Stefan Aleksic
Apr 25, 2016 · 8 min read

Last year today, as I sat in my small, crammed dorm room with my roommate playing some amazing tunes on his record player (Which I miss a lot. Exciting New Direction by The New Deal was my favorite song of 2015), I thought of different things I could do to improve myself as well as force myself to do some thing that I would have never done. I wanted to challenge myself as much as I could.

I was in the habit of making lists on Medium at the time. So the idea of a list came naturally. A TODO list was just what I had in mind. This time, with incredibly long term goals. I set the due date to April 25th, 2016. Today.

This TODO list was in the back of my mind as I did everything. This caused me to do some cool things and meet some interesting people.

I’ll go TODO by TODO. Explaining what I did or what I didn’t do.

#1. Learn to play the guitar.

I was so excited about doing this. I just didn’t have the time nor the resources to make it happen. I’m going to move this over to next year’s TODO list.

#2. Learn how to do server side programming

This summer, I interned at the coolest company ever, Twilio. The whole experience was the best summer of my life. But I won’t get into that much here. Anyways, at Twilio I was working with Scala and Python doing backend things. I was so excited because From 2012–2015 I was just making Android apps. When I came to Twilio, I jumped into the deep end and expected to float. I had amazing mentors and amazing things to work on. There are so many facets of server side programming. I learned a lot of what goes into creating a gigantic, scalable infrastructure. That was just amazing.

Cake my buddy at Twilio, Scott got for our team my last day!

Meet a famous person

Met two, actually. The first I don’t want to talk about just because I don’t want to bring attention to it. And the other one was my good old pal Noam Chomsky. A week ago, I went to a talk at the University of Rochester where Prof. Chomsky and I (and 400 other people) watched a documentary about him. This was followed by a Q & A. We exchanged eye contact. Honestly, it’s basically like meeting someone.

Write a programming language

Nope. I expected to take a programming language class by this time. However, things got messed up with my classes and I couldn’t do it.

Create compiler for the programming language

Nope. See “Write a programming language”

Be able to dunk


Go to at least 10 hackathons

Greylock Hackfest, Hack the Planet, Intern Hacks, MHacks VI, PennApps, Hack the North, BrickHack, Dandy Hacks, My Friend Steven’s House, Nasa Space Apps Challenge

To be honest, this TODO is one which I hated to complete. There were a few hackathons I went to that were fantastic, which I participated in, (Greylock Hackfest, Hack the Planet, Hack the North) which were definitely not a waste of time. However, many of the other ones were just uncomfortable and not fun.

Learn to speak Spanish fluently

Me llamo Esteban y me gusta el queso

Suffice it to say, I don’t know Spanish fluently. I’ve tried DuoLingo multiple times. For some reason, I always seem to stop after one or two weeks of using it. I don’t think it’s right for me but I’ll give it another shot. I might do a study abroad in the future in Spain which will accelerate this goal. But for right now, I’m probably 30% there.

Create a Gameboy Color Game

This is a goal that shifted magically. Instead of a Gameboy Color game, I created a PlayStation 1 game. Well.. It’s more of an internet browser. It’s still in the works but the basics are all there. During the process, I’ve met some cool German dudes on the internet that are insanely knowledgeable about MIPS architecture. (A useful resource if you’re taking a MIPS class in college *cough* *cough*)

Make a set of speakers from scratch

The purpose of this goal was to teach myself how to do hardware stuff. I took care of that by getting an Arduino and messing with the seven segment display I had and creating a basic count down. I want to thank wilfriedE for helping me with this. It was incredibly fun last semester to be hacking on an Arduino and figuring out how it worked.

Become a citizen of ‘Murica

Aww yeah! My good friend and roommate Velizar woke up 2 times at 4am to drive me to Buffalo, NY, the nearest United States “Become a Citizen” place. If it wasn’t for him, I have no idea what I would have done. I studied the tests like crazy. “Am I a member of the Communist party?” “Hmm, this is a tough one…” But I aced it! After 5 questions and an interview that went by as fast as Bernie Sanders’ hopes of becoming president (just kidding :p), the lady told me where the Oath Ceremony was taking place and that I was about to become a United States citizen! People dressed up for the Oath Ceremony. I went in a hoodie, not knowing what to expect to be honest. The judge shook my hand, gave me my certificate of citizenship, and I relived all the terrible memories of junior high graduation all over again in my mind.

