Reading – Fiction: 10 books: Finished Cassandra Clare’s City of Ashes and Jeff Lindsey’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter;
Reviews (Books): Posted two new book reviews (old reads, new reviews);
Reviews (TV): 5 new reviews;
Organize: Fixed ebook setup, including backup of all Amazon downloads;
Cyber: Completed 1 backup of docs and pictures;
Writing (new, other): 3 new posts (not including book reviews, quotes, etc.) takes me to 22, passing the goal of 20 — LEVEL ONE GOAL ACHIEVED;
Baking: I’ve been testing various setups with the bread machine, and FINALLY achieved a decent loaf this weekend!;
Career: Organized, moving ahead with studying for written;
Health maintenance: I completed my sedation dentistry appointment (Fun with the dentist…) — LEVEL ONE GOAL ACHIEVED;
Looks like I’m going to have to start thinking about my Level 2 goals sooner than I thought…four of the 29 are already achieved, and some of the others are ones I can’t complete until much later in the year (one will take until June at the earliest).
Reading – Fiction: 10 books: Have read just over half of Cassandra Clare’s City of Ashes;
Reviews (Books): I had committed to 15 old book reviews + 5 new ones, but turns out I only had 9 old ones not yet posted…so I’ll change it to 20 BRs to be posted, of which I have done 10 so far, including all the old ones, an additional 4 this week, plus I’m not counting that I did a really good reorg of my ebook files earlier and a tweaking update this week;
Reviews (TV): 12 tweets of shows this week;
Andrea: One NAC outing this week, plus several “conversation” dates where we just hang out in the house and chat…I know, total craziness!;
Jacob: Finished Disney Infinity together, he is over the moon excited — INITIAL LEVEL ONE GOAL ACHIEVED FOR FINISHING ONE GAME WITH HIM;
Writing (new, other): 4 new posts;
Astrophotography: While I haven’t “achieved” anything this week on it, I did have a good exchange with an outreach organizer for the local astronomy group, and he is looking into ideas of how to setup some 1:1 mentoring type actions, including possible AP mentor(s) for me!;
Cooking: 2 new dinner recipes tried — LEVEL ONE GOAL ACHIEVED OF TRYING FIVE NEW RECIPES;
Baking: 2 attempts at baking bread;
Career: Plan/structure in place for written french, I’ve scheduled an assessment for oral training, and went out for wings with the guys, first time entirely in French!;
I really like this new approach, seems to be working for me. Of course, it’s only week 2. 🙂 I saw a great “resolution” pun this week…”My resolution was to go to the gym, but it didn’t work out.” Hopefully I won’t have need for such puns to explain my progress.
I have already posted my analysis of 2016 (2016 – Progress on my red goals) and how I struggled through some of the year with health issues and getting my sleep “fixed”. I don’t know that I’m all the way there yet, but it’s an improvement. I’m also going to try something new with my goal-setting this year — combining nudging behaviour with the idea of “levels of success”.
First and foremost, I don’t think I can be as ambitious as I normally am. I have a lot of goals, that’s true, but the sad reality is that I barely nudged the needles last year, let alone moved them. So I’m going to focus on goals that are narrower in scope.
In addition, I find the GREEN / YELLOW / RED doesn’t really lend itself well enough towards a sense of accomplishment — it is more of a way of measuring risk or progress status, not the actual accomplishment. So, this year, I think I’m going to think of it more as “Level 1” goals that I will aim to do first, and if or when I accomplish one, I will set the next in that vein. Take books for example…I could commit to 50 books for the year, and informally I probably will, but more importantly, I’m going to commit to, say, 10 books. When I’m done those, i.e. achieve that first “level 1” goal, then I will move on to Level 2 for another 5 or 10 books. And so on. See how many levels I can get to. I could do “1 level, 1 book” but if I aim for 50 books, then 50 levels seem silly.
Overall, I think I’d like to be somewhere up to a maximum of 5 or 10 levels per area. Let’s see how it goes.
MY BLUE GOALS – Level One
Reading – Fiction: 10 books: Crime and Punishment; Alison Gordon [Safe at Home (1990), Night Game (1992); Prairie Hardball (1997)]; John D. MacDonald [Nightmare in Pink]; C.S. Lewis [The Last Battle]; Cassandra Clare [2 – City of Ashes]; Janet Evanovich [#21]; Jeff Lindsey [Darkly Dreaming Dexter]; Sue Grafton [T is for Trespass]
Others for the future include Diana Gabaldon, George RR Martin, Ian Fleming, James Patterson.
Reading – Non-Fiction: 3 books: Lawrence Block on Writing the Novel; Jeffrey Kottler on Change; Morgan on Images of Organization.
More on the list, like Wayne Gretzky and Joseph Campbell on Masks of Gods, but I’m not ready to commit to them yet. My non-fiction reading is pretty slow, and of the initial three, I’m near done on one, and at least half-way on another so just hoping for one more.
Reviews (Books): 15 old book reviews + 5 new ones
I have a bunch to clear out, and I’ll add the new ones. I hope to do MORE than 20, but I’ll keep it as Level 1 for now.
Reviews (TV): 100 new episodes
While that sounds like a lot, it really isn’t. I can do 100 in my sleep, but the real question is if I have the time to even watch. Certainly not as much soon. I also want to add a bunch to the website as Season reviews, but that will come later.
