New Year’s Goals 2018 Edition

Welcome to 2018. Surprisingly, I had a backlog of blog posts ready, so my New Year’s Goals are the second (not the first) of the year. Like many others, I put together a list of goals for the new year. However, I differentiate my system from Resolutions (with their high failure rate) by calling them Goals. It might seem like that wouldn’t count for much, and frankly, you would be right. Continue reading “New Year’s Goals 2018 Edition”

New Year’s Goals 2017 Edition

It’s 2017, and it’s a time for new beginnings. In fact, it’s a time for new beginnings to new beginnings because this year, I have graduated my “New Year’s Hopes” to “New Year’s Goals”. For years, I have written up a mishmash of aspirations. This year, I will write up a mishmash of aspirations that I have a loose plan to complete.

Actually, I ended up taking my annual goals quite seriously this year. After reflecting upon this past year, I saw the wonderful things happen that I didn’t plan for. I also saw the missing things that I wish I would have done. And in the end, life happened. That’s a situation I am familiar with. It’s the same situation as going to the grocery store without a shopping list. It’s the same situation as having an only growing list of movies to watch. It’s the same situation as Dota 2 mid-game where your team wanders around until you randomly run into the enemy and just end up fighting.

This is what happens when you haven’t established any priorities and therefore have no plan on making anything happen. Sometimes it turns out well because serendipity is wonderful and should never be lost. But it’s also really nice to have a vision and work towards it.

Because I enjoy systematizing thinking, I ended up doing Alex Vermeer’s 8,760 Hours. It’s a process for breaking down your entire life into different aspects to analyze how things are going (a “snapshot”), where you would like to be (your “ideal you”), and what short-term goals will get you there. Continue reading “New Year’s Goals 2017 Edition”

New Year’s Hopes: 2016 Edition

Despite this not being my first blog post of the year, I have not forgotten about New Year’s Hopes. As a reminder, New Year’s Hopes are like Resolutions, except with less of the false sense of confidence. Before diving into this year’s, let’s review last year’s hopes.

Old 2015 Hopes

1. Get more sleep.

Technically, this went well. Julie and I managed to adjust our sleep schedule back about a half-hour to get from 7 hours of sleep to 7 1/2 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, I think that 7 1/2 hours of sleep is still not enough. I think it’s telling that I thought that a good goal for 2016 would be to get more sleep and had totally forgotten that it was a 2015 goal.

As such, this goes in as an unofficial 2016 hope to get more sleep, where more sleep is defined as 8 hours. To get there, I think I need to start getting ready for bed at 10PM and have lights out at 11PM. One suggestion I read somewhere was to do a mini turndown service to start the shutdown process. Maybe I will try that.

2. Spend my time better.

Reflecting on this goal, I have no idea if I was successful with this or not. Unfortunately, it seems very difficult to quantify, but again, I had come to a similar type of goal for 2016 without remembering that I had done this one. That probably means that I did not satisfy this goal. Unlike the previous goal, however, I will not repeat it because i don’t know how I would know if I had accomplished it.

3. Put together a digital family tree.

Surprisingly, this mostly happened. The main obstacle was putting together the application to store all of the data, and I actually managed to do that. The trick now is just to get the data in, and assuming I built it well, that shouldn’t be too tricky. I will have to make an Asana task for myself to do that, but I am ready.

New 2016 Hopes

1. Watch more TV.

It’s an unusual goal, and I admittedly am being sensational with the title. My real goal here is to watch less I had initially started watching gaming streams to follow professional StarCraft, but I have been falling out of the eSports scene, and twitch just became a distraction while in-between more significant events and a procrastination tool. Since I am mainly interested in the games rather than the community aspect of twitch, I just wasn’t getting much value out of it.

