Spring 2014 MOOC’s

It’s a new year and a new semester, so free online class websites have a whole slew of new classes starting up between now and the next couple of months. As I am wont to do, I signed up for EVERYTHING that sounded even remotely interesting to me. Hell, they’re free, so why not? Last year, I signed up for around 20 courses and actually completed (with a statement of accomplishment) 8 of them. There’s no penalty for dropping them or not completing them. I can always take them again if I want to actually FINISH them. So here’s what’s on my plate so far:

 

Stanford Open EdX

Introduction to Databases

Introduction to Computer Networking

Your Body in the World: Adapting to Your Next Big Adventure

 

edX

Harvard’s CS50: Introduction to Computer Science

University of Texas at Austin’s Effective Thinking Through Mathematics

Australian National University’s Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe

 

coursera

Duke University’s Medical Neuroscience

University of Washington’s Computer Networks

Yale University’s Moralities of Everyday Life

Wesleyan University’s How to Change the World

Ohio State University’s Calculus One

Yale University’s Constitutional Law

Stanford University’s Introduction to Mathematical Thinking

National University of Singapore’s Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues by Plato

University of Virginia’s Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World

 

FutureLearn

Lancaster University’s Corpus Linguistics: Method, Analysis, Interpretation

University of Warwick’s The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology

University of Birmingham’s Good Brain, Bad Brain: Basics

University of Leeds’ Exploring Anatomy: The Human Abdomen

 

There’s quite a bit of overlap and OBVIOUSLY I’m not going to actually complete them all, especially since I’m planning on taking an in-person introductory Mandarin course. But it’s great to be able to try stuff out. We’ll see what I actually stick with. Anyone else taking classes (free or otherwise) this semester?

Making Excuses

I should just be honest and say that I didn’t work on any blog posts this weekend because all I wanted to do was play FFXIV:ARR.

Which I did. A LOT.

I got all 3 gathering classes (Botanist, Miner, and Fisher) to level 21, completed my level 35 Paladin quest, leveled to 37, continued story mode a little, and finished getting all the tradeskill classes to 16. The last one was Culinarian, which was particularly problematic because I’m trying to level ALL the trades at around the same pace by harvesting my own materials, thus minimizing the amount of gil that I have to spend on the market board or at in-game vendors. (This plan has actually worked out very well for me, but it’s very slow.) Back to Culinarian, though… This tradeskill is the only one that requires level 20+ materials to craft the level 16-20 recipes. All the other tradeskills only require level 15+ materials. So I had to spend extra time leveling up my gathering skills to the next tier JUST so that I could keep my cooking on par with things like armorsmithing, carpentry, etc.

While I was working on Fisher, I did a lot of other stuff, too, since you don’t really need to pay much attention to the screen if you’re using a controller with vibration turned on. I watched a summer music festival called FNSうたの夏まつり (FNS Uta no Natsu Matsuri) or FNS Summer Song Festival. It was just over 4 hours long and featured performance collaborations between many of my favorite Japanese music artists including T.M. Revolution, EXILE, JUJU, MIYAVI, Yuzu, and Hideaki Tokunaga. It was particularly great when different genres blended together, like when Yuzu (folk pop rock) sang with Kiyoshi Hikawa (enka). The thing I liked the most about this show was that it wasn’t as autotuned as most Japanese music shows are, so the good performers really stood out. Of course, this was a double edged sword. When one of the idol groups comprised of cute girls that can’t sing AT ALL were performing, it was PAINFUL. Like I wanted to stab myself in the head with an ice pick kind of painful… LOL

Kiyoshi Hikawa & Yuzu Performing Kiyoshi no Zundoko Bushi

I also did boring stuff like sort paperwork, fold and put away laundry, and clean the bedroom. I was productive!

I also spent a lot of time watching lectures for the various coursera courses that I’m taking. I took the final exam for the Mathematical Philosophy class and the Global Business of Sports class, as well. I also decided to trim the number of classes that I’m actively taking. I found that I was unable to keep up with all the homework. I realize that I could just keep watching the videos, but my rather compulsive nature made me feel like I HAD to do the homework, even though I didn’t really have to. So I watched lectures for History of Rock, Part One, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, An Introduction to Financial Accounting, and Comic Books and Graphic Novels. Since I currently work doing accounting, human resources, and other general office stuff, I decided to sign up for the accounting class as well as An Introduction to Operations Management and An Introduction to Marketing. I have a minor in Business Administration already, so these classes are more of a review, but since they’re part of a pre-MBA program, I thought they’d be useful. When I move to the mainland, I’m going to have to find a job, which is something that I haven’t had to do since 2003, so I want to make sure my skills are up to date and marketable.

