New Ambitions for a New Year

As we draw on the final hours of 2018, the only words I feel appropriate are: “wait, it’s really January tomorrow?” The past twelve months have felt deceivingly short despite everything that’s happened in that span of time. I had a number of rough job interviews, met Richard Stallman in person, installed Gentoo, became a legal adult, graduated high school, and finished my first semester of university, all in what seemed to me like just a few weeks.

“Productive” is how I’d characterize the year, but I’m having a hard time rationalizing why it is that I feel that way. Yes, I reached two major milestones in my education, but I still don’t know what to make of everything else I did. I’d probably feel better about my accomplishments if I had a goal and a means of assessing whether or not I achieved it, but alas, I didn’t set any out of the same cynicism that drives me to point out resolutioners contributing to the January gympocalypse.¹ I’d like to mend that cynicism for 2019, though. One year really isn’t a bad span of time for setting goals – it’s long enough that you can be ambitious in your planning, but short enough that there’s pressure to continue making progress throughout the year.

So, I’ve come up with some goals for myself, and I’ve decided to write about them to impose some level of accountability.

Doing

Writing

This year, I managed to put out seven articles. Last year saw four, and the year before saw one. A linear regression suggests that I’ll be putting out ten this year.

I kid. As tempting as it is to make “write more frequently” one of my goals, my focus will be on quality over quantity. In 2019, I plan to:

No hard article count goals this year, because again, quality over quantity. If I’m forcing myself to write to fill a quota, my heart won’t be in it.

Contributing to Free Software

I’d like to migrate all of the projects I maintain to sr.ht, but I’ll be keeping my GitHub account for sending pull requests to projects that live on there.

Originally, I had a list of projects that I wanted to contribute to in the new year, but I haven’t read a single line of code from any of the entries on that list and there’s a good chance that I’ll have second thoughts about contributing following the first perusals, so I’ve decided that a more reasonable goal is to become a regular contributor to at least one project. By “regular contributor,” I mean gaining enough of a presence that people are coming to me to ask questions about the code.

Learning

Computer Science

I have tried, and failed, numerous times to get through Hal Abelson and Gerald Sussman’s Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. Now that I’m more mature in terms of rigor, I’ve decided to finally buckle down to make my way through the text and all of its exercises. It’s a fat 657 page book, but I’m more than capable, and I have an entire year to do it.

My more lighthearted goal is to put out at least one demo on either the Super Nintendo or the Nintendo DS. I’ve always wanted to program for a platform where I’m constrained by the limitations of the hardware.

Computer Security

Capture-the-flag used to be a more significant hobby of mine; I mostly dropped off the scene when I graduated high school, but I’d like to get back into it. In a similar vein to my SICP goal, I’m aiming to finally get through a book that I’ve failed to finish in the past, Reverse Engineering for Beginners, and complete at least 50 of its exercises. 50 is a about one per week, which I think is reasonable.

Electronics

I’ve tried several times in the past to learn “electronics”, and never progressed beyond the laws of Ohm and Joule. I think the issue was that I didn’t know what I wanted to learn; I set out to study “electronics,” which wasn’t specific enough. This time, I’ll be more diligent in finding curriculum that’s relevant to me. I want to learn to read boards and gain the knowledge necessary to repair my Commodore 64, so my focus will be on the design of electronic circuits. I’ll achieve this is by going through the coursework for MIT’s 6.002: “Circuits and Electronics”. It’s a course I wanted to go through when I was a sophomore in high school, but at the time, I was discouraged by the list of prerequisites in the syllabus.

Another goal of mine is to join an amateur radio club. I’ve already got two in mind: SDFARC and the one that runs the local 2-meter repeater I frequent. My thought is that joining one will give me an opportunity to find an Elmer whose brain I can pick about RF electronics.

Mandarin Chinese

One of my favorite courses in high school was Mandarin Chinese. I took it for four years, and while I wanted to continue studying it at university, I sadly couldn’t fit any classes into my schedule. The four years of study left me with a grasp of the language’s fundamentals, however, and I think that I could reasonably continue to learn the language on my own accords. Throughout the year, I plan to:


To recap, my goals this year are:

Too ambitious? Well, I guess we’ll find out in 365 days when I write another post like this.


1: I don’t get back on campus until the 22nd, thankfully. The university rec center gets crowded enough.