Back to School

Course materials for the next few weeks. Mostly from the library.

This is a post by David.

Continued learning has always been incredibly important to me. Anyone who knows me is aware of my penchant for picking up random skills (Indian vegetarian cooking, anyone? rock climbing? Kettlebell strength training?). It must come from my mother, who certainly is a Jill-of-all-trades.

I just finished my most recent iPhone app for a client so now I have a few weeks off before we go to Europe. My only responsibility for the next month is to plan our next trip, and while that will be a lot of work, it should hardly fill my schedule (I hope).

So since I have a little free time, I decided to go back to school.

Now I doubt that any self-respecting university would let me through its doors, so I’ve designed my own curriculum based on the skills I want to learn and the time that I have before our trip. One thing that I liked about college was having a structure for learning and defined goals, so I’ve tried to recreate this by coming up with a class schedule for myself. It looks something like this:

  • 7:30-9:00 exercise, breakfast, shower
  • 9:00-9:50 Italian lessons
  • 10:00-10:50 trip planning
  • 11:00-11:50 new iOS features, 2D graphics
  • 12:00-1:00 lunch, go for a walk, check email
  • 1:00-5:00 work study
  • 5:00-10:00 (Monday and Wednesday) sailing, (Tuesday and Thursday) harmonica, dinner, study, homework

In addition to a schedule, I’ve sort of created a syllabus for each class. I tried to identify what I want to learn and how I plan on learning it:


I studied Italian in college and spent a few months in Venice, but I’ve hardly practiced the language since I graduated. First I’d like to go through the old material that I have and “reawaken” the things that I should already know.

After that, I’ll take out some books and DVDs from the library. I might also try some podcasts and courses from iTunes U. And finally, perhaps most importantly, I’ll practice with speakers who are better than me, such as the folks at the Boston Italian Language Meetup.

Trip planning

This isn’t exactly a course per se, but it’s similar to what we called “PQP” at WPI (my alma mater). PQP is “Preparation for a Qualifying Project” and in many cases, it’s more work than the project itself!

Planning a two month journey through Europe will be no small task. I’ll need to figure out what cities to visit, how we are going to get there, and where we will stay when we arrive. I’ll need to look at flights, talk to the fine customer service reps at various airlines, and schedule reward flights to mainland Portugal and from Italy (I think) to the US. I’ll be looking into workshare opportunities, WWOOFing, and I’ll be contacting friends and friends-of-friends (and friends-of-friends-of-friends) that are in Europe. And let’s not forget new gear, travel insurance, and everything else we’ll need.

iOS and 2D graphics

Well, I have to take an in-major course! There are two primary areas that I’d like to study. First: the latest features in iOS. As I type this, Apple’s developer conference (WWDC) is happening and they are announcing all the new features available to us. Once the conference videos become available online I’ll watch them and join the discussion online to learn the new technologies. Also, I’m a bit behind and I know there are still several concepts that I missed from last year’s WWDC so I’ll be following up on that stuff.

The other area I’d like to take a look at is 2D graphics. And what are 2D graphics good for? Making games, of course! I’ve never done any significant work in this area and I’d really love to learn about it. A good starting point will be the tutorials at Ray Wenderlich’s site.

Work Study

What’s the difference between having an idea for an iPhone app, and making money off an iPhone app? Actually doing the work! I plan to spend half the day working on software that I have bouncing around my brain.

I blocked out the afternoon for this because I’ve found that my most productive hours (at least for coding) are from about 2:00 – 5:00 pm.

Extracurricular Activities

Sailing – I joined Community Boating here it Boston. It’s a great program that teaches adults and children alike how to sail by starting on the Charles River and taking trips out the Boston Harbor.

Harmonica – I’ve owned a harmonica for a while now and I have yet to make any good sounds come out of it. So I recently picked up a couple instructional DVDs and I’m giving it another go. Ideally I should be taking lessons or practicing with players who are better than I am. We’ll see how far I get.

Photography – Photography has been an interest of mine for years and I realize that I still have a lot to learn. I recently bought a new camera and I’d like to upgrade my skills before our trip. If I have time, I plan on attending a photography meetup in Boston so I can learn from more experienced photographers.

And now a question to you, dear readers. If you went back to school (either in the literal sense, or in the figurative sense like me) what would you study? What if you could take a month off of work? Are you already furthering your education in the evenings and weekends?

3 thoughts on “Back to School

  1. David….here is what I do. I am a retired bookkeeper who is still working after 50 yesrs ! I manage to learn something new about my profession every time I work with your Mom.(she is very multi-talented). In the evenings I pursue my avocation which is acting. I try to get casts in shows that are challenging with other talented avcors that I admire. Learning my lines help to keep me sharp.
    If you and Jenny are still around in July…I.ll be performing in ‘Nunsense’ in Mansfield..

    1. That’s awesome, Carol! Glad to hear you have such an interesting hobby outside of work. Unfortunately we leave in early July so I don’t think I can make it to see your show. =(

  2. sounds great David! I look forward to our Portugal trip to see what you have learned=) And to hear you and Jared rock out on your harmmonicas in the Acores! =)

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