2016 in review: In which some cosmic entity laughs at all of us

2016 was an interesting year in that ancient Chinese curse sort of way.

Here are my high and lowlights of the year.

The Good

  • work is fine, if busy and a bit stressful; I assumed a temporary leadership role for a month with zero preparation and came out intact
  • started and finished the year without any running-related injuries
  • recovered nicely from an injury in the late spring and ran all through summer and into fall
  • also did not let falling almost literally on my face keep me from running when I tripped big-time on a run in August
  • an entire year without Stephen Harper as PM, yay!
  • Star Trek Beyond was better than the trailers suggested–not great, but a pleasant surprise
  • kept writing regularly on this blog with minimal gaps
  • took part in my eighth consecutive National Novel Writing Month contest
  • did not fall while out in the snow
  • all medical tests came out fine, including the dreaded poo-on-a-stick

The Bad

  • I started the year around 170 pounds and vowed to get down to 150 by year’s end. As of October 13th, I was 153.7 pounds–within reach! As of today, I am 165.9 pounds. I am now only within reach if someone suddenly bursts through the door and performs liposuction on me. This is very disappointing and I resolve to do better in 2017. The main culprits were a) lack of running b) lack of walking (I typically walk about an hour each day) and c) no change in diet. Apparently I ingest more calories than I burn off most days. I’ll be eating more sensibly and exercising more in the year ahead.
  • four significant snowfalls in December. This is weird and unnatural for the lower mainland. Stop, snow!
  • ended the year with a sore back (since recovered) and a cold (still ongoing)
  • running routine fell apart in mid-October due to lack of light after work and a bad cold; still working on putting together a new routine, which is complicated by the above-mentioned snow
  • 60 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, possibly the least qualified person to ever be nominated by a major party; thanks to the inane electoral college system, he won, despite getting 2.8 million fewer votes than Clinton–now the world gets to experience what a narcissistic, bullying, ignorant, sexist, venal, racist manchild is like as president. Thanks, America!
  • floundered in NaNoWriMo 2016 at about 10,000 words in. My vow if I do it again is to outline and plan like never before (because I usually never plan or outline)
  • fiction writing limped along and sputtered out by year’s end–I have taken some steps to address this for 2017

The Ugly

  • I now know that tens of millions of Americans will literally vote for anyone (or possibly anything) as long as the desired tribal affiliation is attached (either an R or a D)
  • it really seemed like a lot of celebrities died this year; some probably felt they had targets on their backs by year’s end
  • terrorism became the favorite means of nihilism–a discouraging and depressing trend that benefits no one and nothing
  • racism and nationalism are surging everywhere. It really feels like we are entering one of the darker phases of humanity.
  • polar ice caps continuing to melt; climate change is happening regardless of the feelings of deniers

I’d say 2017 couldn’t possibly be worse but in fact, it can! Here’s hoping it won’t be.

And good riddance to 2016.

 New Year Resolutions for 2017 (assuming the world is still here by 2018)

It is time to make resolutions because tradition demands we make silly promises, break them, express regret, then do the whole thing over again a year later, which is just enough time to convince ourselves that this time will be different.

That said, my goal to get to 150 pounds this year was going quite well until mid-October. By then I was at 153 pounds and was still running regularly, having recovered nicely from an injury in the early spring (and having escaped battered but without any broken bits in my Great Tripping Incident in August). Then two things happened:

  1. I caught a very nasty cold. It laid me out for a couple of weeks and I missed a bunch of runs.
  2. Simultaneously, the sun began setting early enough that by the time I was healthy again I could no longer run my usual routes after work because it was now dark and I’d be attacked and carried away by vampire bats.

To address #2 I kept running on the weekends, but once a week is not enough to keep in shape. I pondered running during lunch at work but did not commit to it for various reasons. I thought about using the treadmill at the Canada Games Pool but my partner kept offering to go and then not really wanting to, which made it easy for me to decide that yes, it was easier to just sit at home and eat bags of Bugles instead.

This is all to say that about two months later I am up to 164 pounds, an impressive backslide. Gaining weight is very easy. If I made that a resolution I’d have 51 weeks left to work on any and all other resolutions.

My first resolution, therefore, will not be a huge surprise.

