New Year Intentions 2017

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Many people are making resolutions for the New Year. It's a time for many to renew commitments to goals or to set new goals for the coming year. I don't normally commit to New Year resolutions. The word resolutions "a firm decision to do or not to do something." The word has the connotation of inflexibility and unwavering commitment. A resolution has no room for adaptation to changes. For example, some people have a resolution to lose weight. They develop a plan for doing -- perhaps 30 minutes of daily exercise -- but don't account for illness, work or other factors that may make it impossible to do. It sets them up for failure.

I prefer to set intentions. The word intention means "a thing intended; an aim or plan." With intention, one can create an exercise plan. Sometimes despite the best of intentions, plans don't go according to plan. Things we didn't anticipate take us off course. As long as we have a plan to get back on course, even if we miss our target, we have fulfilled the "intention." Intentions allow for flexibility in achieving goals.

I don't remember if I have set intentions in the recent past. But in 2016, I don't feel like I accomplished anything. I had some goals in the back of my mind for 2016, but I never put a plan for achieving those goals. For 2017, I want to write down my goals for the year and create a plan for achieving those goals.

The reasons for this are many, but mainly, I want to feel like I am doing something worthwhile with my time. I celebrated my 50th birthday this year, and I don't feel like I have accomplished much over the last decade. I want to feel accomplished. The second reason for planning is easy to understand. Without a plan for achieving my goal, how will I know if I am on target? If I approach my intentions like a project, every project needs a plan with clear deliverables, a set timeframe, and milestones. Or to put it another way, I want to "plan my work and work my plan." Some aphorism I read somewhere states that "A goal without a plan is a dream."

When I sat down to brainstorm, I came up with a shortlist of intentions. But over the last few weeks, that list has grown a bit. Besides the obvious fear of not doing them and disappointing myself, my concern is that the list may be too long. That I may have too many goals which take up so much time that I slack off and start bargaining with myself. But I could let go of that fear. These are my intentions; not resolutions.

Improve my health

I originally wrote this intention as lose weight. I am nearly thirty pounds overweight with most of the weight appearing around my belly. It's unhealthy and puts me at increased risk of having a heart attack. Some of that weight gain is also due to my lack of exercise. I have not done any serious exercise in decades.

After some thought, I changed my thought process. I want to be healthier. I want to maintain a healthy weight, keep my muscles healthy, keep my Type 1 diabetes well managed. I want my actions to be about the maintenance of a healthy body.

Exercise and diet will be a part of my plan to manage my health. I have already started on the healthier eating part. Bhavana and I discussed ways to incorporate lower-carbohydrate options into my diet. This will be a challenge as I am not a big meat eater and don't enjoy fatty meals. Bhavna is from India, and I am from the West Indies (the Caribbean to the geographically and historically ignorant American). We both enjoy the spices and diversity of our ethnic cuisines, adopting (and adapting) cuisines from Latin America, Louisana, and the Middle East that bare some similarity to our ethnic cuisines. Except for Italy, we find typical European-American meals incredibly boring.

Unfortunately, the typical Indian and West Indian diet is high in carbohydrates and low in meat. Removing the carbs leaves a calorie deficit that is challenging to fill. We are working it out. Much of the world eat more pork or chicken than beef, and there are a lot of delicious spiced chicken curries and jerk recipes to be found online. Typically curries served with rice or bread, but we'll experiment with other combinations. Maybe quinoa. However, my research shows that goat meat is leaner and has more protein per pound than beef, chicken or pork.

I am still working out how I can incorporate exercise into my daily life. I get up at 6 AM, and I don't want to get up any earlier. It's winter here, and at 6 AM, it's pitch black outside. The early morning temperature can be brutally low, and I will likely encounter snow, freezing rain or hail. I don't want to be outside walking or running in that. I am recovering from a knee injury so running it not advised anyway. The same applies to the late evening.

Ideally, I want to cultivate an exercise routine that is independent of weather, incorporating cardio and disrupting my work schedule. There is a Planet Fitness across the street from the office building where I work. I could get a membership there and exercise during my lunch hour. But I need to make sure I schedule the time to eat meals, exercise, change clothes. All that needs to happen in one hour. I have Type 1 diabetes, skipping meals is not healthy, nor is eating prepared and packaged meals. And those would not fit into my healthy diet intention. Maybe it's time to buy some exercise equipment.

Traning and Certification

I have not attended serious information security or other technical courses in a few years. Classes have become expensive, and I had difficulty gauging the industry and where the hockey puck of skills is headed. However, I have two certifications to maintain -- the CISSP and CRISC --, and I want my skills to remain relevant.

I made a half assess attempt to attain the Offensive Security Certified Professional in 2016. Still, the course work demanded more time (roughly 30 hours a week) than I was willing to commit. For 2017 I want to make sure that I complete at least 60 hours of training and attain at least one new certification.

I have obtained access to the FedVTE through my ongoing work at a state agency. I am hoping to use this portal to access training modules. There is a lot of content on the portal. I intend to study for and pass the test for the CISSP Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP).

Learn a new programming language

It's been a few years since I have done any serious web programming. But I enjoy it quite a bit, and I also love scripting languages such as PHP and Perl. Python has become popular over the last few years. The vast majority of hackers1 and system administrators now use Python as their language of choice. I want to learn Python.

But ... newer languages have come on the scene. Apple's Swift is already at version 3, and I have heard that the language can be used to build rich-GUI applications and web applications. It's also a good scripting language. I'm not sure if I can learn two programming languages in the same year, but I intend to try.

Improve Photography

I want to continue to develop my photography skills and craft. I want to step outside the comfort box of landscape and architectural photography. I have registered for a macro photography workshop with Loren Fisher. Loren Fisher has been a professional photographer since 1978. He shares his knowledge and passion at photography workshops, and tours is an adjunct professor at Rutgers University and sell his work at art shows and festivals throughout the East Coast.

As soon as the dates are announced, I will register for street photography field trips. Street photography is one genre of photography that I have ignored in the past. I feel odd pointing my camera at strangers. I want to learn to get past that. The Princeton Photography Workshop offers field trips to New York City including Chinatown and SoHo.

I think my photography would benefit from starting and completing a long term project. New Jersey has about a dozen historic lighthouses. For 2017, I intend to photograph them all. Here's the list of lighthouses I wanted to shoot in 2017.

  • Sandy Hook Lighthouse
  • Twin Lights State Historic Site
  • Sea Girt Lighthouse
  • Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
  • Absecon Lighthouse
  • Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
  • Cape May Lighthouse
  • East Point Lighthouse
  • Finns Point Lighthouse
  • Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse

There are some online photo blogging challenges in which I will participate in 2017.

Home improvement

This is a shared intent with Bhavana. After fifteen years of living in our home, we want a new look. That means new paint, new sofas, new rugs, new outdoor lights, a kitchen makeover, and bathroom redos. It's about time. This one is dependent on budget and availability of contractors. We have had had challenges in the past, finding contractors. That's the list so far. It seems like a lot. Typing out this blog post has made me quite anxious.

  1. The media has ruined the word hacker. They have made it into a bad word. To me, a hacker is someone who thinks outside the box and uses something in a novel way outside of its the original scope of use.