Wednesday, May 04, 2011

All in Three Days Work

Two weekends ago, I spent the weekend home in Canada thinking that I couldn't possibly fit any more things into a single weekend. Then, this past weekend in Ann Arbor I proved myself very wrong.


After a long productive day at work in Romulus, Michigan...

4:30pm - Get accepted into the University of Michigan's MBA program!
4:45pm - Call my immediate family and somehow get everyone on the first try
5:00pm - Drive to Staples in Ann Arbor to see printers for an hour, decide to return Sunday for a sale
6:15pm - Drive to celebrate Sean's birthday at Belmark bowling alley. While there, connect with Sean, Anne, Megan and Dan too, buy Sean a pitcher, bowl a few spares (which is pretty good for me), and unfortunately leave early...
7:30pm - Drive north for David's birthday at Stillwater Grill in Brighton, and enjoy good times with Melissa, Tommy and others. Kabir shows up unexpectedly, on the way to Ann Arbor from Kettering
9:30pm - Head to Ann Arbor and pick up Shanna at Starbucks, a favorite swing dance partner (visiting from Colorado!), drive us to the local Swing Dance, where we dance our heart out until 'round midnight.
12:30am - Drive Shanna home, then over to David's house to join the after-party festivities
4:00am - After "encouraging the party to die down", I hit the pillow!


9:00am - wake up to the sound of chainsaws cutting down the tree outside the window, try desperately to sleep through it, with little success
12:30pm - Kabir arrives and hacks my computer
1:00pm - Kabir and I spend time talking about hacking and he teaches me about Wordpresse too, then we order lunch from the classic Hello Faz Pizza
4:30pm - Allie and John arrive and I help them record the final touches on their "Mr. Michigan" Jewish rap/medley competition song. Being a combination of The Pursuit of Happiness (or "Jewishness") and Gangsta Love, it also won first prize in a competition at Hillel!
6:45pm - Kick Allie and John out after handing over the final cut, then bust into the shower, and jump into my suit and tie

7:30pm - pick up Jess for a 7:55pm dinner reservation at the incredibly amazing Cliff Bell's establishment in downtown Detroit. They don't take reservations after 8pm apparently.
- Arrive late and still get seated at the prime table, front and centre, literally touching the stage. Get surprise-treated to a phenomenal dinner, including spontaneous surprise champagne to celebrate recent university acceptance.
9:30pm - The Dwight Adams Jazz Quartet plays two world class sets, completely blowing me away. I can't believe I had been deprived of real jazz for so long, and they even played a billiant version of the classic Round Midnight (despite it being only 10:30pm!)

12:30am - Talk with and thank the musicians personally, then speed back to Ann Arbor to drop off my sleeping passenger (I can drive very smoothly if necessary!)
2:00am - Finish procrastinating the onset of sleep and finally conk out to sleep


7:30am - Jump out of bed to go drive a car-less friend to an early morning class
8:15am - Drive to David's house to wake up the excessively sleepy Kabir

8:30am - Load the car and drive Kabir back home to Kettering in Flint, who sleeps enroute.
9:30am - Wish Kabir goodbye, forget to stop to eat anything on the way back to Ann Arbor
10:30am - Arrive in Ann Arbor again, try to catch up on some emails
10:35am - Take an involuntary nap (involuntary but oh so refreshing)

12:30pm - Play guitar on the front step of David's torn-up house (he's repairing the foundation) as an unofficial part of the local Water Hill music festival. With no spectators (other than the bulldozer and mud mountain on the lawn), I pack up and get back to my emai
2:00pm - Drive to Erin's house to see her friends perform in the festival, enjoy much festival music and witness a maypole dance for the first time.

3:00pm - Drive back to Staples and buy the new printer and cartridge. Use crazy amounts of combination coupons to end up paying only $10 for $100 worth of paper. Realize a little late, that wait a second, do I really need $100 worth of paper?
4:00pm - Leor brings Liz over to say goodbye before her trip, and I help her pack and store extra stuff with some incredible suitcase tetris skills
- Join Peggy, Caleb and other friends at the nearby tent city for the homeless, called Camp Take Notice, for the weekly potluck dinner and camp residents meeting. I play dinner guitar music with Lori and Randy for the group and they all sing along, christening us the Rocky Mountain Pine Trees. I then eat dinner with about 30 people, over half of them camp residents.

