Six years ago…


Anniversary cartoonI received a notification last week from WordPress noting that I registered with them six years ago. Six years with their blogging platform… happy anniversary to me… what, no flowers? Party favours? Is this my modern life: email reminders from software companies?

That got me thinking about dates and anniversaries. And in trying to recall them all, keep the dates straight. Pull the weave apart and follow the threads backwards.

Why are we humans fixated with numbers that are easily divisible by five and ten? Is there any more relevance, more importance to an anniversary of 5, 10 or 20 years than one of 7, 11 and 19 years? Is it some biological need for a certain type of mathematical order? A need for a tidy whole number divisor? An innate tidiness?

Or is it really a cultural association that has been artificially built and reinforced by commercial interests to sell certain products at identifiable times of our lives: jewellery, flowers, cards and so on?

Is six years some sort of personal milestone that is somehow different from, say, five or seven years? Is six years a “yeah!” or a “meh…” event? And would ten be a “hooray” event simply because the number 10 resonates better than nine or eleven?

Well, to be fair, it’s not much of an anniversary either way. I didn’t spend the last six years exclusively with WordPress. I set up an account, tinkered with it, and experimented with a test blog hosted on their servers. I spent a lot of time looking at what their product could do, at the merits of self- versus WP-hosted services, and at issues like stability, users, plug-ins, etc.

I also tried some of their competition, too. For my purposes, I felt WP was superior in most aspects. But then I’m a bit of a tinkerer: I like to get at the code and hack a bit, especially the CSS and HTML. Coincidentally, it was the same year I started playing the ukulele (and charango, but that didn’t last, while the uke has).

But despite having kept an account with WordPress, for most of the decade I’ve been blogging, I used a mod installed on my Invision-based tequila forum instead. (I am now curious and must check to see if those early WP test posts are still online somewhere, though as far as I recall they were left in draft mode, not published for public amusement).

After several years with Invision, I was unsatisified with the mod and wanted more features, control, and more stable software. My old archives are still online but all my new material – almost 700,000 words worth – written in WordPress, is here.

I finally made the move to a self-hosted WordPress blog in December, 2011 and after some tinkering, and test posts, I began to blog continually with the WP software here in January, 2012. So perhaps WordPress should have sent me an anniversary remind of that date, instead.

Anniversary cartoonSpeaking of anniversaries in that year, December, 2012, was the 30th anniversary since I met Susan. That was worth celebrating. Still is. She’s been my partner, companion and best friend since we met and for us that date is the one we always remember. We celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in a short while, the exact date is kept a secret until we get the card from my mother reminding us… (boom-tish…. we’re here all week folks…). But that’s what’s it’s all about, right? Remembering the dates that matter most to us (or having someone remember for us…).

2014 has other anniversaries in it, aside from my WP account status and 30th wedding anniversary.

It is the 100th year of my late father’s birthday, born the same year the Great War began. It was the year my grandfathers went to war, one from England, the other from Canada. My mother’s father was released from the navy after several years of service, and the next day he was injured in the Halifax Explosion, of 1917. He always had bad knees as a result of being knocked over by the blast.

I don’t know when my father’s father was released from his service, but I’m researching it.

I don’t know when my father and mother signed up for WWII, but I mean to ask.

2014 is 67 years since my father came to Canada and 64 years since the start of the Korean War, Canada’s third war that century. It is also 67 years since the Cold War began, a period of tension and politics that would shape my childhood. Fifty-eight years since Nikita Khrushchev said “we will bury you,” the phrase that defined the Cold War.

2014 marks 40 years since I quit smoking (the second smartest thing anyone can ever do – the smartest being never to start).

It’s been 40 years since I opened my own bookstore in Toronto (sadly not a successful business venture but one done with great passion, out of which I escaped with a good education in managing retail but not necessarily in parsimonious ordering…). Thirty nine years since my daughter was born. I have my grandkids’ anniversaries to recall, too.

Forty years ago I was introduced to the board games Diplomacy and later Panzer Blitz – the latter started me in wargaming which would soon lead to writing about wargames and military history in my first regular magazine gig – Moves magazine. I still have some SPI and Avalon Hill board games from that era. The former game developed my interest in politics and through that, Machiavelli.

