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May. 18th, 2013

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Scrabble blogging community?

It's clear that LJ is moribund as a regular blogging medium for Scrabblers. The cross-tables forums are not really any better, despite several past attempts at reviving them. I know that we all get busy; heck, I'm barely on ISC anymore, almost never look at the newsgroups, and haven't done a whole lot of Scrabble-related stuff besides a handful of tournaments in the past year. That said, where is everyone unloading their thoughts now? I'm not seeing them on Facebook, with a few occasional exceptions.

I don't have a whole lot of Scrabble things to say due to where my life is headed, and I could post about those non-Scrabble things on here, but is anyone really even reading LJ anymore? The forums? Does anyone read notes on Facebook, which I've seen a few people try (and tried myself)?

Jan. 6th, 2013

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A weekend of w@ndering

For the first time in several years on a non-holiday weekend during the school year, I am not working. My job in Media Relations for UBC Okanagan Varsity Athletics, which has been a large part of my weekends during university, has finished after 3 years. I feel strange not proofreading a weekend preview for the varsity soccer, basketball or volleyball teams. It seems unusual not conducting an interview with a team coach or quickly editing a player photo before writing a game recap at 10 PM on a Saturday night.

The reason my university job has finished is because I'm not enrolled in enough courses to continue my job. That may seem trivial, but it's the rules. UBC Okanagan requires at least three courses per semester, and I only need two more courses to complete my undergraduate degree in psychology with a Spanish minor. As this season of being an undergraduate university student draws nearer to a close, I am doing some self-reflection. My mind is now w@ndering: wandering and wondering.

I've badly needed to deal with the "clutter" in my life, both literally and metaphorically. I'm currently sorting through clothes and giving away stuff that I don't wear to Value Village or somewhere similar. I see my old Safeway apron and Wal-Mart vest, the last remnants of work attire from my first two "real" jobs at age 15 and 16. I flash back briefly to being the shy, clumsy and naïve teen with a victim mentality. How far I've come in 11 years, I think to myself as I decide to finally get rid of them and leave that portion of the past behind for good.

Next I come across a custom T-Shirt that I made with markers and glitter pens as a 19-year-old youth leader at one of Sun-West Christian Fellowship's high school gym nights. I flash back to comparing myself to a youth leader named Dan Bold, a younger guy who'd hit the gym pretty hard in the last few years and was looking incredible. I remember resolving to keep the T-Shirt I'd made until the outline of my body filled it out and made me look as good as he did wearing his T-Shirt. I try it on, 7 years later, and find I fill it out much better than the self-loathing 19-year-old me did, but the body image issues I had then still remain. I opt to keep the T-Shirt, determined to make my original goal and kill the body image monster that remains.

I see the pile of National Scrabble Championship T-Shirts that have amassed over the last 7 years. Scrabble has been an amazing place of refuge from an often difficult set of life circumstances. I see the black New Orleans 2004 T-Shirt, a memory of the very first NSC that I ever attended. It represents for me the excitement of playing against Scrabble's best for the first time, including the memory of taking on elite expert player Joey Mallick in Round 1 and almost beating him! I want Scrabble to get back to the place where it was all about the joy of playing and nothing else. New Orleans was the perfect symbol of that, hence I opt to keep the New Orleans T-Shirt and send the rest to the giveaway pile.

Mom shouts up the stairs to remind me that my younger brother is modeling in Kelowna's Bridal Show in an hour. That's enough w@ndering for now. Time to shift back to the present and move forward...

Dec. 29th, 2012

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2012 Review

From this post last year, here's a few things I put in motion for 2012:

Five things I want to do in 2012
1. Get better at Super Bishi Bashi Champ
2. Play in the highest competitive level of league volleyball in Kelowna
3. Finish my undergraduate degree
4. Take a class that a) isn't at university/college and b) I haven't ever taken before
5. As Ms. Frizzle used to say, "take chances, make mistakes, get messy!"

1. Get better at Super Bishi Bashi Champ
This was not a particularly serious goal. I was just annoyed at how terrible I was at it. I am still terrible at it, and I'm actually okay with that now haha

2. Play in the highest competitive level of league volleyball in Kelowna
This one I'll consider sort of accomplished. I got to substitute for a team playing in this league and enjoyed myself immensely. I've also gotten more opportunities to hit the ball around with university varsity volleyball players. It's not an entire season of participation, but it's a start.