7:00pm - I observe the residents meeting proceedings, including democratic votes on whether to readmit certain previously expelled members (removal occurs automatically for any alcohol/drug posession with zero tolerance according to strict camp rules). One member is nearly banned with 7 votes against returning and 8 votes for, so the executive commitee agrees to admit him pending a drug test
8:00pm - I get asked to administer (with Peggy's assistance) the 15-minute home drug test as part of the readmission procedure (an outside-my-comfort-zone experience) and I report back to the campers' executive committee on the results - clean except for one category, which was explained through a prescription.
9:00pm - Drive to Emily's house to talk about many generative topics, and even learn some knitting. Cynthia avoids hugs because she is sick, but I hug her anyway... I don't get sick :)
11:30pm - Pick up some food at Jimmy John's and invite Erin over to share late-night food and commentary on Bin Laden's recent demise while we watch CNN.

1:30am - Erin leaves, and I talk to Dan about his incredible motorcycle accident story
2:30am - I reflect on the weekend, and realize I got even more done than what I had planned, and decided to write about it
2:45am - I go to sleep knowing I need to get up at 6:30am!

My last post on this sort of topic reminds me how much more sleep I used to get! Its been a great start to the month of May and I'm pretty happy. I'm also thankful that I made such good use of my time in Ann Arbor over the weekend, and grateful for all the people that made it a good one. Thanks everyone!


PS This post will eventually get imported into Facebook, so comments can be made in either place.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Western True Love Myth

We all grow up hearing in various ways that we are meant to find true love. Western society seems to interpret this as finding the one and only soulmate that we are each 'destined' to find. The culture places tremendous value on achieving this vision. The media, and especially so many Hollywood movies, does a great job of drilling this incomplete message into young people.

Although this fanciful idea has some very emotionally positive and "nice" feelings associated with it, it is still critically flawed and misleading in many ways, and at the same time does nothing to correct the misconceptions and pressures placed on those forming ideas about what love is.

I've learned that there is no one soulmate, and that makes me glad, when I consider the odds of discovering that individual among the 6 billion humans out there. (And what if my soulmate is in a tribal village that has no outside contact!!?) The whole idea strikes me as silly, as though there is some magical fairy that picks these two people out at birth. I would counter that there are many people capable of being a great partner to a given individual. Admittedly, the definition of "great" isn't clear either, nor is it generally agreed upon. Still, to use myself as an example, I know that whatever it is that I value in a partner or relationship can be achieved through any one of a very large number of people. That doesn't mean I choose randomly, it just means I have more choices. It is not simply a matter of finding the one "right" choice, but rather being able to see the elements of a great match and know what I deem good for me.

The online dating world does a great job of promoting this different philosophy, and is a shining example as it does this better than other sites like and, from my research. I respect the interface, transparency and algorithms on, not to mention the general attitude of the site. Match and Eharmony are stuck in older internet ideas and don't seem to develop much over the years. On the other hand the young and dynamic site is always changing, developing and analysing their vast array of data to provide useful information. Not to mention, the site is a dozen times more fun. And it is also a dozen times more addictive (which is why I've stopped my 'research'!). I mention this because the site's strategy matches you based on how you answer important questions and how you expect your ideal matches to answer, and provides you many matches with a match percentage, as opposed to pretending that there is that ONE person you need to find. guess I'm saying that taking a scientific approach resonates with me, even in the search for a great partner. As a society it isn't healthy to operate on misconceptions that are culturally reinforced.

Don't think that I don't believe in True Love. I really do, but I simply define it differently. In The Happiness Hypothesis (which might be the most enlightening book I've ever read), Jonathan De Haidt discusses the differences between passionate love (which flares up short term but doesn't last) and companionate love (which constantly grows and eventually overshadows passionate love). I think his model of how human relationships work is very apt. According to De Haidt the Hollywood model of love also tells us that passionate love should last forever, and is the love we should expect to find. The truth is, however, that companionate love is more fulfilling over the long term, and ultimately has more potential in my opinion to make a lasting difference. Both can be good and beneficial, but I do take issue with the false impression that our culture can create. (That being said, the culture is staring to mature.)

