Beginning a lifetime learning plan

I need to focus, to have some objectives in my reading / learning. I know I do best with the structure of a class, but without necessarily needing a teacher. I had a great thought:  set up some classes I can take on my own! Setting aside the curriculum and stuff, the first question that I should answer is, What subjects do I want to study?

Subjects I want to learn more about (with books I already have listed in the topic). This does duplicate much of my earlier post, but grouped and organized better:

Now I just need to divide these up into classes. It seems pretty obvious which I am most interested in. I still need to take some core classes to help me overall.

Then I need to decide on my electives, the length of the session, and the goals / topics for the actual session. This is turning into a pretty ambitious plan.

I think I need to consider some goals / rules on what makes up a balanced set of classes.

Well, chased a rabbit down a hole

Upgraded my original blog, In Theory there is no Practice. What a PITA that was. I am glad I am fairly proficient at this computer crap, because I am not sure I can even explain what I needed to do to update it. But there you go, eh? I even managed to have it import my livejournal posts into it (ITTINP is a wordpress blog hosted on my very own computer…)

What am I going to do now?

Bear with me, please. I am going to be thinking out loud. I have a lot on my mind, and am feeling overwhelmed.
I am reading more than 5 books concurrently, because I am not able to focus. Reading may be too strong a verb.

I am rereading Storm Born, Dreams Made Flesh (Black Jewels, Book 5), and The Shadow Queen (Black Jewels, Book 7). I am also reading Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware (Pragmatic Programmers), Test Driven Development: By Example (Addison-Wesley Signature Series), The Productive Programmer (Theory in Practice (O’Reilly)), Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (Robert C. Martin Series), and just got Head First Web Design. I need to study Discovering The Mind Of A Woman: The Key To Becoming A Strong And Irresistible Husband Is.… and The Five Love Languages of Children. Some side projects that I should be delving into, but haven’t, are The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (3rd Ed.) and The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. And of course, the Bible.

It should be obvious that I cannot really be getting much out of any of these. I am rereading the Black Jewels books because I like them, they are upbeat and they seem to be filling a need in my heart for some good thoughts. I am rereading Storm Born because the second book in the series is due out soon, and I wanted to refresh my memory of the first book. The programming books, I am ‘reading’ to help me with work. Honestly, I am having a great deal of trouble really getting into any of them extensively. I have been sampling sections, not systematically reading them. The two relationship books are to help me be a better husband and father. I really want to improve my classical background, and have a 4 year old we are preparing to home school.

I have no real plan for any of this. That is changing. The purpose of this post is to begin the planning / organizing process. The first step is to define the problem.

I want to increase understanding of

  • The Bible
  • classical works
  • concepts and skills for computer programming (my profession)
  • childhood education
  • relationships (wife and child)

Will you join with me as I document my personal travels from unfocused, prodigious wishes to organized, self-directed personal education achievements?

Cool, thanks!

Books of the Day

Listening to: Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America I am about 25% through it, into Act 2 of 5. Regarding specifically the audio version of the book, I don’t really like the narrator, Scott Brick. He narrated Spin also. In both books, I find him very too dispassionate and almost dull. I am not sure this is the intent of the author. I like the stories much better than his narration. I am more sensitive to this because of a Neil Gaiman blog post on reading books aloud. OT, I may have already said this, but I love author read books, and Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and Neverwhere are in the top three. (Note to Self: list the best read books I have heard, especially books where the narration made the audio version BETTER than the written version).

Not long ago, I noticed a post from Instapundit about an interesting article that describes how a lot of new novels are moving away from expecting the singularity/transcendence of human kind. My initial thoughts are this is not new, per se. Off the top of my head, Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run and the like have existed to provide a counter point to Foundation, Dune, and others.

Some interesting thoughts while writing this post:

  • How utopian and dystopian SF view the singularity
  • How post-Apocalytic SF views the singularity
  • What kinds of apocalypse are referredto in post-Apocalyptic SF (plague, nuclear, peak oil, alien invasion)

Trying out Windows Live Writer

One of the things I don’t really like about editing blog posts is ALWAYS having to compose the post in the web browser editor (TinyMCE?)

Yes, I know there are other editors (Hello, McFly! I’m writing a post using one to test it out).

Seems okay so far. The preview feature is Nice! It splices the body in over a previous entry. I hope the html renders properly.


Playing with the embedded images is quite nice, at least compared to MCE.


Menu has some interesting tools, the spelling / grammar checker seems competent, though I rarely use 6-bit words anymore.


I will try editor for this for a while (at least a week or two).

Reading an Listening a lot lately.

