2016 Resolutions

Fitness and Nutrition

  • Run 400 Miles
    I want to continue my running progress and step it up just a little to 400 miles in the year. I could feasibly raise the goal even higher but I would like to supplement nearly the same amount of running I did in 2015 with other physical activities, which leads to the next resolution…
  • Complete 150 Hours of Physical Activities
    Although I think running is a great goal, I want my 2016 fitness efforts to be more well-rounded than 2015. To achieve this end, I would like to complete 150 hours of any physical activity, including running. This would be approximately 3 hours a week. To put these number in perspective, the 365 miles I ran this year required approximately 1 hour each week. The goal of 150 hours of physical activity would triple what I did this year. I hope to get these hours in strength training, bicycling, and hiking.
  • No Sweetened Beverages
    The goal is pretty simple – no naturally or artificially sweetened beverages for the entire year. No sodas, diet sodas, juices, sweet tea, etc. Since I am currently not a fan of either coffee or tea, that means I will be drinking water…. lots and lots of water. I have already started this goal (November 26, 2015) and have a little over a month under my belt so I just need to stick to it and repeat the feat 12 more times.

Lifelong Learning

  • Complete Five Courses or Textbooks
    I want to stick with the goal of completing five courses or textbooks. This is part of an effort to push myself intellectually and actively pursue life long learning. Rather than focusing on optics, these five courses or textbooks are generally intended to broaden my general skillset and knowledge base. Improving in my specialty (optics) is more reserved for the 52 technical article resolution listed below.
  • Read Fifty-Two Books
    Both in 2014 and 2015, I completed 52 books each year. I want to continue this trend and aim to complete 52 books in 2016. Like previous years, there are no specific rules on topics or length of the book – any book that interests me counts towards the total.
  • Read Fifty-Two Technical Articles
    I completed this goal in 2015 but only in a very niche area related to work but outside of optical sciences. I would like to read 52 articles this year but focus on reading a wide variety over the year. The goal would also include writing a brief summary of each article in my technical journal – it seems putting words on paper helps clarify concepts in my head.

Finances

  • Higher Savings Rate
    Due to new hobbies (e.g. scuba diving), trips (Hawaii), and multiple moves, my savings rate plummeted in mid-late 2015. I want to make sure this year I stick to something resembling a budget and maintain a high savings rate throughout the year.

Grading my 2015 Resolutions

Although I missed the mark on many of the original resolutions, I’m proud to have accomplished some of my (what I consider) lofty goals I set for myself for 2015. I think I am most happy with sticking to the running resolution – enough to log 365 miles for the year. I am particularly proud as historically I have never enjoyed or been able to maintain an exercise regimen. I’m also proud to complete my five courses and over 52 books for the year. Of course, there are some outright failures such as those involving innovation. Without further ado, let’s see how I did on my resolutions:

