Admissions snafu unfairly tarnishes Vassar computer science

I was disappointed to read the The New York Times article yesterday reporting that Vassar mistakenly told 76 applicants that they were accepted. Of course I’m disappointed in my college, but I’m more disappointed by this quote from the NYT article:

Kareen Troussard, a student in Paris, said the episode might have saved her. “I want to major in computer science,” she said in an e-mail, “and Vassar doesn’t even know how to use a computer on the biggest day of our lives.”

I know it’s just a quip, but it unfairly blames the computer science department for a mistake in the admissions office. The quote stems from three common misconceptions:

Misconception #1: The computer science department is responsible for all of the college’s electronic activities.
Reality: Very few, if any, college computer science departments are also responsible for IT at the school.  Teaching computer science and maintaining a system are very different jobs, and Vassar has an entire Computing and Information Services department to handle their IT. (Even Vassar students don’t understand this distinction. The CS department had to put a sign on the door saying saying visitors looking for IT help were in the wrong building.) Continue reading

Writing code motivates me to be productive

I’m going to graduate college in 11 days. I’m submitting my last assignment for grading in 5 days. I’m giving a presentation about my senior research project tomorrow. You’d think that with all that pressure, I’d be banging out code and papers at break-neck pace.

Well, I haven’t been. Senioritis has gotten the best of me. It’s been very difficult to bring myself to work my thesis and Japanese assignments knowing that in 11 days it will all average out to a grade on my transcript that’s mostly predetermined by now. It doesn’t help that I have already secured my post-graduation job. I felt weak and unmotivated yesterday as I struggled to write and prepare my thesis presentation. I needed a boost, but didn’t know where to get it.

I eventually realized that I wanted a couple more features in my research project’s map application for presentation purposes. Boom, I opened my IDE! Boom, I code got banged out! Once I had a task closer to doing what I love, I was suddenly able to focus and be productive.  Continue reading

My shortest paths app for Vassar College

I’ve finished the first online version of my application which finds shortest walking paths on the Vassar campus. It uses Dijkstra and the Google Maps Javascript API to find and plot the shortest route between dorms, academic buildings, and student centers. I’m hoping for some feedback from online testing before I submit the final version as part of my senior research project. I’ve solved a lot of arguments about quickest ways to class already!

“I don’t know anything about computers.”

Hello visitors from StumbleUpon! If you like this article, you might be interested in my other popular posts.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when friends say, “I don’t know anything about computers.”

This sentence irks me for a couple reasons. The first is that it is blatantly not true. I’ve met folks who have never touched anything more complicated than a solar-powered calculator. Compared to them, my friends — who use their computers constantly for schoolwork and practically live on Facebook — have considerable technical experience. It is disheartening to hear how little they value their knowledge.

Moreover, the context in which I typically hear friends say, “I don’t know anything about computers,” is as an excuse when their computer does something unexpected, they don’t know what to do, and they would rather back off and let someone else fix it than try to solve the problem on their own. My friends are afraid of their own machines. I think this sentiment is a symptom of ongoing trends in the industry towards a closed-box style of consumer computer design.

Cory Doctorow explains it better than I can in his iPad rant on BoingBoing:

The original Apple ][+ came with schematics for the circuit boards, and birthed a generation of hardware and software hackers who upended the world for the better. If you wanted your kid to grow up to be a confident, entrepreneurial, and firmly in the camp that believes that you should forever be rearranging the world to make it better, you bought her an Apple ][+.

[...] Buying an iPad for your kids isn’t a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it’s a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.

While Apple’s closed-box style contributes to the ease of use which is the hallmark of Apple’s products, I’m afraid that it is changing consumer attitudes in a negative way. Apple wants to keep the inner workings of their products a secret to the point that they want to make it illegal for consumers to alter the software running on their own property. Preventing users from controlling the software on their own devices is dangerous for several reasons, but it scares me most because it discourages users from learning about their devices. In effect, Apple is profiting from its customers’ ignorance, and the consequence is that more of my friends profess, “I don’t know anything about computers.”

Apple’s products are a timely example, but other manufacturers are guilty too, and I think it’s the generation just now learning about technology that will suffer most for it. Curious kids will never be able to tinker with the insides of their iPads as they could with the Apple][+. I think we as technophiles have a responsibility to kids to pick up the slack. Get your kids a garage sale computer to take apart together. Find out if your teenager’s high school offers programming classes. Donate to or volunteer with groups such as TechBridge, which offers after-school programs in technology and engineering for underprivileged girls in Oakland, CA. But most importantly, make sure kids are not afraid of tinkering with technology. How else can they hope to make it better?