There is no need to believe that I will find the one soulmate and have an intensely passionate relationship forever. The relationships I seek aren't based on that advertised idea. Just like my platonic relationships, what I am "romantically" drawn to is building trust and love through bonds over the long term. And I'm not only grateful that I've already experienced that kind of relationship, but also absolutely convinced that I can find it with other people.

Happy Valentine's Day.


PS. This post will be imported automatically into Facebook, but comments are welcome here also.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Sign of Humour

I haven't written an article in a while, but technically, I didn't even write this one! It was forwarded to me in an email, and I don't know who did write it, though I made some minor improvements. If you know me, you'll understand why its funny. If you don't know me, you'll still get a kick out of it. Enjoy!

Sign over a Gynecologist's Office: "Dr. Jones, at your cervix."

In a Podiatrist's office: "Time wounds all heels."

At a Proctologist's door: "To expedite your visit, please back in."

On a Plumber's truck: "We repair what your husband fixed."

On another Plumber's truck: "Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber."

On a Church's Billboard: "7 days without God makes one weak."

At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee: "Invite us to your next blowout."

At a Towing company: "We don't charge an arm and a leg. We want your tows."

On an Electrician's truck: "We'll look into your shorts."

At a Florist: "If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and will take appropriate action."

On a Maternity Room door: "Push. Push. Push."

At an Optometrist's Office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."

On a Taxidermist's window: "We really know our stuff."

On a Fence: "Salesmen welcome! Dog food is expensive!"

On a Septic Tank Truck: "Yesterday's Meals on Wheels"

At a Car Dealership: "The best way to get back on your feet - miss a car payment."

Outside a Muffler Shop: "No appointment necessary. We hear you coming."

In a Veterinarian's waiting room: "Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!"

At the Electric Company: "We would be delighted if you send in your payment. However, if you don't, you will be."

In a Restaurant window: "Don't stand there and be hungry; come on in and get fed up."

In the front yard of a Funeral Home: "Drive carefully. We'll wait."

At a Propane Filling Station: "Thank heaven for little grills."

At the Radiator Shop: "Best place in town to take a leak."

On the back of a Septic Truck in Chicago: "Caution - This Truck is full of Political Promises"

Think you can make some up? Try your hand at it in the comments!


P.S. This entry will be imported into Facebook automatically, but comments are welcome in both places.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Have a Relationship, With The Internet

~ This article appears on Where did My Neurons Go?, and imports directly into Facebook. Comments welcome in both locations. ~

I recently helped a single friend create her online dating profile. It was fun, and I remembered learning the hard way, many years ago. Back then, I would get depressed from lack of responses! I didn't know there was nothing wrong with me. I was simply uneducated about the realities of profile-making.

The amount of effort you put into your profile says a lot. If believe you are unattractive, or feel negatively about your chances, you could subconsciously sabotage your profile and then your worst fears will naturally be confirmed.

Making your profile as good as you can will not only make you feel good, but will generate better responses. A good profile reminds you that you are attractive in many ways. (You are!) At worst, spending the few hours it takes to set it up well is just a good exercise in self-knowledge. This is your marketing material, so don't shortchange yourself!

I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learned. Feel free to share yours through comments!
  • Lesson #1 - Get a great profile picture.
    Would you look at a profile with no picture? If so, stop being so naive! Some estimate that 75% of people ignore profiles without pictures. I estimate that it's closer to 105%. I wouldn't waste my time searching for people whom I may or may not find unattractive. Why waste yours?

  • Lesson #2 - Use several great pictures.
    Everyone can find or take flattering pictures of themselves (read: your facebook photos). There is no excuse for pictures that aren't clear. Have at least one picture that has you smiling, one of you with others, one of you doing something fun/interesting/hilarious, and one with your entire body, with clothes of course! Your own photo collection has both good and bad photos. Do NOT use the bad ones. Its better to have fewer pictures than to have a bad one.

  • Lesson #3 - Don't forget the pictures.

  • Lesson #4 - DON'T FORGET THE PICTURES! Seriously!