David Drake’s RCN Series 3.0-3.5 of 5 stars for each book. Overall series is probably 3.5. Enjoyable once through, but I will definitely get the next one.
Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera Series 4.0 of for stars for each book as a stand alone, but overall series is 4.5. Anxiously awaiting First Lord’s Fury in Nov/Dec.
Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW:Wake 3.5 of 5 stars. I liked it, but I doubt I would listen to it again. I will get the next in the trilogy.
Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy 3.5 of 5 stars.  I liked it a lot, but I am a little biased because I got some spoilers from the next two books, and I find it hard to remain enthusiastic given the direction of the series. At the same time, apparently there will be 6 books for Rose, and perhaps there will be time for redemption. I’ll at least check to see what happens in book 4 before bailing on the series.

In Progress: Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander. I read this book once a few years ago, but I am hoping the audio version helps me get into the details more.

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy. 4.0 of 5 for books 1 and 2, going to start book 3 today. I think the series is probably a 4.0 at this point, but the conclusion could raise it up. I do like the pacing and the characters.

Some Tech Books
- Clean Code (Kindle) 4.5 of 5.0. Several of the essays really made me think, but a few were just ‘Meh’, but that is more because of what I am interested in / working on than a real criticism of the quality. It may be unfair to downgrade it, but for me when 20% of the book just doesn’t matter, it is hard to give it a 5.
- Test Driven Development No real opinion yet.
- Refactoring (rereading parts) 5.0 of 5.0.  I love this book. Each time I read through it (ore even just chapters), I pick up some interesting ideas.

This is just off the top of my head.


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Lack of posting does not imply no reading…

Just finished listening to Kim Harrison’s White Witch, Black Curse. I really liked it, say 4.5 of 5 stars. I am not sure why, but I really get into her books. I care about Rachel and the people around (Jenks, Ivy, Edden, Marshal, Kisten, etc). Among the first person stories, I think only Patricia Briggs does that for me, and even then not quite as well (but I really do like the Mercy Thompson books, so this is not a dis). Other authors, who use god P.O.V. or mixed (switching P.O.V. among characters) do engender that kind of involvement, especially Lois Bujold and Anne Bishop.

Also, her books jsut have really well done action and pacing. Just want to find out what happens next. Now I have to wait to find out about the chrsyalis, Pierce, the Pandora’s Charm, the shunning, and Ivy’s soul. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Catching up (in a haphazard way)


Was reading Sebastian (Ephemera Book 1) by Anne Bishop, but that has been delayed until I finish At Grave’s End (Night Huntress, Book 3) by Jeaniene Frost. Really like both so far. Anne Bishop is becoming one of my top five or so favorite authors. Her characters are interesting, and the worlds novel and engrossing. But I just love the Night Huntress books, because they have a great mix of action / humor and great characters, so I am going to get through Grave’s End in a few hours later today.


Orcs by Stan Nicholls. Average, about 2.5 of 5. Interesting point of view, but otherwise straight forward tale. I like Glen Cook’s Black Company series (especially the first couple of books)  much better as an examination of the dark side of the fight.


Finished several: 
Making Money  by Terry Pratchett. Great book. 4.5 of 5 stars. Haven’t really been a fan of Discworld, but I loved this book. I think I got it because of a Grammar Girl reco. 

Karen Chance’s three Cassandra Palmer books: Touch the Dark, Claimed by Shadow and Embrace the Night. I enjoyed these, but I didn’t think they were great. The first  was probably the best, 3.5 of 5 stars, but the next two were probably 2.5 or so. I read Midnight’s Daughter and I liked that one a lot, 4 of 5 stars. Dorina is just a better heroine than Cassandra. Cassandra is never in control and whines too much for my tastes, too much of a victim. Whereas Dorina kicks some ass and doesn’t take any crap from anyone. It’s nice to see some of the crossover characters, Mircea and Claire (from Buying Trouble). Mircea needs to re-evaluate his plans, because I don’t think they are working out so well.

Listening to
Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. A classic I never read. About 60% done, and I have enjoyed it. I find the actual character of Oliver very thin. The really interesting stuff is the people around him. It’s like Oliver is just a prop for the examination of the other characters.

Next  in play list

Sunshine By Robin McKinley 
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
With the Lightnings by David Drake

Podcasts I really Enjoy: 
BS Report 
Maximum PC 
Grammar Girl

So I am slacker

Finished a bunch of books, but haven’t written about them.

Listened: Heart of StoneHouse of CardsHands of Flames all by C. E. Murphy. I really like all of them. 4 of 5 stars for each one. I really liked the characters, including the minor one. I hope the trilogy is not the end of the stories with this group of characters / this world.

