The quote of the day from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

September Resolution Update

1. Reading

I completed three additional books in September bringing my total book count up to 40, which puts me on target for completing 52 books this year.

  • A Dance with Dragons (re-read) by George R.R. Martin
  • The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks
  • Living High and Letting Die by Peter Unger

Living High and Letting Die was a philosophical book about the morality of providing for the underprivileged, particularly in Third World countries. The book contains many interesting scenarios that forces you to critically consider what is important. For example, if you saw a child drowning, you would be morally obligated to save that child. However, there is no such moral drive to help save a child living on the other side of the world from malnutrition and starvation. One life has no more value than the other but we have huge differences in how we respond to these crises.

2. 365 Opportunities

I added 12 new ideas to my list for a total of 102 ideas. Although I fell short of my goal for the month, I do think I had some better quality ideas this month. For October, I plan to generate 15 new ideas.

3. Exercise More Consistently

I exercised consistently until the last week of this month, when the exercise routine fell apart partly due to stuff at work and partly due to laziness. I plan to re-start the exercise tomorrow – I definitely do not want to let my fitness to deteriorate to where I was earlier this year.

4. Classes

The Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics from the University of Washington is going well. I am approximately half way through the class and am learning some interesting concepts in financial analysis. I also signed up for my 5th class of the year which is called Giving 2.0, which is a class on philanthropy provided by Stanford. This class helps me fulfill my resolution of completing 5 courses this year in addition to working on being more selfless.

5. Build Something

Nothing outside of what I build at work. October is a new month.

TODO: Increase Selflessness

As I continue to assess my 2014 resolutions, I have a growing concern that they are too self-centered. Reading a certain number of books and completing a number of classes are resolutions related to life-long learning. Improving my fitness level to live an active lifestyle in my later years is the motivation behind the exercise resolution. Building things and brainstorming entrepreneurial opportunities are intended to improve my creativity. This last category may be selfless if geared toward helping others, but I have not approached the resolution in this manner.

More emphasis on selfless and altruistic goals is needed. Unfortunately, knowing where to start is difficult. The easiest and most obvious solution is to give money to charities yet I am reluctant to do this. Departing with the money is not the problem – it’s the fact that giving money is effortless. It seems that helping others should require some minimal amount of effort and consideration. For example, how do you effectively help others without being demeaning or potentially harmful, that is, causing the recipient to become more dependent on charity? How can you maximize the return on charitable giving of money or time? Are there metrics to track the effectiveness of a particular activity?

Remember that old proverb about giving versus teaching:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Both giving and teaching are altruistic but teaching has much more value for the recipient over time. A judicious and well-reasoned approach to charity can help ensure future activities have the greatest impact possible.

I’ve been dwelling on the uncertainty of how to proceed for several months. For September, I want to formulate a plan and start taking practical steps in the right direction, rather than continue wallowing in this uncertainty as I have in the past.

For my first step, as a geek, I intend to find some books that relate to these issues. Here are a few relevant books that look interesting and have been added to my to-read list:

  • Living High and Letting Die by Peter Unger
  • The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by Oren Harman
  • Born for Love by Bruce Perry
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  • Toxic Charity: How the Church Hurts Those They Help and How to Reverse It by Robert Lupton

The hope is this initial research will provide a roadmap of how to proceed. This WordPress site is intended to be both a repository of ideas and a means to hold myself accountable by tracking my progress. For whatever weird psychological reason, I am more likely to accomplish a goal if I write it down, particularly on this site, as has been illustrated with this year’s resolutions. I will be careful not to disclose too much of what I am doing, especially as I don’t want to broadcast my good deeds. Fortunately, I can’t remember the last time I had a visitor to my site, so that shouldn’t be much of a concern.

