I have two this year, one serious and one rather…oh, frivolous.
On the serious side – over the past several years I’ve been really diligent about getting regular, rigorous physical exercise. This has been fantastic on basically all fronts – I feel better, I never get sick (this Christmas’s episode being literally the only exception in 3+ years now), I sleep better, my digestion is better than it used to be, I’m in fantastic shape, and more. Granted, I got on this kick based on some health issues I had to confront, but all in all I’m really pleased with the results. Amongst other things it’s taught me something about discipline. I had already sort of learned the lesson of the little engine that could when I quit smoking years ago – if I set my mind on something, I know I can do it – but in many ways the physical regimen was more difficult than quitting smoking. I’ve decided to focus on intellectual development this year, bringing to bear the same disciplined approach I’ve taken with physical development.
I’m taking this as my resolution this year because I’ve concluded I spend too much of my time basically consuming mental junkfood. It’s funny – when I first got out of school years ago I forced myself to start working my way through the ‘great works’ of literature. Some of it was fantastic – Nabakov, Tolstoy, Austen, to name a few. Some of it was just dreadful – Plato’s Republic is a seminal work, I grant you, and on some abstract level I want to know it and understand it. But the years after college that I spent forcing myself to read things of that nature ended up taking the enjoyment out of reading. For a period of time centering right around when I moved to Maine I had basically stopped reading, something which those who know me would find surprising given how avid a reader I’ve been. I solved this by turning to mental junkfood, a strategy I’ve generally stuck with for a long time now. When it comes time to read something off my shelf and I have to choose between, say, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (I cannot tell you how many times I’ve started and abandoned this book) and, say, an illustrated Conan novel, well, over the last decade or more I’ve almost always chosen the latter. Delicious mental junkfood, who can resist! Better to use literature (as you can see I’m using that term loosely) as an escape than as a means of self flagellation.
I actually experimented with trying to be rigorous about my reading choices this year with mixed results – it generally worked when I chose to be disciplined about it, but more often than not, I chose not to be disciplined about it. So, finally we get to the terms of the actual resolution. This year, as with exercise of the body, I’m going to exercise my mind, at a minimum 5 days a week. This will take the form of me working my way through at least one chapter of a technical manual each of those 5 days. No exceptions, no excuses, etc etc. I chose technical manuals rather than literature, at least for now, because I fear spoiling the pleasure of escape that reading affords me, and because generally they’ll more immediately assist me in my work. I’ve already begun and am 5 chapters through Learn to Program, an earlier version of which you can check out yourself. So far it’s going great.
As to the frivolous resolution – I’ve been playing roguelike computer games since college, and really since jr high school with their spiritual antecedents (a perfect example being Dungeon on the Commodore Pet). I’ve probably played Sword of Fargoal a million or more times, including many games in recent years using the remake. And I can’t begin to estimate how many hours I’ve spent running through the seemingly endless dungeons of the pits of angband. Yet out of all that time, I’ve never, once, actually WON a game. So. This year, I’ll beat a roguelike. I’m starting with TOME (troubles of middle earth) version 2.3.3, because currently it’s one of the most well managed roguelikes and is regularly updated and has an extensive player community. For those of you who’ve seen some of the screenshot and think I’m playing an ascii game, I’m not quite that hardcore – this is the graphical mode I’m playing in. It won’t win any awards for visuals, but the exacting tactical combat is a thing of beauty, really, and if you’ve read Tolkein you’re sure to agree that an opportunity to beat down Wormtongue, hordes of orcs and goblins, and untold other minions of Sauron, is an opportunity you simply can’t pass up. I’ll post stat-dumps of my character to my wiki as things progress. I’m already some ways along, hovering around 20th level and having thumped Bullroarer the hobbit, Boldor, King of the Yeeks, as well as his son and a horde of his minions.
See, I told you the second one was somewhat frivolous 😉