New year, new site

In the Netherlands, the new year is brought in with a dazzling display of fireworks. The closest comparison in the UK is Guy Fawkes Night, a rather bizarre celebration of a failed plot to kill King James I. It is certainly the night when fireworks are used the most in the UK, but it can't begin to compare with the amount of fireworks used in the Netherlands over the new year. What it lacks in organised displays, it makes up for with random people setting off fireworks in the streets, in displays that would match the smaller, but more organised displays found in British pubs on Guy Fawkes night. And not only one, but in my neighbourhood on the outskirts of Amsterdam, I could count at least four of them in front of and behind my apartment — and there were more nearby, heard but unseen.

My girlfriend asked a pertinent question: What are these fireworks celebrating? Are they yeah, we did it!, or are they more yeah, let's do it!? Both of these seem strange in 2022. What did we do in 2021? Endure another year of the pandemic? What are we going to do in 2022? I have hope that this is the year of things moving towards a new normal. Hope seems like a strange thing to celebrate, but anyone who remembers Barack Obama's 2008 campaign will remember its power.

Today is also the day of new year's resolutions. In the past, I've thought of resolutions as being quite vapid, and more setting yourself up for failure than a means of achieving success. A quick internet search reveals a lot of articles about how they don't work, about how 80% of resolutions are abandoned by February, and so on.

In truth, the data is very unreliable, a mix of small studies and polling. Success rates by the sixth month are as high as 43%, which is at odds with the 20% after one month above. However, even in the worst case, I'd rather take a tiny inprovement to the chance of success over doing nothing, and I'm sure there are things we can do to improve those chances further. Better that than coast through life without seeking improvement.

I think the real problem is that many people approach resolutions poorly. Many set goals that are unquantifiable, unrealistic, or have no system in place to achieve them. The system is the important part. Saying you're going to lose 1kg per month is the easy part, but how are you going to achieve it? Exercise and diet, sure, but how are you going to structure that diet, what exercise will you do and how often, how much will you allow yourself to cheat? All these questions need answering, and I find the best way to do it is with a solid plan. I think this is where most people fail. A failure to plan is a plan to fail, or in British, the six P's: Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance.

One thing that comes up a lot in goal-setting is SMART objectives. I'm not sure of the efficacy of this paradigm, but having any plan, even a bad one is better than having none at all. Personally, I find the most important parts of SMART are the measurable and achievable parts. That a goal is time-bound can be thought of as a component of being measurable. The same goes for specificity. Being a personal goal for self-improvement, relevance is, ironically, irrelevant.

So I want to achieve two things:

Shouldn't be too hard.

What goals shall I choose? I have some longer term goals. I would like to make a video game at some point, but my previous forrays have led me to give up due to lack of time. When your day job is staring into a computer writing code, it's often the last thing you want to do in your down time. I'm leaving this off the list, though I would like to (again) try to learn Unity or another engine this year, I'm not resolving to do it.

Let's start with something easy. I bought myself a Rubik's cube in early December. Anyone familiar with the original Rubik's cube will be familiar with two struggles: learning how to solve it, and dealing with the bloody thing being stiff and unmovable. I managed to bypass the second problem by getting myself a GAN 356-XS cube, which is extremely slick, to the point that it works as well as a fidget toy as it does a puzzle. After much confusion, I found myself able to solve it from memory after a couple of weeks. I have little interest personally in speedcubing, and I feel I'm too old to start learning anyway, so I'm happy enough with my beginner method.

So my first resolution is simple: I want to maintain my ability to solve the cube from memory. If I happen to look up some shortcuts and do it faster, so be it. So to make this measurable, I will resolve to solve the cube at least once per day. This is already a morning ritual for me, something I do over my morning caffeinated hot beverage, as well as something to do when I'm in a boring meeting, thinking over a problem, or otherwise want to occupy my hands. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, after all. 🤘

The second and final resolution is the raison d'être of this site. I want to keep up the maintenance of not only this site but also my professional site. At least four posts per month, one of which must be on the other site. The other site is much harder to write for as ideas are thin and unlike this site, people might actually read it, so it needs some useful, decently-written content. And of course both of these resolutions will be tracked here, by my explicitly writing here, or — if I fail — not.

So what will you (hopefully) find on this site in the coming months? I'm not entirely sure, yet. Most likely, inane ramblings such as this, of no use to anybody. Certainly, early 2000s style blogging of how I'm feeling will be interspersed with equally uninteresting social commentry and political hot takes.

Eating better? Becoming more healthy? Yeah, I should probably do those too.