On the flip side, I am notoriously bad at watching TV and have taken far too long to watch too little. There are many reasons, but I think a primary one is that I feel that the right way to watch is to dedicate time to fully watch episodes without multi-tasking. Realistically, I just can’t watch all of the TV I want to in that fashion, and there is a lot of TV I am probably willing to watch while distracted. Examples include Reboot, Archer, and Star Trek: Enterprise.

So my hope is to watch less twitch and watch more TV.

2. Sunset some of my commitments and projects.

I (egotistically) think I am pretty good about following through on a lot of tasks and commitments. I have multiple active side projects (as listed on my website) and partake in many hobbies (often with friends). Most people tend to seek advice about how to complete projects, but I tend to have more issues figuring out how to finish up with ongoing responsibilities and move on when they have become more of a burden than benefit to myself.

I think the issue goes down to a core belief that the best things in life like friendships or skills should be permanent, lifelong commitments. As noble as that sounds, however, some things are meant to be fleeting through different stages of life. I think I need to be more realistic when things aren’t working out and not feeling guilty about letting down those who might be impacted.

All of this is, of course, coming from the guy who just picked up the tuba again after about 8 years and is trying to revive his blog. To do those things, however, I need to make time, so I hope I can deliver on this goal.

3. Express gratitude on a daily basis.

I don’t have a reference at the moment, but according to science, one happiness-creating habit is showing gratitude regularly. The most common method is to write down a few things you are grateful for every night before going to sleep, but I think that expressing gratitude to someone else or keeping it in mind through regular life all broadly fall into the category. Regardless of the efficacy, it just seems like a good idea for being more conscientious and maintaining perspective in my life, especially given how lucky I have been.

This is a minor digression, but having not grown up in a religious household, my family never said grace before meals. As such, the practice never meant much to me before, but in the lens of this hope, saying grace seems like a great way of regularly expressing gratitude. I hope to be able to do something similar, if without the religious connotations.

New Year’s Hopes: 2015 Edition

Welcome to 2015. Let’s avoid the cliches and get to the hopes. If you haven’t read previous ones, hopes are like New Year’s resolutions except named less strongly despite a similar intent. So, let’s review last year’s hopes.

Old 2014 Hopes

1. Make something creative and physical.

Julie and I did wall art! Well, we haven’t quite gotten it onto a wall, but I used acrylic paints on a small canvas to recreate an image of a roundabout. I figured I would start easy with something less organic. It wasn’t great, and it was only once, but we did it. I can’t really take full credit for this one because Julie, not the hope, was the driving force, but it was done. Continue reading “New Year’s Hopes: 2015 Edition”

New Year’s Hopes: 2014 Edition

Happy New Year everyone. I will continue my annual tradition of New Year Hopes, which are like New Year’s resolutions, except that they’re called something different because I was trying to be different when I started them. And now, it’s a tradition, so I’m stuck with it.

First, let’s review last year’s hopes. Continue reading “New Year’s Hopes: 2014 Edition”

New Year’s Hopes: 2013 Edition

Happy new year everyone! It appears that I haven’t written a real post for a few weeks now, but this annual tradition is just the reason I need to start again. If you aren’t familiar with it, my Hopes are like Resolutions, except without the resolve so when I inevitably miss the goals, it isn’t a big deal.

I was also informed on New Year’s Eve that true resolutions are made before the new year and that putting them together the week after doesn’t count. So, despite the similarities between my Hopes and true Resolutions, consider these entirely separate.

First, let’s review how last year’s Hopes went.

1. Write a book, and get everything done to get to that point.

This didn’t happen. You may have seen a few blog posts about the moon this past year, but that slowed down significantly. Currently, my commitment to this goal is 2 RSS feeds to moon blogs and an book about the moon sitting unread in my bedroom. Still, I’m satisfied where I am with the intent. I may be reinterpreting the goal for a sense of achievement, but I really just wanted a way to continue to learn, digest, and create after finishing school. I’m now in a book club, which covers most of those points.

