22 Dec 2011

It's a wrap

Naysayers have always maintained that the best way to set yourself up for failure is to make a resolution. That did not stop me from doing so in January of this year. Inevitably, as the year draws to a close and I am in the last motions before joining the family around the Christmas tree, I will have to assess to what extent I lived up to my own expectations.

It started off pretty well. In line with the first and second resolutions, I did speak French somewhat more often at work, and am now the holder of a certificate attesting that I have been exposed to the HEC business school's wisdom. As for resolution #3, I will let you be the judge of the frequency and literary value of this year's contributions to enRoute.

With this, we are getting to the point where reality hit - mostly in the form of a certain Latin American country. Instead of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing (#4) in an as-of-yet unvisited Canadian province (#5), I found myself trekking through the world's driest desert. Spectacular fail then on these pledges, albeit in return for other worthwhile experiences. And yet, and yet... given that I am now a quest to spend 1095 days within Canada in order to qualify for citizenship, discovering more of the Great White North will remain in my sights for 2012.

Not that I am about to make resolutions again, though. For now, I content myself with a look back on a year full of unexpected adventures, and a look forward to a a final few days amidst friends, families and Christmas gifts. The moment has come - time to wrap things up!

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8 Dec 2011

Sound of Music

Marketeers have known it for a long time. Music is a great tool to put people in a particular mood (prodigal, usually). According to a book I have read recently, an entire field of behavioural science has developed around how various tunes will encourage us to buy more. Depending on the context, we are exposed to fast- or slow-paced, loud or low, hip or retro sounds while shopping. And while we have become immune to visual stimulants such as big signs and billboards, this muzak bypasses our emotional filters and goes straight into our brain's mood-control.

Naturally, this effect works not just in a commercial environment. Last weekend, I was listening to one of my favorite radio stations, which was playing an afternoon's worth of great summer tunes. And sure enough, as the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen and even Olivia Newton-John caroled the warm season, my mood lifted. Granted, the fact that I was running through a leafy Santiago park on a 30 degree Chilean summer day may have had something to do with it, too. But when my little radio's battery died and I still had a good few kilometers to go, I noticed how much of an extra boost the sound had provided.

It is not just extra thrust that music can provide. When travelling, once I get to the point of being too exhausted to read or do anything productive (such as typing this post, say), I typically switch to the "fly" playlist on my mp3 player, and the soothing tunes put me in a transitionary zen state as I gaze at the clouds below. And unlike achieving said state with a few glasses of cheap airline tipple, this method does not cause much of a hang-over.

So clearly, I am as susceptible as anyone to the mood-altering effects of sound. A fact which my local shopping mall back in Montréal is shamelessly trying to exploit. From the day after the Halloween pumpkins disappeared, they started piping sugary holiday tunes through the premises, which much to my annoyment I caught myself humming along with. Although really, it was only early November and I was most definitley not yet dreaming of a White Christmas. But now, here we are in the middle of December and when I return to Montréal, the low temperatures and short days will leave no doubt about the fact that the end of the year is near. Eventually, my defenses always break down and I surrender to the mind-altering sound of music. Just like Last Christmas.

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