25 before 25 – Checking in at 24

As some of you might know, I made a list of 25 things to do before I turned 25 a couple of years ago. I just turned 24, so I thought I would post an update of the list. Of course, I have changed some of the goals on the list because I just stopped wanting to do them. Take my old goal number 6 – Get married (well…after I find the right guy!) – Well, guess what? I have not found the right guy, and even if I did miraculously find the right guy sometime in the next 11 months, I don’t want to marry him before I turn 25. If, in the future, I actually find a man that I love and want to spend the rest of my life with, I will then marry him (if he decides to ask me). Until such a time occurs, guess who is not going to get married? Yep. That’s right. Me. So I’ve changed my goal number 6 to one of much greater importance — Be Happy –.

So these are my goals. The bold ones are DONE!, the italicized ones are in the works, and the regular ones are not yet completed.

  1. Get bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.
  2. Get master’s degree in Computer Science (If all goes as planned, I should be done by the end of October which will be before my 25th birthday).
  3. Visit Florence.
  4. Visit Paris.
  5. Visit Spain (this used to be ‘visit Ukraine’, but with the political situation there, I decided that I wanted to visit Spain instead. Much less exotic, I know. And I did)
  6. Be Happy (I’m happy right now. So I just have to stay that way. =D I’m glad I’m a happy person, because it is going to be really easy to reach this goal)
  7. Build an operating system from scratch.
  8. Buy a big monitor (either two 20-inch screens or one >24 inch screen) 
  9. Use a raspberry pi to build a home server (I have a Raspberry Pi and COULD use it to build a home server, but that wouldn’t be very useful considering that I already have a really good webserver. But I built my Raspberry Pi and can boot it, so I’m marking this as finished anyway)
  10. Read a book about German history (this used to be write an App for Android, but I’m not a big fan of mobile development. I could write an App for Android easily with the skills that I had, but I have recently discovered an interest in non-fiction which I much prefer reading in my free time. I would like to read a good book on German history. Preferably in German, but I will probably have to ask around to see what is recommended)
  11. Learn to program in Python (I learned it last spring and was unpleasantly disappointed. Not that it isn’t a great scripting language, but I would NEVER use it to build a large application).
  12. Learn another language (I took a year of Spanish at the university. I need to start practicing regularly again, but I don’t actually know if I will be successful at this goal since I won’t have the opportunity to immerse myself in the language).
  13. Finish reading the Tintenherz trilogy.
  14. Get 10,000 hits on my blog in one year.
  15. Learn how to develop web-pages with php
  16. Buy graphic tablet and learn to do a bit of graphic design (I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and made this comic which was all I really wanted to do, so I consider this to be done. I would like to practice copying other cartoonists so that I can learn to draw better (like Adam@Home or Big Top which are drawn by Rob Harrell. I didn’t realize that they were both drawn by Rob Harrell until I looked them up. Weird. I just know that I want to be able to draw like him. Not that I would complain if I could draw like Mark Tatulli (Lio) or Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine)))
  17. Read through the Life-study of the Bible (I’m plugging away, reading one message every day. I finished the Life-study of the Old Testament, and I am almost 80% finished, but we will see if I actually manage to complete this task. I have 414 messages left (as of this morning), so if I double up and read two messages a day for three months, I might be able to do it. We will see!) 
  18. Get into the habit of exercising at least 2-3 times a week (I’ve been really bad recently, but as soon as I get back into my rhythm, I should be able to get back into the habit. I have a running group on Mondays and go to yoga on Wednesday which is technically twice a week).
  19. Visit Amsterdam.
  20. Learn how to remotely access other computers
  21. Build a website from scratch 
  22. Go to the Opera (I got to see Magic Flute! Which was AMAZING! Love Mozart!)
  23. Build up a habit of having morning revival (I’m working on this. It is such a wonderful way to start my day. Now I just have to keep it up for another year!).
  24. Organize/scrapbook all of the souvenirs I have.
  25. Read through the Bible again (I’m hanging out in Philippians, but I’m sure I’ll finish on time. I am just taking longer than I normally would because I like Paul’s Epistles so much that I have been reading them much slower than I normally would).

