm really stumped and I will circle back at various points to try to work through them. Aside from SICP, I've worked on HTDP (How To Design Programs) and CA (Concrete Abstractions) as well this semester. I got an almost reasonable portion of HTDP done but next to nothing on CA. I'd really like to try plowing through as much of those three books and The C Programming Language (rocking the 1st ed.) as possible before Xmas.

Semester 3 (starting in January) I'm hoping to work on Algorithms (DPV, not CLRS), Essentials of Programming Languages (1st edition, baby!) and one of my Operating Systems texts. Of course, Discrete Math (5th ed) would be more prudent and judging by this semester this could all be revised by Xmas. Well, back to work. Happy Hacking!
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