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2008: Annus Mirabilis

What an incredible year!

Di's wedding We took two trips to Manila: the first to introduce W- and J- to my family, and the second to attend the wedding of one of my best friends from high school. It was well worth all those nights of rice and beans–which were delicious, so that was no sacrifice. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is that W- can joke about local details like Cash and Carry or my barkada‘s hijinks. Manang Norma taught him how to make laing and pinakbet, and my dad taught both of us about high-speed photography. My godparents interrogated W- over tea, which (in the classic Filipino tradition) lasted until late evening. Now that he knows more about the home where I grew up, I feel more at home here in Canada.

Mali NekoDuring our trip, W- and J- met Mali, the elephant my dad takes care of at the zoo, and we all enjoyed feeding her bananas. I also introduced them to my cat, Neko. She gave W- the seal of approval by deigning to sit on his lap, which she doesn’t do for just anybody.

planeThe trips were full of experiences. We went to Pagsanjan Falls, Tagaytay, and a few other interesting places in the Philippines. My dad flew us around the ricefields and rivers of Angeles in an ultralight plane. We were serenaded by the UP Singing Ambassadors over dinner, too!

J- We’ve been practicing photography, and have started buying glass (lenses) and light (flashes). We’ve been getting plenty of practices at events like W-‘s grandfather’s 98th birthday, at which we all had a turn at being photographers – and being voice-activated light stands. We had our very first fashion shoot, too, taking pictures of J- in her back-to-school clothes.

This was the year of baked awesomes. I told W- a story about egg tarts and how some boys used to bring them for my family while courting, and he promptly figured out how to make egg tarts that beat anything you’d find at Lord Stow’s Bakery. He sometimes surprises me with freshly-baked cinnamon rolls or corn-bread muffins. Not to be outdone, I occasionally make cakes or piles of cookies. We’ve perfected our own <insert favourite topping> oatmeal cookie recipe, and have put it to good use during play-dates, tea parties, and dinner parties.

Fortunately, we’ve been reasonably active. During the earlier part of the year, W- and I took krav maga and yoga lessons. J- has just received her yellow belt in aikido, and is taking swimming lessons, too. Now that the weather’s cooler and the mosquitoes have disappeared, we’ve started hiking the Bruce Trail. The GPS unit W- picked up prevents us from getting too lost, and that’s nice to know when it’s cold and snowy.

I’m slowly getting the hang of winter. The hats I picked up at a Tilley sale are good at keeping my ears warm and my spirits up. The hiking staff helps me navigate slush and ice. And there are little things to look forward to – winter walks with W-, tobogganing down the hill… Well, I’m here, so I might as well find something to get me through!

Luke and Leia On a wintry day, there’s only one thing more wonderful than having a warm, purring cat: having two! The story begins with Magic, a stray cat who followed us home one fall evening, and became our guest for two weeks while we searched for her original owners. Shortly after we returned Magic to her grateful family, we adopted Leia from Toronto Animal Services. After Leia recovered from her sniffles and was spayed, she became such a wonderful cat that we just had to adopt another one. Thus Luke entered our lives. There’s never a dull moment with those two around, especially when they hear the fridge, microwave, crinkling plastic, or any sound associated with feeding time.

It’s been a terrific year at IBM, too. I’ve gotten really deeply into Drupal hacking, and I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve also facilitated a number of workshops and delivered talks on Web 2.0, social networking, and Generation Y. My team keynoted a couple of conferences – that was fun, too. I developed my own presentation style (ooh, stick figures) that made my self-introduction one of the winners of Slideshare.net’s Worldwide Best Presentation Contest. I’m totally rocking my work. ;) You know, I might be getting the hang of application development and consulting… this is cool!

I’ve been learning a lot outside work. After four chapters of my Emacs book, I got distracted with all the cool Drupal stuff I did at IBM, so Emacs hacking got put on hold. I’ve recently resumed tweaking my configuration and sharing my notes, and I’m looking forward to more Emacs customization. I’m working on my visual communication skills, challenging myself to express abstract ideas through photographs (stock images or my own) and doodles. I’m getting better at connecting the dots between people and other people, ideas, or resources for making things happen, and that’s tons of fun too.

What’s next for me in 2009? More Drupal and Emacs hacking – there’s so much I can do now, and I can’t wait to learn more. I’d like to think about and share more things we’ve learned from social computing at IBM, too. I also want to learn how to organize events, and I’m volunteering to help with some of my favorite events in Toronto. I want to learn more about regularly connecting with people, and I hope to have monthly dinner parties and other get-togethers. I’m looking forward to learning more about illustrating and writing, and you’ll see stuff like that in my blog. I still have a lot of paperwork to do for my permanent residency application, but I hope to get that sorted out next year. I’m looking forward to 2009 – it’ll be awesome, too!

Happy holidays! Tell me about your year in a blog post or a comment – I’d love to know your 2008 highlights and 2009 plans!

2008 summary