Ellen Chisa reminded me of why this book was one that hit me deeply in college.
Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything- from A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it. --Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
I don't think that eliminating the whole degree and grading system will automatically give you "real education," but I do believe that questioning why and how the system we have was put in place, and whether it is one we (individually) want, is a good start. And this got me thinking about the things I'd like to learn, so... braindumping again, here are some sprints that have been on my mind. They'd all make nifty foci for a month. I need to figure out what I am doing for December.
(For the record, November's anti-procrastination attempt has been... let's just call it a painful awakening to how ingrained my perfectionism is (and that isn't a good thing, by the way). My perfect is very much the enemy of my good, and I should think of different ways to get around that, and copious output!!! in an area I'd usually be perfectionist about is one of them, so you'll see that thought come out in some of the ideas below.)
The Weinberg Sprint: Read everything that Weinberg has ever written (that I can get my hands on, which should be most if not all of it) - if Eric and Sumana both like his work, it's got to be worth it. Also, I haven't gone on an immerse-self-in-single-person's-output sprint since my Feynman period, which was a weak immersion - I didn't read his physics papers, just his books and letters.
Thing A Week: JoCo-style, because I want to force myself to publicly output music, too. I'll only get better if I start somewhere.
Learning Go: Swapping Go lessons from Mark Penner for how-to-get-a-webapp-up tutorials. I want to learn some sort of strategic board game because I think it'd train my brain to think well in a certain way it doesn't now - long-term, strategically, planning things out in advance, anticipating reactions... I'd like to be able to do that systematically instead of only by my gut and the seat of my pants, which is what I do now.
Alas, I've never been able to understand or get excited about the few old chess books in our basement (Dad's) - they're filled with little diagrams and no explanation and just go way over my head. Mark taught me the rules of Go in college and slowly taught me how to play over a series of late night homework sprints (we lived in the same hallway sophomore year and claimed the same nook in said hallway for our "office") and I did enjoy the glimpse I caught of it back then. So we could start with this.
The goal for the month would be to lose 100 games, as a riff on the "lose your first 100 games as quickly as possible" maxim I've heard around. FAIL FASTER!
Write code: Do a little actual programming each day - not because I think I'll ever truly be good at it in the way some of my friends are, but because I find it to be an interesting and fun thing to do, and would love that feeling of deep making-something focus that I've experienced in the past when I've been able to sink into it a little. (Note to self: make sure at least one grad school course you take forces you to deep-dive into creating some kind of code.)
For a monthsprint, I think I'd want to do quick exercises in a variety of different languages, so I could try the sort of porting exercise Bill Kerr gave his students or the try-a-different-language meme that Dwins and Seb have taken up (in Scala and Prolog, respectively). I could also run through interesting parts of various books I've been wanting to go through for years. They range from beginner tutorials (I love working through good instructional design even for things I "already know," because it teaches me how to teach), to nifty languages I've been fascinated by but never sat down to explore (Forth, Mumps), to "seriously, you should really go through these someday" classic works.
This sprint is probably overly ambitious as currently defined. Also, it may not be a good idea if I'm trying to keep my RSI under control (which has been quite successful since the start of summer, thank you very much).
Plato: This is mostly self-explanatory. Everything I can find by Plato (translated, of course) or commenting on such, or on Plato himself, I read and write and talk with people about. I am sadly bereft of background in philosophy, which is a shame because I love Socratic-style conversations and would love a richer pool of history and ideas to draw from there.
Research-prep: Gathering - and possibly trying to recreate the infrastructure for creating - mini-studies on trying to track and understand participation in open source. Because someday I'm going to do research on this from an educational perspective (open source as a community of practice of engineering education), I'm just not exactly sure where it'll end up focusing yet... but looking at prior work and existing tools can only help me figure that out.