Archive for December, 2008

Coming to the end of something is always very sobering, which is probably why so many people are going to get drunk tonight.  As much as we’ll all be celebrating the beginning of something new, we’ll also mourn and celebrate the year that was.

Naught-Eight was a year that will be remembered in this neck of the woods for back-breaking shovelling during record snowfalls.  It’s the year that the Canadian parliament was prorogued and we went from having insanely boring politics to having insanely weird and exciting politics, all with the same players.  It was the year the Leafs didn’t make the playoffs (like most) and the year that the Oscars were boring (like most).

For me, this year was full of milestones.  In March, I turned 30 and cried for days on end, and I also drove in the worst snowstorm I’ve ever seen to be with my Grandma on her 90th birthday, after which she smiled and laughed for days on end (I have a lot to learn from her about aging gracefully).  In October, I got caught in a romantic rainstorm on the streets of Madrid with my beautiful wife by my side, on our one-year wedding anniversary, and I learned that when everyone says the first year of marriage is the hardest, it may be true, but it’s not that hard at all.

So, 2008 was a pretty great year for me and I’m really looking forward to 2009.  Many of our friends will be having kids, my sister and brother-in-law will have their second (making me an uncle for the second time) and we’ll spend weekends abroad with friends and family.  We’ll spend time at the cottage alone and with others, and I’ll play lots of guitar and write in my Moleskines, but the surprises will be the best part.

In case I don’t see you tonight, Happy New Year to you and yours and best of luck shaking off 2008 and welcoming 2009.

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There’s nothing new on TV, and although the new shows all wrapped up weeks ago, at least you had Christmas movies and specials to keep you entertained before.  So, what now?

Many movie theatres offer cheaper tickets for matinee shows on weekdays.  So, what are you doing reading this when you could have almost an entire theatre to yourself for a private screening of whatever movie you feel like seeing?

You could always start putting away your Christmas decorations, but that sounds a little too much like work, so why not head outside and build a snowfort in your front yard.  If you start around midday , you’ll have plenty of time in the afternoon to hide out and ambush passerbys with volleys of snowballs.

Personally, I like to take this time to become more familiar with all my recently-received Christmas presents.  Chances are that anything I got that comes with an instruction manual has already been cracked open and played with, but this is the time to actually read the manual and learn how the designer intended it to be used.  This may sound like work, but it’s actually play.

Most importantly, stay hydrated.  I recommend either wine or beer, but don’t mix them together.  Also, keep your energy up with turkey leftovers and regular infusions of gravy on warmed bread.  Just try to keep your spirits up and we’ll all make it to New Years Eve together and in one piece.

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If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re stuck in your office for the void that is the weekdays beteween Christmas and New Years.  Personally, I love working during the lull, but this year I’m travelling through Quebec visiting family, so here’s my take on the lull.

No one is around.  No one is calling or emailing you, and the last thing anyone who IS around wants to do it work.  This is prime shopping, web-surfing and emailing time.  If you want to return some ill-advised Christmas gifts or want to check out a movie, no one will ever notice you’re gone for hours on end.

Despite your workplace’s dress code, anything goes right now.  Jeans, sweats or even a velvet jumpsuit.  The world is your oyster and no one will see you anyways, not even on your commute as the roads and public transportation systems are all empty.

Feel free to take advantage of this time to prank the cubicles of your co-workers who took off during the lull.  You have days to execute, so take your time and be creative.  Keep in mind that you have a dried-out Christmas tree at home that you no longer need and will just barely fit in Bob’s cubicle.

So, get back to watching hilarious clips on YouTube and Merry Lullmas!

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Many people believe that Boxing Day has something to do with boxing up your Christmas decorations, or with hitting up Big Box Stores for huge savings on household items, electronics, clothing and anything else that can be purchased through the mechanations of commerce.  These people are wrong.  Here’s what Boxing Day is REALLY all about…

Christmas Day is filled with hopes and dreams, the joy of giving and euphoria of receiving, but that’s all over by mid-morning.  What follows is an orgy of over-indulgence in all manner of delicious food that leaves everyone feeling lethargic and full of self-loathing at their gluttony.  These meals with family are often tainted by snide comments from loved-ones about everything from weight-gain to failed career aspirations, but thanks to tryptophan (the chemical in turkey that makes you sleepy) you’re too tired to do anything about it, and you end up going to bed sleepy, but passive aggresively irate.

However, on December 26th, you awake renewed, full of energy and ready to avenge all those comments fueled by your regret at the third helping of stuffing loaded down with fatty gravy.  It’s payback time.

