Priorities

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Recently I was talking with a friend about how I wanted to do something, but I didn’t have time.

“Don’t have time!” was the response, “I don’t buy that. We all have the same amount of time. What you mean is that it is not a priority.”

I protested, “No, you don’t understand – I have this commitment and that commitment – I have to make money to pay the bills. I’m a freelancer and when I am busy that takes most of my time. I have to invest time with my spouse to keep our relationship together. I just don’t have any more time.”

“Mike,” He said, “It’s not a matter of time, It is a matter of priorites.”

He went on, “What if I told you that I had a Mercedes Benz for you – one that I didn’t want anymore, and handed you the keys. What if I told you that the only condition was that you had to pick it up before tomorrow at noon, at a place that was a 2 hour drive from here.”

He said this knowing I had meetings galore booked for the next day. Fair enough. I’d break whatever commitments or plan I had, and I’d go and get the free Benz.

So now I have been trying to work that in to my speech. If I catch myself saying “I don’t have time for that”, I will attempt to correct myself and say “That is not a priority for me”. This is much closer to the truth.

It is a double edged sword.

On the one hand, I have lost the excuse. When I say “I don’t have time”, it’s as if I am stating a fact about my environment – something I can’t control like the weather. As soon as I say “it isn’t a priority for me”, I realize I am responsible for my own lack of interest.

At the same time, I become aware of how it doesn’t have to be that way. I could make anything a priority for me. Likewise, if something is taking up my time and I don’t want it to, I could arrange my life so it is no longer a priority. It is an empowering way to shift thought about the stuff you have to get done each day. Things take time, and time calls for priorities, but ultimately, you get to choose what your priorities are.

Throughout our decision to move, we had hundreds of decisions about priorities, big and small. We had decisions about the priority of things we are taking with us and things we weren’t, and we had decisions about the priority of our careers, the adventure awaiting us in Victoria, the possibility of actually affording real estate there, leaving the comforts of Vancouver, and so on. I’ve been thinking about my priorities a lot lately.

So yesterday, it seemed kind of funny when I got a fortune in a fortune cookie after eating at a local Chinese restaurant:

“NOW IS THE TIME TO SET PRIORITIES”

Truer words were never spoken. Excuse me – I have a lotto ticket I need to buy.

Little Pig

My spouse, Julie, is big on knitting.

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A lot of people blog about their knitting. I know this because Julie is also big on knitting blogs.

She makes awesome things. I am amazed at what she comes up with. Often, she cranks these things out in only a couple of days.

Many of Julie’s friends say she should start a blog, at least, in part, to show off her wares. Well, she hasn’t yet, and maybe never will. But if I have to do it myself, her projects will be seen by an adoring internet public. Oh yes, they will.

I am starting with this little pig.

It’s for our niece, Cara, who apparently is really into pigs (Babe, Charlottes Web, any pig, any time, anywhere). If you know Cara, don’t tell her. It’ll spoil the surprise.

Foo Hong

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The other day Julie was shopping for yarn at a yarn store. I’m not much of a knitter, so I walked around and snapped some photos.

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Chinatown in Victoria isn’t much more than a block or two of Fisgard street. It is rich in colour though, and I am very partial to the old architecture and vintage signage.

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I came across Foo Hong – a greasy chopstick that doesn’t really stick out too much from the other restaurants, but it triggered a dormant memory for me.

I remember stopping there for some chow mein when I was a 20 year old art student in this town. Foo Hong was known for a high calorie per dollar value ratio, so that fit my bill at the time. I was placed at a table for 6, even though I was eating for one. Other solo clientele were at the table as well. I wasn’t used to this – eating at a table with others I hadn’t met. I don’t remember much about the people at the table, but I remember the silence that seemed awkward only to me – I ordered and sat in silence, wishing I had a book or newspaper.

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An attractive and similarly aged woman was seated across the table from me. I wanted to look at her but didn’t want to make eye contact. I tried to find something to place my attention on – I nervously fiddled with my chopsticks.

“Will you pour my tea?” I heard a voice ask. I looked up to see the woman across from me looking my way. I had to check over my shoulder. Surely it couldn’t be me she was addressing.

“It’s bad luck to pour your own,” she said. Then she repeated, “will you pour my tea?”

“Uhh, yeah, sure,” was my mumbly reply.

I poured the tea. She poured mine. Butterflies in my stomach flew around a bit, then my order came and they settled down. I tried to consider something to say or a conversation to start, but I was much too nervous. I ate, paid my tab and left.

I never, ever would have remembered that experience had it not been for the sign I walked by the other day. It is creepy and oddly comforting to be living in this place that has so much history for me – and so much of that being from a time when I was a completely different person.

Lately I am finding it more oddly comforting than creepy. Hopefully this trend continues.

Certificate in Internet Programming

I recently completed a Certificate in Internet Programming from UBC Continuing studies.

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I started it a few years ago after having taken a course in Flash from UBC Continuing studies and really enjoying it. Up until then I had mostly learned on my own or from my peers, futzing with software and scripting until I could bend it to my will. I still do that, but I found the exposure to concepts in the Flash course that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered very valuable.

At that time, I had fooled around a little bit with PHP, a server side scripting language, and I was curious to learn more. It’s always easy to put off stuff like that, so to motivate myself to take the courses regularly, I decided to enroll in the certificate program to learn more about it and other internet technologies. It would require 200 hours of instruction over the course of 3 years.

On the whole, I would heartily recommend UBC Continuing Studies. The quality of the instruction was great. The location at Robson Square was very convenient. If I had one complaint it would only be that I found some of the courses I required were frequently cancelled due to lack of enrollment towards the end.

The program focused on open source technologies, but not exclusively. It covered using online databases (namely MySQL), and also XML, Perl and Python, and even included courses on client communications and project management.

Probably the most important thing I learned was the value in learning on a continual basis.  In fact, it was much of the motivation for me to try teaching – several of my instructors appeared to be having a lot of fun and their enthusiasm was infectious. Having finished my last class last spring, I am currently feeling a little withdrawal. What’s next? Well, there is a (nearly) free ASP Certification program available from http://www.w3Schools.com – a popular reference site with many useful tutorials on a number of topics. Maybe I will give that a go.

Chinese Cemetery

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Victoria is a very, very bikable city. You’ll look on your map at a destination and think “That’s clear on the other side of town!”, but what that actually means is about a 25 minute bike ride.

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The other day Julie and I took a little trip to the Chinese Cemetary.

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I lived here for 4 years in the first part of the 90’s, and I don’t think I’d ever heard of it. It’s on a beautiful little point. Apparently was chosen because for the immigrants who passed away here that couldn’t afford to have their remains shipped back to China, this was the closest place in Victoria to their homeland.

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I am in the honeymoon period with Victoria right now. I moved from Vancouver, which is also a beautiful city, but Victoria is full of new places to go and experiences to have. As I discover these places. features and endearing idiosyncracies, I am infatuated by the thought of that which is yet undiscovered.

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