2019 - New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions 2019

1) Financial Stability
Last year I spent a lot of money...not just on the wedding and honeymoon, but I also refreshed nearly all my tech (new laptop, phone, tablet, headphones...). I had some impulse purchases that haven't seen much use (a drone, some cameras). I did keep a reasonable eye on my spending, recording about 200 items (above and beyond cost-of-living stuff like mortgage and utility bills), and that made me realise that while I live within my means, I could definitely save more with a little bit of discipline. For 2019 I'd like to have a strong handle on exactly where my money goes, so I'm going to implement a number of goals around this.

...a) Record every purchase
Last year I recorded "most" non-cost of living purchases, but the main focus was on making sure that my savings accounts kept above a certain level. For 2019 I shall attempt to capture everything, including cost-of-living stuff (by which I mean food, essential transport and healthcare etc). House bills are covered under a separate joint account, however I will track payments into that account. In addition, I'll capture the category (I've already identified 12 general categories) of the purchase, and how I paid (as I suspect that methods like Paypal and Contactless payments lead to low-value impulse purchases). This will all be captured in a Google Form/Spreadsheet that I've already set up and linked on my phone.

...b) Implement a "2-week wait" rule for all non-essential purchases
For anything that is non-essential (food, essential transport etc) I shall wait 2 weeks before purchasing it. If I still think it's worth it (and within budget) after that, then I can proceed. My plan is to put the item in my calendar for 2-weeks time. I suspect for a lot of items that by the time I get back to it, the initial _desire_ will have waned. I will need to be careful about stuff like Kindle books, as I don't have much of a pipeline, and I could be stuck without anything to read.

I did have a last minute splurge in 2018, picking up a monitor for my "home office" area of my room (which is now a big sit/stand desk)...turns out a 35" ultrawide monitor looks pimp on it!.

...c) Save at least £10,000
I was going to put this at £12,000, however I don't want to screw myself over when I'm still partially broken, and find myself needing something big in order to keep myself moving. I don't have any "big ticket" items that I can think of this year, but 2018 has made me very aware that shit can happen very quickly. A sort of sub-section of this is to save efficiently. Generally speaking, savings do not get much reward at the moment, however I've opened a 12-month fixed saver at 5%, and I'll be using an ISA as my main savings location. If I don't hit this goal, then I will definitely have the information and reasons why I failed from the spreadsheet above!

2) Re-build my fitness
2018 has not been kind to me physically. Starting with a prolapsed disc in my back, and then with complications during surgery, I'm going into 2019 very de-trained, and with some ongoing issues. If I have a good run from January (which will require some luck...right now I have an infected surgical incision, and orders to not train while I'm on antibiotics) then I reckon it will take ~6 months to get myself back to a level of fitness that I would be halfway happy with. I can't set a deadline for this yet, as there is an outside chance I'll need additional surgery which will...complicate...matters, however at some point this year I need to be at the following numbers;
20 Minute Power > 320w
Weight Weekly training time > 10 hours
I also need to be able to ride on the drops for over an hour, which will need some back flexibility (currently lacking).

I'm doing some ground work for this...I'm currently working with a nutritionist, with an aim to reduce my sugar addiction and stabilise my blood sugar levels. Once I'm cleared for training, I'll be working with my coach to plan a return to competition in late summer. I've already had some physio sessions around protecting core flexibility and strength (I'll also be adding some core gear into the Wattbike room, as one of the best things I can do to help my back is a good core routine). I think setting a goal of holding my 2nd cat license would be dangerous, the key for this year is fitness and stability, not risking going too hard too soon.

Update 31/12/2018 - I will have to wait on this one...over Christmas my back has gotten progressively worse, and I have a bad feeling that more surgery is on the way. I'll defer any fitness plans until I know my long term prognosis. I have a consultant meeting on the 7th January, and I suspect an MRI will follow...

I also need to adapt to having a poor back. Again, some work has already occurred here. I have a sit/stand desk adaptor at work, and I have a full sit/stand desk at home. Sitting for long periods of time is no longer an option, so I need to get in the habit of working and living a different way.

