Ten days of no work starting on the 22 with four days of Christmas, then three days of vegging out, and finally three days of New Years.
How not to start the new year? How about with a head cold on the long weekend. #norunningtoday
Each new years I try to squeeze in a few minutes to make a batch of my family’s oliebollen recipe. It’s a messy, smelly process that involves hot oil and a pile of little round fritters that no one ever eats because… well, who can say.. but I like them.
This year I tried something a little different. I made up the recipe as per normal (with the addition of about a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the batter) and opted to –instead of deep frying them– cook them in the waffle iron.
The result was something that tasted almost (but not quite) identical, but resulted in about one-tenth of the mess and –surprisingly to me– the first time ever that they all got eaten. In fact, the kids at our annual New Years bash were fighting over the last few.
Now the deeply philosophical question. “Oliebollen” as I understand it translates directly from Dutch into something like “oil balls” — which fits almost exactly to the proper cooking method. When they are neither cooked in oil nor emerge as balls, are they still oliebollen? Even if the recipe is exactly the same?
I’m supposed to say here something about how fast the year passed, or that it was swell and amazing and full of new opportunities. It’s the new year, right? It’s a reflection on the wonder and awesomeness of the past three hundred and sixty five days, no?
I’m gonna break from tradition and say this instead: Good riddance, 2015. I don’t blame you for being a lame duck year, but I’m looking forward to a fresh start in 2016. Maybe you were a good year for other folks, but… yeah: 2015? See ya. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Ok… so maybe that’s a bit harsh. But between angry politics, online trolls, terrorism, the envrionment, mediocre weather, the slumping economy, the people who react to a slumping economy, the businesses who react to a slumping economy, and the rest of us who need to keep on smiling through all those reactions… well, I’m tired and ready for a fresh start.
Oh, wait: the States are having an election next year right? Maybe I’ll just sleep through 2016…
Deep breath. Smile. Okay, maybe I’ll just recap on this past year first before we all sentence it to the gallows. Ready? Let’s go. This is my official 2015 New Years List. Enjoy.
First, who are you leaving behind in 2015?
Family-wise, we made it through the year without any major losses, and ditto on the friendship front. That’s always a positive thing.
All that said, one of my quasi-co-workers was killed in a crosswalk late in the year which put a damper on the holiday season around the office. And yet, when loss doesn’t strike too close to home, I would say that it leaves some extra room in the old heart to think about and consider the too many other losses around the city, country and world these days.
How did you make money in 2015? How might you briefly describe to others what you do for a living?
My job is roughly the same job as I started in five years ago. It changes and evolves, and is never really the same job day-after-day. And having hit the five year mark in November, it is officially the longest I’ve worked anywhere. On any given day I am a cross between a digital librarian, a book editor, a business consultant, and a creative-technological guru… always with the need for infinite patience: making the web useful is more challenging than I often give it credit for.
I’ve also learned that stories of my job do not make riveting conversation fodder.
What do you wish you’d done more of? Less of?
Given some of the running-related injury issues I faced this year, I wish I’d spent more time on some cross-training: y’know, strength, core, cycling. I plan to fix that going forward and am already on schedule for some big cross-training changes in the new year.
On the other side, I realize I spend too much time in my own head: worrying, fretting, plotting out improbable futures and lost opportunities. I think I need to do less introspective panicking and more just-doing.
How would you describe the world from your perspective in terms of:
a) technology? High definition. It didn’t seem like things got any faster or smaller or innovative this year. Our stuff just got crisper and clearer. I noticed all the Boxing Day sales were for 4K UHD tvs this year, and at reasonable prices, too, and upon reflection I think that summed up the year in tech: nothing mind-blowingly stellar or life-changing on the technology front for 2015, not that I remember, but just tools with more resolution — literally or symbolically. That, and yes in 2015 we finally got a product called a “Hoverboard” — but it was just a powered, self-balancing, two-wheeled skateboard with a tendency to catch on fire when the batteries got too hot. Eat that Marty McFly.
b) culture? Increasingly entitled. We hear and read and witness the words and behaviors of a population that knows every facet of their so-called rights, but seems to forget both (a) their corresponding responsibilities and (b) that every action has a consequence. I can barely stand being on social media anymore for the rage that bubbles through the layers of entitlement and our “me-first” culture. Driving has become a daily act of asking “who’s going to flip me off today for going the speed limit though a school zone?” And I’m torn every day between feeling sadness for the people who gambled everything on big oil and are now turning up a loosing hand… and frustration at how some of those same folks are lashing out at an indifferent world that in reality owes them nothing, no matter how much they might believe the opposite.
c) politics? Changed and charged: We had two major elections this year, a provincial election in May in which the left-leaning NDP party rolled historically over the long-reigning conservative party, and a federal election in which the centrist Liberals rolled over the long-reigning conservative party. Notice a trend there? Parties change. Politicians will always be politicians. But –and maybe I’m just noticing it for the first time in my adult life– a lot of people have really started to react very badly when they don’t get their way. The internet is on fire with the friction of partisan hate. The media cannot seem to land on ground that isn’t rocked by scandal, real or invented (mostly in the name of click-bait, I assume). And independent news-in-name-only groups have blossomed and thrived in a culture intent on having a tantrum about so-called-issues they clearly only superficially understand. I kept myself very informed, but reigned in 98% of my opinions and kept them to myself.
d) philosophy? Can I say bi-polar, or is that pop-psychology? Either way, all I see around me are strict and harsh divisions of ideology and purpose. It’s sad and frustrating and angering all at once. And you can’t even just exist in that kind of world without just accidentally contributing to the gaping split.
e) prospects? I’d like to think it’s still strong: I don’t think we can cooperate well enough to destroy ourselves quite yet.
What three experiences will always remind you of 2015?
1) Star Wars. We started the year running the Star Wars Half Marathon in Disneyland, hundreds, thousands, of people dressing in fan gear, from simple logo’d t-shirts to the Wookie I followed through TomorrowLand. Claire and I played Disney Infinity (more than we should have) and we updated our set with the newest Star Wars add-ons, and I shared my geekiness with my daughter. And then, as the year closed –almost literally– we watched the new film on the day before New Years.
2) Newspapers. As I’ve attempted to explain (and justify) to multiple people in the last few months, I decided to subscribe to an actual printed newspaper this year. Early in October we signed up for a weekend subscription to the Globe and Mail, and while this may seem like either (a) a trivial thing or (b) a weird thing for two technophile internet geeks, it emerged from the desire to have access to one media source that had not been usurped by the modern phenomenon of trolls: in the name of openness (though more likely just for click-baiting) every online news site opens their comments to the universe and the result is the worst of humanity smeared across the bottom of nearly every single news story. To me, it’s become the equivalent of using your newspaper as toilet paper… then trying to read it after. I’m looking at you CBC.
3) Coverage. Without going into too many incriminating details, I’ll just say I got called on more than once to pull up the slack in various places of my life. Usually it’s about as thankless as it sounds.
