State of the Year

May 4, 2018

Can you believe the year is already a third over? What the hell? How did that happen? Where do the hours go?

I figured I’d better take this arbitrary milestone to chat about how my year of perpetual motion is going and keep myself accountable. Let’s go through the goals and look at my progress on each.

Publish 3x as many words as I did in 2017.

To be a little more quantitative, the actual goal is to publish 78,000 words. At time of writing I’m at roughly 35,000, which is approximately 10k ahead of schedule. Not so bad.

I’m also working pretty hard on a secret book, which means the actual amount of writing I’ve done is significantly higher than these numbers might suggest. Doesn’t count until it’s published though.

Contribute one major feature to an open source project.

I have a proposal written to add support for a conspicuously missing piece of syntax in Haskell. There’s a draft implementation of the proposal as well, which is quickly becoming a nightmare as I learn more and more about the compiler. Whether or not this counts as “major” is open to debate, but I’m willing to count it if it takes me a few more weeks to actually put together.

Judging on how much fun I’ve been having, I don’t expect this to be my only contribution to GHC this year – but we’ll wait and see on that one.

Read 52 books.

Right this second, I’m about 24% of a book behind schedule here. At one point I was four books ahead, but I ran into a long stretch of three terribly uninteresting sloughs of books which definitely cut my motivation for a bit.

I’ve been buying several books at a time, and then kicking into the next unread one as soon as I finish one. In retrospect, I don’t this is a very good strategy. Generally the books I buy at once are pretty samey to one another, which means a bad book begets another. One point in favor of this system is it means I’m reading books that I usually wouldn’t otherwise; trying to read a lot of books in a year doesn’t leave much time for being choosy.

The weather’s been lovely lately, and I’ve noticed that my mood is significantly boosted if I spend an hour or two in the park working on a book. I want to do more of that and get a bunch of books’ worth of buffer back in the bank.

Work my way through every problem in the Awodey Category Theory book.

This is a hard one. I’m sure Awodey’s book is fantastic if you’re a math postgraduate, but I’m not. As such I spend a lot of time working through the details of things he assumes I already know, proving to myself that he’s not entirely full of crap. To make matters worse, I’m pretty sure Awodey is deliberately trying to write the most obtuse English he can. For example:

Since if fh(z) = gh(z) for some h : Z → A, then h(z) ∈ {x ∈ A | f(x) = g(x)} for all z ∈ Z, whence h “factors through” the inclusion function i, in the sense that there is a function h̄ : Z → {x ∈ A | f(x) = g(x)} such that i ◦ h̄ = h.

No jokes, it took me about six hours to decipher what that sentence was trying to tell me. Just parsing it took the better part of an hour.

That’s not to say all is lost on this front. I’m three pages behind right now, plus a good chunk of the exercises, but my current goal is to understand what he’s trying to say first. In my experience, getting even the loosest intuition behind the mathematics is a crucial part of making the knowledge stick.

The good news is that I’ve allocated a significant buffer on this goal, in the sense that I told my software the book is longer than it is, such that when I’m finished reading it I’ll have extra time whence to work through the exercises such that I understand everything at the end. Even when I’m trying I can’t make run-on sentences as impressive as his everyday ones.

Publish an academic paper contributing something novel to the field of computer science.

No progress on this front yet, but my posts on higher-kinded data feel like a reasonable starting point.

Have two five-minute conversations a day with people I don’t know.

I’ve been feeling pretty antisocial since coming to Lithuania. It’s caused by a lots of stupid reasons, and I haven’t been following my own advice. I’m about a week behind on this front, but I have a lot more I want to say about it than I can fit into this post. I’ll write it up over the next few days; watch this space my dudes!!

By the end of the year, have brought together a community of people that meet regularly, even without me acting as a catalyst.

I tried to form a board game group, but it imploded pretty much immediately. I’ll figure something out though, don’t you worry.

For every week that I’m not in a serious, committed relationship, go on a date with somebody new.

This one’s a little tricky. I’m ahead on the “dates” bit, but behind on the “somebody new” part. When I first started this goal I realized I’d go on great first dates, but then turn down subsequent ones due to them “not really counting” towards the progress. Obviously this is optimizing for the wrong thing if I want to find and foster TRUE LOVE.

Instead I’m thinking about a system where I get 2 points for going on a date with somebody new, but only 1 for someone with whom I haven’t, and then boosting the finish line up proportionally. The idea is that I’ll go on more than one-a-week with people I like, and so the incentive isn’t perverted but still rewards diversification.

Sometimes you need to diversify.

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