Books Exercise Health and Fitness Science and Engineering Technical Trips

Grading my 2015 Resolutions

Although I missed the mark on many of the original resolutions, I’m proud to have accomplished some of my (what I consider) lofty goals I set for myself for 2015. I think I am most happy with sticking to the running resolution – enough to log 365 miles for the year. I am particularly proud as historically I have never enjoyed or been able to maintain an exercise regimen. I’m also proud to complete my five courses and over 52 books for the year. Of course, there are some outright failures such as those involving innovation. Without further ado, let’s see how I did on my resolutions:

  • Simplify B
    Due to two moves, I simplified quite a bit. I got rid of a lot of junk and sold off some items that I never use like my bass clarinet and mountain bike. I think I have been keeping the apartment relatively clean but I still need to keep pushing myself in this area.
  • Experiences B
    Looking back, I didn’t really keep track of the specific adventures I had over the past year. I am proud about two specific adventures though. First, I am glad I pushed myself to pick up scuba diving. This opened up a whole new world for me. Second, I had a great trip to Hawaii this summer. Great hikes, dives, and drives – I think Hawaii might be my favorite vacation I’ve ever taken.
  • Innovation F
    My New Year’s resolution to be more creative and innovative was focused on keeping an innovation notebook. I failed this resolution in the most horrific way possible. I did absolutely nothing. I’m not really frustrated because I am proud of my output at my job. Anyway, there’s no other way around it – this resolution gets an F.
  • Learning A
    • 5 online courses A
      I completed five classes online this year in various areas such as heterogeneous computing, project management, and astronomy. Since my original goal was to complete 5 courses, this resolution was accomplished!
    • Review 52 scientific articles B
      I originally intended this resolution to be a weekly review of a technical article; instead I ended up reviewing a bunch of papers early in 2015 for a paper I had to write. These were also mostly medical related papers. In retrospect, I should have attempted to review articles from a wider variety of topics. For these reasons, I give myself a B for this resolution
    • Read 30 books A
      I nailed this resolution. I ended up reading 55 books this year. Some of my favorites in no particular order were (1) River of Doubt by Candice Millard, (2) Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb, (3) The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazzucato, and (4) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I also enjoyed quite a few of the Isaac Asimov books too.
  • Wellness C+
    • Run over 300 miles A
      I surprised myself on this resolution. I ended up running 365 miles this year. One mile for each day in the year. Most of my mileage came in the summer although I have been somewhat consistent with running in the fall and winter.
      Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 12.27.47 PMOh there was a mid-year resolution to do 10 push ups per day. Yeah… totally failed that one.
    • Nutrition D
      I pretty much failed this resolution in every conceivable way. I ate a ton of fast food this year and really did not focus at all on the quality of the food I was eating. The only reason I bumped my grade up from an F was the recent switch to dropping all sweetened drinks for the past month. Since November 26, I have been drinking only water – so that was enough to bump me from and F to a D.
  • Selflessness C
    I made some progress in this area but not nearly enough. I need to figure out how to be more effective for 2016.

Certified for Open Water Scuba! And a Race.

I finished my 3rd, 4th, and 5th dives at Lake Phoenix today. Nothing notable happened on the dives. I’m getting much better at figuring out neutral buoyancy although I think I need to add a little more weight today as I often found it difficult for me to submerge at the surface initially. There were times where I was pulling every conceivable release on by buoyancy compensator to get the air out so I could sink.I’d eventually get it but the struggle to sink was an epic battle today. In a similar issue, I’d also be pulled up to the surface very quickly if I wasn’t paying attention. I will have to work on slowing these ascents in the next dives. I think part of the solution is more weight but also getting better at releasing air from the buoyancy compensator. This would include orienting my body correctly so the air in the BC is under the release valve. Once I got under the water, there wasn’t much to see – the lake was really murky today with visibility probably less than 10 feet. With our large training group, we had to keep a close eye on our dive buddy to be sure we didn’t lose each other.