3) Use what you've got
This goes back somewhat to the impulse purchases stuff earlier. I have a fair amount of stuff and unfinished projects lying around, and I should revisit and complete them. Films I've not watched, games I haven't finished, projects I haven't completed...in fact the only area where there is no "pipeline" is books. If I'm genuinely not going to use something (and I'm looking at you, PS4), then consider selling it and clearing junk out.

Stuff that I definitely want to get working (or fail trying) this year is;

  • The strawberry NFT hydroponics system
  • Some Switch games
  • Finish getting my laptop gaming working*
  • Decide what to do with the garden (and its lack of lawn)

* Actually got somewhere with this between christmas and new year with a last-minute purchase in the sales, so I now have a full gaming desk setup

4) Discover 4 new authors
Back again, and it's (still) working well. I'll need to plan a little harder this year, as I'll need to be buying books 2 weeks before I start reading them. Ideally the books will be non-series books (if there is one thing I get really irritated by it's new authors immediately launching into a 15-book series, it's a real scourge of fantasy/sci-fi. By all means write a long-running series, however you should also demonstrate your ability to write a story as a standalone entity). I've become big on "readability" in books, and also get frustrated by poorly written stories. This is mainly noticable from reading speed, when a story lacks flow you get quickly bogged down in ill-structured text.

5) Complete 2 games of reasonable size
I managed this quite well last year. I've now realised that this target doesn't really fit well with some games (Dead Cells, Diablo 3 and Stardew Valley did not have traditional ends, however they all gave some enjoyable playtime). I should expect a non-ending game to provide a good 10-15 hours of entertainment, though I prefer to work on a value based on cost-per-hour. At the least, I should get an hour of entertainment per £1 cost of the game...if you consider a cinema trip is approximately £5/hour, I think this is reasonable (once you factor in the hardware costs of the console/PC itself). As a slight addendum to this, I've been casually watching League of Legends pro-play for a while, and over Christmas decided to finally try and learn it. I've quickly discovered that it's bloody hard! I'll see how the next month or so goes, but I might add in a "be not shit" at LOL.

Comments

...and finally getting this posted has reminded me to get the next few books in the series I'm reading purchased, as I only have about 2-3 hours left in the current one!

babychaos's picture

This is one of those reads that's "yay! Pete's got his resolutions up!" and "shit, poor fucker". There's fuck all any of us can do to help except to say that we feel for you and your back and hope it's resolved quickly.

I don't blame you for splurging last year; wedding was fabulous and a one off; same for honeymoon and the tech purchases helped keep you sane (ish) when your health went sideways.

"be not shit" at LOL.

I thought this was gamerspeak that I didn't understand... I had to read it several times. How could you be shit at laughing out loud.

I'm going to finish mine off!

brainwipe's picture

LOL = League of Legends. It's a game of TLA's that is virtually incomprehensible unless you either have a translator to hand, or you happen to have been incapacitated for several months, and resorted to watching pro-gaming to pass the time.

babychaos's picture

One quarter of the year gone...to be honest, it's not gone great in terms of health, though hopefully the end is in sight.

1) Financial Stability
a) Record Every Purchase
This is going well, with currently over 150 logs in my spreadsheet. I'm now in the habit of filling the form in every time I spend money, with a weekly check against my online bank statement. I'm finding the entire process stops a lot of ad-hoc spending as well, which is pretty much the purpose of it.

b) Implement a 2-week wait for non-essential purchases
This has gone slightly less well, mainly as I've been house-bound a lot, so I've been ploughing through lots of consumable media (books, films, games etc). I've had no big purchases this year...the biggest unexpected spend was a last minute trip upto Manchester last weekend, when I was offered free tickets to watch the Manchester 6-Day, which was an excellently timed opportunity to go something (funny story, since I've gotten back off honeymoon the furthest away from the house I've been is hospital). Flights and hotels add up (though with flights being only £20 more than the train, that was a no-brainer).

c) Save at least £10,000
On track. Currently squirelled away £3,800 into savings...there have been a couple of minor speed boosts (a refund on the training camp deposit I missed in February, and a tax rebate), but still well ahead of target. I had a sort-of un-official target to save £100 in interest as well (interest rates are bollocks)...thats currently at about £16, however I'll get a big lump sum in December (got a 5% fixed rate saver that matures then which will give about £60 by itself), so the ISA in on-track to provide the rest, so long as I can keep the balance up.