Resolutions – August Update

1. Reading

After surpassing my New Year’s Resolution of reading 30 books, I set the goal of reading 52 books, one for each week, by December 31. In August, I completed five books:

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Hammered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #3) by Kevin Hearne
  • Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
  • Finance and the Good Society by Robert Shiller

I enjoyed most of these books with the exception of The Sixth Extinction, which I classified as 3 out of 5 stars. My favorite for the month was the Bill Bryson book, which is an entertaining overview of what we currently know about life, earth, and the universe from science. My total number of books comes to 37, which puts me slightly ahead of schedule (this is the 36th week) to reach 52 by the end of the year.

2. 365 Opportunities

My New Year’s resolution of identifying 365 opportunities was intended to help change my perspective and improve any entrepreneurial tendencies that I may have, if any. Unfortunately, I have consistently underperformed in this particular resolution. Last month, I reduced the August goal to just 15 opportunities to make the goal more obtainable.

This reduced goal may have helped as I came up with 17 opportunities. Some ideas are interesting and have potential; others are ridiculous. I’m ok with this – I want to develop the skill of seeing opportunities around me, without worrying about generating the perfect idea. For September, I will attempt to identify 20 opportunities.

3. Exercise More Consistently

August was a good month for achieving my fitness goals. I exercised on all but one day in August when I was feeling sick. A screenshot of my monthly progress is shown below and the original graphics are available here. The original goal in August was to alternate between strength training with my new dumbbells and running 5km. As you can see, I did pretty well with alternating schedule with the exception of the first 3 days in August where I was avoiding running due to some slight pain in one of my knees. The pain was most likely due to the age and mileage on my running shoes. I have not had any issues since switching to the new shoes.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.17.04 AM

 

For running, I achieved a 7:20 pace for a 5km distance. My goal was to achieve a 7:15 pace but that was probably too ambitious. Maybe the 7:15 pace can be achieved in September. Since May 10th, I’ve run approximately 250 miles – I never thought I had the willpower to run this consistently. Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.28.03 AM

For September, I plan to run 2 days to every day of strength training. I enjoy running more than strength training and September may be the last month for comfortable running weather before cold weather arrives.

4. Classes

I started my fourth class for the year – Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics from the University of Washington. This subject is quite different from my typical classes (i.e. engineering, math, science) but I’ve always been intrigued by investments and would like to learn more. Who knows – maybe some of the concepts I learn in this class can be transcribed into my current work. This class continues into November. I will need to take one more class to achieve my goal of 5 classes this year.

5. Build Something

This resolution continues to suffer relative to the others. Most of my “building” has been web-based design such as the graphics summarizing my fitness progress (see menu items above) and reading progress (not posted yet).

One of the things that hold me back is that I often think most of my ideas are stupid and lose any motivation of moving them past the idea stage. For September, I should just make something regardless of it is stupid. One idea would be a bird house with an embedded camera that is triggered when a bird lands. See – stupid idea but I should do something other than just allow a whole year go by without completing anything.

Resolutions – July Update

1. Reading

New Year’s Resolution complete – I have surpassed my goal of reading 30 books this year! In fact, with the completion of the Steve Jobs biography, I read 32 books in the first 7 months of this year. I’m going to extend my resolution and attempt to complete 50 books this year.

The five books I read this month were:

  • Hounded – The Iron Druid Chronicles (Kevin Hearne)
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less ( GregMcKeown
  • Hexed – Book 2 in the Iron Druid Chronicles (Kevin Hearne)
  • Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
  • Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson)

My favorite book this month was the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. Although the book was published shortly after Jobs’ death, I held off on reading it simply because I had heard the stories about how cruel he could be. I didn’t want to waste days of my life reading about such a person. Well, a co-worker urged me to give the book a shot and I’m glad I did. Although the book details Jobs’ cruel and weird personality, I was impressed with his drive for making beautiful products and I found myself admiring his attention to detail and his perfectionism for Apple products. Although he was never charitable to the extent his rival Bill Gates has been, I did appreciate his modest and minimalist (relatively speaking) lifestyle. The takeaway for me is that Jobs had many awful attributes but there were other attributes that were admirable. I hope I can show the same devotion for the products I make in my current and future endeavors.

