Discovering French traditional social dance in Pittsburgh

Dancing to bourree

On Saturday, Abby and I went for the first time to the latest meeting of a local French traditional social dance workshop and dance here in Pittsburgh.

It was a lot of fun!

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CMU Fitness Challenge keynote lecture by Vonda Wright: Stay strong at any age

Dr. Vonda Wright

I attended a much-anticipated talk at CMU by Dr. Vonda Wright of UPMC in McConomy Auditorium, given to the CMU community as a keynote lecture for the CMU Fitness Challenge I participate in.

“Dr. Wright is an orthopedic surgeon at UPMC and an author and researcher. She focuses on the master athlete and living a healthy lifestyle, having conducted extensive research on the benefits of remaining active throughout one’s lifetime.”

It was a fascinating and inspiring talk! Dr. Wright was a high-energy speaker, very passionate and direct. She spoke on many topics, actually, not just about physical exercise. And she spoke frankly about personal experiences in her life.

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How to respond if a child asks you a science question you don't know the answer to

Today, I was very sad to see a news article Children’s science questions “stump many parents”. I was not sad for any of the following reasons:

  • Oh no, kids these days are receiving a poor science education!
  • Oh no, the parents received a poor science education when they were young!

I was sad because of many of the parents’ reactions to their children’s questions:

...16% told their children to ask their partner and a fifth made up a response or pretended that no one knew the answer.

What are some better alternative responses?

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How school made me hate computer science and programming

Some months ago, when the legendary computer scientist John McCarthy died, I wrote a blog post in which I briefly reminisced about the way I hated computer programming before I came to love it. Today I am filling in some more details about how school (elementary school through college) made me fear, misunderstand, and hate computer science and programming. I am inspired to do this because

  • Just a few weeks ago, I came across an old article from 1992 by someone who had a similar experience, and I wanted to complete my story. Although my story also goes back more than two decades, I feel that the same fundamental stumbling blocks exist to the universal computational competence that I now advocate.
  • The topic of learning “coding” has exploded into the popular media, with hundreds of thousands of people having signed up for Code Year and even New York Mayor Bloomberg stating that he has signed up for the free Codecademy online tutorial courses.

My goals in telling my story:

  • I want to raise awareness among those who might this year be jumping into “coding” that they might encounter the same kinds of stumbling blocks that discouraged me at first, so that they don’t prematurely jump to such conclusions as “programming is boring and confusing” or “programming requires special talent I don’t have”.
  • I want for educators to take note of the barriers facing students who may not be “naturals” to understanding computation or writing computer programs in the context of currently common programming environments.

In a forthcoming article, I will engage in a severe critique of the Codeacademy lessons I have so far examined and gone through, while helping my wife learn programming from scratch.

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Experiment in learning: completing Stanford online course: Machine Learning

Yesterday I wrote about my experience with completing, in fall 2011, the free online Stanford course Introduction to Databases. Today I am writing about my experience with completing Machine Learning.

This course was different in many important ways from the databases course.

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Experiment in learning: completing Stanford online course: Introduction to Databases

In October 2011, Stanford University broke new ground by offering three free online computer science courses:

Curious, I signed up for all three of the courses, since I had never taken a course in any of these three subjects.

Because I was not enjoying the AI course and did not expect to find it so useful, I dropped it after completing all the assignments in the first week or two.

Here I report on the databases course. I will follow up with a report on the machine learning course.

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Starting the 100 Up (exercise for running) 30-day challenge

A while back I heard about a “100 Up” workout for runners to improve their form and performance but filed it away without checking it out. I assumed it was gimmicky. But I finally looked it up, and it is actually utterly simple, yet challenging. Well, I’m going to take up the challenge of doing it for 30 days in a row. I’ll fire off a single tweet each day after I complete the “100 Up” for the day. Read On →

Finding and using my childhood flute books

My 5th grade flute book practice record

I was in my basement looking for stuff and happened to find three of my childhood flute books:

Here are my memories of my usage of these books and how I might use them now, three decades later.

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Injuries from yoga are common: some tips on staying safe

For years now, I’ve noticed that when people find out that I do yoga, they often say something like

I tried yoga once and I got hurt. I thought it was supposed to be relaxing.

Today I read an article, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body”. I urge anyone who currently does yoga, or is thinking about starting it, to read this article. It discusses cases of quite serious injury in yoga practitioners, including instructors, and reveals a world of danger that many may not be aware of, given how popular and hip yoga has become in the past decade or two.

I’m not a yoga instructor, and I’m also not a fanatic yoga devotee, but since I once did yoga every other day for a couple of years, and found it extremely, astoundingly beneficial, I’d like to share some ideas on how I have managed to avoid being injured by yoga. I’ll also discuss related issues with Pilates and sitting meditation.

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How to enjoy treadmill running: treat it as a meditative practice

Today I decided to do some treadmill running, since I was going to the gym to do some strength training anyway, so I did just two miles of running as a “warmup” there, using my Bikila LS shoes.

I don’t much like treadmills, so why did I deliberately plan to run on one?

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