Astronomy: Fixed battery supplies + 1 viewing
I want to attend the RASC annual meeting, do at least 1 viewing at Star Party+Luskville+cottage, but I’ll start with 1 viewing. And work on reading the new RASC guidebook for the year.
Photography: Five “setup” cards + use remote
I’m going to cut back on my ambitions on this one, just focus on the basics to start. Maybe finish the Great Course if I have time.
Learning: Complete the video game course
I’m hoping to do some more on the Psych course, or maybe switch to Raspberry Pi work, but for now, just the VG course.
Organize: No clue. How about purge 50 books plus weed extra electronics and fix Evernote setup?
This one is usually my biggest, but I feel like I have some good options in place, just need to use them. So nothing else to add right now.
Finance: Delete 2 unused credit cards
I also need to do our RRSP and RESP in February.
Cyber: Monthly backup for three months
Plans to sort music, but not there yet.
Honey-do list: Assemble exercise bike.
Hang pictures — we have almost nothing up around the house, time to fix that.
MY GREEN GOALS – Level One
Andrea: Trip to Mexico + 5 NAC outings
Maybe some movies, more dinners out alone, game nights after J goes to bed, etc.
Jacob: Bonding through video games, particularly Disney Infinity to the end of one of games
Dusting off SonicDad, flying the drone, following up on serial casting, designing new games, etc.
Website: Update for BGPS additions
Need to add some users to AstroPontiac
MY YELLOW GOALS – Level One
Writing of HR Guide (Blog): Finish draft of HR Guide
I still have to edit/finalize, proof, publish. And then start on volumes 2 or 3.
Writing (old): Post 3 short-stories
I need to clear out some of my old stuff and put it on the site
Writing (new, personal): Jacob age 7 to 12 mths
While I had hoped those ones would be cathartic or something, they weren’t. Still good work for my heart and brain though.
Writing (new, other): 5 new “other” posts
Not sure if it will be about goals, writing, publishing, etc. yet but 5 is a good place to start.
Memes: 25 more LunchNotes, 25 Quotes, 25 Humour
I have no idea how many I will actually get to this year, but let’s start with 25 of each.
Photobooks: 2016 YIR book
Lost more to do, but one is good for now.
Photos (estate): scan 100 photos
I’d love to scan it all, but have to start somewhere.
Astrophotography: One decent shot
Sure, I would like to do more. Level 2 would likely be a complete set of moon phases (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, full). Level 3 and beyond could be constellations, planets, figuring out the laptop thingy, filters, etc. But I’ll start with the moon. And somewhere in there I have to sort my existing astro photos.
Cooking: 5 new dinner recipes tried
I have a list of 37 possibles, so that shouldn’t be difficult but I’d like to do some speciality on wings somewhere in there.
Baking: 2 cookies, 1 bread and 1 bun, 1 ice cream, and 2 other (pies, cakes, etc.)
I have a list of 49 possibles, so that shouldn’t be too hard to find some to choose.
MY RED GOALS – Level One
Psychological resilience: Another session with counsellor in April
Need to figure this one out long-term, maybe more focus on stress / resilience.
Career: Recertify french for written.
Recertify oral, find a new job.
Health maintenance: Sedation dentistry appointment
With the sleep machine “solved”, back to regular stuff for now. Should throw a physical in there too.
Exercise: 10 sessions on the exercise bike
I have no idea how to measure this yet, things have changed in my focus, will have to work this one out later, but start with the bike. Need to add in walking at lunch, weekend excursions, etc.
Stretching / Yoga / Kata: Setup the sub-set of stretches and print on boards, plus 10 sessions
Need a more “regular” setting, maybe number of weeks where I met my goal that week? Merge with the exercise one?
So that gives me 29 goals, all with more narrow scope than usual, and the initial level identified.
I mentioned in my earlier posts that I would talk about something in the red goals section, and this is that section, so I guess I will cover the issues here, if I have to! They impact on everything, which is not surprising as the red goals are about health and career.
MY RED GOALS: Be bright, be bold, be direct
For my Career, I was experiencing a bit of ennui. I love my job, it’s a great configuration…I have a fair amount of autonomy, knowable deliverables, enough variety to keep it interesting, and a solid team to manage. And yet…there is something in my work that is becoming a bit stale. I have been in the same job for eight years, something often unheard of in the EC category of government, with policy analysts being one of the most mobile groups in government. Even for planners, I’ve been a bit long in the same spot. For the first five years, the job was highly variable with lots of big projects that dwarfed my so-called “day job”, and so I was more about projects than regular management. Over the last three, however, I’ve been doing a newish job which combined all the planning files together in one team. And, as I said, it’s a great job.
But earlier this year I applied for a Director-level job and I updated my resume from two years ago — and only had to change six words. Literally, that was it. All the functions were basically the same, and the description was the same. Considering I started in government in B.C. with a job for eight months, then DFAIT for four years with three sub-jobs, CIDA / Multilateral for five years with three sub-jobs, bilateral for 8 months, policy for three years with two sub-jobs, DM’s office for eight months, SDC international for a year plus, and then HRSDC / policy for almost two, it’s not surprising that when most things haven’t changed in my duties for 8 years and nothing in 3, I might be feeling a bit stale.
