Saturday, 15 February 2020

Personal Goals for 2020

I’m a very late getting around to this, because I’ve simply been too busy to write anything for this blog let alone make significant progress on personal objectives. However, in parts, the approach worked well last year. So, I’m going to do again, but I’m going to be slightly less prescriptive in some of my goals, as it’s more about achieving self-actualisation than a laundry list of stuff to do. So, things like home improvement and maintenance (which I often have little choice but do) and long-shot vanity projects are out. Instead I’m looking for progression in the things I’m already working towards.

One. Get a podcast out there. Not necessarily one of the scripts I have been developing for the last few years, which needs substantial effort and collaboration to realise, but maybe something simpler. I have an idea which should be much easier to get off the ground, and if it works might be a catalyst for what I really want to do.

Two. Improve physical strength and fitness. I’m now running 5k at least once a week, I’m slow, but twelve months ago I struggled with 100m. Now I want to build on that. I’ve purchased a weight set I can use at home (getting to a gym regularly is pretty much impossible), so I want to build up my core strength. In the medium term I’d like to get my 5k time down from around forty minutes, to closer to thirty minutes. That’s a big ask, as it means losing two minutes per kilometre off my pace. I’m going to start by mixing my runs with faster but shorter distances to build pace. Longer-term I’d like to get my distance up to 10k.    

Three. Stabilise my weight at 100kg. I’m currently weighing in between 103 and 104kg. That’s around 12kg lighter than twelve months ago, but 100kg is the weight the consultant told me I needed to get down to when I started out on my CKD journey about eight years ago.

Four. Improve my technical knowledge. I don’t want to make this one specific to a particular programming language such as DAX or Python, instead I want to continue upskilling. Last year I made significant progress learning DAX, and I recently achieved my Azure Fundamentals certification, but I want to kick on from here. For most of my career in Business Intelligence I’ve relied on my natural strengths as an analyst and coupled it with an ability pick up and be competent on the basics technically, but in recent years I’ve been pushed away from my comfort zone into the development side of BI, and that has meant going beyond just basic competence on the technical skills.

Monday, 6 January 2020

2019 Goals Review

So, a year ago I set myself a series of goals, they weren’t hard and fast, but more a series of things I wanted to work towards. I also knew that some of them were unlikely to go anywhere, especially those lower down the list. Overall, I’m reasonably pleased with the outcomes.

One. The Podcast. This one was the biggest disappointment, despite some really good progress. I have got the first few scripts finished, I got my recording cube set up and I did some practice recordings, but I was unable to find collaborators I needed. I’m going to keeping pushing this, but I’m considering a change of track away from a multiple cast production to some monologues, but more of that another time.

Two. Run 5k. I completed a GPS confirmed 5k run in December, it took me forty minutes or a pace of roughly eight minutes per kilometre. For the last few months I’ve regularly been running between three and four kilometres, so I still have some work to put in to get be a regular 5k runner, but I now know this distance is something I am perfectly capable of. But from the start of the year, where a couple of minutes running left me breathless I've made some huge strides (pun intended).

Three. Weight down to 108kg. At the close of the year I was weighing in at 104kg, although a bit of a blow out over the new year period saw that rise to 106kg but I’m taking steps to get back on track again. Whichever way I look at it, I’m lighter now than I have been for more than a decade, probably more than fifteen years. More importantly the weight loss and the improved fitness appear to be helping stabilise my kidney function. Since the weight loss kicked-in I’ve had no signs of gout and I’m less prone to muscle cramps. At my last Renal clinic in November the Nephrologist suggested I could get another five to seven years before I need dialysis or transplant intervention (although this is heavily caveated by the risks of any sudden hits caused by illness).

Four. Learn Dax. I’ve made plenty of good progress here. I’m using basic DAX at work fairly regularly although my systematic knowledge of the language in patchy. I have the ‘definitive’ manual now, I have some training coming up later this month on Azure Fundamentals, and I’m supposed to be getting an invite to a Microsoft Ignite event showcasing developments on the Power Platform.