The highs and lows of cloud computing

Cloud computing, with services such as Salesforce and Google Mail and Docs, is easily my favorite internet technology. The potential for scalable, affordable services online really excites me, and I definitely plan to enter that sector of industry when I get my degree. But cloud computing is fraught with pitfalls, too, as a few recent data disasters have shown.

Upsides:

  • When my data is in the cloud, I can access it from everywhere. This becomes increasingly important the more devices you have. When I want to see my email from my personal computer, my iPod Touch, netbook, my lab computer, my eReader, and my phone, it’s a lot more convenient to keep that data in the cloud, rather than having to manually sync each device. This property has saved me more than once, too. When I took a train to New York City last spring and found that I had forgotten my ticket confirmation number in the rush to get out the door, I was able to pull it up on a public internet terminal and still catch my train.
  • Cloud data is more secure than local data because it is backed up on someone else’s servers. If my office burns down, I’m still going to be able to access my email, and if the server goes down, there will be a dedicated team to fix the problem.
  • Cloud computing is necessary for software as a service (SAAS) products, which can be very scalable and very profitable. When Salesforce gains a new client, they don’t have to come out and do a complicated database installation or train local IT on how to implement their product on local servers, or even make sure all the users’ terminals have the same operating system. The software is in the cloud and ready to go; all the local users need is a browser to access the database.
  • The cloud has also ushered in an era of free applications such as Google Docs, which not only competes with expensive office suites but also enables easy document sharing: you don’t have to upload your presentation to send to your coworkers if your presentation already exists online. These programs are easy to use because there is no installation, and they’re compatible with almost all computers because they work through a browser.

Downsides:

  • Your data might not be as safe as it sounds. Last month, as Microsoft performed an update on the servers that host data for T-Mobile Sidekick users, something went horribly wrong and all data in the cloud was lost. I don’t own a Sidekick, but I would have been outraged if this happened to me. The worst part is that there really wasn’t anything Sidekick users could do about it. While Microsoft “worked round the clock” to restore the lost information, they couldn’t possibly restore everything. Backups can fail. No server is 100% safe. So while your data might stand a better chance in the cloud, the more backups you have, including local backups, the safer you are.
  • If the company you trust with your data goes down, you might lose it. Yahoo announced in April that it would close its free web-hosting site, Geocities. Last week every Geocities site officially became unavailable. While Yahoo gave plenty of warning in advance, it still hurts to find out that your website, something you consider your property, is going to be shut down no matter what you do. I’m sure plenty of Geocities users never had the chance to save their data. Whenever you upload content to 3rd party servers, you put your data in their hands, and there is always a danger that they will delete it without your permission.
  • The flip side to the argument that 3rd parties will ignore your data is that they will pay attention to your data. Online banking is a form of cloud computing, because the bank offers a virtualized resource as a service over the internet. That’s great, but there is huge pressure on the bank to make  sure I’m the only one who can see that data and manipulate it. Likewise, if I send confidential email, I trust Google Mail not to let its employees or anyone else read it without my permission, but neither I nor they can absolutely guarantee it will never happen. There is always a danger of unsecured data with cloud computing.
  • Cloud applications are primarily accessed through browsers, but browsers vary in terms of what technologies they support. While modern browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome adhere to web standards, the browser that dominates the market, Internet Explorer, sometimes makes its own rules, which web developers spend lots of time and money trying to stay ahead of. SAAS companies take a risk because they cannot guarantee the browser their client uses will be compatible with their software. Even scarier is the idea that Microsoft might decide that it doesn’t like the idea of Google Docs competing with its office suite and makes Internet Explorer incompatible with Google’s product.

So while cloud computing is exciting because of its scalability and versatility, it is also dangerous because it puts personal data into the hands of 3rd parties. I still think, however, that as people start using more and more devices in addition to personal computers on a regular basis, companies that utilize a cloud architecture to deliver their products will be the most successful.

Snow Leopard revisited

mac-pcAccording to the headlines, Snow Leopard is in trouble.

Mac: Hi, I’m a Mac
PC:
And I’m a PC
Mac:
Hi, I’m a Mac
PC:
Are you OK?
Mac:
Where am I? Who are you?

