Weekly Review 08

A view of San Francisco Twin Peaks.My two month long sabbatical has come to an end and this is the review of the last week of the sabbatical (posted about a week late) and it will also be the final post in this Weekly Review series.

Weekly Review March 27th to April 2nd, 2017


I watched San Francisco Symphony rehearsal of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Adagio from Symphony No.10. Symphony or classical music is not something I know or seek out a lot. I had a ticket and I had free time so I thought, why not. Listening in on the rehearsal was way more fascinating than I thought it would be. Before the start of the rehearsal somebody came up on the stage and gave a half an hour talk about Mahler and his symphonies. He even played few motives on the piano. Now when listening to the rehearsal I could use this extra information to watch out for these motives and it suddenly became much more interesting to listen to a symphony. I think this is similar to how after taking some cooking classes I started to enjoy cooking more. I think it generalizes further: in the very beginning stages of knowing something, knowing more about and how to do some activity will cause you to enjoy it more.

Otherwise, not quite sure if spending two and a half hours at DMV counts as an adventure, but I finally have my motorcycle driver’s license in hand!

Also a major milestone happened – I have finished my decluttering adventure with Marie Kondo’s method. I finished decluttering, organized and put stuff away and dealt with all the left-over items (sold, donated, mailed etc.)


Write every day: 7/7 – I have missed only one day in March.
Number of words written: 3437 total words or 491 per day.
Blogposts published: 3.
Number of days behind on personal email: inbox zero! – I am very happy I have been able to develop this habit during the sabbatical, will see whether I can keep up with it when I am back at work and have work email to deal with.


I finished reading another book on healthcare – America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System. Its a fascinating read, all my questions about Obamacare got answered.

Health & Fitness

Fitbit steps: 67’143.
Be active 6 days a week: 2/6 recorded activities: 1 walk + 1 run.
Meditate every day: 6/7.
No Facebook before noon: 6/7.
No added sugar 5 days a week: 2/5 – it is so hard to develop this habit! I will have to try a different strategy.

100th blog post!

I just noticed that I have published more than 100 blog posts!
The very first blog post was published on March 14, 2013. Actually I used to be so scared of writing and publishing that that very first post was first posted on Google+ and shared with 4 friends. I started this blog for my first sabbatical and didn’t have any goals for it other than posting one blog post per week during the three month sabbatical so that I get somewhat more comfortable with writing. It was torture to write, but apparently it worked and here I am 100 blog posts later.

It is only fitting that the 100th blog post was published exactly four years later on March 14, 2017 (coincidence! I swear!) during my second sabbatical.

I started out super simple – on Bogger.com platform, and then in September 2015 I migrated the blog to a self hosted WordPress platform.

Here are stats of number of blog posts per year:
1st year – 35 posts – mostly writing about the first sabbatical.
2nd year – 35 posts – mostly about learning Spanish.
3rd year – 15 posts – mostly about Personal PhD project.
4th year – 15 posts – Personal PhD project + second sabbatical.

Weekly Review 07

Heavenly ski resort with view of Nevada desert.
Heavenly ski resort with view of Nevada desert.

This week I made even more progress decluttering my space. The focus for this week was Komono or miscellaneous category per Marie Kondo’s book advice. I also attended Machine Intelligence Summit San Francisco by REWORK and finished the week off with a group ski trip to Tahoe.

Weekly Review March 20-26, 2017


I went to Machine Intelligence Summit San Francisco by REWORK. It was my first machine learning conference and it was great; lots of cool stuff happening.

The weekend was spent in Tahoe snowboarding. Saturday we spent at Heavenly after it got five inches of fresh snow, which was amazing with perfect weather. Sunday we spent at Kirkwood, weather was a little worse than Saturday but I do love riding the gullies in Kirkwood.

Decluttering is also a kind of an adventure. By going through every single thing and gathering things together by category teaches you something about yourself. For example I learned I really do like pens and paper notebooks. In addition I got rid of whole bunch of skin care products and makeup as it turns out they do expire. There are websites like http://www.checkfresh.com/ where one can check the manufacturing dates.


Write every day: 6/7 – missed one day while on the ski trip.
Number of words written: 2746 total words or 392 per day.
Blogposts published: 0.
Number of days behind on personal email: still inbox zero!


I finished reading another book on healthcare: How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman. Fascinating read, one should not shy away from asking questions to doctors.

