Chronicles: 2014 Autumn

Because I’m a wannabe front-end developer, I follow the CSS-Tricks blog by Chris Coyier. One of things that has stuck out to me most while I’ve been reading the blog has not been a clever CSS hack or one of the many interesting discussions about web development standards — it’s been the occasional additions to Chris’ Chronicle. The CSS-Tricks Chronicle is an ever-growing reflection of stuff done, attempted, and attended, and it seemed to me like a good way to either 1) remind myself that I actually do a lot of cool stuff or 2) help me realize that I’m not doing cool enough stuff and I need some self butt-kicking.

Looking at my list below, I’m now realizing it’s a good way to reflect on whether I’m balancing the important stuff in my life the way I want to.

Here’s Joy’s Chronicle #1.


  • I TA’d for my last program requirement this quarter, meaning all I’ve got left is thesis/defense/dissertation left before I can call myself The Doctor. Uh, easy-peasy, right?
  • A paper I wrote as part of my Adobe Research internship last-last summer about supporting video story creation for novices got into CHI 2015.
  • I’m preparing another paper that didn’t get into CHI for a different conference. Stay tuned!
  • Finished up my tenure as a Brown Magic Grantee. The last all-hands meeting at Columbia was great. Now I’m going to be a mentor at the upcoming Brown Institute Base Camp at Stanford in mid-January.
  • Overall, did lots of brainstorming for upcoming projects. I have some ideas about supporting creative experiments I’m excited about, so hopefully those can turn into something shareable soon.


  • I made an overall commitment to work on art more! I started out doing really well with daily drawing exercises, but that tapered off towards the end of the quarter. Weirdly, it wasn’t a motivation thing — I just ran out of ideas for things to draw. Maybe /r/sketchdaily or similar would help?
  • In a moment of delusion, I decided I was going to table at an Artist Alley matter what. I spent a weekend planning out what I would need to buy and make, and applied for tabling for AODSF and Fanime. I actually got a table at AOD and now I have to follow through on this crazy plan. Making middle-school-Joy’s dreams come true!
  • I did 24-Hour Comic Day! I didn’t do Nanomango, but instead committed to drawing two comic pages per week in November, and realized how awesome having a backlog of comics is.


  • I started this blog. The original goal was to write a post a week, but I think it’s going to end up being more bi-monthly.
  • I started waking up earlier.
  • Tried needle-felting for the first time. It’s deceptively tiring.
  • Enrolled in TSA Pre. I feel kinda weird inside for paying for something that should be normal for everyone, but I have to say zooming through security is pretty nice.
  • Starting listening to podcasts! Ones I like: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (makes me laugh), This American Life (makes me cry), Serial, Stuff You Should Know, and Digital Strips. So, mostly NPR. I’m using PocketCasts for Android.
  • I actually read this over the summer, but I got through I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi on a friend’s recommendation. It’s very practical and action-oriented. Definitely a recommended read if you don’t know much about personal finances yet (I’m lookin’ at you, fellow students).
  • Other books I managed to complete this quarter: American Born Chinese, Seconds, Who Could That Be At This Hour?, What If?, The Shadow of the Torturer/The Claw of the Concilitor.

Waking Up Early

I’ve always liked being awake early, but I did not like getting out of bed.

I’ve tried the typical trick of putting my alarm/phone on the other side of the room to force myself to get up in the morning. But all that resulted in was 1) me getting up, turning off the alarm, being cranky at how cold I was, and making a bee-line back under the covers and 2) eventually getting too lazy for that and learning to sleep through my alarm. Eeek.

My sleep schedule consisted of me doing work until 1am or so (give or take a half-hour), sleeping until about 7:30am, and falling back asleep until about 9 or 10am (depending on whether or not I had morning meetings that day). My sleep schedule was all over the place, and I would always start my day grumbling either about why do I have to get up ugh I’ll never schedule myself for morning meetings again or I got up late again I’m the worst person ever. There was no winning.

Furthermore, because grad school is so flexible, there were no outside constraints to force myself into a schedule. I had no regular work hours to keep me in line.

Waking Up Early

This quarter, I decided to start waking up early. I have resolved to do this countless times before, but this time, it was for reals. I had read about developing and sticking to a morning ritual, and it turned out the key to making me get up in the morning was making a morning ritual that was actually kind of fun. Here’s what I decided I wanted to do in the morning:

  • Some light exercise (10 min)
  • Make and eat breakfast (20 min)
  • Get a little video game playing time in (30 min)
  • Shower and get ready for the day (30 min, reserved for last, because being cold after getting wet was not motivating for getting up in the morning!)

The next step was figuring out how long all of this would take and making sure I woke up on time to do it. I set myself a goal to wake up at 7:00am each day (including weekends) and give myself 1.5 hours of just me time. At 8:30am, I’m ready to do whatever the universe wants me to do that day.

Sleeping Earlier, Too

Of course, I had to make some adjustments to how I go to sleep as well. My typical bedtime of 1am was not gonna fly with this new plan. So, I made myself a rough nighttime ritual as well:

  • Stop working by 9:30pm
  • Write a diary entry
  • Do a bit of drawing/art-related stuff
  • Games/TV if there’s time for it
  • Shower/get ready for bed
  • Read until I sleep at around 12am

I have a bit harder time following this, because my promise to stop working by 9:30pm hinges on how not-distracted I am that day. Keeping myself productive and managing my time is still a work in progress and probably merits a whole other blog post.

How Is It Going?

I’ve been doing this since the end of September, and it turns out that giving myself permission to play 3DS (at the time of this writing, I’m working through Omega Ruby. :P) in the morning gets me out of bed faster than a really annoying phone alarm. I get to start the day on my own terms and not anyone else’s — things can get super hectic and overwhelming in grad school, and having a morning where you can just feel in control of your life for a few hours is pretty great.