Such was reddit.com‘s top-rated comment yesterday when word of a major bug in Snow Leopard got out. Apparently the operating system has a bug that can delete all user data if someone logs into a guest account, then back into their regular account. The BBC and several other sites today reported that Apple has acknowledged the bug and is working on a solution. They advise in the meantime to delete any old guest accounts and only use native Snow Leopard guest accounts if necessary, which suggests that the bug comes from a problem in the upgrade process for guest accounts native to Leopard (or possibly even earlier).

I suppose I could count this as another reason not to upgrade to Snow Leopard, but it doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem as the media would have us believe. This problem obviously doesn’t happen every time someone uses a guest account in Snow Leopard, or it would have been reported much earlier, considering the operating system was released in August. Another good reason to upgrade is that my assumption about pricing turned out to be incorrect. While Apple’s official story is that to upgrade from Tiger you have to buy the $169 box set, quite a few sources have reported that upgrading using the $29 package directly from Tiger works just fine. I even have a couple friends who have done it with no problems. As for me, I’m still holding back because I’m running a few legacy programs that I need for classes that I couldn’t get by without. But when I do upgrade, I will make damn sure to delete any upgraded guest accounts!

The 2009 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

ghc09I spent the past four days in the company of about 1600 technical women at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Tucson, AZ, an it was an absolute blast! I attended with two of my professors and four of my classmates (none of whom had ever attended the conference before). I went into the conference thinking that it wasn’t really going to be “for me,” but that assumption was in error. There was plenty for me to participate in:

• The Companies: I knew there would be several hundred professional representatives at the conference, but I wasn’t expecting that there would be loads of professionals interesting in networking with me! I collected at least half a dozen business cards from people I’d love to work for, who actually invited me to contact them later. I also gave copies of my resume to at least four companies doing the kind of web development I want to get into when I graduate.

• The Panels: The panels, as expected, were awesome as well, though some were more awesome than others. The main problem I encountered was that the interesting panels were all at the same time, leaving me with less interesting choices at later times. A couple times, the presentations didn’t live up to the titles, either: I was very excited for the cloud computing panel, but the presenters weren’t excited at all. I ended up leaving that panel before it ended. However, the panels in which the presenter was really excited about her work were a thrill to attend. My favorites were, “Engineering Self-Organizing Systems” and “Bits and Bytes: Explaining Communications Security (and Insecurity) in Washington.”

• The Networking: While I think the Connect Project was a success overall, it could still use some improvement. The idea behind the project was to include a barcode on every conference badge, and then if you wanted to share your contact information with someone you met, you could flag down a “hopper” (conference volunteers) who would scan your badges and “connect” you. I did this several times, and I’m excited for my connections to be emailed to me so I can send notes to the people I connected with. The only problem was that it was sometimes difficult to find a hopper, and sometimes the hoppers weren’t sure how to use the scanners. I think more training is in order for next year.

• The Swag: When my professor told me to leave extra room in my bag for the swag, I don’t think I took her seriously enough. More than one girl from my school had to check a bag on the way home because they gave us so much stuff! My favorite handouts include a four-way USB splitter, a hand-cranked flashlight, shirts from Google and Microsoft, and the shoulder bag that came with the registration (which I intend to use all the time – it has a pocket for everything!).

• The Hotel: The conference itself was only one great part of this trip. The hotel that hosted the conference, the JW Marriott Starr Pass, was amazing. The landscape was breathtaking (and filled with cacti) and the food was incredible. They served us breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two days, and I couldn’t believe how delicious everything was. I guess that’s what we get for getting a spa resort.

• The Price: While registration normally cost around $500, plus hotel and travel, I was able to attend at no cost to me thanks to a combination of scholarships from the National Science Foundation and a grant from Winnifred Asprey through the Computer Science Dept. at Vassar College. Thanks so much!

    This year’s Grace Hopper was a blast, and I can’t wait to go again next year when it comes to Atlanta, Georgia. In the meantime, I picked up a bunch of ideas for blog posts, so expect to see plenty of GHC-related posts in the coming days.

    My day of travel: SFO to JFK

    airplane7:56AM, waiting in SFO to board

    I have completed the first leg of my trip: making it to the airport I’m departing from. I accomplished this via BART, which I’m a big fan of. One of the best parts about living near a BART station is easy, driving-free airport access. I’m flying Virgin America today, and if it hadn’t been in the international terminal, I could have taken the airtrain to the right one, but the SFO BART station is conveniently right inside the airport, next to the international terminal.

