Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Two to the two to the two

... is how many years ago this month that I took (and passed) the "prelims" - sometimes in other places called "quals" - the battery of tests which one takes as one enters into the "serious" part of the Ph.D. program. At that time and place and department, they were four evenings of VERY long exams, covering large swaths of the discipline.

And, by divine providence, hard work, and the support of good friends, I passed. Deo Gratias.

I mention all this because I have had to rummage back into my memories in pursuit of - er - perhaps a journal article. An article for a technical (scholarly) journal which will describe the work I did last weekend which I hinted at in a previous posting.

And, while I am at it, I would like to also mention another Ph.D.... that is, the comic strip called "Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham, Ph.D. about the turmoils, tribulations, and triumphs of graduate school. It's uncanny how accurately he has described that life! Very good work, yes.

Ah - but you are wondering about the "prelims" - and why I mention such horrors here in a Chestertonian blogg? Because I wrote a poem about them, that's why. And yes, I wrote a poem for my dissertation, too, and it was published as part of that document. Hee hee. And now, the poem:


"We must," said the prof, "your readiness gauge.
Please put your code at the top of each page.
You each get six questions, you must do four.
It's thought to be NP-hard to do more."

And so, with a heavy and sinking heart
I opened the test volume to its start,
Hoping the meager amount in my brain
Would be enough, and the PhD gain.

How fast this system? In this graph, how far?
State all the theorems which define A-star.
Show an expression to approximate sine,
And give the graphical form of a line.

What is a thunk? A deque? A stack frame?
What's call by reference, value, and name?
What is the debt that to Babbage is owed?
How do compilers produce object code?

Write CREW code to sort in big-O-log-n.
State the semantics of WHILE and IF-THEN.
List three movies where machines are a star.
Give object classes to model a bar.

What is third normal form? Define the terms
Trojan horse, viruses, time bombs and worms.
How do you prove that a grammar's type two?
How can k jobs share just one CPU?

If two jobs won't share, then one has to wait.
Show a routine so they'll co-operate;
Prove there's no deadlock, prove no starvation,
State your assumptions for termination.

Show in a table the groups of size four;
Three-address forms for LOAD, GOTO, and STORE;
The four types of grammars, and their machines,
Use formal notation, state what each means.

Compare and contrast Lisp, Prolog and C.
Pseudo-code functions to manage a tree
(AVL-balanced), a queue and a stack.
Give English equivalents for GREP, LEX and YACC.

State the advantages coming from RISC.
Why does cache memory speed up a disk?
Prove TSP has NP-completeness.
Show all your work; you get points for neatness.

I read it and thought, it will take a week
And it's just 1. (a) - so my outlook's bleak.
I swallowed and prayed, I went to begin...
Then I heard "Time's up! Please turn your test in."

[Made January 25, 1991. I was told by fellow CS grad students that this poem would serve as a useful study guide... Yes, indeed, for some of the questions in the tests I actually took are contained here! And if you are wondering why it is called "Bruins" that is another story for another time... ja? Hee hee.]


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