I’m long overdue for a “back in Florida” blog post. Better late than never.
I’m finishing a data structures and algorithms course through Coursera, offered by Stanford professor Tim Roughgarden, and it’s been great. The theory questions are of a good difficulty level, and the programming problems are thought-provoking and fun. I’m doing them in Python 2 (technically iPython, with Emacs as my editor), though I should redo them in a lower-level language to make sure I’m not cheating when implementing some of these algorithms. I’d like to post a summary of my experiences and the highlights of the course when I’ve completed it in a few weeks. I’d also like to go through Cormen et al. and achieve total mastery, but that’s going to take some time.
I just registered for a second Coursera course: Software Engineering for Software as a Service (SaaS), offered by a couple of Cal professors. I don’t know too much about it, other than the fact that I’m going to be doing some Ruby on Rails, EC2, git, and Extreme Programming fueled assignments if I decide to stick with it. I’ve been wanting to play with Ruby for a while now, and web programming interests me, so I’ll probably give it a go.
I’m playing bass for about an hour every day and improving rapidly. I tore through the top beginner book before grabbing two sequels: Bass Fitness for technical expertise and Jazz Bass Improvisation to really learn my scales. I did my fair share of improvising when I was playing trombone, but it was always, well, improvisational. I didn’t know most of the many jazz scales, and even if I could hear the key changes and occasionally play interesting transitions and melodies, it was pretty haphazard. I’m hoping to do a better job with improv this time around. It would be fun to post some videos in the near future, but unaccompanied bass isn’t awesome until you’re really good, and I’ve got lightyears to go before I get there.
I’ve developed a nice morning routine that’s centered around meditation and Lumosity. My meditation practice is guided by this book, which is a great starting point if you’re interested in meditation but haven’t taken the plunge. I haven’t achieved any serious breakthroughs as a result of meditating, but I enjoy the quiet, and based on observations from my travels around the Web, science has many good things to say about a consistent meditation practice.
Lumosity bills itself as “the web’s #1 brain training program,” and though I haven’t tried any of their competitors, the games are fun. Here’s my brain profile after two weeks of play:
My SAT (1520: 780 Math and 740 Verbal, with an 800 on the then-separate writing section) and GRE (1500: 800 Math and 700 Verbal) scores were both in the 99th percentile, and a similar performance in Lumosity would be kinda fun. Less likely, though, as Lumosity members are almost surely brainier than your average high schooler. As far as the games go, I liked Word Bubbles Rising and Raindrops from the start, and it was awesome to watch my Penguin Pursuit improve – for a few days, I just couldn’t do it, and then *bam*, Level 20 mastery. Rotation Matrix makes me want to cry, but that’s life. (Lumosity offers a free trial, so you can check these out if you’re interested!)
20 July 2012 edit: I’m keeping a copy of my most up-to-date Lumosity profile here. After 17 days, I abandoned their suggested daily training sessions and instead started focusing on the games that seemed likely to improve my percentiles the most. I figure, intelligent game selection should be a part of measuring intelligence, no?
I’ve also been reading quite a bit. My knowledge of history is abysmal, so I’m working my way through this guy at the moment. (In the first chapter, an ancestor of mine got a shoutout: Thomas Hooker, founder of a little colony called Connecticut. Maybe you’ve heard of it?) Musashi is another title that I’ve been enjoying lately. I wish it was possible to search Amazon for all books with more than 100 reviews and a 5-star rating. In terms of finding great books, it wouldn’t catch all the classics, but there probably wouldn’t be many false positives in the results either. Advanced Search doesn’t give you that option, though.
And finally, I’ve been trying to drop some bulky muscle mass in favor of a leaner, more functional physique. Weightlifting has mostly been put on hold in favor of swimming, yoga, and some MovNat-inspired circuits I’ve been doing in the yard. Is it just me, or does the MovNat Thailand workshop sound like the coolest thing in the world?