2015 – The Year of Challenges and Opportunities

(Note: this was posted in February but backdated to December).

At the end of my 2014 goal review I wrote:

“Bring on new challenges and opportunities in 2015.”

Challenging would be a word that aptly sums up my 2015. From holding none to multiple jobs, changing churches, and teaching hundreds of students, 2015 presented plenty of challenges and also plenty of opportunities.

At the start of the year I set some goals which I subsequently completely forgot about, but looking back now I achieved four out of five of them. They were:

  • Get a stable job
    • Work life in 2015 was anything but stable, I went for months at a time without work or pay and then at other times I was holding five contracts at a time. Despite these ups and downs I was presented with the opportunity to lecture a whole course of my own. This was a great personal development opportunity coming less than two years after completing my PhD.
  • Continue learning German
    • This goal ebbed and flowed, but in the later part of the year I completed around 90 days of continuous practice on Duolingo.com
  • Learn python
    • I completed multiple Coursera courses on python and had to crash course myself through it to work on a Baxter robot in the middle of the year.
  • Go to Europe
    • I went in February on a whim after finding myself out of work.
  • Read 20 books
    • I read 33! (Below are some of the covers as shown by goodreads.com)

Some of the books read in 2015
Some of the books read in 2015

Continue reading “2015 – The Year of Challenges and Opportunities”

Goals for 2015

  • Get a stable job (variants of this goal have been ongoing for three years)
  • Continue learning German
  • Learn python
  • Go to Europe
  • Read 20 books

2014 – The Year of Growth

Another year comes to an end. This year has been different to previous years, in particular, my first year properly working in a full time job. During this year I have achieved many of the goals I set myself in January:

  • Graduate and get a real job
    • My thesis was passed in May and I graduated in November.
    • In February I was offered a five month position at UNSW which was then extended through to the end of the year.
  • Continue Learning German – and go back to Germany.
    • I did well with the German in the middle of the year, but in the later months I have done none.
    • I still have a massive desire to return to Germany.
  • Summit Mt Kosciusko
    • Fourth year in a row that this hasn’t happened. But I did go skiing in the Snowy Mountains.
  • Publish a journal article – or two.
    • I published two conference papers, still got to get those journal articles done.
  • Read at least ten books – including the six paperbacks I currently have unread.
    • I have read 36 books! But have now amassed 14 more to be read. In May I decided to start reading on the bus in the morning rather than reading Facebook and Twitter on my phone.
  • Buy a VF Commodore – I’ve wanted a Holden since I was in my teens.
    • Still a pipe-dream
  • Keep this blog up to date.
    • I blogged fewer times than any previous year, so I avoided the problem.

The year has had many highlights: Continue reading “2014 – The Year of Growth”

Goals for 2014

In no particular, but some sort of order:

  • Graduate and get a real job – I’ve submitted the thesis, now just waiting on the marks.
  • Continue Learning German – and go back to Germany.
  • Summit Mt Kosciusko – it has to be achieved some day soon.
  • Publish a journal article – or two.
  • Read at least ten books – including the six paperbacks I currently have unread.
  • Buy a VF Commodore – I’ve wanted a Holden since I was in my teens.
  • Keep this blog up to date – In the last few months I’ve been about three months behind on posts.

2013 – The Year of Adventure

2013 has been great. It’s been a year of fantastic fun, growth and personal achievement.

At the start of 2013 I laid out some goals for the year, they were:

  • Complete my PhD
    • Achieved!
    • I submitted on November 20.
  • Get a real job
    • Not completely achieved, I’m freelancing at the moment.
  • Learn German
    • I did far better at this than in 2012. I am still very much a beginner, but I am learning.
    • Duolingo has been great for this.
  • Summit Mt Kosciusko
    • Once again this goal was elusive.
  • Publish a paper and a journal article
    • I published two papers.
  • Go on a holiday for at least a week without internet access
    • I didn’t end up away for a whole week without internet, but there were a few weekends of digital silence.