I don’t quite want to say unchallenged, but I’m also not growing a whole lot in the job either. On the other hand, it is still a great job, and if I was closer to retirement, I’d just stay put. But I’m ten years out, and that is between three and four jobs. Probably at least two. So I need to do something about that, and I did a bit at the end of the year. I’ve at least put some actions in gear, including encouraging my current boss to look at hiring a replacement (even before I actually leave). There’s a theory that if you “announce” a goal, make it public, it helps keep you on track to actually achieving it, and I’ve used that stick here to force myself to find a new job, since I had already said two years in a row that it was time to move on and didn’t.
Related to moving on is my need to recertify my french. For those who remember, I struggled mightily back in ’98/’99 to get my french (B level intermediate) and it was such a demoralizing experience for me that I actually convinced myself that there was no chance of my ever getting C levels for oral. Fast forward to ’04, and I was looking at changing jobs, so I needed to recertify again. One week of re-training, and the guy told me I could already pass the B, so getting to C was not only possible, but practically guaranteed. A completely different mindset, and only partly based on good retention ability. Two months of 1:1 training, plus a few months of occasional tutor sessions, and I hit my C early in ’05.
But I’ve done almost nothing since about that…a written retest at one point, but I’m long expired for written and oral. And since it wasn’t urgent to change jobs, and I didn’t “have to” recertify, I have dragged my feet. There is a perfectly valid psychological reason for that, if not a great one.
The fact is that I derive a fair amount of my self-identity, and even self-esteem, from the fact that I am good at my job. Okay, I admit I’m being falsely humble. I’m awesome at my job. I report to a DG instead of a director, partly because of my abilities (which is also good for their budget, but that’s another story). I regularly get top-marks on my performance ratings, other branches call us to see what we’re doing so they can emulate it on the planning files, my bosses almost always love me up the line. And, even if I was deluded by all of that, my wife regularly has experiences where she is talking to people at work who find out that I’m her husband (since we have different last names, it isn’t immediately obvious of course), and then she has to listen to them regale her with stories about how amazing I am (she hasn’t yet said, “Are you freakin’ kidding me? Have you TRIED living with him? Let me tell you the reality!”, but it’s likely on her list of future replies). So there’s that.
Yet when I am on language training, I lose that sense of myself. I lose part of my identity, I’m not the “manager” anymore, I’m just Joe Student and honestly, not a great one. I feel my sense of self-worth slipping. Each and every time I’ve done it, even when I got my C, there was a loss in sense of who I am during the training.
And if I’m brutally honest, I haven’t been able to afford that right now. As positive as I have been about my BLUE, GREEN and YELLOW goals, my RED goals have been kicking my ass three ways from sideways.
To close off though, I pushed this year to do my french training and the organizational response was less than overwhelming. I was offered stupid options twice, even one that was 9 hours a week for a year. My retention is way better than that, and because of some tweaks to the org chart, I’m even considered a priority, so part-time on my own was not what we were looking for in the way of training. I did a bit on my own, not a lot, just some basic review, and then went for a new assessment back at the scene of the crime in ’98/98 — Asticou. The name strikes fear in the hearts of many a civil servant who had bad experiences there (if you are a good language student, you can have good experiences anywhere, as a friend of mine did at Asticou; if you are a bad language student, you may struggle anywhere too, but if you are in a bad environment as some found at Asticou, you will be in hell). The good news initially though was that they assessed me as almost close to levels still already, and that I would only need 1:1 refresh for about three weeks. A drop in the proverbial bucket and no risk to my psyche. Except that option fell off the table with an organizational change, and I don’t know what is going on anymore. People are looking into other options, but in the meantime, I’m planning to do most of it myself on my own in January and February as that is the only part I can control. Frustrating but I need to get ‘er done. With the assessment at only 3 weeks, I’m colouring it GREEN, although it was not the colour I thought it would be up until early November.
For Stretching, I did some basic work early in the year, and I’ve stuck with some of it that helps my back, but nowhere near the level I want to be at. I kept up with Chiro too, but definitely still leaving the category as RED.
For a general category of Exercise, with walking at lunch, some kata exercises, and more activity on weekends, I am going to say right up front that is this is a blazing hot RED. Way past fire-engine. I don’t have the words to show how bad it has been.
As I said earlier, there was something I would talk about in the red goal section, and this is it. My health over the last year has kicked up a fuss and wiped out just about any energy I had to do anything.
In 2015, I did a sleep test with a guy who is a bit of an activist on sleep apnea, and I didn’t have the highest level of efficacy in his results, but I did take it seriously enough to try to improve the environmental factors and some routine factors to see if it helped with my sleep. It did, but not enough. I was still sleeping anywhere from 5 to 6 hours a night with lots of interruptions during the night, and general fatigue, headaches, etc.
So in March of this year, I went in and picked up a sleep machine. If you saw earlier posts, I started to blog about it and thought I would keep it going as it would be relatively straight-forward to write about and explain. Not so much.
For those who don’t know much about sleep apnea, it is basically that you “stop” breathing for a second or so while you’re sleeping. Often it is because your tongue or part of your throat pushes back and closes on your airway, and no air goes through. Almost like a vapor lock. Your body will wake you up, you change positions, adjust your throat or tongue, and bob’s your uncle, you can breathe again. Most people don’t wake up fully, their body just adjusts as it goes. But it is crappy sleep. To find out if you have sleep apnea, you go to a sleep clinic, they hook you up with a bunch of wires, monitor a bunch of stuff during the night, and mostly count how many “incidents” you have per hour. Five is “normal”. Twenty is “severe apnea”.