    Checking my bag took all of about one minute, since I pre-printed my boarding pass. The security checkpoint took a little longer. Even though there were very few people there (for a security checkpoint, anyway), the line was backed up because they were using (one of those new machines that does a full-body scan). They said no papers in the scanner, so I left my boarding pass in my bag, but then they wanted to see it when I got through the scanner. I’m not sure how they expected that to work, but they sent me to my bag to get it. It was then I found that they’d taken my bag, the new Timbuk2 bag with my computer in it, to be scanned again because I didn’t remove the computer from my bag. I was not pleased about this, because as I’ve blogged previously, one of the main selling points of this bag is that it’s TSA compliant. I will be calling Timbuk2 about this. That said, the TSA dudes were in a patient mood today, and didn’t seem to be particularly bothered that I didn’t have my boarding pass or that they couldn’t see my computer; they just asked very nicely for me to fix it, and I did.

    The last thing I did before sitting down to write this is buy a loaf of sourdough bread to last me the trip. I expect to be traveling until at least 10pm tonight, so the bread should last me the day with no time to stop for meals.

    My flight boards in 25 minutes. Here’s hoping it goes smoothly.

    11:28 PM: safely on the ground

    The flight did go safely, if not smoothly. There were a few summer storms to go through and around, so there was some turbulence. We arrived in JFK only 45 minutes late, though. I count that as not bad. I was fortunate enough to encounter a friend at the baggage carousel, and since she was planning to take a cab into the city anyway, we shared a taxi and I had an easier trip to Grand Central Station. From there, I hopped on a train back to school, and I am now settled in my dorm room, safe and sound.

    Using a Mac on a budget: is it time to upgrade?

    snow_leopardApple’s new OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard is being released this coming Friday. Savvy Mac users are abuzz and excited to upgrade. For most, deciding whether to upgrade or not will be a cinch: Apple has set the price of the new OS down to $29, but only if you upgrade from the latest version.

    For me, upgrading to Snow Leopard would be considerably more costly. I bought my Macbook Pro in July 2007 when they shipped with v10.4 Tiger (I sadly did not realize that new MacBooks would start shipping with Leopard as soon as October of that year). When v10.5 Leopard did come out a few months later, I didn’t bother to switch, because the upgrade from 5-year-old PC to brand-spanking-new MacBook was enough of a boost to keep me excited without a new OS. Now that the computer is a couple years old, I’m thinking about whether it needs a pick-me-up of OS proportions to keep it running as though it were new.

    Snow Leopard has a lot going for it. For me, upgrading would mean access to Time Machine, Spaces, Boot Camp, and other features I have done without. If the specifications on Apple’s website are to be believed, I would also get a speed boost from Snow Leopard – between the switch from 32-bit to 64-bit computing and the new Grand Central Dispatch feature which automatically allows programs written for one processor to be handled by two, Snow Leopard should be exceedingly zippy. Another exciting feature is being able to enter Chinese characters by drawing them on the touchpad instead of having to enter them phonetically and hoping the computer realizes which one the user intends. Writing kanji through the touchpad would be a great timesaver for my upcoming Advanced Japanese class.

    Despite all the cool stuff Snow Leopard has to offer, I am going to have to pass on it for now for a few reasons:

    Cost: For those of us who didn’t join the v10.5 Leopard club, v10.6 Snow Leopard is priced a bit higher than $29. Apple recommends that users like us purchase the Mac Box Set, which includes not only the new operating system but also iWork 09 and iLife 09, and costs $169. The set is tempting, because ever since OpenOffice 3.0 started crashing all the time on me, I’ve been wanting a stable office suite. However, if you don’t need the productivity software, Leopard can be purchased for $96 on amazon.com, and from there you can use the $29 upgrade price for Snow Leopard. So if I want Snow Leopard, it would put me back at least $125, and that’s a lot of money for me right now. I could almost book a flight home for that much. I’ve also spent a lot of money with Apple already this past year, buying a new iPod Touch and paying for out-of-warrantee repairs to my logic board.

    Edit (10/13/09): Despite Apple’s recommendation, Tiger users with Intel Macs can upgrade just fine from the $29 disc.

    Don’t Actually Need It: I’ve gotten along fine without an upgrade so far; why should I upgrade now? I haven’t noticed any decline in performance with my current MacBook (not counting the afore-mentioned repair). Sure, it could be a might zippier, but not by much. For the most part it still feels as practical, elegant, and useful as it did when I bought it.

