Friday, January 29, 2010

First week done!

The first week of the new semester went off without a hitch (so far as I can tell). My schedule this year is pretty amazing. Mondays off, Fridays off, and every other Thursday off. All that adds up to travel and lots of on-demand internet TV. Glorious. I also found out that we have a full month off for Easter break. Which is damn generous, if you ask me. Sure, the semester is compressed. But one month off!

I handed in my dissertation concept note yesterday. I settled on something dealing with the intersection of design and sustainability, but beyond that I have about 20 ideas for how that could be carried out. At least I have a professor who's interested in discussing the topic, so I guess that's good. Classes overall are much more practical this semester. I think it will be interesting to see how they unfold. European Environmental Law is going to be my most challenging, but I think most rewarding course. I'm just not a "5 foot" thinker, I tend to be at the "50,000 foot" level, so it will be a good exercise, even if I want to kill myself by the end of it. Updates will follow...

I'm glad to be getting past January and moving on. It's such a slow month, with resolutions and whatnot. I've been better about keeping to my resolutions. So far, I've cut down on sweets and have been working out more and doing more yoga. Though, I'm not sure there's a perceptible difference, yet. We shall see. Maybe I'll become really ripped and start up my modeling career as an underwear model. Ha.

I have to say, it's pretty difficult trying to watch things over here that happen in America with the time difference and all. I was able to catch the iPad announcement, but the State of the Union came on too late for me to stay up and watch the whole thing, so I saw clips and read about it the next day. Probably more efficient anyway. From what I could tell, it seemed to be a fine speech. Though, it was nice that he was more-or-less like, I screwed up, you screwed up, but lets not throw out the baby with the bath water. Everyone seems to be yammering about how they can't see the point of the iPad, but I think the problem is that most of the people talking are computer savvy. They can't understand why someone would want a device that can only surf the net, get e-mail, read e-books, look at photos, and play music. But, I tend to think there are a lot of people for whom that's really their only functional need. By stripping out all the other things that can go wrong (viruses, spyware, etc.) it may be the perfect solution for a lot of people who only have basic computing needs. Time will tell, though.

Last night I went out to a Moroccan buffet with a few friends, then on to the pub for a pint an some snooker. I suck at snooker, I might add. Tonight brings a birthday party with coursemates, which should be a blast. I'm pretty excited. Yes, and I'll post pictures from York soon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

York was lovely; now onto the controversy.

First of all, York was quite nice. I did take a few pictures (mostly of buildings), and as soon as I can run them through iPhoto, I'll post them up here. But, I have something more personal that I feel like I need to discuss. No, I'm not pregnant. Though, that would be AWESOME. Imagine tiny Stephens running around. Plus all the press coverage.

Since I've started the blog I've, naturally, moderated some content. Some to protect what little dignity remains (though clearly, that has been shredded by pictures on Facebook). And some because, well, I knew it would piss people off. But, I've decided that I need to discuss this topic because it's important to me, and because it is part of my experience here (I know, I know, get on with it). The wall is coming down--I'm posting about politics. Specifically generational politics and the politics of anger. For those of you not interested, close your browser now. For others, read on. But, know that I write this with the greatest trepidation, and for those of you whom I offend, I apologize. There, apologia done.


I've loved the game of politics from an early age, as my parents will surely inform you. Growing up, around the dinner table we had lively debates on all manner of things, from abortion rights to international policy. This parlayed into one-half of my undergraduate degree in the form of a BA in Political Science (the other half was History). With regards to political philosophy, it's a mix between a libertarian ideal, conservative pragmatism, and a liberal view of personal rights.

