My top 10 in 2010

Dec 30, 2010

I thought that it would be a delightful change of pace if I spent part of the end-of-year holidays looking back on what left the biggest impressions on me this year, rather than pass it by in a drunken stupor. So without further ado, the top ten things that affected me this year:

10. Got a BlackBerry

Say what you want about your favourite smartphone, I love my BlackBerry and carry it with me everywhere. There was a time when I disliked the entire premise of having a phone at all, preferring to be unreachable directly. To some extent, I still prefer that, but it's the access to the internet and email that has sold me on it. It's quickly become one of my necessary conveniences. Being able to use Opera Mini (at last!) is a definite plus!

9. A year without video games

I'd been looking forward to 2010 for some time, especially the release of the next Final Fantasy game from Square-Enix. It was going to be the game I finally bought the PS3 for, and when they announced the slim version of the console I was even more excited. However, for some reason I didn't pre-order the game as I usually do, and instead waited for the first reviews, which called the game mediocre; all glitz and no substance.

Well, I was disappointed, and for the first time ever, I decided not to buy it. Yesh, that's right. Me, the guy who has finished every numbered, single-player Final Fantasy game since #1 (some multiple times, and also some of the spin-offs like Tactics) decided not to play the next game in the series. As a consequence, I also didn't buy the PS3.

Which resulted in at least a year in which I did not play any new console or PC games. Sure, I played some downloaded games on my phone, and I replayed an old hack'n'slash RPG on my PC, but other than that, nothing. In case you don't know, this is highly unusual for me! With no new games that interest me on the horizon, I suspect the drought will continue well into 2011, although it will definitely be broken by November 2011 when the next Elder Scrolls game is released.

8. Rick Goldring is Burlington's new mayor

Coming from the country, I never really had any interest in our municipal elections. The councilors served such a large area that they were effectively appointed leaders from another country. The city is different though, even a smaller city like Burlington. When councilors or mayors make decisions here, you see the effects directly. So when this year's municipal election rolled around, I wanted to make sure I was voting for the right people.

Of course, I procrastinated. I didn't read the articles in the paper, or go to any of the debates. I guess in doing so I was more like the majority of people who only give their candidates' platforms a cursory glance.

A couple days before the election I finally reprimanded myself for not doing any research. I got online, found the websites of all the candidates in the running for my area and studied their platforms for a good two or three hours. (I tried not to judge by website quality, but I am a web developer :P)

When I got to Mr. Goldring's campaign site, it seemed entirely too garish. Bright green and yellow on a white and blue background. Ugh! But I pressed on and examined the issues. After a while it became obvious that this guy knew what he was talking about. He knew Burlington was pressing against the limits of the land it could expand to and that policies were going to have to change accordingly. He warned of tough times ahead, whereas the other candidates seemed to imply that the status quo was just peachy for now. This was the man who would lead our city into the next decade, making the right steps to maximize our gains from the economic recovery.

So I voted for Mr. Goldring for mayor. I thought he was up against some stiff competition: the incumbent, Cam Jackson, was Burlington's former MPP for more than twenty years, and the third candidate seemed just as qualified as Rick, despite having a platform I felt was based more on attacking Mr. Jackson than any specific vision for the city.

It turned out I was wrong, and the majority of voting Burlingtonians had come to the same conclusion. Rick Goldring was elected mayor by a huge margin. I considered it a victory for getting-things-done.

Now to see if Mr. Goldring can turn his words into action. I'm rooting for him.

7. Netherlands World Cup run

As a second generation Dutch immigrant, the Netherlands blood still flows strong in these veins. As the Dutch team kept racking up win after win in the World Cup, the excitement kept building and building. Two highlights of the tournament for me were 1) the NED-URU semi-final game where a group of Uruguay fans at the next table kept betting (and losing) on who would score the next goal, thus providing our table with free beer almost the entire afternoon. And 2) gathering at my parents' place, decorated with orange balloons and ribbons, everyone wearing the oranje jerseys, and watching the KNVB hold the Spanish powerhouse to nil for almost an entire nail-biting final game.

