Well after a few weeks of much-needed rest, eating and relaxing, I’m heading back to Halifax on January 2nd. Part of me is happy about this – it’s only three months before classes finish, all the major program stresses are dealt with, job hunt begins in earnest. The other part of me isn’t so thrilled at this – I’ve come to realize how much I love and missed Toronto. Still, the first term of my graduate degree has been pretty amazing. Lots of new people, ideas and I got my marks today – I’m surprised at how well I did. Grades don’t matter as much at this level, but still, nice to see I can still do this “academic” thing with relative levels of success.

Looking back, 2004 has been a fairly good year for me. It’s been a major improvement over 2003. I went through a stunning amount of change and calamities that year, so this year’s relative peace has been a welcome relief.

Everyone has beaten to death the ideas of what makes for the top news stories of 2004. George W. Bush getting re-elected, the NHL lockout, the horrific loss of life in the South East Asian rim that has claimed, so far, more than 100,000 lives. The year couldn’t have gone without a tragedy, and it seems like it was all saved for the very bitter end.

On a personal front, I finally got some long-standing issues resolved. I got lots of good news – CBC, SVN, stability on the family front, the works. I learned to understand the subtle nuances of living with people I don’t know (i.e. housemates). My technical skills improved markedly this year, ranging from working on major web sites to advising my colleagues on certain things to do with computers (of course, this was always help that was requested by them – my know-it-all tendencies have to be stopped at the source). More spiritually, I’ve tried to confront some more basic truths in my life and deal with some long-standing problems. No one can ever be perfect and it’s ridiculous to claim you are ever going to be close to perfect. But still, there are always things to work on, and I’m proud to say that I’ve accomplished some of those goals.

So what’s in store for 2005? Well, it’s hard to say. No major elections are scheduled for the first time in years. But 2005 will be big for the following reasons:

1) Russia. So far, this country is decending back into Soviet-era style governance – freedom of the press has been severely curtailed, democratic reforms stalled, Putin acting like a right-wing version of his old Communist employers. What’s going to happen soon? You can bet in the wake of increasing American dominance, Russia will team up with China at some point on joint military operations, potentially to create a new counter-weight to U.S. global hegemony.

2) Britain. The British are scheduled for a general election this year. Tony Blair better be ready – the British are in a foul mood over the Labour government’s ill-fated choice to participate in the war in Iraq.

3) Iraq. The general elections are scheduled for January, but who knows if this will even work?

4) Osama Bin Laden. The New York Times recently wrote a piece on how Bin Laden’s style has changed since 9/11 – he’s becoming more statesman-like (whatever that means) and even conciliatory towards enemies like Europe. He offered a truce towards Europe, which only begs the question: is this war really about the West or hatred of America? I’m starting to think more and more that it’s hatred of America and not entirely towards the West (although don’t discount the notion it’s about anger towards the West as Occidentialist rage).

5) Canada. For the first time in ages, we may actually have some political stability. The minority government is still holding. Paul Martin’s agenda will likely be gradually spelt out over the next year or so, including new policies towards Native Canadians and re-thinking the post-secondary education funding formula. Which leads to…

6) Bob Rae. The brilliant former premier of Ontario has been charged with releasing his comprehensive review of post-secondary education in Ontario in two months. This report is hotly anticipated because it could help the Liberals determine what direction university funding will go in the future. Stay tuned.

7) Sports in Canada. Things in the Toronto sports scene are bad. Very bad. Toronto, for example, has only one bright spot – the Argos. The Leafs aren’t playing, the Raptors are in expansion-era style rebuilding and the Blue Jays are a non-factor in the AL East. 2005 will see the resuming of NHL hockey (which, at best, is 50/50 odds) and the Raptors continuing their slow, one-step-forward-two-steps-back approach to basketball and the Blue Jays struggling to compete in a division full of big market spenders.

I know, I know, this all sounds very negative. But still, there’s reasons to be hopeful that 2005 will be better than 2004. I can’t say what those reasons are, but be thankful we live in a tolerant, progressive society like Canada. Things are good here and we should be happy for that.

All in all, let’s hope 2005 will be a less angry, more progressive year than 2004. This year was a vast, vast improvement over 2003, but still, you can’t settle for less. Here’s to peace, love and tranquility for 2005.

Happy New Year everyone.

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