3. Finish my undergraduate degree
This one I'll consider sort of accomplished also. When I wrote the post last year I still was considering whether I'd aim for an honours degree in psychology. I also wasn't sure whether I'd add a minor in Spanish. I've decided to set myself up for an honours degree and to get a minor in Spanish. I'll have my undergraduate degree finished this spring and I can upgrade it later to an honours degree by doing an honours thesis project outside of a degree program. This gives me the best setup for getting into grad school in Canada and anywhere else, whenever that may happen.

4. Take a class that a) isn't at university/college and b) I haven't ever taken before
Definitely got this one done! I enrolled in a Brazilian Portuguese class this fall in my community. Loved it, and will eventually learn more of it properly as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil draws nearer.

5. As Ms. Frizzle used to say, "take chances, make mistakes, get messy!"
For better or for worse, this goal was met and exceeded. I did all three in abundance, and have learned a lot about myself in the process. I could write an entire post about this alone but I won't...for now.

As for next year? I'm doing a lot of thinking right now, and I will post some of those thoughts soon enough. I am processing a lot of things from this past year, some very good and some very bad. I'm getting ready to leave behind what needs to stay behind, allow doors to close that are inevitably closing, walk towards doors that are beginning to open and to embrace the process of change.

Oct. 18th, 2012

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Autumnal Ardency

3:15 AM
Kelowna, BC

The world outside lies dormant, enshrouded in the darkness of the still night. Leaves on the magnolia tree outside my window sway ever so slightly, absorbing each of my thoughts in our one way telepathic conversation. I cherish these nocturnal bouts of reflection; none of the urgency that the daylight brings is present, and many of the most profound conversations I've been a part of have transpired well beyond the witching hour. Tonight, however, it's just me and the magnolia tree rustling back at me, indicating that I ought to go on...

In September I started taking Portuguese classes at the rec centre. It is amazing how much Spanish is influencing the learning for me. We're one week away from being done the beginner class, and I'm excited that I can understand about half of what our teacher says when she speaks to me in Portuguese.

It's only been in the last several weeks that I am finally not sick in some way. With the exception of two brief periods in July and August, I have not been well since mid-June. I am thankful for all that has gone right and all that has gone wrong (both by my own doing and by factors beyond my control) in the last 4 months, though it has not been without cost. I've been reminded of my own humanity, I've learned who my friends are, that I can't fix everything (nor should I), and while being hated sucks, it's not nearly as bad as I thought it was.

My eyelids gently rise and fall as the world of dreams entices my weary soul. For now I wave my white flag, turning off my bed lamp and voyaging to an illusory land once more.

Jun. 9th, 2012

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Dunno how many people even use LJ anymore, but here goes. Who's figuring out Orlando rooming already? I'd like to do so as well. Are people getting more of those off-site places again?

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Feb. 28th, 2012

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On Jujitsu and Scrabble Culture

Last Tuesday I went with Jordan, my friend in Simi Valley in California, to watch him at jujitsu. He is training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and various MMA (mixed martial arts) for a tournament in Las Vegas occurring in mid-March. The experience got me thinking about some important differences between this culture and Scrabble culture.

There are several guys pointing their iPhones/iPads at whichever two fighters are in the middle, recording their every move. Encouragement and instruction is being shouted out as they are "rolling" (a term used in BJJ culture to signify 'sparring with the purpose of educating'). The video being taken is used to teach and improve the fighters' technique. The fighters are willing to be vulnerable, for others to see their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and their mistakes. People of all skill levels are rolling, and while doing so share their knowledge and experience with each other. They know that by doing this they will reinforce their own knowledge and experience in BJJ; this goes off the basic principle that assumes that one must have command over material in order to teach it.

OSC: I hear mention of the GI# very early on.

Many international Scrabble players (the Thais in particular) are okay with talking during games in progress, and with crowding around tables to watch games and kibitz. One need only witness events like the Princess Cup or King's Cup to see this in action. In contrast, at the recent Las Vegas tournament one of the Ghanian players was laughing heartily as he discussed a game with someone, only to get shushed. As I was speaking to two players and taking commentary notes at a board, the two players at the adjacent board shushed me! Also, a player who I won't directly name (but has a "colourful" surname) made obnoxious director calls numerous times in Vegas to get the room quieted. This is generally no different at club level.

