New Skills and Technology I Learned This year

wood bridge with rope railing stretched over a green ravine

Learning is awesome

My favorite part of just living is how much I learn. Here are some pieces of advice you might find useful, some cool skills I've acquired (maybe you'll be inspired), and a couple other things, too:

Because lists are awesome, too...

  • A GPS is only helpful in localizing large vehicles, particularly when you're trying to use the GPS to direct navigation. When your vehicle is smaller than the error margin of plus or minus two meters (e.g., an RC car), it doesn't work so well! (This from last summer, at NASA Langley.)
  • Pens with lights attached are a fantastic invention. I got a combo flashlight-pen at GHC last year. It writes. It lights up. This pen lives next to the pad of sticky notes by my bed. Now all my middle-of-the-night ideas are legible!
  • If you're working on a big important project, always work on it, every day. Could be a thesis. Could be a novel, or a software project. Even on the days when you really don't want to work on it and you're entirely unmotivated, work on it anyway. Do a tiny little bit, then do a tiny little bit more, and maybe you'll convince yourself that you are in the mood to work on it after all. If not, at least you did a little bit, right?
  • Just how cool people think NASA is. Specifically, how cool people think it is when they find out I interned there, twice. I continue to be surprised. Quite seriously. Are my standards for what counts as super awesome too high? Do I just expect everyone else to be similarly awesome, making my accomplishments average on the scale of awesomeness? Maybe I do ... everyone has the capacity for brilliance. Maybe not everyone fulfills that capacity, but I think you're suppose to take this as your cue to go be brilliant.
  • I earned my Amateur Radio Technician's license. I am now qualified to talk on the HAM radio bands! I know more than I used to about electronics, antennae, and radio frequencies. I'm still working on learning Morse Code.
  • Philosophy of mind. I know a decent amount on the subject from my cognitive science background, but there's always more to learn! A friend and I have delved into some fun readings: Aristotle's conception of matter and form, Aquinas on the immateriality of mind, Lawrence Shapiro on embodiment and reductionism, and many more. I'm re-reading Shapiro's The Mind Incarnate, which I initially read in my second cognitive science class ever, some three and a half years ago.
  • How to successfully relocate to a new city in a new state. Yeah, I did that. It involved a lot of talking to people, a lot of driving, and a lot of paperwork and standing in lines.
  • Just how flexible my sleep schedule can be. I used to be a stickler for getting my full eight hours every single night of the week. I realized over the summer that I can function just fine on a weird schedule of eight hours, then three hours, then seven hours, then maybe five, followed by nine or ten hours to catch up... I'll write more on this sometime. Carol Worthman wrote a particularly relevant chapter on sleep for Evolutionary Medicine and Health that I plan to outline for you.
  • The rudiments of tae kwon do. According to the instructors at the Goddard Tae Kwon Do club, I have a decent roundhouse kick. I'd like to learn more -- I'm still very much the beginner white belt.

And a whole slew of technology-related items:

  • Octave, essentially an open-source Matlab.
  • R, a statistical computing language and environment.
  • The rudiments of time series analysis
  • ROS, an open-source platform for robotics work
  • Mobile Robotics Programming Toolkit (MRPT) libraries
  • PCL, the point cloud library and useful for feature detection in point clouds
  • Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) algorithms, as well as other common mapping and path planning algorithms.
  • How to use subversion.
  • Random little things about Ubuntu, including the "alt-f9" shortcut to minimize the current window
  • How to use the Tobii T60 eye tracker.
  • And so much more ...

I wonder if I can double this list by this time next year..?

Thursday, September 22, 2011 - tags: learning technology


  • said: Reply

    *If you’re working on a big important project, always work on it, every day*

    I apply this philosophy to exercise as well, for the most part: My physical well-being is a big important project that should be worked on every day.

    • said: Reply

      Good thought! Important projects aren’t just things that give you a definitive final product.

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