A Clarification on ‘dzaefn’

I have mentioned before that I wish to stop going by ‘dzaefn’. I did mention as well, though, that I don’t wish to absolutely remove ‘dzaefn’ as a moniker, and will allow it to carry on in MIT-related contexts. I’ll do a bit more clarification here.

I prefer to not be called ‘dzaefn’. In contexts where it is customary to use one’s Kerberos username, though, please feel free to do so for me as well rather than go out of your way to write otherwise.

I value consistency, and I value respecting good standards. Reference by Kerberos username is a brilliant standard: it’s a unique identifier when name collisions are very common. In places where such a standard is adopted, I’d rather go along with it. Just in places where this standard is not the context, I’d like to make the distancing. Fortunately, most my other names don’t experience collision problems either.

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Categories MIT

Gradescope is a Pleasant Surprise of Well-Thought-Out Design in Academic Software

Having been a TA for 3 semesters (and a college student for 11) has taught me that most academic software is insanely bad. Like, really, really bad. Gradescope is, among this vast wasteland of despair, not only an oasis, but a really pleasant one.

Given the baseline, I of course fear that I may just be judging Gradescope on too excessively low a bar. Am I giving it credit just for being able to have expected middle-click functionality?

I don’t think so. I believe that for a reasonable bar for software quality, Gradescope not only meets expectations, but exceeds them. Gradescope is actively nice to use, particularly from a staff perspective, and from what I’m used to with academic software, this is completely incredible, and deserves a treasure trove of praise.

In short: most software comes with negative surprises, realizations that it is harder to use than it looked like it was. Gradescope often comes with positive surprises, realizations that it is easier to use than expected.

Someone on the Gradescope team really understands quality user interface design. Elements of Gradescope typically do precisely what one expects them to do; they are given helpful names that well describe their functionality. Where one would want to directly click and edit text, one can in fact use such direct input. (To edit rubric items, one simply clicks on them and they become text boxes. It is not indirected via an edit button or the such. And oh hey! These text boxes support LaTeX!)

Common functionality comes with an assortment of hotkeys, exactly what a grader would be seeking once they have done the same actions many times in a row, and hotkeys that take the same functionality as buttons pop up upon mouse hover over the corresponding buttons. For hotkeys for rubric items, they are simply presented next to the items themselves, without hover even necessary, since as these are numbers, one would naturally want to be able to see the associated numbers at-a-glance rather than memorizing them.

A common regret of graders when grading papers by hand is realization upon certain submissions that a certain penalty or credit on the rubric is probably too harsh or too lenient, and then realizing that one would have to go through the entire stack of papers again to find the students whose grades one should adjust to meet a new standard. Does one have to do the same, but electronically, when using Gradescope? Of course not. Gradescope allows you to filter by a rubric item to see all submissions which have already been assigned that rubric item, and immediately have all the papers that should be reconsidered. If one is only changing the point value of that particular rubric item, one doesn’t even need to go through the papers; one just edits the score associated with it.

Both students and staff benefit from an easy-to-use regrade request feature, which allows for a nice communication channel with which to deal with regrades. As staff, you could have all the submissions in front of you and compare one student’s submission with others and more quickly decide what a fair thing to do is.

Gradescope is software that actually makes grading massively more efficient; there is none of what the rest of academic software does in making you wish you were still doing things the old way.

And every so often, Gradescope rolls new updates. These updates are well tested, are actually features (more useful than shiny), and play along nicely with what has been around before. Recently Gradescope rolled out a prototype of a handwriting recognizer. I’m already really happy with how many names it successfully recognized that we don’t have to manually match anymore.

Gradescope is proper technological innovation.

331 Hours Below Freezing

On the evening of last December 25, Boston dipped below freezing.

This in itself is not unusual; this is quite expectable for Boston in the winter. What’s different is that this time the temperature did not return to above freezing until just last hour. Boston spent a consecutive 13 days and 19 hours—from then until now, in the negative Celsius.