2) Rebuild my fitness
Gone badly. I never really recovered from the infection that settled onto my spine in December, and after several MRI's and blood tests, as well as a prolonged series of antibiotics I was eventually re-admitted to hospital at the beginning of March for what I can only describe as a scrubbing brush and Domestos procedure to my lower back. They discovered that the internal infection was a completely separate bug to the one that had infected the surface wound (hence why the antibiotics were not working). I'm now on a different flavour of drug, and showing signs of improvement. I was banned from travel in February, so missed a 2-week training camp. Currently I have a treatment timeline that hopefully gets Gill and I away for Easter, which is currently looking positive. I'm still banned from any exercise or physio, but next week I have yet more blood tests and another MRI to see progression of the treatment. I've been on antibiotics continuously since the beginning of December (so 4 months), and also had a couple of doses intravenously during the hospital stay. If there is one positive thing, I haven't had any nausea or sickness...so if nothing else I have a cast-iron digestive system!

In fitness terms, this year is now a write-off, so if/when I get back to training, the goal will be to get a good start to the 2020 season. I'll have lost my 2nd cat license, so regaining that will be the priority.

3) Use What you've got
Middling. The prolonged period of being crippled has limited a lot of what I can do. The Switch and laptop have provided a lot of the entertainment. I dabbled in some "free-to-play" competitive games, before realising that I simply don't have the reaction speed to keep up these days (League of Legends and Apex Legends...both require regular play to have any hope of competitiveness, and I noticed I hit a plateau pretty quickly on both). I've just started FFVII on the Switch (a game I played years ago when I lived on Lorne Street), so that will be a nostalgia trip and a half.

We have decided on what to do with the garden. We had a gardener come round...he looked at the lawn and said "I can't rescue this". We have booked in some work for the lawn to be replaced (as well as levelled, and better prepared than it was as a new build), and also add in some raised beds to improve the structure of the garden. That will hopefully be done by summer.

4) Discover 4 new authors
I have read a lot in the last 3 months (I'm on book 15 of the year currently)...I've had a lot of time to kill. After polishing off the Gary Gibson Shoal Series (started in December), I've read the Bobiverse series by Dennis Taylor (a series of books about a human-sentient Von-Neumann machine) and the Newbury and Hobbes Investigation series by George Mann (basically a steampunk variant of Sherlock Holmes). Both were excellent, enjoyable reading, and exactly what I needed. I'm now on a slightly more serious book called Six Wakes (by Mur Lafferty) concerning clones murdering each other.

In a rather large departure for me, I also did my first ever binge-watch of a TV series...the Expanse (based on the books of James S.A. Corey, which I've been reading on release for a few years). It was decent...I thought they handled some part of the books really well (the look and speech of the Belters, some of the more claustrophobic environments, and they didn't shy away from the sheer fuck-upedness of the Protomolecule, as well as handling the juxtaposition of human politics vs insane alien shit). I think the early seasons maybe didn't convey the vastness of space the same way as the books, and how long travel took (this is a pretty major theme, as the progression of the books is in many ways about the effective decrease in size of the universe. When the series is called "The Expanse", I think you have to make sure it feels big!). Generally thought the characters were OK, if too young (and this may again be related to the pace/time shrinkage...Holden visibly ages throughout the books, and is always shown as a middle-aged guy with great charisma, not a pretty boy with a tortured soul so much). The guy who played Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) was superb, as is the actress playing Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo). I'dd definitely watch series 4, and be interested to see how they handle the next step in the story (which is effectively the colonisation of the gateway hub).

