Online Learning Tools (Part 2)

After I wrote that blog post on Online Learning Tools, I realized that I knew there was a site called Udacity that I had never tried. So, in the interest of being thorough, I went there to check it out. Let me tell you, I’m glad I did!

Udacity
Now I hesitated to try Udacity since I was already enjoying Udemy and I thought it would just be “more of the same.” They aren’t the same. Udacity has aspects of Udemy, sure; it has online classes at your own pace. But it has them arranged to form “Nanodegrees“: comprehensive sets of courses, developed by a key set of teachers working together. They aren’t random “this class looks interesting” buffets (which is how I am/was treating Udemy).

In Udemy there are sub-sets of classes within the classes, by “teaching group”. Say, you can group classes by “Infinite Skills” brand, and often they will go on sale that way “all Infinite Skills classes are 20% off with coupon AWESOMECOUPON“. But you could also find Infinite Skills classes at www.infiniteskills.com proper. Udacity, on the other hand, is very focused in what it offers, and who teaches it. I would say “which gives an overall more consistent learning style” but I haven’t actually enrolled in any courses yet. But I’m so convinced that Udacity is quality stuff, I’m about to enroll in the Front End Web Developer Nanodegree when enrollment begins. Wish me luck!

And Many More
Now there are so many more education options out there that I didn’t mention, like Skilledup and Coursera, edX, who knows how many others. I’m just going to add a link to LifeHack’s list of 25 Killer Sites for Free Online Education.

OddMall 2014

I had a table at OddMall!  I was next to SikRik Masks.  OddMall was held in the John S Knight center in downtown Akron Ohio, because it outgrew its old venue. I had never been there before, though I am acquainted with the guy who runs the whole show, Andy Hopp, from attending his other conventions. It was exciting to be in a big juried show like this!

Unfortunately I didn’t sell very much. But it was a good experience! If you are interested in buying any of my jewelry or dragons, some of the jewelry is up on Etsy, but it is better to just ask me about my dragons via glimmer [at] glimmerville.com.

Here be Dragons

Glimmerville at Odd Mall

Favorite Photo Apps

 

Several months ago I caved in and bought a real, live iPhone. I had never even had an iPod, deciding that iTunes was evil. I had a Rio Diamond mp3 player (Anyone remember that? It  held a half hour of music, woo!) and then nothing, and then resisted the urge to buy an iPod, and eventually had a couple of Zens (which were very nice, and I still use my Zen XFI sometimes). But… this iPhone is amazing.

The iPhone is basically a sonic screwdriver. It does everything.

It has been a very fun experience, full of games as good or better than my Nintendo DS (or actual ports!), art apps that are as fun in their own way as my Bamboo tablet, and a GPS with Geocaching apps that is better than the GPS I used to have. Not to mention a compass, a flashlight, and an app that lets me find my parked car! (Note: Many people have told me that they want an iPhone just for this app!)

People can, in fact, take serious photos with an iPhone. I just listened to This Week in Photo and heard them interview Jack Hollingsworth who said that he could easily see people taking wedding photos with an iPhone – especially since most photos these days only need to be “screen quality”. But he also pointed out that he could make a nice 16×20 print out of an iPhone photo. Amazing.

The one drawback is that no one takes you seriously as a photographer when all you are holding is a camera phone.

I will only point out a couple of apps that I enjoy here:

  •  Instagram:  This is free. It was practically the first app I installed. and it just a fun “Twitter, but made up of photos” app. Very fun! And sends the photos to Twitter, too.
  •  Camera+: I resisted buying this for awhile. Why do I need a camera replacement app? I thought. But it’s a very solid app, with many features. Still figuring this one out, since I actually bought it today. Additionally, here is some interesting info about the woman behind this app.
  •  Photoforge2: Another app that allows me to manipulate photos in a pseudo-photoshop way. Lots of filters and lenses, textures, colors, borders, grunge. This has a great function for sending images “to the cloud” as well – not just Twitter, but also Tumblr, Dropbox, e-mail… many options. And if you pay extra you can access many more features.
  • I also enjoy Silent Film Director, for converting your film into an “old-timey” black and white style, complete with title cards and soundtrack/clackety movie reel sound effect. But I just don’t take as many films as I take photos.
  • Lasty I will add SketchBook Mobile – a fantastic drawing app, that also allows you to import a photo and draw on top of it! This one was worth buying a Stylus for.

Anyway, feel free to suggest other Apps in the comments!

The Mechanist’s Friend

He was old, and tired, and ready to quit.
It had been a long life, and a good one – why, at the high point of his career, he had created automata for Kings! And, at the low point, for demons.

But it had been a long life, and no one was interested in little automata now. They had all moved on, found new trivial things to tickle their fancies.

And so he tinkered at his workbench, for lack of anything else to do. And before he knew it, his hands found those tools again. The metal fell into place again, and a tiny creature sprang to life.