Read: Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs, which is a novella in the On the Prowl Anthology. Alpha and Omega is the novella intro to Cry Wolf, which I liked. I reread Cry Wolf afterwards; I really like it more because it made so much more sense.

Haven’t finished any new Kindle books.

Book(s) of the Day

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, Mignon Fogarty. Non-fiction, and I really like it. Listening to her podcasts as well.

Magic Bites, Ilona Andrews. About 70 pages in. I like it so far, but we are still in the defining the players in the mystery stage. It started off nicely, and I like the post apocalyptic Atlanta.

Dunno, just finished Mirror Dance earlier this morning over breakfast, haven’t decided what to start / finish next.

Mirror Dance

Finished listening to Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Audio). 4.5 of 5 stars. It took me two tries to get going. The first time, say a year ago, I stopped after ~2hr. This time I pushed through some of the (for me) uncomfortable parts. I am glad I did, this was a wonderful book. I have come to realize that Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favorite authors. Every book I have heard (and all of the books I have ‘read’ have been audio) are at least very good, and one of them, Sharing Knife: Beguilement, is a top 10. But I loved all three Chalion books, all three Sharing Knife books, and both Miles Vorkosigan books (this one, and Brothers in Arms).

What I have noticed is that for Bujold’s books, I never have a complaint about the supporting characters, or having trouble connecting / caring about the main characters. In fact, I probably get too involved, which is why I had to stop this the first time. I am not going to psychoanalyze myself, but Marc made some cringe worthy mistakes, and cringing make me want to avoid the situations. But Bujold pulled it off, and I came to learn a lot about a lot of people that makes me want to learn more about many of them. That, for me, is high praise.

(Compare this to my comments about Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series or Richelle Mead’s Storm Born).

At this point, I am tempted to start going through more of her books, but I have a back log of books sitting on my desk and in my audio library so I must wait.

Storm Born

Finished reading myfirst Kindle book a few days ago:
Storm Born by Richelle Mead. I give it 4 of 5 stars. The main character was pretty interesting. The secondary characters were ‘Ehh’. The story provides some growth, but it seems a pale derivative of Laurell k. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry series. If Richelle can improve the characters, then I think she can have a successful series, but unless they get more interesting the series won’t interest me.

Some recent reading tangents

I got a new toy August 28, 2008:
An Amazon Kindle. On a physical use level, I like it, with a few reservations. The screen is nice. I find the font and contrast very easy to read. I don’t have any problems with the page flicker when changing the page. I do wish it were more responsive to the controls. My biggest annoyance is two-fold. The first and lessor: the power / wireless switches are on the back, which is covered when in the provided case. It would have been nice if these controls were located by the adapter / headphone / volume controls on the bottom edge. Then all the controls would be easy to get to. This is compounded by the bigger problem of having nearly all of both long edges being buttons. I find it very difficult to adjust the controls on the back, or even at time just moving without bumping pre / next page. Other than those two usability problems, I find thekindle is extremely easy to use, though I did need a bit of training to figure out the controls. Second nature now.

Now, on to content. I have read a few different things.

I tried some of the free blog trials. ESPN – Bill Simmons (aka, The Sports Guy) worked well, except that his is on sabbatical and it doesn’t really make sense to pay $0.99 for no new content. When he gets done recovering from the Super Bowl (or whatever lame excuse he gave ESPN for needing time off), I will probably subscribe to it.

Some of the others, less so. O’Reilly’s MAKE Blog was less useful. The problem is that MAKE Blog is very, very graphics and video intensive, and the Kindle just is not good at that. Ars Technica’s was better for the Kindle, but I find I am much more interested in the forum’s than about 80% of the Ars front page. I do skim it, and read a few article, but I can do that for free much easier.

I have also gotten a few books. I have only completed one complete one, Storm Born by Richelle Mead, but I have read non-trivial parts of others, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty and The KJV Holy Bible. The navigation for the Bible is a bit of a chore, but it is a very long book, and most books are intended to be referenced by verse / sentence / sentence fragment as we traditionally do the bible, so that is an outlier in normal book usage. The Kindle is really good at it though, but the lack of responsiveness I mentioned earlier is most felt in navigating the Bible.

I did load and Audio book from, but I didn’t listen to it on the Kindle (I used my iPod). I would be a lot more excited about this if I could use the Kindle at work, but the wireless access gets the Kindle black listed.

The Sagan Diary, Stardust

Finished 2 short audio books:

The Sagan Diary, John Scalzi (Audio) 2.5 of 5 Stars. Eh, it was okay. Wouldn’t make any sense unless you first read Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades. I have a special edition hardback of The Sagan Diary that has my name in the story because I pre-ordered a limited edition from Subterranean Press, and one of the perks was having my name in a list of survivors in an ‘Appendix’. Don’t know if the mass market book has the same list.