On top of that, I had to replace my video card earlier in the week because my old one was quickly dying. The fan was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think and had to use my noise-canceling headphones to play games without throwing my computer through the window. I bought a budget card, but it was still an upgrade to what was in my machine before. I’m planning on building two new machines once my husband and I move to the mainland, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money on replacements and upgrades on our current rigs. (My computer is over 6 years old.)

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Once I replaced the card, everything was running great for awhile, but then I started getting random game crashes, I fell into the environment a few times, and my video card drivers started crashing intermittently while playing FF, so I spent a good chunk of the weekend also running tests and trying to fix it. Other people on the forums were having the exact same problems as I was, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t the card. I eventually upgraded to the most recent .NET framework, reinstalled the C++ redistributable, and downloaded the newest video card drivers. Now everything is happy again. Especially me. I get particularly bitchy when my computer isn’t working.

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I’m dangling below the ground. You can see my husband’s character on his mount above ground to the left. (Also, I’m wearing thunder thighs armor again! Ugh! I look like a Storm Trooper…)

So yeah, I was busy this weekend. And yes, I know I’m just making excuses. 😉

A Weird Dream and My Wednesday Night

My mother always tells me that my tendency toward very bizarre dreams is just like her mother’s dreams. I always considered myself to be very close to my maternal grandmother since we had similar rebellious personalities and an allergy to metal touching our skin. (Her allergy was more severe than mine. She couldn’t wear ANY. I can wear gold, platinum, and surgical steel, but NOTHING else. I can’t even let a belt buckle touch my stomach or I’ll break out!) So last night I had a weird dream. Based on the way my subconscious reacted, it was NOT a nightmare, which was interesting because it had elements that I normally associate with nightmares. Generally speaking, when I have nightmares, they are extraordinarily violent, bloody, and gory. And before you start thinking that it’s from all the games I play or whatever, I don’t play horror games or watch horror movies. Like EVER. They scare me too much. I don’t turn blood off if there IS blood in the game, but if you think about the games I generally play, they’re not exactly bloody.

THE DREAM

There are two people walking along the edge of a dark forest. Everything is covered in snow. One of the people is bleeding and leaving a bright red trail of blood as he continues on. After contemplating for a long time, watching the two people walk along, I determined that I had to figure out how long before the bleeding guy dies of blood loss.

Unlike most of my bizarre dreams, I was able to figure out where this one came from. Here’s a list of things I did yesterday when I got home from work:

1. I watched my son play Outlast on Twitch for a little while. He likes to livestream horror games for his friends to watch. Here’s his channel, if you’re interested. (He’s in the Eastern time zone.) He doesn’t actually stream very often since he’s got almost max credits at college right now PLUS a campus job, though. That game has blood everywhere. And stuff that jumps out at you. I could only watch for a few minutes before I chickened out and closed the window. I really am such a wuss. If I could handle horror games, this one looks pretty scary. Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet:

So that’s where the trail of blood came from.

2. I watched several lectures from the coursera courses I’m enrolled in right now:

  • A Brief History of Humankind – A lecture about the theories surrounding the religions and belief systems of hunter-gatherer homo sapiens prior to the agricultural revolution.
  • History of Rock, Part I – Lectures about American popular music before 1955, including Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, big bands, and Frank Sinatra, as well as Country & Western music before 1955. Did you know that Country music and Western music were originally separate entities? I didn’t. I then spent about 20 minutes or so, looking up some of this music on youTube. I forgot how much I loved big band music.
  • From the Big Bang to Dark Energy – Lectures about how scientists have figured out how old the universe is. The focus was on distance and the corresponding time that it takes from light to travel from place to place. There was also a lot of talk about how the universe is expanding. After the lectures, I worked on some of the homework problems and there was question after question about distance and more importantly, time. So here’s where the “how long before…” question came from.
  • Introduction to Mathematical Thinking – Lectures on what mathematical thinking is and why it’s important. The math that we’re taught in high school is all about memorizing formulas that we can use to solve problems. However, during the last two to three hundred years mathematics has changed into a subject that is far more abstract and focused on the relationships between things. Then lectures on the ambiguity of the English language and how we need to learn to identify ambiguous questions or questions that don’t state the truth. Here’s a great example: “This page intentionally left blank.” Because we understand the context, we accept the fact that the page isn’t ACTUALLY blank, but in reality this sentence is lying to us. Using language to explain mathematics is bad. Math needs to be precise, so the language describing it also needs to be precise. So when you read, “One American dies of melanoma every hour,” the literal meaning of this sentence is that a single person dies of melanoma over and over every hour. This was the example used in the lecture. How did they come back to life? Obviously, they didn’t. But when you read the original sentence, you knew exactly what it meant because you understood the context. However, you can’t expect everyone to understand the context of a math problem. So here’s where the thinking about what I was seeing came from.