Implement something that has to do with neural networks

I read quite a bit about neural networks in the summer while I had nothing else to do. I didn’t implement anything with them but I am moving this to my TODO list for next year. I feel like I am behind when it comes to machine learning stuff. It’s so amazing. I really really want to learn a lot of the topics in it. The possibilities are endless!

Get food at In-N-Out Burger

Life goal achieved! During Hack The Planet, a couple of friends and I decided to take an Uber to the nearest In-N-Out. Delicious! All I can say!

Figure out how modern encryption systems work

Rooming with a person that’s incredibly into computing security and having 2 friends that are Computing Security majors teaches you a lot. But I didn’t learn anything about modern encryption systems from them. I took a course on Coursera. Highly recommend it! https://www.coursera.org/learn/crypto/

Implement a firewall in C

This was a project for my class where we were learning C. I dislike C! Heh.

Paint a painting

I have been reading Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid for the past 4 months. On and off. I want to finish it this summer when I have a lot of free time. But anyways, one of the amazing things in this amazing book was when Hofstadter talks about negative vs positive space. He shows a couple of MC Escher’s drawings where you can either focus on the background or foreground. Both of them are technically the “foreground”. Here’s an example of this.

I am not even close to the talent level to be able to make something like this. So I tried to make the most simple version of this.

My painting :o
Here’s me painting

I tried to make it so that depending on where the user concentrated, another thing would appear. So if one were to focus on the right, they would see something (I have no idea what I drew :p) that was facing to the left. If they were to focus on the left, they would see something that was facing to the right. I tried to incorporate a similar idea to the positive vs negative idea without having a positive or negative object. (Also, don’t judge me. I haven’t painted since sophomore year of high school!)

Write an operating system

Ok… So technically I never defined what an operating system meant. I worked on a kernel over winter break with David Steinberg implementing a basic “hello world” where we could write to the display driver. There is still a MASSIVE amount of work to be done. But I’m working on it slowly. Sometimes not even at all for weeks. I feel like this is going to be more of a “whole-life” project. Instead of one year. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Take a selfie with Barack Obama

I entered every “sweepstakes” to meet with President Obama. I wrote tons of emails, etc. He even came to San Francisco while I was there. Even though I tried incredibly hard, the only thing I got was A TON of spam emails. Turns out it’s hard to meet with the president of the United States!

Snapchat face swap is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen :o

Give a talk on Android development

For codeRIT, we have tech talks every Thursday. One of these was Intro to Android Development. It was definitely an interesting experience. I feel like it went incredibly smoothly. Had about 80 people show up. Best part about it all: got to wear my black Steve Jobs turtle neck sweater.

Yung Steve Jobs.

Go to a yoga class

Did P90X yoga instead.

Find a big FOSS project and contribute heavily to it

Not big but it was awesome to work with random people I didn’t know at all. https://github.com/SethDusek/define

Run a 5K without stopping

Nope. Check the “be able to dunk” TODO.

Implement internet through some different weird medium

Re-invented dial-up so that it would work with a regular cellphone. (https://github.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=cosmicwave)


This was an incredible year with some incredible moments. The best moments were the ones that weren’t even TODOs. Which is why life is so fantastic. Unexpected and amazing things could happen to you all the time. I decided this TODO stuff is fun and decided to do (heh) another one for next year!

Here are 23 TODOs I’m going to try to get done 4/25/2017

  1. Learn to play the guitar.
  2. Be able to dunk.
  3. Implement something that has to do with neural networks.
  4. Take a selfie with the next President of the United States.
  5. Run a 5k without stopping.
  6. Go fishing.
  7. Read 50 books.
  8. Do every single problem over again in Cracking the Coding Interview.
  9. Have a vegetarian diet for 1 whole week. (I know, so long!)
  10. Go to an Art Museum.
  11. Learn to dance. (Seriously, I suck)
  12. Document what you did every single day from 4/25/16 to 4/25/17.
  13. Finish front end development track at Treehouse.
  14. Ride a horse.
  15. Go scuba diving.
  16. Meet a famous person.
  17. Learn Spanish Fluently.
  18. Go to another country.
  19. Give a presentation/talk/whatever in front of more than 50 people, 10 or more times.
  20. Complete the 100 days of UI.
  21. Buy 500 of something.
  22. Do all 90 days of P90X.
  23. Finish Coursera course on machine learning.

    Stefan Aleksic

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    Always learning.