5) Complete 2 games of reasonable size
I've been grazing, and dipping in and out of games generally. I spent a bit of time with LOL and Apex, but have decided that they are not really for me, so moving back towards single-player. FFVII is now on the cards, which will be probably 80-100 hours of play to do it properly.

babychaos's picture

Halfway through 2019 already...doesn't time fly when you're having fun?

It's been a quarter of remarkable change...at the end of March I was freshly out of hospital, on some fairly heavy drug doses, and hopeful that I'd be able to walk soon. Fortunately things have gone well, and I'm definitely on the mend.

1) Financial Stability
a) Record every purchase
Still going well, with well over 300 records now. It's already highlighted some of the financial challenges of the year (for example, I've had to pay over £600 for treatment of my back that was not covered by insurance...this consists of excesses, outpatient treatments, prescriptions and some blood tests when I exceeded my yearly limit!). I've also suffered the downside of having cycling bling, having had to cough up about £500 for diagnosis and repair/replacement of parts of my gear system after getting a persistant battery drain issue.

b) Implement a 2-wek wait for non-essential purchases
After trying this for 6 months, I think that I've probably poorly defined this. It works welll for "big" purchases and items, but when you get to smaller items, it gets a little woolier. For example...does buying food you eat immediately count as "essential"? I normally bring some soup into work for lunch, but will often bolster it with a yoghurt or protein snack. Probably one to think on and get better definition if I continue this for future years.

c) Save at least £10,000
This quarter has had slower savings...as I re-start my training, and getting out on the bike Ive had some expenses (such as the aforementioned gear replacement issue), and weve also booked up some holidays for later in the year (Majorca in October, and a short trip to Nice in January 2020). Despite this I'm still on track, with £5,250 saved so far, and (hopefully) most of the big expenses of the year now done and dusted.

2) Rebuild my Fitness
It's on! I was cleared for travel at the beginning of April (albeit it still on antibiotics as a precaution), and was able to spend a few days pottering around the roads of Majorca on my bike at (for me) a slow, steady pace. I was officially clinically declared infection-free on the 8th May, and began a rebuilding training program just after. That will continue for the rest of summer, with a goal of regaining my cardio-fitness, and rebuilding endurance and leg strength. Alongside that there is physio to work on my core muscles (especially the back and pelvic support...both take a battering during surgery) and regain flexibility around the S5L1 spinal joint. I had my last physio session this week, though I'll be continuing the exercises he's given me for the forseeable future.

My endurance fitness has come back fairly quickly, and right now I would say that I'm at about 90-95% of where I was a year ago. It's not quite a straight comparison...at the moment we are avoiding any high impact efforts (when you're putting full beans into the bike you pull on the handlebars a lot and put a lot of force through the lower back, so that will be brought back in gradually over the next few months), but I've been able to tap out a lot of miles with no discomfort, and my threshold output is at about 305w, compared to 325w this time last year.

This shows my training capacity over the last year. Training Load is a measure of how much effort you can do, on average, every day based on previous training without excessive fatigue kicking in. A score of 100 is roughly the same as doing a 1 hour maximal effort (the sort of effort where you throw up and collapse at the end). A "steady" hour ride outside is about 55-60 TL by comparison. At my lowest I was down to a score of 6. A carefully planned series of progressive overload has me back into the mid 70's in a couple of months. Historically my most effective training has occured when my CTL is around 80-85. My body is slightly weird, and tends to perform better when it's slightly fatigued, on "fresh" legs they tend to block up.

I've also managed to shed about 4-5kg since the middle of May...partly via dieting, and partly due to getting back into training. Weight loss is not a huge issue right now...the goal is to get back down to 65-66kg, but as important is re-building the muscles that atrophied during the ~10 months I was not training. I'm on a high protein diet right now to help repair of the back, so that will partly countact any diets I attempt.

3) Use what you've got
Since I've been back out on the bike, I actually use far less generally. With some (finally) summer weather showing it's face I'm aiming to get outside as many evenings as possible, and projects and games will probably now wait until later on in the year.