The Spanish goal, when it happened so close to the ending whistle, was devastating. The collective groan in the room frightened a couple of the cats. ;) But I still remember the run to get there, and that was one of the most fun times I had in 2010.

6. Wikileaks diplomatic cable releases

When I first heard about the releases I didn't know what the big deal was about. Sure, some secrets were going to be revealed, but none of the cables had been classified Top Secret, and sensitive names were going to be redacted.

So when the first reactions came back from members of the governments involved, I was flabbergasted. High profile political personalities were advocating the murder of the man in charge of the Wikileaks organization, despite the fact that killing Assange would not have any limiting effect on the publication of the rest of the cables whatsoever.

In effect these people were calling for what is, at its very core, a revenge killing. The cables are coming out, no matter what they do, so assassinating Julian Assange can fulfill no other purpose but to soothe some damaged pride.

While I think this is terrible, I also think the government reaction to Assange is a valuable lesson for the American people. These are the people in charge, and their goals aren't to protect you and help you prosper. No, their goals are to cover the ass of the government, deprive you of information that may discredit it, and get re-elected to perpetuate a broken system. The 2012 federal election is coming, and I think the playing field will be much changed than if Wikileaks hadn't been around. I will be watching with interest.

5. TCAF - Toronto Comic Arts Festival

It's tough to find comics on the internet. Oh, the ones that are already popular are easy to find, but just because something is popular doesn't mean it's your cup of tea. What you may not realize is that for every successful comic you see out there, there are hundreds that are chugging along with little to no exposure. Most of them bad, but a very few of them worth following. It's those good comics with small audiences that find their way to festivals like TCAF. Here you can find fantastic comics that hardly anyone (subjectively anyway) has heard about.

Before I went to TCAF 2010, I was following perhaps five or six online comics. Through the artists I met there, that list has at least doubled, and that partially due to links from those artists' sites to those who didn't even attend the festival. As you can see the effects are far reaching.

I attended a several (free!) eye-opening discussions on comics with several (relatively) famous names in the biz, like Ramon Perez and Meredith Gran. I also picked up an armload of mini-comics and books, and began following several new and refreshing comics.

When I attend TCAF 2011 I'm a little worried that my reading list will expand proportionately again, but at the same time I really hope that it does. There is just so much art out there waiting to be found. It's truly impressive to see it all in one place. You should go, if you're in the neighbourhood!

4. Canada breaks Winter Olympics gold medal record

When recalling a defining moment for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, most people would point to Sidney Crosby's overtime goal against the USA which won team Canada the gold medal in men's hockey.

That's certainly a memorable moment, but in my mind the Games will be remembered for Canada's record breaking gold medal count. No other country in history, neither host nor visiting, has ever hauled in so many gold medals at a single Winter Games. While we did not win the overall medal race, the result is proof that Canada is a genuine contender on the world stage of sport. So many people were speaking negatively about the government's plan to assist athletes in the years leading up to the games. Either the funding was not enough, or we should put the money to more practical things like reducing taxes or feeding the homeless.

How can you argue against feeding the homeless though? It's a ridiculous proposition against which all challengers are found wanting. No, we need to look at the money spent in a different context. Winning so many gold medals at the Winter Olympics is a source of national pride, positive morale, and generates a positive feedback loop of interest in sport. The funding compounds on itself in making Canada a happier, healthier country, and that is money well spent.

Congratulations Canada! All of us are dying to see how this Winter Olympics performance translates to the 2012 Summer Games in London. :)

3. Road Apples Almanac's birthday

My favourite online comic of all time (okay, I'm biased :P) turned one year old in October. Don has been doing a fantastic job! If you compare the first strips with the most recent, you can see how the art style has changed so dramatically. He's been pushing the envelope, getting better and more relaxed. In fact, he's been cooking up some other projects which should appear next year sometime, so stay tuned!

A lot of cool stuff happened this year at the Almanac. Don swapped guest comics and fan art with Dave Smith, Juanele and Christopher Baldwin, all of which was very exciting! We attended TCAF 2010 (see above), and I redesigned the website.

If you aren't reading Road Apples Almanac yet, you should be! Look forward to more excitement and hilarity (perhaps even calamity!) in 2011 and beyond!

