Go to class

My head is about to explode and I like it. I’m piling on with distance-learning courses and I feel like a kid in college again. Staying up all night, getting through a Shakespeare play while cramming for an Organic Chemistry mid-term. This after having worked a four-hour shift at UPS loading boxes in the back of a truck. Ah yes, the good old days.

Of course I’m older now and have three school-aged kids. And a wife, a full-time job, a retarded dog (no offense, Boethius), a squeaky guinea pig and five small fish in a tank that is weeks past the time it needed to be cleaned. Also, I have to leave room for golfing with the boys and brewing beer with the daughter, which are important matters. (My daughter doesn’t really brew beer)

The courses I’m taking are mostly at coursera.com, a massive open-source online courses site hosted by a couple of Stanford professors. My current course list includes Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning, Eric Zivot’s Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics and Daphne Koller’s Probablistic Graph Models. More or less, these cover graduate-level topics, but excellent teaching makes the material approachable.

I’m signed up for Neural Networks for Machine Learning (starting next week) and Financial Engineering and Risk Management, which starts in a few months.

Also, I’m taking some more programming courses to fill out my deficiencies there. Besides the excellent screencasts I subscribe to on Peep Code and Destroy All Software, I’m taking a C course by the guy who likes you to learn it the hard way. I’m also starting to noodle around with Julia (the language). It’s pretty much an open source Matlab. Unlike the likable Octave, it’s high-powered with built in support for C code and native parallel processing.

I’m thinking of exploring J too, but I may run out of time. It’s a fascinating little language that treats math like grammar. I saw a 30-minute presentation on it at Strangeloop and I guess that’s all it takes for me to start wandering off into the recesses of obscure languages.

Based on my current schedule, I’ll be shopping for brain coolant. Not sure it won’t overheat in the crucible of learning. (now where is that Organic Chemistry book?)

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