School’s On For The Summer

On my run this morning I was grooving to the Positively 10th Street podcast from the Wilson family.  Josh and Emily were psyched it was summer, Josh was farting, and Fred and Emily started riffing on “School’s Out for the Summer.”

School’s actually on for me in the summer.  Amy and I are about to head up to Alaska where I dramatically change my rhythm for a couple of months.  I’m still working full time – probably more effective then usual – since I eliminate face to face meetings (especially the random ones), eliminate travel, and compress stuff down to things that matter. But – the pace changes.

As part of the change, I choose a few things to go “intellectually deep on.”  I figure I get three hours a day back from all the friction of the normal work stuff (travel, random useless meetings, waiting for people, sitting through stupid things that you can’t easily get up and walk away from, lunch meetings just because someone forgot to say no – you get the picture.)  So – I’m taking three “self-directed” classes this summer.

Class 1: Programming.  I’m a pretty good programmer, but I haven’t done anything seriously in a long time (I like to say that I’m one of the world’s best BASIC programmers, but that would have been before Visual Basic.  Wanna know about early versions of the Microsoft BASIC compiler and Btrieve (before Novell bought it) – email me.)  So I’m going to start with Brian Harvey’s “Computer Science Logo Style 2/e, Vol. 1: Symbolic Computing” and then retake MIT’s 6.001 using MIT’s OpenCourseWare and the online version of Abelson and Sussman’s Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.

Class 2: DrawingMy mother is a fantastic artist and Amy and I have a large modern art collection.  I can barely read my handwriting, let alone draw anything.    I’m going to start with Betty Edward’s highly acclaimed The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and see where it takes me.

Class 3: A New Kind of Science.  I bought Stephen Wolfram’s book A New Kind of Science when it first came out and it sat on a table and stared intimidatingly at me all last summer.  Every now and then I’d pick it up and read through a few of the end notes and look at the pictures.  This summer, I’m going to tackle it in a systematic way, with plenty of help from the website and the NKS Explorer software.

So – in addition to everything else, school’s on this summer.

  • Computer Science Logo Style looks like a great book, I’ll have to check it out. I love those rare, odd books that really manage to simplify a complex topic. Other favorites along those lines include:

    Usborne Introduction to Machine Code for Beginners (This is a kids book written in 1983, its a great book but I’m amazed someone published such a thing)
    Algorithmics: The Spirit of Computing by David Harel
    Computers and Human Language (interesting in this world of RSS and distributed CMS)
    Code by Petzold
    The Practical Guide to Structured Systems Design by Meiler Page-Jones

    As for the big thinking on science another interesting and underrated figure is Norbert Wiener. The new book “Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of Cybernetics” looks to be a good read.

  • “Self-directed classes” – that’s my kind of learning! This is a really important exercise….something I go through now that “School’s Out for the Summer” for me. Unlike you, all that friction stuff increases for me since I finally have time to spend continual days in the real world meeting, traveling, etc. Remember to allocate some reflection time, intertwined with or independent of, the three things you’re gonna go deep on. On reading, say, I’m going to spend some time chewing on each book, writing down detailed notes, looking up related stuff, then blogging it, then reading the next book. It seems during the normal school year I’m just racing to consume as many as I can to fill my head with facts. Now, it’s beginning the search for meaning!

  • Rob

    On Wolfram: happened upon a collection of essays by (and with) Ray Kurzweil today. Besides a collection of highly recommended thoughts on e-paper, there’s one essay that delves into Wolfram’s tome.

    Re-triggered my interest in the book and also intend to dive in this summer.

    Kurzweil pdf is located here:

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