  • Lesson #5 - Be truthful.
    Making stuff up can cause trouble later on and also attract people who aren't into the real you. Its unwise to leave out important items, like the fact that you have children. Being upfront about big things is an opportunity to skip people who are uncomfortable with your life, and to encourage people for whom those things are irrelevant, or even actively sought. The internet is trying to help you filter people quickly. So help others filter you -- you already do it to them. Still, being truthful doesn't mean to avoid creating a little mystery since many details don't need to be shared. Just make sure that your true self is represented.

  • Lesson #6 - Be interesting.
    Share some of your unique quirks and interests. If you are worried about being judged, then learn to accept yourself. Being comfortable with yourself is always attractive. Everyone has quirks -- if you don't, then maybe you are in denial. Sure, this lesson isn't really just about online dating, but it still applies.

  • Lesson #7 - Be funny.
    Your unique sense of humour is important, so definitely toss some in. For example, when asked to describe herself with three adjectives, my friend's third adjective was "teal". Hilarious, and intriguing. Its a colour. What!? Exactly. Don't you want to know why? Of course you do. If you think you are too serious to have jokes in your profile, then lighten up. People enjoy laughing.

  • Lesson #8 - Keep your profile the right length.
    A very short profile says little about you. It might suggest to others that you are afraid, or lazy, or possibly self-conscious. Provide some detail to create a fuller image of yourself. Conversely, a very long profile can suggest that you don't know where to stop, that you have poor judgement, or that you are trying too hard. People want to evaluate quickly, so don't tell your life story -- they will probaly gloss over it anyway. Its important to strike a balance. A friend in the demographic you are seeking is often a good source of feedback.

  • Lesson #9 - Don't take anything personally.
    Most people don't even know you. There may not be the best matches for you on your particular site. There can be many reasons for not getting the results you want. Blaming yourself is illogical, because you typically have no idea what the true reasons are. Imagine some plausible reasons for any disappointments, and you will eventually stop being so disappointed. The only thing you can control is your profile, and sometimes even that gets censored by the system!

  • Lesson #10 - Make sure you stand out.
    Your pictures, your profile and your messages should be uniquely you. But you also need to make sure its not the same drivel everyone else uses. Ways to get educated: (a) Do some recon on the competition - browse your own demographic (b) Get feedback from a friend (c) Sign up a second account as someone who is your ideal match, use a very attractive picture, and a sparse profile, then sit back and read all the stupid mail you get from others -- it will be enlightening. Think of it as an experiment, which isn't misleading if you don't contact anyone. Be careful not to fall in love with the person you just created.

To go a little farther, many people try to explain the same things: They're a nice person. They are fun to hang out with. They like long walks on the beach. They enjoy hanging out with friends. They like watching movies. That describes everyone!

Set yourself apart and don't write boring words. Think about how your ideal match filters most profiles because they are all so similar. That's only because the others haven't read this article yet. Now use your advantage and get out there!


Monday, July 20, 2009

Reflections On Another Year #4

Why do we blog? Well, more specifically, why does Daniel blog? (And why does he speak about himself in the third person!?)

My blog's recent sparseness has made me question its reason for being. Here's what I came up with: It tells me about myself, and how I've grown. It helps me understand where I've come from. The writing makes it concrete somehow, while making it public makes it motivational for me, and possibly informative for others. Also, the aspect of creating a discussion forum strikes a chord with me.

Realising that my yearly review is six months overdue has helped me refocus, despite the deadline being self-imposed. I've only written two entries for 2008, correctly concluding that I am too "busy", so I've tried to slow it down by booking vacation time, and making more time for family and friends (some of whom have commented that I occasionally disappear). Also, I've obviously decided to write my yearly review, which admittedly usually takes a few days (or weeks in this case) anyway.