Without asking them, what are three words your ________ would use to describe their 2015?
a) spouse 2am Phone Calls
b) kid(s) YouTube is Awesome
c) parent(s) Need Stronger Locks
Without asking them, what are three words you think that your ________ would use to describe you in 2015?
a) spouse Mid-Life Crisis
b) kid(s) Personal Bank Machine
c) parent(s) Opinionated Hyper-political Know-it-all
What are the details (events, memories, etc) surrounding important days in your life in 2015:
a) birthday? I turned 39 and it was a snowy day in Edmonton. The first of the white stuff had fallen. Karin had taken the day off to get her tires changed (coincidentally to the weather) and it turned out she needed some other work done, so we went to the tire shop after a hasty birthday dinner at home and then spent most of the evening waiting for the mechanics to finish up.
b) anniversary? We were traveling. We’d driven out to the west coast, and on the day of our twelfth anniversary we spent a full day in Victoria, BC, being tourists and on holiday. We spent most of the morning in a museum, killed the afternoon wandering around a castle, and then I went for an epic run through Victoria-proper. Generally: seafood, sights, and sunshine.
c) the holidays? We spent Christmas eve with the in-laws in Camrose, the kids anxious to open gifts and all testing each other because none of only one of them still believed in Santa but none of them knew that there were any skeptics among them. We spent most of Christmas day in our pajamas, watching bad movies and playing games and finally packed up and drove home later that evening. As we flipped the porch light on to let the dog out to pee, the neighbors noticed and the phone rang, and five minutes later we were in the middle of yet another holiday party eating deep-fried turkey and various French cheeses. We got to bed pretty late.
d) new years? The plan, as I write this a day before New Years Eve seems pretty standard: fireworks in the park, random friends over for dinner and drinks, and staying up late to ring in the new year — or at least until the kids get sleepy and everyone bails. New Years day marks yet another five klick run in the 2016 Annual Resolution Run. Fortunately, it’s supposed to be right around zero Celsius.
How would you describe your life from your perspective in terms of:
a) fun? It’s true that life seems to speed up as you get older. Finding free time seems like such a rare and precious thing. Fun has been filling the scattered spaces between the must-do things and other obligations. In those spaces we’ve cross-country skied this year, camped, swam, gardened, lived in our city and out of it a bit too. Driven to local places and places a little more out of reach. We’ve geocached and sometimes just wandered through the woods near our house. It’s not exciting in an epic way, but it’s fun between the busy spaces of our lives.
b) family? Life gets blurry as you get older, hanging out with people who are linked genetically or by the legalities of marriage, and we all try to figure out our ever-changing and evolving roles in a family full of varied opinions and strong personalities. Yet, we had a new addition this year, too, and you’d never imagine how one little kid can smile so much at her goofy uncle.
c) friends? The year of the text message. I’ve been pejoratively referred to more than once as a teenage girl for the amount of time I seem to have spent text messaging a laundry list of some interesting and fun people this year… though often it’s to arrange running adventures, so that’s a good thing, right?
d) food? Claire has been learning to cook more and more, and we have been stretching our cuisine. If I had to sum up my own palette in a word it would be: sriracha.
e) fitness? Apart from another round of injury, I exceeded my total running distance over last year and ran thirteen races, six of them half marathons.
f) finances? I think everyone is starting to feel a little thinner in their wallets this year. We’ve been lucky to not feel the direct hit (in terms of pay cuts, etc) but the price of everything has gone up, and the worth of anything with value (investment, etc) has gone down.
g) fashion? I’ve gone through a lot of multi-coloured running shoes this year, but most everything else is status quo.
Compared to this time last year, you are:
a) happier or sadder? It’s going to be a negative list this year. Topping things off, I’m going to admit it has been a year full of stress and frustration in many ways. It’s not easy to admit when you’re feeling blue, but this has been a blue-tinted year.
b) thinner or fatter? Along those same lines, and keeping this as simple and vague as I should: some of my stress came from being injured and not running as much. Stress plus not exercising as much plus indulging a little more… well, you get the pattern here and can probably do the math, too.
c) richer or poorer? Tied into all that other bits has been the economic dip that has occurred. Everyone is stressed because we live in a place with an economy that is highly dependent on a single, volatile resource. That resource has dipped significantly in value, meaning a lot of people have lost their jobs, become angry and violent, and taken their rage out on the government, their fellow citizens, and of course the spun-up perception of external threats. I’ll climb back off my soapbox now and just say that the simple answer to all this is that I think we’re all feeling poorer these days.
d) focused or distracted? So, of course, stress from life, the universe and everything has a way of draining you. Think of focus and willpower like a liquid in a jar. You can drink it with a straw, and eventually you get to the bottom and that’s when you’re out. No more focus, no more willpower. There are times when refilling that bottle is fast and easy, and there are times when you are drinking it just as fast as it fills, so in effect the bottle is always empty, even though you are able to get dribs and drabs, and focus in fits and bursts. That second one was this year. The always-empty bottle has been filling by drips.
e) responsible or irresponsible? And at the end of it all, I’d like to think that wrapping my heart around this crazy year of little dribs and drabs of frustrating bit and pieces in the vastness of things that should be good but don’t quite add up that way, this has forced me to become a little more responsible, or at least take more responsibility –though I’m never sure if that’s the same thing or not.
What was your biggest achievement of the year? Failure?
It’s not like it’s been flying off the shelves, but after a couple years of work I self-published “Baylee the Bee” that little e-book picture book that I’d been working on for a couple years. When Claire was about 4 or 5 I’d written this little poem about a bee named Baylee. I don’t know exactly where it came from, but the next thing I knew I was doing art and contemplating rolling the whole thing together as book. Years later, after picking and poking and slowly putting the pieces together (one of which was buying a new computer to run the ebook software) it’s out and live. Maybe that’s it, but it was a pretty big accomplishment for the year, I think.
Failure? I think at one point I had some grand plans about being a dad blogger… I’d call 2015 the year of failure on that front. I’ve dropped it –at least archived it as a stand-alone effort, for reasons that are many and sometimes incongruous — and I don’t foresee any major effort to resume it as an independent website again in the near future.
Also, I missed the mark on my 12 half marathons in 12 months. I ran half of that. Which is in itself a big accomplishment but simultaneously a fail. How does that even make sense?
Did you travel? Where?
Our one out-of-country trip this past year was a too-short long-weekend spent in Anaheim at — you guessed it — Disneyland. The theme of the weekend was Star Wars Meets Frozen, as Karin and I both participated in the First Annual RunDisney Star Wars Race Weekend, Karin completing the 10k on a sore knee and I finishing the half marathon (the first of many this year). As soon as the buzz of the Star Wars races subsided, all that was left in the afterglow was a whole lot of Frozen –which of course, Claire loved.
In August, we decided to do a more local vacation, and took two weeks to drive out and back to visit Vancouver and Vancouver Island, returning after a ten year absence and noting the remarkable change that has happened there since we moved away. We were hosted by a laundry list of folks who all seemed to have slipped off the prairies and have started sliding west towards the coast. We spent a night in the interior, then a few more nights in Vancouver. We crossed over on the ferry and bummed around Nanaimo for a couple days, kayaking in the ocean and visiting with my former boss who retired out there. Then a couple days in Victoria marked the turn-around point and we did the whole thing in reverse, across the ferry and back through the mountains. Sadly, some August snow greeted us as we crossed back into Alberta and went off to find our puppy.
