What 2010 Taught Me

2010 is almost over. Time for everyone to reflect over the last 365 days and look ahead to the next.

Among the lessons I learned this year is not to let the blog drift into neglect. I want to better about keeping the site updated next year and get back to reviewing books. I kept track of things I learned that I thought would stick with me, and I’m pleased to report I know what everything on the list means. I’m still not sure what was up with weekends and Nazis.

This year’s lessons made me laugh and made me cry. A couple just made me shake my head at the bizarre nature of the universe. I’m sure I learned more than these 10 things. I certainly hope so, at least. If not, I feel I’ve let the bizarre universe down somehow. But here is what I know I learned. Presented in reverse chronological order because the first thing I learned in 2010 was sad.

Emilo Mola

#10 – The origin of “fifth column”
I have many conversations with a friend, during which we tend to go off on tangents that require someone looking some arcane fact up on a computer or drawing on half-forgotten material from books or school or the history channel. Many of these interesting factoids never made it on the lessons list. Some are behind my capability to retain after the explanation of covalent bonds or converting alcohols or whatever. The fifth column I remember, perhaps because lesson #10a is the TV show “V” uses it somewhat incorrectly. The fifth column arose during the Spanish Civil war when General Mola (pictured) announced his four military columns marching toward Madrid were supported by a secret fifth column inside the city, ready to overthrow the Madrid government. If it existed, it didn’t help. Mola’s Madrid campaign wasn’t as successful as he hoped.

#9 – How to subtract 3 from the numbers 1-12
Thanks to the above friend, I’ve become really good at knowing what time it is on the West Coast without the aid of a Web site or calculator. Subtract another 2 hours and you’ve got Hawaii time.


#8 – A certain fish can spit water bullets
No kidding. The archerfish lives in India, Polynesia and elsewhere. It has a groove on the roof of its mouth that it uses to direct a stream of water droplets at tasty bugs. That’s pretty awesome. Sadly, I did not witness the archerfish projectiles in person as the fish at San Diego’s Sea World weren’t hungry when I stopped by to say hi. Apparently, you can keep these in aquariums. Hmm, perhaps a fish tank is a 2011 resolution.

#7 – Travel makes me happy
And I did a lot of it this year. London, Paris, Charleston, Las Vegas, Mexico, California. I spent frequent flier miles and banked some more. Enough for a free flight next year. Ka-ching! I travelled alone and with family and friends. I saw beaches, museums, historic sites and more. I found myself in a Drew Barrymore movie (albeit brief). I froze because I didn’t pack properly, yet invariably ended up packing more shoes than I needed. But I had a blast. I’m not sure where I’ll visit in 2011, but I have some ideas. Click on travel in the tag cloud to read about my adventures. The real-life romantic comedy story should be posted sometime in the next couple weeks as I catch up on 2010 travel blog posts.

#6 – Humans don’t have a penile bone
Okay, I knew this one without really ever reading it somewhere, but it’s one of the pieces of information I read in a museum this year that stuck with me.


#5 – Life is good and then you die
One of the stranger museum exhibits I encountered this year involved arranging cubes to tell the story of how a dinosaur became a fossil. Said dinosaur was playing by a river bank when she slipped, fell into the water and drowned. Her body was carried to the sea, I’m guessing, where her bloated corpse was bitten by dinosharks, causing it to sink to the seafloor. Millennia of sediment did their work until a road construction crew found the fossil. At the end of the story, a summary or moral (not sure which) flashed on the screen: Life is good and then you die. Of all the photos I did not snap during my trips, missing this one is my greatest regret.

#4 – The stripper pole spin
You may think you know how to spin around a pole like a stripper, but until you’ve been taught by an actual Vegas stripper and received your official Vegas stripper name, you don’t know Jack. I’d say more, but what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, especially if you leave your ill sister by the side of the road in a construction site.

#3 – The year of the vuvuzela
Ah, the World Cup. Everyone got to hear the melodic vuvuzela this year. Smartphones had vuvuzela apps. News media played it over and over again. But the mosquito sound isn’t all it can produce. Check out this video.

#2 – Alea iacta est
Much like Julius Caesar, everyone has their own Rubicon. Maybe it’s the Mississippi. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s an intriguing AMC series that gets canceled before fulfilling its promise. In any case, I learned some Latin this year. The die is cast.

#1 – The color of death is blue
Eckie died this year, and among the many things I remember about that day is the bright blue color of the liquid inside the needle that ended her life. It was an incongruous image that stood out then and now.


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