Goals for 2017

Hey look, I have a blog! Bit dusty around here… ;-)

2016 was a pretty crazy year for the world at large, but it also turned out to be incredibly busy for me personally. A large part of that was driven by one particular huge ongoing project at work, but I also had a lot going on in other parts of my work and in life in general.

Evaluating the 2016 goals I posted here a year ago, the results are sort of mixed:

  • Improve my skills with Python and Go: I did this, but in a more haphazard way than I would have liked. Mostly I got more comfortable with each language in fits and starts, driven by work and personal projects; but I never quite found time for the focused study I meant to do.

  • Get a better understanding of theory: Similar to the above, progress on this was mixed and spotty. I never really found time to sit down and work through the textbooks I meant to read, but I did read a lot more research papers than in previous years, and learned a lot more about current work in a few areas.

  • Refresh my math: Hard fail on this one. :(

  • Read more fiction by diverse authors: This is something I think I did a pretty good job on, though my overall fiction reading went down more than I like. I used to average 1.5 - 2 new novels a week; 2016 was highly variable, but the overall rate was closer to 2 - 3 new novels per month. But the authors were more diverse!

    Notice the caveat “new novels” in those rates; in 2016, I spent way more time re-reading favorites than reading new work – the equivalent of just eating “comfort food” most of the time. Considering I spent most of the year feeling stressed about work or other things, I’m not too surprised by this, but I also don’t like the feeling of getting to the end of a year without reading much new work.

  • Make time for fun: Mixed results. On the one hand, I went to my first two curling bonspiels ever, one in Denver and one in Tempe! And I spent a lot of time supporting my wife, Leigh, with her roller derby team – and they improved their WFTDA ranking from 181 to 136 over the course of the year. On the other hand, work took over a ton of my life last year, I had a decent amount of “life” stress from sources including cats with health issues, and generally felt crappy for large chunks of the year. Points against “fun”.

Looking back at these goals, one thing I’ve noticed is that they’re all fairly vague and not always easy to measure. If I’m going to set new goals for myself, I’d like to be able to have some kind of quantitative measure of how I’m doing. (This may be loosely related to an obsession with metrics I’m developing at work…)

With that in mind, here are some quantitative goals I have for 2017:

  • Read at least four new books each month

    Resist the urge to re-read! The new works I’m reading should continue my goal to read diversely (i.e., “don’t read two books by straight white cis men back to back”), and with an additional goal of pursuing an overall mix of three fiction works and one non-fiction work each month.

  • Compete in at least three curling bonspiels

    I really enjoyed the two bonspiels I went to in 2016, and they also helped motivate me to improve my curling in Santa Fe. I’d like to keep doing this, and trying for three bonspiels this year should continue to make me try to up my game.

    Sub-goal, which is more slightly more difficult: win at least four individual games over the course of those bonspiels. (More difficult, as the Santa Fe curling league has limited ice time and I don’t get to practice much…)

  • Submit papers to at least two conferences

    Since I started at LANL in mid-2014, I’ve been an author on four papers – which I think is fairly amusing, as it means I’ve published more papers in this non-academic role than I did the whole time I was in grad school.

    Still, I’m really enjoying the opportunity to write up our work, and I think we’re doing some exciting stuff. So I’d like to try to submit at least two papers to conferences this year to continue the trend – though I obviously can’t make any guarantees about their being accepted…

  • Spend an average of two hours per week on fundamental CS knowledge

    As I noted in last year’s post, I was trained in physics, not in computer science; so while I have a good “practitioner’s knowledge” of a lot of CS concepts, my background theory is spotty. I’d like to commit to spending at least two hours a week, on average, building up that knowledge on a more solid theoretical footing. And I’m hoping putting a number on it will encourage me to actually make it happen!

  • Contribute code to at least three open source projects

    I believe pretty strongly in the concept of open source as a way of producing quality software which is developed in common by many organizations, but I haven’t been able to spend much time actually contributing to open source projects over the past few years. I’d like to try to make time for this in 2017, either at work or in my spare time. (Preferably at work, as I recognize the fact that having free time for working on open source projects is a manifestation of privilege all on its own.)

  • Exercise at least once a week outside of curling, preferably more

    My physical exercise went from “best effort” to “nearly nonexistent” in 2016. I need to do better; health and self-care are important!

  • Blog at least once a month

    Not counting this post! ;-) I like having a presence on the Web, and I think knowledge-sharing is really important, but this blog hasn’t gotten a lot of use lately. So I’m going to try to post here at least once per month – and to remind myself that short posts are OK, if they capture an idea worth sharing.

  • Make time to support my family, friends, and community

    I’m not sure how to make this one quantitative; but if the goals were listed in priority order, this one would be first! The most important thing in 2017 is to make sure I’m doing everything I need to to give my family the support they need, help my friends, and make my community a good place to work and live. And note that “community” should cover more than just Santa Fe, NM – but also my professional community, my country, and the wider world.

Now let’s see how it goes. Happy New Year!

Questions, comments, interesting anecdotes? Tweet to me at @ajdecon, or send me an email at ajdecon@ajdecon.org.