Flow was a close second.

Essentialism was my least favorite book. My critique is not specific to Essentialism but to perhaps the whole genre of business/ self help books. So many of these books have a very simple message that could be summarized in a few pages (like a magazine article) but the authors drag on for way too long.

2. 365 Opportunities

No progress on this resolution. I have been generating new ideas but haven’t really been keeping track of them. I’m going to make a specific goal for August – I want to add 15 ideas to my list.

3. Exercise More Consistently

I continued to improve my fitness in July. My progress is illustrated in the figure below. Blue represents days I ran, typically 5km. Light blue is a bicycling day. Red indicates days that a did some strength training. Dark blue are hiking days and light gray were rest days.

July Workout Progress

I improved my 5km running times. At the start of July, my fastest 5k time was 7:53 (average pace) and I struggled to run faster than 8 minute miles for most of the June runs. In late July, I ran a 7:30 (average pace) 5km and can pretty consistently run faster than 8 minute miles. I’m pretty happy with my progress and will try to improve my times in August.

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 8.02.08 PMUnfortunately, I have experienced some mild soreness in my left calf and knee in the past couple of runs so I am taking a few days off from running in the hope these pains will go away. In fact, I plan on doing more strength training and bicycling this month as I fear I may start having joint issues if I continue to run nearly every day. In July, I had six days of strength training. In August, I would like to increase the number of strength days from somewhere between 10 and 15 days. I even bought a dumbbell set and bench so I can do these exercises at home.

I need to find a way to motivate myself when it comes to strength training. I am proud when I complete a run. I feel nothing during or after strength training, only a deep chasm of emptiness. Ok, it’s not that bad but, unlike running, I don’t feel any sense of pride and I am not motivated by changes in appearance, which seems to be the most common reason people lift. Finding that motivation will be another goal for August.

4. Classes

No classes in July. Many of the online classes are timed with the college semesters so I am expecting that I will start taking more classes in September when colleges start their Fall semester.

5. Build Something

Absolutely nothing. I am a pitiful excuse for a human being.

Resolutions – June Update

1. Reading

I added four more books to my list in June. First up was Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan. I saw him in a Q&A session on youtube with Brian Sanderson and became interested in his books. Promise of Blood was really good – it started slow for me but picked up toward the end. In my many road trips to northern Virginia, I listed to A Storm of Swords (Game of Thrones) audio book. I read the book several years ago but it was still good listening the second time. I’m a big fan of Michael Sullivan’s Riyria series so when I learned he had a new book out (Hollow World) I jumped for it. The book was good but he set the bar so high with Riyria that I don’t know it is possible to surpass. Finally, I read Storm Front (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher, who’s a really popular author. The story was entertaining and I’ll probably continue reading more books in his series.

Altogether, I have completed 27 books for the first half of the year. With a annual goal of 30, I owned this resolution.

  • Promise of Blood (Brian McClellan)
  • A Storm of Swords (Re-read) (George R. R. Martin)
  • Hollow World (Michael Sullivan)
  • Storm Front (Jim Butcher)

2. 365 Opportunities

I think I added a few ideas to the list (maybe 3) but still a very disappointing number.

3. Exercise More Consistently

I have continued my routine of exercising every morning at 6:30am. Most of the time I’m running on various routes around Williamsburg. I typically run 5km (3.1 miles) although I’ll occasionally through a 10km (6.2mi) run. The average pace for my runs in May and June have been added to my interactive running plot.

The combination of exercise and better diet have had a positive effect on my weight. From my high of 183 in May, I’ve dropped down to 168 at the end of June for a total of 15 lbs loss. Running is growing on me. I was and still continue to be miserable while running but I feel good and proud after completing a run each day.  I’ve uploaded a chart of my weight over the past two months in my weight plot.