I couldn’t have known a year ago that we’d be replacing my vehicle in the meantime, but as these things tend to go the decision came on suddenly and in the wake of a repair estimate that brought up discussions around good-money-after-bad and opportunity costs. We ended up buying the new truck, and despite the many questions I’ve faced since (as apparently I don’t “seem like a truck guy”) I’ve been wanting something for a long time that was a little more utility-based than my little hatchback could ever be.
Not get? I keep hoping for a window at work, but that didn’t pan out this year either.
What ___________ will likely remind you of 2015 and why?
a) website – Strava, again, if only because it became that social media profile I wanted to keep updated, unlike the other ones –Facebook or Twitter or the blog– which start to feel like social obligations towards a bigger thing. Strava actually makes me a better me, not just like I’m pretending to be that.
b) film – Star Wars. But probably only because the idea hung across the year and re-watchings over the holidays (see “experiences”) not to mention the co-branding everything, everywhere for Christmas, and then our year concluded, almost literally, with seats at the new film.
c) song – Something by Taylor Swift, but only because I live with an eight year old girl.
d) art – Baylee the Bee. I can’t say I’ve been promoting that book nearly as much as I should be, but I’ve seen that little vector graphic so many times I think I could draw it in my sleep.
e) game – How many years in a row can I say Minecraft? I don’t think I’d want to even wager a guess at how many hours we spent on this game, especially now that Claire and I can co-op through the Steam Link. She watches Let’s Play YouTube videos and then we do two things: (a) build things in peaceful mode and (b) play –essentially– Minecraft make-believe, wherein we eat breakfast, go on adventures, and then I tuck her into bed each night.
What was the best book or story that you read and what was your greatest literary discovery for 2015?
This was the year of my conscious and deliberate rediscovery of literature. I’d followed the path that so many other have followed: too much tv, too much internet, too much screen-time. So in 2015 I read over three million new words across twenty five novels: it was not epic, but it was five times more reading than I’d done any other year since… well, a long time. I read twenty five books of varying quality, each which deserves a paragraph for or against it, but I think my best literary discovery this year was simply that: the motivation to open a book again.
Describe the best picture you took — or that was taken of you — in 2015
It was again another solid year for video, but my photography suffered. On that note, and as I wrap up my project to record 5 seconds of video every day –which I did!– I will say that one recent photo stands out, probably because it’s recent but maybe also because it fits into the spirit of this year’s photographic efforts. It (a) is a picture I took, (b) it’s a picture of me, (c) it’s actually a screen capture from one of my 365 daily videos and (d) it got a lot of likes on the social medias, so it must be okay. A couple weeks ago I went running through the fresh snow of the trails. The snow was perfect. The light was perfect. And I caught the angle just right to spin the light around a staged bit of video. So, it may not be the best or only good picture I took, but it represents.
Thinking twenty-five years in the past: reminisce. What do you recall or what event stand out most of all from your life and beyond in 1990? As 1990 rolled to close, I was just finishing up the first half of the ninth grade. About to enter the final semester of junior high school, I have some very vivid memories of my life around this time: my friends, the eclectic group of nerds that we were who spent our lunch hours walking to the seven-eleven and talking about science fiction. We were all band geeks because the only other group that got better school trips than the band were the sports teams and heck knows that none of us were athletes back then. I would walk home each day lugging my saxophone and a bag full of books. It seemed like a forever walk, but it was only about a kilometer to our house, and then I would walk some more delivering newspapers on my paper route while listening on my bright yellow Sony Sports Walkman to tapes that I’d recorded off the radio. Life seemed complex, but it was anything but.
Thinking ten years in the past: reminisce. What do you recall or what event stand out most of all from your life and beyond in 2005? That was a year of transition. It was the year that we took possession of our house after five months of watching it get built. We packed up our belongings once again, all of it in the back of the little red truck, which we got rid of a few months later, and moved it into our first –and so far only– house which was still surrounded by an mud pit needing to be landscaped. A few months later we got Sparkle. She was the result of having a real home, and also the early motivation to fix it up: build a fence, and a deck, and at least put down a little patch of grass where she could pee. A few months after that I switched jobs and started driving out to Nisku every day to work on that crazy little project that would last about four years and give me more than a few grey hairs. I started the last year of my twenties and pondered the ripe old age of thirty just over the horizon. Life seemed complex, but it was anything but.
What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory because they made you…? And why?
a) happy: June 10th… when we walked over to the library basement to witness the Canadian citizenship oath ceremony in which our neighbors were participating.
b) sad: November 13… because the night Paris was attacked, yet again, and yet again another western city attacked for having modern, western values in an increasingly ideological world… it was heartbreaking for a spectrum of reasons, not the least of which was for the people who died there.
c) angry: Exact date unknown, but probably the day I read those hyper-political trolling, racist, hurtful comments at the bottom of a news article on the internet. Oh, wait: that was every day.
d) defeated: July 26th… when Karin had to come pick me up half way through a run because my legs cramped up so bad I could barely stand… let alone run.
e) victorious: May 5th… because politics. Enough said… especially since I know some of you still feel exactly the opposite.
f) surprised: April 26th… when after months of re-training, I set a new PR on the half marathon. Edmonton Police Foundation Half!
What kind of plans or goals have you made for 2016 with regard to ___________? And why?
a) family – Not just more time with Claire, but more quality adventure time.
b) body – I’m leaning pretty hard on the idea of another Marathon before I hit 40. You’d think you just say it and then start training, but.. no. It’s a pretty huge decision.
c) money – Buckle down. Save. It’s winter.
d) knowledge – I work with 300 random people, of whom I’ve probably spoken to 30. And I don’t know anything about any one of them. I think I’d like to at least double that number this year.
e) self – I need to get my head around the last few months of my 30s. I keep saying I’m cool with it, but.. yeah.
f) creativity – More writing, writing, and writing. Novels, stories, and blog posts. And refining that damn book into something worth reading.
Thinking ten years in the future: prognosticate. What do you think the world will be like in 2025?
The year my daughter turns 18 is the year all my hair falls out and I get a recurring ulcer that will become a regular and frequent guest writer on this blog.
Thinking twenty-five years in the future: prognosticate. What do you think the world will be like in 2040?
On a serious note, in 25 years I think we’ll have a much better idea of how we’re doing on the environment. If I’m still around at 65, the effects of our efforts to slow or correct climate change should be apparent. Sadly, holding babies this past holiday season, it is one thing that crosses my mind when I look at them: we’ve left you a world that your generation is going to need to fix… or you simply won’t get to think 25 years into the future without pondering your very survival in it.
Explain a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:
Sometimes you think you’ve worked for something your whole life, you climb a long mountain trek up a dangerous and treacherous path, and then you think you’ve reached the summit and you look out across the horizon and from the new vantage you can see a lot of other peaks that would have been just as rewarding to climb, and maybe with even better views. You can either be happy with the mountain you just climbed… or not. And you can then choose to set up camp at the top, or maybe go climb another mountain.
What is one thing you’d like your kid(s) to know about the year 2015?