Today I dove with all new equipment including my dive computer, which I really like. Later next week, I hope to download the data from the dives and display it here. I have to buy a little widget on Amazon in order to transfer the data from the dive computer. My buoyancy compensator, dive computer, and regulator all worked great. I’m really happy that I didn’t have any issues with the equipment. No scary moments – I felt very comfortable under the water and look forward to diving in the ocean later this month. Again, I use less air compared to almost everyone I’ve met, which I think is good and probably relates to all the cardio I do.  To balance that, I am really weak when it comes to lifting all that equipment – I need to start putting on some muscle if I am going to continue lugging SCUBA equipment around.

After scuba was complete, I sped back to Williamsburg to run a 5k. For various reasons, the SCUBA dives took longer than I expected so I ended up getting to the race 8 minutes after the official start. Since I had no time to change clothes, I just took off in my swimming trunks and tennis shoes (no socks). I actually finished around 30 minutes so if you account for the 8 minute late start, I ran somewhere like 23 minutes, which would be a record for me but I didn’t have my GPS watch so I won’t count it. I felt I was going fast though and ended up getting a 3rd place in my age group even with the 8 minute late start (that means there were only 3 people 35-39 years old). Hey, I’ll take it.

Exercise Health and Fitness Useless Stuff

Resolutions – August Update

1. Reading

After surpassing my New Year’s Resolution of reading 30 books, I set the goal of reading 52 books, one for each week, by December 31. In August, I completed five books:

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Hammered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #3) by Kevin Hearne
  • Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
  • Finance and the Good Society by Robert Shiller

I enjoyed most of these books with the exception of The Sixth Extinction, which I classified as 3 out of 5 stars. My favorite for the month was the Bill Bryson book, which is an entertaining overview of what we currently know about life, earth, and the universe from science. My total number of books comes to 37, which puts me slightly ahead of schedule (this is the 36th week) to reach 52 by the end of the year.

2. 365 Opportunities

My New Year’s resolution of identifying 365 opportunities was intended to help change my perspective and improve any entrepreneurial tendencies that I may have, if any. Unfortunately, I have consistently underperformed in this particular resolution. Last month, I reduced the August goal to just 15 opportunities to make the goal more obtainable.

This reduced goal may have helped as I came up with 17 opportunities. Some ideas are interesting and have potential; others are ridiculous. I’m ok with this – I want to develop the skill of seeing opportunities around me, without worrying about generating the perfect idea. For September, I will attempt to identify 20 opportunities.

3. Exercise More Consistently

August was a good month for achieving my fitness goals. I exercised on all but one day in August when I was feeling sick. A screenshot of my monthly progress is shown below and the original graphics are available here. The original goal in August was to alternate between strength training with my new dumbbells and running 5km. As you can see, I did pretty well with alternating schedule with the exception of the first 3 days in August where I was avoiding running due to some slight pain in one of my knees. The pain was most likely due to the age and mileage on my running shoes. I have not had any issues since switching to the new shoes.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.17.04 AM


For running, I achieved a 7:20 pace for a 5km distance. My goal was to achieve a 7:15 pace but that was probably too ambitious. Maybe the 7:15 pace can be achieved in September. Since May 10th, I’ve run approximately 250 miles – I never thought I had the willpower to run this consistently. Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.28.03 AM

For September, I plan to run 2 days to every day of strength training. I enjoy running more than strength training and September may be the last month for comfortable running weather before cold weather arrives.

4. Classes

I started my fourth class for the year – Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics from the University of Washington. This subject is quite different from my typical classes (i.e. engineering, math, science) but I’ve always been intrigued by investments and would like to learn more. Who knows – maybe some of the concepts I learn in this class can be transcribed into my current work. This class continues into November. I will need to take one more class to achieve my goal of 5 classes this year.

5. Build Something

This resolution continues to suffer relative to the others. Most of my “building” has been web-based design such as the graphics summarizing my fitness progress (see menu items above) and reading progress (not posted yet).

One of the things that hold me back is that I often think most of my ideas are stupid and lose any motivation of moving them past the idea stage. For September, I should just make something regardless of it is stupid. One idea would be a bird house with an embedded camera that is triggered when a bird lands. See – stupid idea but I should do something other than just allow a whole year go by without completing anything.

Exercise Health and Fitness

Dallas’s 2011 Bike Plan

Came upon this bike plan while browsing this evening. Pretty excited to see that more off-road bike trails are on their way. Also a good resource for existing paths.

