Time to Think About Some Goals

I forget who it was that taught me this little gem but in my experience, it has turned out to be true. If you want to insure that you accomplish things, write them down on a list. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you write them on paper with a pen or pencil or you type them into a computer. The relevant thing is that you’ve spent the time thinking about them and formulating them into words and as you write or type them, you are, in effect, programming your brain to accomplish them. I often don’t even bother to check the items off the list as I accomplish them. Just making the list is enough to focus my intent. I occasionally run across lists that I’ve made, either in old notebooks or in files in some obscure sub-directory of my Documents folder, and I’ll look at them and discover that I’ve accomplished most, if not all, of the items on the list.

So, I want to make some goals for myself. There are three categories of goals that I intend to attempt to capture today:

  • Health goals
  • Project goals
  • Financial goals

Let’s take Health goals first.

  • I want to lose at least 10 pouinds between the initial weigh in and the final weigh in of the “Scale Back Alabama” competition.
  • I want to get my daily fasting blood sugar down below 130 mg/dL.
  • I want to get my cholesterol panels all within ADA recommendations (that means boosting my HDL and getting my triglycerides down).
  • I want to stop spilling protein (that means mostly exercise, I think).
  • I want to get back on a schedule of daily exercise.
  • I want to quit reflexively eating everything on my plate.
  • Long term, I want to weigh less than 200 pounds.

Now some Project goals:

  • I want to maintain my habit of writing for at least 30 minutes a day (nominally between 10:00pm and 10:30pm).
  • I want to start posting to my blog, Occasional Comment (here) at least five times a week.
  • I want to finish the Radiosonde data analysis project for Bob.
  • I want to present at least once a quarter to the lunch and learn at work for a total of five times this year.
  • I want to write at least a science fiction short story and perhaps even a novel.
  • I want to finish the pilot of The Gentry.

And finally, some Financial goals:

  • I want to get completely out of debt.
  • I want to start a successful small consulting business to retire to.
  • I want to be able to save at least 20% of my income while paying all of my bills and having a comfortable lifestyle.
  • I want to have the money to get the house fixed up.
  • I want to be independently wealthy so long as it harms no one.

So there are my lists for now. I’m putting them out there. I’ll come back and check periodically to see how many items I’ve accomplished. I’ll probably write some more posts about them as events unfold.

Daily Contemplation

I started writing every night. I set a time, 10:00pm until 10:30pm, as a minimum time. I was inspired to do this by Gladwell’s observation that it takes 10,000 hours to learn to do something well. I believe in practice. I have recently discovered that an important component of practice is to make sure that you are practicing the correct way of doing something, else you will learn to do it incorrectly. I suppose that matters less when it comes to writing. I have never heard of a right or wrong way to write. Perhaps that is because, it is so difficult to write anything substantial that it is a miracle if you write anything at all.

I have so many projects in progress that it is difficult to keep them all moving. I am doing better than I have in the past though. I think that my nightly writing discipline may help me develop some blogging discipline. I’m an eternal optimist, aren’t I? I have noticed a pattern to my writing though. I seem to spend most of my time writing about writing. That is something that I need to work on changing.

I’m using OpenOffice to write at home on my MacBook. I have given up trying to write using emacs. I’m not sure why but I end up spending too much time thinking about the structure of the document, for example, placement of line breaks, etc., when I use emacs. When I use a conventional word processor, I just take the defaults and type.

A Post From My Blackberry

I hope this works the way I think it should. I have never posted anything from my Blackberry using the WordPress web form interface. It is time consuming to type using the BB keyboard but it does allow me to post at times and in places that were not viable before now. This post is going to be short so that if it doesn’t work, I haven’t lost much.

Quick update: I was able to save a draft of this post but I couldn’t figure out how to publish it without using a “real” browser. Still useful. And maybe I’ll figure out how to publish from the BB with a little more effort.

Happy (belated) New Year!

So, here’s my first post of 2010. A new decade dawns. What will it bring? I hope a renewed commitment to blogging. I guess that’s a bit optimistic given my track record to date and considering it’s January 12th and I’m only now writing my first post of the year.

I’ve been working on a Ruby project the past week or so. It is basically a script to scrape data from pre-formatted text on a web page, cache it to a local database, then use it to generate animated plots to visualize how it changes over time. It sounds kind of pedestrian but is actually quite fun and is giving me an opportunity to build my Ruby skills on a task that I more or less understand instead of trying to build them while inventing something entirely new.

If I would just write for ten minutes a day to start with I would be in the habit in no time. Sigh!

