News- rejiggering my meetup groups, new book club, etc.

I’m re-arranging my meetups.

I’m starting a new book club– the Buddhist Book Club of Takoma Park. This will be the third time I’ve tried to start a Buddhist themed meetup group. The first two times, it wasn’t a book club– so people arrived and we didn’t really have an agenda or any specific topic to talk about. It was a disaster– low turn out, single RSVP meetups where even that one person didn’t show, and the Nichiren and Shin proselytizers showed up. Maybe I should be thankful they didn’t show up at the same time, historically, those two sects didn’t always get along.

On the other hand, book clubs are great– they create a natural agenda, everyone knows what is on topic and how to behave. The time investment involved in reading a book encourages people to finish what they start and give people the knowledge to intelligently discuss something. So far I’ve done an Programmer’s book club, Icelandic Fiction in translation club (closed), a Russian contemporary fiction club (closed), a Linguistics book club (still going), — the stillborn conlang book club doesn’t count. Of those, the Linguistics one is the most successful- 38 books!

I’m dropping the “Programmer’s Bookclub”– I think I read all the popular audience book clubs I need to read. More importantly, I was hoping to network and form relationships with people in the industry but outside of my office. Didn’t happen– people on average attended 1-3 times. Also, I moved and when I updated the group’s location, meetup didn’t notify anyone near my new location. So everyone from the original group stop arriving due to the distance and there were too few sign ups at the new location. That and about three failed meetups with rsvps but 0 shows, really killed the group and my motivation to keep it going. Still, at 16 books, it achieved one goal– to read more programming books.

News, Assorted and Various

I’m continuing to become an expert in babies and toddlers, at least from reading pop-non-fic books about birth, toddlers, and early childhood development. Did you know that if mothers eat, say beets during their third trimester, their toddlers are more likely to be willing to eat beets? Did you know that women who take a two week vacation before scheduled delivery are four time less likely to have a C-section?

I’ve finally resumed studying French. This time with work books. My ASL flashcard studies are coming along nicely. I can now say (in English word order) a lot of sentences using my ~300-400 signs. Just 200 or so more signs and I’ll exhaust my flashcard deck and move on to memorizing the dictionary. Icelandic progress on one hand is stalled (the review counts on my old flashcard decks spiked to 1000+ each for four decks. So I declared flashcard bankruptcy and started a new deck based on all new cards.

The office has been crazy stressful for the last week. I’m beginning to think career planning isn’t my forte. And a rollbacked release makes me wonder what my forte is.

My quantified-self project rolls on. I haven’t started poking myself to measure blood glucose– there are a lot of manuals to read through first and for the experiment to work, I need to have a week or two of relatively simple meal planning, unlike friday, where I merely ate when I could and whatever was in arms reach. I think if I measured my blood glucose last week, all I’d learn is that I should eat regular, predicable meals. Blood pressure, sleep and weight monitoring is rolling along just fine though.

GTD: Apocalypse

It’s that time again, time to try to get (more) things done. First things first, I need to update my methodology, review my projects, remember what the GTD advice was in the first place. I suppose it is a pity my license for the GTD book only works on a palm pilot and the password was a credit card I don’t have anymore.

Methodology
This is the boring part. GTD at the start is a fun chore of picking things to do. On a day to day basis, it’s the tending to calendars and to-do lists on paper and computer. Currently, I get by on a 12 month calendar (2 pages per month), a pair of notebooks, some TODO items in gmail, some in remember-the-milk, some on slips of paper, instapaper, a bunch of vague policies (like don’t do things that require errands, like returning physical videos).

Projects
Projects are to-do list items that are so big that they need a separate list. They drive all the other to-do lists. According to GTD, I’m suppose to think about why this is a good project, envision what it would look like if I succeeded, some more things of questionable value and then come up with a concrete “next action”.

Change of contract. I’ve worked on the same contract three+ years. I’ve been working on transitioning to the next contract since August. I’m regretting not just quitting my job and job hunting. It’s getting increasing important that something happen on this issue because people are getting fatigued about me talking about it to the point where this could lead to violence. Why? My mood is just better on a contract with clear goals and a clear benefits. What does success look like? Easy. I report to a different desk. I feel like I’ve earned my paycheck each day.

Languages. In my life I’ve sunk effort into ASL, Latin, *Spanish, *French, Japanese, *Russian, Swedish, *Icelandic, Esperanto, Klingon, toki pona. At one point I could speak like a three year old in the ones I starred. I won’t go any further with la, es, jp, or se. ru is going into deep freeze– no particular action outside of music & movies. is is going into maintenance mode– just flash cards and reading– not clear if I can resume or continue study weekly group. I want to finish fr, but just flash cards & reading– I’vent the will to do a study group. I’m on the fence with respect to eo, tlh and tp– they’re small, but tend to be driven by obsession & that isn’t voluntary. I’d like to finish writing a language. And I want to make some progress with ASL and it’s look-a-like, Baby Sign Language. Why? It’s just a social hobby, a good defense against the typical imbalances you find yourself living when you work in IT. And ASL/Baby-SL actually could be useful. What does success look like? It’s either a local in-person community or being able to read without dictionaries or that “I-don’t-understand-anything” feeling.

