A Good 2017, A Better 2018

Books 2017

The year 2018 had a very cold beginning here in US. Now that I stopped shivering I can write my obligated annual “good-better” summarizing/planning post. My 2017 was good, although I didn’t quite accomplish the goals I set out at the beginning of the year:

  • Read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home. Partially Done. I did finish 50 books and here are the book reports: Q1Q2Q3Q4. Amazingly, the average length of this year (2017)’s books is 341 pages, compared to (2016)’s 343, and (2015)’s 342. As a statistician, I can’t help marveling at these numbers. There had to be something significant going on other than coincidence. Only 16 of the 50 books were from shelves at home, so this part of the goal wasn’t reached. I am not going to lose sleep over it though. 🙂
  • Visit 3 new countries. Done. I visited South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week); yoga at home everyday. Not done. I only swam 37 times, average 0.7 times a week. I didn’t count how many days I did yoga at home, but I suspect it was less than every other day. On average I walked 4,953 steps a day, slightly short of last year’s 5,080 and a lot fewer than the previous year’s 7,000. Seems I missed the marks of my exercise goals quite a bit!
  • Publish 40 blog posts. Not done – only published a shameful 7 posts, not even half of last year’s not-so-good 18.
  • Lose 5 pounds. Not done – my weight throughout the year moved up and down within a six-pound range. At least I weighed one pound less on December 31st than on January 1st, so I consider it losing 1 pound.

All in all, my 2017 wasn’t very productive in reaching goals. However, it was a great year in traveling – I actually was in four continents! 🙂 Here is this year’s travelogue:

  • January. London, United Kingdom (work)
  • May. Seoul, Busan, South Korea; Beijing, China
  • July. Mystic, CT; New England
  • October. Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, Uluru, Australia; Queenstown, New Zealand
  • October. New York City, NY (work)

Australia-New-Zealand-Trip-locationsI haven’t got a chance to write about the 19-day Australia/New Zealand adventure – one of the best trips of my life! It involved 12 flights, 8 hotels, 4 time zones, and temperatures anywhere from 50 to 100 degrees. I ended up being poorer financially but much richer in experiences and memories, not to mention the thousands of photos I brought back with me!

Now here are my goals for 2018:

  • Read 50 books – at least 5 in Chinese, at most 25 in audio format
  • Visit 5 new countries
  • Swim 50 times; yoga at home everyday (except this past week :))
  • Publish 30 blog posts; write at least 3 full-length travel articles in Chinese
  • Learn to cook 3 new dishes
  • Lose 5 pounds

I am looking forward to a better year ahead – more explorations and adventures. I can’t wait to start.


A Good 2016, A Better 2017


My year 2016 has been quite busy and productive, although I didn’t accomplish all the goals I set out at the beginning of the year:

  • Read 50 books. Done. I finished 50 books and here are the book reports: Q1; Q2; Q3; Q4. Interestingly, the average length of this year (2016)’s books is 343 pages, almost the same as last year (2015)’s 342. In both years the longest book I read was by Stephen King.
  • Visit 5 new countries. Done. I actually visited 8 new countries: Netherlands, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia.
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week). Partially done. I swam 50 times, average once a week. But I started doing Hot Yoga this year and attended classes in a studio 7 times. On average I walked 5,080 steps a day, falling short of last year’s 7,000.
  • Publish 50 blog posts (on Saturdays). Not done – only posted 18 posts, even fewer than last year’s 28.
  • Lose 5 pounds. Not done – my weight at the end of the year was the same as the beginning of the year. At least I didn’t gain pounds.

Seems only the travel and reading goals were accomplished, same as last year. It is a clear indication of where my passion is. 🙂 Here is this year’s travelogue:

  • January. New York City, NY (work); Cruise on Windsurf, Caribbean
  • April. Charlottesville, VA
  • May. San Antonio, TX; Carlsbad, NM
  • July. Amsterdam; Belgrade; Montenegro; Dubrovnik; Frankfurt. Trip Brief
  • October. New York City, NY (work)
  • November. Mystic, CT; New England

Now here are my goals for 2017, not much different from 2016:

  • Read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home
  • Visit 3 new countries
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week); yoga at home everyday
  • Publish 40 blog posts
  • Lose 5 pounds

I am looking forward to a better year ahead – closer to God, healthier, happier, wiser…

Books read in 2016 Q3

It suddenly occurred to me yesterday that we were already five days into the fourth quarter of the year, and I totally forgot about posting my Q3 book report, as well as a few other things that I do on a quarterly basis. Life had been busy this summer, so I only finished 11 books in Q3, which makes a total of 39 books this year, still ahead of schedule to reach the goal of 50. Looking good.

Here are the books I finished in the past three months:

  1. The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
  2. The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks
  3. Darkest Fear by Harlan Coben
  4. The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
  5. The Clocks by Agatha Christie
  6. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  7. 1Q84 Book 3 by Haruki Murakami
  8. Last Year’s Resolution by Robert Lampros
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  10. Border Music by Robert James Waller
  11. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

The books on this list go from extremely boring (#10) to very good (#9), and everywhere in-between. The three nonfiction books on this list (#2, #6, #11) are all interesting and informative.

