One of the things about running a blog for the better part of a decade is that eventually things become habitual — repeatable — traditional, even. One of my favorites has been the New Years Reflection Post, a collection of retrospective questions on the past year meant to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœmilestone\’ the passage of time. There is nothing particularly interesting or special about the list I use other than the fact that I\’ve now used it repeatedly. Actually, in 2008 as I was prepping for the annual post I Googled looking for some new questions and was surprised to see this very post near the top of the list of search hits. I don\’t think that makes THIS list definitive, but it\’s probably maturing into a fairly respectable example of retrospectives on the past year.
Feel free to copy and share. The questions on this page have been edited enough that I feel fairly certainly that I can release them as public domain. Enjoy.
So. Here we are. It’s New Years Eve and if you are reading this blog as it goes to publish you need a life more than I do. It’s that time again, and below is the latest installment of my annual New Years Eve List. Hopefully, if you are reading this wide open accounting of my year you are reading it from somewhere warm (it’s freezing here) and on a day that is not meant for parties or other social activities. I’m writing this a few weeks, days, and hours in advance. It is, in fact, something of an epic post. And if you are reading this as it publishes, know that I’m actually enjoying the evening while the blog software handles the dirty work.
But, once again… Enjoy.
What did you do in 2008 that you\’d never done before?
I was a Team Leader for the Multimedia Team at the Fringe Festival. I took the whole week off, sat in the volunteer headquarters, and soaked in the awesomeness.
What did you do in 2008 that you hope you never do again?
I ate some bad cold cuts. See the question below on injury and illness. Really. Not recommended. Worst. Diet. Ever.
Did you keep your new years\’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I think, if I recall correctly, my resolutions from last year had something to do with running… so, yeah. Three clinics and a couple pairs of shoes later, I’d say I’ve kept that particular resolution.
I have two more resolutions for this year: First, I’m going to set another running resolution. Considering I keep track of everything anyhow, I’m going to set a goal for December 31, 2009. I’m going to strive to run at least one kilometer for every day of the year. That is to say, by the end of 2009 I’d like to have a recorded distance of at least 365 kilometers. My second resolution is to stop making so many resolutions. In case you haven’t noticed, I like to declare little goals for myself: I set expectations of myself and then drive myself nuts trying to meet them. I’m going to put the brakes on that for a while. At least the public declarations of such.
Did anyone close to you give birth this year?
Again, and again, and again… a whole list and far too many to name, from family and friends, to co-workers and random acquaintances. Welcome to Earth all you little brats.
Did anyone close to you die this year?
I don’t think my memory is too swiss cheese, but I think we all made it through.
What countries did you visit this year?
Alas, even with Claire in tow, we did make it to Portland, Oregon in the spring to visit Zach and Alice. We enjoyed a few days of slow pace through the budding spring of their relatively tropical climate before flying back to the snow and ice of Edmonton. And, of course, we were a few suitcases heavier after taking advantage of the still-par dollar.
What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Organization. I’d like to say first that we try very hard. We try to keep things neat and clean. We try to make as little mess as possible. But — and here I’m not sure if it’s a year with kid, lack of time otherwise, or a complete deficiency in the motivation department — but life just seems a little less organized these days.
Perhaps the basement will help. Or perhaps I need to get off the couch a little more. Hmmm…
What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I’m only going to mention this once: I followed the US election with a focus I rarely achieve in my life. Had I devoted as much energy to writing a novel as I did understanding the election process in our neighbors to the South, I could have written War and Peace. So, sitting in a hotel in Canmore on November 4th, watching the results roll in on my Blackberry, was a climax to a long exhale.
What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I think the theme for this year was the running. (Yes, again with the running!) One foot in front of the other, repeat for four or five kilometers. Cumulatively, and keeping in mind I’ve only been keeping careful track since February, I ran a little more than two hundred kilometers in 2008. That is about one hundred and ninety more than I ran in 2007, so I would call that a BIG achievement, wouldn’t you?
What was your biggest failure of the year?
I’m likely being too hard on myself, but Sparkle has fallen back a notch (inasmuch as I perceive it, at least) on the priority list this year. She still gets her walks and runs, she’s well-fed, comfortable, and seems happy. But if I had to rate my status as a dog-owner this year I’d say it is in decline. And while not a complete failure, it is something I recognize as a “job to improve on” next year. We love our puppy, and her loyalty to us continues to grow and shape with each passing day. She deserves as much in return.
