New Year’s Eves of Years Gone By

In remembering the New Year’s Eves of my past, I smile at the great moments I’ve shared with friends and family bringing in the new year. There was the night I stayed up until the sun came up with friends playing cards and listening to music; the two New Year’s Eves I spent in Japan, hearing nothing but the bell of the Buddhist temple bringing in the new year; the night I spent with my family in Sacramento; the nights spent with friends attending dances and lighting fireworks; the night I spent walking along the beach and watching fireworks over the Pacific Ocean from Waikiki with my wife; the night I spent at a Samoan/Tongan celebration in San Francisco; the uneventful night I played video games with a few friends; and the nights growing up when, at the stroke of midnight, we would run outside and bang on pots and pans and yell Happy New Year. Tonight I have another chance to make memories that will last a lifetime. I have never been the life of the party on New Year’s Eve or any other night of the year, but I have had some great times on December 31st . Tonight will be no exception.

What I Have Read

I read 44 books this year. I know because I have written a book review on amazon.com of each book that I completed. There were a few books that I started and then failed to finish due to losing interest, but every book I finished I wrote a review for. I currently have 146 reviews on amazon, 44 of which came from books completed this year. In looking at the list of books (accessible here) I read everything from biographies and memoirs to motivational and self-help books to fast-paced fiction to investment and business books to history. All of this reading was in addition to the numerous magazine and newspaper articles I found myself constantly reading. 

In the past I have been known to say that I have a hard time respecting people that don’t read on their own. It may sound harsh, but I stand by that opinion. All great leaders and thinkers are voracious readers. There are almost no exceptions that I know of. What one reads is up to him or her, but educating oneself should be a lifelong and enjoyable process.

While I do keep my ongoing list of book reviews, I am far from this guy, keeping a list of everything he has read since 1974. His current list of books read is now at 2153 and is quite impressive, especially given that he adds almost another book each week. Who knows if I’ll ever reach that number, but I will keep reading, not for any record, but for my own enjoyment’s sake.  

Seven Cities

There was a time not long ago when I stood firm about where I would and would not live in my life. I had a list of no more than seven cities in the United States that I would consider to work, play and live. Anywhere outside of those seven cities I had no interest in. The seven were: Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. I might also add a handful of cities outside of the United States, but for me to move me and my family outside of the U.S. would include consideration of more factors than a move from, say, New York to Boston.

Speaking of which, I spent this past weekend before Christmas in Boston and traveled all around the city for a few days. I can see why people like it there. It’s not a large city, but it’s large enough for everyone to find what they’re interested in, especially with the number of universities in the area. On the way back to New York, however, I contemplated whether or not Boston should remain on my list of seven cities, given that it made my list based on what I had heard and knew about the city and not because of my personal experience in Boston. I concluded that it should remain because the opportunities in Boston are plentiful should I ever decide to pursue a career there.

But in thinking of cities in which to live in the future, my mind can’t help but begin to consider cities outside of the seven that have been on my list for the past many years. I have done the New York thing and the New York thing has prevented us from buying a house due to the cost of living. I have a family now and must consider what is best for all of us in the long run. I make no promises and still stand firm as to places that I have absolutely no interest in living, but with time (and maybe maturity) I find myself thinking of the smaller cities and markets as being more attractive if I ever decided to take my New York experience and shop it around. All I can say is that this is a big change from where I was not that long ago.

Christmas Time is Here Again

It’s Christmas time again. Like many people, I feel that each year seems to end quicker than the previous one. And here we are again, ready or not. Last year on this date I was waiting at JFK for my flight to California. It was, of course, delayed and I spent much of the evening in the JFK JetBlue Terminal. I finally arrived at my destination around 2:30 a.m., forcing those scheduled to pick me up to wake themselves out of bed in the middle of the night to come pick me up. This year there will be no flight delays for me, as I am staying here with my wife and daughter in New York. It seems all too often that I spend Christmas away from my family back home, but this will be the first year my wife and I spend Christmas with our daughter Hanna. I grew up with some holiday traditions and it is now our turn to begin to create our own traditions that can last us through the years. Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year. May this time of year be one of happiness and prosperity.

Osteochondroma

On this day eleven years ago, December 19, 1996, I had surgery to remove a benign bone tumor from my upper right arm. My wife, being the doctor that she is, wanted to know exactly what this so-called tumor was, especially now that we have a child of our own, as I did not know her eleven years ago. I had no idea what to tell her. What I did have, however, were x-rays taken prior to the surgery that she was able to bring in to the radiologist that she was working with at the time. They both agreed that the diagnosis was an osteochondroma, a type of benign tumor that consists of cartilage and bone that usually occurs near the end of a long bone.

I am happy to say that the orthopedic surgeons that removed the growth in my arm did a great job as I have not had any pain or problems since the surgery eleven years ago. All I am left with is a long scar running down the side of my right arm, a scar that has been the source of numerous stories to various people over the years, few of which involve having a bone tumor removed. My surgery was performed at the University of Washington Medical Center and I am thankful for the doctors (whose names I don’t even remember) that successfully did what they were trained to do. Losing my arm or any function of it would have changed my life forever, an obstacle that I no longer face. Thank you modern medicine.

The World in Dubai

There are some pretty ambitious people in Dubai right now trying to change the face of luxury and how we live in the future. Not only will Dubai soon be the site of the tallest building in the world when the Burj Dubai is completed, it will also be the home of The World. Similar to the Palm Islands, The World is a group of more than 300 man-made islands in the Gulf that, when viewed from above, portray each of the major continents of the earth. Each island is for sale and the owner of an island or group of islands will be able to develop the property however it chooses. Examples range from creating an Irish themed island on the island located where Ireland is situated in the actual world to creating a Thai themed island where Thailand is situated. Surrounding The World is a man-made rock wall to protect the islands from the open sea with strategic openings placed to allow water and marine life to flow in and out of The World. As you could imagine, constructing a whole new luxury city from scratch across many different islands can be expensive and the project has years to go before its completion. It’s a big gamble for wealthy investors sold on seeing the project through, even by Dubai standards. But it’s a gamble that could turn out well for those that have put money in so far. If completed as planned, The World will become not only a playground for the wealthy, but a once in a lifetime trip for all who visit. It’s no wonder why Dubai is on my list of must visit places before I die.

Snow Falling

As I sit in my office on the 32nd floor and look out at the snow that has begun to fall over Manhattan I remember back to a train ride I had over seven years ago. It was February of 2000, Y2K had proven to be no big deal and I was in the mountains of Japan. I was living near The Japan Sea at the time and was requested to move from the city I was in, Fukuchiyama, to Toyooka, a smaller city farther north and in a different prefecture. The night before the move we heard from friends, who knew how clueless we were to the local news, that there was a large snow storm predicted to roll in that night. The weathermen did not disappoint. I woke up early to several feet of snow, and it was still coming down hard.

Having already shipped most of my supplies, I carried what remaining items I had down the isolated snowy streets to the train station and took the train to my new temporary home in Toyooka. The ride was beautiful as I watched the sunrise over the mountains and the snow blanketing the rice fields and small villages along the way. In many ways, rural Japan is a beautiful place. I remember listening to the soundtrack of Mononoke Hime, one of Japan’s blockbuster animation films of the last decade. I felt peaceful and happy. Now, as I struggle sometimes to find the necessary hours in each day to complete what must be done, I think back to a time when, like today, I was watching the snow fall, and I am at peace.