Specifically, these were the highs and lows of the days in passing:

Dec 26: 27°F/-3°C | 19°F/-7°C
Dec 27: 20°F/-7°C | 12°F/-11°C
Dec 28: 12°F/-11°C | 5°F/-15°C
Dec 29: 14°F/-10°C | 2°F/-17°C
Dec 30: 18°F/-8°C | 6°F/-14°C
Dec 31: 13°F /-11°C| 4°F/-16°C
Jan 01: 13°F/-11°C | 0°F/-18°C
Jan 02: 19°F/-7°C | 4°F/-16°C
Jan 03: 29°F/-2°C | 16°F/-9°C
Jan 04: 30°F/-1°C | 22°F/-6°C
Jan 05: 24°F/-4°C | 6°F/-14°C
Jan 06: 12°F/-11°C | 1°F/-17°C
Jan 07: 17°F/-8°C | -2°F/-19°C

For reference, the average Bostonian December high and low are respectively 41°F/5°C and 28°F/-2°C, and for January 36°F/2°C and 22°F/-6°C.

Winds weren’t forgiving in much of these times either. It often got too cold even in the inside of my dorm, so I actually spent a large portion of this time elsewhere, wandering from location to location, working on my thesis.

But yes, those of you who went home away from MIT for the winter vacation, this is what you missed.

Categories MIT

dzaefn No Longer

Long story short: I no longer wish to go by dzaefn. You can call me by my real name, or other options listed three paragraphs below. I’m going to try to stop referring to myself by this, and I’d like for you to stop referring to me as such as well. I don’t intend to abandon this name as much as possible, just to ease it out, let it stay where it is not easily changed, and just indicate when appropriate that I prefer other names.

There have definitely been people that I’ve expressly told that I am dzaefn, particularly at times in my life that I just didn’t like that my real name was what it happened to be. (Some of these people even concluded that was actually my real name. Oops.) In any case, both from this and from other effects, a lot of people, maybe you, primarily refer to me by the name ‘dzaefn’. I’m sorry to tell you that I just do not wish to be called this name anymore, and I apologize for inconveniences in mental nomenclature reassignments.

Why has ‘dzaefn’ fallen out of my favor? Honestly, I’ve just gotten to a point where I feel the things with what it stands for and the z-replacing-s got too silly. It derived from a previous username that I used, ‘d684n’ (which, in fact, I first used when making this here very blog, 6.5 years ago), which stood for ‘dotted sixth and eight-fourth-th note’ (an expansion of ‘dotted eighth note’), in which I replaced the s with a z because I thought the string ‘dsa’ looked too qwertylike. I’m serious, this is the origin of this username. I’ve had at least a few really confused faces and at least someone ask me if I was trolling (trust me, I’m not nearly that good at trolling) among the various times I’ve explained this username. Eventually, after changing what it stood for a few times, I decided it really doesn’t stand for anything at all. And eventually (read: now) I decided if I’ve gotten to this point I should really just discard this. It really wasn’t a put-together-that-well name, and it didn’t become better. I don’t feel any remote sense of juiciness about the name anymore.

So what should you call me? Several options. My full first name is fine. Unlike the times in which I’ve told people to call me dzaefn, I’ve come to better terms with my own name. In case you’re not sure what my full first name is, it has six letters. More online, there’s at least three usernames over the past year I’ve gotten convinced I plan to keep as monikers permanently (which is honestly the first time in my entire life I’ve actually felt so): 004413 (my main username these days), 0xGG (the username I use in gaming), and xer0a (pronounced hay-ru-ah, [‘heɪɹuɑ]), the last of which you might have noticed is my username on WordPress now. If you don’t like that these names take more than a syllable to pronounce, the second half of my full first name is a fine shortening.

There will be several places where I’ll just let the fact that my username is dzaefn carry on. It turns out that my starting to use ‘dzaefn’ falls quite near my coming to MIT, and my current decision falls very near the end of my formal times at MIT, so it just makes sense and is convenient to have it associate with my MIT presence: I’ll still use it for logistical MIT business, and I’ll retain the /u/dzaefn account for posting to /r/mit, and I’ll just remind people that it only happens to be my username, and that I don’t wish to be referred to as such any longer.