(Just a side note, it’s probably not a good idea to watch the Stanford University class lecture last when it’s late at night. You should probably START with the more challenging stuff. My brain was mush after that.)

3. I read the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings for the upcoming class, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually read the books. I read The Hobbit when I was around ten years old and while I enjoyed the story, I had a difficult time with the writing. I’m thinking that it was because I was young. But the net effect was that I was turned off by Tolkien since then and never read anything else. I watched the movies because I felt that I had a moral obligation to do so based on my love of games such as EverQuest, Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and Icewind Dale. (Everyone knows that without Tolkien, we would never have these rich and amazing fantasy worlds for so many video games.)

4. I wandered around the island in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, catching bugs that were hanging out on trees.

Then I went to sleep. Honestly, I’m surprised that my dream didn’t take place in the middle of a black hole or something.

My Plans for the Long Weekend

Monday is Labor Day, so I don’t have to go into the office. WOOT! It looks like the weekend is going to be busy, though. I don’t mind when it’s stuff that I WANT to do and I almost never do non-ME stuff on the weekends.

Of course, I’m going to try and play Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn as much as I can. However, with all the server issues and the fact that both my son’s AND my husband’s accounts are locked so they can’t play, I’m not sure how much time I’m really going to be spending in Eorzea. Why are they locked, you ask? Well, both of them were playing with Early Access/Open Beta accounts. Once you get your product key, you simply have to apply that code to your account, and voila, you can play the game. Well, my son doesn’t have his key yet because the game hasn’t arrived in my mailbox yet. I bought the physical collector’s edition on PC through the Square Enix store and they sent me a shipping confirmation e-mail on August 20th. It is now the 30th and it hasn’t gotten here yet. When I track the package through the US Postal Service’s website, it shows that it left the west coast, but it doesn’t make any mention of whether or not it has arrived in Hawaii. So no code for him. Now for my husband’s account, that’s another story altogether. He ordered his digital CE for PC, so he was able to get his key e-mailed to him. Great! Well, when he went into Account Management (now called the Mog Station for some stupid reason), there was a button to click for “Add Service” or something like that. So that’s what he did. And instead of applying the code to his existing account, where he already had a character, along with his preorder bonus items, it CREATED A NEW ACCOUNT. Apparently, you have to click this little purple button with a quest icon on it and no words. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So he had to submit a ticket so get this problem fixed. This is a widespread problem. There are several threads on the official forums about this. Here’s one. Also, there’s a form to fill out SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS PROBLEM. Shouldn’t that be an indication to Square Enix that they need to, oh I don’t know, CHANGE SOMETHING?!

So, if I’m not going to be playing much Final Fantasy, I have a LOT of other things to do. For instance, I’m a bit behind on some of my MOOCs. I’ve been focusing most of my time on FF and putting off watching the lectures and doing the homework. I’ve got my work cut out for me since I’m taking quite a few classes. There’s an exam for Introductory Human Physiology that covers the first three weeks of lectures, but I’m still only watching Week 2’s stuff, for example. I’m enrolled in 5 other classes and I’m about a week behind in most of them. Hooray for long weekends!

I’m also planning on going to the 31st Annual Okinawan Festival. Good food, entertainment, and culture will abound! I love eating andadog. It’s like a corn dog, but the batter it’s deep fried in is andagi batter. People often refer to andagi as an Okinawan doughnut or doughnut hole. Whatever you want to call it, it’s sweet, fattening, and delicious.

Then on Monday night, my husband and I are taking a friend of my parents out to dinner because she lives in the city we’re thinking of moving to. We want to pick her brain about it and get some advice for where we should stay when we fly up to visit later this year. I’m probably the most excited about this over anything else during the weekend. Planning to move across the Pacific Ocean to the mainland is like a grand adventure for me. Since I had my son when I was just shy of 20, I never really got to do that whole adventure thing that so many young adults do during and right after college. Now that my son is in college, it’s MY turn and I can’t wait! So getting real information about it is making it feel like I’m getting closer and closer to making it a reality. You may be wondering why the hell someone would move from Hawaii to the mainland, so maybe I’ll cover that in a future series of posts. It’s far too complex to talk about here.

I also need to go shopping for a new suitcase and some Aloha shirts for my husband, so we’ll probably hit the mall this weekend as well.