15 DONE!7 in the works, and 3 to be done!

I’ll let you know in a year how it turns out. =)

To Write or not to Write

To those of you who have diligently read my blog over the past five years (even though I have posted next to nothing for the last couple of years), you know that November is a special month. It is NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. The month in which crazy, normal people like you and I buckle down and write a novel because we want to, and because we can do it. A friend (who really liked the novel I wrote in 2011) asked me if I was crazy enough to write another novel this year. The answer: NO.

I actually seriously considered it for about two hours. But no. Not going to happen.

Right now I’m in a really really good place. Like really good.

I’m inwardly very peaceful and happy, satisfied with my life as it is right now, and satisfied that the direction my life is headed is the direction that I want it to head. And I’m learning to find joy in the little things in life. I had a little happy attack on Monday because of baked vegetables. Not even kidding. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, broccoli, and mushrooms. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and pop in the oven for 30 minutes and you will have some DELICIOUS veggies to eat. Your welcome.

I’ve discovered a new interest in history (reading a book on the authenticity of the old testament which is really interesting), and I’m trying to get in the habit of exercising regularly. I’m trying to get out and sit in the sun (when Duesseldorf is nice enough to give me sun) so that I don’t get Winter depression this winter. The sun is unfortunately already setting at 4:30 and the sun has a habit of liking to hide behind clouds, but I am optimistic (don’t have the winter sads yet!). And the coffee at work is free this week! I have, of course, correspondingly increased my coffee intake.

Work has been a bit stressful since I’ve started my internship (which I’m doing at my work). Essentially, my internship means that I am working 600 hours for free. This means that I work a 40 hour week and am only paid for 17 hours, but it is ok because I’ll be done with it eventually. I’ve noticed that you get a lot more accomplished when you work twice as much. In the evenings I am also super busy, so I’m going to be very jealous over Thursdays, which is the one evening a week when I can go home and do nothing. I wish I could say as much for weekends, but I have pretty much booked my weekends solid for the next two months (including a visit to America at the end of November).

So I don’t know why I thought I had the time to write a novel. Even for two hours. I don’t. In case that wasn’t completely and totally clear. Besides the fact that I am worried I am getting RSI in my pinky fingers (I’ve rebound my keyboard for that reason and am trying to retrain myself to type differently and use my pinkies less). Typing a novel would NOT be a good idea.

Visiting Bayern

I didn’t actually know that Nürnberg was in Bayern (Bavaria). Go figure. My German geography is horrible. I came to visit a dear friend, and Nürnberg was the closest city to where she lived. I didn’t really care where it was, I went to visit her, not the city.

That being said, I didn’t mind suddenly finding myself in Bayern. I was actually staying in a little town about half an hour from Nürnberg. But since the little town was very green and beautiful, I didn’t mind at all.

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It was also really near the Donau river. I’m completely biased towards my Rhein (very likely my favorite place on the planet), but the Donau was gorgeous as well.

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The river was so clear, you could see the reflection of the clouds in it.

The next day we went to see Nürnberg together. I have to say, there is something about Germany that I simply love. I just feel at home wherever I go. Bayern may be far away from Düsseldorf, and it is much much different than the Rheinland that I know and love. Nevertheless, I loved the city. And I still thought…this is somewhere I could live someday….

We went to a couple of cathedrals, which looked pretty much like every Cathedral you’ve ever seen. (sorry, really not very partial to cathedrals.)

But there was a cool fountain to see…

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Which included a gold ring wrought into the iron. The story is that if you successfully remove the gold ring from the fountain, you can keep it. No one has ever succeeded, but everybody tries…

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As I said above, we saw some cathedrals, which I wasn’t extraordinarily impressed with. The castle, however, was really nice…

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It used to be the imperial palace of the german kings and kaisers. Pretty neat huh?

The gardens from the Palace were gorgeous as well and had free entry! Take that Italy!

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There was also a really nice view of the Altstadt from the hill.

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All in all, I had a great time! Will definitely try to go again some time!