2. Play a few more video games.

Done. After finishing The Witcher, I also finished Mass Effect and tried both Fallout: New Vegas and Neverwinter Nights 2 (both of which I ended up dropping). Currently, I’m playing quite a few games, but it’s a good mix of different genres. I’m particularly happy that I can play most of them with my friends, and all of that has led to a more healthy mindset towards video games than I think I had growing up.

3. Cajun cooking.

Done. As expected, Cajun cooking isn’t vegetarian, but I picked up a good cookbook that I have been working from. Unfortunately, a lot of the recipes are more complicated and for more people than I can do regularly, but I now know the basics and have cooked a few good meals.


So, here’s the new set of Hopes:

1. Create or contribute to an open source project in a significant way and learn something new.

I have always had one or two side projects in mind, and very few of them have come to fruition. The projects are usually overly ambitious and easily discarded. If you take a look at my projects page and github account, there are successes: foodmarks was built and meets my family’s needs and the dnd online character sheet actually has a few users. Even those, however, were comfortably in my skill set and largely singular efforts, and I hope to find opportunities to grow more through side projects.

My current, overly ambitious idea is to create a program that can analyze a StarCraft 2 game replay and come up with an English summary of the game. This sounds really hard, but I think there’s a lot to learn at every stage of the project. Thankfully, a project already exists to parse replays in Ruby, so that will be a good starting place in a new language for me.

2. Do something cool with my house.

Well, first, I need to finish furnishing and getting blinds up in my house, but after that, I want to do something cool. I’m not really artsy and don’t really know how to do interior design, but I’m sure there are lots of do-it-yourself projects that could make my cooking or living room life much better. I think painting a magnetic whiteboard wall would be a neat first step, but again, I’ll re-evaluate once I’m furnished later this month.

3. Finish reading Paul Graham’s essays and Cooking for Geeks, and watch another 2 classes.

I have been reading Paul Graham’s essays slowly over the past 5 years, and it’s been slow. They’re excellent, but I haven’t read them consistently. That should get done.

I have been reading Cooking for Geeks on and off for the past year. That should also get done.

Finally, I would like to watch another 2 classes. Usually while cooking or washing dishes, I have been listening to Robert Sapolsky’s Human Behavioral Biology class and just finished this past break while at baggage claim. Although I’m not committed enough to take one of the massively open online courses, I do enjoy listening to lectures, and I have one on Game Theory that I watch half of when I was preparing to teach the Magic class. I also have another 2 from Bert Dreyfus on the philosopher Heidegger.

I think 3 is enough. Happy new year, and good luck with your Hopes and Resolutions!

New Year’s Hopes: 2012 Edition

Another year, another set of hopes. In case you’re not familiar with this series, my Hopes are like Resolutions, except without the resolve part. I’m not too committed, and therefore basically unable to fail. If that doesn’t quite make sense, you can follow the chain back from last year’s post and look at other explanations I have given. Feel free to critique my explanation as it’s likely changed and become contradictory over time.

But first, let’s check in with last year’s Hopes:

1) Be more informed and open-minded.

I feel like I succeeded on this one. I still only read The New York Times as my only source of mainstream media news, but I have at least branched out to reading the conservative op-eds that they have. That’s getting a different perspective, right?

More seriously, though, I think another good switch that I made was using reddit instead of Google Reader as my primary stream of internet content. Although reddit has its limitation, Google Reader has more: I was only getting information from a fixed set of sources that I predetermined to be of interest to me, i.e. similar to my own mindset and views. reddit is a strange community, and it has the mob mentality and young, libertarian bent that you might expect from an internet community. Even so, I have been reading content from many sources I would have never found otherwise, and I can read reaction to content in the comments on reddit.

2) Stay in touch.

This was less successful. I think I have done as good a job staying touch with people as I ever have: I usually try to round up a couple big groups at this time of year, but otherwise, I haven’t really reached out too often. Cold-calling is a little awkward, especially in a growing world of asynchronous, digital communication, but I should probably work to overcome that a little more.


