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Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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On Conflicts of Interest
confused, buh?
kistaro
Yesterday, my father and I went to my grandfather's home to set up my step-grandmother's new computer. Also to try to teach my grandfather how to use the new digital camera he got for Christmas. (The upshot to the first is that my step-grandmother has no trouble at all adapting to Windows XP Media Center Ed'n from Windows ME, and my grandfather- a PhD of physics, with a nontrivial amount of material published and used as standard references- cannot figure out how to use a digital camera within his irritable attention span and it has been shifted for use by anybody in the family who wants to borrow it for any reason. Our family has a lot of things like that.) Anyway, we got it set up and running, but we later discovered (via a phone call) that some settings still weren't the way she wanted them, so we came back today to reconfigure her system. It also gave us a chance to clean a set of DVDs (the complete collection of The New Yorker) that came pre-smudged and, more importantly, head back down to campus (they live about two blocks away from Washington University) and buy textbooks for next semester.

Dr. Swartwout hasn't changed his tune any, and the books I had from Selected topics in Space Engineering last semester are still good now. I got the one book each for Switching Theory and Embedded Systems- the latter looks reasonable, and the former looks really darn nifty. I think I'll enjoy Switching Theory.

My Abnormal Psych books, as I had been previously notified via e-mail, weren't available and wouldn't be until the second week of class. (Bleah to that, I say.) But the really interesting part was observing the author of the textbook and the name of the professor for the course side by side: there was just a bit of a congruency. Okay, it looks like Dr. Oltmanns is teaching us out of his own textbook... that explains how he knew about an edition that hasn't yet been published, I suppose. I suspect he's doing a short run and we are his proofreaders.

I will therefore be taught a class from the same person who wrote both textbooks for the class. Does anybody else think this is a bit of a conflict of interest, or perhaps some form of academic incest? It worries me, because in all my past classes, my professors have covered for the inadequecies in the textbook and the textbook has covered for the ineadequecies in the professor. I've only got one source now.

This means that my professor is extremely good at what he does, extremely full of himself, or both. I'm hoping for the first or last of those options; the second option without the first poses some worry to me. The class will either be exceptionally well-taught from a respected professional in the field, or it will bear a closer resemblance to the second book in the Harry Potter series in which Dr. Gilderoy Lockhart has assigned textbooks written only by Dr. Gilderoy Lockhart... no way of knowing which.

Does anybody else find it worrying when a professor assigns only his own textbooks?


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I'm glad you think you'll enjoy Switching Theory. Looking through the book for Intro to Formal Languages and Automata, I had the very pleasant surprise of realizing (duh!) that FSMs can also be referred to as automata and that the course appears very reminiscent of some combination of Switching Theory, my compilers course, and pretty much anything else that's dealt with FSMs. I'm very much looking forward to the class now rather than thinking of it as the course that I'm taking because it's the best of what I could take but not really having much interest. I also am rather reminded of you when looking through the material to be covered; you may want to investigate such a course if you find yourself lacking in options again, especially since you think you'll enjoy switching theory.

On a side note, when I took Switching Theory, the professor assigned no textbook at all. I think I remember one of my parents mentioning having professors who assigned textbooks written by themselves. It may be nice because there won't be any inconsistencies between methods and terminology employed by your professor and your textbook (which I have had major problems with in some classes), but it still does seem a bit odd. I hope the case is that your professor knows what he's talking about and isn't blindly full of himself.

My course has a number of shorter lecture courses within each model, and in several cases the notes we were given were adapted from the lecturer's textbook (most notably in Chemistry, where Dr Wothers lectures about half the course and writes the two recommended text books). However, in all these cases we don't actually work from a text book - the course is based on the lectures only.

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