I have watched the health care debate from both sides of the Atlantic now, and frankly, it's frustrating. Much of what I see are reductionist politics playing into American anger over the state of the economy. We are so stuck in a state of paralysis by the current debate that we fail to be able to step back and understand the complexity real issues at hand. Healthcare is a series of interlocking components that feed into one another. The fact that there are so many uninsured continues to drive up the cost of healthcare daily. Issues like mental illness (e.g. depression) which plague more than a quarter of the population and often play into a feedback loop of physical illness (e.g. obesity) are rarely treated properly due to stigmas and chronic underfunding of treatment, further driving up costs. The system is so overly fragmented between the insurance company paying the hospital, the doctor, and the pharmacist, that rarely does anyone know the true price of any component much less the proper billing code. We have failed ourselves by refusing to take responsibility of the actions that we can control. How many people could significantly reduce their health problems if they were to lose weight and stop eating unhealthy food (again, demonstrating the complexities of poor agricultural priorities)? How much asthma could we prevent in young children if we were to fix emissions standards and reduce air particulates? A free market system ultimately fails in healthcare because it's nearly impossible to put a price on health since it is an immensely personal issue that is extraordinarily difficult to remove from emotion. Just try it. Ask 10 people how much they think a life is worth. And tell them they can't say "priceless." Yes, a market economy should theoretically work this all out, but the problem is the price you might put on your neighbor's health is likely very different than that of your child's. Does it make sense to spend thousands of dollars per-year to extend the life of a 75-year-old man for just one more year? Economics would say no. But, ask me how much I would have been willing to pay to extend the life of my grandparents and the number is incalculable.

It is due to this inherent complexity that I support universal, single-payer healthcare--with a caveat. I truly believe that universal healthcare will help remove complexity in the system on a basic, interface level. But the caveat is this: the universal system should not be an all-you-can eat plan. In my mind, it should provide a base level of care that would be necessary to maintain adequate health for a normal person. But, it should allow for supplementary care above-and-beyond what the base plan offers. Everyone should have access to truly affordable healthcare. No patient should have to die because they couldn't afford basic medical attention and generic drugs. But, patients should also be allowed to purchase supplemental policies that cover chiropractic work, plastic surgery, and gastric lap-band procedures.

Looking at the current social programs in place, this is surprisingly the model that we often use. Social security provides a base level of income for many workers, but should you want to supplement that income, you can invest in an IRA or a 401(k). (Clearly there are issues with the benefit structure due to miscalculated life-expectancies, but let us assume that the fundamental model works). The same actually goes for another little social program: Medicare. You are provided a base level of Medicare for a relatively low fee; however, should you wish to purchase Medigap insurance or additional prescription drug coverage, you are afforded the opportunity to do so. And you know what? Medicare has been successful by many accounts in holding down costs (and by some marks has less waste than traditional insurance providers). Do I think this will solve every problem? Far from it. But, it's a start.

I honestly don't find this potential system that radical, given our current policies, but I can guarantee you that if it were proposed, people would throw a fit about the expansion of government and more government waste. It's not infrequent that I am asked about my positions on healthcare and/or the U.S. government generally. I think in many ways, people can't understand a system in which you wouldn't provide basic care for all citizens. Honestly, I can't either. It's difficult to explain the divide in U.S. politics between liberals and conservatives because I don't necessarily think there always is one. I truly believe the difference is between those who are willing to accept that many of the problems we face are immensely complex and exist at the intersection of emotion, economics, and personal history, and those who would rather reduce problems to slogans and newspeak because they would rather not have to think about it.

The issues of reductionist politics occur on all facets of every issue. Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans in this. People would rather not think about the complexities because in doing so, they have to give recognition to the "other side." It's easier to get angry at your enemy than to understand where they're coming from. We have gotten into a mode that says that because 1/100th of the counterargument is false, suddenly the entire position is false. That's like saying because you get one foul in basketball, you lose the game. These issues are fluid networks of problems and solutions that flex and sway in the winds of academic and social debate. We have entered into a phase wherein we are unwilling to educate ourselves through experts and would rather be told a 30-second sound clip by a blow-dried desk jockey. This is inane. There are multiple angles to be told. I recognize that my position on healthcare has a counterargument. And I am willing to have that debate. But not with someone who is only willing to call me a socialist and reduce my position to a word they saw on a poster.