  • Simplify B
    Due to two moves, I simplified quite a bit. I got rid of a lot of junk and sold off some items that I never use like my bass clarinet and mountain bike. I think I have been keeping the apartment relatively clean but I still need to keep pushing myself in this area.
  • Experiences B
    Looking back, I didn’t really keep track of the specific adventures I had over the past year. I am proud about two specific adventures though. First, I am glad I pushed myself to pick up scuba diving. This opened up a whole new world for me. Second, I had a great trip to Hawaii this summer. Great hikes, dives, and drives – I think Hawaii might be my favorite vacation I’ve ever taken.
  • Innovation F
    My New Year’s resolution to be more creative and innovative was focused on keeping an innovation notebook. I failed this resolution in the most horrific way possible. I did absolutely nothing. I’m not really frustrated because I am proud of my output at my job. Anyway, there’s no other way around it – this resolution gets an F.
  • Learning A
    • 5 online courses A
      I completed five classes online this year in various areas such as heterogeneous computing, project management, and astronomy. Since my original goal was to complete 5 courses, this resolution was accomplished!
    • Review 52 scientific articles B
      I originally intended this resolution to be a weekly review of a technical article; instead I ended up reviewing a bunch of papers early in 2015 for a paper I had to write. These were also mostly medical related papers. In retrospect, I should have attempted to review articles from a wider variety of topics. For these reasons, I give myself a B for this resolution
    • Read 30 books A
      I nailed this resolution. I ended up reading 55 books this year. Some of my favorites in no particular order were (1) River of Doubt by Candice Millard, (2) Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb, (3) The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazzucato, and (4) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I also enjoyed quite a few of the Isaac Asimov books too.
  • Wellness C+
    • Run over 300 miles A
      I surprised myself on this resolution. I ended up running 365 miles this year. One mile for each day in the year. Most of my mileage came in the summer although I have been somewhat consistent with running in the fall and winter.
      Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 12.27.47 PMOh there was a mid-year resolution to do 10 push ups per day. Yeah… totally failed that one.
    • Nutrition D
      I pretty much failed this resolution in every conceivable way. I ate a ton of fast food this year and really did not focus at all on the quality of the food I was eating. The only reason I bumped my grade up from an F was the recent switch to dropping all sweetened drinks for the past month. Since November 26, I have been drinking only water – so that was enough to bump me from and F to a D.
  • Selflessness C
    I made some progress in this area but not nearly enough. I need to figure out how to be more effective for 2016.

Resolution Updates – August

August was a busy month. Let’s see how I did on the resolutions:

Exercise

I ran 31.25 miles in August. The 50% drop in miles relative to July was mostly related to my big vacation to the big island of Hawaii. I was active in Hawaii but it was usually in the form of hiking and scuba diving. Regardless of the poor output in August, I’m still comfortably ahead of where I need to be. As of today, I have logged 275 miles, which is approximately a month ahead of schedule.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 8.26.34 PMI also made progress on my modest pushup goal although I feel like I still need to push myself if I’m going to reach my goal by the end of the year.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 9.05.59 PM

Reading

With the long flights to Portland and Hawaii, I was able to knock out quite a few books this month. At the end of August, I had completed 36 books for the year, which is still on track to reach 52 by the end of the year.

  • Aurora (Kim Stanley Robinson)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)
  • Trapped (Kevin Hearne)
  • Fool’s Quest (Robin Hobb)

Trapped and Fool’s Quest were both five of five stars although I give the slight edge to Fool’s Quest. It is probably the best book I have read this year although I am slightly biased because I love Robin Hobb’s series of books so it probably wouldn’t be that great for people who have not read the series.

Classes

I also completed one class in August related to budgeting and scheduling for projects. This was pretty good and I felt I learned quite a bit that I could apply to current and future work. I now have completed 6 classes in 2015 – surpassing my New Year’s resolution of 5 classes.

Exploration

I added to my list of exploration for the year. The trip to Hawaii really blew up the list with numerous dives and hikes.

5. Dive 8 at The Tower (August 2)
6. Dive 9 at The Tower (August 2)
7. Busch Gardens (August 7)
8. Hike at Cascade Head Preserve Trail (August 15)
9. Hike to Pololu Valley Hawaii (August 16)
10. Hike to Waimanu Beach (August 17)
11. Visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (August 17)
12. Dive 10 at Garden Eel Cove (August 18)
13. Dive 11 at Manta Ray Night Dive (August 18)
14. Dive 12 at Suck Em Up (August 19)
15. Dive 13 at Naia Cove (August 19)
16. Hike to Green Beach (August 19)

Oregon-Hawaii Trip Day 7

The last day of my vacation was spent in the Portland, OR area. I drove over to the western coast and grabbed a burger at Highway 101 Burger in Lincoln City. I then drove 30 minutes north to hike Hart’s Cove. A fellow hiker had mentioned Hart’s Cove to me when I did the Preserve Head Preserve trail on the first day of the vacation. This was a pretty easy 5 mile hike although the trail was pretty steep for the first half mile.

The end of the trail overlooks Hart’s Cove. Here’s the best picture I took from this area.

