2016/2017 New Years Resolutions

This post reviews my 2016 resolutions and details my resolutions for 2017.

2016 Resolutions
I believe I had three main resolutions in 2016: keep in better touch with friends and family, release a new music album, and read 20 books. The first I did okay with, but I definitely could have done better. The second I regret not completing because now it will cost me $9.99 per cover song that I wish to release. Loudr is undergoing some rather unfavorable changes (for cover artists, at least). If I had submitted my album before December I wouldn’t have had to pay anything for the licensing up front. The previous model took a percentage of your sales figures as royalties. I’m definitely rather upset with Loudr now; being a hobbyist arranger and poor grad student, I don’t have the money to purchase mechanical licensing for each of the songs I want to release. For a 10 song album, that’s $100 up front! My 8 song album released in May 2014 made around $250 since release. If I paid the mechanical license fees, I wouldn’t see any profits for almost a year! Ridiculous! So I’m done with releasing music for money until I can find a better licensing company.

The third resolution, I will only make it about halfway. As of this post, I have read 10 books in 2016 which is half of my goal of 20 books. Still, 10 books is much, much better than previous years. I used my personal website to keep track of my reading which increased the fun I had reading this year. I love coding, and writing a web page in HTML/CSS is very similar. I came up with a nice way of calculating how many books I’ve read: using javascript to count the number of instances of the word “Grade” on the web page. Only the books I’ve finished have the word “Grade” in their section. Anyway, I consider this resolution to be “successful” because it has reignited my love of reading novels for pleasure. After re-reading the The Last Herald-Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey, I’ve been drawn back into the Valdemar series. I plan to read through all of the Valdemar books that I own again, and I’ll add them to the book list. Then I’ll go through and read the ones that I don’t yet own (and haven’t read). Another series that I’m planning on reading is the Word and Void series by Terry Brooks; I’ve read the first book Running with the Demon, but I haven’t read the second or third books. Depending on how those books go, I may return to the Shannara series by Terry Brooks. I’ll start with Armageddon’s Children, The Elves of Cintra, and The Gypsy Morph because they transition from the Word and Void series into the Shannara series plus I haven’t read them. As for the Shannara books, I think I’ve read most of them, but it’s been a very long time. I’m also planning on reading the Mass Effect novels by Drew Karpyshyn which I’ve had for a couple years, but somehow haven’t read yet. I’m also planning on re-reading the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman again; it’s been about 8 years since I read those books. I’ll also probably re-read the Eragon books at some point. The reason I re-read books is because I really like them or their series and want to enjoy reading them again, and because I wonder how my more adult perspective will affect the experience. Will I enjoy them even more? Will I enjoy them less? The same? Guess I’ll have to read them and find out!

Now on to discussing the 2017 resolutions!

I feel like I’m ambitious with my resolutions this year because I have two primary resolutions and two secondary resolutions. The primary resolutions are (1) play my alto saxophone for at least 60 minutes per week and (2) spend at least 60 minutes of my free time per week writing up an ebook focused on MD modeling. The secondary resolutions are (1) spend 30 minutes per week attempting to learn how to play the piano and (2) read at least 100 pages per week.

I played the alto and baritone (bari) saxophones, switching back and forth, throughout my seven years of musical education; I played the alto sax in 6th grade and all of high school and the bari sax in 7th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. I marched the alto sax all four years of high school marching band and played it for concert band in 9th grade and wind symphony in 11th grade. I played the bari sax in concert band in 10th grade and wind symphony in 12th grade. I really enjoyed playing the saxophone and being in band all seven years. I considered myself to be pretty good, but not amazing. I enjoyed playing, but I wasn’t ambitious in my playing. Not like my amazing sister who is fantastic at playing the french horn and loves music so much that in high school she drove an hour each way to participate in the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, an organization for “Western Michigan’s most talented young musicians to rehearse and perform together under demanding professional standards.” And now she’s going to school for music education and participates in a bunch of music-related activities. Much more musically ambitious than me. If Michigan Tech had a marching band instead of the pep band, I likely would have continued my playing. That wasn’t the only factor, though. My coursework, other interests, making friends, broomball, etc. caused my sax playing to fall by the wayside during my time as an undergrad. Now I would like to start playing again.

So I’m going to try playing my alto sax for at least 60 minutes per week. It’ll be hard going in the beginning because I’ll have to review how to read sheets of music and the saxophone fingerings. But it’ll get easier with practice. I’m hoping that getting back into playing will help with my music arranging. I also want to play for Leila, my fiancé, because she has never heard me play.

Being a poor Ph.D. student I’ve looked into additional income streams, but a lot of them don’t work well. A bunch of survey type things that pay pennies per survey. Well, in my googling I found a web page (authored by a grad student) which said that an ebook written to solve a problem that is unique to your situation is the best way to make a second income. It takes a lot of work to write it, but once it’s written and published, you’re set.

I’m going to try working on this ebook for at least 60 minutes per week. The problem this ebook will solve is becoming familiar with MD modeling and running simulations. To avoid ethical/legal issues, all simulations, post-processing, and compiling will be done with my own hardware. All time put into this ebook will be my own free time and will not take time away from my research. All compilation, simulation, and post-processing scripts will be written from scratch. All models will be created from scratch and will be different models than the ones used in my research. The book will assume that the reader has little to no knowledge of MD modeling and LAMMPS. It will assume basic UNIX and Python skills, but will include links to learning resources just in case. This book is not meant to be a comprehensive resource for MD modeling or LAMMPS; it’s meant to explain just enough to understand what’s going on and how to interpret standard MD simulations. It will be an excellent primer on getting started with MD modeling and running simulations with LAMMPS. Perhaps some excerpts will become blog posts.

My first secondary resolution is to spend at least 30 minutes per week learning how to play the piano. I have an old MIDI keyboard that would be super helpful in my video game music arranging if only I knew how to play it. The goal of this resolution is to become good enough with the keyboard to enable me to compose music. It’s quite painful clicking every single note into the piano roll of a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). I feel like I could compose something halfway decent if only I could get it into the computer easily. The other secondary resolution is to read at least 100 pages per week. By my calculations, reading 100 pages per week should result in reading about 17 books in 2017. I assumed that the average novel contains 300 pages. Here’s my math:

How I calculated the number of books

Between these four resolutions, my Ph.D., and my life at home with my lovely fiancé I should be quite busy!

Written on December 28, 2016
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