in Learning, Reflection

First Post of Learning Log Series!

Note: This post appeared on my Hugo website and was originally published on 05/10/2017. I wanted to transfer and archive some of my previous content.


A Learning Log?

Over the weekend I found out that the Towson Barnes & Noble is closing. This is due to the construction going on in the area, not due to sales. I was actually quite upset about this! Not simply because of any reasons having to do with the loss of a bricks and mortar store, but because of past associations I have…

Ever since high school autodidactism has played a massive role in my personal development. While I do value educations received from institutions (I’ve been fortunate enough to have received an incredible education), I’ve amassed a huge amount of knowledge from self-learning and self-study. One key source for this is the internet. I remember scouring message boards for information about music production and composition techniques, and eagerly collected and practiced as many new techniques as I could. However, another key source for my learning is/was the book store. As soon as I was able to drive, I would go to local bookstores (typically either Borders or Barnes & Noble) and grab some books and read. I’d buy some coffee and food and either blast through some schoolwork, read new books, or do some combination of both.

History…

I moved to Baltimore in 2003. I wasn’t (and still am not) a particularly social person, and I immediately preferred hanging out reading in a book store to typical college social life. I quickly found the Towson Barnes & Noble as a place to get some work done and then go and grab some new books. Sometimes I’d get a book on a subject that I was particularly interested in, but more often than not I’d use this time to study something I found intriguing but difficult. I remember working through a lot of complex philosophical topics such as phenomenology in this setting, or quantum mechanics topics.

Many people would ask me why I preferred to study in a loud(ish) coffee shop/book store, and I would always explain that I felt like I could better absorb information in a setting with ambient noise. It wasn’t until years later that I would read about the benefits that low levels of ambient noise (such as the dim of a coffee shop) have on boosting focus. I always thought that the presence of noise tuned my senses to the information that I was studying.

Anyway, over the years I spent much time working and learning in this environment. So much so that I think I have a subconscious association between coffee and productivity. When I found out that the store was closing I was saddened because it was a place that I associate with personal development. This got me thinking on Sunday, and I thought it would have been really interesting if I kept a rough log / diary of all the learning that I had done in bookstores over the years. I thought about how nice/nostalgic it would be to peruse that log and construct a map of what I learned and when I learned it. Barnes & Noble would have been the spatial focal point of much of this learning. I then expanded this thought and came up with the idea/goal to write a series of posts that logged any new interests and learning as it occurred, so that I’d eventually be able to look back and reflect on it at any point in the future.

Confluence

I’ve been traveling for work more than usual and I’ve started listening to podcasts. During one episode of JavaScript Jabber (will find link…) there was mention of the value of a programming log where you keep a daily/weekly log of your thoughts on whatever language you’re learning or using. Some of the examples given were during the phase of learning a new language where you’re diving in and evaluating unique aspects of the language, whether it be idiom or syntax, or whatever. As an exercise, the speaker suggested writing down any of these observations and reflections. I really like this idea, and I’ve started keeping mental notes as I’m learning new languages. I stumbled upon this idea a few days before my experience with Barnes & Noble, and I thought that these two points converged in a meaningful way that could possibly be a sign that I was on to something.

Current Learning

I’m still not sure what format this log/diary will/should take. However, in the interest of just jumping in, I’m going to write down a list and some notes about things I’m learning. One point that I think is crucial is a specific date range. This will make it possible to create a temporal mapping of learning at a later date.

I’m going to start with this month and then I’ll move forward from here. Hopefully this will be a weekly (or more!) series. I’ve decided to start with last week (since I had this idea on Sunday, I figured I should also include last week) and this current week. Here goes!

I’m hoping that this new initiative will fit nicely into my goal of weekly posts that I’ve made with my excellent Homebrew Website Club co-organizer Marty McGuire.
I’ve decided to leave this post as the introduction. The first post in the series can be found here: Learning Log: Week of 5/15/17.

Let me know what you think

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