I know I am not the only one who has been asked what we as an organization can do to attract more people to the tournament scene. This is my personal attempt at answering the question. I believe the question needs to be reframed, because people rarely attend tournaments without having been to a Scrabble club. In addition, Scrabble tournament culture (with respect to ideas such as the "need" for quiet in the room) is a direct product of Scrabble club culture. Therefore, it makes more sense to address club culture, since any change in club culture will gradually be reflected in tournament culture.

I think that club Scrabble, which by proxy also means tournament Scrabble, will never thrive if we continue to shut down the social element of the game. If players can't talk to each other to learn from one another, how do we expect people to improve? The average person is not willing (and some are not able) to spend countless hours staring at some combination of Zyzzyva, JumbleTime, Aerolith, Maven and Quackle. How is club useful if people can't talk about their games with one another? How can we expect people to learn to think critically if any attempts at discussion are immediately shushed? Should we really be surprised that Scrabble tournaments don't attract a lot of animated, extroverted people when our Scrabble culture frowns upon these sorts of behaviours? Should we really be surprised that a majority of the kids in school Scrabble (where discussion between partners during games is not only allowed, it's welcomed and encouraged) don't continue on to adult tournament play? In contrast, I can guarantee that at pretty much any of the closed events that xpmorgan and nagekinoki have run that there is plenty of talking, joking and discussion occurring during all of the games, and no one would argue that there have been some high-class matches played at these events.

A number of people are also against being annotated. Guess what? The best in any sport, game, you name it, are "annotated" in some form. Every major sport has matches taped, ready for review by coaches and players. These are televised in order to showcase their ability, yes, but also to attract more people to that sport. The best chess players in the world have their matches annotated in major tournaments, ready for review by themselves and countless other chess players wishing to improve. Can we really expect Scrabble to grow if we as a culture are not willing to allow people to see our racks, each move we've made and compare it to what Quackle and/or experts suggest in each position? Think about the success of Word Freak for a moment. Fatsis shared both his successes and his failures in commentary that incorporated the essence of Scrabble culture, and he did so in a compelling way. He essentially made himself human and likeable to his readers. We have to find a way to do the same.

At a tournament level, we are starting to get a few more tournaments with round-by-round commentary, but US Nationals, Canadian Nationals and Worlds are generally still the only tournaments where we can reliably expect it. Tweeting at tournaments is really only just starting to happen; the players are having to do it because directors haven't caught on to this powerful medium. The players need to continue to do so in order to create awareness, but directors also need to get on board.

We have to keep up with this generation if we want to attract younger participants. BJJ understands the culture of this generation, and incorporates it well in order to bring people in, keep them there and help them improve. We also need to embrace this if we are ever to build a vibrant tournament Scrabble culture in North America, and ultimately the world.

Please add your thoughts to this; that includes comments, criticism, all that jazz.

Feb. 19th, 2012

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Vegas Colour: Main Event, Day 1 (Saturday) (cross-posted to CGP)

I briefly popped into Las Vegas to surprise some folks (pretty sure I achieved that!) and also lent myself to unofficial internet reporting services for the tournament. That included some reporting on Twitter as time permitted (quick note: you can see updates from the players on Twitter by looking for posts with the hashtag #scrabblevegas), and I also took notes from games in various divisions throughout the day. Here's my compilation of commentary from yesterday:

Round 1
meezerman vs. Michael Quao
NB: 469; MQ: 353

Nathan won 469-353 after foiling Michael's pre-endgame possible play of RETINOL by extending DINE to TOLIDINE. He says he could have played TOLUIDINE to block even better, but he didn't want to lose the game on a word he wasn't 100% sure of, and TOLIDINE got the job done. Nathan played ERuMPENT, SIBILAtE and INDORsER, while Michael played MAeSTRO and C(A)JOLED.

