2010 Goals, and progress so far

This is more for my own benefit than anything else, but perhaps some of you will be motivated. Please feel free to share your own goals and suggestions in the comments.

Setting goals is not a simple task, and you should put some thought into them. The first thing to remember is that they need to be realistic and achievable, even better if you can clearly work towards the goal in steps. Secondly, you need to have clearly defined goals – by which I mean you cannot just say “lose weight”, as that’s far too vague and shows a real lack of commitment. I’ve tried to clearly define all my goals as best I can. Most important of all is that you actually set some goals for yourself – so if you haven’t already then please get thinking and give yourself some direction!

So here’s my goals for this year:

Learn Chinese to the point of understanding basic everyday conversation patterns and being able to give directions and describe things. Motivation: My wife’s parents are coming to Japan in March and they don’t speak a word of English nor Japanese. Progress: slow going, but certainly advancing. Currently on CD2 of 8 from the Michel Thomas Method: Mandarin Chinese Foundation Course; highly recommended
as it emphasizes using the material to form your own sentences and the pacing seems appropriate.

Learn PHP/MySQL programming

by developing a website which handles giving unwanted items away to other people, kind of like a freecycle/craigslist mashup. Features that will make the site stand out are: requesting an item from someone is handled like an auction, only the bid amount is fixed as the users karma rating, which is determined by how much they have given back to the community (in other words, users who give the most are able to receive the most); and by the ability to convert your unwanted karma points into a real money donation to a Kiva. Motivation: I’m sick of the volume of emails on the freecycle japan mailing lists, and that it seems to be dominated the same people giving away and another set of people leeching everything. Progress: I’d say I’m about 20% coded, which was the hardest 20% as it’s been years since I’ve played with PHP and never touched a database before. Should be open for testing in a month or so I think.

Build a multitouch surface computer and write about the process at my tech site TokyoBIT.com. A surface computer is like a table or wall computer which you touch to control. I mostly have all the parts gathered for a infra-red laser based design, now I just need to put the damn thing together. Following a basic tutorial by [arbi.trario.us]. Motivation: A coffee table screen you can touch? Seriously, you need any more motivation than how fricking cool it is??? Progress: Getting there.

Windows 7 Touch Pack: Surface Without the Big-Ass Table from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

Get at least 500 RSS subscriptions on TokyoBIT.com. Of course, I am always aiming to increase the number of subscribers to this site too, but I think doubling it is a little unrealistic, especially since my posting has been slowing down here lately – simply because my wife and I are busy implementing the savings and financial plans I wrote about last year. I did mean to post about covering every window in our house in bubble-wrap to help keep the warmth in, but never got around to it. Here’s an article on [build it solar] that might motivate you to do the same, and tests showed the heat loss per season to be halved! I’m still a techie at heart though, so TokyoBIT will be main creative output for this year, I think. Motivation: Forever giving the same technical support and advice to friends – “whats the safest way to download a torrent?“, “how do I get TV on my computer?” etc… Progress: Hmm, my stats show just 2 subscribers right now, so perhaps I should write an article about how to subscribe and what RSS is! I’m writing an article now on some awesome Chinese software my wife introduced me to that streams movies and dramas using p2p technology, and I must say it’s pretty much replaced torrents for me – so if you’d like to know more then please subscribe to the TokyoBIT feed and you’ll be the first to know when it’s finished!

Lose 15kg: For some reason known only as “marriage happiness” in Japanese (幸せ太り), I put on about 15kg in less than a year, and frankly it’s not cool. I’m committed to at least 30 minutes of strong exercise on WiiFit every day (the real exercise activities that is, not balance games and such, but running and weight training). I’ve promised to drink less beer (and replace it with wine instead!). Motivation: The Wii said I’m fat. Progress: Weekdays are going ok, but it’s hard to find motivation on the weekends.

First Kiva Loan Funded – Thanks to all my readers!

288664A big thank you to all my readers, as I just reached my first subscriber goal of 50, and as promised I have made my first microloan of $25 to a Cambodian village bank group which will use the money on various agricultural projects of their members.

But it doesn’t end there! My next target is 100 subscribers, and to sweeten the deal this time I’ll be donating $50 once I reach the target! That’s one dollar for every new subscriber, so please let your friends in Japan know about this site and all the great money-saving strategies and frugal news they can get here.

Once again, thanks to all who helped reach this first goal and subscribed to my feed! Yatta!

Donate just by subscribing!

Inspired by FreeMicroloans.

One of the reasons I started this site and began to seriously examine my personal lifestyle and spending habits was so that I would be able to give more back to support those less fortunate. I think sometimes that I have it rough – that I’m only just about going to be able to pay the rent and utilities this month – but then is time to consider the billions of families around the world who live on less than $1 a day.

Until recently, I was quite unaware of the concept of micro loans. The idea is that you lend money (in this case via Kiva) to a business or individual that is struggling to survive or even to get off the ground due to lack of financing. The micro loan gives them the capital they need to get started, and by using that investment wisely they will soon be providing not only for their own families, but also employing other local workers and building a real economy.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world

So how can you help? Apart from going and loaning $25 or more yourself, you could just subscribe to my RSS feed. For each subscriber I will pledge $0.50 towards a micro loan. Our first target is 50 subscribers, at which point I will choose a recipient for a micro loan of $25.


You can see how far I am towards my target on the feedburner widget on the sidebar so you’ll know how close we are to the target. When the target is hit, I’ll donate the micro loan (you’ll be able to check on my lender profile at Kiva) and we’ll set a new target! It’s never been easier to help by doing nothing!

If you think this is a great idea and you’re willing to subscribe to the feed to help out, please go check out the wonderful FreeMicroloan site where you can do the same there too!

You can also spread the word by mailing this page to some friends!

Handle impulse net shopping

The internet has brought us wonderful things, but restraint is certainly not one of them. Before the internet came along, shopping was an outing, an effort – you had to actually GO and FIND the item you wanted before you could buy it. This gave us enough time to seriously consider the purchase. But online shopping changed all of that.

This is especially relevant here in Japan, where we tend to crave items of our own culture – “foreign” food, English language video games, books actually worth reading – and oftentimes the internet is the easiest and most convenient way to purchase. Then, once you get your Japanese language skills down, you have a whole new world of Japanese shops online to battle with! There’s no end to the impulse purchasing madness, and it used to bring me right back down to ZERO a few days after each pay check to pay off the credit card.

Assuming for one that you’re not willing to trash your credit card, and yet you’re willing to accept that perhaps you are addicted to online shopping (as I myself am), then I think I may have a genuinely workable solution for you! Wait for it… Scrapbooking!

Here’s what I started doing a while ago now: whenever I find something I think I want to buy on the internet, whatever it may be, I print a copy of the page – just something with a little picture and price tag or something is sufficient. Then I cut out the picture and paste it into my “want to get” net-shopping-prevention scrapbook. Just the fact that I now have it pasted in there is often enough ~ it’s not so much that I really desperately wanted to buy it, more that I wanted to remember it’s existence beyond a mere Firefox bookmark. Hard-copy visual bookmarking I guess you could call it. Then, assuming you do actually want some of the stuff you pasted into your book, you can flick through it at the end of the month and give yourself ¥10,000 limit to go crazy.

scrapbooking to handle online purchase addictions

Don’t try the impossible if you know it’s not going to work for you – be reasonable. Good luck, and let me know how it works out for you in the comments.