Five. Garage project. This never happened. There were always too many other things that needed doing first. Although I still plan to do this some work in the back garden has a higher priority for the spring.

Six. Learn Python (or R). I never expected to get far with this, despite a few false starts. It’s something I’m still pushing to do, but lack of time means it is likely to be a slow burner.

Seven. Learn Latin. A bit of a hopeless vanity project. Something I’ll revisit in the future, but probably not for some time.

I’ll be putting together some new goals this week, although I might have a little bit of a rethink about how specific they are, and whether it’s a bad idea to be too prescriptive around some of the self-development I want to achieve given the time pressures.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Goals update thirteen

One. Although I’ve had the offer of help from my daughter's drama teacher, I’ve been a bit reluctant to push this at the moment as I know she is really busy till mid-December staging two different amateur productions (as well as her day job). I’ve sent a copy of the first episode to a friend to proof read and offer criticism, after that I’ll think about how I proceed. I realise I’m running out of time if I want to get the first episode out before Christmas, but I don’t want to disrupt other people’s projects.

Two. I’m still running two or three times a week for half an hour. I’ve started using the Runkeeper app to track my progress and it shows how variable the distance covered can be in those thirty minutes depending on route taken. It has shown me that my typical distance is actually closer to 4k than 5k, so I’m looking for a route which will give me a confirmed 5k to put this one to bed.

Three. I’m down to 105kg continuing with the mix of intermittent fasting and time restricted eating, the rate of weight loss has dropped off significantly, but I’m no longer being as strict with my diet. I'm not sure I'll see further weight loss this side of Christmas, I think for now I need to work on consolidating my losses and perhaps changing my exercise routine, before having another stab at things early in the new year. I had my Nephrologist review last week and the doctor I saw was happy with my progress, but I'll write another post about that when I get time.

Four. My DAX book is still on order, although I am picking up bits and pieces for work I could do with some more challenging use cases.

Five. No work on the garage side door, it’s probably getting too late for this year. I had to make some emergency repairs to the garden fence following the storm in early November and I still need to put back a paving slab I removed to do it. I'm also pretty sure there are a bunch of small things my wife will want resolving before the hordes descend upon us at Christmas.

Six. The Python book I’ve had for the last couple of months is still untouched, but I'm working at home over Christmas so I'm going to make an effort to do a few exercises.

Seven. Nothing. Always a stretch, there's no chance I'll be doing anything on this before the end of the year.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Goals update twelve

One. I contacted the local drama group a few weeks ago about supplying voices for the project but had no response from them. Fortunately, my wife is friendly with a local drama teacher who has offered help out, I know she has the know how and contacts to make it happen. I have two scripts ready to send to her for review and should have the third ready this weekend. I’m going to ask a friend to proof read them before I send them.

Two. I’m now on week nine of the programme, the thirty-minute run. I estimate I’m managing 4.5km in those thirty minutes, so within touching distance of the goal.  

Three. Goal met. My weight earlier this week was 106.1kg, although I’ve been around 107kg for a couple of weeks. I’m not entirely sure my diet is healthy; I’ve basically been doing intermittent fasting/time restricted eating half the week and eating what I want the rest of the week.

Four. I’ve placed an order for the definitive DAX guide on Amazon, but suggested delivery time is a couple of months! My main worry is the card I’ve used to pay for it will expire before it arrives!

Five. Bunch of stuff to do this weekend, but still not hot round to the garage door.

Six. I’ve had the book on Python nearly six weeks, but still haven’t had time to work with it yet.

Seven. Nothing.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Goals update eleven

One. I’ve started dabbling with my most complete script again, but time is tight right now.

Two. I’m still jogging around three times a week, but haven’t got beyond week six of the 5K programme. If I feel up to it, I’ll have another go at the third run later this week to try and push on to week seven of the programme.

