Becoming more knowledgeable…

I have been going through the “blahs” lately. Some of it is rather deep-seated stuff that I’ve been struggling to understand. One thing I realized was that I’ve felt for years like I cheated myself by never completing a university degree. For the last four or five years I’ve subconsciously come to realize that it is too late- short of a massive life change like winning a million dollars, it is simply not feasible to take four or five years off to go and get a degree.

Today, though, as I contemplated the universe and my very limited place within it, I decided that what I really wanted was knowledge, not the piece of paper- although there are plenty of times I wish I had the paper as well, it isn’t my main regret. And so I’ve decided to take some more specific steps to educate myself. And of course, given my nature, that means a healthy dose of gadgetry.

  • Read more thoughtful and classic books: I already read a great deal, although most of it is “fluff”. I’m going to start adding more “thoughtful” books this year, things like War and Peace or Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit that I read in 2007. As part of this I will be expanding my use of e-Books and canceling my Science Fiction Book Club membership. I will also (somewhat counter-intuitively) be retiring my iRex Iliad: it was a great experiment and I *love* the e-Ink display and portability, but the battery and start up time problems of the device have made me disinclined to use it. I’ve ordered a Sony e-Reader PRS700: another “imperfect” early-adopter e-Ink device, but the battery life and startup features should no longer be an issue. I fully expect to replace this device within a year or two as well- but hopefully it will because something much better arrives, not because it turns out to be unsuitable
  • Complete some on-demand lectures: I have been reading advertisements about “The Great Courses” series by The Learning Company for years, and have often been intrigued by the idea of “participating” in college-level lectures by some of the best rated lecturers in the world. I took the plunge today and ordered three; one (Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning) is a downloadable audio lecture that I will listen to on my iPod. The other two (Einstein’s Relativity… and Tools of Thinking… ) I ordered as DVD lectures since they have more visual components. This of course led me to the realization that I’ll need a portable DVD player to watch these since I want to do at least some of this while I’m exercising, and thus I ordered a Sony portable DVD player
  • Play games on my Piano: I stopped taking lessons on my piano over a year ago, partly due to lack of time/energy, partly as a result of feeling like I had hit a wall in terms of trying to teach my defective brain and flawed body to work together effectively. Just recently, though I bought a music learning “game” called Piano Wizard which is getting me to sit in front of the piano again at least. I am pretty certain now that I will never learn to play music effectively, but I seem to be able to make at least some very slow progress if something like this “tricks” me into thinking my mistakes aren’t critical. I plan on picking up the Wizard Academy technique books to go along with the software later this year once I’m sure that I can stick at it for a while

2 thoughts on “Becoming more knowledgeable…”

  1. If you want some completely unsolicited advice … and even if you don’t want it 😉 … from someone that has similar inclinations and feelings in terms of mental exercise –

    Step out of your comfort zone.

    I find that I feel the most satisfied when I have learned something I really was rather reluctant to do in the first place. If I read something that interests me in a subject I am familiar with, that’s good and I often learn something. But if I read a book that I disagree with or in a subject I am not already well versed in, I use my brain more and learn more, even if not always about the subject at hand.

    I learn more going someplace different … no, not too different so that it’s alien, but I enjoyed Montreal because my brain comes away crammed full of all sorts of new information to process and assimilate. I didn’t enjoy PEI that much because it was all too familiar – take a strip of land surrounding Red Deer, rip it up and drop it in the Gulf of St Lawrence and you have PEI.

    It may sound silly, but take a shot at a craft, or learn to bake bread … something you normally wouldn’t do. (Alton Brown is good for bringing food to the techie Geek 😉 )

    I’d suggest that you actually try to step away from the intellectual. You have that down pat. You and I have read entire libraries and thought and thought and thought about what we read. Maybe you need to build and fly a model plane, or model boat … or even make and fly a kite.

    The Piano was good … maybe you just need an instrument more suited to your manual dexterity … the triangle perhaps? 😛

    Seriously, music is exactly the sort of outside your comfort zone I mean. Last time you were talking to Leaha? Kalen? ?? after taking piano lessons about stuff that went completely over my head, and a few years before would have gone over yours. Even if you can’t “play” you now know a lot about playing … knowledge that I am sure bleeds over into other aspects of your life.

  2. You make some sense, Chris. One of the things on my “list” was to try wood carving, for example. That has “fail” written all over it for me: manual dexterity, painstaking craft, and dangerous tools 🙂 But crafting wood has always intrigued me, along with leathercraft, as something that you just can’t get all impatient about. And I love the tactile nature of both substances.

    Something you probably don’t know about me: when I was between 13 and 15 years old I took up leather carving. You know, the fancy patterns on leather, made with knives and little punches and the like, dying and colouring, stitching, and so on. I used to go to Tandy Leather more than Radio Shack 😉 . I had a whole set of tools, carving knives- the works. I even made a few quasi-decent things: a purse for my Mom, some wallets. But once you get into the more advanced leather carving, you really need to start drawing your own patterns, and I have (and had) no sketching or drawing skills at all. So I sort of stalled there. I’m pretty sure the same thing would apply, maybe even more so, to wood carving.

    But right at the moment I’m feeling like it is time to fill in gaps in my, I guess, “classical” knowledge. I feel like I have a ton of contextual awareness of things like, for example, why “argumentation” doesn’t mean two guys shouting at each other, and I have the basic concept that rhetoric, dialectic, and logic have far older and deeper meanings than we usually assign to them. But basically, my knowledge stops there: like the fake buildings and storefronts on a movie set, my knowledge is more appearance than substance, and I’d like to fill in some of the missing structure.

    The one “stretch” thing for me in the things I’ve lined up, as in stuff beyond my comfort zone, is taking another stab at the piano. I’m trying a different approach with the piano game thing, and I’ll see how that goes. Right now I’m happily playing “Row row row your boat” and “Bingo” 😉

    The wood carving is on my list, but I think before I get into that I’ll need to be retired so I can take art courses and such 🙂

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