My score? 124 an hour. I don’t even know how they count that. Which is partly why I didn’t know if the original results were even valid, but whatever. I got the machine, tried it out, blogged a few times, felt a bit better, good to go. Or so I thought.
Over the first six weeks, we had to play a lot with the settings. Initially I was using CPAP — a constant air pressure. It is the most common machine that people get, and it basically slowly ramps up from a low pressure to a stable pressure and then stays there during the night. I was still waking up, still having incidents although not as many, having headaches etc., and I started to actually feel MORE tired than previously. And I won’t name the company, but I wasn’t that thrilled with my service either.
On a pressure scale of 20 or 30 (don’t remember which), I was starting with an initial pressure of 5 that would ramp up slowly to 15. After a week, they would start me at 6, then 7, then 8, etc. I was five weeks in and we had made a couple of adjustments. Then my rep suggested we raise it to 6. I was like, “What? I was at 6 weeks ago, wtf?”. Yep, the machine had auto-reset (it has a modem that sends the data to the centre, I don’t monitor it, so I didn’t have any idea) and they didn’t notice, even when they went to adjust it again. But there I was, back at the beginning again. Tried a few more weeks, not much change.
So my doctor switched me to the APAP machine. This is an alternating/auto adjusting air pressure that basically alters the pressure depending on how hard I am breathing in or out, rather than a constant pressure. A little more aggressive, and it was better, but I wasn’t filled with energy. In fact, I was still feeling quite lethargic in the mornings. I kept feeling like I was waking up mid-REM sleep/cycle. Note that the auto-adjusting feature is a bit misleading. It doesn’t actually completely adjust to my individual breaths, more like analysing a series of breaths and then running an algorithm to figure out what settings to use.
Then my doctor switched me in September to a BIPAP machine. This one also adjusts, but it measures each and every breath in and out and adjusts immediately. Much more aggressive form of treatment, and more costly, so they don’t prescribe these machines until they try the other ones. Tried it for September, October, and November, and it is definitely the best of the options.
Mind you, all three did reduce my incident rate to less than five, so therapeutically, all worked. Except the first two left me with headaches and some other surprises.
In almost all patients, somewhere near 98%, you actually lose weight or at least stay the same using the machine. More restful sleep, blah blah blah, healthier you, blah blah blah, more energy, more blah blah blah, who cares the reason, you lose weight while sleeping better!
Lucky me, the kicker is that in 2% of users, you can GAIN weight. Yep, that was my experience. The first one started me off big time, with almost a 20 lb gain in 6-7 weeks. I have a weight problem already, but I manage just fine with it most of the time. It isn’t great, other issues at play too, and the long-term health costs, but day to day, I don’t “feel” it too strongly. I don’t get out of breath going up stairs at work, most things I want to do in day-to-day are fine. I’m not running marathons or water-skiing, but most of the time I am functional.
Add 20 lbs, plus major water retention and swelling of ankles and legs, and my energy levels plummeted back in May / June. I wouldn’t quite rate my fatigue and ennui to previous levels of depression, but I was losing steam big time. Mentally, emotionally, physically, intellectually, psychologically, there was nothing I was interested in working on. I added my therapist/social worker/counsellor back to the mix to keep my psyche tuned up, but the body changes were still affecting my mind too.
So, from April to October at least, I was MIA. Even some medication I take for reflux and blood pressure were suddenly acting up…I used to take them at supper, easy for my routine, worked fine for me. Now I have to take them in the morning or run the risks of headaches by mid-afternoon.
The BIPAP helped changed things a lot in October. I even noticed it in my ability to control my own emotions. We went to an appointment at a treatment centre with Jacob, and honestly, they have been doing a terrible job of coordination for over a year now. No guidance on what we should be doing, no options, heck they didn’t even know which personnel we should see. There are organizational reasons for it, and the issue is not acute, but we were trying to be proactive on it, and 13 months later, we finally had an appointment to see someone who we would told would handle it.
We went to see them, had the appointment, doctor was all happy, good to go. We’re like, “Umm, what about our issue?”. Well, he doesn’t deal with that. The person doing the coordination hadn’t mentioned it to him, he doesn’t do that type of work, and we were there for (almost) nothing. Thirteen months and back to square one after taking time off work for the appointment that would finally get us where we needed to be, and the guy doesn’t even do that type of work.
In many circumstances, this is where I would turn to Andrea and suggest she talk to the people cuz I’m likely to lose it, which serves no one. Plus I tend to want to go for a nuclear option and raise the engagement level by several rungs of the organization. In this case, though, I handled it myself, went to the main coordinating office and calmly, rationally, politely said, “Umm, there seems to be some confusion, and we need some new guidance.” The woman was very apologetic and helpful, and would get us the right info, etc. No big deal, moving on.
I said to Andrea afterwards, “Did you see me?????”.
She was like, “Yeah, who ARE you?”.
Cuz that’s not normally me.
But it was me with BIPAP treatment, decent sleep, and no headache. Progress.
