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One privilege of being a sysadmin is we're often the first to clean out the cube of an ex-employee.

To date, the most "exciting" thing I've found is a pair of high-heel shoes.

That is, until I (in truth, my co-worker) cleaned out the cube of one of our call contractors and found this notebook:

Turns out she used to do readings for the Vagina Monologues. The entire notebook is full of this erotic poetry, and it is actually really good stuff.

Just goes to show, that people are very often more interesting than you think.


So I enrolled and have completed the first week of lectures, labs and homework for MIT's free online Circuits & Electronics course.

I remember the wonderful feeling during my first week of work as an intern where I experienced the joy and simplicity of real world problems over the contrived and sometimes aggravatingly obscure problems presented in a college setting. It opened my eyes that I enjoyed solving problems much more when people were involved. Each day of work involved me subtracting a problem from one person's life rather than solving problems that millions had solved before.

Doing the reverse, coming out of 12 years of practical problem solving and slipping back into word problems and lectures gave me the insight that I also miss the complexity of University problems. So often in the real world I rely on "guess and check". Each circumstance can only have a few logical explanations, and the act of figuring out which one is not a silent pondering one, but one of immediately testing all possibilities and see which one was right.

Academic problems cannot be approached that way. It requires quite a bit of silent concentration, holding the figures in your head, double checking negative signs, units. Getting the correct answer out of a page full of scribbles always feels a bit like doing a successful backflip (after 9 straight failed backflips).

Speaking of failed backflips, so far my biggest problem has been properly understanding the questions. Several times I have spent two hours spinning beautiful algebraic circles trying to solve an entirely more difficult problem then was actually asked.

I've been to class since the university, but most of it corporate training, which I now realize is different than University classes in the amount of effort they expect you to employ. Corporate training they walk you all the way up to a hurdle, and patiently wait while you step over it one foot at a time. Whereas the examples following University lectures often stop three feet from the hurdle, requiring you to summon the intellectual "momentum" to know what to do.

I have tried many times to learn basic electronics, books, videos, etc. None of it has ever stuck, as I always hit the point where the circuit defied the simple rules, and they very nearly lost me on the first day when the professor employed an absolutely rude amount of calculus to prove why people who work in electronics don't ever need to use calculus.

I have trashed talked college quite a bit in my time, and much of that really is a resentment that the college I went to never called me out on the min/maxing methodology I used to "solve" its classes. Most of the calculus tests I took could be passed by entering the applicable equations, printed in bold on each chapter, into my calculator and applying them to the obvious problems they are associated with. No greater knowledge than that was every required or rewarded.

So far the MIT class doesn't resemble most of my freshman classes. It has definitely "winded" me intellectually. I'm also drawn to it not just out of interest in the subject matter, but I'm fascinated by their approach to online classes.

My absolutely most favorite feature so far is the ability to "speed up" a lecture to 1.25x or 1.5x speed. They managed to do this in a way that doesn't create a "chipmunk" effect, but rather the professor sounds like he's giving a 1AR.

Everything so far is really impressive. Most especially their format for having students answer other student's questions. More than once I've had to ask for help on a tricky example (because I was reading it wrong) and I have received several helpful and humane responses within 30 minutes, which seems a thing that nobody has figured out how to use the Internet for yet.