2. Trip to Disney World

I love Walt Disney World, and I've been many many times before. However I don't think I've prepared for a vacation there more than I did this year in November. My sister and I were going with our parents, but because my dad was unusually busy this year, a lot of the responsibility fell upon me. I planned all the activities and meals, bought half a dozen new shirts, and went on a diet beginning in August and lost 24lbs. And because I burn easily, I even used the month before the trip to get a base tan at a tanning salon. I had a tan even before I got on the plane :D

It was fantastic. A little on the cool side for a few days, but that's expected for November. We visited restaurants we've never been to, saw sights that brought back happy memories, and had multiple (expensive!) margaritas. A veritable blast was had by all.

We stayed at my favourite resort, the Polynesian, which was just as hospitable as it always is; however this time we upgraded to a Lagoon view room with balcony. The rooms there are some of the most spacious among all the Disney resorts, and very cozy. I would have liked to use the balcony more often, but the cooler nights kept us in most of the time.

Epcot is my favourite park at the resort, and not just because you can get a beer at nearly every vendor cart ;) It's the best of both worlds: a ton of great rides and fantastic displays up front, and a generous sampling of world culture across the lagoon. We spent three days of our vacation there and still didn't see everything. The annual Food and Wine festival was on at the time which includes additional world pavilions serving food and drink from other countries, as well as a concert series. We saw Roger Hodgson and Rick Springfield live, and both shows were awesome. On the evening we saw Roger Hodgson, it had begun to rain a bit so the stands were wide open and we got to sit just a few rows back from the stage. What an experience!

The vacation was finished off on the last day by a grand dinner at Le Cellier Steakhouse beneath the Canadian pavilion at Epcot. Normally there is a six-month waiting list for tables at this restaurant, but I managed to grab an early dinner slot as it opened up just a month before. I am pleased to report that it still serves the best prime rib I have ever eaten.

My dad is already looking forward to the 2012 Disney holiday, but we'll see. Anything could happen between now and then. :P But... I'm kinda looking forward to it too.

1. How To Train Your Dragon

Words cannot express how much I love this movie. Okay, let's call it what it is: an obsession. I saw it at least seven times in theatres. Even once in IMAX 3D. I even got a set of complimentary tickets at one showing because, having seen the film before, I noticed that the projector's bulb was too dim and complained that I did not feel satisfied.

During its theatrical run, the reports of unbelievable sustained ticket sales overjoyed me. I wanted everyone to love this movie. It's a story about iconoclasm, about doing what's right even though your whole culture says it's wrong. But most of all it's about friendship... with a dragon. I love dragons.

Caveat: If making friends with a dragon was the entirety of my obsession with this movie, then it does not explain why I was not impressed with Eragon, both the film and book of that name. And while I've read quite a few of Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels, they were just interesting stories, not a world I'd like to step into like HTTYD. What is it about this film that drives me to listen to the soundtrack on repeat in the car while driving to work?

I'm not really sure I know.

It's not like the story itself is fantastically original, but then neither was Jim Cameron's Avatar and it made the big bucks! No, the secret is likely in the telling. Pacing the story with the right amount of emotional interaction with the characters to make the fulfillment of their potential so intensely satisfying.

I never wanted to have my own dragon on Pern, and I found Eragon's Saphira boring and frustratingly one-dimensional. But I want to have a dragon in Berk. Desperately so. They are not really "pets" as the ending monologue describes them, but rather equals, lending what talents they can to help both dragon and human survive in such a remote and inhospitable place. Such a premise is the foundation of plenty of science-fiction and fantasy stories, and the beginning of many others.

I think I love this movie because what we are actually seeing is a segment of fictional history documenting a fundamental shift in culture that will forever change how life goes on in Berk. It leaves me with an intense desire to know what happens after the credits begin rolling. What new stories become possible after the dragons come to live peacefully with the humans in Berk? Imagining those stories is, I think, the key to my obsession.

And that's all from me for 2010. Hope you enjoyed this insanely long post and I'll see you next year! And for the finale, here's a short list of things I'm looking forward to for 2011:

Are you looking forward to anything fantastic in 2011? Be sure to tell me about it!

Have a Happy New Year!

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