I guess I’d like her to know that she had a much better year than her parents. She went to school and got straight As in the second grade. She travelled with her parents to a place that was new to her but all-too-familiar to them. She competed in her first dance competition. She conquered swimming lessons and started private piano lessons. She had more friends than she could count and her family grew with the addition of yet another little girl cousin. Her parents may have been dealing with the harsh realities of being middle-aged parents, responsible and trying to stay afloat in the thankless grumble years of their careers, but she did more than okay in 2015.
One quote that sums up your 2015 is:
“I’m proud to say I didn’t die on the toilet but I did club Chris to death while he was taking a shower.” – Mr. Big Red
One word that sums up your theme for 2016 is: Apricity.
“Would you have been here otherwise?” He asks.
And I admit, the frozen air biting at my cheeks as we run along the dark, icy path, that I almost wasn’t.
The cracking open of a new year is almost a cliche for fitness. Gyms will be bursting at the seams as January resolutions drive people to attempt to implement new workout regimens. And run clubs fill with new runners who by February have decided that they’d rather rethink their resolutions in the summer heat. Goals are great, but too often they are vague.
I get the call every couple of months to show up to one our running clinics and give a talk about one of my chosen subjects, but almost always the conversation lands in the same place: setting goals. My talk on technology and “how to use your Garmin watch” always leads to the question of what to do with the data: goal setting. My talk about running destination races always leads to the question of external motivation: goal setting. And my talk on goal setting… well, that’s already about goal setting.
I set a specific numerical goal each year. It is a concrete number, divided by three-hundred and sixty-five days (plus one for next year I suppose) and spread across those days as a ledger of daily progress towards that goal. I am a running accountant, my watch ticking off klicks to the double decimal place, tens of meters, and tallying that number towards my great-big-annual, drum-roll-worthy, distance goal.
The funny thing is that I have (injury adjustment of 2014 caveat, noted) met that goal every year. It drives me. It motivates me. It inspires me come out for a run even when the frost is collecting on my cheeks in the deepest cold of a December evening.
After all, reaching for that number across the span of a year is SMART.
Many of my clinic talks also wander into discussions around the idea of SMART goals. SMART is an acronym:
S = specific
M = measurable
A = action-oriented
R = realistic
T = temporal
For me this means that I set a goal of running a specific number of kilometers, that I measure with my GPS watch, that my actions of running (or not) will help me achieve, based on realistic predictions of what I’m capable across the time-span of one year.
And I do it all on a giant spreadsheet each year… so, next question: would you like a copy?
As my New Years gift to all my awesome readers, I’ve shared a Google spreadsheet that you can use to track your running. This is a slimmed down version of what I use to track my own running. If you are not among the tech savvy, simply open within your Google account, make yourself a copy and then follow the instructions. There are protected fields where your shouldn’t edit and it will not let you break anything without a warning. Keep track of your running and let me know how it’s working for you.
If you are more savvy, turn off the protected fields and customize as required.
It’s new years. Now go be SMART. Share, enjoy, and set some goals for 2016.
Here we go again… December is Blog-Every-Day Month. No guidelines. No rules. No set topic. No nothing no how. Just an article with at least one complete sentence, every day…
December 14… because now look Joe… I want a big one. Big…see… I, I don’t want one for one night. I want something for a thousand and one nights. With plenty of room here for labels from…
For the record, the pursuit of big ideas are why I set out on this blogging journey, and why I refuse to give up quite yet.
There is a page on this blog that has collected over forty THOUSAND views. Isn’t that crazy? Not many of the things I have done in my life has ever had forty thousand people interested in it.
(Admittedly, they are probably coming to check out the idea rather than the results, but nevertheless, they are coming. And I’ve got some work to do to keep it all going.)
Regular readers of this blog will recall that each year, just before the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve, I press the publish button on my most epic post of the year. Most people probably skim it over and otherwise ignore it, but for me it’s become the result of a reflective, contemplative, meditative and (sometimes even) prognosticative few weeks I spend each year compiling it all.
It’s the New Years List.
And apparently at least 40,000 people are interested in that idea.
This will be my eleventh year partaking in this little exercise. Eleven years ago some now-long-dark blog that I used to read published one of those viral fill-in-the-blanks questions-and-answers lists. What was your favorite blank of the year or did you fall in love this year or what such-and-such will remind you of 2003? She filled it all in, and then she invited her readers to play along: here’s the blank list, now post your own and keep the thing going.
I guess I have. The list has evolved, of course. The original was very shallow and veered into things like celebrity crushes and other crap like that, so I’ve changed it over that time. I’ve also been adding and tweaking questions each year, and each year my answers grow a little longer, too. But I’ve kept that story going. Bigger, longer, and for a thousand and one nights and some more as well. It’s become my wonderful New Years Tradition, even if it takes me a couple weeks worth of thinking and writing to compile beforehand.
Those weeks begin for me… uh, now. And though not many of those forty thousand curious eyes have ever bothered to share their versions with me, I always try to do the right thing and pass along the meme: thus, the list is refreshed. The game is afoot. And if you have a blog –or even just an old napkin to scribble on– you are most definitely welcome to play along. No go… make something big.
Here we go again… December is Blog-Every-Day Month. No guidelines. No rules. No set topic. No nothing no how. Just an article with at least one complete sentence, every day…
December 1… and we start with even more goals?
People who have been reading this blog for any length of time know that I get into my groove about this time each year. I’m a bit of a goal-troll and as the New Year creeps up I tend to set a bunch of new self improvement targets. Some stick. Some don’t. That’s life.
But one thing that I’ve found over the years is that while it’s great to make New Years Resolutions, the ones that work are those that you’ve practiced for a few weeks in advance and can push through the holidays. If your goal can survive the craziness of Christmas, it just might make it into next year. In other words, December 1st is a great day to kick off all sorts of life-altering challenges.
I’ve only got three big things I’m working on for 2016, but they are pretty daunting and ambitious.
First, you may already know about “Ready Writer One” my words-each-day project meant to keep up the momentum I’ve built in November with NaNoWriMo and not only finish that novel but perhaps write a couple more in 2016. I’ll be gearing up in December so that by the time January hits I’m in the groove for my daily word count.
Second, I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve been contemplating another year of marathon training. Yikes! Along with that effort, however, it will be necessary to rev up a new cross training effort to go along with it. Of course, that means planning and tracking everything, which starts tonight with my first workout in my 2016 series. It’s some basic strength work before I do my run.
Third, and another health goal, I’ll be working towards that marathon goal with another healthy eating plan. I’ve got some rules worked out –basically a repeat of the standard being-more-conscious about things plan– but I’m kicking that off today –again– with healthy meals and a little bit more diligence on the post-Halloween, pre-holiday snacking.
Big things with little daily efforts. They all add up. I’ll prime myself and tune the details leading into the end of the month, and then kick them off in earnest when the New Year hits. So, ready… go.
Twenty-fourteen. Over. Done. It seems like we just met you, but then it always seems like that. The years just flit by and then they are gone. Once again it’s time for fireworks. Once again it’s time to flip the calendar. Once again we quietly celebrate, give our cheers, and…
It was a year. What else can I say?
