Deux Mille Douze

Deux Mille Douze

Following the somewhat successful attempt to achieve my goals last year, I’m going to proceed in a similar manner for 2012.

1. Reading

Kindle is my new best friend. Though I still like reading physical books better, the Amazon Kindle has opened up more free reading options. One source is the Princeton Public Library’s eBook collection, pointed to me by a friend. I really recommend all Kindle owners to tap into their local public library’s collection. The second source is from Amazon itself. The Kindle store always supplies free eBooks, sometimes only temporarily. So my new hobby is to hunt for these free eBooks, enlisting to several mailing lists that notify me when a book becomes free. Greedy as I am, I hoard a lot of them, more than I can probably read.

This year, I aim to read 50 books. I don’t think I’ve ever achieved that number in my life (even though I claim to be a bookworm), so this will be a fun endeavor. I’m still riding the momentum from my voracious reading appetite from last year, so January’s been really productive. Hopefully I can keep it up.

2. Writing

In an effort to prevent literary obesity, I want to improve my writing this year. Naturally, I want to blog more, specifically developing more personal essays. I also want to write more reflections on the books I read, so the information will not just be stored away in some non-descript bookshelf in the back of my mind.

With that said, I’m introducing a new category for my blog titled Bookism (note: name may change). Also, check out the new Blog’s Guide page for descriptions of all the blog categories.

3. Service

I echo Amy for this goal. I didn’t do as much as I wanted to in 2011, but this year, I want to take this more seriously. I need to have more human compassion. In this category, I also want to partner with like-minded peers to start some kind of service project.

4. Mission Indonesia

It’s almost 3 years since I’ve been back in Indonesia. This year, I will go home. But during this trip, I want to do something radically different than any other times I’ve gone back before. Some mission project ideas started to emerge during GYC 2011, and I’m excited about what can happen.

5. Miscellaneous goals

Other less crucial goals include being a better singer, understanding and producing resources on the topic of mentorship, and of course, think about my future.

Closing 2011

Closing 2011

I’m not a prophet, but what I said January last year came true: 2011 flew by very quickly. I set some personal goals for the year (click here and here), and it feels wrong to move into 2012 without reviewing those goals.

1. Discomfort

–       Project deClutter – successfully executed and completed, twice! I was able to sell some of the goods and the proceeds went to support ANEW.

–       Mission Trip to Honduras – highlight of my year! See the complete stories here.

2. Service

–       This part of my goal was partially fulfilled during the mission trip, but it wasn’t really what I meant when I phrased this goal. Logistics (i.e., time) also became a hindrance, so I pretty much did not do any direct effort towards this goal. In any case, I’m not enslaved to my goals after all, if there are other works I’m led to do at any given point.

With that said, I want service to take a higher priority in 2012. It’s going to be real this year!

3. Future Planning

–       Certain things are becoming clearer. I know where my heart lies in terms of choosing a lifework. This goal will still take priority in 2012.

4. Personal Investment

–       Suffice it to say that I’m satisfied by the fulfillment of this category of goals.

5.  Writing Aggressively

–       My goal was to get 10,000 hits on my blog in 2011. I was blogging consistently and doing well until about August, then Fall 2011 happened and this monster called grad school ate me. I pretty much closed my blogging year by August. Thus, I only got about 6,800 hits. I won’t beat myself over the head, but I definitely wasn’t happy about how the blogging year ended.

–       Another goal in this department that I didn’t do was to write for an Adventist publication.

6. Reading

–       See previous blog entry.

Was 2011 a good year? I’d say it was. There were personal failures of course, things too hard to blog about, but overall, I had fun, gained new perspectives on life, traveled a lot (visited pretty much all the major cities in the US, plus Honduras), and met admirable people. I’m ready to leave 2011 behind and move on to 2012!

2011: A Bookish Review

2011: A Bookish Review

Among my few metanarratives for 2011, one of them is attributed to books. In the beginning of last year I set a target for the number of books I wanted to read (80% of the books I own but haven’t read). That number came out to be 53. I ended up reading only 34 books in 2011, a number I can live with. Most of these books were read on the shuttle, train rides, and airport travels, and a small portion of stealing time here and there during meals and whatnot.