I would like to say I’ve been the same ever since, but I haven’t. A few weeks later, I had a particularly brutal day at work and I was clearly in need of different interventions than I was capable of making. Very unproductive, very angry, very aggressive, very nuclear. It’s improving, but it’s not night and day, more like a slow dawn with some bright rays of sunshine leaping out from between trees in a forest.
The weight has improved slightly under the BIPAP, dropped 10 of the 20 I gained, and hoping to see that continue.
But overall, the changes in my body killed just about everything I was working on across the board for all goals. The headaches, for example, have been a lot like those for people with head injuries, except that I know my functions will return later in the day or the next when the headache passes. Yet the fatigue and the headaches sapped any hope I had most days for making progress on anything. Some days it was just easier to go back to bed and wait it out.
I was making some progress again in early November, and then I got the cough from hell. I’ve had it before, as one of my coworkers reminded me. It started innocently enough, basically just a small cold that went away and came back a week later. Lots had it, including Jacob. But one of the benefits of a sleep apnea machine is that it has moisture options that blow into your nose all night and help keep things healthy.
Yet the cough lingered. So much so that I threw my ribs out. Twice. Very dry, very deep in my throat but not my chest. Just a dry tickle that would not go away. I had this once before about 2 years ago, and same prognosis and treatment. The infection was gone but the inflammation continued.
So I had to take a steroid for the deep throat, a puffer for the upper throat, and keep it going for up to 6 weeks after the cold or flu are gone. Bloody hell. Mine took residence at the start of November and it was well into December before I could stop the steroid. I’m still using the regular puffer from time to time when I start to feel there’s a small rattle down there.
So 6 months of sleep treatments with my body going wonky from time to time as it adjusted (headaches, bloating, blah blah blah), and 7 weeks of the cough from hell, plus general stuff in there for regular aches / pains / colds / flu for the year.
All in all, I hated 2016. I said the only way out was through, and I had no idea how prophetic that was. I survived the year, and I am literally shocked that I made progress on any of my goals after March. I feel like I’ve got the sleep thing relatively under control, and while I’m not in the 98% that loses weight using it, I’ll be happy when I’m at least back down to my regular weight and can start fresh again at trying to reduce that further.
Over the last few months, I’ve even had to admit to Andrea a few times, “I don’t know if I can do activity x”, which was never the case before. But I worry about it more, and that is a good impetus for me for 2017. I’m a little worried about our trip to Mexico as I don’t normally do that well in heat, nor is it a great combo for my blood pressure, but I should be okay with the right balance to the day.
And I went skating today. A month ago, I suspected I might not be able to, but I did. It was a bit rough on my legs, but that wasn’t necessarily new. Just that I’ve been a bigger couch potato for the last 9 months and it’s time I got back into the game.
I have no idea what I’m going to do for my goals this year, but I have a small idea to keep it manageable. Realistic even. That will be new for me, when I normally go hog wild.
So maybe the glaring RED for my red goals might actually be a future motivator.
Hope springs eternal. Maybe that will be my new slogan for 2017.
Ah, the yellow goals. My social and creative side. My weakest side. Let’s see how I did in 2016.
MY YELLOW GOALS: Focus your energy, be prolific
First out of the gate is my Writing goal. This looks a bit like my blue goal, but whereas the blue was more about non-fiction and blogging, this was about my true creative side. Fiction was non-existent. Posting stuff was almost non-existent, although I did put up a couple of things. And I killed the creativity challenge, and I don’t mean that in a celebratory way. Literally, I killed it, deleting the group from Facebook. There just wasn’t enough interest. I’m still doing memes, quotes, jokes, etc. which is something. Part red, part yellow, part green, I guess I’ll call it YELLOW overall.
I thought the Cooking one was going to be a complete and utter bust. Most of the year, I tried almost nothing new. I compiled some stuff, organized a few things, but wasn’t really making much progress. And then in October and November, we tried some baking and a couple of new recipes. A small burst of creative energy. Not enough to go green, but I’ll keep it as YELLOW for now.
The third category was a specific area of creativity I wanted to work on. Namely, creating PhotoBooks. These vary from year-in-reviews to potential thematic ones. And overall, I’m really quite happy with my progress. I completed three “year in review” ones (2014, 2015 and a partial for 2009 to complement an earlier partial) plus a souvenir book for a 90th birthday party. Overall, clearly GREEN.
As much work as the PhotoBooks were, I think I have to still knock myself down to YELLOW overall.
Green goals are my “emotion” goals, the “feelings”, the warm fuzzy side of me. Not my strongest area, but not quite as weak as my normal “yellow” / social ones. In 2016, I limited myself to only three.
MY GREEN GOALS: Stick to the knitting
Under the general heading of Andrea, I had hoped to have some date nights out, a few game nights and to take a family trip. We had a few date nights, but nowhere near enough, and much of that is my fault. I often like to go out for dinner, etc., but I am not looking for fancy or anything, just eating out, and Jacob is old enough to come without too much distraction. So we usually do things as a trio than as a couple, and truth be told, I like exposing Jacob to new things. But most of the time, Andrea and I commute together which is good, hang out with the cub from supper to bedtime, often in the office together for a half-hour or hour or so after that, and then I tend to watch TV while she works, surfs or reads. We did some family trip stuff this year, wouldn’t say it was awesome sauce. It’s a toss-up between yellow and red, and we have a family trip to Mexico booked, but I’m looking back to 2016, not forward to 2017, so I’m coding it RED overall to remind myself of the priority for the new year.