Three. My weight today was 109.4kg, which is 0.3kg higher than last week. I did go over 110kg when I came back from holiday in late August, but mostly it’s been between 109-110kg. I haven’t got back into full on intermittent fasting, instead I’ve been doing calorie restricted and time restricted eating on certain days. Although I’ve been holding it down, I’ve noticed that more sugar and booze is creeping back in to my diet, something that won’t be helped by a wedding I’m going to next week. I need to set myself up for another round of intermittent fasting, ideally before the end of September or bad habits will cement themselves again.

Four. Been doing quite a bit of work in DAX. I’d been hoping to order the new edition of the definitive guide published by Microsoft, but it’s currently out of stock in the UK.

Five. I’ve had a few more bits of DIY recently, like sorting out the loft hatch. However, my wife is now pushing me to make a start on the garage door before the weather gets too poor.

Six. I borrowed a book on Python from the library last weekend, but I haven’t had any time to work with it yet.

Seven. Nothing.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

12 Rules for Life: a review

More than two years on from the Chimp Paradox I’ve read my second self-help book, or my second sort of self-help book, as I suspect Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is also atypical of the genre.

Like others with an interest in contemporary politics I’ve come across Peterson online and found him an intriguing character; my interest piqued by the hysterical overreaction of certain sections of the left leaning commentariat to even his most mundane pronouncements. I’ve seen him denounced as a dangerous ideologue and a hard-left bigot on the back of fairly innocuous, if distinctly untrendy, comments. Having now read three hundred plus pages of his work I’ve still yet to see any proper evidence legitimising such ad-hominem attacks, but I do understand why they are dished out in bad faith.

In summary the book is a series of didactic lessons spun from a mixture of philosophy and anecdotes that entreat the reader to accept the human life experience as fundamentally challenging and to work towards becoming better individuals. It’s very much about brutal self-honesty, recognising our failings and trying to find small but realistic ways of improving ourselves and more importantly the world around us. Peterson has a fundamentally socially conservative, anti-authoritarian worldview which is grounded in Christianity with a smattering of eastern and classic western philosophy. But he’s not trying to convert anyone, his call to something higher works just as well for atheists; it’s finding our personal meaning that counts, not finding god.

Is it an interesting and thought-provoking book? Yes. Is it profound? Not for me personally, but then I have a fairly individualistic, liberal-conservative outlook to begin with. Peterson is an intelligent man for sure, and there are some genuine bombs of insight dropped from time to time, but I don’t think he’s a great writer. At times the pedagogical mix of high philosophy and homespun wisdom comes across a little patronising, and though the arguments are intellectually well constructed they are just a bit too laboured at times. A tighter editor could probably have whittled away twenty five percent of the verbage without losing the messages.

So how about those ad-hominem insults, well it’s clear that his worldview runs counter to modish post-modern/nihilistic philosophies, and his strong moral backbone will be incongruous to those who prefer cultural and moral relativism. Once upon a time those holding the views he criticises might have fronted up to the challenge, but today the noisier sections of the commentariat tend to be hyper-sensitive and overly emotive when challenged, measured disagreement being replaced with hysterically overblown insults; he’s ‘hard right’, he’s ‘a bigot’, he’s ‘a misogynist’. 

Such screeching bad faith serves a double purpose. Firstly, it bypasses the need for coherent counterarguments, such as would require a decent level intellectual of horsepower. Secondly, the spray of logical fallacy demonstrates how ‘right-on’ the critic is, which at least signals virtue to the similarly minded who also lack the intellect to address the arguments head on. I can’t help but feel that if he was less white and leaned towards a religion that isn’t Christianity the same critics would offer him free pass to hold genuinely unpleasant views.

Peterson stands bravely and unapologetically in opposition to popular grievance narratives of oppression and victimhood, so it’s no surprise that he rattles the nerves of those hooked on such junk, whilst those who make a living peddling them sense threat from a man with a popular platform calmly dismantling their business models.   