Only need to finish 11 more books in Q4 to reach my goal. Rather than starting new books, maybe I should work on those that I started but have not been actively reading. Will see how it goes. Keep reading…



A Good 2015, A Better 2016

Goodreads 2015 books

My year 2015 has been quite busy and productive, although I didn’t accomplish all the goals I set out in this post at the beginning of the year:

  • Read 45 books, at least 12 of them have to be from my book shelves at home. Done. I finished 50 books and 17 of them are from shelves. Check out my book reports for details.
  • Visit at least 3 new countries and 2 new National Parks. Done. I visited Denmark, Sweden, and Norway; Everglades, Biscayne, and Dry Tortugas National Parks.
  • Join a gym and swim twice a week, try to add in one class as well. Partially done. I did join a gym on Feb 8th, but fell short of swimming twice a week (I went 45 times, average once a week). Didn’t do classes but walked 7,000 steps a day on average.
  • Publish at least 50 posts on this blog. Not done – only posted 28 posts.
  • Do at least 5 paintings. Small exercise pieces don’t count. Not done – only did one painting.
  • Learn to cook at least 3 new dishes that I feel comfortable sharing with others. Not done – might have cooked new dishes but nothing to share. 🙂

Even so, I still feel great about this past year. Lots of new and exciting experiences. Here is a brief travelogue:

  • January. Southern Florida; Secaucus, NJ (work)
  • March. St. Michaels, MD; Cheasapeake, VA
  • May. Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, Norway)
  • July. New England, Quebec City, Montreal
  • August. New York City, NY (work)
  • October. Paris; London (work)
  • November. Beijing
  • December. New Orleans, LA; Lancaster, PA

Now here are my goals for 2016, more realistic than the 2015 goals, I think:

  • Read 50 books
  • Visit 5 new countries
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week)
  • Publish 50 blog posts (on Saturdays)
  • Lose 5 pounds

I am looking forward to a better year ahead – work, read, write, travel, exercise, learn, enjoy.


My LinkedIn Network

LinkedIn Network

While I was doing research on ways to analyze LinkedIn data, I came across Socilab, a cool site that does LinkedIn network visualization and analysis. So I got distracted and created a ‘map’ of my 441 contacts. It is quite interesting, even though I haven’t seen “small world” surprises such as “wow, my high school friend knows my coworker”.

There are several clusters among my contacts. The dense and fairly closed network at the upper left is made up of my colleagues at the QUEST group where I worked for 8 years. The distinct group to its right on the top includes my colleagues at the Strategy team where I am currently working. Since they belong to the same company, it is not surprising that there are quite a few connections between these two groups.

The small cluster in the middle of the graph has professors at GMU where I got my degrees. They were connected to my office contacts via a few industry leaders and popular authors, or their contacts/students that were interviewed at the firm.

Below these professors are mostly their students that lead to the bottom part of the network – my Chinese friends in US. The big chunk in the middle are those who graduated from GMU and were also part of the Chinese Christian’s community at one time or another. The ‘loose’ network on the lower left has my high school/college friends from China that are currently in US. To the right of the middle blob is the ‘non-religious’ Chinese friends group from GMU, a few of them are connected to my boyfriend (the pink dot as a bridge) and thru him a group of his coworkers and a few of our family members.

The dozen or so contacts on the top right connected among themselves like a flower are interesting. I don’t know any of them in person, they must have found me thru a mailing list or something, since a few of them seem to know one another.

And there are all the singletons on the side – some of them do belong to one of the big clusters but they are not connected with anyone yet. Likely they set up a LinkedIn account and never did anything with it. Maybe it is time to drop them a note. 🙂

This is fun! Okay, time to get back to work.

P.S. The contact names are included in the network map generated. I didn’t include them in this post to keep privacy.

A Good 2014, A Better 2015

Thinking back, I accomplished quite a few things in 2014 outside work. I read 40 books and watched 36 movies; I published 50 posts here viewed by people from 35 countries; I visited a new country Argentina and it was the first time I ever set foot to the south of equator; I checked off 3 National Parks from my list; I started painting (Chinese brush, watercolor, Acrylic); and I lost about 5 lbs. All in all I am glad how the year turned out.

Here are a few things on my to-do list for 2015, in addition to the daily routine:

  • Read 45 books, at least 12 of them have to be from my book shelves at home
  • Visit at least 3 new countries and 2 new National Parks
  • Join a gym and swim twice a week, try to add in one class as well
  • Publish at least 50 posts on this blog
  • Do at least 5 paintings. Small exercise pieces don’t count
  • Learn to cook at least 3 new dishes that I feel comfortable sharing with others

Happy New Year, everyone! Looking forward to a wonderful and exciting 2015!


Happy Birthday to My Niece

My niece Jiaxin turns 12 today (May 18th, Beijing Time). I created a birthday card on Snapfish using photos of her. She just sent me a message telling me she loves it! 🙂 Happy Birthday!!


No doubt her parents and grandma will bring her to her favorite restaurant (a hotpot place, I think. I really like it there myself, where waiters carry iPads and customers can put in orders themselves). After the meal, she would ask for a fancy birthday cake. I hope she will have a wonderful celebration today!

Jiaxin is such a sweet, beautiful, smart, and happy kid. The first time I saw her, she was 3. We immediately bonded and played happily together. Since then, I saw her every one or two years when I went back to China to visit, and enjoyed every minute we spent together. Both my mom and my sister said that she reminds them of me in a lot of ways – she loves reading and drawing, is left-handed, and plays games in the exact same position as I do.

She is going to middle school this fall. It is a very good school and she was admitted after a tough competition with about 2000 kids. Only 10% of them will get in and Jiaxin ranked 3rd in the exams and interviews. I am so proud of her! Wish her a very happy birthday, a wonderful well-deserved summer break, and a bright fantastic future.