Lots of stuff going on this weekend. I’m going to need a weekend for my weekend! 😉

New Class – A Brief History of Humankind

Make fun of me and call me stupid, if you want, but I just had my mind blown by the first lecture of a history class. My excuse is that when I was in school, I always focused on math and science, while basically ignoring and sleeping through history. In high school, I thought history was boring. It wasn’t until my 30’s that I realized how interesting and important history really is. So when I found a free online class called “A Brief History of Humankind,” on coursera, I clicked the enroll button almost without thinking. I don’t remember ANYTHING from the one world history class I was required to take for my Bachelor’s degree let alone anything from high school. What better way to get an overview of history than taking a survey course that spans all of human history over the course of 17 weeks?

So what blew my mind?

At some point during elementary school (I’m thinking around 5th grade or so), I was briefly taught the idea that man evolved from the great ape family. As is often done for elementary school science, it was presented in a linear and simplified form. Basically, we evolved over time from an ape into a human. In other words, first we were apes and those evolved into neanderthals and then eventually those evolved into homo sapiens, the current human species. There were other steps between those, of course, but it was done in a linear fashion. I have spent my ENTIRE LIFE believing this to be true because I never learned otherwise! In reality, different species of humans, all belonging to the genus Homo, developed and evolved over time in different areas on the planet. How they evolved was directly related to their environments. At one point, homo sapiens (the current human species) coexisted with at least FIVE other human species on the planet at the SAME TIME.

This is very likely “well, duh”-worthy to you, but try to imagine what this information must sound like to someone who had never been taught this and believed the simplified story for over 30 years.

Seriously, I felt like suddenly a million things made far more sense in the universe. I felt smarter. And hey, cut me some slack. 5th grade science was honestly the last time I learned about human evolution. Even the world history class I took in college only started from about 10,000 BCE. And yes, I do feel pretty stupid right now, too. How could I have lived all my life without this knowledge? How did I miss something so important? So here’s a great example of why you should always be trying to learn new things. You never know what you might have missed.

I am really excited about watching the next section of the lecture, which is going to discuss possible theories on why homo sapiens are the only ones left. Something to think about: for the rest of the animal planet, there exist several different species of the same genus. There are different species of cats, birds, bears, etc. So why is there only ONE species of human left? Homo erectus existed for 1.5 MILLION years. Homo sapiens has only been around for 200,000 to 300,000 years. Something look suspicious here? Yeah…

8/4/2013 – Working on MOOC’s

About two months ago, I discovered Coursera through a Lifehacker U post about planning my free education for Summer 2013. I love learning new things and I wish I could stay in school for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, that doesn’t pay the bills. In fact, attending a college or university is extremely expensive. So I thought I’d try a class or two.

Or ten… Or twenty…

The first class I signed up for was “Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative.” After clicking the sign up button, I started browsing the other classes that were going to start soon. At the time, the online games class had a start date of July, so I thought I’d try something else while I waited. The online games class now doesn’t start until the beginning of September and I’ve since signed up for 15 classes. They have start dates ranging from June 14th to October 21st.

I highly doubt that I will actually complete all these classes, but my thought is that it doesn’t cost me anything to sign up and see what the work load will be like. If i think it’s too much, I can drop the class with no penalty. Or I can just watch the lectures as if they’re TV shows. I won’t get a certificate of completion that way, but if my goal is simply to gain new knowledge, who cares?

So today I worked on the final week’s assignments for a class called, “Sustainability of Food Systems: A Global Life Cycle Perspective.” After this 8 week course, I now know a lot more about how food systems work throughout the world and I’m armed with information on how to adjust my lifestyle in order to try and make my dining choices more sustainable for the planet.

Did you know that at the current rate of population growth, we will need to double the amount of food we produce annually by 2050? According to studies, it’s only increasing by about 1% per year, while it needs to increase by 3% per year. That’s a frightening thought. 2050 seems like it’s a long time from now, but it’s not. Based on the average American female life expectancy, I should still be alive in 37 years. Food shortages and excessive food waste will only drive the costs of food higher. If you’re interested, I recommend checking out this article from Scientific American.

Other classes that I worked on today were “The Science of Gastronomy” and “Introductory Human Physiology.” There are two weeks left for the gastronomy class and the physiology class JUST started.

These courses are incredibly addicting for someone like me. I crave information like a junkie. A friend of mine recently told me about another site that is similar to Coursera called edX. I’m seriously eyeing up an introductory biology class taught by MIT.

Oh, speaking of MIT. Do you know about their OpenCourseWare website? It’s another great resource for learning junkies.

When I was a little girl, my parents had to hide flashlights and batteries because I would stay up all night reading books. Clearly this aspect of my personality hasn’t changed…