These printed friends of mine have been the most loyal companions in 2011, most gentle teachers, and most exciting travel buddies. In the absence of human companions, I’ve found many a friend in the authors of these books. In the last four months of the year, when grad school bulldozed over my life and basic necessities such as food and sleep were barely met, I clung on even more tightly to my books as an effort to keep at least one thing pleasant in my life. Somehow, I ended the year with an even more voracious appetite for reading than usual, reading 5 or 6 books in the week preceding GYC 2011.

I suppose it’s silly to express gratitude to inanimate objects, but in this case, a tribute to books is in order. What would my life be without them? They were my escapades from rough realities, they took me to places that I would probably never visit, and introduced me to people I would never meet. They expanded my horizon beyond the perimeters of my own world, and I owe a great deal to anything or anyone who has that function in my life.

In 2011, I traveled by foot across Afghanistan with Rory Stewart. I sat at the feet of Solomon and marveled at his wisdom through Ecclesiastes and its commentaries. I savored the brilliance of Ellen White’s Education beneath the shadows of Honduran hills and mountains. Amy Carmichael introduced me to the dear children she took care of in South India a century ago. With Condoleezza Rice, I went into negotiation rooms around the world and saw a glimpse of how history was made. I rode the thrill of Obama’s presidential campaign in the last election cycle with David Plouffe, and learned more about my home country from reading about the life of Stanley Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother.

Some authors can, as it were, cast a spell on me with their writing styles. I laughed with the best author in present-day Adventism (Clifford Goldstein) in his Mules that Angels Ride. Pramoedya Ananta Toer, effectively transported me to early 20th century rural Indonesia and told me stories of the children of the revolution.  C. S. Lewis’ English beautified a common, yet profound topic in the human experience, the Four Loves. And finally, I was spellbound by Heschel’s ingenuity. “To become aware of the ineffable is to part company with words. The essence, the tangent to the curve of human experience, lies beyond the limits of language.” (Man is Not Alone, p. 16) Upon reading these words, my jaw dropped and I had to pause and regain composure from disbelief that someone actually penned such a beautiful sentence. Heschel was a genius.

When I was little I used to watch a Japanese anime called Doraemon, which was the name of a robotic cat from the future that had a magical pocket from which it could pull out cool, impossible gadgets. One of its staple gadgets was called the “Anywhere Door” that could open up and transport anyone to anywhere the person wished to go. To me, books are my “Anywhere Door.”

All the world’s a classroom.

Honduras: The Prelude

All the world’s a classroom.

When I wrote out my goals for 2011 about seven months ago (new year’s resolutions – remember those?), one of the things I listed was discomfort. I have become aware that my life has consisted mostly of things that I am already familiar with. I feel a need to expand my world, and expose myself to more discomfort.

At this moment, I am less than 24 hours away to fulfilling one of my goals this year: going on a mission trip. The destination is El Suyatal, Honduras and what I’m feeling right now is pure, unadulterated excitement. I have never gone on a mission trip before, so this is kind of a big deal, and like a dry sponge I’m going to soak up everything about this trip. Ten days without electricity sound remarkably liberating.

I have been saving for this trip since January and this is no doubt going to be the highlight of my year. As I’m preparing my mind and heart on this Sabbath day and trying to reflect on why I wanted to go, I can’t think of a logical or profound answer to that question. I just wanted to go. Am I doing this with a pure motive? Not sure. I love adventures, and I freely admit that I’m looking at this with misty eyes. I know I want a radical experience in my spiritual life. I want to experience something different than campus ministry.

Of course a mission trip is designed for the people there, but my mind is incredibly limited in imagining the things that can happen in 10 days. Cynicism? There’s perhaps a little bit of that. Low expectations? Maybe some. I think, though, that it’s mostly narrow-mindedness. I’m sitting here in front of a computer screen trying to imagine what can happen in a foreign place, without any reference whatsoever. All I know is that the one who will benefit the most from this trip is me. And at this point, all I can talk about is the limited view from my window. See what I mean by “a small world”?

I do have expectations. I expect God to expand my vision, of life, the world, and His kingdom, to something much larger than the life (physical and spiritual) that I have known. I am looking for something without knowing what it is, and I’m ready for whatever God has for me there.

Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee. Jeremiah 32:17

And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not. Numbers 11:23

In our life here, earthly, sin-restricted though it is, the greatest joy and the highest education are in service. And in the future state, untrammeled by the limitations of sinful humanity, it is in service that our greatest joy and our highest education will be found—witnessing, and ever as we witness learning anew “the riches of the glory of this mystery;” “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27. Education, p. 309 [emphasis mine]

For the next 10 days El Suyatal will be my classroom. My teacher, the Infinite One, and the field of study…I’m about to find out. =)

On Monday, Jacqui took me to eat some Honduran food. Those baleadas were good!

All packed up and ready to go. Looking forward to coming back with much less than these.

Progress Report 2011 (1/12)

February came all too soon, but I’m pleased to say that my New Year excitement is still alive and well. This is the first progress report on my New Year’s resolutions, written as another motivation for me to actually achieve those goals, since, you know, who wants to give a bad report?

Category 1

Project deClutter – Completed. From the items that I’ve consigned, I will at most earn $116 (I only get 40% of the total sales), depending on whether people will buy the items or not. I will know the actual financial yield in March, and since all of that will go to God’s work with ANEW, pray that all of them will be sold!

Category 3

This category is probably the hardest to measure, because, well, it’s future planning. It’s never ending. But of course there’s progress, in the form of a realization. I realized that I really like it when science and technology have direct impacts to the betterment of society. It sounds cliché, I know, but there are a lot of scientific endeavors whose societal impact is still very far in the future. They are important, but I like to be at the other end of the spectrum where you can see the significance of the work a little clearer.

What’s cool is that there’s a particular paper that my colleague and I have been working on that just got published, and when we received the comments from the reviewers, one of them said that it is “a nice example of how the PSE [Process Synthesis and Engineering] community can contribute to the society by providing it with significantly more sustainable solutions.” I like that.

Along the same line, I’m taking a History of Science class, just to fulfill my curiosity on how science has developed over time. What is the philosophy of science and how has it changed in history? Lots of food for thought there.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about pure motive and scientific pursuits, so more blog entries on this coming soon. As a little preview, it relates to one of my long-existing life question, which is what does it mean to be a God-led, God-driven, consecrated scientist (or in my case, engineer)? (To read some of my initial thoughts, see my previous blog entry and this Think Tank article.)

Category 4

There are three concrete, on-going projects, in this category; two related to campus ministry, and one personal project. I can’t disclose them right now, but when the right time comes, I will. =) It’s exciting.

Category 5

I’d say this blog is a progress in this category. It’s a small milestone toward the bigger aim, and I see it as a lab to test out different things. It’s when you accomplish the small things that you gain momentum and the surge of excitement that will propel you to accomplish the bigger things – I’m a firm believer of that. So far I think it’s been going pretty well, especially since I’ve diversified the things that I post on this blog, mainly because I can’t quite spit out profound thoughts as quickly.

New: Category 6

I’ve added a new goal for the year! One day I was standing in front of my bookshelf and thought, I have so many good books in here, I should read them.

I am hopelessly and desperately in love with books. But as I’m sure many of you will resonate, oftentimes after you get that thrill from purchasing, unwrapping, and smelling a brand new book, you get distracted and occupied with other things that you end up reading only the first few pages or not reading them at all.

So, in an effort to transfer some of the precious knowledge on my bookshelf to my brain, I’m setting a goal of reducing the number of unread books on my bookshelf by 80%. It’s an ambitious goal, but hey, that’s what goals are for.

To get the actual number, I’m going to take an inventory of all of the unread books, which I haven’t done. Hopefully that will be in my next progress report, but first let me explain which books belong to this ‘unread’ class. Obviously, this excludes reference type of books – I’m not about to read encyclopedias and such. This also excludes academic books – so if I have to read a book for class or research, that book does not count. Basically, this goal only pertains to a set of books that I purchased out of my own will and for personal edification. (I’ve actually made progress in this category: I’ve read a meager number of 2 books that I’ve owned for a while, but never got around to reading them. Maybe I’ll incorporate book reviews into this blog also.) This number is clearly not going to stay constant over this year since I will buy new books – hence the dynamic nature of the goal and why I frame it as a relative number (80%).

Alors, voilà! And on to February!