It was either 39 or 40 years ago that I met my friend and wargaming opponent, Tom, with whom I still play online computer games. I can’t recall if we met before or after the New Year. But friendships aren’t built on dates.

Forty years have passed since I played my first computer games (Othello, Chess and Star Trek on an APL system at the U of T). This fall will mark 37 years since I got my first microcomputer, a Radio Shack TRS-80. The first of many, many computers I would own. Almost four decades of computer gaming although it’s been a few years since I last had a review of one published. I would never have foreseen that playing those games with that big computer – it printed each move; there were no video screens then – would lead me to playing World of Tanks matches with online friends this past weekend.

It’s 19 years since I launched my first, self-made web page and 18 since I first started giving classes in building web pages. I still like to work in CSS and HTML and as recently as last month bought books on web design and coding. .

It’s been 48 years since I bought my first guitar. A Kent electric, Stratocaster clone, with an inexpensive amplifier. I remember being inspired to learn guitar by the Beatles Yesterday and Today album, but I can’t quite recall if I bought the guitar when the album was first released, or later. I remember struggling to learn songs by The Animals and The Rolling Stones, too, as well as The Ventures and the Beach Boys at that time. As memory serves, it was the summer of 1966 when I bought it – from a hock shop on Toronto’s Church Street – but it may have been the spring.

I got my first and only sitar 42 years ago and struggled to learn to play it for about a year before selling it. Should have kept it. One of my few regrets. I’d love to have one now and think I could give it the attention it requires more than I could back then.

Music is one of those things that has been with me for what seems forever, although my passion for it outstrips my talent. Right now,a s I type this, I have two ukuleles within easy reach and more scattered around the house. I pick one up and noodle constantly.

Early winter 2014 was 30 years since I first went to Mexico on vacation with Susan: The Buenaventura Hotel in downtown Puerto Vallarta. Still have great memories of that trip. And photos to back them up.

We went back there a few times – same hotel, a short walk to the Malecon of central PV – before we transferred our vacation stay to Ixtapa, and then Zihuatanejo. Our first trip to Ixtapa was about 25 years ago, give or take, but I’d have to check my photos for dates to be sure.

Late 2014 will mark my mother’s 95th birthday. An amazing lady who has suffered much through her life but carries on with optimism and a smile. She has been an inspiration to me. She and my dad instilled in me a love for reading, for critical thinking and for exploring the world.

It is 30 years since Susan and I decided to buy a house and found the place we loved. In late 1984, we closed a deal on a small Toronto home built in the 1930s, but didn’t move in until early 1985. Worst snowstorm of the decade, that day. You couldn’t see across the street (and we moved ourselves, with friends to help us).

It is 24 years since we moved to Collingwood. Twenty three since I first started working for local media (as editor for the Connection first, then head-hunted to work for the Enterprise-Bulletin later that year). Same time since I was first appointed to serve on the Library Board, an association I still cherish.

Looking back, 2013 marked 40 years since I stopped eating meat. I should have barbequed up some tofu to mark that. It was also 45 years since my first introduction to Buddhism, from a practitioner who gave me a copy of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, which book I still have on my bookshelf (the original and reprints). My appreciation of that teaching has also stayed with me, although as a practitioner, I have been less than diligent.

2013 also marked 30 years since my first foray into social media (running a BBS on an Atari 800 from home and becoming a sysop on Compuserve later that year). 1983 was also the year my first book, Mapping the Atari, was published. I was proud of that – and it gave me the money to put a downpayment on our first home.  It would be another 30 years until my book on social media would be published (Digital Connections).

I suppose I got overly nostalgic, looking back, recalling the people, the times, the events. All these milestones, all these anniversaries that paper the scrapbook of our lives; busier, fuller and fussier as we age. But we all look back on our life and measure its progress by such landmarks. Each one began with a single step, each meandering path eventually ended up here at this place and time.

It’s not important how they matter to others, but rather how they mark our journey to the present. Two years, six years, ten, even forty – the number doesn’t matter. What matters is that we remember what steps helped us get here and use them wisely. For good, for our own growth, for something that matters so that in the end we can look back from our last days and have delight and wonder in the journey, not regret and bitterness.