So what do I have on tap for this upcoming year? I honestly contemplated not putting any hopes out there since I’ve recently been going through a weird zen phase where I’m trying to avoid planning and setting goals too much. Even so, I do have a few things on my mind that I would like to do, and I would be deceiving myself to deny that they exist. Hopes are just hopes anyways, right?

1) Write a book, and get everything done to get to that point.

I’m currently planning on finishing my master’s a quarter sooner than I originally anticipated, and although school comes to an end, I want to keep up with the same sort of things. For one of the term papers I wrote this past quarter, I ended up with a dozen different topics surrounding an issue that I thought were interesting, each of which could turn out to be an interesting chapter. While thinking through that, I read several interesting books and sources that I would have loved to spend more time reading as leisure. I’ve thought quite a bit about doing this, but we’ll see what comes of it.

2) Play a few more video games.

Specifically, I currently have 4 different role-playing games in my Steam account that I haven’t played, and I would like to catch up on those. Through college, I played a tremendous amount of Super Smash Bros. and found a few other fun things to do with my friends, but computer games, a staple in my pre-college days, were left behind.

I think this was the correct thing to do, but over the past month or so, I’ve been playing The Witcher. Although the gameplay is a little weak and monotonous, the decisions and plot were very compelling. Specifically, the moral choices are very complex. I’ve played many RPGs, and most have a good/evil split, with the “correct” choice being quite obvious. In The Witcher, nothing is clear: do you help the Order of the Flaming Rose, who is sworn to killing monsters, protecting humans, and maintaining order, but also is racist and intolerant of non-humans? Or do you help the Scoia’tael, the freedom fighters who believe in equality but have resorted to crime, terrorism, and hostage-taking to achieve their goals? I could go on quite a bit about some of the rest of the content, but it suffices to say that this game, for the first time ever, legitimately had me thinking for a minute about what the right response was in some conversation or decision. Perhaps I’ll discuss this further in another post.

3) Cajun cooking.

For the past few summers, I’ve had a goal of something that I wanted to work on with my cooking. I think the next goal I have is Cajun cooking. That probably means that my mostly vegetarian cooking will need to come to an end as I start using seafood and sausages, but we’ll see how that works when I get there.


I think I have more that I want to do but don’t immediately have in mind. These types of Hopes come up regularly, so maybe I just need to follow the thoughts I have in the moment. Let’s count that as another Hope, too.

New Year’s Hopes: 2011 Edition

One week into the new year, and I have already written down the year as 2010 by accident several times. But this year is an exciting year, at least for me, as ’11 has been all around me for the past few years. If you’re a long time reader, you’re probably familiar with my list of Hopes. They’re like Resolutions, except that they don’t have the same association with failure. Even better, if I don’t succeed, there was never really any serious commitment to making it happen, so failure isn’t really possible.

Even so, let’s see how last year’s turned out:

1) Watch more than 50 movies.

At final count, I watched 28 (previously unseen) movies last year, so just over half what I had intended. Movie nights never really panned out, and the movie watching that did happen happened in spurts. I think that the list still shrunk, so I succeeded in part of the motivation.

2) Have less stuff than I did last year.

Although I haven’t measured the total volume of my possessions, I’m fairly certain that there’s less of it in total than before. Between the moves around the summer, I managed to dump much of my stuff, mostly donated or given away. I still have a lot more than I think I should, but I’m headed in the right direction. It was good to realize the many things I don’t actually need, but on the other hand, I realized that a minimalist life isn’t intrinsically a good thing, either. I come from a family of packrats, and it actually is often randomly helpful to have things, especially in a dorm where needs are varied and strange. Being responsible for “Tom’s Room” now, I see that things are fun. So this hope went pretty well.

Okay, so here’s what’s hoped for this year:

1) Be more informed and open-minded.

