Note: This text-only file was my first attempt at a birthday letter. I've yet to update it to something with pictures. Someday...

Having refined procrastination -- or at least tardiness -- as a quality for almost 39 years, I thought I'd put out “Mike's Year in Review,” not at Christmas or even New Years but a comfortable month later, on the birthday my sister and I share.


Parts of this past year seem as opaque as the cotton batten in the opening to an aspirin bottle. I’m digging my finger around trying to get at the capsules inside, but if I don’t produce much despite all my agitation, or if they spill out in a jumble, bear with me.


I closed 2001 with a Busby Berkley number as part of the PwC Christmas party. No permanent record exists of the event beyond the hazy recall of a martini-drenched audience, but video clips of the rehearsals provide a hint – without the costumes or the santa sleigh I built over the top of a wheelchair – of how I clinched my reputation as the office entertainer.


As a result, in September when the consulting wing of the company went to IPO with the unfortunate name of “Monday” (only to be spared the ignominy by being bought out by IBM), I was volunteered to mascot the office celebratory event – the Tacky Tourist trip around Victoria, during which I ran a narrative of Victoria’s minutiae and foibles alongside the double-decker that transported us from pub to pub. When we streaked by my folk’s place on Beach Drive, my mom was mowing the lawn and looked up in time to see a packed group of Hawaiian shirts cheering and waving from the open top deck. She walked inside to my dad. “I think I just saw Mike on the top of a tourist bus.”


Speaking of Hawaii, March found Julie, Emma and I jetting to Oahu with my sister Sheila’s brood. I went to Hawaii with my school band in grade 10. I figured I’d seen enough of the place, and I was much more excited to be traveling with my sister’s family than the destination we were going to. But I ended up very pleasantly surprised by the real Hawaii you can find, even on Oahu. For those who feel like reading a novella, I’ve put a good chunk of the travel journal online. (It’s a lot more interesting reading than this.) Everyone got along so well – kids and adults – that we’ve just bought tickets for a trip together to Disneyland for this March. Not quite the trip to Cuba I was imagining, but with good company, I’m sure I can once again enjoy The Happiest Place on Earth.


I arrived back from vacation to discover my coworker Cathy on mat leave and me nominated to fill in for her job doing local desktop support. The powers that be decided another FTE could be comfortably done along with my other existing duties, so my fragmented job became more so.


While my cup was runneth overing at work, it seemed like a good idea to get my testicles cut open. I paid a couple of guys many thousands of dollars to shave my scrotum and reverse the decision I had made 10 years before to have no more kids. For those men who’ve had a vasectomy, let me state that the return to fertility is something more of an ouch, the surgery clocking in at over three hours. I still haven’t figured out why the doctor had to manually locate and clamp off the vas deferens before he had plunged a needle repeatedly into my groin to freeze everything.


A week later, having barely gotten on my feet, I was flying south to visit my friend Lisa. My urologist failed to add “walk” to the list of Do Nots, so for the record, the hills and streets of San Francisco are not the best for someone incapable of moving faster than a 90 year old. For those who’ve seen Vertigo, the ghostly affect Hitchcock so painstakingly produced can be easily evoked by walking at 1 mile per hour through the busy city. Setting aside the discomfort of a swollen scrotum for the moment (and the accompanying stubbly little prickles growing all over my shaven groin), it was an odd sensation. You don’t need to pay much attention to navigating because of the pace, and between each foot fall, minutes of the speeding world pass. I’d like to try doing a day of vacationing at that ambling pace, instead of at my usual Frank Short zip. Speaking of track and field, while I was snailing around SF, Julie and Emma completed the Garden City 10K, Julie running it in an hour and Emma strolling along with the Dubney family.


Other weekend trips worth mentioning include a booze-filled weekend at Whistler with friends Craig, Heike, Michael, Brian and Ann-Marie (where I met Craig’s Duracell friends Vicki, Gary, Aileen and Rob). The snow and company were great, and we topped the stay off watching the Canadians trounce the Americans in the Olympic gold medal round of men’s hockey. When we drove over the Lions’ Gate into the West End 2 hours later, Vancouver was still celebrating, the packed streets full of flags, banners and painted faces.