So let me get right to some of the significant happenings I've had this year (okay, year and a half).
  • I got a new job with GM as a manager, recently celebrating my one-year anniversary, and received a great performance review (we still went bankrupt)
  • I opened a US bank account and got a US credit card (difficult for a Canadian with no US credit history)
  • I conducted a 13-person orchestra for a succesful musical, and composed a clarinet part for Catherine
  • I visited Mexico for the first time, work-related
  • I vacationed back to Mexico, and visited Chichen Itza (Mayan ruins), and also had my fourth and best scuba dive off the coast of Playa del Carmen, with David, Katie, Megan and Tyler
  • I visited Australia for the first time, for World Youth Day and saw the Pope from a few feet away, with Scott, Jessica, Todd and others and pumped up the statistics: Countries visited: 17. Popes seen at arms length: 2
  • I saw the Dalai Lama in person at a talk he gave with Laura, Emily and others
  • I got an Apple laptop in a flash of bravery (must learn shortcut keys!)
  • I authored two and a half new songs that are album material
  • I recorded another original song in the recording studio with Chris
  • I helped to organise a retreat with Sean, Anne, Lauren,Tom, Claudia and Mike and spoke about my thoughts on prayer life
  • I played a lot of soccer, and added trail biking to my sports (thanks Sean!)
  • I participated in an Engineering competition to help the deaf experience music with Sean and Chris, resurrecting my digital signals processing skills
  • I helped build and care for an organic garden with Josh and (almost) Kabir
  • I met several American dignitaries during a tour and press conference at work, including: Jennifer Granholm (Governor of Michigan), John Dingell (US Congressman), Hilda Solis (US Secretary of Labor), Ed Montgomery (an Obama Auto Task Force Director), Alan Lambert (Mayor of Romulus, Michigan)
  • I performed a bunch of consulting work in Toronto for Pearl
  • I cleared out most of my belongings in Toronto (through recycling and donation, I generated only half a bag of trash)
  • My long-term relationship ended with sadness after many wonderful memories

But I don't want to just list all the important happenings in my life. I'm trying to fully internalise the idea that what I'm learning and how I grow matters most. So here are some of the things I think I've been learning:

  • Money can be seen as the ability to do what you want with your time
  • Reluctance to burden others can be unhealthy, allowing others to help is often needed
  • People generally can't fundamentally change, nor should they, and we must learn to accept others and ourselves as we are
  • It is often incorrect yet easy to feel responsible for others' actions and feelings
  • The only person who takes care of one's best interests is oneself
  • Sustainability, diversification and balance can be applied to everything in life
  • Everyone wants to be listened to, understood and acknowledged
  • What we believe about ourselves, we often create in our lives, positive or negative
  • Our conscious and subconscious mind should agree for maximum strength of purpose
  • Making time for oneself is a powerful step toward appropriately making time for others

That brings me back to the concept of the blog itself. Writing seems to be something I do primarily for myself and that I can be proud of. If I have so few entries this year, perhaps I'm not making enough time for myself. So, I have about six months before my next entry is "due", and I plan on writing at least four quality blog entries. Please suggest an interesting topic that you'd like me to break down!


P.S. This entry will be imported into Facebook automatically, but comments are welcome in both places.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Everything Comes From Somewhere

It is common knowledge that Jesus is reported to have explained that it is not what we put into our mouths, but what comes out of our mouths that makes us unclean. While it is certainly true that there are many things we should not ingest, I see that bible passage referring primarily to the morality of what we say and do as being more important than how we eat.

In today's world, however, what we do and how we eat are far less separable than at the time of Jesus. In fact, with the advent of Factory Farming and CAFOs, Chemical pesticides, artificial/synthetic edible ingredients, and many other industrial applications in "food manufacturing", what we eat is inextricably linked with factors such as the treatment of the planet, of animals and our own bodies, not to mention those of whom we provide food to. To celebrate the increased efficiencies of the industrial food system while ignoring the many negative effects is to ignore our obvious responsibility for the welfare of ourselves and our communities.

The planet-friendly revolution of the '80s and '90s included the terms Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, which at one point were novel concepts, listed in order of importance. These are now commonplace terms, as people have globally accepted the intrinsic value of reduced general consumption for our planet. Regarding food, however, the landscape is far more complex. We have literally thousands of choices of what to buy and eat at our hands everyday, but how to positively affect our world is not as obvious. Another factor is that we've been living in a golden age of food -- we have been able to, until recently, get anything we want, anytime, anywhere, for a cheap price, not unlike the decades of diverse consumer products we have enjoyed. I'd like to mention some of things I'm learning about this, with respect to what we eat, and maybe provide some food for thought, as we find we are losing that golden age of food prices.