HartsCove  I also snapped some photos of the various flowers and insects around the meadow near this overlook. These shots turned out pretty well. Harts Cove Moth Thing

Lift Off

I arrived back to Portland that evening and simply relaxed for the last few hours of my vacation. Overall, the trip was definitely one of my favorites. The scuba diving definitely made up for the lack of hiking (due to a closed trail and an overgrown trail). Hawaii was beautiful and the access to such amazing wildlife is unequaled in all my other trips.

Oregon-Hawaii Trip Day 6

This will be the shortest summary as I spent most of the day on a plane. My flight was at 1pm so I did not have much time to get into anything too serious for my last day. I ended up driving up and down the coast of Kona just to check out some of the remaining beaches I had not visited yet.

For most of the flight, I continued to read The Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb. Even though I haven’t finished, it is a great read and helped pass the 6 hours crammed into coach. I arrived in Portland after 9pm

Oregon-Hawaii Trip Day 5

I arrived back at the marina around 8am to do another two dives. After listening to most of the same instructions from last night, our dive boat departed the bay. On the way out, we saw another boat returning with a huge fish onboard. Although I could only see the tail, one of the dive guides said it was a huge marlin – so huge that the boat had to drag the tail off the back of the boat as it would not fit on the deck. After exiting the bay, we came across a pod of spinner dolphins. I captured some video of the dolphins as they swam next to the boat, which is included toward the bottom of this post. There were a few baby dolphins that were maybe 3-4 feet in length that would jump and spin out of the water. They seemed to be enjoying life. The captain also spotted a large tiger shark in the area but I never saw it.

We continued to our dive named Suck Em Up, which was named for a lava tube that can suck the diver upwards toward the surface if the current was sweeping into the shore. When the dive guide first told me we were going though a lava tube, I worried that I wouldn’t handle it well as the thought of not having the surface above me seems weird but I was very comfortable in the lava tube. Here’s a video of my group going through the lava tube.

The dive profile and temperature are shown in the following plot. Notice how warm the water was at even the deepest sections (74 feet at my deepest spot). I also was in the water for 57 minutes which was also a record for me (although I broke that again in the next dive).

dive12After arriving back on the boat, we were treated to animal crackers, pretzels, watermelon, and water by the dive company (Kona Honu Divers). During our surface interval, the captain took the boat to the next dive site named Naia Cove. As we were suiting up, the captain spotted a large tiger shark under the water but again I never saw it. It definitely made me a little nervous but I jumped in the water anyway. Our dive guide took us to a lava tube. Just prior to entering the lava tube, he gave the sign for shark. I promptly gave the sign for I shat my wetsuit (just kidding, there is no such sign). As we entered the lava tube, I got a few glancing shots of the white tipped reef shark. You can see these shots in the video below starting at around 1:30.

For the remainder of the dive, we swam around the corals and I tried to get some video of the different fish and eel that were around. I think my favorite fish were the Moorish Idol and the Ornate Butterflyfish. Here’s the depth and temperature profiles for the dive.

dive13

At the conclusion of the dive around 1pm, we returned to the marina and I started driving around the island looking for photo opportunities. As I was navigating around the island, I saw a marker for a green beach on the Google Maps app. When I arrived at the parking lot, a local told me that I needed a four wheel drive to drive the remaining 3 miles or he would drive me down there for $15. I decided to pay the money as I was wearing flip-flops and a 6 mile hike may be pretty tough in flip-flops. After waiting for about 15 minutes (he wouldn’t drive just one person down as it wasn’t worth it), I decided to go ahead an walk as I feared I may be the last person to show up for the day and I didn’t want to miss the beach if this were true. So I ended up hiking the 3 miles to the beach in flip flops. This is how the hike looked.

Green Beach 04

When I finally got to the beach, I had pretty much the whole place to myself. The following is a panorama of the beach and surrounding ocean. You can see how the sand does have some shade of green due to the minerals, although it isn’t an obvious green. Green Beach 03 

I got back to the car just after sunset and drove a half hour to the southern most point in the United States – South Point Park. Unfortunately, it was too dark to take any good photos but it was nice to check this off the list. Now I have to get to the northern most point in the US. 