We have pretty much sorted the garden, and it looks much better for it. We've had a large raised bed added by the patio, the massive hawthorn hedge has been attacked and reduced down, and the lawn has been replaced with actual grass. It actually looks pretty presentable! There is a general goal to not let it dissovle this time, so sprinklers and a watering system have been added into the beds (Gill has done all of this, I've mainly just watched).

4) Discover 4 new authors
As with other stuff, reading has slowed a bit as I finally escape the house, though still plenty done. FOr new authors I've read;
The Poppy War - R.F Kuang - OK. Felt it went a bit weak at the end, not sure that the sequel will be as good
Blackfish City - Sam J Millar - really liked this, a good, novel twist on Cyberpunk.
The Quantum Magician - Derek Kunsken - again, pretty good. Sort of Oceans 11 in space.
Once and Future - Amy Rose Capetta - Awful. Really bad. Nearly stopped reading it halfway through. Won't be touching the sequel with a bargepole.
The Lost Puzzler - Eyal Kless - I felt the pacing was a bit off, but the core concept is very good. It's a fallen society-based novel, and I reckon that there is a strong chance of seeing TV and/or a computer game based on it, as it pretty much has Instanced Raids as part of the core concept.

I've then been ticking off some more established authors;
EM Foner - Independent Living - just pleasant reading. Deals with humans living in space in a very honest way.
Neal Asher - The Warship - once he stops just making stuff up can really do a good story and characters, and is getting a fixation on overly complex tech.
Edgar Cantero - This body's not big enough for the both of us - 2nd book of his I've read, and again it's amazing. I'd strongly recommend this or "Meddling Kids" to anyone.
Neal Stephenson - The Rise and Fall of DODO & Fall or, Dodge in Hell - he doesn't write too much, as he doesn't have to. These are my current reading list, with "Fall or, Dodge..." currently warming up.

5) Complete 2 Games of Reasonable Size
I was tapping my way through Final Fantasy VII, however watching all the remake footage from E3 has made me wonder if I should continue, or wait for what looks like an amazing version. I could instead start up on another FF (FFXII is on Switch, and by all accounts it's very good). Then there is stuff like Astral Chain coming soon, which looks spiffy (very Bayonetta-esque hopefully).

babychaos's picture

Fantastic work, Pete. Pleased as punch that you're on the mend. There's nothing worse than knowing you have to sit fucking still and do nothing for your own good.

I was officially clinically declared infection-free on the 8th May

Just your back, right? Not the other nasty things you've got living in you. ;-)

How's your baking coming along? Apart from the weekly bakes, are you challenging yourself in particular?

brainwipe's picture

Weird how this has jumped up top...I did check it at the weekend, as I need to do my quarterly update this weekend.

I've not been doing a huge amount of baking since June, mainly as I've spent a lot of time outside riding. We do have Macmillan Coffee Morning this week, and despite our HR team being a bit naff (zero organisation and planning, and they have a bad habit of bringing in shop-bought stuff) I'm going to whip up a few things. Current plans are a large hummingbird cake, some sausage rolls (as no-one ever does savoury, but they sell like crazy), and probably something gluten-free to sucker in all the "healthy" people...

babychaos's picture

Oh yeah, that's odd. I missed it in June. Which is also weird.

brainwipe's picture

After the weird self-bumping of this, time for the quarterly update.