Did you suffer illness, injury, or other physical setbacks in 2008?
Besides the joyous pain associated with the ongoing running adventure, I was cursed with some bad meat as summer turned into autumn. Yes, I was stupid and ate something I should not have. Namely, bad deli meat. And the result was a severe case of food poisoning that progressed as one of those “worst nights of my life” followed by a few “pretty bad days” preceding a “one helluva bad month” and leading into “take these pills four times a day.” I never did find out exactly what I had, but after the test results came in the doctor prescribed something that Wikipedia informed me was usually given for “severe parasitic infections of the colon.” Nice.
Where did most of your money go?
Over the summer, cash-flow in a happy place and Karin’s maternity leave nearing an end, we decided to start the process of basement renovation. I explained the job somewhere as a moderately expensive process of converting a concrete cube hidden below one’s house into something of a subterranean living space. Multiple four-digit purchases later we are nearing completion of this colorful and time-consuming process and in 2009 we should be at the final stages of moving in and enjoying the cozy, cool-in-summer, warm-in-winter joy of our fun-space below decks. But it did cost a lot of money and would have made the next item, but for:
What was the best thing you bought?
A single sheet of digital paper sandwiched between a sheet of glass and some basic electronics form the coolest bit of technology that I found in my possession this year. I’ve set it aside a little more lately that I should have — if only because some of those “dead tree books” were calling out for attention, too — but digital book tech has finally climbed from infancy into adolescence. No, it’s not exactly mature technology, but its moved beyond fad and into utility — and I gladly shelled out to have my very own. While I wouldn’t say it has paid for itself in classic books quite yet, I’ve wormed my way through enough digital text to more than have made it a good purchase.
The darn-close, runners up? I upgraded my camera and we bought a MacBook Pro. Both very, very sweet — but in terms of sheer novelty and eclectic “I got it first-ness,” the e-book reader wins hands down.
What was your biggest waste of money in 2008?
My investments. A New Years Eve snapshot of my roller coaster of investments (and if I were to withdraw it all today) would mark a capital loss larger than any other expense this year. What a suck.
Whose behavior, actions, or achievements merited celebration?
Dad took a step of faith from his multi-decade career and retired — to fanfare and accolades from his colleagues, no less. New things await in 2009.
Whose behavior or actions made you appalled and depressed?
Let’s see. We had an election in October which yielded one of the lowest voter turnouts in this country’s history. Were you in the majority of folks who couldn’t be bothered? Then don’t tell me, because your name belongs in the answer to this question.
What did you get really excited about?
As the admin assistant in our office puts it: “LPDs” (also known as “little people days” — or also, my Thursday flex days.) Not quite a paternity leave, but one day a week Claire and I have our day together. It’s been exhausting, but I wouldn’t give it up right now for much. If you’ve been reading this blog you’ve seen that we’ve been out and about, visited the library umpteen times, and learned a few new things about each other. Awesomeness.
What is one thing from 2008 that you endured in boredom and impatience?
Politics. I love it, but for crying out loud… do your damn jobs already.
What three books/movies/songs/stories/art will always remind you of 2008?
1) As a five-year anniversary gift to ourselves, Karin and I bought an awesome print called “The Fringe” from a local artist located — where else — at the Fringe. A few weeks later we had it mounted and framed,and it’s now hanging in our family room. It cost damn-near a fortune, but (barring disaster) it will be something we drag through our lives kicking and screaming until it gets handed down to some form of descendant — some day.
2) Audiobooks, in general. After some consideration I broke down and subscribed to Audible. I love it. I have a twenty minute commute and if it isn’t a podcast or an audiobook, well… it doesn’t happen that often.
3) Boomdiyada! You’ve seen the little commercial from the Discovery Channel? If not, YouTube it. Brilliant. And Claire loves to watch it — over and over and over — now complete with her singing along: “boo-ya, boo-ya!”
What was the best book or story that you read and what was your greatest literary discovery for 2008?