My Resolutions for 2017 Assuming Donald Trump
Doesn’t Destroy the World

  • drop to 145 pounds. Yes, I’m actually making the goal tougher for 2017. Secretly this was always my goal and 150 pounds was a soft target. I’ve been as low as 143 pounds and it’s definitely not too skinny on my frame. Though I am kind of skinny, anyway.
  • run at least three times a week barring injury or other extraordinary circumstance. I would previously include “the entire city covered in snow” being an extraordinary circumstance but really, there are gyms and treadmills, so this doesn’t qualify. It’s also the minimum needed to keep in decent shape.
  • no farmers tan. I wear t-shirts when running and as a result when I remove my shirt I a) blind anyone nearby with my ultra-white untanned body and b) get mocked for having conspicuously tanned arms right up to where the sleeves of my t-shirts sit. My solution this year will be to wear sleeveless shirts (I already have a few) and maybe a few stints working on a wee bit of a tan for my upper body. I might entertain the thought of running without a shirt when the weather is warmer but I’m not sure I should subject the world to that.
  • killer abs. Yes, the time has come to work on my upper body, especially if I’m not going to have an unseemly farmers tan. I haven’t decided how to do this yet. I have dumbbells but I tried them before and didn’t like them much. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I won’t like anything I try to achieve this goal. It will be an interesting challenge.
  • eat better. This means fewer Bugles and saying no when offered candy. Currently, I tend to say yes except you can’t hear the actual word because I’m already shoving the candy into my mouth.
  • learn to swim. Haha, no. I’m not trying that again! Well, maybe. But only if I can learn with people who really can’t swim, not the bunch of cheaters I was grouped with when I took lessons in 2009.

That covers my health-oriented goals. Now onto being a better person in various ways.

  • write 1,000 words a day. No exceptions except under extraordinary circumstances like every keyboard, pen, pencil and other writing instrument in the world suddenly disappear and even then I could scratch out words in the dirt with a sturdy twig. These 1,000 words are to be fiction, so blog posts don’t count.
  • read at least 32 books. I’d love to bump this to 52 and do a book a week but I simply can’t read that fast. Maybe I could make speed reading a 2018 goal.
  • be a positive influence to others. I have no specifics on this. I’ll just try to think before I post, be nice and smile (but not in a creepy sort of way).
  • win the lottery. I’d spend the money wisely, I promise!

That’s good for now. If I think of more I’ll add them and I’ll try to re-visit the list periodically to see how I’m doing. I expect tears.

 Top 10 ways the world could end

What better time to contemplate world-ending disasters than the holiday season?

  1. Meteor/asteroid/comet strike. A big one would wipe out most life on the planet within weeks. On the plus side, we wouldn’t suffer for long.
  2. Global pandemic. The Black Death killed as many as 200 million in Europe in the 14th century and that was without convenient air travel allowing the infected to hopscotch the planet, spreading disease as the go.
  3. Trump starts some kind of nuclear war. I call out Trump specifically because he is more likely than anyone else on the planet to think using nukes is a good idea, and then to actually use them. It would be tough to wipe out all life, though, because most other leaders would probably be smart enough to hold off.
  4. The sun dies. This one will actually happen, but we’re good for a few more billion years or so.
  5. Climate change goes amok. The signs aren’t good. The biggest concern would be climate change making basic resources like food and water scarce, even in developed countries. This could see billions die as areas where people can comfortably live and food can be grown will shrink dramatically. Tip: Don’t invest in Miami beachfront property.
  6. Aliens vaporize our planet to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Let’s face it, we’d be hard-pressed to give them a good reason not to do this.
  7. An unprecedented solar storm strips away the atmosphere. You can only hold your breath for so long.
  8. A different sun a few light years away goes supernova, baking the Earth like a clay pot. Suns can be real jerks sometimes.
  9. One or more super volcanoes erupt. As befits their super designation, these volcanoes can alter the global climate in a way that would kind of kill almost everything, thanks to years of ash-filled skies.
  10. Gravity stops working and everything just floats off into space. It’s just a theory, after all. Maybe it’s controlled by molemen in the center of the Earth and they all go on strike for better pay or free Netflix.

 Five best things about snow in Vancouver

  1. It’s better than molten lava pouring down the streets.
  2. It makes things ever so slightly quieter outside, creating a pseudo-small town ambience.
  3. There’s no chance of it piling up between May and August (note: this may change in a few decades).
  4. Provides opportunity to build cool forts at no cost (cool forts–get it?!)
  5. As far as we know, snow doesn’t cause cancer.

The current forecast calls for 3-7 cm of snow on Saturday. This qualifies as a moderate amount of snow. Sunday’s forecast is 22 mm of rain, turning the freshly fallen snow into less-than-fresh piles of slush. Fortunately (?) the rest of the week looks wet enough (and above freezing) that it should wash away whatever remnants of the white stuff that survives the weekend.

Running on Sunday is looking a tad dicey, though. I’ve never run in slush and it’s not something that makes my socks roll up and down in excitement, either.

Basically I’m ready for summer.