A screenshot of my workout calendar is shown below. Blue areas are runs, red is bicycling, and gray are light days.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 2.52.28 PM

4. Online Classes

No classes in the month of June.

5. Build Something

Ok, so I actually made some progress with this goal although it is nothing too exciting. Basically, I learned a lot about d3.js and javascript. D3 is a cool software library to make cool visualizations for websites. This is how I generated the plots of my weight and running progress (see Fitness menu above). This was a lot of fun and I’m still fiddling around with some other ideas.

Resolutions – May Update

1. Reading

In May, I completed four books including one textbook. The reading pace has slowed from earlier than this year. With work and fitness workouts demanding a lot of my time, the reading was the area that took a bit of a hit this month. Regardless, I’ve completed a total of 23 books so far this year. Only 7 more books to achieve my New Year’s resolution. Here’s the list of books I completed this month.

  • Rise of Empire (Michael Sullivan)
  • Heir of Novron (Michael Sullivan)
  • Doing Bayesian Data Analysis (John Kruschke)
  • The Low Carb Fraud (T. Colin Campbell)

2. 365 Opportunities

Again, absolutely no progress on this goal. Need to put more effort into this one in June.

3. Exercise More Consistently

Finally, I started to legitimately exercise in May. On May 10th, I decided to start running a 5k every morning. Rather than just exercising when I felt the urge, my strategy was to get in a routine. The plan was to wake up early and run every morning before work. Even on my rest days, I still had to get up at the same time and walk the dog. To achieve this goal, it also meant getting to bed early in the evenings.

Well, it worked… at least for the month of May. I ran approximately 57 miles and improved my times from 10:14 minutes per mile to 8:43 minutes per mile. A screenshot of my run calendar is shown below. Blue areas are runs, red is bicycling, and gray are walks (rest days). I did miss one day on the 15th for business travel.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 4.22.02 PM

4. Online Classes

No classes in the month of May.

5. Build Something

Again, I didn’t make much progress with this resolution as well.

It seems that I can make good progress on one resolution but have difficulty working on all five simultaneously.

Resolutions – April (and early May) Update

1. Reading

The reading progress came to a stand still in April primarily because I chose to read through a text book on Bayesian data analysis. And when I say “read” I mean actually reading the book like a textbook, trying to figure out what each paragraph means, doing the exercises at the end of each chapter.

The good news is I have made excellent progress with the textbook. I am on Chapter 21 of 23 and have over 90 pages of handwritten notes. Bayesian data analysis is really neat and I’m getting a good understanding of Bayesian techniques although I feel like I will need to implement it in work for the concepts to really lock in.

Although this text book has consumed most of my free reading time, I did manage to finish two fantasy novels by Michael Sullivan in the past couple of weeks:

  • Rise of Empire (Michael J. Sullivan)
  • Heir of Novron (Michael J. Sullivan)

This puts the YTD total to 21 and I’ll probably be able to add the Bayesian statistics textbook to the list within the week. Considering the year is not even half-way over, I’m in excellent shape to reach my 30 book goal.

2. 365 Opportunities

I did very little on this front. I don’t really have an excuse.

3. Exercise More Consistently

I’ve recently been putting more effort into exercising, particularly on the weekends. This usually amounts to running 5km, road biking, or mountain biking. I think that summer is officially here I will be able to keep this resolution a little easier than earlier in the year.

The following chart should be motivation to get my butt moving in the upcoming months. Over the past 2 years, I’ve gained over 15 pounds. I hate aging!

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 7.36.29 PM4. Online Classes

I finished the Embedded Systems class! I learned a ton of what embedded engineers do and am capable of making basic embedded widgets. If anything, I think understanding the embedded world will be beneficial for communicating and working with embedded engineers in the future.