So, strap on those gloves and challenge everyone to three rounds in the driveway.  I suggest starting with the weaker members first to warm up.  Maybe grandparents and small children, who usually go down on the first or second punch.  These easy wins serve two other purposes; to boost your confidence at being able to take down opponents, and to wage psychological warfare on your stronger opponents to come.

Best of luck in the cage of death, and don’t forget to pick up some deals at the Big Box Stores.

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All the Christmas specials have aired and all the decorations are on the tree and around the house.  The baking is done, and the turkey is set to come once the presents are opened.  All the stress of shopping and running around is falling away like snowflakes from the sky, and hopefully you are surrounded by loved ones.

Even if you’re not (especially if you’re not), this is a good time to reflect on why we’re celebrating at all today.  The story goes that a couple of thousand years ago, in a faraway land, the hope for mankind was born in a filthy barn.  This child, born of a promise and a miracle, would grow to become a kind, not in the traditional sense, but a king nonetheless.

So, today, let’s celebrate that hope, that promise and that miracle.

Merry Christmas from my family to you and yours.

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Things aren’t looking that great for our 600km trek to the Ottawa Valley later today, and although we haven’t cancelled our plans (yet), our 5 hour drive is starting to look more like an 8 hour one.  Still, it could be much worse.  We could be stuck in an airport waiting for a flight that may never come.

In prepration for the holidays, I’ve written blog posts right through New Years, so be sure to check back every weekday for new content.  It’s my gift to you, my readers.  I might even post from the road if I get some good pictures or have a great story to share.

Since I’m taking off from the office shortly, let me just finish by wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas, and safe travels for all your loved ones.

Merry Christmas!

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Coming from a family that is notoriously hard to shop for, and who (despite constant prodding since late October) don’t really come through in providing gift lists (more on this in a second), I’m usually left to do my Christmas shopping at the last minute.  Alas, as of a few minutes ago, I’m done aside from a bottle of wine and some Tim Hortons gift cards (gotta look after the Postie, after all).

For me, wish lists are a really thoughtful tool of guidance for family members.  It’s not like you HAVE to buy from it, but it can provide a window into the wants of loved ones whose wants might not be immediately apparent to you.

Anyways, on to the tips:

  • Go to stores the moment they open, usually around 10am
    You won’t be as swamped by other shoppers and salespeople are fresh from a good night’s sleep and not worn out by idiotic shoppers, so you get more attentive service.
  • Have plenty of cash, and use it
    Most big chains have a cash only line that will be shorter than debit or credit lines.  Plus, the people behind you will be friendlier when they see you won’t be taking an extra 5 minutes fidgeting with the card swipe thingy, and you get an extra 5 minutes.
  • Bring snacks
    This one is pretty clear.  A hungry shopper is a bitter shopper.
  • Lose the jacket
    Sweating while shopping is annoying.  Try to leave your jacket in the car, or stash it in a locker at a mall.  Comfort is key.
  • A good shoulder bag that can hold A LOT
    This frees your hands of purchases and makes carrying your gifts a lot easier.  Plus, the rule of size means that you can use it to force your way through crowds, or swing into the whiny kid ahead of you in line in the hopes that you’ll knock him or her unconscious to the relief of everyone in the store… his or her parents included.
  • Know what you’re going to buy before you go in
    Don’t dawdle in the aisles.  Go online before you head out (and before the stores open) and you’ll know what you want, where it is in the store, and how much it will be.

There you go.  With barely one whole shopping day left, I hope these tips come in handy, and I’ll try to remember to repost this in mid-December 2009.

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From what I hear, Santa is busy readying his sleigh and reindeer for his annual worldwide pilgrimage, but I’m quite sure he got my letter letting him know that I would be travelling for the holidays, so he’ll know where to find me.

Starting tomorrow, posting might be a little spotty in here (unless I find some time to pre-write some posts, or some of my friends with access decide to post on my behalf) as we start an annual pilgrimage of our own.  We’ll be visiting Ottawa, Montreal and Huntsville and won’t be back in our cozy bed in Toronto until New Years Day, so we’ll be putting a few kilometres on the old car.

Frankly, I’m looking forward to relaxing with family, giving and getting gifts, and eating my own weight in Christmas goodies.  I’ve already put in an order with mom for extra stuffing in our turkey.

What are your Christmas plans for 2008?  Are you traveling or staying put?

*  Sorry if this seems like I’m mailing it in today.  It’s mostly because I’m mailing it in today.  My office is dead quiet and I plan on spending most of the day shopping anyways.

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