I also finished reading Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. This is the second book from Marie Kondo. I read it along as I was tidying up. This book had more of the practical info compared to the first one. The most valuable thing – in which order to do things inside the Komono category.

Health & Fitness

Fitbit steps: 65’484.
Be active 6 days a week: 4/6 recorded activities: 1 bodyweight workout at home, 1 walk, 2 days snowboarding.
Meditate every day: 5/7 – again traveling kicks things out of habit.
No Facebook before noon: 7/7.
No added sugar 5 days a week: 2/5 – hard to kick this one! Especially when traveling again and eating conference food.

Weekly Review 06

Flowers at Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum in Fremont, CA.
Flowers at Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum in Fremont, CA.

This week was about getting stuff done. I continued KonMaring (applying Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering) and finally finished going through all the papers (documents, notebooks, coursework from college, etc.) and got rid of about a third of all papers.

Also my last post was the 100th published post on this blog!

Weekly Review March 13-19, 2017


I took two cooking classes at SurLaTable. Both classes were in mornings and there were only four people in each class which left time for plenty of questions. I loved the classes! There are certain tips and tricks that can only be learned when watching a professional chef cook compared to just reading cookbooks or recipes, for example the use of a scraper to pick stuff up from a chopping board.

I took another improv class which was the third time total in my life. It is still not that comfortable and way outside my comfort zone, but I could see how it could get more fun over time.


Write every day: 7/7
Number of words written: 3021 total words or 432 per day
Blogposts published: 2
Number of days behind on personal email: none! I managed to keep inbox zero that I finally achieved last week!


I finished listening to the audiobook Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. I picked it up to continue my streak of listening to audiobooks authored and narrated by comedians. Aziz was next in line after I listened to Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Aziz was indeed is funny and the topic of Modern Romance was interesting too. I wish all research was presented in such a fun way.

Health & Fitness

Fitbit steps: 77,647
Be active 6 days a week: 5/6 – 1 bodyweight workout at home, 3 runs, 1 yoga class. I managed to go for three runs in one week which I feel very accomplished for because a year ago I started out with just one run a week for most of the year.
Meditate every day: 7/7, a 23-day streak.
No Facebook before noon: 6/7.
No added sugar 5 days a week: 2/5 – It’s so hard to get back on track to stop eating as much sugar after a week of eating quite a lot of sugar. So still only 2 days of no sugar, the same as previous week.

Weekly Review 05

Northstar ski resort in Tahoe, CA
Northstar ski resort in Tahoe, CA

By now it is more than halfway through my sabbatical. Suddenly I noticed how much more energy I have! I love it! I feel like I want to do ALL THE THINGS! This is one of the huge advantages for me of having a sabbatical – it is an opportunity to experience and feel how it is like when energy levels return to 100%.

Weekly Review March 6-12, 2017


We did a weekend trip to Tahoe, where we spent one day skiing at Norhtstar and one day we went snowtubing at Tahoe Donner which was a first for me. Northstar had very long lines, but the amazing snow, fun runs and spring skiing more than made up for it! I also set a new speed record for snowboarding – 45mph, it might have been a glitch because that feels really fast, but the second fastest run showed max speed of 38.4mph, which is still faster than before. My previous record was 34.5mph at end of last season. I really love my new board and bindings; I think the responsiveness of the board allows me to feel much more comfortable and thus allows me to go faster. My previous board was about 11 years old and I thought there is no way I would be able to tell a difference between different snowboards, but turns out I can!

On Monday I attended a talk by Marie Kondo who is the author of the book The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. I had read her book and saw some of her talks on Youtube so it was cool to see her in person. She is unapologetic about her mannerisms which combined with her petite stature makes her super adorable! The talk inspired me to get back to applying her KonMari method of tidying up to my stuff for rest of the week.

Also on Monday my phone completely died and I was four days without a smartphone. It was quite an experience to realize what an essential part of my life a smarphone is.


Write every day: 7/7
Number of words written: 1784 total words or 255 per day
Blogposts published: 2
Number of days behind on personal email: inbox zero finally! It took me a whole day to get through the backlog.


This has been a heavy reading week, I finished reading Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science and I also plowed through book Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance both written by Atul Gawande. Both are fascinating reads about health, science and human performance written by a surgeon.