He chuckled, as he always did. Tiny newborn thing of gears and wires. Ah, but they always had such searching eyes. Looking for knowledge. Looking to please their masters.

It turned sparkling teal eyes upon him, obediently waiting his command.

Well, he thought, it would be cruel to shuffle off when this little one needs a master…

And so he began again to father another little life.

Jetpens (Part 2)

And, continuing from my last post, here is a run-down on the pens I bought. When they arrived they came like this: A Platinum Preppy (in violet), spare ink for it (in violet and green). A Sailor Recruit (blue) with spare ink, and a pencil case.

These pens are both a joy to write with, and, considering the difference in price, I am surprised how much I like them both. (The Platinum Preppy is $3.50 while the Sailor Recruit is $15.)

The Sailor Recruit feels better in my hand, because I really like slim pens and pencils. But the Platinum Preppy is not uncomfortable. I was afraid it might leak, but it didn’t. Neither have leaked at all; not in shipping, and not while being used and hauled around in my purse. I would never have been so worried about leaking, if every fountain pen I had tried in the past was as good as these two are!

Sailor Recruit
Platinum Preppy
Testing the Ink

Jetpens (Part 1)

I have discovered that I really like pens (by which I also mean pencils). I guess I always knew this, but I just realized “it’s a thing” and I’m not the only one who likes pens. So I found a few blogs of people who actually review pens. And via those blogs, I found some pens I wanted to buy.

I really love my Pentel P205, so much so that I didn’t have to go find it to remember the actual pencil part number.  So when I went to Dave’s Mechanical Pencil blog and looked at his “top 5 mechanical pencils” I was aghast to find it wasn’t on his list! And it had been edged from the top five by something called a Graphgear 1000. Vat ist dot?! (Yes I got so excited I went into really bad Jägermonster accent.) I had to go buy one stat!

(And I… ok just lied about that because I see now that the pencil that actually edged out the Pentel P205 was something else, but that makes my story much less compelling.)

But no one else reads this blog so I shall blithely continue.

I also started reading The Pen Addict blog. Many of his neatest pens are from Jetpens. So I decided to make an order. Now, Jetpens had the Graphgear 1000 pencil that I wanted… but they also had many other pens that I wanted. Specifically I had it in my head that I wanted a good fountain pen. First I checked Levenger, which is a lovely site that I have long drooled over, then I realized that I was too cheap to buy a pen there.

So I started throwing pens into my cart on Jetpens instead. And when my total started approaching $75 I got scared and removed most of it. Alas, I removed my Graphgear 1000! But, you ask, why did you remove the pencil you wanted so much? Because I found it locally!

Googling, again, I discovered an art store selling them right nearby (within an hour, that is), called Utrecht.

I was going to tell you all about the new pens and pencil I bought, but this is post too long without it, so I’ll add that info next time… HEY LOOK, I’m going to post more than once in a month!

If you read this far, here is an unfinished sketch, and my Pentel P205. I was considering starting a whole bunch of blog posts just to highlight “unfinished sketches” since I never seem to finish anything…

Things Unfinished

Best Christmas Gift

Someone asked me “did I get a best/significant/special” gift this year.   I did!

Actually, three come to mind, but two are mistakes.

  1. Dominion, the board game. I put my “Amazon wish list” up and let people buy things off of it. Immediately both a friend and my parents bought me the board game Dominion, and got no message about the fact that t he item had already been purchased. I found out the next day since (providentially) I knew about it. We had to return one. It was very frustrating. (But still a great game!)
  2. Girl Genius volume #??? – I ordered Volume 6 a million years ago (read: May), and it didn’t come. In the meantime I thought I ordered it, and ended up with Volume 5 twice. Argh. Finally the local comic book store said it was in, do I still want it. Yes! I did. But it took me awhile to go get it. A friend sent me Volume #7! But I couldn’t read it without #6 so I finally went to go pick it up and it was gone… he said “You will probably see it in 7 days, because someone else picked it up, hint, hint.” (It was 7 days to Christmas). So finally on Christmas I opened the graphic-novel-shaped package from my folks – and it was accidentally another copy of VOLUME 5. So now I have ordered myself a copy of Volume 6 (edition 2 reprint, since 1 is sold out, hence the problems) via the actual Studio Foglio store.
  3. The special gift: 
    My senior pastor, of all people, saw USB “fairy light” Christmas lights and bought them for me for Christmas. It makes me almost teary because it’s so touching to have a pastor know you that well, to be able to pick out something special (and even geeky) that is exactly up my alley. In retrospect that was by far the most special, unexpectedly neat gift. To be understood and accepted as a geek by the pastor.

    Shiny!
    Shiny!
  4. The most special gift of all. 
    Well, of course the gift freely given and most perfectly suited to my needs – the needs of all mankind – is Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas (whether that is the actual birth date or not). If you don’t know Him as your personal Savior, you are neglecting to open the best gift you could possibly receive!  Even I have a hard time remembering who this season is really all about. I’m sorry to have to admit that.

How about you? How was your Christmas?