5. Build Something

No progress on this one either. So much time has been devoted to the statistics book and work that I feel like I don’t have much time to be building stuff, but hopefully that will change in the upcoming months.

Resolutions – March Update

1. Reading

Still making good progress on the reading resolution for 30 books. I finished some massive books this month : 1080 pages for Words of Radiance, 1007 for The Way of Kings, and 585 pages of Android Programming (where I actually programmed all the examples). The android programming book was really good although I don’t think I’ll use much of what I learned. I was originally thinking of making my own hiking/gps app since I’ve never really been happy with the ones I’ve used but my interest in doing that is waning. Anyway, that brings up the year-to-date total to 19 which puts me well ahead of where I need to be (7-8 books) to reach 30 by the end of the year.

  • The Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson)
  • The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention  (William Rosen)
  • Words of Radiance (Brandon Sanderson)
  • Android Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide (Brian Hardy and Bill Phillips)

What’s next? Well I bought a textbook on Bayesian statistics today so that may be my next big project. We’ll see how the first chapters go – working through a statistics textbook for fun seems daunting for even me (who is really nerdy).

2. 365 Ideas or Opportunities

Good news on this resolution. I picked up the pace this month and added 23 more ideas in March. I now have 62 ideas. I’m still far from the 90 ideas I should be at but hopefully I can crawl my way back so that I will have 365 ideas at the end of the year.

3. Exercise More Consistently

I fell behind in this resolution. I hardly exercised at all in March. The cold and rainy weather is one possible excuse although in reality I am just lazy. Temperatures are rising and the weather is improving so I don’t have an excuse in April. I’ll start tomorrow (that’s what I said a month ago).

4. Online Classes

I am still progressing in my Embedded Systems class. I have complete all the labs and quizzes that have been posted and have a 100% so far. I have two more weeks to complete the class. Overall, I’m really happy with what I’m learning and the workload. It usually takes me 4-6 hours on Sunday to get through the lectures and finish the lab.

5. Build Something

I did build quite a few things but they were all related to either the class or the android book. For the class, I built a few things including:

  • UART communication
  • digital piano (system interrupts)
  • traffic light system (finite state machines)

For the android book, I built

  • Flickr photo application
  • Run Tracker
  • Office Crime  application

Resolutions – February Update

Here’s the February update on my 2014 resolutions:

1. Reading

Still making excellent progress on my goal of reading 30 books. In February, I completed 6 new books, which are listed below. More information is available in my book list. Of these 6 books, my favorite two were the Michael Sullivan books (Fantasy Fiction). So I’m already 50% of the way to my goal of 30 books this year… at least this resolution is going well.

  • The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (Burkeman, Oliver)
  • The Forever War (Haldeman, Joe)
  • The Rose and the Thorn (Sullivan, Michael J.)
  • The Crown Tower (Sullivan, Michael J.)
  • Emperor of Thornes (Lawrence, Mark)
  • Embedded Linux Primer – A Practical Real-World Approach (Hallinan, Christopher)

2. 365 Opportunities

This is really tough. I currently have a list of 39 ideas / opportunities. In theory I should have a total of 59. No real amazing ideas although I am thinking I will start working on one of the ideas from February as I move into March. It has to deal with an Android app that I would like to use.

3. Exercise More Consistently

Well, I have mixed results for February. I did get out and start hiking a lot more. The hikes have kicked my butt so I’m hoping they are getting me in better shape. However, I did end up gaining 1.4 lbs over the month. I think exercising once a week and eating whatever I like isn’t working out in terms of weight loss. Hopefully, March will warm up a little so that I can get outside and do some running and bicycling.

4. Online Classes

Well, I dropped all but one class from January. It was taking up way too much time trying to do four classes. I think in the future I will plan to only take one class at a time.

  • UT.6.01x Embedded Systems – Shape the World (edx.org)

5. Building Something

Absolutely nothing. As I mentioned earlier, I do have an idea for an Android app that I hope to work on in March.