Oregon-Hawaii Trip Day 4

To start the fourth day of the trip, my initial plan called for hiking the 1.9 miles down to Kealakekua Bay and do some snorkeling. I expected the hike to be pretty tough so I brought a lot of water and snacks for the journey. I started the hike but quickly found the trail to be overgrown with tall (taller than me) grass. I tried to bushwack my way along the trail for a quarter of a mile but after being scratched and itching from the grass, I headed back to the car and decided to try my luck at some of the beaches surrounding Kona.

I first stopped at Kiholo Bay. I had the rocky shoreline almost completely to myself. I did see a sea turtle feeding in the shallow bay and waded out to get some shots. Although I tried to keep some distance, the turtle had no fear and drifted closer to me, which was find because the turbulent water was rather murky so the pictures turned out better. The turtle is included in the video posted at the end of this post.

Next I drove a little south and visited the Kekaha Kai State Park, which had a nice white sand beach on the edge of Kua Bay. I initially did some snorkeling near the beach but there was nothing to see but the white sand. I stopped that after a while and just tried to body surf the waves. The waves were pretty large and I was getting completely obliterated each time I tried to bodysurf – getting tossed into the sand and sucking saltwater up my nose. I kept trying to perfect my technique for almost 2 hours but I never got the hold of it. I think I still have a pile of sand in my sinus cavities from that morning. To add insult to injury, I also got a horrible sunburn on my back.

Early in the afternoon, I drove back to Kona and had a burger back at the hotel. I spent some time working on the photos and videos I had collected. Around 3:30pm, I organized all my scuba equipment and then headed to the marina to catch my dive boat for the evening. We left the dock around 4:30pm. Shortly after exiting the bay, some spinner dolphins swam in front of the boat as we headed to the dive site. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good footage of the dolphins but luckily they were around for the boat trip on the following day.

We completed our first dive called the Garden Eel Cove early in the evening. The dive is named for an area of eels that populate the bottom. From a distance, the eels look like seaweed but as you approach they slither back into their holes, as if the seaweed draws back into the sand. We saw some of the manta rays here as well as many tropical fish species. Here’s the dive profile and water temperature from the dive.

dive10

We then returned to the boat where the dive company (Kona Honu Divers) provided sandwich wraps, animal cookies, pretzels, and water. I snapped a picture of the sunset from the boat during this surface interval. We also saw a pregnant monk seal around this time. This was exciting because there are so few monk seals remaining with estimates suggesting only 1100 remain in the wild. They are classified as critically endangered.

Sunset Before Manta Ray Dive_1

During our approximate 1 hour surface interval, the dive guide also talked to us about the manta rays. The idea of attracting the manta rays by light bays happened accidentally when a hotel in Kona lit a bay for guests and found it attracted a large number of manta rays. The local dive companies figured this out and started offering night dives in the area. Unfortunately, this hotel shut down and the new one removed the lighting so most dives now occurred in the bay we were in this evening.

The night dive was performed at the same location as the Garden Eel Cove although the name was changed to the Manta Night Dive. A large number of other dive companies also showed up in the bay for the dive. I believe the guide said there would be over 150 snorkelers and divers in that bay this evening. A glow stick was attached to each of our tanks so the dive guides could keep track of us. Then we essentially dove to the bottom and stayed there. We directed our flashlights upwards above our head to attract the plankton and the manta rays. Initially it was pretty difficult as the current on the bottom was pushing me and nearby divers around but I eventually wedged myself next to a large rock on the bottom to help out. Approximately six manta rays showed up during the evening. It was a blast watching them swoop in the light and then exit just a foot or two above my head. One manta ray almost hit my hand – I had to lower the flashlight at the last second to be sure I didn’t touch the ray. We were told that touching the ray can remove a slimy film that protects the ray from infection so I didn’t want to cause any harm. Here’s one pass of a manta ray.