Random thoughts for December 9th

  • It’s been snowing most of the day and into the evening. This is the most snow we’ve had since the Great Snow of 2008. I expect it to end in giant lakes of slush, as is the tradition of big Vancouver snowfalls.
  • After a week of near or just-below freezing temperatures it’s finally starting to get a little cool in the condo. Without turning the heat on it plunges down to…22ºC.
  • I like tacos.
  • I missed my second drawing for December. I should probably have picked a day to do them (eg. every Monday) instead of a date (eg. the first day of the month, then one week later, then another week later, etc.). I’ll draw something on the weekend. A blizzard, maybe.
  • I’m seriously thinking about buying an electric razor because I’ve come to loathe using a razor blade and shaving cream. I want to shave and go as quickly as possible so I have more time to write lists of random thoughts.
  • I completed my Goodreads Book Challenge for 2016, reading 32 of 32 books. I’ve since read #33 and am working on #34 now. This is the one perk of a long commute.
  • Why does the SkyTrain run slow in the snow when there is no actual snow on the rails?
  • The Goretex jacket is paying off.
  • Next week I start on the road back to 150 again after a month and a half of backsliding due to a) usual level of snacking combined with b) no lunchtime walks c) lunch and d) a lot less running.
  • The sun set at 4:13 p.m. today. I hate winter.

Albums or music I would like to see (but never will)

(Ignore for a moment that you can’t actually see music, unless it’s on a sheet.)

Nostalgia is fun, but sometimes it’s best to remember what was and not what might be.

  • a new Pink Floyd album featuring the Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright line-up. This won’t happen because Rick Wright is dead, for one, David Gilmour would never agree to it for another, and even if all four were around and agreed, I doubt they could recapture their best work. The dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb.
  • a new Alan Parson Project album. Not one of Parsons’ solo efforts, but a reunion between Parsons and his co-creator of the Project, Eric Woolfson. Woolfson died a few years ago and the closest the two came to working together again was when Parsons remastered their entire catalog. Given the time apart to each do what each wanted (Parsons toured with a live band, Woolfson staged original musicals), I think they might have produced something decent with a one-time reunion.
  • R.E.M. with the original Berry, Buck, Mills and Stipe. line-up. R.E.M. produced some great material after Berry quit but they also produced some of their most uninspired music, too and it was obvious at the end that Mills and Stipe were glad to leave it all behind. A one-off album with no obligations between the four of them, something that would be a fusion of their original sound–jangly Byrds-style rock–with the best of their more sophisticated later work would likely be a worthy listen.
  • an album of original material featuring the vocals of Barbra Streisand but written by a strong songwriter, not someone who would write timid or predictable pop schlock. Streisand has an amazing, powerful voice but her rare forays into pop music (Guilty, etc.) are undermined by material that is often pedestrian. I can’t actually think of a good fit here right now because I’m out of touch with much of the contemporary music scene, so insert your favorite songwriter here.
  • another Simon and Garfunkel reunion. Just kidding. I would like to see some sort of Simon and Garfunkel-esque collaboration, though. For one half of this duo I nominate Mike Mills, former bassist of R.E.M.
  • I’m not sure I’d actually like to see this, but it would at least be interesting to behold what Billy Joel would have to say with 23 years having lapsed since his last album, 1993’s River of Dreams. Would he be an angry old man or merely cranky?

Things I wish I could do

In no particular order:

  • play a musical instrument without causing people to scream or cry
  • experience genuine passion for something
  • run without falling (again)
  • try out VR
  • jump ahead 100 years to see what it’s like
  • go back and fix three random screw-ups from when I was a kid
  • find the work best-suited for me
  • never have stuffed up sinuses
  • sing, sing a song
  • uninvent dubstep
  • fly, because it would be cool

Six more things I like

Here’s a list of six more things I like. The original six can be found here.

  • Pizza. It can be sweet, savory, crunchy, hot, cold. You can have it delivered to your door. It’s the perfect food.
  • Chai tea
  • Lazing in the grass on a warm summer day
  • Reading a page-turner (defined as “I can’t wait to stop [name of activity] so I can get back to this book!”)
  • Mechanical keyboards, especially with blue switches. Clack clack clack!
  • Low travel keyboards because sometimes I prefer the immediate feedback and not waking the dead with my typing
  • New pillows

The list is seven items since I mentioned keyboards twice. I could probably make a list entirely of keyboards I like. It’s a little weird (as I look around I can see five keyboards for two computers. There’s a sixth keyboard in another room).

Ending April with a few positive thoughts and shoes

I just had a bath and am infused with a warm feeling and I also smell good. I mean, even better than normal. I smell fantastic.