But I do have hope. I look at the current generations in power and it seems that much of their socio-poltical beliefs are rooted in a distrust of authority and a post-modernist mindset. Boomers and Gen-X were the first generations to feel the effects of divorce on a personal level, through themselves and their parents, respectively. Social institutions that had once been the norm slowly broke apart. Naturally, this engendered a mistrust of authority figures. After all, how could you believe anyone when your spouse, to whom you had promised a life of love, decided that they didn't feel the same. How can you trust an authority figure after you see part of your world destroyed in a parent's divorce. This is not to condemn divorce, as I think people often grow apart. But the difference is that we have social mechanisms through television and mores that help people deal with divorce now. It is no less shocking, but it is now a common experience, which reduces its impact to the collective psyche of the nation. Both generations saw immense socio-political change as presidents (Nixon and Clinton) were publicly discredited. How easy is it to trust authorities, experts, and anyone when the status-quo is evaporating on the front pages?

Similarly, the Boomers grew up at a time when post-modernism was coming into our national consciousness. No longer was there an ultimate purity of truth to be attained, to put it simply, if your worldview was your reality, why would you need to consider others opinions? It was this shift towards post-modernism that served to reinforce this distrust of authority. I think Americans were profoundly affected by these social shifts, in far larger ways than we realize. Much of the anger we are experiencing now is misdirected. I don't really believe that people are upset at Obama. Or the health reform bill. Or taxes. I think what people are upset with is the fact that we're in situations that are complex and difficult and are going to be extremely difficult to solve and work through. And that brings up issues of insecurity and uncertainly, causing people to lash out with anger.

So the hope part. It really does exist. I think it comes through Gen-Y and Gen-Z, but through new concepts of society and interconnectedness. As trite as it may sound, growing up in a fully globalized economy with the internet available at a moment's notice has prepared these generations to accept and appreciate complex issues more than other generations. They grew up with a basic understanding that the products came from all around the world, seeing and interacting with networks on a daily basis, from satellite feeds on CNN to Wikipedia entries on Miley Cyrus. When issues of distrust of reigning authority still persist, the solution is not necessarily to get angry and hurl pathetic barbs, but instead to band together to work around the problem. These generations embrace complexity, as long as it is wrapped in a simple, easy-to-use interface. Witness the technologies created or modified by the current generations. Peer-to-peer file sharing (e.g. Napster or Bittorrent) is perhaps the epitome of network visualization, intended as a workaround to poor distribution models and over-priced content, but achieved through a simple click and download interface. The creation of social networking sites with clean and simple designs (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) as a counter to the disconnectedness of a modern lifestyle. Home-brewed apps that enhance the functionality of existing systems (e.g. the iPhone). Yes, Gen-Y and Gen-Z may demand more on-time access and total connectivity, but the ways in which they create solutions to roadbloacks is a new paradigm that serves to enhance society. The good news is that more and more, the Boomers and Gen-X are utilising this paradigm--albeit in more traditional ways--as a way to work through problems.

The current generation of politics, exemplified by the healthcare debate, is simply a symptom of larger problems in society. But by embracing complexity, and using it as a medium through which we can understand problems and develop new solutions, we have the potential to actually improve our global society. The trick is this complexity must be wrapped in a cloak of simplicity. A paradox, to be sure, but consider the fact that most people don't know and don't care how the internet works, they only care that it works when they open up their simple browser. Universal, single payer healthcare will not remove the complex financial and emotional decisions and networks that underpin a hospital, or the doctor-patient relationship, what it will do is simplify the interface so that people can focus on the things that can benefit their health, rather than worrying about the complexities of getting a bill paid. And the more complexity we remove, the more we can focus on the networks that matter--our personal relationships.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Semester one: done.

As of Thursday, my first semester is officially over. After studying on and off for the past week, at 9:30 am, I walked in to the Great Hall on campus, sat down with my pen and hammered away at two of the five essay questions printed on the pale pink piece of paper in front of me. The exam was pretty much about how I expected it to be. Obviously, I don't really know how I did yet, but I don't think I completely failed it. I hope. I ended up using most of the time available, so I suppose if nothing else, I have a lot of words.

