2011 was a great year. I visited 20 countries, and made new friends and business partners. I trained the national math team to our first Gold medal in the IMO. I was in a good financial situation throughout the year. The Aidan companies were doing well. Lotdotmy won some industry award. I worked on some education projects that I am very passionate about, such as the Khan Academy Malay translation project (initiated by my friend Mark Lee), and other smaller projects. I finally got around to publish my fifth book, which draft has been sitting on my hard drive for years. I got to meet many interesting people, and had many great conversations. A great conversation is a divine blessing from God. I spent a lot of 2011 doing my favorite activities: writing, reading, travelling and teaching. I read many great books. When I reached the last page of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, I was overcome with sadness because a fictional universe of such immensity and precision and detail will not appear in any printed work ever again. I taught myself ancient history, basic Spanish, and advanced mathematical topics. On 90% of workdays, I would go home from work with a smile on my face. In short, my life in 2011 was well-lived. No regrets or “if only”s.
There are some things that I wanted to do in 2011 which I have failed to achieve, like learning how to ride a horse, and enrolling in a Masters program (actually, I changed my mind about the Masters program. I don’t really want to go back to school).
Well, there’s always next year.
I never really think much about new year’s resolutions, because I am a modest man, and I have modest goals. But there are few things that I’d like to do in 2012.
1. Learn computer programming and be an expert in the field. Some friends laughed off the idea. They told me that it is impossible to be an expert in such a short time, especially for a rank beginner like me.
Malcolm Gladwell claimed that you need 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert in any field.
2. Retire gradually from doing math olympiad work, except for some odd lectures every now and then. I plan to step down as the IMO team leader starting this year, and I trust the IMO team will be in good hands under the new leadership.
I’ve been involved with the national math olympiad scene since I was invited to train the IMO team in 2007. When I decided to accept the invitation, I did so with a sense of duty: nobody was willing to take on the responsibility, and the national team was in bad shape. So I had to step up. I had never intended this to be a permanent gig. It did took up a lot of my time in the next five years. When I accept a responsibility, I do it very seriously. Now that the team has excelled on the world stage, I can step down and look back at my miniscule contribution with pride.
However, this does not mean that I am abandoning mathematics. I will still read math journals and math textbooks and math blogs to learn new subjects, and do math problems from time to time.
3. Learn a new language, or two. I wrote about learning language before:
4. Pick up a fun and totally pointless hobby, like Maximaphily. This is just an example, it can be something equally fun and equally totally pointless, like basket weaving.
(I thought of Maximaphily because I already have a huge stamp collection handed down by my father. I am not interested in stamp collecting but I will not let go of this collection. Keeping it for the next generation.)
5. Digitize and preserve my family collection of old home movies, shot by my father using Tacnon Sound 606, and recorded on 8mm reels.
We have more than 40 reels, some from the time before my parents got married in 1977. The recordings are in danger of being lost permanently. Last time we saw the videos was more than 10 years ago, before out Tacnon stopped working.
6. Expand our businesses aggressively. I will write about this in another entry.
7. Learn and learn more, and then learn some more.
I am a highly motivated autodidact. I love to learn any subject, however arcane or abstruse. I love to learn new things in a subject I am familiar with. I love to learn subjects I never cared about or know nothing about. I am willing to read thick manuals and dense treatises in pursuit of new knowledge, even though I will never “apply” that knowledge in real life. In fact, the more “useless” a knowledge is, the more I want to learn it. I have love affairs with books, libraries, and wikipedia.
Knowledge is the coolest thing. It is more cool than James Dean. It is more cool than the Rat Pack. It is more cool than chic young intellectuals sipping coffee and engaging in philosophical discussions on the Left Bank.
There is nothing more cool, and more “in”, than the pursuit of knowledge.
(tapi apakan daya, dalam dunia ni orang yang serius mencari ilmu dianggap tidak cool dan dianggap “nerd”. haiii manusia.)
8. Do more pro bono work for worthy causes.
9. Sleep more. I don’t sleep enough. I am a nocturnal creature.
Happy new year everyone!