Because I am in such a soothed frame of mind and smell so great, here’s a list of small but positive things to end the month on:

  • the weather is very nice today. Sunny and warm, with a light breeze. Weather Underground is reporting 19.3ºC at 6:15 p.m. and is predicting a high of 24 for tomorrow.
  • they finally re-opened the north exit at the Lougheed Town Centre SkyTrain station. It’s been closed for a few years, with an awkward and slippery-when-wet wooden staircase serving as an alternate route in the interim. The remodeled exit has that “new exit” look to it. You know what I mean.
  • I shaved today and it is probably the closest, smoothest shave I’ve had in years. I can’t keep my hands off this incredibly smooth, sexy face of mine.
  • I got my replacement Hoka Speedgoats, yay! I’ll talk more about them in a separate post, because I need to pad things out tonight.
  • I had a chicken bowl. These are especially satisfying after walking for an hour.
  • I’m below 164 pounds and getting within sight of my weight loss goal. That much less to carry when running.
  • I finished my taxes and should get around $450 back. Better than a kick in the pants, as Grandpa used to say.
  • I am not aware of any beloved celebrities dying suddenly in the last 24 hours


* I have no idea if either of my grandfathers said this, but I’m sure someone’s grandfather did

Random questions February 8 2016 edition

  • Back in the pre-Internet days, how did people come up with pithy quotes to pop into conversations, magazine articles and books? Did they memorize a bunch they liked, waiting for a chance to use them? Were quotes so often repeated that you’d find yourself finishing a quote someone else started quoting? Did people buy books of quotations and study them with the fervor of a student the night before a big exam? I wonder because now with the Internet it is trivially easy to find quotes said by anyone about anything.
  • Why have personal computers evolved so little in 40 years? In 1976 the first Apple computer was being built by Jobs and Wozniak. Five years later the IBM PC debuted. Look inside one and then look inside a PC from 2016 and they are immediately identifiable as being the same thing. There’s a motherboard, there’s ram and drives and cables and all of it is put together in a clunky kind of way that seems designed to draw blood should you have reason to tinker inside one. Actually, this is probably due to computers largely being commodity items. There’s little reason to innovate or improve on the low end, so it’s inertia and the steady improvement of technology combined with reduced costs that lead to things like the 5.25 inch floppy drive giving way to the 3.5 inch floppy drive and so on. Where pricing is more at a premium, like in the ultrabook market, you do see much nicer machines. Sure, they can’t be as easily expanded as a typical PC box but in exchange you get machines that are fast, light and far less likely to make you bleed. Okay, this turned out to be kind of an obvious question.
  • Why do people like to complain? Does it release a specific pleasure-inducing chemical? I could look the answer up but I’m lazy and I kind of like clinging to the mystery.
  • Why do so many dog owners let their dogs off-leash in areas that are clearly not off-leash?
  • How do countries evolve to have driving on the left or right side of the road?
    • Related: Do countries follow the same rules for which side of an escalator to stand/walk on?
  • Why do we still find violence the go-to solution for so many problems when it almost never actually solves anything?
    • Related: Why do so many politicians believe you can bomb an ideology out of existence?
  • Which is more likely to be real: aliens, the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot?
  • Who would win in a fight, aliens, the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot?
  • Why do I have literally hundreds of games but only ever play WoW and a Mahjong game on my iPad?
  • How do I make myself write fiction again? Are truly passionate people rare or am I just easily distracted?
  • Why do crowds of people move so inefficiently?
  • Is Social Media Widget a good band name?
  • How long will it take for humans to evolve past the need for sleep?
  • If I could remember all of my dreams in exact detail, would I want to?
  • If you get into an argument in a conflict resolution training course, do you pass or fail?
  • Seriously, what was Lovecraft thinking when he named his cat Nigger Man and then used the same name in a story?

Things I’m looking forward to in the next six months

  • Daylight Savings Time resumes on March 13. Goodbye, leaving for work and getting home when it’s still dark, how I shall not miss thee.
  • Being able to jog after work because of the aforementioned DST
  • In slightly over four months it will officially be summer and warm and sunny and men will walk around with their shirts off
  • Tomorrow is a statutory holiday and the high is forecast to be an unusually balmy 15ºC
  • I’m reasonably confident I will finally be over this #$@%^ hellcold
  • Completing the second draft of my novel, Road Closed. It could happen!
  • Winning millions of dollars in the 6/49. I know I’ve written about winning the lottery before. I’m fairly sure if you write about it when a bunch of planets are in alignment and while also suffering a hellcold and having just eaten some Triscuit crackers, it totally happens. $10 million would by a lot of decongestant.

Things I don’t miss from the 1970s

In 1970 I was six years old. Candy bars cost ten cents and I had a monster green tricycle that could easily have been featured in a kids horror movie. Maybe any horror movie. It was a terror to behold and to ride.

But for all the nostalgia I have for those formative years from age six to sixteen, there are a few things I’m happy to have left behind:

  • the 8-track tape. I’ve written about this before so suffice to say that as a music format it was terrible.
  • long hair. What was I thinking? I was not thinking.
  • rotary dial telephones
  • TVs with knobs, TVs without color
  • Pop Rocks candy
  • that KISS TV movie
  • puberty