Alex's Undercover Blog

For the geekier side of me.

Articles tagged with resolution

New Years Resolutions (a bit late) [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 by

One of my new years resolutions is to do my best to stay in touch with the people that I care about. Historically I'm horrible about keeping in touch but I'm slowly getting better at it. When I've tried in the past I've done an all or nothing approach which generally works for a little while but then I fall back into the same old, bad habits. I've decided to take baby-steps this time. My first step is to respond to emails within a few days (so far so good). I think my second step will be to try and call somebody I haven't talked to in a while at least once a month. So far I missed January but I talked to my friend David Clawson for about 45 minutes the other night which was very cool. I haven't heard from him in ages so it was a real pleasure. My next step is to email Leanne Grimsby and Amy Olson, both of which I haven't talked to in ages. Once I've gotten that far I'll take a giant leap by starting to write to my family in England. I've only been over there twice to visit them so I hardly know them. It sounds rather morbid but I would hate for my Nan (grandmother on my mother's side) to pass away when I hardly even know her. I recognize her voice, I know a little bit about her and I have some fond memories of her. She bought me one of my first video games when I was young and she came over here when my mum was learning how to drive a stick-shift. My mum was taught that before starting up the car you need to make sure that it's in neutral, so she would "wiggle, wiggle" the stick-shift to make sure. I distinctly remember getting in the car with both my Nan and mum and having Nan say, "wiggle, wiggle" in her wonderfully comforting voice. It's really strange the things that you remember. Even now I can't help but tear up over those memories and how much I miss her and the rest of my family.One of my second resolutions was to post to my blog more often. Too often I find myself bottling a lot of stuff in which can be very harmful to your health. Having a place to vent, even if it's in public, is incredibly therapeutic. The stuff about my family in England above pretty much came out of nowhere. I started typing and couldn't stop. Thus, lesson learned.

Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:49 -0800

Goals for 2013

Posted: Thu, 03 Jan 2013 by

Almost 4 years ago, around this time I wrote about doing new year's resolutions differently. It's funny to look back that far and read about my good intentions in that single post but not reading anymore about my goals that I mention again. This year I'm going to attempt to identify what I've done wrong in the past and do things differently so that I can feel like I accomplish more in the year and avoid insanity.

Lets have a look at the goals I set 4 years ago and see how I've ended up:

  • Writing more: Technically I did write more (from 0 to some) but certainly far less than what I had intended by saying "more".
  • Continue to improve healthy habits: This is probably the one I've done the best at. Though I was hesitant in the original post I did end up running my first half-marathon in 2009 and have run several races since, including a full marathon in 2011.
  • Accomplish more personal projects: There have been a few minor things that I've done under this high-level goal though the only specific thing that I can think of is writing my own blog platform which I only just accomplished in 2012 (and am using now to share this post).

What exactly was it that was missing from the goals I set back then? First of all they were too vague. Take the writing goal for instance. The goal that I set didn't provide any specific means for measuring its success or failure. Again, technically I met the goal given that I wrote more than nothing but I don't feel that the goal was met. If I had come up with something more specific like "Write at least one blog post a month" it would've been much easier to measure the success or failure.

The second thing I should have provided for the goals was a time frame for accomplishing them. The "once a month" goal above would've have worked well for the writing goal. Really any timeframe other than "by the end of the year" would've been a big help in preventing procrastinating with regards to the goals.

One last thing that I can think of that would've helped is occasionally checking in to see how much progress I was making towards the goals to see if the goals should be adjusted, if they ended up being too unrealistic or weren't specific enough.

Now that I have these things in mind what goals am I going to set for 2013 you ask? While I have some specific goals in mind but I want to give some time to thinking about what those goals are and put together a plan for how I want to accomplish them. So really my first goal for the year is to come up with goals for the year. Sounds kind of silly but if I take the time to plan them out I think I have a much better chance of accomplishing them in 2013. I'm committing to coming up with more specific plans by Sunday evening (Jan. 6). That's not to say I'm going to have the whole year planned but at least have a few specific plans in mind to get started on.

Hopefully by this time next year I'll be able to look back and feel like I've accomplished what I set out to.

Updated: 2013-01-03 09:42:16 -0800

2013, a Look Ahead

Posted: Sun, 06 Jan 2013 by

This is a follow up to my Goals for 2013 post from earlier this week.

I've given my goals for 2013 some thought and have come up with some good and reasonable ones. I've tried to make them as measurable as possible so it will be easy to decide how well I'm doing throught out the year. These are mostly related to personal improvement of the usual new years resolution sort. Without further ado here are the goals I have for 2013 so far (obiously subject to change).


I don't remember how many books I read last year but want to at least feel like I've read more. Given the normal, every day routine reading a book a month is probably too much while one every two months is too few. I'll commit to reading at least 8 books (one every 1 and a half months). Some books I hope to read:

  • A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three - With Season 3 of A Game of Thrones (on HBO) just around the corner I want to get ahead of it a bit on the book front. This will be the first book I'll read by February 15th or so.
  • Steve Jobs - I've had a copy of this since it came out more than a year ago. Steve Jobs was an incredibly fascinating person. I found his dedication to simple design and the user-experience incredibly compelling.
  • Enders Game - A sci-fi book that was recently recommended to me by a friend. Apparently this is one of those "I can't believe you haven't read this" kind of books.
  • Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas - Another recommendation from a friend about how to convince people of your opinions and the like.

There will definitely be others but this is a good start.

Technical Books

WARNING: Geek speak incoming.

