Saturday, January 17, 2009

2009 Personal Enrichment Goals

When after last year’s dismal showing, I am hoping 2009 will be much better in terms of self-improvement. There’s a great deal of carry over here but I’ve done some tweaking of those tasks to ensure they actually get done this time around. I’m nicknaming 2009, “The Year Of Versatility”. This is going to be all about doing things in a way that I can adapt to any changes in my schedule.

Total Goals for 2009: 20
Computer / Technology Related: 6
Education: 4
Financial/Home: 4
Leisure: 4
Fitness/Self-Defense: 2

You can certainly tell where my priorities are....See full post for details.

Expanded Exercise Program: Instead of requiring I hit a KM level (which needs an amount of time I may not have to spare thanks to work), I’ve created an exercise program which does require I attend 1-2 KM classes a week, exercise in the morning 2x a week and do 1 “Other” bit of exercise a month. This gives me a good deal of flexibility while also requiring that I get out there and work. The morning exercise routine is something I used to do before I signed up with the Krav Maga Gym but in the last couple of years, I’ve started sleeping later (ie – staying up later) instead of exercising which really isn’t a smart move on my part. Also included on my checklist is to take a multi-vitamin a couple times a week just to ensure my body has what it needs to benefit from the exercise.

Adult Education Classes (NISD): Instead of separate requirements for specific classes, I’m just going with a general adult education category. I hope to take several classes but my requirement is at least 3. The topics of interest to me are HTML/web page programming, archery, pottery, cooking, First Aid/CPR and welding. The specific classes I take will depend on price, scheduling and availability. Hopefully, this way of structuring the requirement will be more successful than previous requirements for specific classes.

Must read 20 Non-Fiction Books:
I’m probably going to include this one from now on. I can do reading on potential topics for future goals and generally, I notice I’m a bit more on-the-ball with other things when I keep up with my reading. The requirement is still 20 because I got close to it in 2008 and frankly, I went a couple months without reading a non-fiction book. So, I still consider 20 books a completely feasible goal if I stick with it.

Research Self-Employment:
Since I work in the automotive industry, things are a bit uncertain right now. I have no desire to switch jobs as I actually do like where I work. However, it may not be up to me. So, instead of waiting for the ax to fall, I’m going to do a little research on how to get-by if I have to search for a job in the current economic environment. As far as self-employment goes, in the current economic climate I’d like to have the most versatility possible and self-employment is the one option I’ve never done any looking into before. I consider this to be more learning about where the info I will need is and preparing myself to be ready to go if the worst happens.

Blogging Tweaks & Improvement:
First things first, I really need to improve my blogroll. The list of actual blogs I read is much, much longer. Using the X/HTML references I collected last year, I’m also going to be looking into either major tweaks or a full-on rebuild of my blog template. It’s looking old to me for some reason. I’m not going to set a post/month goal like I did last year. However, I do want to keep up with posting a bit better. I’ve got some ideas about how to do that and thankfully, one of the goals this year will require I post regularly (see “Poem Of The Week” below).

Clean Apt More Often: I am a terrible housekeeper. I know this. Everybody (including, unfortunately, my mom) knows this. So, this year I’m going to dedicate myself to keeping my apartment cleaner. I’ve added several reoccurring tasks into my Thunderbird Calendar specifically to remind me to keep up with certain things. Also, in the past, one of the reasons I put off cleaning is that I tried to do too much at one time (ie – do everything on a Saturday and whatever doesn’t get done, doesn’t get done). This is a wildly ineffective system. No more. Now, I will purposely do 3-4 things every 2 weeks and spread them out through the week. If I only have to do 1 thing, I’m more likely to get it done after work or before I start playing on the computer on weekends. I hope....

Charitable Education: I’ve long desired to help improve K-12 education either through charitable foundations or my own work. Last year, I discovered DonorsChoose which is a good charity for targeted educational improvement. This year, I’ll continue my donations there as long as I’m financially able but I will also begin research into private or charter schools in the San Antonio area. At some point, I would like to create scholarships for kids at one or more of these schools. This year will be about researching those schools and developing the financial tools necessary to do such a thing. Right now I just have a broad goal of eventually doing this, after 2009 I’d like to have a specific plan of HOW I plan to get this done.

Take Up Shooting: There is a shooting class that I want to take but it isn’t through NISD (although they do have a disarming class). Also, I may attend “open” days at local shooting ranges and / or buy some kind of gun. What I really want is a small rifle. I remember as a kid that I enjoyed shooting a rifle a good deal more than handguns (no idea why). Anyway, this is just one more step in improving my ability to defend myself. I’ll probably start with a rifle and work my way into handguns.

Use Skydiving Voucher: I paid for it, might as well use it. I think I’ll probably wait until Spring. For some reason the idea of jumping out of a plane when it’s really, really cold just makes it more nerve-wracking for me. Still, I do look forward to this. While waiting for the weather to clear when I originally went, they showed videos of other people jumping and it looked insanely fun. Probably not something I’ll do more than once, but definitely something I've always wanted to try.

Teach Myself: Controls Engineering:
I got through about ¼ of my book last year. I’m hoping to do at least the same in 2009. The first couple chapters took me a while because I had to do a great deal of reviewing. I’m hoping some of these middle chapters go by quicker now that the groundwork is laid. For the most recent work, I do feel like the material is easier for me because of the review work. I also look forward to making more use of the Octave computer application as that is the closest readily available substitute for some kind of Controls laboratory work.

