On Intro Python

This summer term I have an introductory Python class through Ivy Tech. It is my first online course. So far it has gone quite well, since all the materials are online, and it is not set such that each of the sessions only becomes available on certain days: All have been there since the first day, but they all have staggered due dates. I am working on the 13th of the 16 sessions, since I have been able to put great amounts of time into the course.

Python has been interesting so far. I like that it is an interpreted language, so I needn't compile. The distinction between integer and float division (// vs. /) is nice. The structure seems looser than C; indentations define blocks instead of end-of-line semicolons or other things. Python's lists seem to be a big improvement on C's arrays.

It is still early days, but Python does seem a fairly easy-to-learn language, at least to get going.

Free Online Spanish

For some months now I have been putting in a few minutes most days to study Spanish. Since I am a student, I do not want to use money. Instead of taking Spanish classes or investing in Rosetta Stone, I use Duolingo.

Like many free sites, Duolingo requires that you set up a free account. A number of European languages are on offer: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), and Spanish. My Peruvian friend says the Spanish audio bits were recorded by Mexicans. Regardless, Duolingo offers basic conversational lessons through sessions that combine dictation, translation, and narration. Instead of using the desktop interface, I practice on my iPod with the free Duolingo app, which tracks my progress, sends reminders, and let me see how friends are doing on their Duolingo languages.

For a free program, it all seems quite well done. The iOS app often crashes after every two 12-question practice block; I just reopen the app. My only real gripe is that the practice sessions tend to focus on your most recent lesson's content; if you hope to get some vocabulary or grammar from 8 lessons back, you'll probably have to work through a recent practice before an older content practice lesson is served.

Vertical Up

The main task in WELD 209 is to become certified in the vertical up position with shielded metal arc welding. This entails beveling two 3/8" steel pieces to make a 1/4" gap then tack welding those two beveled pieces onto a backing plate with ER6010. Then clamp the weldment vertically to late a root pass with 3/32" ER7016, another pass with 1/8" ER7016, and a cover pass with the 1/8" again.

Wow, does stuff get hot!

I like when I've made a good pass and the flux forms symmetrical reptilian overlapping ridges that come off in long pieces with a light whack from the slag hammer.

Here's how I was set up today.

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Nobody Surfs Anonymously

Nobody surfs anonymously, but you can try to do it with a bit more privacy.

Some while back I installed Tor, which makes a person's browsing hard-to-impossible to track. I had read about it years ago, but it took a while (i.e., some free time) to get around to installing it. The version I installed seems to arrange its own settings--convenient!--but it is slower than using my main browser, OmniWeb. As a result, I don't use Tor often, thus favoring convenience over privacy.

That said, in light of recent stories about the US, Canadian, and other governments spying on everything and everyone, to differing degrees of scope and detail, I've become a bit more sensitive. It is difficult to completely break free of Google, but the web search engine DuckDuckGo claims to keep your searches anonymous.

Instead of Gmail or Microsoft's Hotmail, try Hushmail, although as a free service its storage amount and web-login-only conditions are a bit discouraging; it has paid versions that offer more convenience. I suspect Fastmail, a paid email service based in Australia is private as well, but I don't know.

At some point I might get around to setting up PGP. It has always been on my list, just rather low.

Summer Term Starts Tomorrow

Ivy Tech's summer term starts for me tomorrow, bright and early at 8. That class will be the shielded metal (stick) and gas metal (MIG) arc welding certification course, which will likely be the last welding course I'll take. Hopefully this summer will be cooler than average, since wielding a tiny Sun a foot or two from one's face gets quite hot.

My first ever online course will start as well. I decided to take a Python programming course for personal interest. The Mac OS comes with a couple Python versions installed, but I might end up doing the work from my Boot Camp partition, which is Windows 7.

On June 24, I will start an ordinary differential equations course at IUPUI. That will make me very busy.