22 January, 2010

A recap of 2009

I know, I know, we're three weeks in, but it's still January, so I can get away with this. I think this year might very well (or at least the first couple months, we'll see how long the trend lasts!) be a year of renewal, reflection and reworking. ... with hopefully a fair few more blog posts than 2009.

Anyway, a list, 'cause I like lists. A list to recap 2009:

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Resigned from a job because of allergies, got dumped and wasn’t sad about it, acted as a witness for insurance purposes.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn’t make any resolutions last year. This year, I don’t really want to call them resolutions ‘cause those are made to be broken. I’m kind-of hoping to call them life goals since I want them (increased activity, healthier lifestyle) to last for much more than just one year, or 3 weeks or whatever it is...

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
I don’t think so. 2009 was not a year of baby-birthing for my friends. 2010 will be, though.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
That was 2006, and enough people passed away that I’m hoping no one else needs to go for quite some time.

5. What countries did you visit?
Just the USA, and only for a week.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
More money saved up. A stable form of employment that lasts more than a few months... hey, maybe even one that extends beyond one fiscal year? Please? Space for myself.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The 30th of January – the day I submitted my thesis to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, and therefore officially completed all obligations towards my MSc. (academic or otherwise). The 19th of September – my best friend’s wedding day.

8. What were your biggest achievements of the year?
Defending my thesis and standing up for myself versus my supervisors at their discourteous worst. Landing contracts (twice) to work on federal research papers for national publication.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Underestimating myself and failing to sell my talents as a result.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Bronchitis, twice. And enough resulting bacterial infections from the way antibiotics mess up the entire body that I was essentially under the weather for about half the year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A green purse and wallet, a solo train ticket to Vancouver and back, and a pass for the Folk Festival.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
One of my good friends who is going through a divorce.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
My now ex, and another friend of mine who has since gotten married. Though they did not behave in appalling or depressing ways together, they both individually left me appalled and depressed.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Vacations and supporting me while unemployed.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Folkfest, which delivered, as always; seeing my cousin at Christmas, which turned into a dud ‘cause the USA wouldn’t let him leave; riding the train, which was wonderful, but maybe not worth all the hype.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
I can’t think of anything.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you
i. happier or sadder?: both
ii. thinner or fatter? Hmm... let’s see... I blame the sedentary office work and high-fat/sugar snacks and beverages I consumed. ... as well as my lack of willpower.
iii. richer or poorer? I am no better or worse off, financially, from where I was last January, oddly enough. (which is lame, I would have hoped that a year of working would leave me with a few pennies to my name instead of the sweet nothing I have)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Meeting new people. Organising my life. Applying for jobs. Saving money. Spending time with friends. Knitting.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Feeling guilty. Dwelling on things. Prolonging relationships that weren’t going to make it. Eating crap food. Getting sick.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With family and friends, eating way too much and laughing a lot.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

22. What was your favorite TV program?
True Blood and Being Erica; I obsessed about the first, but found the second to be more rewarding to watch.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I try my best not to hate, but I do despise a number of politicians in ways I didn’t before.

24. What was the best book you read?
American Gods by Neil Gaiman, I’m pretty sure I read it in 2009. If not that, then one of the myriad Paulo Coelho books I read (like By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept).

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
2009 was the year of minimal music purchase. Folk Fest finds: Jill Barber, Slaid Cleaves, Arrested Development (seriously), Ben Sures, Fred Eaglesmith and Chuck Brodsky (listen to Letters in the Dirt – amazing).

26. What did you want and get?
Some really cool travel memories, a train ride through the rockies, a pair of Fluevog shoes, and some lovely new friends.

27. What did you want and not get?
A place of my own and the job to pay for it.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Up was fantastic, though Moon was so stark it’ll never escape my memory and The Brothers Bloom had plot twists and whimsy beyond expectation.

29. What did you do on your birthday?
I got my hair cut by my cousin’s girlfriend who shares my birthday and gave her flowers and earrings. For supper, I went to DaDeO, a local Cajun restaurant with my roomies and a couple friends... it was pretty low-key since I was still dealing with bronchitis.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A job I liked that lasted more than three months and paid well. ... or a relationship built on mutual respect, trust and understanding. Ta-da!

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Uh... finding clothes that accommodated my changing physique (from weight loss to gain to loss to gain to hopefully loss again) and that are colourful and slightly more, I dunno, respectable and formal than your average logo t-shirt.

32. What kept you sane?
My friends and family, the outdoors.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Halloo... John Morris, the curler, only in December, though. Earlier in the year, I’d have to say Gerard Butler, who was replaced by Vampire Bill from True Blood (though Stephen Moyer isn’t really what I’m looking for, somehow his vampire persona just, well, worked for me).

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Bloody stupid governmental inaction (and denial despite all the funding and research they give to climate change reduction initiatives) on climate change, and the related (and inane) carbon capture and storage “project” that most companies have actually backed out of because it’s NOT FEASIBLE despite the Alberta government’s earnestness at giving away $2 billion to work on it instead of emissions reductions. Oh, and healthcare reforms akin to the dissolution of public healthcare in this province.

35. Who did you miss?
My cousin, who was completing a bachelor’s degree in the States. A couple of friends who moved away.