After the exam, my coursemates and I all went to the Terrace Bar for a celebratory pint (or five). What started out innocently became a mad bar-hop around the city. I'm still recovering, as is my pride. Given last nights events, it seemed like a good idea to sit out tonight and stay home catching up on 30 Rock and Modern Family.

Wednesday I saw "Bright Star" with a friend, and Monday, it was Avatar. I've got to say, while I think Avatar was incredible for the artistic direction and the action sequences. The script was--to use one of my favorite britishisms--pants. Really, I'm not sure there could have been any more holes in the plot if they had written it on mesh screening. But, the great visuals made up for it. I was definitely glad I saw it in 3D. Still a couple of movies I want to see before semester two starts up on Monday, though. Maybe Sherlock Holmes tomorrow night.

Tomorrow a few of us are taking a day trip to York. I've really wanted to see it for a while now, so I'm hoping the weather will hold out and it will be pleasant. But, I promise I'll post pictures from the excursion. If I can remember.

Oh well, time to become friends with my liver again and let it rest for a bit.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Music Monday!

Whilst "studying" for finals I came across a couple of nice new artists. OK, so I like acoustic stuff. Whatever. I'm in that kind of mood.

J. Tillman -
I honestly can't figure out who J. Tillman sounds like, but it's someone I've heard of before. But, with a pure voice, a bit of a twang, and nice riffs, it's good background/Sunday morning music.

Download a few free tracks here.

Mason Lindahl -
Parts of his song remind me of Nick Drake and Elliot Smith, but he's not as refined, and his voice is not nearly as pure. Really love the guitar work on "No Man," though, and "Serrated Man Sound" is quite nice. Again, good background music.

Anyway check 'em out.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success | Video on

This video is brilliant.

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success | Video on

Close to done

Inspiration (or desperation--I can never really tell the difference) hit around 8pm on Thursday. The realisation that I had at least 1500 words left to write, and no citations kicked my mind into focus mode. Sadly, it meant missing out on a house party, but it was worth once my mind actually kicked into focus. Up until 1:30, and then back at it at 8:30am the next day, I finished my final essay around 10:30 and trotted off to school to hand it in. Damn, it felt good.

I can't say it was the most exciting paper I've ever written, but how thrilling can cost-benefit analysis, be anyway. I originally had some awesome ideas for telling the story, but it seemed that a cost-benefit analysis of prostitution probably wouldn't fly with the lecturers. Then again, maybe it would have gotten me a better grade. Oh well.

So, after catching up on Modern Family and 30 Rock, I met a friend for a pint, which ended up turning into going to the international store for a full-on middle eastern dinner, with a little TV on the side. Hummous in a can is scary stuff.

Feeling listless later on in the night, I went to Fruity at the University with a few people. First, Fruity, despite what it would sound like, is not some multi-colored gay bar with skittles vodka shots. Our student union in addition to a traditional-style pub, has a bar and three clubs. For Fruity, they open up the clubs and have a different style of music in each one. Since they're clubs, they naturally all have one-word names--Stylus, Pulse, and Mine. Side note: I'd really love to see a club with a descriptive name sometime, like Jack's Den of Debauchery or STDs Free With Every Shot. Walking in, I felt older than dirt given the overwhelming number of freshers milling about. Luckily, some guy with grey hair missing a few teeth was standing close to me at the bar, at which point I felt better about myself again. Either way, it's still weird to now go to hear 90s music as quasi-retro. 90s music as faux-ironic I get, but the fact that I can remember hearing some of the music on the radio makes the cobwebs start to creep out. Obviously, I'm 26, so it's not as if I'm headed for retirement village anytime soon, but it does put a bit of perspective on the situation. Still, I had a good time, though I don't think I'll be heading back to Fruity any time soon. It was good for a laugh.

