As a Computer Science major, a large portion of my work is in analytical and integrative thinking. To demonstrate, this Sudoku Solver application is a project I worked on as part of a class on artificial intelligence. Rather than simply presenting a sudoku puzzle to the user, it takes a given sudoku puzzle and solves it.
The full code base can be browsed on Github. While not directly practical to the average computer user, it integrates a number of core components of the artificial intelligence field, including choice elimination and other advanced heuristics, and is thereby a demonstration of my skills in programming the rudaments of intelligent behavior. It involved creating eleven different software components, each handling a problem-solving component, and communicating with the others to solve the larger problem. Putting this all together is evidence of my analytical and integrative thinking.
In an introductory Philosophy class, I was introduced to a wealth of new ideas, many of which being total crap. In this tiny midterm essay, “Sensory Perception, Reality, and Knowability,” I sort out the good from the bad, and explore the relevance of even the not-so-good historical components.
The entirety of this essay is a critical evaluation of several prominent historical perspectives on existence and God, including on the writings of Descartes, Aquinas, and Socrates, building up to the thesis that knowing is nothing more than suspecting. It shows a great deal of critical and analytical thinking, even though the class was an introductory one.
This is not an essay I expect any large audience to read. But it’s important to me in marking a great shift in my view of the way the universe exists. It illustrates, in summary, the way I view everything.
When not spinning intricate confabulations in code, my creative outlet is photography.
The first image, Private Moment, was created for a project in a photo class at Westminster. Primarily, it was taken for its composition, with the trees and ground tunneling the eye in to the couple at the center. The couple themselves hint at the relationship between humanity and the city, with this intimate exchange anonymized by the tree, in an artificially-walled patio and with the train rushing past in the background. Even the shoe—the dramatic shoe, removed from its obvious location on her foot, and placed aside, yet placed as on a pedestal—hints at the artificial, societal applications over the natural human state. Without even mentioning the technical accomplishments, this photograph is an excellent work of creativity, as not only does it speak to my observations behind the camera, it effectively communicates them.
With this distillation of my work, it may seem as though I operate in the vein of human interest. It would be rather better put that I am interested in dehumanization. Stair B is a study of the angular concrete-plaster forms slashed with glass and dowel, punctuated with light and rivet and person. Encroaching from the edges of the frame are the walls of a canyon which ought to continue, but is lopped short by the brutalist concrete wall, on which the vine of ascent has crept up. It is on such a heavy scale that the fleeting humans are reduced to silhouettes passing through.
This second photograph was made independently of school, after the class that brought about the first. In many ways it represents a continuation of the visual skills—and a refinement of my artistic eye, as a result of the interpretive skills—I gained in the class.
In an introductory Film Studies class, all of the writings took place on a private, collaborative wiki, whereon all of the students wrote articles on individual topics. But each article was editable by anybody, and a core component of the class was to thoughtfully edit and revise each other’s work. This artifact consists of four screenshots (since the original pages are inaccessible to the public) of an article by a classmate, and its later form after being edited by me.
The original work analyzed the role of imagination in the film Totoro. The lower-middle listing is a transcript of the early stages of edits on the page by several people; the upper-middle is a comparison of the differences between the original version and the edits made by the class. Finally, the last shot shows the page, as it stood at the time the class ended.
Particularly, the edits show a full range of changes, from corrections in grammar to wild shifts in perspective. The document was under ongoing changes for several weeks, with classroom negotiations as to how to improve it. And it was one of dozens upon dozens of such pages—and those which were authored by me were likewise changed and refined by the rest of the class. This page, exemplary of the class as a whole, is a fabulous demonstration of collaboration and teamwork.
In a class on Computer Systems, we were instructed, in teams, to hack into an inscrutable piece of code called
bufbomb to make it execute our own, injected code. It was an incredibly difficult challenge, but my team and I were able to do it. The artifact is a screenshot of the critical gem of input code with which we succeeded in the project; below that code is a transcript of running the program with the nefarious file on input, and the confirmation of success.
It’s a surprisingly small gem, but, in fact, the principal challenge was reducing the main part of the injection to twelve tiny bytes. In designing the code, we had to scrutinize the victim program and try a number of techniques to get the desired effect. Given my knowledge of the UNIX system (the kind of operating system we were working on), I naturally pulled ahead as the leader of my group in delving right into the various files.
Software is notoriously problematic in that any piece of code is difficult to read outside the grand perspective and frame of mind in which the author originally wrote it. Documentation—both textual and graphical—is essential to keeping track of software for any length of time or among any number of people.
Recently, for an upper-division class, I wrote up a large project in which users play tic-tac-toe against the computer. This is a Class Diagram (or Module Diagram) showing every major component of the program, with a description of its core function, and, most critically, depicting how each component interacts with and relates to all the others. It’s an example of how a diagram, a simple layout of boxes, can be as communicative as pages’ worth of text when it comes to describing an intricate system.
This diagram was not necessary for the assignment. However, when I saw the size and complexity it turned out to be, I knew I needed to be convey, in clear and simple terms, exactly how the whole thing fit together, so that the professor could jump right in and start using and reading through the program.
Next we have an essay in which I transport a character from one text into another, as per the assignment. Specifically, I was dealing with The Sandman and Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf, and moving a raven, Matthew, from The Sandman into the company of a young woman, Nisida, in Wagner. I drove at the thesis that they’d form good companions, but that the raven’s presence would be largely to support Nisida.
In the essay, “Brooding Nisida’s Raven of Confidence,” I make this case, by drawing out evidence from the texts. It was successful—as thought the professor, who wrote about it, “This is a really well-assembled essay. You use the details from both texts very well to get at how they depict these characters.… You actually manage to flesh out the thesis quite nicely over the course of the essay—by the end, I do know how Matthew works as a foil.” It was always my intention to prove the thesis, in every sentence I wrote, and I was determined to completely develop the evidence. This is a very compelling piece to show my writing skills.
In terms of this category, I was able to not only learn about some humanist aspects of the world, but, in both cases here, I was able to give presentations on them.
In a sociology class I worked with a team of three other people to dig up all the information available on the company American Apparel, to evaluate their claims that they’re socially responsible. We then put together a quarter-hour presentation on what we found. The artifact is a pair of stills from the powerpoint we had running while we delivered our (rather loquacious) presentation.
We compared the working conditions of the American factory to those around the world, and found that its conditions were in line with good industrial practice in the U.S. We then turned to the effect this responsibility had on their bottom line, and how they extensively use over-sexualized ads. In this way, we explored and thoroughly processed information on social responsibility, ethical awareness, global consciousness, etc.
It surprises most to find that the U.S. considered encryption an export-controlled technique until very recently. It’s surprising, as it’s the fiber of nearly all private electronic communication we do today. The effects of encryption on society have been vast, as would the consequences were modern encryption techniques to be broken. This is the topic of a presentation I gave to an Intro to Computer Science class.
The artifact consists of two selected slides from the short presentation, in which I conveyed research and global knowledge into a fun exploration of a common subject.