Sunday, April 06, 2008

Planting Cacti Is About As Fun As It Sounds

That is to say, not fun at all. This weekend's project was some irrigation and gardening work. The flower bed up against the back wall of the house was eroding (which can be a bad thing when you're dealing with an area up against the concrete slab) thanks in part to there being no rain gutters on the house, so the task for today was to put in wood bark mulch to help prevent even more erosion from occurring. Unfortunately there was also a bunch of unplanted cacti in the flower bed which I would have felt awfully guilty about leaving unplanted. So now after planting them I look like I've just given a cat a bath; my arms and hands are covered in little scratches. Don't know why the previous owner had such an obsession with cacti, but what I do know is that if I have to plant any more of them, I'm wearing welding gloves.

A co-worker once wondered what he'd do if computers didn't exist because he wasn't really good at anything else. I tend to agree with him. I'm certainly not cut out for doing manual labor all day every day for long periods of time. It's fine to do once in a while, but I think I'd go mad doing it all day every day. Probably'd be in a hell of a lot better shape than I am now, though.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Free Knowledge

One of the things I miss about college is learning all number of things, hearing about ideas I'm unfamiliar with, and gaining new interests. My love of Gregorian Chant can be directly attributed to the Music Appreciation class I had to take, and one of the first steps I took towards leaving Christianity was taken in my Bible as Literature class. I've thought about taking some college classes at either the local community college or at UCSD or SDSU just to have something to do, but my work schedule makes it a bit difficult. I may still do it (my local community college has some evening and weekend classes which would work with my schedule), but for now I'm stuck scrounging for knowledge on the Internet. Fortunately, there's a lot of it out there.

I believe it was MIT who blazed the trail with their Open CourseWare. They have some good stuff there, but it's somewhat hit or miss if you're looking to be able too listen to or watch entire lectures. Nowadays other universities have also followed suit by putting some of their courses online. Yale's selection is much more limited than MIT's, but they make up for it with high quality video recordings of all the lectures as well as some of the course materials. What's better, the video recordings can be viewed on my iPod Touch without reconversion (on that note: does anyone want to buy a used iPod Touch? I bought one in September and received a second as a gift this Christmas). I've been watching Introduction to the Old Testament, and it's good stuff. Berkeley has podcasts of classes that are being taught this semester and appear to have a good selection. The audio quality can be a bit iffy, but I suppose I can't complain too loudly since it's free. There's a whole list of universities that have open course content at the OpenCourseWare Consortium

In addition to actually free content, there's also content that's practically free but not legally so. The Teaching Company has lecture series from various college courses that they sell, but much of this content is on the Internet. Their stuff's good too (I can't recommend highly enough any of the courses taught by Dr. Bart Ehrman), but their editing makes the lectures a bit cheesy and artificial. But content-wise, it's top-notch stuff.

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