Blog - Desert Solitaire

A Plan for 2020

So I wanted to write a blog post, outlining what I want to do in the next few months. But oddly enough, I don't have a real space to publish that type of personal reflection. Even though I am juggling four blogs around (sporadically, slowly, with frequent drops), each of them have fairly specific purposes. My old blogs are almost purely archival at this point, having not been touched for nearly five years, while my science blog is exclusively for journal article reviews and comments. I do post many book reviews on Goodreads, and have an anonymous/disconnected blog for free writing.

But while traveling home this past weekend, I realized that I did miss the feeling of having somewhere that I could write daily thoughts. Also, I want to make something of myself in this new year, and perhaps the last period of truly "free" time that I will get to experience through my 20s.Combining those two ideas together prompted me to come up with this plan.

For the next six months, I'm going to aim to tackle something new for each month. Nothing huge or life changing, just small hobbies, patterns, and ideas that I have always wanted to explore but never felt like I had the (time/motivation/money) to do so. Some of these are things that I have hoped to do for a while now, while others are things that I have picked up on a whim. I think my goal will be to "work towards" the task a tiny bit every day of the month, and to write down something about it at least every other day.

Of course, I know that having too high expectations for these kinds of things tend to lead to utter collapse. It get much harder when things in Real Life suddenly start to appear to be more important, as they have much closer time horizons than this vague idea. Also, worrying too much about setting a pattern would only detract from the ability to appreciate the task itself. Also, setting myself a month for each task sounds simultaneously too long and too short - too long to get to do all the things I want to do; too short to develop it into a true habit.

Well, I guess that's why this is an experiment! I have to start somewhere, so I might as well set some expectations. I can revise them as I go - obviously, there is virtually no external watchdogs here - but I think I'll try to stick to these.

January flew by much quicker than I had expected, but somehow, it felt more like an extension of December rather than a month in its own rights. So, we start with February.

February - Guitar

March - Web Server and website design

April - Religious Texts

I have wanted to understand a bit more about world religions beyond what Mr. Becker taught in World History. This is sorta a goal to read the main aspects of various holy texts, as well as understand a bit about the different traditions of these religions - Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism (and other Christian groups that are not mainline protestant, focusing more on traditions/differences), and Confucianism. The ones I have in mind (sorta a week for each, which is definitely not enough time to actually digest them fully, but I think I'll treat it more as a survey)

I guess one aspect is that I'm not in a particularly searching time for my own faith. This isn't really a "explore different kinds of religions and spiritualities" period, but more of trying to understand them a bit better, beyond what is written in simple news articles or wikipedia summaries.

May - Physics

Go ham on the classical mechanics practice problems, and ramp up my journal reading schedule as well.

Yeah yeah, I know this isn't really fitting into the goal of "things I wouldn't get to do during grad school", but I do need to prepare for grad school too...

The other major physics thing that I want to do is some kind of Quantum Computing 201 course. This would be an overview of the major aspects of quantum computing from a hardware perspective, in particular looking at the different architectures and what they are working towards. This really is motivated by talking with Kevin Hu, who remarked that there are a lot of articles that explains the basics of quantum computing and a lot of journal articles, but not really that much in the middle. I also really hope that, by going through this, I can have something that I can refer back to. Of course, the data presented here will (hopefully) become rapidly outdated, but at least going through review articles and getting coherence lifetimes, as well as understanding the basic way that gates are performed in all of these architectures, would be illuminating to me. I want to get away from the handwavy answers, and more towards a good understanding of exactly how the external source couples to the qubit via the JC Hamiltonian.

June - Reading!

Just really getting through some of my Goodreads list. I think I want to put a pause on doing heavy reading until June, just so I have a chance to develop these different hobbies. Overly reading at night would be somewhat detrimental. That doesn't mean I'll stop reading altogether, but instead, trying to find a stopping point in some books and to put others just on temporary pause. Goal of reading 1 book every four days for the month, for a minimum of 8 books per month.

July

Part two of any of the above, and also a built in buffer period/rest period.

August - Travels?

Unclear if I will be doing any travels over the summer or not - if a Europe trip or a America train trip present themselves with the right opportunities, then doing a photography/travel blog would be something neat to do. If not, then more of a cooking blog - really trying to push myself to try new recipes and different techniques of cooking. I could try to use the two cookbooks I have, Salt Fat Acid Heat and the Chinese Cooking book.

September - Slice of Life

Trying to return to a more conventional blog, because I expect that September will be a period of great transition. I think the biggest mistake I did with the campuspress blog was that I attempted to make each of my blog posts sound particularly profound or good in some way. That's not really important - I value these words because they are a record of my time, rather than as something really well polished. Also, classical mechanics prep would probably be going into overdrive at this point, so we will see how that goes...

October - Lab documentation

I feel like the first month in lab will be particularly illuminating for me to make regular notes of the processes that would happen. While a public blog might not be the best place, I should probably develop a better digital notebook habit than what I currently have, which is really scattered over a variety of paper and digital mediums that the company provides.

November, December

I don't think I know quite enough as to how I would be doing at that point! But if experience in undergrad has anything to show, I will probably be pretty swamped with grad school to have time for a fun side project.

So yeah. That's the plan. I think this is still in my "dream big" phase, before I get distracted by meaningless (and meaningful!) things along the way. But at least I can point back to this document to figure out what I was hoping to do!

Also, as a result of pursuing this, what I also hope to help cut out of my life is:

  1. Tasks that are purely maintenance - things like spending too much time cooking, cleaning, and watching Netflix. There just isn't any meaning in doing any of those tasks. I think the best way to free up time here is just by using some of the easier ways out. That means more of just premade salads, premade soups, simple stir-fry, premade curry, simple sandwiches, etc. The goal is to still be healthy (primarily by cutting as many carbs/filler as possible, while having lean meat (chicken, fish).
  2. Travel - January had a significantly larger amount of travel than I expected, and I got to see so many good friends around the country. But I think it has also taxed me to some extent. I don't want to be inwardly focused, but other than a weekend trip up to NYC (April perhaps?) and a flight to Chicago for the visit weekend, I don't see myself traveling until July.
  3. Entertainment - One of the big draws of DC is that I can just take a subway into the city and do the museums and see the orchestra and do other cool things like that. But, I don't think that actually helps change me in many productive ways. I think I would like to go see more concerts and stuff, but it isn't really worth it at the moment, which seems pretty sad to me. But it would help me with my budgeting, and my somewhat return to normalcy?

Things that I don't want to cut out include:

  1. Other people - I still want to nurture relationships - with my church, a new community group, with coworkers, my housemates, and hopefully more UMD people as well. Being there for other people, and not just spending time on myself, is the key lesson I took from that last minute decision in Miami.
  2. Exercise - maintaining a reasonable exercise routine is still really important to me. I think I will really aim to do cardio on the weekends, as well as on Monday and Thursdays. Four times a week would be more than I previously have been able to commit to, so it's probably not too crazy of a goal?
  3. Physics - Even with these other things, I need to push myself to work more on the QCJC, classical mechanics prep problems, and general physics knowledge.

So yeah. Let's see where 2020 takes me!

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