Health & Fitness

Fitbit steps: 55’479
Be active 6 days a week: 4/6 recorded activities: 2 bodyweight workouts at home, 1 day snowboarding, 1 salsa dancing.
Meditate every day: 7/7 – a 16-day streak.
No Facebook before noon: 6/7.
No added sugar 5 days a week: 2/5 – again much harder to stick to this goal when not being at home.

Weekly Review 04

Flowers are starting to bloom on San Francisco streets.
Flowers are starting to bloom on San Francisco streets.

Weekly Review February 27 – March 5, 2017

The focus of this week was writing and taking a Motorcyclist Training Course.

Adventure / learning

This week I studied for and took motorcyclist training and safe riding course. I have never driven a motorcycle before but I thought it would be useful to learn how to drive motorcycle or scooter to have another option of getting around. Going into it I thought there was a real possibility that I would NOT like riding and would never want to ride motorcycle again as I am not that comfortable with things that have engines. However the course changed my mind; I could see how fun it is and I learned about all safety precautions one can take to reduce the dangers of motorcycle driving.


Write every day: 7/7
Number of words written: 3818 total words or 545 per day. So far the highest weekly word count!
Blogposts published: 0
Number of days behind on personal email: 27 days behind, although made some progress, this is down from 37 days behind.

This week I learned about reading comprehension levels often measured in readability grade levels. This week I started trying out readable.io/text for editing my writing to improve sentence flow and as a side effect get an appropriate readability grade level. Finally I have found a tool that I can use to improve my writing!

Reading / Listening

I finished listening to Tina Fey’s BossyPants audiobook; it was interesting and quite funny.

Health & Fitness

Fitbit steps: 63,006.
Be active 6 days a week: 4/6 recorded activities: 1 body weight workout at home, 1 walk and 2 runs.
Meditate every day: 7/7 with 9-day streak.
No Facebook before noon: 7/7.
No added sugar 5 days a week: 6/5 win!

Weekly Review 03

White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument.

The following weekly review is behind as well, but hopefully I will soon catch up.

Weekly Review Feb 20-26, 2017


This week’s big adventure was a roadtrip. We spent 11 days driving from San Francisco Bay area to Phoenix via Joshua Tree National Park. In Phoenix we rented a travel trailer and then roadtripped with it attached to a truck for five days. We visited Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Saguaro National Park, both in Arizona, then White Sands National Monument in New Mexico and Petrified Forest National park in Arizona again. We returned the travel trailer back in Phoenix, then drove to Las Vegas via London Bridge (can you imagine, its a real bridge moved from London to Arizona!). After Las Vegas we went to Death Valley Racetrack Playa and camped there overnight. We were hoping to see wildflowers like last year around this time but it was too cold for them to have come out yet this year. Seeing Racetrack Playa and camping in such a remote place was worth it though! In total we did 3300 miles. I will write more about the trip separately.

Unfortunate side effect of traveling is that most of my habits went haywire.


Write every day: 6/7 – missed one day!
Number of words written: 2309 and more than half of it was written on a single day, so not much at all on other days.
Blogposts published: 0
Number of days behind on personal email: 37 days behind – I haven’t touched email at all this week. Doesn’t surprise me, when I am out in the nature email is the last thing on my mind (also usually I don’t have any reception).


When I travel I try to read one book per trip that is somehow related to the trip, usually either history or a memoir that is set at that place. For this trip I picked a book with a roadtrip theme – Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. It has been on my list to read forever.

Health & Fitness

Fitbit steps: 75,439 – more because of hiking and out and about!
Be active 6 days a week: 2/6 – in general I was active per the Fitbit step count, but the two recorded activities on Strava was a 0.9 mile walk and a 4.8 mile hike. Sitting in a car on a roadtrip doesn’t lend to that much working out.
Meditate every day: 3/7 – totally lost the habit while traveling, I was forgetting about it as my normal morning routine was different.
No Facebook before noon: 7/7 not that there was much temptation with no reception while out in the nature. 🙂
No added sugar 5 days a week: 0/5 – totally failed. Traveling and buying any snacks without sugar is really hard, so I just gave up until I got home. Battle for another time.

Weekly Review 02


Inspired by Tasra I decided to do Weekly Reviews while on my two month long sabbatical. I posted the first review a while ago and now I am three weeks behind; but I suppose it’s still better to do it later than never. So here we go! I will blame it on the 11 day roadtrip that we took. Traveling takes me out of any kind of schedule or routine.