Lewis Saul vs. Dani Roter
LS: 411; DR: 346

Dani was ahead early after playing FATTEN(S) for 69, but on her next turn gave Lewis an i that he desperately needed to play MiNISTRY. He followed that with OXY (54) and then used his 2nd blank for 40+ points the turn after! After building the 100 point lead he never looked back.

Ann Birchard vs. Desiree Engel
AB: 321; DE: 299

Desiree was ahead by a lot for most of the game. She played EX by hooking ZIN with ZINE to get 38 points, then played CHaRY for 26, and YUK for 31. Ann caught up by playing QI for 46, and then READS on the triple word score for 30 points. Ann ended up winning at the end in this nailbiter!

bbstenniz vs. Tom Bond
CBB: 479; TB: 328

Tom says that Conrad was in control right from the get go. Conrad played D(O)NATES, RECeDING and ILEUSES. Conrad points out that Tom had the cool play of the game, which he got by hooking REBOOK to make PREBOOK as he bingoed with (P)REDIVE.

tranonehalf vs. Chris Cree
ET: 380; CC: 371;

With both of these players initially missing from the first round's pairings, the ergonomic solution was to pair them against each other, despite the fact that as #3 and #4 seeds, they wouldn't normally play each other this early on. Both played a bingo apiece, Chris with SUI(C)I(D)E for 74 and Eric with EVERTINg for 80. Chris says that this was a very close game, which Eric won at the end in a key play. Eric played SULU to take out an S hook and score points. This just so happened to block TETaNICS through an A and hook the S in the same spot that Eric played SULU in. Eric held on in the end game to win it.

robinpd vs. Sam Kantimathi
RPD: 379; SK: 301

Robin says that this game was slow early on for both players. She had MRVUWZ? at one point after dumping more consonants the turn before. Two turns later, she held AERRZ?? and played the beautiful TERRAZ(Z)(O) off of a freshly played T from Sam's previous play. Robin says Sam had little to work with all game.

Round 2
Zana Anderson vs. Darla Michel
ZA: 372; DM: 341

About midway through the game I see T(I)SSUE(S), ZONER and POXED on the board. After the game Zana tells me that Darla played JURALS*/SCOUT in the pre-endgame to bring her score within 20 of Zana's, but Zana was unsure and had PACT for 35 in response to secure her win, so she didn't challenge JURALS*.

Michelle Whitaker vs. Suzanne Barnes
MW: 376; SB: 290

Michelle, a Las Vegas local, is doing quite well so far in her debut tournament. She got to play SUQS (50) and also hooked LIVE to make ALIVE/DET(A)ILS for 74. Suzanne's high play was FINES for 34.

Round 4
Ed Saunders vs. Kent Nelson
ES: 415; KN: 371

As I walk by during their post-mortem, I see uN(I)TIZED, I(N)QUIRES, PRESS(i)NG and BAWDY among some of the higher scoring plays on the board.

bbstenniz vs. qaqaq
CBB: 454; TP: 377

Trip has finally lost a game after starting 3-0 in Division A. Trip started the game off strong, responding to Conrad's MARTIAN with COSIEST (hooking MARTIAN) and then playing vALGUSES on the next turn off of an open V for 83. Conrad brought the score back to within 40 after bingoing with ALMONER, and then fate took its course. With a rack of EEEORUV, Conrad played OEUV(r)E through a blank R on the board and drew OQSTU, giving him ROQUETS on his next turn for 96!

Trip channels Joey Mallick for a moment and gives me a unique stat for his tournament so far. He says that 3 of his first 4 games have been decided by 77 points!

Jackie Heller vs. Denise Mahnken
JH: 387; DM: 320

Denise tells me after her game that this one did not go well for her at all. She says Jackie had both blanks and used them to play SMITTE(N) and SLICER(S). Her best play was hooking IZAR with an S to make SIZAR and another word for 38 points.

Becky Dyer vs. poslfit
BD: 466; JC: 355

John informs me that Becky used both blanks in one turn make the nice play of BRE(E)Z(E)D, hooking GAUCHE with an R, to score 121 points. She also played TORCHES later in the game. John played OTARINE# and SCOTTIE. John says that the silver lining for this game was that he got to play QIN# for the first time ever! (QIN was added to Collins in the dictionary update this year).