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Third Stop in Italy: Bologna

So up to this point I have been a bad tourist.

Now I graduate to being a horrible tourist.

I travelled to Bologna from Florence by train. I was flying out from Bologna, so I booked a hostel about twenty minutes from the city center. Getting to the hostel was a bit of a challenge, because I hadn’t looked up anything on Google maps, and had to rely on the directions to the hostel that I had printed out and the slightly incomprehensible directions I got from the man who was selling bus tickets. But I managed to find a map of the bus system at one of the bus stops…

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…and that enabled me to find my way to my hostel (i.e. I was able to find the correct bus stop of the bus I needed to take. I love maps).

However, once I arrived at the hostel, I no longer had any desire to go anywhere else. But I finally got to read Cherry Heaven (the sequel of The Diary of Pelly D which was SOOO good I just had to read the sequel). The hostel had a comfy couch and we could order pizza in the evening. I enjoyed it. =)

The next day, on the way back to the train station to catch a shuttle to the airport, I discovered this cute little park which made me wish I had spent a bit of time in the city. But I was also over budget at that point, so it all worked out in the end…

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Second Stop in Italy: Florence

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Words really can’t describe Florence. I don’t think this picture really does it justice, but it is better than nothing.

You’ll have to go see it yourself some day. It is very very very worth it.

The history of the city is simply fascinating. Florence was the home city of the Di Medici family, the most powerful family in Italy for a period of four hundred years. They made their money from banking, and a good majority of the artwork and the architecture in the city was comissioned by the Di Medici family. Their family crest shows up just about everywhere.

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This is the old Di Medici family palace. It is a typical example of renaissance architecture, using simplicity in the design and playing with proportions. The bottom level is twice as tall as the first floor. This gives the illusion that the building is taller than it actually is. You can see the Di Medici family crest (the shield with the six balls) on the corner of the building.

If I’m being honest, Florence was the first city that I have visited where I was actually seriously impressed with the architecture. I know, I know, I’ve seen Paris and the Eiffel tower. I’ve seen Rome with…?? Sorry, I’m not a big architecture fan. Obviously. I much prefer God’s architecture to that of man. Give me a park over a building any time of day…

But it wasn’t only the renaissance architecure that I liked (although I really liked the play with the proportions). Two of the cathedrals in the city were likely the most beautiful buildings that I’ve ever seen in my life (even though I am fundamentally opposed to cathedrals and what they stand for). I just loved the beautiful green, pink, and white marble…

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Of course, no surprise to anyone who knows me, my favorite place in the city was the river. Gorgeous. I don’t know exactly why I love rivers so much. I just know that I do.

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The one thing I didn’t like about Florence was that they charged admission for EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong. I understand why they would charge admission for the Uffizzi and Accademia (the two art museums I visited). I mean…you get to see Michelangelo’s statues emerge from solid marble:

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But they also charge admission for ALL of the gardens in the city (at least all of the ones that I could find). Me, being me, found the green squares on my map and tried to get in…

Unfortunately, those green squares were surrounded by very tall walls. They didn’t show THEM on the map.

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At least the Piazzas in the city had free admission, and those were often green and nice. So I wasn’t completely disappointed.

I was actually intending to pay the admission to have access to the gardens of the Pitti Palace. Unfortunately, the day where I was planning my outing turned out to be very rainy. So I ended up reading a book in a cute cafe and reading with a couple of espresso and a panini.

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Have I mentioned how much I love my Kindle?

Wouldn’t travel anywhere without it.

First Stop in Italy: Pisa

Pisa is a little city in the west of Italy. It is, of course, famous for the leaning tower of Pisa…

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Some idiotic architects decided to build a building on swampy ground. As can be expected, the tower began to slowly sink into the ground. Pisa became famous for this leaning tower, and the city (I expect it is the city) has paid millions in order to keep the tower from falling completely down. They have drained the ground around the tower, and excavated the earth from under one half of the tower in order to encourage it to fall back in the other direction (or at the very least, to keep it from falling more in the wrong direction).