Each manta ray has a unique black and white pattern on their belly which is used to identify them. I think the dive guide said there are over 120 manta rays that have been identified in the area. There is a website you can visit to try to identify photos of manta rays you saw. If you happen to find a new manta ray, you get to name it. I didn’t bother trying to figure out which manta I was seeing. Here’s the dive profile and temperature from the dive. You can see how I just dropped to the bottom and stayed there for about 45 minutes before rising back to the surface.

dive11

At the conclusion of the dive, our guide gave us a signal to return to the boat. We removed the equipment and got dressed for the ride back to the marina. I really like Kona Honu divers and they offered to take my equipment with them back to the shop for the night and have it back on the boat the next morning which freed me from having to lug and deal with my equipment that evening. We arrived back at around 9:30pm and I was in bed around 11pm in preparation for the 8am boat trip the following morning.

I pulled video clips from the dive on the 4th and 5th days and put them into one video.

Oregon-Hawaii Trip Day 3

On Monday, I had planned to spend most of the day hiking a long and steep trail at Waimanu Valley. The trail was 16 miles long and had over 7200 feet of elevation gain so it was going to be draining and take most of the day. I took off before sunset to arrive early at the trailhead on the other side of the island. When I arrived there, a sign announced the trail was closed. No explanation was given. I decided to hike the first portion to the beach as I could see surfers down there. The narrow road to the beach had a 25% average grade, which is crazy steep and I didn’t try to do it in my rental car. It was another 0.5 miles at the bottom of the hill to the beach.

After hiking along the beach, I figured out why the trail was closed. Due to the large amounts of rain the island had been receiving over the past week, a large river was pouring into the ocean and was pretty much impossible to get past. Even if I could get across it, there was likely to be more rain in the afternoon meaning I could be stranded on the wrong side of the river if my timing was poor. I decided to change my plans and headed back to the car to explore other areas of the island. On the way back, I crossed the path of some wild horses. I read that there ancestors were tame horses that survived a tsunami that wiped out the nearby valley in the 40s. I was able to get pretty close to them and snap a picture.

Wild Horses 01

After the grueling hike back to the care (really steep), I drove along the east side of the island toward the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Along the way, I saw a sign indicated a scenic drive so I turned down that road. I stopped at one of the pulloffs on this road, hiked a few minutes to the shore, and snapped this photo.
East Coast 01

I eventually made my way to Hilo before heading up to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Before it started to rain, I was able to take a few pictures of an active volcano. Unfortunately, you can only see the crater and smoke. It smelled faintly of sulfur, although not to the same degree as Yellowstone. You could occasionally hear rocks crashing together from within the crater, indicating something dramatic was happening in there.
Volcano 04

After walking around the park, sometimes in the rain, I returned to the car and drove to the southeastern shore via the Chain of Craters road. As I approached the coast, the rain stopped and the sunshine appeared. The views from the end of the road were awesome. I think I got my best shot from the trip from this area.
Volcano 03

After exploring the area a little more, I headed back to the hotel for the night.

Oregon-Hawaii Trip Day 2

After departing Portland, OR at 7am, I arrived in Kona, Hawaii at 1pm local time. After getting my rental car and dropping some stuff off at the hotel room, I drove a couple of hours to the Pololu Overlook near the northern tip of the island. I drove through some strong rain showers along the way but the weather was only overcast at the overlook. Once arriving at the parking lot, I hiked the trail down to the black sand and rocky beach. Here’s a view from the trail to the beach.

Pololu Valley 03

This wasn’t really a swimming beach although there were a few surfers leaving when I arrived. The waves were breaking hard and there were signs warning of dangerous rip currents. Plus the beach was often rocky – not the best for laying out.
Pololu Valley 02

I explored around the beach and then walked along a stream running down from the mountains. Here’s a photo looking from the stream back into the mountains. There are some cows grazing in the back of the meadow. I stayed around the area until about dusk and then drove back to the hotel and called it a day.
Pololu Valley 01