2018 Year in Review

For the past few years I’ve been summing up my yearly highlights in a blog post. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads these posts—it’s nice to have these to be able to look back on the big things that happened in my life each year.

So without further ado, here’s an overview of the big things that happened in my life in 2018, from Running, to Reading, Learning Work, and Health, finally looking at how I did on my 2018 goals and setting 2019 goals.

Big News

Here are the biggest pieces of news from my 2018. First up: Elva joined Google as a Product Manager!

We also moved to a new place! And we got some really nice engagement photos taken!

Running

I ran my first trail race this year, the 10K Folsom Lake Trail Run.
I PR'd my 5K time - breaking 20 minutes! (19:48)

I ran a lot this year. 548 miles to be exact.

In April I joined Elva as a member of the Run365 running group, and as you can see this had a huge effect on my mileage. I ran a bunch of races this year, including the San Francisco Half Marathon and Bay to Breakers.

I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon for the first time in July, where I PR'd my half time (1:41:42).

My absolute favorite run of the year was running up and down two of the highest Flatiron mountains while I was in Boulder, CO for work in October. The elevation and lower oxygen level was challenging and made the run into a really rewarding challenge.

A chill October run.

Reading

Looking at my long-term reading habits, I’ve read between 15-25 books for the past three years (I got a Kindle and started using Goodreads in 2015).

I have no specific reading goals but definitely want to maintain a minimum level of reading since it’s enjoyable and relaxing.

This year I read 24 books. Here are my favorites.


Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I read the book after watching the movie. If you liked the overall feeling of the movie and want to continue learning more about Singaporean culture and the lives of the super-rich, I recommend this book and its sequels.


Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

I’m not sure how I heard about this book but it’s amazing. It completely transformed the way I think about cooking and helped me grow from a terrible chef to a “doesn’t make utter crap all the time” chef. This book also got its own Netflix show this year, which I of course binged.


The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

After reading A Little Life last year, I wanted to read Yanagihara’s other book, written 2 years before A Little Life was published. The People in the Trees is very different in setting and plot, taking place on a remote island in the Pacific. Some similarities between Yanagihara’s two books begin to show later on in The People in the Trees. I wouldn’t say this book entered my bucket of legendary 5-star books like A Little Life did, but it was a solid read and I definitely recommend it.


More books I liked in 2018

Learning

At the beginning of 2018 I took Profressor Dan Boneh’s CS255: Introduction to Cryptography.

Taking this class was truly the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I poured my soul into this class, spending seemingly every free minute working on problems or projects. I learned a ton about Cryptography. For one project I implemented the double ratchet Diffie Hellman protocol behind the Signal encrypted messaging app.

I wrote about some interesting things I learned here and also wrote a longer post, Understanding the Security of Cryptographic Hash Functions, attempting to make the theory of hash functions easy to practically apply as a software engineer. I also had a crazy idea to combine cryptography and machine learning.

A cryptographic protocol and a neural network. See any similarities?

After CS255 ended I had an abundance of free time. It felt weird not spending every waking minute thinking about cryptography problems. I ended up making a spreadsheet of all the side projects I could think of, ranked them, and promised myself I’d only work on one at a time, starting at the top.

Mandarin 中文

The top side project was learning basic Mandarin. I started taking classes at a Chinese school in San Francisco this summer (KaiXin Language School).

今年我开始中文学习 。 练习中文实用我开始 @jeffcarp_zh.

As of today I know about 848 words and can read about 804 unique characters.

The words I know cover 354 of the top 1000 most frequent characters (35%).

One thing any Mandarin learner might be interested in is “when can I read the newspaper?”

Assuming I keep working at improving my vocabulary, I would reach around 2000 words by 2020. They say that’s enough to read the newspaper. I’ll get back to you on that.

Work

This year on the Chrome Operations team I worked primarily on performance improvements on one of our larger apps. I learned a lot about front-end and back-end performance and monitoring.

Interviewing

This year I started conducting Software Engineering interviews at Google. After a couple dozen interviews I summed up some thoughts in a post detailing a framework for solving interview questions. I also had some great discussions internally and externally about something many candidates (including myself) get nervous about: is it okay to make small mistakes in interviews if you correct them later?

Travel

I got the opportunity to travel to Sydney for work this year, my first time in the Southern hemisphere. I wish I could go back and explore more!

Bondi Beach, Sydney
Thor
Wedding location scouting in Maui

Health

I track health-related things on rcrd. First let’s take a look at my drinking habits. Research that came out this year suggests that more than 5 drinks per week is harmful to your health.

In 2018, there were 17 weeks (33%) in which I drank over 5 drinks.

I did not meditate a lot in 2018. But I want to meditate more. I took Google’s Search Inside Yourself course this summer–you can see the bump in July.

Goals

Progress on 2018 Goals

Goal Goal Metric Actual Metric Progress
Run a sub 19:30 minute 5K 19:30 18:48 100%
Beat my 10K PR time 43:56 Not attempted N/A
Do 4 workouts/week 4 3.1 78%
Devote at least 1 hour a week to mentoring or teaching 1 hr/week 0.5 50%

In 2018 I had two goals around breaking certain times in my running. I wouldn’t say achieving those was my primary motivator in running more. For the first goal I definitely wanted to break 20 minutes in my 5K, which I did (by 90 seconds 🎉). The 10K time goal was less important to me.

The overall outcome I care about is simply running more. However for the reason only that it’s such a round number, the one time-based goal I do have is to break 1:30 in my half marathon. Therefore in 2019 I’m going to set a minimum mileage goal and a stretch goal of breaking 1:30 in the half.

Setting 2019 Goals

Least year I took some inspiration from Google’s OKRs in making my goals. Continuing down that line of thinking, this year I am more explicitly phrasing my 2019 goals in terms of the impact I want to see as a result of this goal being achieved (the outcome O) and one key result (KR) to get there. These are intentionally ambitious.

Outcome Key result
Get better at writing Write and publish >100,000 words
Make tech more equitable Dedicate 1 hour/week (same as 2018)
Improve as a runner and stay healthy Run 1000 miles

If you got this far, thank you for reading and have a happy 2019!