Organic food: At first I thought "organic" was about putting healthy things into my body, rather than synthetic chemicals. This was a noble pursuit of course, but in all honesty, I was not convinced that organic food was always better than non-organic. There wasn't much evidence to say that this was always the case. However, I think we can all intuitively expect that it would be better nutritionally and less toxic for our bodies, and certification helps us identify these foods. But I have since learned that organic isn't about only the health-benefits of the food you are eating. In fact, far MORE important in my opinion, is the often-missed fact that organic food is hands-down better for the environment - it requires zero chemical usage and has the potential to drastically reduce the toxins and pollutants that are accelerating the loss of diminishing fertile land resources. Land is kept more fertile when organic agriculture is practiced. Because this cuts off pollution to both the water table, in fact, it may be more helpful to our health indirectly, rather than looking at the nutritional content alone, let alone the health of farm labourers. On the down side, organic can cost a lot more, usually 10% to 40% more, as organic crop yields aren't boosted by chemical means, but I've asked myself how sustainably I am acting, and whether this new information should change my outlook. In fact it did considerably, and I am now willing to spend more to support organic choices wherever I can. I'm not alone: Organic food is the fastest growing sector of the American food marketplace.

Local and/or Seasonal: Again, here is somewhere I have grown. I understood the concept of supporting the local economy, and also keeping those who live near you in business because they are, for lack of a better word, more connected to me. Again, this is a positive thing. But what I have learned here was subtle too -- the other reason locally grown food and produce can make a difference, is because of the transportation costs of moving all that produce around the world. I can normally buy certain types of foods all year round, but if I don't consider that they have been shipped from somewhere farther away, then I also don't realise that it contributes to rising emissions, greenhouse gases, and pollution. If some pears come from overseas, I question whether I could afford the higher-cost locally grown ones, and usually I can. It is possible that overseas transportation environmental costs are actually lower than some local energy-intensive agricultural methods, so local isn't always better, but transportation is an important and ignored component of food production. Naturally this all means that I need to rethink my long-held attitude that I've had, which has been pervasively accumulated in our culture for decades, the attitude that "all the foods that I want should be available all the time". In fact, we have completely lost our appreciation of nature's seasons. Certain foods are in season at one time, but then not in season at other times. If I buy foods that are out of season, the environment automatically incurs transportation costs. For food that is in season, you can be sure that it will be fresher and taste better when grown locally.

Fairly Traded: This is a term that wasn't in my vocabulary 5 years ago. Although my attitude then was a common consumer attitude that things should always be very cheap, it has now evolved. When something is really cheap, I now have started asking myself WHY it is so cheap. There is rarely a free lunch (pun intended) -- if something is too cheap to be produced by people at a fair wage (coffee is a common example), then perhaps it was produced in conditions that do not respect human rights. Not to say that price is the only indicator, as there is fair-trade certification that attempts to help us understand the nature of the products we buy. I simply have evolved to consider the origins of what I am eating. My main learning here has been that simply everything we eat comes from SOMEWHERE and that this matters.

Consumers are used to ignoring the supply chain. I am now asking myself more and more how and from where that food came from. Mostly, I can't ignore the reality of what my purchases are supporting. Now that's not to say that I make these choices all the time (I'm sometimes willing to pay up to double the cost, but not much more), but I am right now undergoing the process of changing how I think. I think it will be a life-long process, and I suspect that my diet and buying habits will continue to change, as they have been for years now (it might surprise some of you that I don't drink soft-drinks/pop anymore). Sometimes it is uncomfortable to ask myself questions that I could easily ignore, but I cannot forget my responsibility to my greater communities. Just as in working, voting and family life, we all have responsibilities to something greater than ourselves, the same applies to food. I'm ready to admit I don't know everything, although I do know that I'm not ready to become a vegan. Yet, I am always ready to learn more about my food choices.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reflections On Another Year #3

As a general rule, I try to do my yearly reflection within a month after each birthday, and I feel late on this one. I didn't really plan anything special at all for my birthday this year. In fact I was so busy worrying about all the things that needed doing for my upcoming musical that I didn't really plan any celebration time. I did attempt to merge a quasi-celebration with my friend Jolene at a restaurant, but as it turns out none of her people could make it, so I cancelled it... actually she cancelled it first, and I cancelled the process of inviting my people to a cancelled event.