My goal in visiting Italy was to visit Florence because it was on the list of the things I want to do before I turn 25. I found out that Pisa was near Florence, and I decided to go there for a few nights to look around.

Bad idea. Pisa is tiny. The only thing to see in the city is the leaning tower. It takes approximately one hour to see the tower. You don’t need two days. Trust me.

Regardless, I enjoyed my stay in Pisa.

You have to understand that I’m not a hard core tourist. Really not.

Travelling is awesome. But it is not only a trip for me. It is vacation. Yes, I am studying, so as a student, I have a lot of free time on my hands. But I also work 17 hours a week, and am going everywhere all the time. I don’t cut myself any slack. Usually directly before I take one of my trips, I am stressing out at work trying to get everything done that I need to get done so that I can take the time off.

This trip was no different. The week before, I was super stressed out with work, finishing an programming project for a course I am currently taking, and applying for a scholarship. Besides the fact that when I got up at 6 a.m. to leave, I ended up missing my train connection to the main station, and therefore missed the train to the airport. The next one came in half an hour, but a half an hour means a lot when you are going to the airport. Of course, I was flying out of Düsseldorf Weeze, which is just about the smallest airport on the planet. I ended up getting through security in ten minutes (might be a record) and got to the gate just in time to get in line for the flight.
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Go me! I was off to Italy! Flew into Bologna, then four hours in the train (first to Florence, then a really really really slow train to Pisa), and THEN I went to see the tower. After an hour, I went back to my hostel and spent the evening in my bed.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thoroughly.

Pisa is really a nice little city, especially when the sun is shining.

The next day I had a great time being a very atypical tourist. After grabbing a quick coffee/croissant breakfast and stopping at a grocery store for snacks and water, I went and scouted out this old Roman ruin

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I’ll be honest. I didn’t research the history of the building. In fact, I couldn’t even find it when I googled/wikipediaed it (the name on the map was Fortezza Nuova, Giardino Scotto).

I just looked at the free map I got from the hostel and found the largest green square and headed in that direction. It was probably thirty degrees out and sunny, so I found a nice place to sit and spent four or five hours reading (except when I took a coffee break/gelato break)….

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This was my view from my pirch:

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Bliss…

Malaga

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This was seriously one of the best vacations I have ever been on ever.

Not because Malaga is gorgeous (although it is. Reference above picture). Not even because the beaches were gorgeous and the water refreshing (although it was. Reference below picture).

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The reason my trip was great was because of the company. I got to hang out with these people for ten days! It was great hanging out with people who have similar interests with me. We are all Christians who really love the Lord Jesus, and therefore we really enjoyed singing, reading, and praying together. And we also did not consider “having a good time” to mean getting drunk.

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We rented an apartment together in a housing development outside of Malaga (near the el Palo beach). The houses in the area were gorgeous, and we were ten minutes from the beach.

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We kept pinching outselves that we got such a well priced apartment in such a nice neighborhood.

The vacation was great. Absolutely great. I got to do all of my favorite vacation activities…

By which I mean that I spent most of the time relaxing under the palm trees reading books on my Kindle…

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So I’m lame. Get over it. Of course, I also regularly went into the mediterranean sea. I loved the feeling of floating on my back in the gorgeous clear water while the sun shined down on me…. The weather stayed in the thirties the whole entire time we were there. Unfortunately, the sea got pretty rough after a while, so floating on my back got increasingly precarious. However, jumping in the waves was also pretty fun.

It was a beach vacation. Sun. Beaches. Books. Friends. Couldn’t ask for more.

Except for churros…

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Those things are SOOOOO delicious!

And perhaps ice cream….

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I didn’t actually eat a lot of the native food because it was all seafood. I do eat fish now (even though I spent my entire childhood eating it), but Spanish fish all seem to have the scales and heads and everything, and I chickened out. I admit it. Totally chickened out. I did eat a bocadillo once, and gazpacho and paella, so I wasn’t that bad.

But we treated ourselves WELL by cooking delicious food in the evenings…

Good Times!