Round 5
copyright1983 vs. Mike Baker
MF: 541; MB: 361

Mike Baker tells me that he tried to play NUTWORM* for 108 several turns into the game. After holding for a little while, Mike Frentz challenged it off the board, and took off from there. Frentz was on fire with APTERIA, AIRTIME, GALLOON and INDEVOUT. Baker played BLANDISH and BRAVOES.

sneakyofverb vs. Tapani Lindgren
EB: 545; TL: 359

Evan calls me over to his board to show me his last game. He opened the game with HOEDOWN for 86 and got down HABANERo just 2 turns later (he of course couldn't resist calling it a 'hot' play). Tapani got down ORDAINS and NOSIEST, but Evan says he drew well, with TRUSTEE (71), APIOL# (32) and JIRGa# (26) among his other higher scoring plays.

magratheazaphod vs. qaqaq
JD: 414; TP: 374

Jesse Day maintains his undefeated record (5-0) after his clash with Trip Payne. Trip says that he was up a bunch early, scoring well on mostly non-bingo plays (NERVY, JOGS and QUOTH), but also with HENLIKE. Jesse Day explains that he drew both blanks late in the game, capitalizing on them with DIDA(C)TS and SIL(L)IESt late in the game to overtake Trip and win in the end.

Round 6
Julia Scraggs vs. Michelle Whitaker
JS: 382; BB: 357

The undefeated Michelle Whitaker is finally taken down this round by Julia Scraggs. Julia is very humble about her win, saying that both of them struggled with bad tiles throughout the game. Julia's notable play of the game was RELEASE with both blanks, while Michelle says her best play was XU for 52.

Jessup Yencer vs. Yukari Balabanov
JY: 467; YB: 347

Jessup tells me that he got to play OUTDRIVE for 74 and GLOSSING for 77 in his game with Yukari, while she played MAGNETS for 74. Yukari says that it was all Jessup's game from early on.

Chris Cree vs. Yukiko Loritz
CC: 464; YL: 461

Chris Cree wins a close game against Yukari that was decided in a difficult endgame for both players. Chris played HAVOCING*, BENEFICE and TRIHEDRA, hooking TRIHEDRA with an L by playing ALUM on his next turn. Yukiko had the beautiful WOOD(B)INs and NAILSET, hooking the S onto BENEFICE. Chris points out that Yuki made a gorgeous play in the pre-endgame. She played RUPEe, making boaRd, bUb, pI, eN along the way!

bbstenniz vs. magratheazaphod
CBB: 550; JD: 439

Jesse Day opened their game with PLIOSOL*; Conrad says he left it on because he had ENROLLED in response. This, however, backfired because Jesse had another bingo (OUTDRAWN). Jesse followed it with OYEZ (48) and then bIRTHING for 92, but Conrad was not to be 'outdrawn'. Conrad was still scoring at least 40 each turn, and then in a pivotal moment played RA(T)AFIA, hooking HUMANE to make HUMANER. Jesse challenged, losing his turn. Conrad drew the X and the blank, playing OXY for 54. Two turns later he played ORGIAST for 68, and then got CORNIEST through the E out of the bag, simultaneously blocking Jesse's last ditch comeback possibility of AVERSIVE through a V.

With Conrad's win against Jesse, there are no longer any undefeated players left in Div A.

Round 7
Denise Mahnken vs. Zana Anderson
DM: 335; ZA: 318

Denise says she got to play BLITZ (52), b(R)AINIER (80), ReBATiNG through disconnected letters on the board (22), and VALVE (48). Zana says that she didn't really score all that much, with UPPED (31) being her most noteworthy scoring play in the game. Denise explains that she spazzed out at the end and tried YEHS*/SUQ, which Zana challenged off the board. Zana went out and collected MNNQSU from Denise's rack, but couldn't quite catch up at the end of the game.

Phyllis Persicketti vs. Tom Tremont
PP: 362; TT: 287

Tom explains that the game was fairly close throughout. Phyllis says she was consonant heavy for a long time, but a play of SPaWN helped clear some of them away about midgame. Tom scored well with VIZIR (43) and QUIRE (24), but Phyllis fired back late with BOX (38) and A(U)N(T)IES for 62 to pull ahead at the end and take the game out of Tom's reach.