My second area in my list was engaging with Jacob, and some of it was a complete bust. I had hoped to try a bunch of different things with him, looking for something that could be “our thing” together, and most of the things we tried from boys nights out to going for hikes just hold no interest for him. I got a bit of a start with some DIY projects, and he liked parts of them, although it is a bit more “me” than “us” for the first couple. He enjoyed them though, and is open to more, but I also don’t want to ram them down his throat and have him get bored or resent them, so gentle dosages is the plan. We didn’t end up doing anything on the sports front, and that is entirely my fault (more to come on this in the red goals section). So, I made some progress, and I can’t let my disappointment cloud that too much. And we ended the year well — we have an XBox 360 that we picked up at Black Friday, and he got Disney Infinity for Xmas, which we have been playing TOGETHER. He loves to play together and he has completely been ignoring NHL ’14 which he loves but I suck at and have no hope of playing well with him, so it’s kind of boring for him (he’s better off playing against the computer). So I’m going to give myself a small pat on the head and call it YELLOW for the year.
The third area was listed as “Website Support“, but that is the specific role I play in my limited “community engagement”. I provide web services for two sites, one for a school and one for a non-profit, and while I met the minor needs for one, I’m behind on the second. Call it YELLOW overall.
Overall, that lands me somewhere between yellow and red, and with the plans for 2017 and a small base to build from, I’m going to cut myself a bit of slack and go YELLOW overall.
So it is 2017. January. The year that was 2016 is over, and as per usual, it is time to see how I did. It is NOT going to be pretty. I’m starting with my “blue” / analytical / learning goals.
MY BLUE GOALS – Live Blue or Die!
Astronomy was on my list at the start of the year, and I did almost nothing on it all year. Not quite nothing, I did get my laptop setup to try linking with my camera for a bit of astrophotography, but the astronomy part was minimal. I’ve entered a bit of a inertia problem with my astronomy, much of which will sound like a series of excuses rather than explanations. For me, there are four inter-related problems. First and foremost, I struggle with my equipment. I have a good scope for me and my interests, great optics, some filters, etc. But I struggle to “find” what it is I’m supposed to be seeing still. Some of that is technical, some of it is intellectual. I also hate my power supplies for the equipment, need to fix that. Second, I struggle with having a good location to view from. Basically I have two currently — a park in a suburb nearby, not great, or my backyard. I had bad timing this year for the Star Parties and outings, but also with the equipment challenges, wasn’t exactly encouraged to leap to viewing. I’m hoping my friend’s AstroParc is up and running this year, a bit farther away than I would like, but if I timed it for after work, might be an option once in awhile next fall, or even some late spring / early summer nights. Third, it is extremely rare for me to say something like this about ANYTHING, but I find it a bit boring to do alone. Not to mention that hanging out in a secluded dark park is not exactly at the top of my list of things to do with thousands of dollars of equipment. Fourth and final, one of the solutions to all of the first three is to find a star buddy, and that didn’t exactly happen when I joined RASC (the national astronomy club). I thought there would be obvious buddy-like experiences, but I’m not the most extroverted of people, and while the star parties are fun, you’re basically walking around in the dark talking to nameless and faceless entities most of the time. Not the most conducive to finding a buddy to go to the next party with. As I said at the top, mostly lame excuses, not real challenges, but it just didn’t end up being anything I wanted to prioritize this year. Definitely RED.
For Courses, I was fully expecting to hit the ground running in early March/April, finish the Video Games course, get going on Psychology, and maybe even add a third by the end of the year. But for a variety of other issues, mostly under red goals, almost none of those happened. Coursera moved the course around for structure, but I managed to download all the videos I need, so I *can* finish, I just haven’t yet. But I still intend to. Hard to motivate oneself when there is no urgency or payoff other than basic interest. A little bit of yellow near the start of the year, RED by the end.
Reading tends to be something I do in fits and starts. I gave Kindle Unlimited a try, but it’s just not worth it to me in Canada — most of the books I would want are not part of the program. Random guess, I would say I probably did about 30 books over the course of the year, but I’ll have a better idea in the next couple of months as I now have my ebook collection fully under control and organized, and I’m back to doing reviews again. I’m also confident that I’ll be able to keep going this year on regular reading. Mostly I need to stop just reading the news while I have my lunch and to actually dive into novels and non-fiction titles. Call it YELLOW for the year.
Writing is really hard to measure, and I’ll talk a bit again about this in the red goals. I moved the blog and completely rebuilt it, as well as my picture site. I finally reached 500K words, etc., and I got my Book Reviews up and running. But I’m still coding it RED as I didn’t finish my HR guide despite ongoing demand.
Photography is a hard one to evaluate. Mostly it’s red as I didn’t finish my course or setup cards, but I did keep PhotoBooks going and we did end up with some great shots for the year. Still leaving it as RED though.
For my Reviews, I’m going to be a bit generous to myself for three reasons. First, I already took the hit on the blog/writing above, so I don’t want to “mark myself down” twice for the same infraction. Second, I have been tweeting my TV episode reviews like crazy for the year. Some 2800 plus tweets since I began. I also put up 90 old book reviews and I’m almost ready to start with new ones. Definitely would be yellow at least, but I’m upgrading myself to GREEN.