Travelling in Europe

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As per usual, it has been ages since I have posted anything on this blog. I don’t offer any apologies. I don’t feel particulary bad about it. I have been too busy living my life in order to document every move and thought that I have made.

However, as I have said, I have been living my life. And one of the main things I have been doing with my life is travelling. This summer, I have visited Poland, Spain, Italy, and southern Germany. What better way to celebrate enjoying this wonderful continent in which I live than by bragging about it on my blog?

The posts will be short, to the point, and sprinkled liberally with photos. I’ve taken the liberty of documenting my journeys on Instagram (you can follow me here or search for my travel hashtag #thejoyofvisiting). The photos I have instagramed will very likely make their way onto this blog as well. I’m not a photographer, but I’ve tried to not be a completely neglectful tourist.

So stay tuned! I’ll be starting my journey tomorrow with Malaga (where the beautiful photo above was taken).

The Best Things in Life are Free

I’m a student. As in most other parts of the world, that means that I have to carefully watch the limited funds that I have so that I don’t spend more than I earn. I’ve been playing the Budget Game for almost a year now, and the amount in my bank account is actually going up every month (good feeling that). Of course, when I travel to Poland and Spain and Italy this summer, that bank account is definitely going to take a hit. Which is the whole point of budgeting and saving: to cut back on the things you don’t need so that when there is something you really want (Florence!!!!), you have the money to spend on it.

That is, however, irrelevant to the topic at hand. Today I want to discuss the things in life that everybody can enjoy regardless of how strict their budget is: the things in life that are free. And, for the record, by free I mean the things that are REALLY free and not just the things that you mooched off someone else and therefore didn’t have to pay for (although I do have difficulties saying no to free food…).

I’ve been living in Düsseldorf, Germany for close to five years now, but I have only recently become aware of all of the cool events and stuff that are available in this city. A couple of weeks ago, I spent an evening listening to some music at the Jazz Festival in Düsseldorf. There was a free yoga course in a park that I REALLY wanted to go to last Saturday. I decided instead to fix my bike. Bad decision. As soon as I fixed the front wheel, the back wheel went flat, so I’m STILL without bike this week (and suffering because of it). Yesterday I went to a free music festival with some friends after working out (also quite a fun thing to do for free).

Of course, all of these fun free things are in the past. There are many more that I am looking forward to this summer:

1. The World Cup

The whole world is in a frenzy. Who is going to be the football champions of the world this year? In a mere three weeks we will know! The world cup is a month long of solid free entertainment. You can watch it online, with friends, in a sports bar or restaurant. Or you can just count how many times the walls of your apartment vibrate with the coordinated cheers of the whole block whenever Germany scores a goal. 4-0 against Portugal? Not bad. The world cup is also an excellent opportunity to connect with people around you. Even if you are someone like me who doesn’t normally watch much football, and therefore doesn’t know the teams very well. You can always pick up some peripheral to start a conversation. “Can you believe that Spain is already eliminated? The defending champions?” *indignant* (for the record, I REALLY can’t believe it. They scored one solitary goal!)

Personally, I’m looking forward to the Germany vs. USA game on Thursday. It is time to see where exactly my loyalties lie…Just kidding. I can’t wait to see Germany DESTROY the USA team. The USA might be better than Germany in a lot of things, but football is NOT one of them. My heart is painted with black, red, and gold… (I have actually been considering painting my face with a half-Germany, half-USA flag pattern. Symbolism.)

2. Rollnacht

One of the coolest free things to do in Düsseldorf is Rollnacht. The night where the awesome Düsseldorfer shut down the streets to allow thousands of inline skaters to glide through the city. It is a great group activity, rollerblading is awesome, rollerblading in the street is even more awesome, and you get to see different (and sometimes very beautiful) parts of Düsseldorf that you have never seen before. I’ve said it before (although I don’t know if I have said it on this blog before) that I find Rollnacht to be one of the main reasons that make Düsseldorf a great city to live in. Einfach klasse!

