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2009 Holiday Letter

Our big adventurOur Cruise Shipe in 2009 was a two week cruise in the Adriatic & Aegean Seas. We started in Venice, sailed along the Dalmatian coast (with four stops in the former Yugoslavia), visited three Greek islands, and ended up in Istanbul. It was a most “interesting” experience. We went with Elderhostel (now called Exploritas). They built their reputation on providing modestly priced educational holidays for seniors. Lately, they have moved up-scale and are shifting away from their former emphasis on educational tours for seniors. [Click on an image to get taken to a larger version of the image; a second click will expand it further; a thrid click will close the window.]

We didn’t realize it when we signed up, but this was a first, ... for this tour package and for this tourHvar organizer (who worked as a sub-contractor for Elderhostel). The trouble started with an ill-planned bus trip from the airport to the ship. The driver deposited us and our luggage some distance from the pier where our ship awaited us. The trek from the bus to the ship, with luggage, put a considerable strain on some of the seniors who made up our party.Dubrovnik
 
In retrospect, the first few days were a comedy of errors. Nothing major went wrong, but everything had a little glitch. One day, our tour instructor was repeatedly late to meet the bus that was to transport us between that day’s destinations. We lost over an hour waiting for her, and consequently were not able to see everything planned. Not a disaster, but typical of their poor planning. The saving grace were the locations. We could never have seen that much, in two weeks, in nearly as much comfort, by any other means.
 
I’m glad we went, but I continue to have reservations about a cruise, ... and feel that taking any first Elderhostel (or Exploitas) tour is putting your holiday at some risk. My website has several hundred photos from the tour - should be more than what anyone really wants to view. But you might enjoy a selective examination of the photo albums from the tour.
 
Doris, Zoltan and MiraThe cruise haPA Grand Canyonppened at the end of September. In early summer we drove down to Baltimore to see Mira’s sister Doris, her husband Zoltan, and a selection of their children and grand-children. We’ve been close to them since the “kids” were born, lo these many years ago. It was an event filled trip, starting with a visit to Priscilla in Western Pennsylvania. We got to see the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, a name not universally known, but an impressive river valley nevertheless.
 
On the way back, we went directly to the Stratford Shakespear Festival where we met the Borodins. We saw excellent productions of Cyrano de Mira and the Borodins at StartfordBergerac and West Side Story. I still find musicals somewhat lacking, but recognize that Stratford put on an excellent production. Leaving Stratford, we went directly to our cottage. What a trip; they were working on the 401 (the major East-West Canadian highway). A trip that should have taken just a bit over two hours actually took over four hours. We expected to arrive shortly after midnight; we got in after 2 a.m.
 Paris Family
This year, Mira's niece Dora, her husband Lou and their twin boys visited us for what we hope will become their regular annual visit to Toronto. We went to the top of the CN Tower in downtown Toronto - we had the time and the weather was clear. You get to look down 1,000 feet through the (thick) glass provided on a section of the floor. The twins happily played on that floor; I was uncomfortable just walking on it. All of us made it to the cottage, and the water continues to fascinate the twins.
 
Mira and Paul at the AGOThe “boys” - Paul, Mira's nephew, and Jonathan – were our first visitors of the year. It's always enjoyable seeing them in Toronto. Their visit was the occasion of our first visit to the interior of the remodelled Art Gallery of Ontario. It's an impressive transformation. Frank Gehry was raised just a few blocks away and did an excellent job. His work is always impressive; with the AGO he designed for the site. It's now one of the best buildings in Toronto.
 
After their visit, Toronto was selected as the location for the 2014 WorldPride Week. We're located just a block from the Canadian centre for such activities (the corner of Church and Wellesley Streets). Sleeping in our condo during the annual Toronto Pride Week is difficult – the happenings continue to happen into the wee hours of the morning. We offered our condo to the boys for the WorldPride Week. They expressed some interest. We'll be at the cottage that week.
 
Lynn and MiraBoth the Friesens and the Roosen-Runges visited us at the cottage. It's interesting how visiMira and the Roosen-Rungestors inspire local explorations that we never seem to get around to doing on our own. The twins inspired our trip to the top of the CN Tower. The Friesens inspired our trip to the used book store block in Peterborough. It's a short city block, but contains some five used book stores. If (when?) the used book stores on Yonge near our condo go out of business, we will be able to fall back on the used book stores in Peterborough. We can't walk from our cottage, but it's only a short drive.
 
We also visited NiMira and Priscillaagara-on-the-Lake this year. Priscilla drove up from her place in the country. We met her for dinner and three short Noel Coward plays one evening. That night we spent in a local bed-and-breakfast. Times have changed – they provide wireless Internet access for their guests. The next day we had a lavish breakfast as the completion of our bed-and-breakfast experience, and went on to a light lunch in town and a “light” Shaw play, The Devil's Disciple. It was an enjoyable mini-holiday.
 
2009 was one of the "big" birthday years for me. I turned 70, ... eh gad, I don't feel that old, bu70th Birthday Partyt that's what the calendar says. Retirement (or seimi-retirement) is busy enough that it's hard to remember how we could have found time to “work”. Mira continues with her part-time project management work for a Provincial Government body. It's not all-consuming, but it does keep her active in the field. We have jointly been working on a new Canadian Association of Women in Construction website. Their current website is seriously under-supported by the firm that built it. The new website is being built on a “Software as a Service” (SaaS) platform. The vendor, Wild Apricot, provides its association management package as an online service. For a bundled monthly fee, CAWIC gets a supported home for the website that Mira and I are developing.
 
For a time in 2009, I focused on philosophy. I explored casuistry as a way to think about morals and ethics, and professional ethics in particular. It had, and has, considerable appeal. It's a contextually sensitive approach that recognizes guiding examples, but is leery of moral or ethical absolutes. A similar contextual sensitivity is also important, in my view, to thinking about personal meaning and human value. A social context is critical to any meaningful thought process – the “community” comes before there can be any possibility of language or abstract thought. The “community” also supplies us with our key referential human values. All of these thoughts continue to swirl in the background, but I'm now more engaged with technology.
 
Website building has always interested me. In the recent past, I've spent more time with the open source content management system called Drupal. The combination of Drupal and the constituent resource management package called CiviCRM is a particularly powerful tool for non-profit associations. It has thousands of plug-in options, ... all open source and available to be freely downloaded. But support can be challenging. Supported and pre-configured Drupal + CiviCRM is an alternative to the SaaS service provided by Wild Apricot. Both alternatives have their appeal. Helping associations think through their options is likely to be an interesting part of my professional work in 2010.
 
We have a couple of trips already planned for 2010. We want to visit Mira's brother who just moved to Georgia, and we're interested in a trip through Copper Canyon in Mexico. That's for the first part of 2010. We hope the “boys” will arrive as planned in the late Winter or early Spring. And we're looking forward to seeing how the twins have grown since we last saw them. 2010 looks to be another interesting year, ... and we've only begun our planning.
 
Bob Fabian
2009.12.20