An additional personal achievement was reading 12 books over the year – four histories, three science, three theology, and two novels.

There are also a number of highlights from throughout the year: Continue reading “2013 – The Year of Adventure”

Goals for 2013

This year I have decided to make all my goals actually tangible and measurable.

They are, in no particular order:

  • Complete my PhD
  • Get a real job
  • Learn German
  • Summit Mt Kosciusko
  • Publish a paper and a journal article
  • Go on a holiday for at least a week without internet access

2012 in review: the year ends, the world doesn’t

Rugby League
Rugby League

At the start of this year, as always, I set myself a set of goals, some of them in review:

  • Learn German
    • This went really well until about March and then I got busy.
  • Summit Mt Kosciusko
    • This was all but forgot about, so will be a goal for 2013
  • Publish two papers
    • Achieved!
    • I presented work at AAAI-12 in Toronto, Canada, and at AI-12 in Sydney.
  • Keep PhD on track for completion in early 2013
    • Probably going to be mid 2013, but I am on track.
  • Spend more time on non-computer aided activities
    Easter Show
    Easter Show
    • Achieved!
    • I have spent more time in the evenings reading real books, and going out with mates on the weekends.

During the past year I haven’t done any hiking, and there have been fewer adventures. Having said that I have still done a fair amount of fun things around Sydney during the year:

January – went to Garie Beach, Symphony in the Domain, and Australia Day Celebrations.

February – went to the T20 Cricket, and spent a few weeks at home in Auckland.

V8 Supercars
V8 Supercars

March – spent a weekend on the Central Coast with church friends.

April – spent Good Friday at the rugby league, and did the annual afternoon at the Easter Show.

May – went to Vivid Sydney.

June – watched an orchestra perform at the Sydney Opera House, and went away for a weekend with mates to the Central Coast – again.

July – spent a day at the Biennale of Sydney, went to the winter festival at Bondi, and started my North American adventures – in Toronto and Niagara Falls.


August – continued the North American adventure in New York, Baltimore and Washington, and Montreal.

September – went the the V8 Supercars at Sydney Motorsport Park, Eastern Creek.

October – went to Sculpture by the Seatwice.

November – saw Coldplay perform at the Sydney Football Stadium.

December – watched the start of the Sydney to Hobart, and went to Warragamba Dam.

I will post my goals for 2013 on January 1.

An off button for the mind?

“…America as a nation produces twice the goods and services per person that it produced in 1948. Everyone in the country could, in principal at least, work a four-hour day or a six-month year and still maintain a standard of living equivalent to that enjoyed [back then]… [however,] America took none of its productivity gains in additional leisure. It bought consumer items instead.”

Bill Bryson, Made in America.

The above quote comes from a book first published in 1994. By now I would imagine the productivity rate would be even higher. Yet somehow we find ourselves working even harder and longer with that desire for more, more, and more.

Over the past few days I have been pondering my own productivity. Like many people over the last few weeks I have been on leave. A time when people should take a break from their daily grind to relax. Instead I have found myself doing all those things that I have let pile up over the past few months and the more things I have done the more things I remember I have to do and the more burnt out I feel.

Some of these things are personal, like cleaning up around the house, reading, and shopping. However, many other things on my list of things to do are items I would still consider work such as editing websites for friends or even attending social functions.

Now some of this non-primary work is good, it allows us to develop other skills through hobbies and the like. But it also means that we are never getting rest. We are always go, go, go.

A lot of course has been written about work/life balance and my desire isn’t to rehash all that.

Instead I just wonder if in a world of instant everything if we can ever truly get a break?

I would love to spend a few days with no cellphone, no social media, absolutely nothing instant. Not for the torture of it, but instead for the benefit of my mind and body to release.

The problem is in the past I have turned off my cellphone for only a few hours and people have started to panic because I haven’t replied to text-messages.

Yesterday I found myself with a desire to avoid the internet most of the day, until ironically, I found myself tweeting that I wanted a cave to hide in. Even in my desire to escape the system I found myself expressing myself through it – in a way a lot like this blog when published will.