Musings on Quo Vadis

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. With the current state of my bank account, thinking is a very inexpensive pastime. I’ve reached a point where I know quite a lot about myself, my profession and living in general. What I’m still trying to come to terms with is translating what I know into action. I’ve also had problems reconciling what I know with what I feel. My psychologist tells me that is because the limbic system takes much longer to achieve stability than the frontal cortex does. This means when you’re angry, you stay angry long after you’ve resolved the issues that made you angry in the first place. I suppose there was probably some kind of survival benefit of this at one time but it doesn’t seem to be nearly as useful in the modern world.

I am approaching a time when I can take early retirement from my job and draw a pension large enough to pay most of my bills. I’m too young, IMHO, to consider really retiring, as in quitting work and living the life of Riley. I don’t think I’ll ever really want to retire in that sense. Instead, I am considering what I want to do now that salary is not a major consideration. I have been thinking about what I enjoy doing most as well as what I can contribute to the world. I still haven’t achieved my initial goal of financial independence. I really don’t want to be rich. I just want to have enough money so that money is not hampering me from doing whatever it is I want to do. Perhaps that is at the core of why I am not financially independent yet :-).

Whatever I decide to do, I have this gut feeling that blogging is going to be part of it. Blogging is a way of getting your thoughts out where you can see them and doing it in a public forum helps keep you honest with yourself. I need to get in the habit of writing something here every day. It doesn’t have to be big, just regular.

Web Development is Just Plain Fun!

I’ve been reading a good book lately. It’s called RESTful Web Services and it’s by Leonard Richardson and Sam Ruby, O’Reilly Media, Inc, May 8, 2007, ISBN 0-596-52926-0. It got me past an old obstacle that I basically ignored when I initially encountered it, which is how to access the web through a proxy from Ruby. I updated my Rails homepage, a private affair intended to give me quick access to a number of links that I access frequently. While I was at it, I figured out how to display the RSS feed of this blog in the center column of the homepage.

So, how does this make me feel? Totally empowered and back on my game. I haven’t done any web development in so long that I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be able to catch up with all the new developments. I guess I knew better deep down but it was still exhilarating to finally update my homepage after literally years of not changing anything on it but the content.

I also started looking in to Amazon Web Services but that’s a topic for another post.

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Adventures in Robot Building

It’s all about learning, right? I’ve been building a robot from scratch, as you may know if you’ve read some of my previous posts. I started out with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do. I started by saving the miniature balsa crates that the grocery store sells tangerines in. That is a good size for a robot, I thought to myself.

Then I discovered the Arduino. I knew immediately that I wanted the robot to have an Arduino for a brain. Next, I bought a dual gear motor kit and some wheels. I assembled the kit and discovered that it wasn’t going to mount very easily on my tangerine crate. So, I thought about it a while and discovered that if I took the crate entirely apart (it was only stapled together), the side panel was exactly the right size to mount my wheel assembly on.

Originally, I wanted to build a robot with wheels front and back. My BOEbot uses a rear roller for stability instead of having two sets of wheels so I wanted to try something different. After some more thought, I decided to compromise and buy an omni-directional caster for the stability point of my robot. By this point, I had mounted the wheels on one end of the side panel and the caster on the other. I had also purchased an H-bridge motor driver shield to control the wheels (shields are the daughter boards that plug on top of the Arduino so conveniently).

The motor shield came as a kit and I assembled it per the instructions. Try as I might, I never got it to spin my motors. I spent several afternoons troubleshooting the problem and decided that I probably burned out one of the chips on the motor shield. I decided that I should have installed a socket instead of soldering the chip directly to the board as the kit instructed. So, I ordered some replacement chips for the board and proceeded to try to desolder the chip in question. That was harder than it sounded. I haven’t yet managed to desolder the chip in question.

While I was ordering the replacement chips, I discovered an already assembled H-bridge controller that cost less than half what I paid for the motor shield kit. The mini-controller wasn’t as capable as my motor shield but it was adequate for driving the two motors on my robot. All it required was that you solder two, eight pin headers to either side of the board. I was sold. If I could repair the motor shield, I could use the little controller board for another project. If I didn’t get the motor shield fixed, I would still be able to get my robot rolling on it’s own power with the new controller. That was the plan anyway.

When the parts came in, I soldered the headers to the board and plugged it in to the solderless bread board to give it a try. I wired it up and checked my wiring several times. I wrote the code for the Arduino to control the new board. I plugged it all in and uploaded the code and nothing happened.

I spent most of the evening troubleshooting. I still haven’t figured out what is wrong. I will give it another try this weekend. I still have several things I can try. I suppose it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if it wasn’t so challenging. And like I said at the beginning of this post, it’s all about learning, right?

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