Vegetarianism and Cooking. I used to be active in the vegetarian community. I should resume. Why? If not me, who else will? What is success? Gee, hard to say. This is more of a process than a goal with a single end.

Open Source Hobbyist Programming. This December I made awesome progress on an open source project. I’ll have to figure out how to move it to the next level. Why? Easy, because one needs to be able to point at something every once in a while and say, “There, I did something tangible, valuable and good.” What is success? A downloadable component that a hypothetical developer could install, and demo with sample data in less than 15 minutes unpracticed and 5 minutes with practice.

Books Another project that looks like a process, without any particular end. Why? It’s community and tends to drive new hobbies. What does success look like? It looks like three book clubs. I think that is my limit.

And I haven’t even gotten to the interesting projects that will probably shrink my spare, idle time to nothing. That’s for another post.

New Years Resolutions 2012

Here is the link to last years resolutions and (links to resolutions before that).

Embrace simplicity.
I’m voluntarily signing up for more complexity than I need or had ever wanted. I’ll stop doing that so much.

Live like I’m mortal.
I can’t be starting projects that I can only finish in a lifetime and a half. So all my materials for Spanish, German– off to the library for donation. Old hardware for that project I wont get to for 80 years, off for recycling & resale.

Build Communities.
I’m a complete amateur at it, but I’m getting better. Per the above resolutions though, I probably will rationalize and refocus on fewer groups though.

News

I don’t post here very often. When I do, it’s either so random, it lacks a good category or audience, or it is “public diary” material. Sorry, nothing really gossip worthy, I don’t over share. Elsewhere on the web I post about programming stuff and linguistics stuff.

My son injured his knee, so I’m waiting on him hand and foot. And knee.

I’m working on writing a fake language, but so far have only spent maybe 2-3 hours on it. Clearly I need to think about methodology and scheduling.

I’m getting to the gym for cardio everyday since mid summer. I’m on a roll. I just need to figure out how to eat more to support the extra activity. And I figure it isn’t optional anymore. I used to get by on just the walking involved in public transportation and taking the stairs. That isn’t enough anymore and I can subjectively feel the difference between how effectively my heart and lungs are working since I resumed cardio everyday. On a downside, this has cut into my time spent doing weights, so I’ll have to figure out when I can do weights, else the joints will start to ache.

I’ve been doing vocabulary flashcards daily for what seems like a year. The number of words I’ve learned impresses me, but what impresses me more is how I’ve consistently underestimated the sheer scale of the task of learning a significant percent of another language’s vocabulary. I think I can absorb about 10 to 30 words a day depending on the difficulty. Words with no internal clues are the hardest. Sjalfsmorðingi is easy because it means “self-murder-person”. Near loan words are the easiest. I’ve started my French deck and may resume some of the other decks, but this time with maybe as few as 1 or 2 new words per day. I really can only do one language seriously at a time. Maybe I’ll find out if I can “drip feed” myself a less important Anki deck without rapidly getting overwhelmed and giving up on that deck.

I’ve been reading about monkeys, fish and talking apes. I need to think about my software developer and Russian lit book clubs because I’ve been neglecting them. Flashcards have displaced a lot of reading time and weekends have been full of housework, my other prime reading time. Maybe I should experiment with the robot reading to me on my kindle while I do stuff around the house or when my hands are otherwise occupied.

Time for some real blogging

Real blogging is a wordy update about what is happening in one’s life. I haven’t been doing that much recently. I’ve mostly been writing articles. Head over to my conlang blog to read some of them, especially if you are one of the people who are reading this RSS feed mostly just for the toki pona and conlang stuff. My article on conlang manefestos and my conlang manifesto is quite good if I may say so myself.

So this evening I do some real blogging. My son’s finished up his freshman year at high school so has move out for the summer. I’ve got too many personal projects in the queue. Some of the have been going on long enough it’s time to decide if it is time to ditch or take it to the next level. Icelandic, writing a conlang, some of the various websites I’ve started. I’ve got a few projects that I haven’t really started but would like to, such as dabbling in Virginian Algonquian, finally learning to read Klingon (I’m suspecting it is easier than it looks due to the small number of words, 2.5 thousand or so).

Also I need to take better care of myself and get to the gym and get all the flossing and stuff done. I’m going to try to see if two weeks of following a different wake up and go to bed routine will break me of my bad habits, especially with respect to reading the news, RSS readers, email, twitter.

Professionally, I’m not sure what is next, but it’s likely to be something big. So I want to get my vacation in, soon. Maybe I should go to Iceland in late August– I just need to make sure it isn’t a lonely hike, isn’t with cranky people, and involves lots of language use opportunities.

