Archive for December, 2007

Happy New Resolutions!

Monday, December 31st, 2007

This year I wanted to post my new year's resolutions here and try to review them periodically. I'm thinking I'll make it work like the OKRs we have at work. Review them every quarter, grade them at the end of the year, and shoot for a score of 0.7:

  1. become bilingual - Joey and I are both trying to learn German which will become pretty key during our 3 months in Switzerland. I hope to take this a bit further and keep learning German as a second language throughout the year. (Don't worry, I won't forget my hacky Spanish)
  2. run 1000 miles this year - This is 1000 miles for each of us. We are getting outside and running every day now but it is time to start pushing ourselves. We've been doing 2 miles a day for a little while and 1000 puts us between 2 and 3 average miles for the whole year.
  3. have the dog and cats get along - We need to do a lot more training with Lola to make our household more peaceful again.
  4. be able to walk the dog off leash around the block - To accomplish this goal we need to walk the block in the daytime. Lola loves to be off leash and she does pretty well late at night around the neighborhood. However, it would be great to train her to stay on the sidewalk and recall immediately in case she gets in a dangerous situation.
  5. be able to take the dog to school for a whole day - You can see that Lola requires a lot of goals here. To achieve this she would need to be calm in both the lab and the office.
  6. finish all major housework - We have a lot of changes we want to make to the house right now. Most of this lies in the backyard which is just dirt and weeds. It would be nice to get the house and yard in a state where we can enjoy it without feeling the pressure of all the unfinished work.

So the short version is: improve our brain, improve our health, improve our dog, improve our house. Sounds like fun.

And to convince you that I just won't forget about these here are the ones I had from last year:

  1. lose 10 pounds
  2. get ready for bed at 11pm every night
  3. get happier at work

I didn't post them or review them during the year, but I didn't do half bad. I lost the 10 pounds and have moved to a better team at work. I did not get to bed at 11 every night (not even close) but a 0.67 is pretty good.

I hope I do as well this time... it is going to be quite a year!


Sunday, December 30th, 2007

I just posted pictures from our trip to France and Switzerland in October. I had a poster at MicroTAS and we got there a few days early to visit St. Malo in northwestern France which had miles of beach, really cold water and was surrounded by castle walls. In Paris we did the usual touristy stuff and managed to get by speaking about five words of French. The rugby world championships were going on while we were there and watched the quarter- and semi-finals in various bars. After the conference we hopped on a train to Zurich to visit the lab I'll be working in next year.

Fellowship Advice

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

I've been meaning to write about applying for graduate fellowships for awhile. And I was about to do it too. Then I realized that Philip Guo already wrote an amazing post about it that explains the ins and outs of the NSF, NDSEG and Hertz fellowships better than I ever could. I applied for the NSF and NDSEG while doing grad school applications and didn't get either. The next year I read Philip's post before applying for all three and got the NSF, barely snagged the NDSEG and didn't even get an interview with the Hertz people.

The only tidbit that I can add is that the NSF isn't messing around when it comes to societal impact, and if you don't address it then game over. Ideally you should be able to mention a few concrete things that you've done. Many schools have outreach programs over the summer and could use a hand, so volunteer and have something to real to write about instead of that one time you helped your little sister on a homework problem.

Index Funds

Friday, December 14th, 2007

We have been meaning to invest in some index funds for a long time. They provide a nice return inbetween individual stocks and a regular savings account and are a really smart idea for our setup. However, I've put off buying them for so long just because I just didn't know the stock symbols for any good index funds. Thankfully along came an article from the simple dollar in my google reader that laid some vanguard links out very clearly for me. After that it was a piece of cake to just go and buy a handful. This was so helpful that I thought I would spread the information along:

Vanguard 500 (VFINX; large-cap domestic)
Vanguard Emerging Markets Index Fund (VEIEX; international)
Vanguard Mid-Cap Growth Index Fund (VMGIX; mid-cap domestic)
Vanguard Small-Cap Growth Index Fund (VISGX; small-cap domestic)
Vanguard Total International Index Fund (VGTSX; international)
Vanguard Small-Cap Index Fund (NAESX; small-cap domestic)
Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Fund (VIMSX; mid-cap domestic)
Vanguard Large-Cap Index Fund (VLACX; large-cap domestic)
Vanguard European Stock Index Fund (VEURX; international)
Vanguard Total Bond Market Index (VBMFX; bond)

Happy investing in index funds!

Free Internet

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I just read a great story at the CSMonitor about low cost wireless repeaters developed at MIT. The guys who started the project covered Cambridge then decided to form a Meraki around it. Those of you who live in SF may be interested in getting a free repeater in order to resurrect the failed municipal WiFi plan.

Making Time

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Everybody should watch this talk by Randy Pausch. You should also watch his other recent talk because it's absolutely incredible. If you don't have time to watch it then it means that it is meant for you.