Now, off to go gum down some food, watch a history program on BBC and fall asleep at 7pm.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In which I find myself disgusted at the fact that Pat Robertson hasn't been arrested for being dumb

After an inauspicious start to my stats experience, I finished my paper on Monday, and turned it in around 6 (I think--I tend to lose track of time). A day early! This, mind you, is not so much reflective of the quality of the writing so much as I really couldn't figure out anything further to say. Seriously, when your results indicate that there's a significant link but, really it's not THAT significant, what are you supposed to do? It's kind of like casually saying someone's your best friend when they're really more of an acquaintance.

The next hours/days were filled with more-or-less doing nothing in an attempt to get motivated to write my Sustainability Assessment paper on cost-benefit analysis versus multi-criteria decision analysis. Riveting stuff. By Tuesday night, I ended up with about 1300 words, and not much else.

I have a terrible time concentrating. I suppose part of it is due to the fact that my mind goes in about 1,000 different directions every second. It doesn't take much--a word, a picture--and suddenly I have to find out what aboriginal peoples of south Gambia knew about paper making in the 14th century. All this is just a giant timesuck. As are the multitudes of flash games available on the Internet. God, I hate flash games. They're far too addictive.

So Wednesday brought the big 24-hour take-home exam. Oddly enough, despite the title, I did most of this in the library. It's about the only place I can concentrate, plus stare awkwardly at people while I contemplate things such as "ecological modernisation" and bias in aggregate index scores. Really, I lead a thrilling existence. A few breaks with some of my coursemates later, I was done and finished by 12:30 last night (this morning?) and I walked home with a little Sam Amidon to keep me cosy. Nothing says "you're finished" like listening to "O Death" on your iPod.

Not being able to concentrate anymore, I rolled into bed, only to find that, of course, I couldn't fall asleep. Hesitating to take melatonin was really a poor decision on my part, and meant that I only got a couple hours of sleep before waking up at 7:30 to get a start on the revision. Which didn't go as planned after my printer crapped out on me. Damn internet inks. While the first essay revision went well, the second, uh, well, let's say the second paragraph's OK, but after that it's a ski-slope of mangled words and awkward phrases. OF COURSE, the internet was slow at school, which meant that after e-mailing the final paper to myself, printing, and trotting off to the dropbox, I only had about 2 minutes to spare.

After a hot chocolate (I'm five years old) and a Pimms (but also of legal drinking age) in celebration, I headed off home to fix myself lunch and settle down for a long winter's nap. Which. Was. Glorious. Apparently others had the same idea, though their's didn't turn out so well. Girl Robin apparently had a nightmare where I said horrible things to her. While this sounds entirely plausible, I'd like to think that when girls dream about me it concerns my incredible love-making skills rather than my ability to call them fat. C'est la vie.

Unfortunately, now, I still have to finish the other essay by the 2pm deadline tomorrow. It'll get done, I'm sure, but until then I'm just going to stew about how idiotic Pat Robertson is for talking about devil pacts, and how entirely comfortable Sarah Palin is in her own bullshit. Incidently, her talking about George Washington at the end reminds me of my favorite history clip of all time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

And the papers go marching along...or, you know, halt

3:30pm. Still nothing written. I am not a fan of stats. It's just so hard to write about something you don't care about. But, at least I have my questions and variables picked out. And I've run them through SPSS (a statistics program), so at least that's something.

On the upside, I did (lightly) work out this morning (crunches + pushups), which is an achievement, and I did about 10 minutes of yoga. I guess it's gotta start somewhere. Since it's been snowing on and off all day, I have no motivation to leave my room.

On a brighter note, I love my socks. Seriously. I've never been much of a sock man, but these new boot socks I picked up may have changed my life. Comfortable as hell, I basically never want to take them off again. Which could be a problem for anyone near my feet.