Star Dust, Neil Gaiman (Audio) 4.5 of 5 stars. I am a big Neil Gaiman fan. I love the Sandman stories, and I already listened to Neverwhere: A Novel. I like that he is the reader. Author read books rock. This was an adult fairy tale (not x-rated, but rather had things like death with a knife in the eye, etc.) Neat story, and very well read.

[Edit: Just reread post and wondered when slavery, knives in the eye, etc. are not considered x-rated. ]

The Host


Finished Listening To: The Host, Stephenie Meyer (Audio). 3.5 of 5 stars. It was good. The secret was directly along the line of what I expected. The reason for revealing it surprised me slightly, thought the characters involved didn’t. The very ending was interesting, kind of a tweak for fans of this generic story.


I’ve now read 5 of Stephenie Meyer’s books, and I have to say I do like the main characters. I think she does a good job of developing them and giving me a reason to care about them. I am not sure about her plotting / stories though. The first 2 Twilight books, Twilight and New Moon, were realy good at both character development and story (though I have never really gotten the whole Edward thing, so he’s pretty, why does she love him)? Jacob was maybe the best character in the series, and certainly the one I cared about most. Eclipse was okay, but none of the characters really did much in the was of changing. Breaking Dawn was all about change, but even then, Jacob was the best and most satisifying. I really liked the overall story in Twilight Series, but I really wanted a happy ending, so that is not to say I thought it was great literature. 

In The Host, again the main character(s) are in love, but why?

The Host actually had a better story than Twilight Series, but it dropped off toward the fairly predictable end. To be fair, there were only a few possible facts to be permuted for the ending:

    Note: these are not all orthogonal
  • Melanie Alive/Dead
  • Wanderer Alive/Dead
  • Humans Free/Caught
  • Wanderer Free/Caught

Doubt I will listen to this one again, but I really enijoyed it once through. Do you want to know what I will/have listened to multiple time?

  • The Hobbit (>2 times heard, no idea how many times read)
  • The Lord of the Rings (>2 times heard, no idea how many times read)
  • The Dark Tower Series (2x heard for all seven, more than that for a couple of the others)
  • The Sharing Knife series (2x heard for all seven, more than that for a couple of the others)
  • Pilgrim’s Progress (>2 times hearda)
    Probably Will
  • Old Man’s War Series
  • Rachel Morgan Series (planning to just before next book comes out at the latest)

Book(s) of the Day

Saturn’s Children, Charles Stross. Well picking up from half way done before I got sidetracked by the Twilight Series and Weather Warden Series. That probably means I didn’t really get into the book. It is okay. Not what I expected. I will finish it, but I am not super enthused.

Listening To:
The Host, Stephenie Meyer (Audio). About 11 hours in. Getting to the meat of the book. I am guessing as to what will happen. There is a hint of something earlier in the book, a secret that one of them knows, but won’t tell. So, obvioulsy, it will be revealed at the end, no? But what is the secret, what does it mean, and why is it revealed? I have my theories, but I suppose I will just have to wait and see. As I see it, this could be a happy / sad book no matter whether the Host / Soul live / die. So pretty suspenseful.

Book(s) of the Day

Gale Force, Rachel Caine. 4 of 5 stars. Pretty much a cliff hanger ending. So dark, with a hint of hope. Not as much humor, but given that this story is only 1/2 way told atm, perhaps I will withold judgement. The story is interesting, but I am afraid it is the beginning of the end of the series (either no more books, or they will really start sucking). Sadly, most of the supporting characters seemed to have regressed from Ill Wind.

Reading / Studying:
Pro Football Prospectus 2008: The Essential Guide to the 2008 Pro Football Season,  Aaron Shatz, et al.  It’s a guy thing.

Listening To:
The Host, Stephenie Meyer (Audio). About 2.5 hours in. I am interested to see what will happen, so I guess it is pretty good so far (still ~17.5 hours to go).

Book(s) of the Day

Thin Air, Rachel Caine. 4 of 5 stars. Interesting turns with many of the supporting characters. Still a bit too dark for me, but Cherise is a welcome addition. For the first time, the other characters began to be interesting by themselves. Joanne’s sister / Eamon changed in ways I didn’t expect. Wonder how that will play out in the future.

Gale Force, Rachel Caine. About 60 pages in. Just getting to the problem. Wedding, reporter, mystery. Hmm…

Listening to:
Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer, (Audio). Still a favorite. For whatever reason, I seem to pick things up better listening than reading. Probably because I can’t skim / skip easily. My biggest problem is if my attention wanders.