December 8-9, 2014

Monday was a vacation day, which meant I only spent half the day working on work stuff. 

I neglected to mention this the other day, but at some point over the three-day weekend I successfully replaced the cords in one set of cellular shades, so I guess I can add that skill to my CV. All hail for selling the special string.

Monday afternoon I met with Durham City Councilman Steve Schewel for an hour or so to discuss development, incentives, and the recent protest-related arrests. I really appreciate Steve taking the time to talk to me. Full disclosure: I worked for Steve, indirectly, for several years in the early 90s, when he owned the Independent and I was a frequent contributor.

He was extraordinarily kind to me then, and has continued to be so in the intervening couple of decades. 

I came away from the discussion with a slightly better understanding of just how comparatively little power municipalities have in North Carolina, since we are a state without municipal home-rule, meaning that the legislature fully controls what powers it does or does not grant to cities.

This is actually a reasonable high-level primer, if you’re interested.

Makes me doubly glad that I focused all of my campaign contributions this cycle on state legislative races, even though the outcome wasn’t enough to change the balance of power in the legislature.

At work lately I have been doing a lot of technical interviewing, the first time that I have done so at any sort of scale. It has been an interesting experience.

One thing I have noticed, and have been thinking about, is that some universities have Computer Science curricula in which any given student might do coursework in any of three or four different languages over the course of his or her studies. They might be trained initially in Java, take a couple of courses in C, and then pivot to Python or some other language for some of their higher-level electives.

Based on my experience as a technical manager & interviewer, at the undergraduate level, anyway, this is perhaps not an optimal configuration.

I’ve talked to a decent number of students who have difficulty keeping the syntax and structural idiosyncrasies of their various languages straight in their heads. (To be fair, I suffer from this myself – and it’s a real problem.)

Moreover, it seems clear to me that many of them haven’t used any single language long enough to have mastered it, or to have begun to understand its nuances and idioms.

This effect seems to have increased in recent years, as more schools switch their entry-level courses to different languages, while leaving the professors of higher-level courses free to use whatever languages they want.

Presumably once these students graduate & get jobs, they will eventually wind up in a situation where they’re able to focus on a single language for more than 6-9 months at a time, and will get a more holistic view of that language. 

But I feel like students are missing out on an opportunity to dig deeper and master a discipline in an educational environment that should be designed to support that.

Plus it’s kind of frustrating to me as a hiring manager.

December 8-9, 2014

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