I watched the news and pondered the efforts humanity once again makes in striving to dismantle itself, and sometimes, far too often in fact, felt like screaming “stop the world, because I want to get off…”
I felt a little lazier, but realize it is only in the vast perspective of a busier and busier world. I tried new things. I fought new battles. I lead new troops, even if that is just a generous metaphor for work and play.
And the year drizzled away with bits and pieces to show, but nothing so mind-blowing or life-changing that will make 2014 a stand-out magical sort of year that we reflect back on with fond, yearning memories. It just was what it was, and in the tenth edition of this ever-more-epic New Years List of reflections, ruminations, and prognostications, I find a few moments that defined what fourteen meant to me.
So, once again Happy New Years, welcome 2015, and let’s look back at the 2014 that was us…
I’ll start with the tough question, first: I think the biggest one for our family was the passing of Karin’s grandmother. She was a mighty force in that family, a figure around which swirled a kind of ineffable flame of culture and tradition blended with humor and a resiliency that built a solid web of relationships between every single member, through blood or through marriage. She was claimed by the simple passage of time, and though she is gone I see her spirit living on in my wife and my daughter.
How did you make money in 2014? How might you briefly describe to others what you do for a living?
I haven’t changed jobs, but my perspective on that job has changed slightly. I still do the whole information architecture thing, acting like a kind of digital librarian for (mostly) our corporate intranet system (often) our external-facing website, helping all the various lines of business efficiently sort, build, and maintain their content that helps the corporation run just a little bit smoother and more cost-effectively (I hope.) But that role has shifted into something of a standards cop, pushing a (somewhat dated) design and rules in the name of keeping our costs low and our user-satisfaction high.
I explained it to someone this way: We do our jobs by continual improvement and refinement of our design and a centrally managed approach to usability and standards. Every visit to the website represents a transaction with a customer. The website had nearly 40 million transactions last year, so even minor fluctuations make big differences. It is my experience, based on professional experience, industry best practices, studying analytics, and working with multiple users, that any “friction” to users created by jargon, redundancy, text clutter, long pages, clicks, non-uniform placement of tools, changes in style, unclear sorting or a hundred other tiny factors, reduces overall satisfaction by users of the website. Lowered satisfaction or frustration results in decreased use of the website and inversely, increased use of other providers or channels to get information or obtain services. This is a direct cost to the corporation. Self service online is vastly cheaper (by a factor of hundreds or thousands) than a transaction over the phone. (ie, a call to our call-center or an in person visit costs way more than a self-service visit to our website.) Thus we work every day to make the website better for customers directly by approaching the website as a single unified tool, and making decisions that while they seem like they are made in a vacuum or placed arbitrarily, they are not.
This means we sometimes work against what some business lines would like to do independently. Every exception to our standards and every deviation from our user interface erodes trust that it will work for a user next time, and (however marginally) increases the cost to, well… everyone. My colleagues and I, as user interface architects are reminded of this continually and are charged with aligning as many business lines to the approved standards as possible. Often this means making judgement calls and saying no to many requests. Because of this, I’m not as popular as I would often like to be.
What do you wish you’d done more of? Less of?
I always say I wish I’d done more reading (which I’ve challenged myself outright to improve on in 2015) and writing (which after a quasi-break in 2014, I am going to re-focus on, too.) I’ve started already, and Claire has already figured out that it’s fun to snuggle up on the couch with her dad, each with our books in hand, and quietly read together.
And as always, the inverse of that… I need to turn off the TV more often. It just leaves me empty at the end.
How would you describe the world from your perspective in terms of:
a) technology? Arm-banded. We went a number of years now where watches have become more of a fashion statement than a functional tool, what with our smartphones in our pockets. But it was the kind of year where smart watches were all over the place, some yet to be released but making headlines anyhow (Apple Watch… cough, cough!) And now I myself find that I’m entering the new year with my latest gadget a fitness tracker strapped to my wrist. Karin bought me the Garmin Vivofit for Christmas (it integrates nicely with my Garmin running watch) and I think I’ll be having a quantified-self sort of year as a result of something strapped to my arm.
b) culture? Broken. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines of my little bit of cultural turf here and for the last six months or so have been watching some very broken ideas gain currency and ripple through the internet. In some ways, what stands out the most for me is this little cultural niche I’ve tacked a small piece of myself onto: gaming. And the gender-equality war that has burned through that community in recent months has made me sad (because so many people are so entrenched in ideas of exclusivity and closed-approaches to something with amazing cultural potential) and hopeful (that so many more have come out in fierce opposition against the twisted ideas of those narrow few.) It’s a long road to go yet, but the conversation has begun to fix a few pieces that are still severely broken behind the scenes.
c) politics? Extreme. Perhaps it’s my distant perspective, jaded a little by the never-ending trickle of news about religious terrorism, or the reported breakdown-slash-over-reaction of the first world healthcare system in response to the ebola virus, or maybe it’s because we seem to be on the very brink of some kind of economic collapse precipitated by the economic sanctions and oil price manipulations (some would argue) are in response to what we’re told is Russian aggression in the Ukraine. Or maybe it’s because North Korea is saber-rattling (again) over a dumb comedy film release, and that the internet is quietly at war with itself, or that even locally it’s tough to make heads-or-tails of things as the right moves left, and lefts move right, and politicians do crazy things like abandon their party and do historically dumbfounding things that crumble the foundations of our democracy, whatever that means anymore. Maybe it’s just that, but it’s been an extreme sort of year that way.
d) philosophy? Extremist. In a world were every opinion seems to be at the fringes, or at least the opinions that get air time on the media and online, it also seems that moderation is in short supply. Extreme dieting. Extreme religion. Extreme political maneuvering. Extreme measures against extreme ideas. Extreme actions taken against extreme reactions. Lives unraveled in the name of preserving subcultures, privacy violated in the name of national security, quarantines enacted in the name of health, kids shot and killed by police in the name of public safety, or heads chopped off in the name of fundamentalism … it’s all pretty over the top this year.
e) prospects? I’ve been down on the world this year, I’ll admit. But it’s been a year of sad news stories: Ebola, extremist terrorism, political aggression, missing planes, broken promises, bungled economies, and lopped off heads. Part of me knows that the world has always been this way, and in many ways much worse. But it just seems like if this is the direction we’re headed… well, y’know where I’m going with this.
What three experiences will always remind you of 2014?
1) Running the Dopey Challenge – It’s tough to have perspective on something so surreal, I think. I mean, I ran it. After anticipating it, I ran it. After training for nearly a year, I ran it. I get to say forever and for the rest of my life that somehow this guy who was never much into sports or or athleticism, took his 37 year old self and ran four races totaling over seventy-eight kilometers, and walked away of his own power. It was epic and crazy and surreal. But it defined my 2013 and made my 2014.
2) Re-launching our Corporate Intranet – Work is always a touchy subject for a blog, but having spent a good part of 2013 building up to this major project, I had the pleasure of rolling out months –maybe even years– of work into reality in the opening months of 2014. It set the stage for another four months of mop-up work and follow-up communications and documentation, but the hurdle was leaped in 2014 and it was one of those career-defining and year-haunting events that will stick in my mind (and my portfolio) for a few more decades, I’m sure.