New Year’s Resolutions 2011

Looking back at 2 of the last four years, this exercise doesn’t seem to be all that effective. In GTD talk, this, I suppose is a good time to review “maybe someday” projects. I should be reviewing fitness, study and money goals every month– New Years is too infrequent.

2010′s Resolutions- missing. I was goofing off last year with Na’vi and enjoying Snomargedon at about that time.
2009′s Resolutions
2008′s Resolutions- missing.
2007′s Resolutions

This year the most disruptive thing was changing apartments and my son moving in with me for high school years. Otherwise, this year has been smooth sailing on all measures.

Apple Farm in Iceland. I guess it is a good idea I haven’t pursued this business opportunity. One would have to grown a lot of crab apple trees in a country not known for having trees to get enough crab apples to make hard cider. On the other hand, only having to work 2 months a year (the growing season), is very attractive.

Group Retreat to Iceland. This is a fairly new idea of mine– to cobble together a dozen or so people to travel to Iceland in one great big herd and rent an entire house, then shift from farm to farm doing Iceland stuff– horse riding and spelunking and making jokes about Icelandic cuisine.

Other than that, not too many big projects. My various language and linguistics projects are all huge projects, but I chip away at them continuously (generally with no sign of progress). I used to have grandious programming goals, but I now have really small goals that can be finished in an evening– and I find it more fun to work on that trying to find a large patch of time to do something big.

News: writing, meetups, I’m overscheduled

Online writing.  I maintain two blogs, I read my facebook page and manage three email accounts. I write enough on stackoverflow that it should be on the list.  Of the four, I like facebook the least– it has the smallest audience and it isn’t really my best content I’ve created.  Sometimes the content I’m competent and interested in writing, just isn’t interesting for my audience on facebook.  From google analytics, I know that there have been dozen of people who cared about items I’ve written. On facebook, even I have a hard time being interested in what I’ve written.  I used to write for my technical blog more– stackoverflow has satisfied some of the need to write something down.

Meetups.  I organized 6 groups.  That is more than it sounds like.  Five language study groups groups and a book club. In language study groups in order of success: Icelandic, French, Swedish, Russian, Hindi.  And a linguistics book club.  I’m thinking of bumping that number of to 5, but that really just means expanding one of the mailing lists to four mailing lists to support two new locations and a new book club.  That would be at least one or two dozen more events per year.

News: I suppose things could be worse

The only thing remarkable right now is that week to week, things seem to be the same.

At the office I’m running a metaphorical marathon where the finish line is moving forward about as fast as I run. In two weeks though, we’ll stop calling it marathon one and call it marathon two.

At home I’ve been taking care of a 12 year old.  Its mentally tiring.

I’m making little progress on personal programming projects.  Speaking of which, I had this great idea– an application where you could take a test every day to look for signs of brain tumors, Alzheimer’s or what not.  It would be kind of like brain age or those rapid assessment tests, except with some multiple regression.  If it worked, then these hard to detect issues could be detected far earlier than they are usually detected now.

The technical problem is one of database programming (gathering large data sets) and signal processing–trying to pull out a trend from what is usually noisy data, like the number of misspellings, typing speed and self assessment responses, while correcting for factors like learning and the expected mental decline we get from loss of brain cells.

Nintendo’s Brain Age probably could work, but Brain Age isn’t hooked into any data to say– hey your score profile looks like dementia or maybe an alien parasite burrowing into your parietal lobes.    Without enough data to confirm a pattern has something interesting driving it, we’d just end up with high tech phrenology.  Now that I’m thinking about it, the best way to continually test someone is to not test them, but just to record ambient data, like typing speed and accuracy.

But ignoring issues, like that– it is one more personal programming project I wish I had time to do.

News

Another busy weekend.  I tried to re-arrange my possessions and furniture again.  It was reasonably successful.  Got a new shelving unit from IKEA, although what I really wished I had space for was one of those entire-wall-closet-things.

Did 2 lua lessons with the son, one aimed at demonstrating how to check in code and merge using subversion.  The other was an army simulator.  I wish there was more reading material about lua.

I played WoW again.  For some reason in-game accomplishments don’t seem very exciting.  I found it more rewarding to setup a twitter client inside the WoW client then to reach level 12.  I wish the ingame story text was better reading.  Blizzard has to pull of so many feats–feats of programming, art work, commerce, community building, that I guess I shouldn’t beat them up for not getting the story text right.

Speaking of community building, WoW could use some help in that department.  Guild building requires 10 people, and in practice many more because of challenges of getting everyone online at the same time.  Raids require 5 people.  So if you aren’t always online, and if you don’t resort to adding just anyone to your group, you can’t easily do raids and guilds.

That leaves questing in pairs.  That doesn’t have much in the way of in game support, especially when it comes to setting up events and letting people RSVP.  The virtual world needs a meetup.com.  I wonder if it alread exists?