What are You Learning?

According at my Twitter feed some days, being a stay-home Mom is boring. Clean 3 things and cook (then clean). Prepare / deliver / pick up / feed / pick up after the kids.

According to my direct messages, I’m stalking a few people.

What I’m really doing, though, is learning, in a random, haphazard, and thoroughly enjoyable manner.

I’m a type-A, born-organized perfectionist. More likely, I’m type-A ADHD, who had “finish it!” drilled into her from an early age, and enjoyed the organized environment my mother created. Whatever the truth, I feel more better when I’m organized and when I force myself to finish things, but at one level it’s a whirl-wind of randomness and hyper-focus.

I also have a degree in Chemical Engineering. You know, where 1st year calculus reviews the final year of high school math in one month and doesn’t slow down? Where the goal is to prove you can learn anything at break-neck speed, and still produce assignments for four other courses? Yeah, that one. Not as bad as medical residency, but I always wear my iron ring when I visit a new doctor.

So this “learn at random” thing is strange. I have to blend it with something that feels like a plan.

Sometimes, I read an entire book on one subject. I don’t do the examples, but I understand the concepts. (And promptly forget the details.) I’ll get another, related book, and repeat until bored, then change topics.

At the moment, I’m auditing (via podcast) a 4th year course on fluency disorders. [See above comment about engineers being able to learn anything. Almost two lectures in, I’ve learned that war-time parachuters sometimes lost their sight due to stress (like the pianist in that murder mystery), and people sometimes lose the ability to speak normally due to stress. Several pop singers have voice pathologies, but the public likes the sound. The bits on “speech science” are simple — hasn’t even touched how to caclulate the ideal gas constant from mean free path. On the other hand, see how few details I put in? Like the name of the conditon, and which war?]

When this course is over, I may take the 5th year course by the same instructor, or look for other podcasts from the same school. Or I’ll try out The Teaching Company, www.teach12.com. I hear they have good courses, and most go on special sometime during the year. Others are happy with the quality of the recording and the material.

I’m swatching a shawl for my mother-in-law. I’ve learned how to work with yarn that’s much slipperier than I’m used to. The least little tug, and it slides all over itself, leaving holes, puckers and snags. Do the knitting right near the tips. I also learned that merino wool is much nicer than the other pure wool I used, which is nicer than the last yarn, which is nicer than Phentex. Before that, I did toe-up socks. I learned two types of cast-on that avoid a seam at the toe. I also learned tubular cast on, in two different ways. Love it! but it’s not suitable for this shawl. I’ve spent way too many hours (compared to the rest of my list) watching how-to’s online.

I’ve learned how to use Audacity to split files so I can rewind on my mp3 player with more control, and how to change the speed of a piece without affecting the pitch — useful for making dictation files for shorthand practise and changing the dirge-like recording of the accompaniment for my current song (for singing lessons) to the speaking-speed we tried (and preferred) at the last lesson.

So, What have you learned lately?

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