Learning Cycles

A lot of people would cringe in horror at the prospect of a lifetime of learning. Me, I can’t get enough of it.

Back when I was working in Marketing1, I’d read Christensen, Peters and other luminaries as well as more prosaic textbooks on market segmentation, finance, and the fine art of sales commissioning.

It was a nice change from academia and my rather futile attempt at reading the entirety of MSDN in CD format3, and I enjoyed it immensely – plus it all made a lot of sense, at least for a mind indelibly bent by Douglas Adams.

Then I went back to Engineering and read a ton of man pages4 by day and an unholy mess of ITU/IETF/3GPP drafts by night, cut with all sorts of fiction4 and imbibed with a thin slice of lemon.

When the tables turned again and I went back to Marketing, I had two challenges to overcome: finding room for a burgeoning and rather eclectic library and a voracious appetite for learning.

E-books pretty much fixed the first bit (although I make a point of defanging their DRM whenever feasible, given the way technology evolves), but I’m still struggling with the nasty habit of wanting to understand more stuff6, so my reading list for the past couple of weeks included:

  • The entirety of the Inferno OS documentation (because we’re destined to repeat history, and Inferno seems like a missed opportunity in these days of distributed computing)
  • The World Until Yesterday (if you haven’t read Guns, Germs and Steel yet, get that first)
  • Natural Language Annotation for Machine Learning (I need to learn more about NLP, and have a few other tomes queued up)
  • SICP (which I never read, since it was published 2 years after my first run-in with LISP)
  • A bunch of articles on Clojure and Scala, soon to be followed by (shudder) some Haskell.
  • The Apache Mesos source code (a year or so ago I was wondering about using LXC on our Hadoop cluster, and the world finally caught up).

The wonderful thing about this is that I have no idea where it’ll take me – except for Ender’s Game, which I’m re-reading after a trifle over eight years, in a whole new light7. And it’s even better now.

All I can hope for, really, is to be able to keep learning new stuff every day (or, in case of meetings, every evening…).

  1. This was in the BC (Before Social) era, back when men were real men, advertising targeted real eyeballs, and campaign planning was something you did a year in advance. ↩︎

  2. In the interest of gender neutrality, I should point out that is meant to be a pun on Mad Men↩︎

  3. I subscribed to it out of my own pocket, and never regretted it – in fact, it’s the reason why I have a healthy respect (and admiration) for Microsoft↩︎

  4. Also in the interest of gender neutrality, I should point out that this would never work out as a pun, since all of those pages were the kind written by balding monks intent on preserving the arcane intricacies of bygone tools prior to their revision by a slew of vendor monkeys with an eye for form but utterly deaf to actual meaning. ↩︎↩︎

  5. And believe me, the fiction made a lot more sense overall. ↩︎

  6. I understand this is considered dangerous in many cultures (both secular and business alike), so I try to keep a low profile. ↩︎

  7. Remember, the enemy’s gate is down↩︎

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