Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Java and Weather Hyperbole

I spent all morning writing a Java exam, and the rest of the day rehabbing what was left of my brain. It was three hours long and practically killed me. I'm here to tell about it only by the grace of God. Atheist, sneer if you must, but I claim a miracle of severe ardor and bitter survival.

It started last night when the weather reports looked bad, real bad. They kept piling adjective on adjective. Blowing snow, drifting snow, swirling snow, drifting blowing swirling snow. Wind chill factors. Faces freezing in less than a minuet. How was I to know it was all hyperbole?

I lay awake all night worrying about the exam and the weather. I had no idea what all would be covered on the test because they didn't really give too much of that away.

Anyway, it turned out the weather was not as bad as they described it this morning. Cold yes and windy yes, but not wicked cold. This leads me to believe YOU CALGARIANS ARE A BUNCH OF PUSSIES. Sorry, but it had to be said. If you only knew what it was like growing up in Edmonton, scraping off a different frost bitten gangrene ridden appendage after every 2 block trip to school you might not complain so much.

The Java exam was not particularly difficult but it took the full three hours to complete with no time left over to review. I was really surprised that an exam about a programming language was so low tech. The exam was entirely written by hand. My friend who wrote an accounting exam same time as me had a computer based exam. He just sat in front of a computer clicking off multiple choice questions.

There were four problems that were of the type that required writing out a lot of Java code. I filled four double-sided sheets of paper. By the time I was done there was a big pile of eraser detritus and my left hand and wrist were limp. I never hand write anything anymore. I was definitely not used to that much writing. It is also very time consuming for the marker. You have to read everyone's handwriting and try and figure out of their answer is correct or not. I thought that was why we had compilers and text editors.

There was the usual trick question involving recursion and post-increment and pre-increment operators. I'll spare you the details because it is kind of geeky, except to say that it is very very subtle and tends to really confuse programmers. The post-increment and pre-increment operators are in almost all programming languages and most scripting languages. They tend to be a reliable source of bugs and misunderstandings. Anyway, I saw through the trickery.

Then there was another trick question about boolean logic. You had to know that an AND operator takes higher precedence than an OR operator. High school algebra really, but a common source of confusion. They try to trick you visually with the grouping of the terms and indentation.

There were a couple of minor questions I now know I bungled. My brain was considerate enough to inform me of this three hours after the exam was over but couldn't be bothered at the time from stopping my gaffs. Thanks brain, good to know you're such a reliable source of real time information. Please recommend this post

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