2011 Dallas Bike Plan

Exercise Photos

A Quick Trip to Bonham State Park

After work this morning, I wanted to explore a little. I chose to go to Bonham State Park located about an hour or so northeast of where I live. This state park has some camps and trails around a small lake. Nothing too exciting. I did hike around the lake (maybe a mile or two) and snapped a few photos. I was hoping to see a few interesting birds but no luck.

The two following pictures were taken along the hike. Both photos were taken with my 80-200 zoom lens. No post-processing was performed on the first photo. The second photo is an high dynamic range image processed from one raw photo. I used HDR since there were some dark shadows as the trail heads into the forest canopy.

Bonham State Park, Texas



esperero canyon

Today I hiked up Esperero Canyon to the Cathedral Rock Trail. I started at 8:00 am and finished at 4:00pm after hiking a total of 16 miles. The GPS from today’s hike can be seen on my MapMyRun account.

I initially planned to hike Bear Canyon but found the road to the trailhead to be flooded. I chose to do Esperero Canyon instead. It was a really fun hike that followed a mountain stream. My favorite part was Bridalveil Falls – a relatively large waterfall by Arizona standards. It was flowing really well as a lot of the snow on Mount Lemmon was melting.

Bridalveil Falls (I didn’t have my wide angle lens so I just got a picture of the top of the water fall).
Bridleveil Falls


a fitness competition

In December, I made a bet with a friend – who ever ran less miles in January would buy the other lunch. By the second week of January, the initial bet grew to a competition between six friends divided into two teams. Rather than tracking number of miles run, the goal was to be the team with the most calories burned by January 31st. The activities could include any activity from aerobics to yoga. The calories were tracked with the website.

Although my team lost and we will be buying the other team dinner tomorrow night, the competition was a great idea. It motivated me to exercise and made exercising a little more fun. By the end of the month, I had burned 13,214 calories by doing all sorts of activities such as hiking, running, cycling, racquetball, and stair exercises. My other friends burned a similar number of calories. It feels good to know that the initial bet has improved the health of both me and my friends.

You can see my January exercise and my current process at:


Hiking Bug Springs Trail

This morning I drove up to Mount Lemmon to re-hike Bug Springs Trail. A few weeks ago I hiked an hour up this trail but had to turn around to make it back to my car before sunset. Today, I arrived at the trailhead around 10:30am. This time I didn’t bring my dog Jade since the temperatures were approaching 100-degrees Fahrenheit.After coating myself with SPF45 sunscreen, I started the hike up the Bug Springs Trail. About 2.5 miles up the trail started to fade into the forest and I turned back after I could no longer find a clearly marked trail. Altogether, I hiked 5.34 miles with an average speed of 2.43 miles/hour. The following is a picture taken from the Bug Springs Trail.

Overview from Bug Springs Trail

A lot of the trail consisted of a foot wide path within waist-high grass. I think this results from the recent monsoon storms and the grass would be much shorter during the rest of the year. Throughout the hike I was being very careful and looking out for snakes. I even opted not to use my iPod just so I could hear the rattle of a nearby rattlesnake. With less than a mile remaining in the hike, a greenish snake slithered off the path as I approached. It happened so quickly that I only caught a glimpse of its tail – no rattles. Anyhow, I arrived back at the car around 1:15pm.

The GPS data from the hike can be seen here:


Today’s Bike Ride

Catalina Loop
Find more Bike Rides in Tucson, Arizona

Exercise Photos

The Chiricahuas

Yesterday, we drove to the Chiricahua National Monument, which is located near the Arizona – New Mexico border. Here’s a Google Map showing the location of the trailhead. The rocks in the Chiricahua National Monument are made of rhyolite, which was formed from volcanic ash. Millions of years of erosion have produced the unique rock formations that make this a U.S. national monument.

We hiked 8.3-miles yesterday to check out these rock formations. The trail we took is shown below. We went to the Heart of Rocks loop and ended up at Inspiration Point for sunset. We hiked the remaining miles back to the parking lot in the dark (with flashlights, of course).


Sunset Picture From Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point Sunset

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