1) Financial Stability
a) Record every purchase
Still going strong...over 500 items now recorded, and I've had a bit of a playaround with the data visualisation for January to August data

b) Implement a 2-wek wait for non-essential purchases
I've already decided that this is too arbitary, however I'm working on a set of financial goals for the next year, and as part of that I want to do a couple of things;
1) Reshape the hierarchy
2) Add another layer (there are some ambiguous bits right now...for example...is a cycling training camp "Cycling" or "Holiday"? Is food on Holiday "Food" or "Holiday"). Some of this is currently buried in the free-text description, so I'm going to pop it out into a 3rd layer
3) Start thinking long-term (related to financial goals for next year)

c) Save at least £10,000
Again, currently on target, though it's going to be a bit closer than I thought, as I've taken on a couple of additional financial commitments. It will be a goal for next year, but I've decided to do Lands End - John O-Groats again, a decade after the last time (they go the other way now, so starting down south, and finishing up in Scotland). A fair chunk of the cost comes out this year, including the return trip back down south (I've treated myself, and I'll be taking the sleeper train from Inverness to Euston). I have ~£8,000 saved, but I know there are some large costs coming in the next 3 months.

2) Rebuild my Fitness
It's probably nearly there. I've been irritating people on Strava by naming all my rides and training sessions "Rebuild xx", starting back in mid-May when I returned to structured training. As of last night I'm on 88, and trying to work out if I can hit 100 before I go to Majorca in a couple of weeks time. I probably peaked in August, and I've had a couple of niggling injuries (a tear in the left quad, very tight calf muscles), combined with the cooling weather and loss of daylight means that I'm slightly off the boil, but this is a normal time of year for this sort of things, and I can now look forward to December, when I'll actually start racing again!

Strava suggests I've had a 1,200% increase in fitness over ~5 months...admittedly I was starting from a point of "can barely walk, and someone's been tinkering with my spine", but still fairly happy with where I am right now. The trip to Majorca will be good to compare against the trip in April, when I'd only been back in the saddle for a week. The focus for the next 2 months is getting to December with some race fitness, and then looking into 2020 regaining my 2nd Cat license, and making sure i have some miles in my legs for LE-JOG in September 2020.

3) Use what you've got
I've started looking at the Hydroponics lab again, as it's approaching the time of year where that some of thing becomes more viable. The big thing we've done this year has been the garden (I say "we", Gill did 99% of the work). The lawn has survived, and is mainly grass (new record), and it generally looks pretty decent.

I also spent some time learning a better video-production workflow. I use Lightworks, which is a lovely bit of kit, and has recently been updated to work natively with HEVC 4K footage from my GoPro7 (previously I'd had to process it via Handbrake first to generate new intermediates, but that took a long time, typically overnight for 4K -> 4K)...however working with 4K video files is fairly intensive work for a laptop (even a decent one!), so I've been practicing with using proxy files. Turns out they are a complete godsend, and once they were generated for ~30 minutes of footage I was able to put together a montage clip of cyclocross footage for RCC in a few minutes, as I could quickly scrub through the footage, find interesting clips and throw them into a timeline. Expect some "hurtling down mountainside" footage from Majorca!

4) Discover 4 new authors
I've ened up reading some larger books, so the volume has decreased. Whiles it's not technically a fully new author (a combined effort from Neal Stephenson and Nicole Gallard (who is a new author to me), I think "Fall and Rise of D.O.D.O" is in contention for my favourite book of the year. Other stuf that has been ticked off;

  • Sylvien Neuvel : Sleeping Giants Trilogy - really liked the first 2 (the style of writing is similar to "The Martian", with a story that is partially reminiscent of Pacific Rim)...the third was a bit weak, suggesting that the idea had run it's course.
  • Mark Hodder : Burton and Swinburne - I'm currently halfway through this 5-book series (and they are all huge). It's an alternate history of the Victorian age, where it justifies Steampunk elements by adding in time-travel. It's actually pretty good (I'm always wary of time travel as a plot device, as it often leads to lazy storytelling and the dreaded Deus Ex Machina finisher...yes, I'm still looking at you Peter F Hamilton, and Brian Herbert), but so far hes handling it well.

5) Complete 2 Games of Reasonable Size
Again, not a huge amount of time to really settle into games. I tend to play some stuff on the Switch (they've recently released a back catalogue of SNES games, which is approaching my early gaming sweet-spot), thought I have also played through Hitman 2 on the PC. I'm going to go back and do some of the alternate murder scenarios, as they are generally hilarious when they come off.

babychaos's picture