When I was voting here in California elections, I had no idea what was going on. On the propositions I had strong opinions about, my opinions were largely ungrounded in fact. On most propositions, I had no strong opinions and was very much convinced by most of both arguments while I was reading them. On public office, I voted a straight ticket. I have no idea what’s going on.

Moreover, the opinions I get are very one-sided. There’s research that shows that people prefer media that supports their own opinions and also judge others to be experts more often if they agree with their own views. I myself vigorously reinforce my beliefs by reading pretty much only The New York Times. A few interesting meal-time discussions around election time reminded me that people do have good reasons for beliefs other than my own. I feel like it would be good to understand that, too.

2) Stay in touch.

As graduation nears, I have had a startling question in my mind: after college, how do people make friends? If I’m not constantly surrounded by similar-aged people in a daily context, how do I meet people? People I have talked to have pointed out to consider my own parents for comparison. Most of my mom’s friends are the parents of my or my sisters’ friends. That my mom still helps the Band Boosters of my high school marching band make mums is a reminder of that. Since I have no plan to have kids to use as friend-finders in the near future, that doesn’t work. Most of my dad’s friends are his co-workers. Although I’m certain that I’ll meet lots of cool people that way, I also think I don’t want to be reminded about work outside of work as well. My sister Nicole also pointed out how anti-social my family is. I think that the odds are against me having a real social life.

If we run the numbers and project that I will make 0 friends in the future, it seems my only hope is the friends I have now, so I better not neglect them. I have lost touch with many of them, and cold-calling is momentarily awkward, but ultimately a good thing. So we’ll see what I can do about that.

If you do hopes as well (as I hope you do; make that #3: to spread the idea of New Year’s Hopes), good luck with that, and don’t stress about them. We’ll compare notes in another year.

New Year’s Hopes: 2010 Edition

Welcome to 2010; I hope 2009 didn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. For some of you, I’m hoping that reading my New Year’s Hopes has become a something of a tradition for you. And as usual, I will pretend that my readership is growing and explain why these are Hopes. They’re basically like New Year’s Resolutions, except called something different. Nowadays, resolutions have picked up a connotation for automatic failure, I think. And I myself am not really resolved to do any of it, though would be happy to see them accomplished.

Before I put down my newest resolutions, let me take a look at how I did on last year’s.

1) Beat Tom at Racquetball once

Success! Though I should probably qualify that. Yes, I did beat Tom at racquetball by getting to 15 points before he did. Other notable facts include:

  • Tom, to the best of my knowledge, hadn’t played racquetball for at least 5 months before
  • I had
  • I was playing with my own racquet
  • Tom was playing with a racquet that really requires a glove to use correctly
  • I had a glove
  • Tom didn’t

Still, I’m much better than when I started and certainly wouldn’t have been able to beat him a few months before. Count it.

2) Pick up my own project for fun

Also success. It wasn’t what I had originally intended, but teaching this Magic class was definitely something that no one else was making me do, and I learned a ton doing it. I naturally learned a lot about Magic, but I also got to find some really cool applications for a lot of topics, put together a syllabus and course and lecture materials, and even host a podcast. And on the side, it was just downright fun holding office hours and working with Tom on it. Huge win.

So that was a major hit this past year, though I had honestly forgotten about both of those Hopes. Keep it up this year with the following?

1) Watch more than 50 movies.

My draw groups talks a lot about movies, and will probably talk even more about movies now that we’re almost out of college football season. Although I’m familiar with a lot of movies and actors, I actually haven’t seen many of them. I am going to guess that there are about 100 movies on this list that I have called “To Do – Movies,” and those are just the ones that I’ve thought to put down. With new movies constantly coming out, the list will keep growing, but I should start catching up.

The easiest way to achieve this, I think, will be to set aside one evening after dinner each week to watch a movie. It’ll take some discipline to keep it up, but I’ll keep at it.

2) Have less stuff than I did last year.

