Each year I like to establish some long term goals that serve as my guide for the next year. I do not generally like to refer to these as resolutions because that sort of implies something more concrete and finite. I would rather my yearly goals be more fluid and long lasting so that I do not easily get discouraged and instead actually make progress. By being fluid the only requirement is that I make some progress towards the overarching goal, it does not matter how big the progress is.

To assess my progress, I have determined a baseline and a gold star for each goal. The baseline is the bare minimum I hope to accomplish or work towards and is often vague or less defined. The gold star is something that would be awesome to reach but not necessarily mandatory and is more concretely defined. This year I have outlined nine goals. This may seem excessive but by having a large number I hope that I can make progress on at least a few. These nine goals will allow me to venture into new areas and allow me to exercise my creative, academic, and physical sides.

Lead Climbing

During 2016, I tried my hand at rock climbing and quickly fell in love with it. I started with some brief bouldering before venturing into top rope. I now steadily climb at a 5.9 level and am hoping to break the 5.10/5.11 barrier soon.

In 2017, my aim is to start lead climbing and then eventually progress to climbing outdoors during the summers. This will take loads of practice and time but it will be well worth it!

Baseline: For 2017, at a bare minimum, I hope to complete the lead class at central rock gym and begin practicing lead in the gym.
Gold Star: At best, I hope to do my first outdoor climb in July/August.

Embrace Mathematics

Mathematics is an integral part of computer science and something all CS students should have a strong foundation in. During 2016, it became apparent that my mathematical background could be improved upon. Without a strong maths foundation, I can only go so far in CS before I hit a block in the road. I want to fix my foundation so no matter what concept I run into I have the tools to work through it. For 2017, I plan to improve upon my mathematical foundation so that I no longer want to run screaming for the hills when I need to interact with some mathematical concept.

Baseline: Develop a strong foundation in probability theory and modeling. As a first step I am using the Probabilistic Graphical Models as a way to force myself to learn the material.
Gold Star: Move beyond probability theory/modeling to solidifying important concepts like proofs and logic.

Art and Drawing

Stress Relief Drawing
Stress Relief Drawing

I used to not feel stress that often or let it affect my work but recently I have found my stress levels increasing. I have found that one way to significantly lower my stress levels is drawing. I have often found myself when stressed or anxious drawing trees like the one pictured. The repetitive nature of the trees is very soothing. For 2017, I figured it is time to finally improve on my drawing skills so my goal is to simply become a better artist. One vector I plan to use to get better at drawing is “WorldBuilding”. According to Wikipedia, Worldbuilding is “the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe…Worldbuilding often involves the creation of maps, a backstory, and people for the world”. By combing drawing with my other hobbies of writing and human geography, I hope to have an easier time accomplishing this goal. Hopefully the drawing of detailed maps will have some effect on my drawing capability.

Baseline: Expand on my current drawing ability by increasing the number of things I can draw.
Gold Star: Be able to draw realistic landscapes or human faces.

The Art of Cooking

Top: All the cookbooks! Bottom: Edible Food
Top: All the cookbooks! Bottom: Edible Food

After starting graduate school and balancing my budget, it quickly became apparent that the most frugal option for food was to cook it myself and only occasionally get take out. 2016 saw a massive improvement in the amount of cooking vs take out meals. Unfortunately since I was just learning to cook, the food was rather bland and unexciting. For 2017, I want to increase my cooking capability to cook good cheap food. While cleaning out my grandmothers house after her passing last year, I have collected a bunch of new cookbooks and recipes [See Picture]. I hope to work through these books to cook delicious meals on the cheap.

Baseline: Cook at least three meals a month from these recipes.
Gold Star: Develop a full course meal menu that can be cooked easily and without a large cost.

First Aid

This may seem random to many but it is something that I have been thinking about for a while. I feel that everyone should have concrete understanding of first aid and CPR in case of emergencies. Since one of my other hobbies comes with occasional dangerous risk, I am looking to flesh out my understanding of these topics since I currently have next to no knowledge on them.

Baseline: Take a CPR class and get CPR certified.
Gold Star: Learn more advanced first aid techniques. i.e. Triage, Emergency Response, etc…

Who Needs Old Navy?

Homemade Halloween Costume
Homemade Halloween Costume

In 2016, I found myself bringing out the sewing kit several times[see picture] and struggling due to falling back on only my middle school sewing experience. In 2017, I hope to flesh out my sewing experience and become more handy with a thread and needle. My parents also encouraged by my stories of hand sewing the pants for my halloween costume gifted my brother and I a sewing machine for Christmas. This should surely help my endeavors.

Baseline: Learn to tailor clothes.
Gold Star: Make my own pair of pants using the sewing machine.

Do You Hear that Melody?

Most people know that I like to meditate especially after a workout or a particularly difficult workday. I have recently found that playing music functions in a similar way to mediation. It allows me to clear my mind while relying on muscle memory to play keys. In 2016, I set out to learn the piano with this in mind. I greatly underestimated the difficulty in using both hands at once on the piano while also reading sheet music. Luckily, I was still able to practice exercises on the piano which was very relaxing. For 2017, I want to learn to play actual music. Due to the complexity of the piano, I am expanding my goals to also include guitar, another instrument I have been wanting to try my hand at. I hope to practice both so that I can make progress.

Baseline: Learn 1 full intermediate song on the piano or the guitar.
Gold Star: Learn 3 songs on the piano or the guitar.

Keep on Keepin’ On!

Picture from one of my hikes
Picture from one of my hikes

In 2015, I set out to ignore fear and no longer let it prevent me from doing things. Some who watch me do some wild things may think I no longer experience fear. It is actually still there, I have just gotten really good at ignoring the feeling and proceeding on. Since learning to do this I have had some incredible experiences that would have never happened before. In 2016, I decided to extend this further by forcing myself to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. This was how I discovered rock climbing, salsa dancing and how I forced myself to go on some awesome hikes in Amherst. I started to say yes to more things I previously would have said no to, and I do not regret it a bit! In 2017, I am hoping to continue this forward so there is no real goal other than keep on keepin’ on!

Baseline: Say yes more!
Gold Star: Try 5 new experiences.

How Else to Keep Track But With a Blog?

Blogging is an important skill to have in the research community. It allows you to disseminate information much quicker and spread the word on what you are working on. It also helps the budding researcher develop their writing and communication skills. In 2016, I set out to start a blog and actually compiled a list of blog post ideas but never got around to writing them. This was disappointing to me and as such I am making it a goal this year. To achieve this goal, I am going to motivate posts by this very list of goals. In fact this is the first post! I plan to write updates on how the progress is coming on some of these goals and hopefully include some research related posts. The goal is to just get writing and start posting. I will worry about tailoring it to research later. I also hope to drag some friends into blogging as well as sort of a peer motivation technique.

Baseline: Write a new blog post every two - three weeks on any topic.
Gold Star: Write a new blog post every week. Once a month research related.