Weekly Review Feb 13-19th, 2017

This week started with me being at home in San Francisco and then on Thursday we took off for an eleven day roadtrip through Arizona, New Mexico and California.

Continue reading

How to structure a week of recharging at home.

Eat slightly healthier than you normally do.
Land’s End in San Francisco

Most of the time when I take a vacation I travel. It is quite rare I spend it at home, but that’s exactly what I did last week. And it was glorious!

I wanted to write down some guidelines for myself if I decide to do it again and I thought it might be useful for others.

  1. Turn off alarm clock. Sleep as long as your body requests to recover from a sleep deficit.
  2. Take long walks, ideally in nature, but city parks will do too.
  3. Do things that make you happy. Check-in with yourself, what is that you really want to do right now, and then go do it. (For me that was leisurely reading a book with a cup of tea in my hand, wandering around bookstores, following random curiosities).
  4. Forget about your TODO list. No peeking allowed. You can write down *ideas* of what you would like to do as they come to you, but make sure it doesn’t become a todo list that you feel obliged to get done. No prioritization allowed.
  5. If possible, no commitments to other people that you don’t want to make (though I am an introvert, extroverted people may want to spend all their time with people whose presence makes them happy).
  6. Reduce stress – for me it was deciding that I am not obliged to answer email for a week.
  7. Meditate daily, even if it’s just 10 minutes (I use Calm app).
  8. Do self-care (get a massage, do manicure/pedicure, or go to a spa).
  9. Eat slightly healthier than you normally do.
  10. If you normally read stuff on the phone the minute you wake, kick this habit. My worst offender was Facebook so I set a rule for myself to not browse Facebook until noon.

After a week of this my energy reserves were recharged. I felt calmer. My attention span was longer and I wasn’t as easily distracted by Facebook or news. I was (and still am) content and happy.

Weekly Review 01


I love reading my friend’s Tasra’s Weekly Review blog posts so I was inspired to start my own series. As a pilot I will do 8 weeks which covers my sabbatical.

At work I have been writing weekly “snippets” since June 2010 every single week. It is a bullet point list of things that got accomplished that week. Perhaps it may seem a chore to do it, but I have found it to be very useful. When times are especially rough, writing down things I have done at the end of the week makes me realize that, actually I have done something. Somehow writing it all in one place makes you see it more clearly. These weekly notes also become handy at end of the quarter to summarize what I accomplished and how much it deviated from the quarterly goals.

So let me try this for personal life while I am on sabbatical. Here we go with stats! (Here is another, more qualitative, post about last week.)

Weekly Review Feb 6-12th

This was week one of my sabbatical. On weekdays I spent it mostly at home and went to Tahoe for snowboarding on Saturday.


I am learning to write better and more. For now the goal is to write every day.

  • Write every day: 7/7
  • Number of words written: 3575 or 511 per day on average
  • Blog posts published: 1
  • Number of days behind on personal email: 27 days


I have really enjoyed having more time for reading. I ended up reading on average two hours per day and almost another hour of listening to an audio book.

Books finished:

Adventures / explorations

  • Checked out two alleys with murals that I hadn’t seen before: Balmy Alley Murals & The Clarion Alley Mural Project. Its crazy that after living in San Francisco for 6+ years I still keep discovering things I had never seen.
  • Took a walk along Ocean Beach and Lands End, discovered that it is all green in January after lots of rain. Saw wildflowers too! https://www.strava.com/activities/860013129
  • On another walk came across Palace of Fine Arts Theater. So pretty! I didn’t realize we had that in SF.
  • On Saturday went snowboarding at Sugarbowl with Matt.

Health & Fitness habits

  • Fitbit steps: 81,695
  • Be active / exercise every day: 7/7 – 6 days long walks (from half hour to two hours, on average 3 miles, the longest walk was 5.2 miles) and 1 day snowboarding.
  • Mediate every day: 6/7 – missed Saturday when I went snowboarding. Broke my 25 day streak 🙁
  • No Facebook before noon: 6/7 – failed on Saturday, kind of went into autopilot with our regular Tahoe trip.
  • No added sugar 5 days a week: 4/5 – failed after I discovered that Chicken Broth contains corn syrup. Really? It amazes me how many things you wouldn’t think need sugar, but has added sugar.