For Organization, I was mainly looking at new ways to use digital apps, and I’ve done that throughout the year with calendars, to-do lists and shopping lists. Even got our passports redone this year, all newly issued. Again, I’m going to be a bit generous, and call it GREEN.
On Cyber, I had four main areas I wanted to handle — sorting photos (green), scanning photos (umm), sorting music (umm), and backup options (yes, except not current, umm). Okay, so the main work was the sorting of photos, and I did that. Rest would be red. Call it YELLOW overall.
On the Honey-Do List, a sexist name for basically a home activities/renovation list, we did a few items on the list, not many. Dealt with the things that needed to be done, plus a few others. Nothing major looming. Call it YELLOW, albeit a bit generous.
Let’s see where that leaves me:
GREEN: Reviews, Organization,
YELLOW: Reading, Cyber, Honey-Do List
RED: Astronomy, Courses, Writing, Photography
Honestly, now that I’ve coded them individually, I’m a bit surprised. It’s not as ugly as I thought it would be, even for blue.
The ones that are my standards i.e. Organization, Reading, Cyber were not too far off where I want them to be overall (I’m ambitious in my goals, but not unrealistic in expectations), and the Honey-Do List is not a crisis. I did okay with the reviews overall for the year, so that’s a plus.
Where I really fell down though was going beyond the basics to my growth areas — Astronomy, Courses, Writing and Photography. And that makes sense to me, particularly in light of what I will have to say in my red goals post.
Overall, I’m coding my blue goals as YELLOW. Down from where I would like them, but not nightmarish.
I confess I have a bit of a techie mentality. I paid for part of my university life through working tech support areas and software installation services at universities, as well as helping teach a few practical sessions with professionals upgrading their computer skills. And when I started working for government, a lot of what garnered early positive feedback was my computer skills. I’ve done programming too. But where I stop being a techie usually is when it moves from software to hardware. There I’m relatively lost. Yet when people talk about Artificial Intelligence, better use of data, and all those wonderful things that are more software-oriented, they omit the part that I think is really possible in the short-run. The physical hardware with some basic programming.
People are all excited in the industry about “smart cars”, but long before I get a smart car, can someone tell me why I don’t have a dumb robot yet?
I don’t mean those simple robots that are merely self-propelled vacuum cleaners nor the ones for kids that roll like BB-8 or respond to a couple of voice commands or are in the shape of a pet. I’m talking about a dumb, simple, repetitive-task performing robot.
There’s an article over at the Harvard Business Review blogs by Andrew Ng called What Artificial Intelligence Can and Can’t Do Right Now (link may expire) and I love it for the way it approaches what AI can do by comparing it to the way humans process things. Basically, the argument is that if our brain can figure out what to do in less than a second, then the number of variables are relatively small, there are discrete choices and outcomes, and thus you can automate the task to a machine. Basically machine and supervised learning to teach a machine how to do it.
What do I want in a dumb robot? Someone who can do things for me during the day that I don’t need to do myself. Let’s walk through a typical day and the things that I should be able to have already…
I start my day with my alarm clock beeping at me. No real need to automate that, the alarm clock does exactly what it should do, a tried and true technology. But what if I roll over, turn off the alarm, and accidentally fall back asleep. I don’t mean I hit snooze, I mean I turned off the alarm. Now there is no backup. No mental nudge to say stay awake. What if my dumb robot (DR), let’s call it Jeeves, what if Jeeves was programmed that unless I override his programming the night before had access to my calendar and saw that it was 8:00 and I have a work meeting at 9:00, but I was still in bed. Could Jeeves beep at me? Or even in a nice voice (maybe reminiscent of my mom calling me when I was a kid to get my butt out of bed) saying “Paul, are you up yet?”. Maybe more insistent if I don’t answer. The backup to my own false sense of infallibility.
But let’s say I get up on time and I’m heading for the shower. Do I want Jeeves to turn on the shower for me and have it pre-heated to the right temperature before I come in? Nothing particularly challenging about that. Movement to a preset location, turning a knob to a specific point, good to go. Not much of a time-saver, most people wouldn’t bother. But you could have Jeeves do it.
Now, showering, brushing your teeth, voiding, those are tasks you’re going to perform yourself. But if you had a slight disability, are there basic things Jeeves could do to hold an arm out to assist with transitions? Hand you a towel? Monitor you in case you fall and call someone if you do? Could Jeeves even assist with bathing for those who need it? That’s probably a bridge too far right now, but not an impassable chasm.
But as you finish up in the bathroom, could Jeeves make you breakfast? Your bowls, utensils, cereal, juice, glasses are all pretty much going to be in the same place every day, so automating the robot to fill a bowl with cereal and a glass with juice shouldn’t be that difficult. You just need some flexibility to identify to Jeeves what your bowls and glasses look like, the layout of your kitchen, etc. although scanning/mapping software would do that for it pretty easily. A more advanced version might even be able to crack open a couple of eggs, butter bread or toast, make you a fried egg sandwich so breakfast is ready whenever you are.
Once everything is over, presumably Jeeves could clean up and put dishes in the dishwasher, etc. Could maybe clean them, and put them back in exactly the same spot as the day before, but perhaps not.