I spent the whole day at church and in rehearsals. Now it may sound like I'm complaining, but in fact rehearsing was still fun, because I enjoy all that time with music and the people involved (the Joseph family), even working on it on my birthday. After that, though, what actually made it feel like a birthday was that Laura actually baked me a surprise birthday cake, and this was no ordinary cake -- it simply dwarfed the word delicious, and though it seems crazy, it tasted even better than that because of the caring that I knew went into it -- in fact it might be the best cake I've ever tasted in my life. So I spent the evening with her and we just talked and hung out together, which made it a fantastic day. I even got a few phone calls from various people which was nice. Overall I think I fared pretty well!

But the thing that surprised me most was how many messages I got on Facebook (this might just be my first birthday after being pressured to sign up by my now facebook-friends). Even people I haven't heard from in a while send me a birthday greeting, and I'm now starting to appreciate how convenient facebook is, because when we see so many people writing on someone's wall, then we're more likely to realise it might be their birthday, for example, and many things like this can strengthen a community of people... almost like a support network, except in electronic form. As much as I was against facebook at one time, I'm starting to realise some of its benefits... although I still worry about privacy concerns, as I did before being coerced into signing up.

Again I feel like I've had tremendous personal and professional development this year (again!), so I will try to recap some things, but I'm not going to categorise anything as good or bad or hard like I did last time. Most of the time experiences are there to learn from, regardless of whether you call them good or bad.

  • I finally became a fully licensed Professional Engineer in Ontario, and you can look me up!
  • Recorded one of my original songs in a recording studio (waiting on post-production still), for a friend's project dealine, which is something I've been dying to do for a long time, and I'm thinking I could do more recording to produce my album eventually
  • Broke up on really good terms from my longest relationship
  • I briefly broke my land speed record again (229 km/h) on a trip on the German Autobahn (but this is getting old in a way)
  • Conducted a musical for the first time working with a fantastic orchestra and cast to create our own version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • I went to Goa, India for Christmas for the second time, and spent a week with my parents and friends (who just happened to be there!)
  • I took my first real vacation in about 5 years without my cel phone or work email
  • Went scuba diving in the ocean for my second time (with swimming-pool training!)
  • Achieved Platinum Status on Northwest Airlines, but lost Platinum Status at the Marriott
  • I didn't publish very many blog entries
  • Started a great new relationship with a lot of potential
  • Wrote some new songs on the guitar
  • Designed a website for a condominium complex

Again I feel like I've had tremendous personal and professional development this year (again!), so I will try to recap some things, but I'm not going to categorise anything as good or bad or hard like I did last time. Most of the time experiences are there to learn from, regardless of whether you call them good or bad.

  • Ideas and thoughts seem less and less absolute, as I am starting to see the multitude of interpretations and perceptions that form reality for everyone
  • I feel more able to access my feeling at times of difficulty and am learning to understand them better
  • I trust myself much more than I did only a few years ago
  • Stepping in to help solve others' problems doesn't necessarily make things better, it is better to ask what they need rather than make assumptions
  • When someone hurts you, there can often be a vast complexity of reasons, and initially it is very easy to react without understanding that complexity
  • Important relationships can end, but this isn't something that is automatically negative
  • It is wrong to believe that everything has a simple easy solution - in fact most difficult problems don't, and it is often unrealistic to expect to find one, so it is a waste of energy to be confused, upset or disappointed about being unable to 'solve' a problem
  • Feelings are very important, and the value of understanding your feelings and being able to communicate them clearly and appropriately cannot be overestimated
  • Spending money on good healthy food is well worth it
  • Cooking is not a mystery once you get a few ideas, it is actually an art form
  • Beauty occurs during quiet moments
  • It is not our achievements, but it is our choices that tell us who we are

I await what is in store for me this coming year, and if the pattern holds, it will be even better than the previous one.