Eh, on to the paper, I suppose. Ugh.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dine on a (GBP) Dime

The next installment of my student loan doesn't come through for another week, which means time to start pulling a nice round of stretch the budget. The first semester was rather expensive. Not only were there startup costs in furnishing a new place, but still being in the i-make-a-salary mindset for a while meant the money dried up, um, rather fast. That plus traveling, buying clothes here and there, and one too many nights out. Either way, it's going to be tight until the next round of pounds comes along.

In an attempt to stretch the limits of my budget, I turned to those old (cheap) standbys--canned tuna and potatoes. As anyone who's known me for a while knows, potatoes and I don't have an illustrious history. My feelings can be summed up in the song "Yakkey Yak, Don't Come Back." Slowly I've come to endure, even enjoy them. In an attempt to find anything other than plain roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes, I came across this recipe for "Crash hot potatoes."

It was freaking revelatory. It was like a potato latke + smashed potatoes + the top of twice baked potatoes. Anyway, they're dead simple, so I suggest you try. The only thing I did different was cut out the rosemary and added hot sauce. 'Cause I'm caliente.

My experiments with tuna were slightly less revelatory, but nevertheless good. Let's call it a hot tuna salad (which sounds kind of gross thinking about it). Either way, you can't go wrong with sauteed garlic, red onion, canned tuna, and spinach. Or you can, but I didn't. 'Cause I'm caliente.

And cooking post, complete.

Back to School

I got back into Leeds last afternoon after a very full (24-hour) day of travel. My last day in DC, I saw Precious, which left me both keenly aware of my privileged and simultaneously depressed. So, I did what any self-respecting white, middle-class pseud-hipster of my age would do...I got a latte and listened to podcasts at an independent cafe. Continuing on a theme, I met a friend for dinner at Rice where we consumed a variety of thai-inspired dishes. After that, it was on to Whole Foods to pick up a bottle of wine to share with a couple friends, recently back from the wedding I attended in New York.

Wow, reading that I sound like a total yuppie. I swear, it's not as bad as it seems (or maybe it is).

After a few hours of restless sleep, I caught a ride to the BoltBus pickup point (nee abandonded parking lot) for a four hour trip to New York. Thankfully, I was able to get a seat with a power outlet and the wifi worked.

Jesus, I'm really digging my way into yuppie hell, aren't I?

Anyway, I met my sister for a quick lunch and then it was on to Newark International (god help me) to fly back to Manchester, via Brussels. I sat between two aging boomers who compared sleeping pills and bitched to the stewardess about not having a pillow. In theory, I would have given her mine, since I never use them, but I resented her for the inane conversation and her stupid, look-how-arty-and-independent-I-am brown felt clogs and flowing clothes. Unsurprisingly, she had moved to Bennington, VT recently. Shocker.

My mild annoyance was quelled by the exceedingly large glass of scotch the flight attendant poured me. I'm not sure if it's standard or not, but it was about a wine-glass full. Needless to say, water post-drink was appreciated. Vegetable curry was on the menu, since they were out of the meat dish, but it was tolerable (the scotch may have helped). The flight was uneventful, save for a spate of turbulence, and I was able to finally watch Inglorious Bastards.

After a quick layover in Brussels (where there are a shockingly high percentage of hassidic jews), I flew into Manchester International, eyes closed and mouth agape the entire way there. So far, only a 30 minute delay the entire trip. But then there was...the snow. I didn't realise that much of Northern England reacts to snow in much the same way DC does. Had I been coming a day earlier, the entire airport was shut down. Personally, it didn't seem like that much, but I am not an air traffic controller, so perhaps it was the equivalent of a blizzard. After deboarding and checking the balance in my UK account (ugh), I bought my ticket for the trip into Leeds. Despite the warning from the station agent, the trip was quick and without many delays. Into a cab and onward home, I quickly stocked up on a few essentials (pizza, yogurt, and veggies), and crashed.