Until 2008 I had never read a single thing by Canadian science fiction author Robert J Sawyer — and I would say that was a regret but for the fact that my previous ignorance of his work gave me the opportunity (over the course of the past year) to have had the privilege of enjoying almost every book by him. I think, and I’m not exactly sure how it came about, that linking the purchase of my e-book reader (see best purchase of the year) and the discovery of Sawyer’s writing would be a fair connection.
What was your favorite television program in 2008?
I was a few years late, but we (re)discovered Firefly earlier in the year. DVDs are wonderful.
What was your favorite film in 2008?
My brother and I went to the opening night of the latest X-Files movie. The theater barely had enough people to run the show, and the loyal fans made up the bulk of that. Our motive: find at least one frame of film with him (as an extra) in the movie. Best movie date of the year.
Compared to this time last year, you are:
a) happier or sadder? All my years of economic nay saying has started to come true… sure. That makes me pretty sad.
b) thinner or fatter? Thanks to my ongoing running and associated training I arguably think — though I haven’t stepped on a scale in months — that I would be thinner.
c) richer or poorer? We’re all poorer this year, I’d wager. Economic collapse, recession, double-digit drops in our investment portfolios, and a complete turnaround in the business climate from this time last year until now — if you are richer, you either got lucky or you’re a crook.
d) focused or distracted? Distracted. It seems like there is less time and more stuff to do, doesn’t it?
e) responsible or irresponsible? Responsible. I have more toys than any time in my life, yet I am inexplicably compelled to be a good dad and put the ClaireBear first. Must. Resist. Video. Games.
What do you wish you\’d done more of?
Despite the fact that 2008 likely marked one of my most prolific years as a amateur photographer, I judge that I fell behind a little bit this year on my artistic growth with that regard. Sure, I took lots of photos. Sure, I moved up the classification scale with my involvement with the Fringe. And sure, I virtually filled up a hard drive with new photos. But — and this is not about new equipment — I can’t really point to any new learning that was done this past year to improve my otherwise mediocre talents.
What do you wish you\’d done less of?
Procrastinate. I’ll explain later.
How did you spend the holiday season?
Yet again we spent the holidays on the great whirlwind tour of Red Deer. Food, gifts, family, and warming up the car a whole lot. What else can I say?
How do you plan to (or, how did you) spend New Years Eve and New Years Day?
With a lingering bit of sinus congestion, we woke up New Years Eve and I cooked pancakes for mom and dad (who had come up to babysit and attend a hockey game) and Ryan (also up for the hockey game). I burned off a good chunk of the day making excuses to not do work in the basement, but simultaneously managed to (a) finish the laminate floor in the office, (b) hang a vanity light, (c) install a bathroom sink, and (d) hang closet doors in the office. The mail arrived a little later with a Wii game I had ordered, and we had a quiet evening at home.
New Years morning (the plan at least) is the Resolution Run, a 5 kilometer run through the snow here on the south end of the city. And I hear there is a gathering later in the day.
Did you fall in love in 2008?
Nah. I think I’m good for right now.
How would you describe your social life in 2008?
Skeptical. Over the course of the year I’ve been involved in the very heart of a new little group in the Edmonton area. Back last year I mentioned I’d been connecting sporadically with the Skeptical community in Edmonton and beyond. As that connection blossomed over the spring and summer, it eventually turned into a bit of a club. Since late summer, our Skeptics group has been meeting once or twice a month to chat about debunking conspiracies, pseudo-science, multilevel marketing, scams, flams, woo, and other scientific topics. And the meetings usually involve beer. I haven’t had so much fun meeting random smart people since I was in University.
Who was the best new person you met?
See above. Too many to name.
Who were the most important people in your life in 2008?
The two girls in my house. Simple enough. Do I really need to explain that?
Do you hate anyone now that you didn\’t hate this time last year?
No. It’s been a pretty casual year that way.
What did you want and get? Not get?
Get? As usual too much. But work bought me a Blackberry. I thought it would destroy me (and it still might) but the uber-connectedness of the thing is still managable with effort.
Not get? Back in the spring Karin and I seriously considered buying my boss’ boat. He was trying to lighten his son’s student loans by selling off some surplus toys, and we pondered the option of his sixteen foot fishing boat for a whole weekend before opting that it was a perfect deal at the wrong time of our lives. So, no boat.
What was the best thing you gave away in 2008?