3) Photographing Iceland – I was getting tired of answering the question of “why Iceland” and with the vacation four months in the past I haven’t had to relay that story lately. But, simply, what it came down to was simply that we wanted to go. Of course, it helped that a direct flight opened up, and that we’d got a bit of momentum on a group trip that fell through and well… it just seemed completely different from year-after-year of DisneySomewhere. But we went, and I hauled along about five grand in almost new camera equipment in the form of a new camera, new lens, new tripod, and a dizzying array of other little gadgets. And I took photos. Man, did I take photos. Thousands of them. And with my mother in tow, I was able to do a bit of instructing and guiding and helping her learn some of the basics that I was working on honing for myself. I usually take lots of photos, more and more so as time passes, but that was ten days of intense shutter-happy training that has since reflected in my skill as a guy with a camera… I think.
Without asking them, what are three words your ________ would use to describe their 2014?
a) spouse Needs a Vacation.
b) kid(s) Learning to cook.
c) parent(s) Our Growing Family.
Without asking them, what are three words you think that your ________ would use to describe you in 2014?
a) spouse Spends too much.
b) kid(s) Owes me allowance.
c) parent(s) Free tech support.
What are the details (events, memories, etc) surrounding important days in your life in 2014:
a) birthday? I turned 38. It was a Sunday, so I went running with the clinic of course: 10 klicks in the cold followed by some hot tea. We had had friends over the previous evening for games, and my parents showed up on the day of for some hanging out and a pasta dinner out. Claire and Karin gave me a nice messenger bag (which has come in very handy) and a LEGO kit of the Ghostbuster’s car (which Claire “helped” assemble.)
b) anniversary? We went swimming. We went swimming in a thermal hot spring, basking in the geothermal effluent of a power plant on the Southern end of Iceland while drinking beer and having a mud mask facial, a few hours before we boarded a plane back home at the end of our vacation. We spent the rest of our anniversary on a plane, in transit back to Canada (and all the fun of international travel along with that). But mostly I’ll remember the swimming.
c) the holidays? We hosted. Well, Christmas Eve was (mostly) quiet. We do the open-gifts thing on the 24th, and we followed tradition, just the three of us an a handful of gifts. Claire went to bed, but not to sleep, and was up most of the night “waiting for Santa” and (literally) barfing with anticipation. My family arrived Christmas morning and we did more gifts and turkey and some games and worked on the jigsaw puzzle. Karin’s family arrived on Boxing Day and we did more gifts and leftover turkey and ordered pizzas and worked on the jigsaw puzzle. It was a bit of a blur, but thank goodness for a five day weekend!
d) new years? It’s shaping up to be a quiet loll around the neighborhood, local fireworks at the local park, maybe some chance encounters. I have a four day weekend, as things worked out, and we’ll be doing some gatherings and some runnings to go along with that. And of course the annual 5k resolution run on the morning of the first to kick of the year in style.
How would you describe your life from your perspective in terms of:
a) fun? Fun is so subjective, but I think when you live in the same house as a happy, healthy six-slash-seven year-old, every day has the potential for fun. Our days are filled with LEGO, video games, walking the dog, hanging out on the couch or going to the park. We travel, go camping, see plays, visit cultural events, bike through the trails or swim in spray parks. We have fun, and I think a lot of that has to do with being parents.
b) family? Bigger yet again, having incorporated my new east-coast brother-in-law and growing again with a sister with a bun-in-the-oven (as a consequence of the aforementioned new brother-in-law) and due for arrival in the first half of 2015.
c) friends? I’ve been lucky this year and continued to have the privilege of knowing and hanging out with an awesome group of running folks. We’ve more and more been doing a variety of non-running social events –dinners, parties, bowling, and there is even an ice skating night planned for the new year– and we’ve even got our own little Facebook group going on. Post-runs coffee times have become a staple (much to Karin’s chagrin at my often late returns) but it’s helped keep me sane through an otherwise busy and crazy year of work and life and injury.
d) food? Apart from that stint in Iceland where I found myself eating crazy things like fermented shark and cured puffin, whilst snacking on dried fish bits, my year has been pretty standard from a cuisine perspective. I’m just coming off a coffee sabbatical as of Christmas Day (having taken a nearly two month break) and am enjoying my caffeine delivery system once again. The interesting thing this year has been Claire’s increased interest in cooking (thanks Food Network) and my ability to actually enable that, however moderately, through letting her cook pancakes and dabble in other food prep tasks. Another goal for 2015 is to get her involved in the kitchen more, and this summer… BBQ?
e) fitness? I’m still running. Which on the eve of the end of the year is saying something… at least following the soul-crushing, side-lining, injury-filled year I’ve had. Admittedly, I’ve never been off and broken for significant stretches of time like some folks and in the grand scheme of things I’ve had it pretty easy. But had I been sooooo sore that I could do nothing at all, not even consider running say, I think part of me would have at least accepted that kind of longer-term defeat. Instead, I was always just-broken-enough that my push-through-it attitude won out… and made me a little depressed about those minor injuries. As a consequence, I’m still running here at the end of the year, races on the horizon, and faster than ever, but not exactly where I expected to be this time last year.
f) finances? Apart from spending way too much in Iceland (it’s expensive there), spending way too much on the holidays (thanks Amazon!) and this very recent drop in the markets doing a sad little drop in my portfolio value, we’re doing just fine thank-you-very-much.
g) fashion? I vastly expanded my running wardrobe thanks to those crazy Disney races (and I’ve been sporting the same for most of the running year) my wardrobe for work and home has been kind of a non-starter. No significant shopping sprees or clothing switch-ups. I did buy a new winter jacket, though. And a new tilley hat. Oh, and that viking knit cap I picked up on our Icelandic tours.
Compared to this time last year, you are:
a) happier or sadder? That’s a tough question. The world is in a bit of a slump as I write this. Bad news, as always, abounds but for some reason it seems darker and more troublesome than I remember. On the other hand I’ve got my health, a bunch of awesome friends, and I have more prosperity in my life than I probably deserve. So, it’s a toss up.
b) thinner or fatter? Sadly, a little up the scale. The body trends that way naturally, I think, especially as the 40s approach on the horizon of one’s life, and having scaled back from marathon to half training, and dealt with some side-lining injuries over the year, the whole calories-in-calories-burned equation hasn’t leaned in my favour. Of course, it’s all pretty negligible, but I notice.
c) richer or poorer? Given our travel and our renovations over the last year, I’m going to say in the grand scheme of things we’re probably down a bit. But Karin looks after the finances and she’s pretty strict so… I won’t claim I know for sure. It’s close, either way.
d) focused or distracted? If I was focused, I’d be burning through projects with some regularity. That goes back to my whole “more reading, more writing, less television…” resolution. I’m more distracted and way more distractable.
e) responsible or irresponsible? I’m feeling like I’m more responsible. Part of this is due, I think, to this quasi-leadership role I’ve stepped into (willingly, or not?) with the run club. I’m the guy with the maps. And I’m the guy who leads the clinic. And I’m the guy who kicks people’s butts to get them out on the trails. There are a few of us who do that, but in seven years of running I think I’ve been more and more moving from the role of irresponsible follower to responsible leader…. whatever that means.
