Terrorism, war, game theory, international relations, bioinformatics and math

I started these two Coursera self-paced on-demand MOOCs and quit them because I hate the format (I love “Regular Coke” Coursera, but their on-demand format really really bites):

  • Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory and Practice
    Universiteit Leiden.  NOTE: They are rebundling it in sessions so next one starts in a few weeks.  Putting it in sessions will make it a little nicer than on-demand format where inter-student communication is incoherent.  Maybe I’ll try it again.  It’s just quizzes after watching videos, not a lot of homework involved.  If there’s no free Certificate of Completion at the end I’ll be pissed.
  • Paradoxes of War.  Dreaded on-demand format.  Imagine your High School Social Studies teacher enumerating ad infinitum a lot of varied trivia about war, only he’s a Princeton professor for some reason.  Big reveal of MOOCs about Princeton professors: They can be kind of meh.  Not saying this guy is, but still.

Here’s one a little more substantial, starting soon, regular course format:

Here’s one on a French platform.  I enrolled in it and just discovered it ended without me.  In French, but I find the professor to be engaging and interesting to listen to, for me it’s like listening to someone read an interesting detective story.  Maybe he’ll do another session, there isn’t any announced so I don’t know how well it went but I assume they’ll keep going because it’s a very fresh topic over there and this one just ended a few days ago, it’s the first time out, and usually successful courses get repeated:

I’m also headed into the second part of Stanford’s ultra-dry Game Theory course:

To complement this I intend to get around to watching these videos on International Relations by a great pragmatic game theorist, William Spaniel:

I have two hard courses on my plate which will take priority over all of the above, namely

  • Molecular Evolution.  Fourth course in Pavel Pevzner‘s Bioinformatics sequence.  He’s another great teacher.
  • Practical Numerical Methods with Python.  This is my only EdX format course, from GWU.  (My Dad went to GWU, for law school.  He worked for Claude Shannon once but didn’t know the first thing about recursive functions, although he pretended he did.  My Dad was kind of a jerk.)  It’s a little scattered in terms of presentation, you have to figure out that some of the course is in one place and the rest of the course is in Python notebooks that are in a different place and you have to download them and go through them.  Also you kind of have to know Physics-y calculus notation and bull your way through the mindset of physics people writing equations, which is a little different notationally and in style of presentation from the way a mathematician would write the same topic.  That is, they start with a stack of interrelated definitions, not always well connected, and notation, not always well introduced and end up with a graph.  The only way to decipher the mess is to read the code that generated the graph and work backwards.  Plus you have to be competent enough to download Anaconda Python 3 and start up a Jupyter notebook.  And also if you want to read a few .md files in the collection, download a Github Markup Language file previewer.  Let’s just say I spent a fair amount of vacation time putzing around before I began to get some traction on this course.  I think it’s going to be a bit of a slog.  Luckily as a programmer it is grounded in code that runs and that will always be my final and natural resource for comprehension.

See you in class!


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