I wonder what people would think if we started to say no a lot more. Not out of spite, but out of control. No I am not going to do that extra work, no it is fine as it is, no I need time to myself. But instead perfectionism has become a curse to our modern existence. Instead of accepting things for how they are I am constantly thinking what others will think and if only I had more time!

How much improved would life be if one really did only work a four hour, or even a true eight hour day? Not eight hours plus working on that portfolio, researching new techniques, and freelancing at night. But eight hours of work and eight of leisure, true leisure, relaxing leisure, real escapism.

Maybe one day I will get a chance to experience this utopia but right now as I am “escaping” through the writing of this post I am also glancing at twitter, checking cellphones, and thinking about where I need to be in the next hour, what I need to do tonight, my plans for the next week, and how I can make this post more perfect.

Maybe the first step to escaping is to create an off button for the mind.

It’s just a thought.

Goals for 2012

In no particular order:

  • Learn German
  • Summit Mt Kosciusko
  • Be more financially stable
  • Be more generous
  • Keep my house cleaner
  • Publish two papers
  • Keep PhD on track for completion in early 2013
  • Spend more time on non-computer aided activities

Goal Review and Memoirs of 2011

Skillet in Sydney
Sleeping Koala
Vivid Sydney
Yarra River
My Happy Place

For me 2011 has been a year of extreme highs and deep lows. As cliché as it is, it has also past by way too quickly.

At the start of 2011 I set myself some goals for the year, which were, in summary:

  • Be out of all NZ debt (excluding student loan) by year’s end.
    • This didn’t happen. But I am over halfway there.
  • No more depression.
    • During the start of 2011 the exact opposite happened, I found myself in one of the deepest holes I have ever fallen into. But the second half of the year has seen this completely turn around.
  • Refine what I believe and find a church that meets those beliefs.
    • I think the refining is a continuing process. But the good news is I am now settled in a small but growing and vibrant church community.
  • Expand my network of Sydney-based friends to beyond computer science.
    • I would still like more friends, but this has been mostly achieved through finding a church home.
  • Keep my house cleaner and tidier.
    • Does four days of epic cleaning over the Christmas break count?
  • Get funding to travel to a conference in either Europe, Asia or America.
    • Does Perth count as overseas?

Unlike 2010 I spent a lot less time travelling, however, this was made up by attending a lot more events, activities and hiking around Sydney:

January – Watched Australia get defeated at The Ashes, Hiked through Lane Cove National Park, Rocked out to Skillet, and had fun days out with friends on Australia Day, Symphony in the Domain, and Opera in the Domain.

February – In February I said goodbye to a number of friends as they pursued their lives overseas. I also visited the Hunter Valley, and the Blue Mountains.

March – This month was also filled with farewells. I also hiked through the Royal National Park, and Wentworth Falls.

April – I went to the Easter Show… the absence of other photos from this month probably highlights the low point of the year.

May – During May there was yet more goodbyes, by this time five good friends had flown to far distant lands. I also spent a few days in NZ, and hiked with friends on the Manly Scenic Walk.

JuneA group of mates went to Vivid Sydney… I also seem to have a lack of photos from this month as well.

July – I went to Melbourne for a weekend. I also did some urban walking around parts of Sydney.

August – Yet more hiking was to be had, this time up around Jerusalem Bay, I also went skiing in NZ, Ice Skating in Sydney, was in the audience of The Gruen Transfer, and found a church home.

September – Rugby World Cup time! I spent many a cold and wet night at Darling Harbour watching NZ progress through the competition. I also went hiking at Berowra Waters.

October – Oh look more hiking around Berowra, I also attended the NRL Grand Final.

November – Yet more hiking near Berowra, and the lack of photos suggests really busy times the rest of the month.

December – The end of the year has been very busy. Early in the month I attended the V8 Supercar race in Sydney, spent a week in Perth for a conference and then a quick roadtrip, the rest of the month has been spent working on uni research and Christmas.

I will post my goals for 2012 on January 1.