I dropped-sideways from Coursera

My future potential will be forever blemished by my lack of completion in Coursera’s Fantasy and Science Fiction class. ¬†So, it’s a good thing it’s not on any permanent records ūüėČ The class was well-organized and by-far one of the best English-literature classes I’ve taken. ¬†The professor’s video lectures alone are worth signing up just to see. ¬†In fact, his lecture on interpretation is a great explanation of why readers have different views of a book and why some are wrong.

Honestly, the timing of this class was not very convenient. ¬†It came smack in the middle of my Database final, leaving the military (for good this time), and moving back home. ¬†But, I still found time to go to the Philadelphia’s Linux User Group (PLUG) and hear some anecdotes by Eric Raymond.

The PLUG Penguin by Stephanie Fox.

There was about 20 Penguin-heads in attendance and after an hour of lively discussion from Virtual Machine hosting to the Carrington event, ESR took the podium.  He told of several anecdotes, some which I intend to post about in the near future, but the one that fits well with my Coursera experience was his tale of Culture Hacking.

On his blog, ESR advocates the creation of a “ground truth” document by software engineers, who find themselves working on hardware, or a system, with less than adequate documentation. ¬†Simply put, it is the process of document assumptions about how the system works prior to writing any code. ¬†Some enlightened commenters expressed thanks to ESR for naming a practice for which they’ve routinely performed. Culture. Hacked. This practice now has a name to which others can refer and spread. ¬†While it may not be the catchiest name, the fact that the idea is now named gives it weight. ¬†In fact, this is one of the few things that stuck with me from Gravity’s Rainbow (that and I want a banana greenhouse on my rooftop):

‚ÄúNames by themselves may be empty, but the act of naming‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

So, in the spirit of a new J.J. Abrams show, I officially bestow this name: Drop Sideways:¬†The act of no longer attending a MOOC. ¬†I would call it pulling a “datko” but something tells me that thousands of others are doing the same thing. ¬†Besides, at my last job, I’ve heard some shout “datko!” when there was just enough coffee in the pot, for a half cup :p

Next Chapter.

After 15 months, I’m finally back home. ¬†Involuntarily recalled back to active duty in Afghanistan in May of 2011 and continuing on at Submarine Squadron 20, I’m finally done, again. ¬†I now have three DD214s (discharges from active duty), which is more than enough for me, hence I’ve submitted my resignation. ¬†I’ve accomplished much with the Navy in this time: circumnavigated in a submarine, worked in Germany, spent a few weeks in a Chilean sub, and worked on a squadron staff, but it was time for an end.

Morning in Rittenhouse Square

It’s not often that one has a chance to reboot one’s life, but I’m thankful for the¬†opportunity. ¬†Already, I sat in, for real on my graduate database class and I’m trying to use the Zen inspired “non-attachment” belief to purge stuff that has followed me for years. ¬†I have some time off before I start work again, which I’ll be using to reconnect with friends and family, but I’m looking forward to getting more plugged in to the local scene, especially the Philly tech scene starting with a visit by Eric S. Raymond to PLUG.

Books… Books… Books… I’m trying to keep a spirit of un-attachment and reduce my book collection, but it has been difficult. But look! I have a whole shelf empty! [Edit: not shown: the books lying on the ground that I am trying to organize. I previously organized all books by height, but now I’m going by genre.]
So, I have a backlog of posts to work on and books to read. ¬†This week’s Coursera reading is Frankenstein. ¬†Last weeks’ was Dracula, which I listened on CD on the trip up from Georgia, but unfortunately, I did not get a chance to submit an essay since I was moving. Hopefully, they don’t fail me ūüėČ

Hacker School? Why not?!

NYC now has a hacker school. ¬†I especially enjoyed the explanation of the school by on of the founders. ¬†I am a fan of unconventional schooling at most levels despite that I’m enrolled in a very traditional program at the moment. ¬†This concept is well suited towards developing software, which can be very project based and I’m sure the “formal” is limited to the herding of cats (where the cats are the developers). ¬†Otherwise, it seems to be a very open forum.

The school appears to be free (as in beer), as their funding comes from companies looking for recruits, which based on their graduates, seems to be successful for all involved.  For those in NYC, and have the time, it seems like a great opportunity.

It reminded me of the co-working site in Philadelphia, Indy Hall.  While not a school, it is the watering-hole for independent workers in the Philly area (again, mostly software developers).  Any such gathering of this archetype is bound to spin-off creative ideas.