While I feel like I grew a lot as a developer at Amazon last year after switching to my new team in December I really want to extend myself this year and learn some new subjects, mostly unrelated to what I do at work. Here are a few books I want to get through:

  • iOS SDK Development - I've been wanting to learn how to make apps ever since I bought my first iPhone more than 4 years ago. I have some simple ideas to get me going. I'll try and tackle this book by the end of February though I may end up extending that a bit to make sure I can get the most out of it.
  • Programming Ruby 1.9 - I have some experience with Ruby and love what I've seen so far but want to learn the language in a bit more depth, to the point where my skill in Ruby can actually be marketable.
  • Agile Web Development with Rails - Along with Ruby learning the ins and outs of using Rails to write web applications (what my website is written in). I know some of the basics but similarly to Ruby want to know it significantly better.
  • Effective Java - I've been programming in Java since I was in college and it's definitely my language of choice. This book is a collection of best practices and design patterns for the language.
  • Java Concurrency in Practice - I've got a good amount of experience programming concurrently in Java but my knowledge lacks the depth it should to be as effective as possible.
  • The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master - One of the must reads for Software Developers that I've somehow managed to avoid for years. It's about time.



I've been running regularly now for the last 3 or 4 years. I've run a handful of half marathons and other shorter races and even my first full marathon in 2011. Starting in 2010 I started tracking my runs so I could look back and see how I've progressed. For both that year and 2011 I ran just over 800 miles which is great. After I ran my first marathon my running petered out quite a bit. My running distance dropped by about 250 miles last year so I want to try and get that number back up as much as possible for 2013.

I have two goals in mind:

  • Run an average of 15 miles per week. In general that works out to three five mile runs per week. Along with extra and longer runs and any races I run this should be very doable.
  • Run at least three races. I only ran a single race last year (the Seattle Half Marathon in November) but really want to do more. The three I'm definitely going to sign up for are the Mercer Island Half Marathon in March, the Rock & Roll Marathon (not sure if I'll do the half or the full yet) and the Seattle Half again. Some others I want to try and do are the Victori Half/Full Marathon in Octoer, and the Ragnar Relay: Northwest Passage in July. There may even be some shorter ones like the St. Patties Day Dash in March or the Furry 5k in June.

Home Projects

Last but not least there are a handful of small home projects that we want to do this year:

  • Get the tree trimmed out front - We have a lovely tree in our front yard which has grown a bit out of control. We need to get it trimmed, not only to prevent our house from being damaged but we also want to have it to decorate for Christmas next year, since we don't get Christmas trees.
  • Get the stairs cleaned and repainted (so it lasts this time) - We have two sets of concrete steps in the front of our house. We repainted them last year but the paint has chipped off pretty drastically so they look terrible. We need to clean them, repaint them and make them look great.
  • Get in touch with a contractor/architect to pitch ideas for improvements to the house - We have some great ideas for architectural improvements to the house but have no idea how much any of the ideas will cost. We need to run the ideas by a contractor and get a basic idea of the cost both monetarily and time-wise.
  • Clean the moss of the roof - The moss growing on our roof has pretty much gotten out fo control. This spring we need to clean it off and then treat the roof to prevent it growing back if possible.

Most or all of these goals we'll probably do in the Spring or Summer.


We're a week into 2013 and I've already accomplished my first goal. Not a bad start. One last goal I have is to check in at least once a month. I'll start at the end of January and every month there after. I'll probably make adjustments to this as the year progresses.

Updated: 2013-01-06 20:56:12 -0800

The Reinvention of the New Year's Resolution

Posted: Sat, 17 Jan 2009 by

Now that the holidays are over (not to mention all the snow having melted) it's now back to the normal day-to-day routine for many, including me. Some would say that with the new year we have an opportunity for a new beginning. There are certainly reasons to celebrate the new year, including a new president being sworn in and the hope for an improved economy, environment, etc. etc. Typically this is the time to profess your dedication to one or more new year's resolutions.

I have in the past participated in this tradition with a reasonable amount of vigor but this year I've decided to do things a little bit differently.I heard somebody (may have been a friend or maybe even Oprah) ask recently why we should need an excuse to better ourselves? Why should we need to wait for the beginning of a new year to start working on our goals? Instead of committing to one or more resolution's, which I would've likely failed, I've decided to start a list of things that I want to accomplish in my life; both long and short term goals. I've done a pretty good job of accomplishing general health-related goals like eating better (NOTE: as I type this I'm eating pizza and drinking a beer) and exercising more (which isn't really saying much given that I hadn't exercised regularly for years after earning my degree) so it's time to move on to other things.

Instead of committing myself to a single goal I simply want to make sure that I'm constantly moving forward with at least one of them. A lot of my goals are long term which tend to be a bit intimidating. I believe the only way that I can accomplish these goals is to break them down into smaller, more attainable ones. Combining this with regular "check ins" to see what I've accomplished will help me move forward.

I realize this whole thing seems a bit structured but sadly that's really what I need in order to accomplish anything. Having gotten that out of the way here are some of the things I'm going to try and accomplish:

  • Writing more: I've loved to write ever since I was in Elementary school but definitely don't do enough of it. I want to start keeping a diary of sorts and sharing things via this blog. I would also like to work towards writing a book about the life of my father which I've written about previously.
  • Continue to improve healthy habits: I've been eating better and exercising regularly for the past several months. I also want to run a half marathon that's coming up in June. We'll see about that. :-)
  • Accomplish more personal projects: I have a reasonably sized list of projects that I'd like to pursue including organizing my photos and writing more code. Because I have a tendency to lose interest in a project after a while I want to make sure I stay focused and follow them through to completion.

Lots to work on but I'm only committing to gradual improvement. Maybe if I get saucy later on in the year I can commit to more but at this point I really need to take baby steps.

Updated: 2012-02-26 16:22:39 -0800