Ubuntu/OSS Advocacy: In the last 1-2 months, I’ve been advising a coworker who was interested in switching his kids’ computers to Ubuntu. He completed the switch over the holidays. I greatly enjoyed the experience of answering his questions both because it helped remind me of some of the things about Linux which intimidated me at first (the Command Line) and because he asked some really interesting questions. So, I’m adding some kind of open-source or Ubuntu advocacy goal to this year’s list. I’m going to look for a local Ubuntu group to work with and I plan to do (even more) blogging about different aspects of the system from the perspective of somebody who isn’t a programmer. But I really do believe that the open-source model of development results in a far superior product so I’m going to be much more conscious about doing my part to ensure more people know about it. This strikes me as especially necessary after my experiences trying to buy a computer without Windows Vista on it back in September (I don’t see why I had to pay a premium for Vista when I’m going to wipe the HD & install Ubuntu without ever booting into Windows).

Update/Reintegrate Financial Goals:
While last year I took steps to improve tracking my finances, my short-and long term goals have languished for a couple years. This is not to say I haven't been completing my financial goals. Only, my financial goals haven’t really been updated in a couple years and when looking at the list, I realize they are a bit dated. Some of them no longer apply, while there are other things I’d like to do that I need to start planning for. So, I will be updating these goals and my 5-10 year financial plans.

Start Using Media Management Software: Last weekend I counted my books. I have 743 (not including magazines and electronic copies, .pdfs). And in the last week, I have bought even more. Needless to say, managing and sorting all those works in a 1-bedroom apartment requires a great deal of shelving and alphabetizing. But I would like to have some way of tracking what I own and what I don’t. This is especially important for some of my sci-fi series where I have trouble remembering what I own and what I still need to buy. And for non-fiction books, I’ve been a little bit haphazard in how I divide them by subject so maybe using a Media Management application will force me to pay better attention there.

Improve PuppyLinux Install: I set this up on a flash drive right before my trip to Japan last year. While for the most part it was a positive experience, they released an update to Puppy shortly thereafter and I never took the time to really tweak the applications. Since the main purpose of having Puppy on a flash drive is to access certain linux applications that my borrowed-work-WindowsONLY laptop does not have, I need to get the drive fully set-up to have all those applications and any useful add-ons. Frankly, I don’t see this taking any more than a weekend or two but it does need doing. Now is the perfect time too because I don’t have any travel for work on my schedule.

Patio Garden – Food: Needless to say my garden revamp of 2008 was a disastrous failure. This year, I’m going to focus on edible plants. I’ve noticed I tend to take better care of plants that are doing something for me. The whole care for nature because it is an inherently worthwhile act isn’t really a motivator for me. In order to be successful this time around, I need to plant earlier (late Feb) and plant things that I will want to succeed (flowers, who cares? Give me a good jalapeño plant any day). I’ve already got some ideas but I need to sort through my seeds to see what’s still good and what I’ll need to buy.

Write 1 Poem A Week: One of the reasons I started blogging was to improve and maintain my writing skills. The more I work in engineering, the more I see the value in being able to communicate
properly and clearly . As a teenager, I went through the typical angst-filled poetry phase. However, I actually still like some of the poems I wrote back then. I'm not referring to the depressing self-pitying crap. However, some of the more thoughtful pieces still resonate. In an effort to contrast the dry engineering writing I do every day, I will write 1 Poem a week for the entire year. There are additional restrictions. Over half (26+) must be form poems (sonnets,haikus,etc) as sometimes I work best when restricted. And of the form poems, if I do a haiku I have to do at least two or three as they are so short. Since we’re in the end of the second week of 2009, I’m already behind. But I’ll catch up. The goal is to post the poem on Saturday or Sunday.

Investigate Green Home Design: I do not like how most modern housing is built. I get that it is a business and they have an obligation to drive costs down, but it seems like if you want a certain level of quality, you’re only option is to custom build. This is a prohibitively expensive jump for most people. At some point, I would like to build my own home. In preparation for this, I have been developing some very specific ideas about what I’d want from that home. Green design appeals to me not for its environmental street-cred but from an efficiency standpoint. Green builders are really the only ones thinking outside-the-box in homebuilding today. So, I’m going to do some studying of what’s cutting edge here in anticipation that sometime in the future, I’ll be able to use that knowledge to build myself a nice, quality, energy-efficient home.

Teach Myself: Applications of Interest (MIN 2): I’ve added several applications to my Ubuntu install but haven’t taken the time to really learn them. Even after finally getting why GIMP is so cool, there’s a lot to that program I simply don’t know how to use. So I will make more of an effort to learn some open-source applications involving skills that are important to my future plans. These applications include photo/video editing, CAD programs, programming tools and productivity-enhancing tools. Initially, I plan to focus on GIMP and the FreeCad program as I feel they would be the most immediately applicable.

Improve Language Skills (Spanish & Japanese):
I work in a multilingual environment. While I can follow conversations with differing levels of competence, I’m terrible about using the language skills I have and making an effort to improve them further. Part of it is a confidence issue, I don’t want to say the wrong thing but I really need to get the hell over that. So, I’ll be using more Spanish (especially in emails where there’s plenty of opportunity to check your phrasing) and trying to learn some additional Japanese. I think at the very least, I should learn the romanji alphabet as that’s how Japanese renders as lot of words they got from other languages like English. I don’t know that I’ll ever be fluent in any language other than English but I’m certain I have the capability to be functionally conversant.

Rent Larger Apt/Duplex/Townhome: I need more space! In addition to room for all my books, I would like a guest room for my parents and relatives to visit (yes, I actually like hanging out with some of my relatives, crazy but true). I did some looking around in 2008 but didn’t find anything that justified moving. There were a couple of places that appealed but unfortunately, they didn’t have anything available. I’m be keeping my ear to the ground for something better and saving money for a move & some new furniture. I may also be doing some preemptive cleaning to get rid of stuff I don’t want to bother packing up and carrying someplace new. This goal is tentative pending any abrupt changes in the financial situation or a lack of anything available. We’ll see.

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