Craig Beevers vs. srockhop
CB: 460; SN: 412

Craig continues to hold off his opposition. He started this match with a bang, playing TRAYNES# for 72. He cleared off an ugly rack soon after with UNgYVE# (39), and added PrETRIAL (74) and TwINERS (84) to his bingo tally. Sandy fought hard, playing GINGERS (79) and e(N)TITLED (77), but Craig was not to be denied.

Round 8
sneakyofverb vs. poslfit
EB: 533; JC: 309

John played SCOP early on, Berofsky responding with scopE/EXTENDS for 90. Several turns later, he got away with a phony hook (SCOPER*) as he bingoed with GYRATES. Evan also played DILUTEE# and LEALTIES. John Chew says he made several mistakes, the first an unsuccessful attempt with LANCEMAN*, and the other a pass on ANYONES#, instead playing NOY#.

Femi Awowade vs. meezerman
FA: 526; NB: 288

Femi says that he drew very well. Some of his high scoring plays were OLEARIA# (71), ZEST(Y) for 74, (E)NGRIEvE# (72) and JUICE (46). Nathan's more noteworthy scores were 24 with COLDER/juiceR, 32 with HAuNT and 35 for TABID.

robinpd vs. magratheazaphod
RPD: 441; JD: 417

Jesse says he was ahead and in control near the end of the game, but there were several lanes open. He says the only way he could have lost was if Robin had a bingo with a high point tile, which did in fact happen. Robin played dEX(T)RINS for 98 to pull out the late game win. Robin's other bingo was TRIBUNES. Jesse's bingoes were ATHETOID (63), AMATEUR (72) and GENITURE (60).

I'm no Sherrie, but I had a lot of fun doing this. Perhaps we'll collaborate in the future? Who knows...in any case, hopefully this provides some insight into the Las Vegas tournament experience!

Jesse Matthews
Kelowna, BC (but this weekend, Las Vegas, NV and now Los Angeles, CA)

Jan. 30th, 2012

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Foiled again!

In a WWF game today with dugy1001 I held DIMORR?, with no spot for either of the 7s. I looked at the board, saw PE, and instantly found the 9. I put it down excitedly, only to have WWF invalidate it (much to my shock). Upon further investigation, I discovered it was Collins only. Damn it OWL!

Jan. 11th, 2012

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Special Words With Friends list

The following are words exclusive to WWF; that is, they do not work in TWL06 or CSW07 (CSW12 words marked with +):

WIKI+ (no S)

Let me know if any of the rest of these are CSW12 (haven't studied it at all, so don't know)

Jan. 9th, 2012

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2011 Meme

Everyone else is, why not?

Five things I did for the first time
1. $%@*#&!$*%
2. Hit an already dead animal with my car
3. Organized and ran my own Scrabble tournament
4. Rented a car (and out of country at that!)
5. Bought one-on-one personal training

Five things I did that I never want to do again
1. $%@*#&!$*%
2. Hit an already dead animal with my car
3. Got piss drunk (of the 3 times, one was "normal", one was to the point of vomiting, one resulted in a blackout)
4. Tried to balance a full time university course load, fitness instructor training, 2 part time jobs, 2 volunteer positions, volleyball and a regular gym routine (ended up with stress-induced sickness at various points during November and December)
5. Hid the real me from my friends

Five things I didn't do that I wanted to do
1. Play in the World Scrabble Championship
2. Get below 10% body fat
3. Go back to Europe
4. Drive across Canada
5. Move out

Five things I acquired
1. Boldness
2. Several deep, meaningful friendships that I feel privileged to be a part of
3. Certification as a basic trainer at my gym
4. Freedom from potential orthorexia
5. An unofficial little brother (no time for Big Brother, Big Sister), who has already taught me so much about what fatherhood will be like

Five favourite TV shows
1. Glee
2. Game of Thrones
3. Big Bang Theory
4. Biggest Loser
5. Terra Nova

Five things I want to do in 2012
1. Get better at Super Bishi Bashi Champ
2. Play in the highest competitive level of league volleyball in Kelowna
3. Finish my undergraduate degree
4. Take a class that a) isn't at university/college and b) I haven't ever taken before
5. As Ms. Frizzle used to say, "take chances, make mistakes, get messy!"

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