Julie brought Emma and me with her to Seattle for an American Society of Indexers’ conference in April. Mercifully, Emma and I didn’t have to actually participate in the event and Julie even spared us the free bumper sticker “If you don’t talk to you kids about indexing, who will?” While she was wowing the crowds at seminars like “Information Architecture and Content Management Systems,” Emma and I took the Seattle Underground Tour and rode the monorail to the Experience Music Project. My sad moment of the weekend was arriving moments after Eels sold out at The Crocodile on Friday night (a close second to missing the Beck / Flaming Lips gig in Vancouver in December).


The rest of the spring was spent in normal pursuits: pruning trees at the summer place, morning rows on the Gorge, making slight advances in the never-ending home renovations, our monthly games nights with friends and infrequent but wonderful weekend walks with the Showers family. And time was being eaten up by projects. Back in December 2001 I had foolishly volunteered to organize my 20th grad reunion, and the meetings began to pick up noticeably over the spring.


In May, our household grew by two with the adoption of Tobey and Mary Jane, our engaging and affectionate kittens. They’ve provided a great deal of amusement and warmth in the house this year, and I thank Sarah Gee for insisting that we really couldn’t just get one.


Also in May I began putting the finishing touches on my grandiose plans for Wafflerama, my annual breakfast that coincides with the Oak Bay Tea Party. It was the 20th year of Wafflerama and with a lot of help from friends we managed to realize my dream of entering a float in the Oak Bay Tea Party Parade and serving waffles to the folks watching from the sides. We estimate that over 300 people got waffles from the float or were served them at my parents’ place, and we picked up third place in the floats too.


June is a blur for me. Our Deep Cove summer place re-opened Father’s Day weekend, Emma’s fifth year at Sir James Douglas wrapped up, and summer reluctantly arrived. Ubiquitous grad preparations swirled around me, sidelined only long enough for us to paddle to Portland Island for the Canada Day weekend. In a stupid bid to save a few bucks on kayak rentals, we took my parents’ canoe, a move that almost sank us in Satellite Channel on the return trip as the weather worsened. Thankfully, everyone accompanied us back, the kayaks acting as a shield to the waves, and Craig had his Marine radio just in case… I don’t think I’ve ever been happier for a boat ride to end.


The grad reunion weekend was a treat, and such a nice reward for the labour of love it had turned into for all the organizers. I’ve reconnected with several old friends as a result, including my close childhood friend, Andrew Stewart, who is now reproducing in Japan.


Once I got the grad organizing over with, I jumped straight into a database project for Cinecenta (the movie theatre at UVic) that ate every moment of my vacations and most of my free time through mid November. The result has been a great learning experience for me, and what I think is a very cool application for them. But I never want to put that much time into something while I have a full time job. I feel like I hardly saw my family, let alone friends; and this summer and fall brought news of cancer diagnoses in many people I know – my mother-in-law Rosemary, my friend Sondra, my Dad – and the loss to cancer of several friends’ family members. I regret not having more time to be there for people.


There were some good moments in that period as well, mainly focused around Deep Cove. Julie and I had our second annual Summer Solstice pajama party, and my Lawn Cinema event in August brought in a good crowd for a beautiful evening of swimming, food and film under the stars. The summer wrapped up with a great night of square dancing and live music in our neighbour’s field, my dad doing the calling. Tragically, I failed to make the final four for the Cactus Jack Mini-Golf Extravaganza for the first time in many years. I’ll have to train in 2003.


The fall rushed past to the sound of Emma’s clarinet and piano playing, and Julie’s clicking knitting needles. I started indoor climbing again.


December was the driest and warmest in memory, but Christmas was very pleasant, with horse-drawn-carriage rides organized by the Dubneys, and our own carol sing-along on the 23rd. My dad, who had gone in for surgery a week before, magically got released from hospital on Christmas Eve, so it was a much cheerier holiday than anyone had envisioned. I’m happy to report that he, Sondra and Rosemary all had successful operations and are hopefully on the road to a full recovery.


Finally, a reward for those of you who stuck through this whole litany, Julie and I announced at Christmas that we’re expecting. Our due date is August 3. As if having a baby wasn’t enough, our big plan is to use part of our parental leave to travel down under in late 2003 to visit friends in New Zealand and Australia. Looks like 2003 should be another eventful year!!


All the best,