Over the past couple months, I’ve realized that I have a lot of stuff. When it’s all squirreled away and at use, it doesn’t look like much, but when it’s all in your roommate’s brother’s pickup truck, it looks like a lot. And looking around the house and how bare some parts look, I can’t believe how much stuff was filling up that space. When I look around at things, though, it always seems so difficult to get rid of it, even when it’s been sitting in a box on top of my closet for several months completely unmissed.

I’m not sure what my tactic is here, but I think it involves a lot of using things up and passing on items to people who can put them to better use. Not only will it make moving in and out of dorms a lot easier, maybe I’ll learn a lesson about material possessions along the way.

Best of luck with your hopes, and I’ll check back in in another year.

New Year’s Hopes: 2009 Edition

Welcome everyone to 2009, which has come into this world with constant messages of optimism. There are a lot of people who could use some of that right now, and I will do my best to put some out there as well. This topic has turned into an annual event, but I’ll recap in case you haven’t read about this before. Many people come up with resolutions. Many people also fail in their resolutions. I think the term “resolution” has picked up some connotations because of that as people wouldn’t fail so much if they were actually resolved to change. Thus, I just hope that I do better than the year before and try to keep my hopes in mind.

So how did I do on last year’s hopes?
1) Read a book for fun every night.
By definition, a fail, but I think I got the spirit of it. Almost all of my friends lament the loss of pleasure reading because of school. I myself half-believe the excuses that there’s too much schoolwork and that reading for school is already enough. I know that’s completely not true. I, however, have gotten back into pleasure reading. Although I haven’t gotten around to “The Emotion Machine,” I did finish “Godel, Escher, Bach,” “The Emperor’s New Mind,” “Engines of Logic,” and a couple collections of Isaac Asimov’s science articles. Inspired by some movie-watching as well, I read “Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune.” Count in more fiction that I can’t enumerate at the moment. But yes, I feel good about this hope.

2) Do something musical everyday.
This was a fail. Complete fail. I got very sick at the very beginning of this past summer, and because of that, I figured I shouldn’t be blowing my grossness into a school tuba. I was considering picking it back up in the fall, but that never materialized. TubaChristmas a couple weeks ago was the first time I had played in about half a year. Thankfully, most skills were still intact, but I’m not really inspired to continue to play right now. I haven’t played any other instruments, and other than an outdoor bluegrass festival, my musical boundaries haven’t expanded much. Alas.

3) Get more sleep.
Hard to say?

I don’t get less sleep than I did before, for which I’m proud considering that I am doing more. I think a regular night for me this past quarter was from 12-1 to 8. We would all like more sleep, though I don’t know if I would change anything more about that, other than fewer early classes. So technically no, but I’m satisfied.

The results are actually a little depressing, but I’m going to be optimistic! Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1) Beat Tom at Racquetball once
I’ve mentioned this several times, but one of the big things I picked up this past quarter was racquetball. It’s surprisingly fun chasing around a bouncy ball in a room with a racquet, with the added benefit of being incredibly good exercise. I picked it up from my drawmate Tom, who has played for many years and is far better than me. It’d be nice to beat him

2) Pick up my own project for fun
When I think about what I’ve done the past couple years, it’s been a combination of exploration and external assignments. I’ve learned so much about so many different topics being at college far away from home, though nothing specifically in great depth. Almost everything I’ve pursued in depth has been initiated by someone or something else. In high school, my biggest commitments were tuba, computer science, and Academic Decathlon. Note that all of those have associated competitions and extra-curricular groups. In college, I’ve done some research (in someone else’s lab), taught some (in a section-leading program with years of refinement), and learned about what other people have done.

While I’ve certainly enjoyed everything I’ve done, I really haven’t ever put a lot of work into something “just for kicks.” It probably doesn’t even need to be really innovative; it’d just be cool to do something. One of my drawmates built a potato cannon that we’ll occasionally fire. While I certainly don’t seek to draw inspiration from him (for unrelated reasons), I should do something awesome.