When I go to work each morning, there are basically six things I take with me. My tablet, my work blackberry, my personal phone, usually a book that I’m reading, my notebook, and my work pass. There are some other things in my bag, etc., but those six are pretty standard. I might or might not wear a coat depending on the day, different shoes, mitts, hats, always my car keys, but those are contextual. And once in a while, I forget something. Like my work pass. Why? Because I stopped somewhere on the way home, put it in the pocket of my jacket, got home, hung up the jacket, and forgot to put the pass on the shelf by the front door where I’ll see it. No biggie, but why am I using mental energy to remember to put it specifically in the same spot or remembering the next day? What if each of those six items had a small RFID tag on it that Jeeves would monitor. And if they weren’t all in my bag as I go to head out in the morning, Jeeves would say, “Excuse me, Paul, I don’t believe you have your work pass with you.” My first reaction will be, “What? No, of course I do, it’s right here in my … umm, why isn’t my pass in my bag? Oh right, it’s over here. Thanks Jeeves/memory jogger.” Is that a big deal? Of course not, but I bet I would program it to scan for the RFID’s when I’m leaving for the days when my brain is focused on the seven things my son, wife and I are talking about as we scramble to get out the door. Heck, sometimes it’s as simple as something got placed on top of my pass and I can’t physically see it on my shelf, and so I head out thinking I have everything.
Here’s where some of us will diverge. Lots of people would love to take the robot to work. That’s a bridge too far for me. If work wants to automate tasks, great, I shouldn’t bring my own “robot” to work to help me do my job. If so, why not just hire the robot?
But while I’m at work, could Jeeves vacuum the house? Clean a toilet? Wash pre-sorted laundry? Hang it on a line to dry or throw in the dryer and check if it is dry when done? Cut the grass? Shovel snow…oh, that would be sweet.
Could Jeeves be programmed with a more sophisticated kitchen module that would allow it to chop vegetables? Basically act as a sous-chef? Maybe even, with remote activation, throw a pizza in or a pre-assembled casserole so it’s ready when we all get home? I hesitate to go so far as having a full cookbook with multiple ingredients, but that is only an RFID tag on a standard sized container away from doable. Could he open the door and receive a package from UPS or FedEx? Could he collect the mail from a central box?
After supper, can it also double as a stand-in for a playmate for someone who is single or whose friends are busy that night? Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean rather than playing a board game or card game against a computer screen, could it roll dice, charge you rent in Monopoly, learn to throw and catch a frisbee? Or a baseball? Could it be programmed with multiple pitching styles to act like an automated pitcher that adjusts to your level and technique so you don’t have to hit balls by yourself and chase them? Could it act as pitcher with five little scouts running around it that chase balls and bring them back? Could it play basic tennis? Those are more about the design of the robot’s arms/movements than about technique for hitting or throwing a ball, so yes, they all could be done.
As I’m getting ready for bed, Jeeves could turn off all the lights downstairs (heck, an app can do that now). Jeeves could also monitor the location and charging status of my e-devices, and if they are not on the charger, go and get them and put them on charge. Or double check my to do list verbally with me to see if there is anything to adjust, delete, add. A personal secretary app, not unlike some of the functions Siri does now. But more interactive, following me around while I do other things.
And all of those things are doable. A dumb robot, personal assistant, digital butler, e-handmaiden, non-sentient slave. An article I read some time ago talked about the issue of android rights, similar basically to the idea that was raised in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Is an high-AI android property like a toaster? Or as the AI evolves, does it meet any criteria for self-awareness or even sentience? Except it missed the point.
Developers are looking for smart androids. People are looking for dumb robots.
If you had a Jeeves, what would you want it to do that you hate doing yourself?
I’ve got a working tracker finally going again, a two-part one that has my work stuff in a single page that I can work with by hand, and another that I had hoped to put on my tablet but then found out that Excel online/cloud/Android doesn’t allow form controls. Fortunately I did *not* spend hours and hours trying to make it work before discovering (a) it was overkill and (b) my tablet wouldn’t let me do it anyway. The page is still a bit tiny font to make it all fit on one page, haven’t solved that problem yet, although I have an idea or two.
The top part of my daily tracker has a full 27 items that I am tracking, and admittedly some of them are no brainers. Like using my sleep machine. They are part of my routine, but one of the frequent failures of trackers is they only track “new stuff” which is bound to have a lot of failures on it. Instead, I’ve learned enough from my reading and own experience on goals to know that some of the “quick wins” should also be listed as it helps balance the storyline. Counting, so to speak, what I’m already doing right and taking credit for it. But some of them are just simple stretch goals.
The bottom part is my developmental area, and ironically or at least coincidentally, it also has 27 items on it. Obviously those ones though are not ones that I’m going to do every day. Like photography learning, it might only be once in the week. But it’s on as a desire. And while the top section I’m trying to get closer and closer to 100% of my goals, the developmental ones are more about balance overall, and so working on even 30 or 40% of them in a week is likely to be considerable effort.
Looking at today, I would say I did about half of the routine ones, an off day, and only about 2% of the developmental ones. I did manage to do some work on finance (ordering my credit report, making some calls) and honey do list (dealing with tires at Costco). I even managed to get a bit of Xmas shopping done.
Not a bad day, not a great day, somewhere in between. Which I’m happy is simply something other than continual slippage.