More or less, my entire day was spent mindlessly looking at my computer screen. Something I am extremely good at. Sadly, today was much the same story. After falling asleep at 9pm last night, I woke up at 9am today (after a bit of melatonin-fueled sleep) raring to go. It would seem I'm not terribly adept at statistics, and much of my go-get-em attitude was quickly subsumed by a what-the-hell-is-this-sign-or-is-that-a-number feeling. A brief study group today helped clear up a couple of things, but I still have nothing more than a title on the page. I did manage to download a trial of SPSS. So I guess that's something, right? RIGHT? Maybe I'll pick out some sexy variables upon which to perform calculations that, no doubt, a fresher could do far better than me.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Food, Movies, and Cocktails

Tomorrow I leave for New York on a bus, only to grab a quick bit with my sister in Penn Station (classy) and then hop a train to Newark for my flight back to Leeds. I can tell you, I'm not going to be in a fantastic mood when I get home. Especially now that I just realised that I'm flying back to Manchester instead of Leeds, which means an extra hour on the train. UGH.

But, on a lighter note, I had a great day yesterday. I had lunch with an friend downtown, then saw a movie and grabbed dinner with another friend then went to a new cocktail bar with a few others. All-in-all, a great day. Today I've got dinner with an old friend at one of my favourite thai restaurants in DC, Rice, and I'm off to see Precious in a couple hours, which I've heard was really fantastic, if depressing. Not sure what tonight holds, but it might be a trip to Red Derby, my old local bar, or maybe to another movie (Sherlock Holmes or Avatar?) with friends.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Twenty Ten

Listening to NPR, I rang in the New Year with friends in Vermont after a great meal and a few fireworks. Earlier that day, I did something that I've wanted to do for years--ski. While I had been to Stratton, VT previously, for one reason or another we had never skied, but this was my year. After a few lessons from Chrissy, I was pie wedging my way down the learning hills, eventually skiing all the way down the mountain (on the easy route, of course). I have to say it's one of the most fun things I've done in a while. Not only was it completely exhilarating, but there's such a feeling of solitude when you're out there, curving and carving down a mountain drenched in sound-swallowing snow. It shall happen again...once I have the money. Though it happened on the 31st day of the year, it was one more tick against my goals for myself from 2009.

Overall, I've hit a lot of them, learning how to rock climb, boulder and ski, doing more kayaking/rafting and yoga (though that's fallen off recently), getting my MacBook and taking more picture, etc. 2009 was a year of big changes. I left my job, friends, and the life I had built over the prior 8 years and moved across the ocean to England to begin my masters. It hasn't always been easy, and there's been a lot of emotional upheaval at times, but I'm enjoying my course and I've met some wonderful friends.

It's hard to say what 2010 will hold. I find myself faced with the prospect of finishing a masters and finding a job, not knowing what kind of job that will be and where it will take me. But that's OK. One of my goals this year is to try and make sure that I don't discount my own happiness in the pursuit of what I think that I should be doing (more on this in a future post).

While 2009 was a year of revolution, I'm hoping 2010 will bring evolution (along with some inevitable revolution, I suppose). I want to get better at the things I enjoy, and remove the elements that drag me down. Tangibly, I'd like to get better at climbing, get back into semi-regular yoga, and concentrate on doing more, and better writing.

But it's not all something I can just attend a class for, or practice at. Part of my goals are to get better at the intangibles--strengthening friendships and making an effort at having an adult relationship. Unfortunately, these are harder to achieve. I don't yet really have an action plan or know what needs to be fixed, but I guarantee you there are many things. So I'll seek help where available and reflect when necessary. Part of the reason why I haven't blogged as much as I'd like to is that I've got a few really serious posts that are swirling around in my head, and I'm not sure how comfortable I am yet with putting it out there for anyone to read. But, taking inspiration from Paige, I think it's time to lay it on the table and fess up to my emotions, thoughts, and the power of an open forum.

So that's where I am right now in 2010. A bit confused, with no tangible goals, but more experience and a readiness to face things I haven't wanted to over the past 26 years. As 27 creeps up in June, and the completion of my masters presents itself in September, it's time to cast off the bad and embrace the good. Happy twenty ten.