Porch garden 2017

Growing season is coming to a close on porch garden farm.

The tomatoes were a mixed success. The smaller ones grew fine, but the larger ones must have starved from lack of nutrients in the pot—none of the larger fruits survived. Chilis and fennel grew well—many more than needed. The basil died and came back, died and came back, died and came back. The green onions did nothing—until the day they seemed to arrive, fully formed. And we cut them and ate them, and they stayed low—until the day they seemed to arrive, fully formed.

And now that winter is coming—assuming, in 2017, winter is still a thing that exists—the question is, as operations move indoors: dirt or hydroponics? Which one gives me the best mix of growing something useful and not getting me kicked out of the apartment?

Planting on 24 April

Now reading: Work and the Nature of Man

Frederick Herzberg, Work and the Nature of Man (Goodreads)

I found this one via Seth Godin’s post about hygiene factors—a sort of baseline attribute that doesn’t matter much when it’s there, but is quite negative when it’s gone. Herzberg writes about it in this book.

Also I’m a sucker for picking up 50 year old books from the library. Completely different smell profile than a new book.


From Chapter 5:

How comfortable it is to be able to earn a living today on yesterday’s knowledge, but how often this leads to obsolescence.

It is in the exposure to the unfamiliar that we look for evidence of psychological growth. Is it not legitimate to ask, after a job assignment, whether an employee has learned anything–has he in this case added to what he knows? For success does not necessarily accompany psychological growth, while very often failure gives rise to considerable growth. To be sure, all tasks do not provide much in the way of the unfamiliar, particularly because jobs today are so very much overstructured.

Back to real classes

I’m taking a Real Class again. I’ve taken a few Semi-Real Classes on edX over the past few years—learning about Python, Java, etc.—and have rolled through some classes on MIT’s OpenCourseWare. But those were low risk. Start a class, finish it if you want. Learn a bit along the way, sure. Pay the optional fee for some, just to keep the train rolling along for others. But it’s not the same quality as the classes I used to take while at school, nor do I expect it to be.

Now I’m enrolled in CS411 Database Systems at the University of Illinois. I’m in the tank with all these undergrads and grad students in a top 5 CS program. So it feels like something worth working hard for, and finishing, and doing well. And it has a Real Price Tag (which the company is picking up, thanks guys). But it’s fun to get in there and push it and try to keep up with a bunch of kids that are, I assume, a lot brighter than me.

I didn’t care much for CS when I was studying engineering a hundred years ago. I took one CS class during freshman year. Something something C programming. I went a few times—honestly I don’t remember going to lecture often (at all?), but I remember going to lab classes. And that was it. Probably got a C in that class. Didn’t see any future for myself in any kind of programming work. Which was a casually idiotic thing to think. I was a disaster as a freshman.

Now I’m also applying to go back to Illinois and take the online CS masters degree program. After about five years of writing code as tools for what is a largely untechnical job, it seems to me to be a good way to make a change. But first: the first class.