What was your biggest achievement of the year? Failure?
See the next question… and that one a few pages back, too. Early in the year (after a whole lot of training through 2013) we travelled to Florida and I ran the inaugural Dopey Challenge race, a 5k + 10k + half marathon + full marathon over four days through Disney World. It was crazy-epic for me… but just a lot of crazy for everyone else who had to put up with my talking and writing about it.
Oh, and if that doesn’t impress you, there is always that eating Hákarl (cured-by-rotting Greenland shark meat) when we were in Iceland over the summer. According to Gordon Ramsay, it is the measure of a man to keep this delicacy down… and I ate a fresh piece carved by the man in this video himself, offered at the end of a knife. So, I guess that’s something.
Did you travel? Where?
In January we loaded up our running gear and met Karin’s extended family for a two-week vacation in Florida. Disney World was the main event, with most everyone logging a lot of miles through the parks and me literally running those four awesome races that made up the Dopey Challenge at a total distance of somewhere around 78 klicks in four days.
In August we switched teams and mellowed out with just my folks on a ten day driving excursion around a whole big chunk of Iceland. We rented a Land Rover, booked a self-drive tour, and took a few tens of thousands of photos as we spent the hottest part our summer in the toque-needing climate of that amazing island.
What did you want and get? Not get?
I splurged a little bit mid-year and upgraded my camera. After spending 5+ years cutting my photography teeth with a Canon 40D, I wandered over to the mall, dropped into the camera store, and bought myself a Canon 6D with lens kit (and, later, a nice tripod to go along with it.) I made sure to give myself about a month before travelling to Iceland to get the feel for the camera, and then put the poor thing through it’s paces as I took over twelve thousand photos across that little country. It braved cold, wind, rain, and even a couple volcanic vents on our first adventure… and it’s still ticking strong with barely a scratch.
Not? Well, I still haven’t got myself a new barbecue. The current version is going on eleven years old, on it’s third burner, and is literally crumbling to the tide of rust that is sweeping across it. One day it will erupt into a fountain of fire, ash and smoke, and I just hope I’m not too close by when that happens.
What ___________ will likely remind you of 2014 and why?
a) website – Strava.com has become my go-to fitness tracking site for my running over the last six months. Software comes and software goes, but I’m enjoying the idea of virtually competing (though I rarely even so much as place) with other runners in our neighborhood. Same segments, different days, how do you rank?
b) movie – Frozen. How could it not be this movie? Between listening to the music non-stop (the price of having a 7 year old daughter) and dealing with the crazy of it in Disney World, to everything that has gone along with it over the year… how could it not be this damn movie?
c) song – I Will Wait. For (hopefully) the last time I was put in charge of making a wedding video. My sister got hitched over the summer and I was sent about a million pictures of them both and then promptly ordered: make it awesome. There were days when I truly wondered if anything at all would happen, let alone awesomeness. But some elbow grease (and a bit of assistance from a few creative kids) it did happen, and yes (so I’m told) awesome emerged. But in the middle of that creative blur, I needed a song that would spin it into an epic finish. I trolled through past Facebook posts, dug through Google, rummaged my own iTunes catalog, and after weeks of listening and searching Karin happened to say, offhand: “I think Matt likes Mumford & Sons.” And that was that. Perfect song for the climax of the video… and it’s been on rotation on my playlists since, too.
d) art – Besides a million little doodles that come home as art projects from school via a certain second grader, there was this painting I really wanted. It was a Toti painting (a local artist) that went up for auction on our United Way campaign. I was running the auction (tech support, y’know) and I was bidding on this painting and no matter how much I bid, there was a certain colleague (who I shall not indict here) that kept outbidding me… until she eventually won. She told me later that she was “getting that painting, no matter what” I bid. I guess I should have made her pay more, huh?
e) game – Disney Infinity owned my soul in 2014. Claire rung in the new year, last year, playing with her pals. And over the last year we’ve acquired more characters, the upgraded version, a lot more practice… and apparently indoctrinated a few other kids along the way.
What was the best book or story that you read and what was your greatest literary discovery for 2014?
Ilium & Olympos are a pair of books comprising a science fiction duology by Dan Simmons, one of my favorite contemporary hard-sci-fi authors. My boss loaned me paperback copies of these books and they sat on my desk for a year before I finally –being short a novel for a kill-some-time-after-work kinda-evening– picked up the first and started reading. I wouldn’t call them amazing, but they were good and probably one of the few books I read cover-to-cover over the last year or so.
Describe the best picture you took — or that was taken of you — in 2014
My favorite, if I have to pick one, was a photo of Claire sitting in the shadow of an Icelandic volcano, surrounded by the Mars-like landscape while sulfur gasses spew through the air around her. She is plugging her nose and expressing the exact amount of disgust she felt at (after having long anticipated seeing the one-and-only think she was looking forward to seeing on our trip… a volcano) smelling the overwhelming waft of fart-egg-stink that came along with it.
Thinking ten years in the past: reminisce. What do you recall or what event stand out most of all from your life and beyond in 2004?
Ten years ago we quit Vancouver. That’s right. It was in early 2004 that we started that big process of making arrangements and re-organizing our life to escape the West Coast. We packed up our car with the meager contents of our little apartment –at least the stuff the little moving van wouldn’t take– and drove over the mountains. We set up shop in a little downtown Edmonton apartment, and my late November had made a down payment on a house-construction contract and were counting the days until the foundation was poured (which happened in late-December 2004, if I recall correctly.)
What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory because they made you…? And why?
b) sad: March 24 was the day I received an email from my former boss, completely out of the blue, and learned that one of my former co-workers was going through hell. His young daughter was in a mysterious coma and rapidly losing a battle with an untreatable illness. She died a few days later, and we sent out sympathies, but it’s those kinds of things that shake the already fragile foundations of parenthood.
c) angry: September 13, after having scaled my way out of the neon glow of the river valley in the cool and dark, fighting for a scrap of path from a thousand other runners, I finished the first (annual?) Neon Run. The company was great, but the race just pissed me off.
d) defeated: June 1, as I watched from the sidelines as the group I’d trained with for four months ran the Calgary half marathon. I was injured and barely walking, but I strolled a couple klicks of the route with my camera.
e) victorious: January 12, as after 78.3 kilometers of running over just four days in Florida, after training for nearly a year, I cross the Walk Disney World Marathon finish line, still standing.
f) surprised: August 24, and not in a good way. Bad surprise hit me when literally both my calves seized up with an epic cramp during the Edmonton Half Marathon. I rolled on the pavement… and boy was I ever surprised.
