Why make New Year’s resolutions? It seems like a cliché that people don’t follow through on them. I think I can do it, though. Let’s jump in.

1. Calorie Counting

I’ve tried a few different diet strategies in the past. I have never really done the mundane thing of counting calories and trying to stick to a certain limit, though. The most success I have had is from doing a low-carb diet. The main problem I have with sticking to a low-carb diet is that I end up eating with other people, like my family, and my kids in particular do not want or seem to need anything like a low-carb diet. So it’s both a huge pain and a huge temptation to be making high-carb food and then not eating it.

As far as I can tell, low-carb diets mostly work by annoying you into eating less. The upside is that they are conceptually simpler to stick with than counting calories. When you count calories you have to constantly do a whole lot of arithmetic. However, I feel like of all people I should be okay with constantly doing a whole lot of arithmetic as a way of life. So, let’s give it a try.

When my diet plans fail, it tends to be after a period of some success. At first things are going well, I have a lot of energy to keep it going, then after a while I lose emotional energy and stop wanting to continue. This is sort of what I am worried about with the calorie counting plan. Hence, this blog post about New Year’s resolutions. I hate admitting failure so if I can work up the emotional energy to quasi-publicly commit to something, it’s like transferring energy into the future via a subconscious emotional battery.

So, this resolution is simply to count calories. I’ve been at it for a day and a half or so. Just using the default iOS health app, I tried some more complicated apps but they all seemed optimized for me to quickly enter the wrong data and to encourage me to engage in complicated retention schemes.

2. Astronomy Publication

Well, if you only know me from this blog and don’t talk to me in person this might seem crazy, but this goal for 2022 is to get my work published in some sort of astronomy journal. I’ve been doing some volunteer work with the Berkeley SETI people and some of it seems pretty promising. I should blog more on this later, I suppose, because I think a lot of the details will be interesting to other programmer types.

Basically, modern astronomy is more and more a “big science” thing. At least for radio astronomy, which is the sub-part of astronomy that I’ve been getting into. There are a few enormous radio telescopes, there are a relatively small number of teams that buy time on these telescopes, and the telescopes create a huge amount of data. The analyses that astronomers could do manually 20 years ago, nowadays require large-scale computer analysis.

My rough take on the field is, the astronomers could use a lot more software engineering support. You have ratios like 10 astronomers to 1 software engineer and it seems like they could use a ratio of 1 astronomer to 10 software engineers. So, that means that the marginal value of software engineering contribution is high.

If you are curious, you can check out turboSETI which I have contributed to a bit - it’s currently the gold standard analysis software for looking through the output of a radio telescope and seeing if there are any “alien-looking” signals. And you can also check out Peti which is an alternative way of doing things (tldr more GPU specific) that I have been working on.

Besides those, I’ve also been working on some “data pipeline” type stuff which isn’t public but is much more of a mundane, well every one in a while we get a petabyte of data from this telescope, let’s make sure all the machines do the various processing we want them to do and that data gets compressed and filtered and analyzed and indexed and stored and cross-analyzed.

So most of this work in radio astronomy isn’t like, a single person thinks hard and creates some theory and publishes it. It’s more like, there’s ten authors and everyone is doing some aspect of making this data analysis work. That’s fine. I just want to get my fingers in there. I need a sub-goal that happens before “finding aliens” because that’s too big a goal to just stick in a New Year’s resolution.

3. Exercise

In 2022 my goal is to work out four times a week. This one feels like a gimme, surprisingly enough, because I’ve been doing this pretty successfully in 2021. The key to making it work is that my wife and I do it together at a regular time; we have an extra room in our basement that we have now filled with some weights and some exercise machines and we go work out at the same time so that one of us can’t weak out without admitting we are skipping to the other.

So, I just think it’s okay to have a resolution that is essentially a “maintainance goal” from the previous year. Diet and exercise things don’t just automatically stay in place, often stuff works for a while and then it stops working. So it really is important and nontrivial to keep this up. So I hereby resolve for it.

4. Blogging

Well, I was going to just have three resolutions. Then I was reading about the Law of Fives and thought how cool it would be to have five resolutions. So I thought for a while and I only really came up with a fourth one. So, fine. My goal for 2022 is to blog at least once a week.

Why? I don’t really want to get attention or page views, per se. It’s more that I think the rigor of writing things down forces me to think harder about things. I usually feel good about writing a blog post once I do it, but I just don’t end up doing it.

This resolution, I feel like it’s the most likely one to fail because I just stop caring about it. But, it’s also the easiest one to just phone it in and take some minimum action to technically achieve it. I find that once I start writing a blog post, though, I usually write a decent amount and think a decent amount about it. So let’s give this a try.

Now what?

I was thinking about a resolution about reading a lot of books. But, I just enjoy doing that. I don’t really need to resolve to read books because I will read books anyway.

When I think about a goal-setting process, the first thing that comes to mind is Facebook corporate goal-setting. Which seemed to work pretty well. So maybe at the end of Q1 I will write a little update about how goal-setting is going. Or maybe at the spring equinox, that’s more how the astronomy world paces itself. Nah… Q1 just feels right. Stay tuned!