    Alternative Software and Hardware: I listed the main reasons Snow Leopard appeals to me above, but that doesn’t mean upgrading is the only way to attain these features. Instead of using Time Machine, I have been regularly copying the contents of my filetree to my external hard drive. It’s not as slick as Time Machine, and I wouldn’t be able to instantly revive the computer if it died, but at least my files would be accessible and restorable. There are also plenty of other programs that do the same thing Time Machine does that I could use instead, like SuperDuper. Speed boosts are not exclusive to Snow Leopard, either; a cheaper and easier way to give my MacBook a lift would be to install some extra RAM. I believe it presently only holds 2 GB of RAM, and its capacity is 6 GB. Still lots of room to grow there.

    Compatibility Issues: When Leopard was first released, it took my college four months to release new drivers for its printer network that functioned with the new OS. Upgrading too soon could mean having to go without software I need for school and work, especially open-source software.

    It’s not as though keeping an older operating system is unusual. On the Windows side of the world, people still use Windows XP even through it is almost eight years old and Vista was released more than two years ago. According to Market Share by Net Applications, Windows XP is still run on 73% of computers that use the internet. Granted, a Windows upgrade is more expensive than a Mac upgrade, and Windows Vista has never been popular, but my point is that plenty of people agree with me that you don’t always need to upgrade just because the upgrade is available.

    That said, it looks like I am going to have to hold off on this one. Maybe if I wait a few years, the price will come down enough to make it more affordable. In the mean time, I’m going to stick to upgrading my RAM to give my two year old computer a lift.

    On being a computer camp instructor

    As of yesterday, I have completed my summer job. I worked at computer game design camp as a lead instructor, and it was definitely an eye-opening experience. While I didn’t get an IT internship this summer as I’d previously hoped, I still think I spent the summer well in terms of employment.
    I thought I knew a lot about working with kids, but I found there was plenty left to figure out the hard way. When I applied for the job, I didn’t expect to be in charge of a whole group of kids on my own, but the camp director decided that I had enough experience to warrant being a lead instructor for the camp. Being a lead instructor meant that I would be in charge of a class of twenty campers for a week, with another instructor assisting me. I worked at three different locations over the summer; sometimes there were other classes from our camp at the site, and sometimes it would just be me, the other instructor, and the campers at our location. My point is that I was suddenly in charge and had to act with authority, even when I didn’t know what I was doing. Turns out that being a figure of authority is quite difficult if you’re not used to it. The two hardest parts were talking to parents and mediating disputes between kids. Parents want to be reassured that they are dropping off their kids in a safe environment where they will have fun, and moreover that their kids are getting their tuition’s worth. They don’t want to see a lead instructor who doesn’t know what she’s doing who will leave the kids bored all day. Mediating kids’ disputes was even harder, I think. You want to be fair to the kids, but if you didn’t see what happened, it’s generally one’s word against the other’s and they probably are both at fault. I learned that the best thing to do is just to seperate them, and by the end of the day they will (hopefully) have forgotten whatever it was they were arguing about.
    That’s not to say I didn’t have fun working at camp. Working with kids is rewarding for me partly because of all the funny things kids do. One day was particularly notorious in this sense. I had just brought the kids back from their afternoon recess and a couple had received injuries in the day’s dodgeball game. I had ice packs on hand, so I gave each kid an ice pack. Our ice packs consisted of a plastic bag of ammonium nitrate pellets and a smaller bag of water inside. When you break the smaller bag of water, the water reacts with the ammonium nitrate and an endothermic reaction occurs, making the whole bag ice cold. The problem with these packages is that the smaller bag of water is sometimes difficult to break. The best way is to squeeze the bag as though to pierce it, but this idea did not occur to the kids I gave ice packs to. Instead, they thought it would be more helpful to throw the ice packs on the floor. The other kids thought this was wildly hilarious, so even after the packs were cold, the kids kept throwing them on the floor. Sure enough, one of the thrown packs violently exploded and poured cold slush all over the floor. As if that wasn’t enough, another kid running toward me slid in the slush and kept sliding until he stopped right in front of me, smiling that, “Oops, I messed up but it was hilarious!” smile. It was just the perfect storm of hilarity, and I had to turn around very quickly so the kids didn’t see me laughing. The problem at that point was that the kids were out of their seats, laughing at the kid who fell, and making a mess with the spilled ice pack, and I had to get them back under control somehow. My solution was to turn around suddenly and yell, “All right! Everybody sit down!” in my best angry-camp-counselor voice, and then to chuckle to indicate that I still found the situation funny. It worked; the kids sat their butts down as soon as they thought I was really mad, but relaxed when I laughed. The only casualty of the day turned out to be the outfit of the kid who slid, which I’m afraid may have bleached under the influence of the chemicals.
    Overall, I think being a camp counselor was a good experience for me. It was an enjoyable way to make money to last me this coming school year. Over the course of teaching kids how to make computer games, I also discovered that it is something I might want to do for a living someday. I don’t think I’d want to be a camp counselor all the time, but I think I would enjoy working in an elementary school teaching computer classes some day. Not only would I get to work with both computers and kids, but I would hopefully be able to improve kids’ chances of getting into programming, which is something I strongly believe should be taught in school much sooner than it is now.

