Susanne's Monthly Reports: 2018

Starting in July 2018, I’ve been setting monthly goals and then writing a reflection on the outcomes every month. I got the idea from RescueTime’s guide to setting and achieving goals, and am basing the content of my reports largely on those of Buster Benson at Patreon.


September’s highlights: A busy month. I started running a seminar series and took a new TA position; and when I wasn’t busy with those, I managed to put in some time (not as much as I would have liked) on research. I’ve been reading about PDE-constrained optimization, doing some light math and analyses, and trying to nail down a research direction for my candidacy proposal.

Outcome of last month’s goals: I failed to come up with a detailed plan for my candidacy proposal. I’m thinking that this goal was too ambitious, both because administrative duties took up a lot of my time this term and because I think I need a bit of space to think about this. I’m making progress in defining the research direction, but haven’t worked everything out yet. In terms of personal goals, I met my goals of reading three books and going for longer runs that include hills (more accurately, I’m doing a few runs up and down the sets of 400-500 stairs at Wreck Beach), but I didn’t do any hiking.

Goals for October: Learn lots at my Vipassana meditation retreat (from the 3rd to the 14th). After the retreat ends, spend the remainder of the month trying to find additional, interesting inverse formulas and decompositions of double saddle point systems and see what I find.

Lessons learned this month: I’ve learned that, despite being fairly calm by temperament, I’m letting performance anxiety distract me and slow me down. By necessity, I’ve learned how to organize seminars. I’ve developed new skills in tactfully saying “no” to people, as I’ve encountered instances of people wanting me to do some work that I either couldn’t or didn’t want to do. I’m also learning to try to keep myself from acquiring information I don’t need to know: in particular, I’m trying not to snoop too much into other people’s lives and what they’re accomplishing (it serves no purpose, feels voyeuristic, and occasionally makes me feel badly about myself). More philosophically, I figure that, like other citizens of the internet age, I have so much access to information that I can easily inundate myself with irrelevant data and delude myself into thinking that it’s making me wiser.

Books, movies, articles, podcasts, or albums I enjoyed this month: Didn’t see any movies or listen to new podcasts or albums, but read a couple of books I liked: Middlemarch by George Eliot and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari.


August’s highlights: Went on vacation in Jasper for a week with my family (and got in some good hiking). Took a few days to explore some recent scientific computing papers unrelated to my current project. Tried a bunch of research ideas that didn’t go anywhere (oh, well).

Outcome of last month’s goals: I somewhat met my work goals: I did come up with more ideal preconditioners, but haven’t started analyzing how they work in practical circumstances (I’ve changed my research plans a bit). I did well on the personal goals: I’ve been weighing myself every week (and lost four pounds without too much effort), have run for 5 km at a time, and can meditate for an hour.

Goals for September: Come up with a detailed plan for my candidacy proposal. Read three books. Increase runs to 8 km and incorporate hills. Go for at least one hike.

Lessons learned this month: That I’m (still) too impatient in judging my research progress and tend to expect more progress than is realistic for me. That I genuinely like being in nature and being physically active, and I don’t just do it because it’s a habit at this point. That skipping a daily meditation session leaves me more agitated and unfocused for the next practice (even if I’m on vacation and am not overly stressed).

Books, movies, articles, podcasts, or albums I enjoyed this month: None in particular. I read a couple of books but found them forgettable. And I haven’t listened to any new music or podcasts, and haven’t watched any movies.


July’s highlights: We went on a short vacation with my parents on Vancouver Island. I wrote a technical report collecting some of my earlier theoretical results for preconditioning saddle point systems. I established five ideal preconditioners for $2 \times 2$- or $3 \times 3$-block systems, under various conditions on the matrix. (The goal here is to develop preconditioners for $3 \times 3$ saddle point systems like in Beik and Benzi 2018, but by starting with preconditioners that are ideal under some restrictive assumptions and analyzing how they extend to more general cases.)

Outcome of last month’s goals: Done. I wanted to write my tech report and revamp my website, which I did. Accomplished my goal of establishing some ideal preconditioners.

Goals for August: Get some empirical and analytical results on how my ideal preconditioners work in non-ideal circumstances. Come up with at least two more ideal preconditioners. Be able to meditate for an hour straight. Start weighing myself every week. Get back to running 5k or more (have been off running for a while because of a foot injury).

Lessons learned this month:

From experience: That my work is actually more productive when I don’t fret about occasional unproductive time. That writing is fun, but is a massive distraction from work like math and coding.

From books or articles: That self-serving biases prevent us from accurately judging our actions and gauging our progress. That everyone believes their own actions are moral, including criminals.

Books, movies, articles, podcasts, or albums I enjoyed this month:

  • Enjoyed “The Better Angels of our Nature” by Steven Pinker. Uplifting and a good source of interesting conversational tidbits.
  • Loved the book “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth. Might be one of my new favourites (though that ending was unsatisfying).
  • Have discovered the podcast “Philosophize This!”. It’s educational, has no ads, and only has one person talking (so no bantering back and forth, which I personally find annoying in a podcast).


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