Claims of misogyny seem to stem from Peterson’s warnings around the unwanted side effects of emasculating men with supposedly ‘progressive’ social engineering campaigns. It’s stretching to more than the absurd to find hatred of women in such views, though it’s true some of his best advice is probably more useful to young men looking to find purpose in life. What he does well, unforgivably well for his critics, is raise tough questions around how the biological characteristics developed over hundreds of thousands of years clash with fashionable modern concepts of ‘gender as a social construct’ (especially in the context of the identity politics industry). For Peterson it isn’t about the patriarchy versus the matriarchy, it’s about evolution and that definitely matters to the happiness of both men and women.

Some criticism stems from his use of the loaded term ‘Cultural Marxism’ to describe the pernicious effects of critical theory in academia. This can be arcane stuff; it’s certainly highly charged for those who both peddle and oppose such ideology. I think he’s probably right about the toxic affects of such charlatanry on post-modern philosophy, but the terminology is problematic. Many of those promoting what he refers to as ‘Culturally Marxist’ views probably don’t consider themselves part of that tradition even if they are heavily influenced by such woo, whilst for some grievance professionals it’s a pseudoscience they don’t really need even if it is convenient to their scam, whereas the genuine Marxists would probably reject such identification as too lightweight even if the workings are familiar. Better care should have been taken with terminology.

Ultimately, it’s a useful volume for people of all genders, sexes, cultures, creeds and ethnicities who are looking for a way beyond the cesspit of victimhood narratives and moral and cultural relativism. Such people have nothing to lose, as the only people who ever gain from such narratives are those who make a professional living selling them. If your willing to be honest with yourself and take small, positive steps to make yourself better, then Peterson can probably help.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Goals update ten

One. Nothing, and I’m getting a bit conscious I’m not taking advantage of the time I could spend on it.

Two. I’m stuck on week six - run two of the programme, which I’ve repeated three or four times now. It’s two ten-minute jogs, with a three-minute walk in the middle.  I did attempt run three a couple of weeks ago, a straight through twenty-five-minute run, but I screwed up my rhythm, went to quick too early and blew up after about eight minutes. The current run is still a reasonable workout, especially compared to where I was three months ago, but to do run three I need be in the right mood and quickly find a good rhythm. I’ve found that settling into a comfortable pace can really make or break a run, and I find it easier on fast days when I feel lighter. My longest run to date was a straight through twenty minute one at the end of programme week five, but it was a real struggle and I’m not sure I’ve got enough miles under my belt yet to go longer. Main thing is I keep repeating my current run until I feel the momentum is there.

Three. I’ve been doing a mixture of intermittent fasting and time restricted eating for about seven weeks now, and my weight was down to 109.3kg this morning. I’m roughly 7kg lighter than when I started and its noticeable in the fit of my clothes. I recorded 111.3kg on the hospital scales on the 30th July, which was within my target of 111-112kg, and got a positive remark from the locum consultant. The weight loss has started to tail off, but I know I’ve been gradually relaxing my discipline. I always knew it’d be hard to stick to such a rigorous plan for a long time, so I’m going to try and stabilise for a few weeks. I’ll still be keeping an eye on what I eat and drink, but I’m not going to be as strict. I’m away camping next week, then it’s the annual Challenge Cup Final jolly, so keeping a strict diet would be very difficult. So, I’m just going to try and avoid ballooning over the next two weeks, then I’ll start stricter intermediate fasting again when I go back to work the last week in August, and aim to do it for about four weeks up until a friend’s wedding on the 20th September.

Four. I’ve been doing some DAX work, but it’s still pretty simple formulas. I’m going to look at ordering the new essential guide when I get back to work in a couple of weeks.

Five. I’ve done a few bits and pieces on the DIY front, and finally got around to measuring up the side door of the garage earlier this week. If I get chance before we go camping next week I’ll have a scan around B&Q and Wickes to price up the materials I need. I’ll also do my usual YouTube research on how to put it all together. With a bit of luck, I might get it done over the bank holiday weekend.

Six. Nothing.

Seven. Nothing.