As I write this post, we are a little over 4 hours from January 1, 2010. First, I want to wish the four readers of my blog (I count myself) a happy new year. Should by a quirk of odd luck and randomness others read this, then you too, I wish a happy new year. As one year comes to a close and a new year (and decade) comes before us, it is a time for both reflection and to look ahead.

First a look back.

2009, I admit wasn’t one of the best years of my life. In early January, one of my closest friends lost his father. As a friend who lived a large distance away, I felt helpless in trying to comfort him. Having (thankfully) not experienced this myself, I did not know what to do. The following week, when I flew out to see him (a pre-planned trip) I discovered that my friend was far more resilient than I thought. Though the focus of the trip was to take his mind off of things, I discovered he didn’t need it. Later in the year I saw this friendship erode and end on September 18th for what I believed to be forever (he made it quite clear to me that this was to be the case).

Professionally, there were disappointments, to say the least. March 3 will always be a day I wish to forget but will remember for a long time. I discovered a new side of someone who works at the same company I do, a side I didn’t like. When others were told, some were extremely surprised while others reactions were, “yeah, I know.” Also another person who is very close to me continued to feel the full force and fury of our economic downturn and I could do nothing but provide moral, sympathetic support. He is still battling that storm, whose end, while not apparent, hopefully will come soon.

There were a lot of good things that happened in 2009. First, and most importantly, my mom’s cancer went into remission. She ended her treatments and even got to do something she never thought she would be able to do ever again, travel. Secondly, my dad regained the ability to drive at night. My parents got to enjoy freedoms once thought lost forever and for me, I think that’s a great thing! We also got to celebrate my parent’s 50th anniversary.

I got to travel to a place I’ve never been to before–Chicago the land of Obama (yeah, someone named Abe is also from that state). Yes, I’ve been to O’Hare earlier in my life, but I don’t get to count that. Despite the rain and nasty weather I had a great time walking around the city.

I also got to attend my first Defcon in Las Vegas. It was my first “Geek convention” and I found it fascinating. In November I got to do something for the third year in a row, turn a “virtual” friend into an “in real life” friend, someone I have known for six years. This was, by far, the best trip to Las Vegas I’ve ever had and certainly one of my favorite vacations of all time.

One of the nicest surprises of my life happened on December 16. That friendship, that I thought was over forever had a rebirth.  Let’s call this “friendship 2.0.” Someone once told me, “fortune favors the bold.”  I got bold and decided to reach out to the friend and he responded with kindness.  While I wouldn’t say the friendship is the same as it once was, it is still a good friendship and there is no one that knows me better than he does. I know he is a friend whom I trust and value any and all advice he can give me.

Professionally, right at the end of the year something nice happened. No, it wasn’t from the person I work with, but a peer of this person. I got an “Award For Excellence” for a project I was on. That one, single act restored my faith that there are truly appreciative people at the company I work for. Until that time, I simply relied upon myself for motivation (though my support lead also helped a lot). I am a self-motivated person, but it is always good when others help out. I can only hope my “friend 2.0” person learns and masters this skill–let’s call it “level 81” to use a World of Warcraft term.

A look ahead.

What will 2010 bring? Your guess is as good as mine. I hope “friend 2.0” continues on it’s successful journey.  I wonder what a service pack would look like?

Professionally, I am more optimistic than ever. I think this year when March comes around and a “look back” is done it will be better than 2009. I do hope that despite the merger and a thinning of the workforce, I will remain with the company. My job is evolving and I plan to evolve with it.

If all goes as planned, 2010 will be the fourth year in a row that I turn a virtual friend into a real life one. I look forward to seeing my friend of 19 years when I hopefully travel to Milan in June. I also hope another friend of mine from a kingdom across the ocean will also visit, but if not, maybe 2011 will be the fifth year in a row (neat, a half decade of turning virtual friends into real life ones).

I remain optimistic for myself, my family and my friends.

Again, happy new year!

Las Vegas: The Sequel

My long awaited second trip (this year) to Las Vegas was last week (November 30-December 3).  The flights to/from Las Vegas were surprisingly on time (considering Newark Airport was involved).  I got there about 20 minutes before Derek (aka “Kared”) and by the time I got off the plane he had landed.  We met at the Westjet carousel and took the short taxi ride to the Excalibur Hotel.  Once we got settled in, we started walking.  With the complex array of crosswalks to keep pedestrians off of Las Vegas Boulevard (aka “The Strip”) it was like walking through a giant maze (and we were the rats).  We lost track of time and before we knew it, it was dark and we had walked from one end of the strip to the other and caught the Mirage Volcano show.

On Tuesday we went to a nearby Outlet mall.  The mall is owned by the same company that owns the Flemington and Jackson outlets in NJ.  Derek was very excited because of the deep discounts on clothes (Nevada sales tax is low and the USA does not have a VAT).  Discounts were as high as 70% off.  Afterwards we went back to the strip and had a good evening that involved some drinks, bars and music.

Wednesday we took it kind of easy (Derek was a bit hung over, I was fine).  That night we saw Cirque De Soleil’s “O” at the Bellagio.  What an amazing show.  It was 90 minutes of amazing acrobatics, dance, water effects and acrobatics.  Afterwards we did some more walking around and some window shopping and checked out the Apple Store.

On our final day we took it easy.  Walked through the shops at the Venetian and did some shopping at the Coke and M & M store.  As the rodeo was coming into town we headed out.  Around 5:30 Derek & I said our goodbyes and went our separate ways at McCarran.  I know I had a great time and I’m pretty sure Derek did too.  For me, the best part was meeting someone in person who I’ve known online for almost 6 years.  Derek is as nice a guy in person as he is online.  I’m sure I’ll get to meet up with him and hopefully get to meet his wife Lori at some time in the future.

Here is the video I made of my trip to Las Vegas.  Enjoy.

Gay Marriage Debate Continues In NJ

Yesterday, a NJ senate committee had hearings on whether a resolution legalizing same-sex marriage should go to a vote in the senate. It passed. Here is some video from those hearings.

Senate committee hears emotional testimony on same-sex marriage bill
Senate judiciary committee vote to approve same-sex marriage bill