    Kids Under TreeAs of yesterday, I have completed my summer job. I worked at computer game design camp as a lead instructor, and it was definitely an eye-opening experience. While I didn’t get an IT internship this summer as I’d previously hoped, I still think I spent the summer well in terms of employment.

    I thought I knew a lot about working with kids, but I found there was plenty left to figure out the hard way. When I applied for the job, I didn’t expect to be in charge of a whole group of kids on my own, but the camp director decided that I had enough experience to warrant being a lead instructor for the camp. Being a lead instructor meant that I would be in charge of a class of twenty campers for a week, with another instructor assisting me. I worked at three different locations over the summer; sometimes there were other classes from our camp at the site, and sometimes it would just be me, the other instructor, and the campers at our location. My point is that I was suddenly in charge and had to act with authority, even when I didn’t know what I was doing. Turns out that being a figure of authority is quite difficult if you’re not used to it. The two hardest parts were talking to parents and mediating disputes between kids. Parents want to be reassured that they are dropping off their kids in a safe environment where they will have fun, and moreover that their kids are getting their tuition’s worth. They don’t want to see a lead instructor who doesn’t know what she’s doing who will leave the kids bored all day. Mediating kids’ disputes was even harder, I think. You want to be fair to the kids, but if you didn’t see what happened, it’s generally one’s word against the other’s and they probably are both at fault. I learned that the best thing to do is just to seperate them, and by the end of the day they will (hopefully) have forgotten whatever it was they were arguing about.

    That’s not to say I didn’t have fun working at camp. Working with kids is rewarding for me partly because of all the funny things kids do. One day was particularly notorious in this sense. I had just brought the kids back from their afternoon recess and a couple had received injuries in the day’s dodgeball game. I had ice packs on hand, so I gave each kid an ice pack. Our ice packs consisted of a plastic bag of ammonium nitrate pellets and a smaller bag of water inside. When you break the smaller bag of water, the water reacts with the ammonium nitrate and an endothermic reaction occurs, making the whole bag ice cold. The problem with these packages is that the smaller bag of water is sometimes difficult to break. The best way is to squeeze the bag as though to pierce it, but this idea did not occur to the kids I gave ice packs to. Instead, they thought it would be more helpful to throw the ice packs on the floor. The other kids thought this was wildly hilarious, so even after the packs were cold, the kids kept throwing them on the floor. Sure enough, one of the thrown packs violently exploded and poured cold slush all over the floor. As if that wasn’t enough, another kid running toward me slid in the slush and kept sliding until he stopped right in front of me, smiling that, “Oops, I messed up but it was hilarious!” smile. It was just the perfect storm of hilarity, and I had to turn around very quickly so the kids didn’t see me laughing. The problem at that point was that the kids were out of their seats, laughing at the kid who fell, and making a mess with the spilled ice pack, and I had to get them back under control somehow. My solution was to turn around suddenly and yell, “All right! Everybody sit down!” in my best angry-camp-counselor voice, and then to chuckle to indicate that I still found the situation funny. It worked; the kids sat their butts down as soon as they thought I was really mad, but relaxed when I laughed. The only casualty of the day turned out to be the outfit of the kid who slid, which I’m afraid may have bleached under the influence of the chemicals.

    Overall, I think being a camp counselor was a good experience for me. It was an enjoyable way to make money to last me this coming school year. Over the course of teaching kids how to make computer games, I also discovered that it is something I might want to do for a living someday. I don’t think I’d want to be a camp counselor all the time, but I think I would enjoy working in an elementary school teaching computer classes some day. Not only would I get to work with both computers and kids, but I would hopefully be able to improve kids’ chances of getting into programming, which is something I strongly believe should be taught in school much sooner than it is now.