What kind of plans or goals have you made for 2015 with regard to ___________? And why?
a) family – I want to keep up whatever effort I’ve built up this year, building on the growing father-daughter relationship I’ve kindled and try to be a better husband while I’m at it… not that I think I’m a bad husband, but… y’know… not perfect.
b) body – Once again (and having met my 2014 goal by the narrowest of margins) I’ve set a running distance goal for 2015. I might need to map out a virtual run for that, but for now it’s just a number: my 2014 goal plus. That’s 1351 km in 2015 for those playing along.
c) money – It’s mortgage renewal year, so it would be nice — and this is a biggish goal — if we could skip the whole mortgage thing entirely –kill it– and go into a HELOC situation. It’s a little thing… but not. And might take a bit of work and effort in 2015.
d) knowledge – I don’t know if it’s anything special, but I made a kind-of blog-vow to read and review 25 books by the end of 2015. That’s now striking me as very ambitious… especially if I keep picking epic tomes like my current read, “Moby Dick”. But I think it’s something I can aspire to, as simple as it seems.
e) self – I want to do a bit more writing. I don’t know what that means quite yet, but I’ve always found it an introspective process… and it’s one I neglected in 2014.
f) creativity – I’ve decided to do another video-a-day project again for 2015. Five seconds of video every day, all year. The results from 2013 still blow me away, but it’s a lot of work. I’ve had a year off, though so… prepare to be filmed.
Thinking ten years in the future: prognosticate. What do you think the world will be like in 2024?
My world will have a seventeen year old daughter in it (whose cousins, my sister-in-law routinely informs me, will be legal to drink and will probably be a bad influence!) I’ll be 48, which seemed so old ten years ago, but now is a number that is probably closer the average age of many of my running friends, and thus I can’t say much anymore. Sparkle will be long gone, of course, unless she is somehow a super-dog with extraordinarily long life. And since my confidence in the static nature of our lives has been steadily eroding over the past couple years, I doubt anything I predict about family or friends or happiness or health can be anything but naive wish-making… so I won’t and I’ll leave that as a surprise.
Technology will be smaller and smarter… neural nets and autonomous computing will probably be a thing, finally (for better or worse) and our jobs in the tech sector are going to look dramatically different. Better start thinking about management! Your phone will be your everything. Forget a computer: you’ll just have a device that hooks to a bunch of input and output mods. It’s already happening, and our carry-three-phones and use two-different computers at home world will be long gone.
The web will be more entrenched, but less free. And if big corps have their way you’ll be paying for the net more like you pay for cable today, in chunks and subscription packs, rather than the other way around.
Stuff will cost more, of course. Food security and the restoring the environment will be topics that are more than just fringe political ideas. Part of me thinks we’ve got a rough ten to 20 years ahead until we sort out a few of those things. Another part of me hopes I’m wrong.
Things go south. The body, the mind, and the world. That’s a fact of life. The world is crazy, jobs are thankless, and the body will reach a point when it just decides you’ve done enough for a while and, no, you don’t get to use that muscle anymore no matter how close the finish line is. These things happen, and it’s not THAT they happen but how you deal with them WHEN they happen that counts.
What is one thing you’d like your kid(s) to know about the year 2014?
It’s been a bumpy year, what with the fear of disease, the ignorance of politics, and the arrogance of terrorism filling the world. But we’ve made it to another flip of the calendar… and there were weeks when (honestly) I wasn’t always sure I’d get to write that.
One word that sums up your theme for 2015 is:
“Roads?” (because “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”)
The annual tradition continues.
On January 1, about fifteen hundred Edmonton runners and I will be braving the winter temperatures and icy streets to run the first race of the year. The Resolution Run loops through a local neighbourhood, pleading the prying eyes from a thousand windows and inflicting the guilt upon those still barely awake or otherwise hungover from the previous evening’s festivities.
I’ll be sporting number 2783 this year, and aiming to break the 30 minute mark. I’m still undecided on the jacket.
It occurred to me that with only a few weeks left in the year, I’d better get started on my annual New Years List. If you are a blogger of any sort, it’s a neat little exercise that adds up over time. This will be my tenth –yeah, really– year of compiling some form of the list. From it’s humble beginning as a quick and dirty, often one-word-answered follow-up to an email forward coming out of 2005, to what is now often an epic multi-thousand word introspection on the year that was. It’s not for everyone, your list or mine, it’s for yourself. It’s a celebration of your year, and opportunity to humble yourself to your shortcomings while simultaneously honoring the efforts you and others around you have made. And I realize I have a helluvalotta writing to do in the next few weeks.
We were probably a day late, but we got them made and they were sure tasty. Yup… we made our olliebolen this afternoon, having missed the window on New Years Eve when our house was packed full of families and kids and the awesome mix of sleep deprivation, alcohol and hot oil may have made for a great story when the theoretical third degree burns healed.
“Oliebollen are a variety of dumpling made by using an ice-scooper or two spoons to scoop a certain amount of dough and dropping the dough into a deep fryer filled with hot oil. In this way, a sphere-shaped oliebol emerges. Oliebollen are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve.” (Wikipedia)
A New Years tradition when I was growing up always seemed to be linked in one way or another to the cooking of some good old fashioned Olliebolen. This is a recipe that came down from my grandmother (and probably further back than that) and my dad used to concoct these little fritter-like doughnut-things for our ringing-in-midnight celebrations. For the last couple New Years I’ve been working on perfecting my own technique with the once-per-year craft.
Usually — or when I’ve managed to find the time and inclination to do this — this has entailed a messy procedure involving boiling oils and runny batters. And usually, we don’t actually get around to doing this on New Years EVE… but who’s counting, anyhow?
As a wee bit of her heritage –or so I’m claiming– I enlisted the services of my little chef-in-the-making to fire up the mid-afternoon construction of our 2014 attempt at some old fashioned Dutch-style “oil balls.”
She was mostly unimpressed… but that might have had something to do with staying up five hours past her bedtime last night and then NOT sleeping in. Can anyone say “grumpy?”
The Revised Method
We don’t own a deep fryer. Whaaaaaaaa? You say.
No really. I think this is probably one of the only times we’d make use of it. That, and maybe a sloppy attempt at deep frying chocolate bars like at the fair (which would likely go horribly wrong and not be repeated… but I digress.)
My batter at the ready, I’ve found that while the results tend to be slightly less ball-shaped, and the “bolen” part of “olliebolen” might dictate, the resulting fritters don’t particularly suffer in quality or in taste by having been shallow-fried in about a centimeter of oil rather than a roiling, danger-filled vat.
Of course, at the end of a spitting-spattering deep-ish frying bit of family fun, we sprinkled the cooling bolen with some icing sugar and munched down.
Claire was skeptical, nibbling at the corner of her first for a couple minutes, reluctant to indulge despite her participation in their creation and my long-winded prelude story as I cooked.
But then… a big bite. And she was hooked.
Well, New Years Eve… and barring an unexpected zombie invasion or perhaps just a less-than-sober trot through a snowbank, I’d call the 2013 running year officially over at this point. I jogged my last training run of the year last night, taking the new watch out for a spin, and logging the last 3.5 klicks of this crazy running year. This brings my annual total up to — DRUM ROLL! — 1,713.2 km in 2013! My craziest year ever, a year that included a couple half marathons, a full marathon, and an insane amount (for me) of training. For those who like math, that averages out to 4.7 klicks per day (if I was running daily… which I wasn’t.) More accurately, this accounts to a total of 158 runs at an average per-run-distance of 10.8 klicks. A full 213.2 klicks more than I’d planned on this time last year. No wonder I’m so tired.