36. Who were the best new people you met in 2009?
My summer work crew friends.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:
Honesty is the best policy; and the biggest part of honesty that EVERYONE needs to work on is being true to themselves.

07 January, 2010


What does one do when the assigned job is overly depressing? I am an environmentalist by nature (a tree hugger, an earth-lover, whatever you want to call it), and I have chosen to actually work in the area that my passion centers on: preservation and conservation. ... and the science behind all of this, of course ('cause there's nothing I am if not nerdy).

But this science/environmentalism passion often ends up leading me down dark and disappointing corridors. What do you do when Al Gore's extended PowerPoint presentation and chosen project collection (Climate Crisis) is old hat to you? What do you do when things like this movie Home make you feel like the world is starting to take notice but that it will all be too little too late? What do you do when something like this soon-to-be-shown-in-my-home-town movie Collapse feels more like the appropriate next step to take and that following Al Gore or the seemingly eloquent francophone Yann Arthus-Bertrand on their madcap fossil-fuel-guzzling international promo campaigns about climate change and human destruction of the planet? ... not that I'm necessarily ready to go all hermit-like and dig a foxhole of my own to avoid the impending market destruction Michael C. Ruppert is forecasting.

Ok, enough blather. My point is this: I am writing a report on the state of the environment (in all its many guises), and the resounding consensus I have gathered from the scientific literature and my peers is that our future is decidedly grim. Our wildlife, our natural ecosystems, our entire resource base is facing serious hardship in the near future. I'm skimming reports for other jurisdictions and coming up with the same general feeling. There is little hope when the status levels are "declining" or "undetermined" or "poor", trends are "?" or "-" and the stated confidence level is "ø". Seriously, " ø". Null?

I know, I should be glad that we are finally taking notice and that Canada is actually taking steps to recognise that there are problems with what it sees as the "True North Strong And Free" ... Because it is not so free any more, it is girded by industrial development, and stained with the disasters of past indiscretions. We can only move forward by acknowledging our failures and trying to remedy them before it is too late... and we have to hope that it is indeed, not too late. I still can't get over the null confidence though. There must be hope somewhere. Perhaps that will be my personal goal during this assignment: find the silver lining, the hope amid the looming shadow of failure and despair.

And hey, it says something that our own government is no longer muzzling people over the use of such sticky phrases as "cumulative effects" and "climate change". Progress is being made!

03 January, 2010

new beginnings

October to January is only four months, right? That beats 7! Maybe I can actually do this this year... or something more resembling a blog than a sporadic mind-dump.

2010... a year of potential and possibility... a year that's starting off just like grad school all over again. I am starting a new job right now (yes, it IS Sunday, but when your first deadline is the 10th and you have 30 pages of content to create, every day counts), and my new job has me working from home in my bedroom at the same desk I have been finishing my homework since I was in junior high school. The bedroom has changed, the furniture has not. I love this desk, but I don't like being an adult and working in my bedroom in the same general living configuration as being an adolescent in a family home.

There might be perks to working at home, but I assure you most of the people who espouse these perks are either living some alternate utopian lifestyle OR they have already made enough money (or their spouse/partner has) to allow them to not be share-renting a house with three other people and living such that the only available work space is the same room they sleep in. I have literally returned to my adolescence. What I wouldn't give for employment stability, steady income, respect and enough wage to afford rent in my own space, or at least a slightly less-shared space. If I could share this sort of space with two other people instead of three, or a smaller space with only one other person, I would have room to spread out, and we wouldn't all be bumping elbows.

Sunday work, although potentially joyfully productive, is mired in the difficulties of everyone staying at the house. Everyone staying at home means the couches, coffee and kitchen tables are NOT work spaces, and that there more than likely is some form of raucousness going on... which is not in itself a bad thing. But it is a completely other thing when attempts to work are interrupted by roommate mating habits. AND Sunday means that the best I can hope to achieve outside of the house is a bustling coffee shop; the libraries just aren't open, particularly immediately after the holidays. I'm not prepared for that just yet. My new laptop is still too new (protective plastic coating still on the external cover), I don't want to spill a latte on it (EVER!) and I just can't figure out the logistics of working on a paper, with supplementary resources all around me while working in a public space with small, cute, round cafe tables.

At this pace, I shall find myself back in the cavernous arts library at the University starting tomorrow. The heating works better, the hushed din of academic conspiracy drowns out random thought, and it is much easier to dive into productivity than it is in my bedroom with the stacks of laundry, unread books and dusty windowsill begging for a good cleaning. I still cannot understand how my motivation for completing this project on time (in addition to earning money) includes the perk of "I can clean once I'm finished!" Obviously I am desperate to do just about anything besides my work. ... like blogging.

Anyway, roommate resentment aside, I ought to get back to work. I just need to find myself some appropriate white noise with which to drown out the moans and giggles (yes, seriously). The work I am doing is really compelling. It's about all the things I like to discuss and learn about: ecosystems, wildlife, biodiversity, conservation, climate change, human development etc. ... and the potential impact of this particular document is much greater than anything else I have ever worked on or contributed to, even the godawful paper I've published in the Forestry Chronicle industry journal.