That’s all. Happy birthday to Satyendra Bose today, and Isaac Asimov tomorrow.

Categories MIT

Ununnoticeable

I liked to sit on a radiator unit in the W20-575 cluster when battling The Alchemist gym in Pokémon Go. A few times ago, someone who was working on one of the computers told me they wish I could move, because my sitting on the radiator seems to cause it to make substantially louder noises, and that was distracting to him. So I went and sat on a different radiator unit that didn’t react as such.

Since then, I’ve noticed each time I sat on that particular radiator unit that it does in fact react to my sitting with louder noises each time. And even if there wasn’t someone that told me the noises bothered them, I moved. Somehow, despite the elevated noises never bothering me before someone told me (I don’t remember the noises back then, but I’m pretty sure it’s not that the radiator just happened to start consistently becoming noisier upon my sitting the one time someone happened to be bothered by it), I definitely couldn’t help but notice them afterwards, and feel that I should do something to fix the problem, even if no one complained.

Rethinking the situation, I’m actually not sure if why I consistently move afterwards is because the noise newly bothers me or if I feel the need to in-advance cater to a particular type of people who would be bothered by the noises. They both feel like they could be reasons I did the such, but one could easily get faint feelings of afterwards-justifications for actions, and I feel these might fall into this category.

Answers to the MIT Campus Scavenger Hunt

This post contains the answers to the MIT scavenger hunt I posted 40 months ago, excepting items in the 16 advanced item expansion known as the “Navigator’s Quest”.

I decided to end this due to changes that have occurred to MIT’s campus, the rate of which has been much speedier than I could have imagined 40 months ago. Buildings have been demolished, buildings have been built, buildings have been renovated, stuff has moved around, and permissions to various locations have changed such that original foundational ideas of the hunt could no longer hold. The Picture Scavenger Hunt, on the other hand, I still plan to run indefinitely, and it now has an established mechanism for pictures that become outdated.

In any case, congratulations to jakobw for the most items found during the duration this hunt was up.

As for the answers, long story short:

MITscavanswers

I decided to not chart locations that are answers to 39 here on a post on the internet. Ask me in real life for an answer to 39.

There are of course probably many more locations that several of these items can be found at than plotted in the map above.

Notes:

For item 1, solidly shaded buildings have the floor numbered 0 aligned with the ground. I also accepted buildings just outlined in the map above, though, as those are cases where ground is between floors numbered 0 and 1, but the floor numbered 0 is closer to the ground level than the floor numbered 1.

For item 8, Senior House was my original intended item. When I was designing the hunt, I momentarily forgot about graduate dorms when writing this item. I was later informed that at least Edgerton House among the graduate dorms have both A/C and elevators. Eventually, Senior House closed, but Edgerton House does still remain, so this item had an answer through the end of this hunt, despite this not being true of the set I was originally thinking of.

I parenthesized the Building 8 answer for item 9, even though I accepted it, because Building 1 is a case where the building is the fairly indisputable central home of a course, whereas Course 8 has substantial portions outside Building 8.

For item 20, there’s many tiny buildings that satisfy the item that I did not bother to mark on the map above. Probably my favorite case of this is Building W55, whose bottom doesn’t even touch the ground. (I was actually fairly sad they did not number its singular floor 2, so that MIT could have the amusing feature of containing a building whose lowest floor is numbered 2.) Of course, Building W55 hadn’t been built yet when I published this hunt. Building 34’s lowest floor is in fact 1 because what lies underneath it is actually not grouped with 34. This is in fact the reason for one of the answers to item 33.

Item 21: the Pharos color printer is in W20-575. This is a quite useful thing to know as an MIT student. When I wrote this hunt, though, the Pharos color printer was in 12-182, a room that no longer exists.

Item 24: the elevator services floors 4, 5, and 6. Without additional permissions, though, travel is restricted to oscillating between 4 and 6.

Continue reading “Answers to the MIT Campus Scavenger Hunt”