3. Entenrennen Düsseldorf

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I just recently heard about this. It was apparently supposed to take place on the 15th of July, but because of the huge storm that visited Düsseldorf that week, it was cancelled. They are supposed to find another date for the event, and I REALLY hope that they do. Throwing 6000 rubber duckies into the canal on the slightly-snobby Königsallee? Spraying them with water to see which one can swim the fastest? Yes please! I’m all the way there. Wouldn’t miss it for the world!

4. Büchermeile Düsseldorf

 

I actually found this on the NRW hits page while looking for free activities in the Düsseldorf Altstadt. I love reading, so I’ll probably make a point of going and checking out all of the cool books that they have there.

Ok. That’s pretty much it from my side. There are, of course, many other lovely things in life that are free. Or at the very least, lovely things that do not cost any money (small distinction there). For instance, having lovely friends with whom you can do a lot of these free things is worth its weight in solid gold. Making and keeping friends doesn’t cost you any money (or shouldn’t anyway), but it does require you to spend your time and energy. But in the end, it is totally worth it.

Of course, this only really touches the free events that you can visit. There are a lot of other things that are free. For instance, loads of books can be found for free from Gutenberg. My favorite book (The Bible) is free from many different organizations (like this one) or can be read in many different versions online on sites like this one. If you stumble on a job fair somewhere, chances are you will be able to find free pens (I love free pens so much!). And there are countless other places to find free entertainment online and in the wide wide world (although to clarify, any website that makes it’s profit by selling your personal information (I’m talking to you Facebook!) is NOT free).

So now I want to hear from you. Do you have any recommendations for me? Do you have any favorite free events?

 

Ich muss mich zusammenreißen

That is my overarching life philosophy for the next two weeks. Ich muss mich UNBEDINGT zusammenreißen (English translation: I ABSOLUTELY have to get myself together. It sounds better in German. I therefore employ the beautiful German language to express myself in the best way I know how).

After spending what seems like months (and possibly has been months) neglecting my practical duties, I had a moment of clarity amongst the haze of procrastination and laziness: Ich muss mich zusammenreißen. Punkt.

Of course, moments of clarity are not often followed by the will to carry out the great resolutions of heart. I followed my profound considerations by wasting the day playing Candy Crush and Tetris Friends, and rereading Orson Scott Card’s Shadows in Flight. Then I proceeded to waste the evening on Netflix…. NOT my proudest moment.

Fortunately, I had another moment of clarity today. And this one was followed by the terrifying fact that there is literally no time to waste. I have my first final in three weeks, and another one the week after that. Three weeks! This is not going to be good.

Luckily, I was able to get some friends on board with my plan. They will hopefully hold me accountable.

I’m going cold turkey for four weeks. No Tetris Friends. No Candy Crush. No Pandora. No Netflix. No YouTube. No books.

Suggested activities include:

  1. File the stacks of paper that are overflowing from my desk onto the floor
  2. Clean the apartment.
  3. Do laundry. ALL the laundry. And change the sheets on the bed.
  4. Exercise.
  5. Go grocery shopping so that I actually have food to eat and no longer have to resort to eating a can of kidney beans because there is literally NOTHING left to eat.
  6. Study. A LOT. At the very least, I should make sure that I know everything that I am going to be tested on. Logical right?

Of course, I’m a procrastinator by nature. What do I do when I ban myself from every time wasting activity on the planet? I decide to write on my blog instead of doing the homework for Spanish and Efficient Algorithms.

Typical.

The last months weren’t a complete waste of my time. In fact they were kind of jam packed with loads of things that do not help me be productive in the responsible side of life. I travelled. Visited Frankfurt, Southampton, London, Versmold. Got a tax return from the IRS (and am very glad I will not be having to pay American income tax for a long time. My life will be easier). Got a PGP public key, set up an awesome email address, and attended a key signing party (the Geek in me wanted to do that very badly). Hacked some password hashes (legally of course) and after realizing just how unsafe passwords can be, made a point to change all of the passwords on my important accounts. Of course, those last items were actually part of my Network Security course, so they probably count as being productive….

In any case, I think I am going to go eat the left over meat from the barbecue I went to on Saturday. MMmmmm…..