I’ve become fairly good at delegating. Need something to do? Here. Let me get you started on this… In other words, I’ve given away a lot of work and I’m a little bit more sane because of it.
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
When you reach the ripe old age of thirty-two, birthdays are reduced to, at best, an excuse to sleep-in and maybe go out for dinner. After spending the day looking after Claire (her mom and grandma went out on the town) Karin and I had a rare, child-less date at the New Asian Village, an Indian buffet restaurant, before taking in a show downtown at the Citadel.
What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Catching a fish. I didn’t. Lucky fish. Poor me.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Stable and aging. Karin will be the first to explain to anyone who asks: I need to go shopping for clothes more often. I have a nice wardrobe that is… well… stable. And while I’d say I dress the part for work, I’ve not evolved much since that initial upgrade.
Also, fitness casual. I’ve accumulated a fairly healthy collection of running gear for both winter and summer jogs. Multiple layers of synthetic, breathable fabrics designed to wick moisture from the nooks and crannies of one’s body. Mmm… sweat.
Describe the best picture you took — or that was taken of you — in 2008:
It isn’t the picture so much. It’s always the impact, isn’t it. It was the picture that wasn’t perfect, but the picture that caught the eye of the director of the Fringe who came along asking… “could you get more like THIS one?” It just captured the mood, I suppose.
What kept you sane? What drove you nuts?
I think I’m going to lean on the crutch of my running one more time. Running kept me sane and drove me nuts all at once. Sane? Because it seems to me that between the endorphins and the pace and the focus and the half hour push through whatever weather the world threw at me, it was something of which I could at least feel in control. Nuts? Because between sore muscles and crazy weather and mismatched schedules and forgotten training sessions and bounding ahead or falling behind it was the planning and motivation behind the running that gave me quite a bit of stress.
Did you experience the world differently in 2008 than a year or two ago? In what ways?
No kidding. Try fatherhood for one. Look at a world where oneself is no longer the most important thing for which one is responsible. It’s an eye-opener. It is the moment one realizes that the little life for which one is something of a steward — a caretaker — a, well, parent — is the best job in the world. That’s when one’s viewpoint changes forever.
Who is one public figure you respected the most in 2008? Disappointed you the most?
I could arbitrarily pick some names, but really? At home there is little to be proud of — and little initial grace from which to fall. I’ve generally lowered my expectations of public figures, and even those expectations are too high. It’s sad, but I have no real public role models — and on the other side, those who disappoint are unexceptional in their fallibility.
What political issue stirred you the most?
In retrospect, watching the economy collapse, the Canadian Federal government reduce themselves to schoolyard brawl, the non-stop talk of bailouts and economic stimulus, the mounting death tolls overseas, multiple elections both home and abroad — even watching all of that — I think one thing that will resonate in my memory, still, will be the sense of hope and vision that seeped from the spin of the US elections.
Who or what did you miss the most in 2008?
Honestly, Vancouver. This past year was over four years gone from a place I called home during a formative stage of my life. I didn’t miss it for the first while. In fact, I was glad to be rid of it. But we had a layover en route to Portland and also I flew in on business for a day earlier in the year and realized there were still a few stray threads running through the place. I think I need to get back there for a few days this coming year.
What three things would make 2009 the best year ever?
1) Running 10K in less than an hour.
2) Something published.
3) Enjoying some of the work we’ve put into our home.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008:
Between politics, personal and career events I was awash in issues of leadership and I’ve come to believe one complex truth: Not only is true leadership a rare thing in this world, but most people would rather be led by the mundane and familiar into the lands of comfort and no-risk. The individuals most people think are leaders are really mere followers who are so afraid to get left behind they become the loudest and angriest of the bunch, holding others back by inducing fear and panic, citing so-called tradition and values, and predicting the worst-case scenario for every choice we must make as a society. True leaders embrace reason and knowledge. True leaders seek risk as much as opportunity. True leaders understand that tradition is but a platform and foundation upon which new ideas are constructed. True leaders call us forward into the unseen future rather than tug us back into the perceived safety of the present. And true leaders under no circumstances cause us to fear new, stronger leadership rising to take their place.
What is one thing you\’d like your kid(s) to know about the year 2008:
It all catches up sooner or later. It caught up to society this year.
One quote that sums up your 2008 is:
“That’s what she said.”