It was something like the spring of 1984, and I was (as usual) struggling in Professor Adelberg‘s class on Series and Differential Equations. And as usual, I took advantage of his office hours, on the second floor of ARH.
I don’t remember where the proof was supposed to end up, but I had about seven handwritten pages that sort of got me there. Not quite.
Professor Adelberg, sitting by my side at his desk, said, “Look, this is a 200-level class.” He paused slightly. “There are no seven-page proofs in a 200-level class.”
In this class, he said, you know you’re on the wrong track if your proof is more than about two pages. It’s a class full of people maybe a year and a half out of high school; we’re simply not at the level where theory gets that heavy.
Why am I telling you this?
I don’t remember very much in differential equations–I’ve always been more of a finite math and number theory kind of guy–but I remember that encounter because the lesson is always fresh. An answer that’s too hard is likely to be the wrong answer.
Its a “200-level class” sort of problem, isn’t it? But wow… I was cranking out that seven-page proof. Initializing the array. Refreshing the DIVs. Embedding links as A tags into the generated HTML. Making Ajax calls to repopulate the list in case it changed. I was getting a lot of mileage out of Firebug, which is never a good sign.
That’s about when Joe walked into the coffee joint.
I told Joe the story about Adelberg and the seven-page proof.
While I sat there flapping my face like a fish, because of course Joe was right, he went on: “And since this is a many-to-many relationship, you can set the NAME of that hidden field by convention to let Rails save it automatically to the join table.”
Professor Adelberg, meet Joe Fiorini.