Study Up! Online. For free.

Lifelong learning is a personal passion, and after using lifehacker for time-saving and life-simplifying tips for getting things done, I am really digging the catalog of free, online education courses provided by LHU, Lifehacker University.  The Fall 2015’s list of offerings include courses in:

  • Computer Science and Technology
  • Finance and Economics
  • Science and Medicine
  • Mathematics
  • Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Law
  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Plus a way to design your own course selections for “Extra Credit”, which is a compiled list of databases and other websites' course listings

It is so energizing to learn something new.  And it's free, so book it over to Lifehacker to get enrolled!

(Past season catalogs are also linked at the bottom of the link page.)

google sketchup grows up...

As a "recovering" architect, one of my favorite applications is Sketchup. Even before Google purchased the company, it was used by a lot of architects to get their "sketches" on the computer and quickly review their design ideas and to convey them to others. I always described sketchup as "3D for mere mortals". In the early days, the company described their software as the "digital napkin sketch" as they knew architects loved the idea that a grand building design might have come from a simple sketch done on a napkin at a restaurant one afternoon.

I continue to use the software and we work with architects and designers who still use it on a regular basis. Some use the free version but most are using the pro version when working with Sketchup in business.

So the point of this post is to give my architects, designers, and generally curious folks a link to a web site full or resources for sketchup users.  has opened my eyes to how popular the software has become and the myrid of options available to professionals and ameteurs alike. With rendering plug-ins, and tutorials, and tips and tricks galore, it is certainly worth a look if you do any 3D work on the computer.

Sketchup is still a great and simple tool for the "digital napkin sketch"... but now, with the help of a ton of 3rd party tools, it can do so much more. Check out this render using V-Ray for Sketchup.


I wanted to pass along a very nice find I made this weekend to any of you that might now have or have had aspirations to learn to play the guitar. I have been seeking out a place to take guitar lessons for the first time - after MANY iterations of the following cycle: periods of self teaching and then abandonment...   

Recently, the motivation to learn to play has peaked again - so I reached for my notebook and began to seek out my options for lessons. I found a variety of online and offline sources. Prices for offline, face to face instruction averaged about $60 per hour. These instructors will generally completely tailor the training to each of their students, making the experience both rewarding and enjoyable. I also expect that I would be made to drill incessantly in order to acclimate my fingers and hand muscles to the fretboard and the strings. Why not look for a cheaper alternative for this beginning phase? Until the new Garage Band lessons come of age, I'll try my luck on the net.

I first came across Berklee Music Online. They have enough free lessons, guitar and almost everything else, to properly evaluate the course. This is it I think. Excellent, clear instruction with good video streaming, a large amount of supplemental materials are available as well. I got out my credit card and proceeded to the enrollment area to find out these courses are all nearly $1000 each! I won't say that the price would NOT be worthy, but for that amount I can easily have face to face instruction with a local teacher.

Next and final stop: This one is only for learning guitar - but suitable for my present situation. So here is the quick and dirty of how the site and subscription works: The beginner phase starts just there - "This is the fretboard" and up through fairly complex chord progressions and scales. Phase 2 is genre teaching. Rock, Blues, Bluegrass, Metal, Classic Rock, Fingerstyle, Lead, Speed, Jazz, Celtic, AND Hawaiian Slack Key! Jamplay employs over 20 different instructors as well - so far all of them have been interesting and very competent teachers. Phase three is song teaching. Jamplay maintains a large database of video tutorials for many popular songs. There is no restriction on moving freely between phases - no completion is necessary to progress.

All of the content is delivered via low, medium, or high quality video streaming plus supplemental material. The pricing is great as well. $20 monthly fee will give you complete access to the entire site. One can even save a bit by paying $50 quarterly or $139 yearly!

So, if you are worried about investing ALOT of your hard earned cash into lessons because you just aren't sure how dedicated you are - THIS is for you. Give it a try - personally tailored lessons can always be the next - after all the drilling = ). That's it for now - the fingers on the left hand are still sore from the weekend!



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