New Year’s Resolutions vs. Goals

It is well known that people rarely keep their New Year’s resolutions. That is primarily due to the fact that the concept is generally ill conceived and poorly executed.

A “resolution” is something you “resolve” to do. Yet the motivating factor behind most New Year’s resolutions is simply the need to anchor some desire for change to a particular date. “I resolve to quit smoking” or “I resolve to stop hitting on my sister’s friends.” Regardless of the resolution, all it does is reveal a latent desire to do something (or stop doing something), but with no plan of action associated with it. As such, once you’re a few weeks into January, New Year’s day is but a fading memory and so too is the resolution.

You’ll do far better to think in terms of goals. Goals, if properly conceived and sincerely desired, come with an action plan. You don’t just decide to do something (or stop doing something), you plan how and when you will achieve the goal. You fix it in your mind that you will feel great when you achieve it or you will feel like a big stupid loser if you don’t. Now you have a goal, a plan, motivation, and a reward/punishment system.

I generally hit about 50% of my New Year’s goals but this year I’m aiming higher, as the goals I’ve defined are even less “resolution-like” than were those of previous years. I’m not going to list them all here, but they include things like taking care of some dental work that’s about 20 years overdue, fixing some other lingering health defects, and some goals for learning and getting my photos organized. The action plans for some are already drawn up, and I hope to draft the rest of them over the next few days.

There’s also one other thing I would like to fix, but I know I won’t, so I’m going to keep it in the category of (bound to fail) resolutions: I resolve to stop getting riled up over other people’s stupidity.

There. I said it. But I know it is in my nature to be that way, so I’m not going to set a goal to be different. I will, however, try to moderate my annoyances, and to perhaps achieve catharsis by continuing to blog about some of the stupidity I see. But I doubt I’ll be able to just plain stop getting worked up over it.

Oh, you want an example? OK, here you go; a few nights ago I was looking through Flickr and I found a photo of a prominent Montreal building that was incorrectly identified as a building in Longueuil. I had spotted this error a few months ago and had left a comment that correctly identified the building and it’s location, backed up with links to the building’s location on Google Maps and its Wikipedia entry. No problem; anyone can make a mistake like that, but I corrected the error and moved on. So that should be the end of it, right?

No. Someone else comes along and completely ignores my brief but accurate comment and follows it up with a comment that correctly identifies the building, but completely mislocates it when correcting the “Longueuil” error.

What? Hello! What part of my Wikipedia and Google Maps links do you not understand?

It would be somewhat forgivable if the photo had twenty or thirty comments to mow through, but mine (with the links) was the only comment before dumbass came in with her incorrect corrections! (The person who posted the image and made the original mistakes didn’t even bother to acknowledge my corrections, but that’s a whole other issue.)

OK, one thing; the original caption on the image was in French, as was the dumbass follow-up comments, while my comment was in English. But the English comment comprised two brief and uncomplicated sentences – including the correct location in French, plus the link went to the French version of Wikipedia and even the most unilingual Francophone on earth will understand a link that says “Google Map.”

I had the misfortune of seeing this just before going to bed, so I can honestly say I lost half an hour’s sleep over it. So yeah, I would like to resolve to stop being bothered by stupidity, but I know the resolution would fail, so why bother?


This blog turned seven years old on December 27. Seven years! That’s 449,345 words in 1,518 posts.

To celebrate, I upgraded to WordPress 2.3.1, and added a plugin that makes my archives appear in a drop-down list. Go me.

Christmas Dinner

For the fifth year in a row, I prepared a turkey dinner for ten adults and three children. Every year I resolve to make the meal less complicated than the previous, and so far it seems to be working. My reason for getting progressively simpler is that I’ve come to realize that, at least for this family, the Christmas dinner is much more about gathering the family together for a day and night of festivities than it is about the meal itself.

This year I threw out the complicated roasted orange and sage gravy in exchange for a more traditional gravy made with the turkey drippings and a bit of white wine. I scrapped the mashed yams with roasted garlic and balsamic vinegar in favor of a pan of oven-roasted herbed root vegetables. I ditched the time-sensitive steamed beans in favor of a pan of grilled peppers and aromatic vegetables (herbed to match the root vegetables). I ix-nayed the sausage and apple stuffing and substituted an easy bread and herb mix, made from scratch using turkey stock from the previous year’s bird.

The only thing that didn’t change was the mashed potatoes. Hmmm, come to think of it, I added some roasted garlic to it this year.

It should have gone as smoothly as silk. I even prepared the stuffing the day before and put it into two buttered Pyrex dishes. (I never actually “stuff” the stuffing; I cook it separately.) Unfortunately, that lead to the first problem.

As you can imagine, hosting six guests and preparing dinner for 13 puts refrigerator space at a premium. Fortunately, we had a lot of snow this year, so in advance of the Christmas Eve rain, I shovelled some of that new, fresh snow into several Rubbermaid Roughneck bins, to act as coolers. After I prepared the stuffing, I covered the dishes with cling wrap and put them into one of the bins, on top of about six inches of fresh snow. Next morning I went to check on them. Unfortunately, the dishes had still been warm when I put them in the bin, causing most of the snow to melt. (I use this technique frequently, and that’s the first time I’ve had a problem with premature melting.) Worse, one of the dishes was partially submerged in the icy water, causing the stuffing to become waterlogged.

Oh no! I pressed down on the stuffing to squeeze the water out, but that also squeezes out the flavour. I squeezed out as much as I dared, then popped the dish in the oven to see if it would recuperate. (By the way, the snow was freshly fallen, white virgin snow, so I wasn’t worried about contamination.) Unfortunately, even after 40 minutes in the oven it was still waterlogged.

Plan B. I had to get more supplies anyway, so I picked up a box of supermarket “stove top” stuffing. I prepared it with less water than it called for, then mixed in about half of the waterlogged home made stuff. At serving time, you could barely distinguish between the pan of fully-homemade stuffing (the one that hadn’t gotten waterlogged) and the mashup one. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, though, as it implies that my homemade stuffing was no better than an off-the-shelf commercial one.

Then there were the turkeys. Last year I decided to make two smaller turkeys instead of one large one. It worked out well, except the cooking took almost an hour longer than expected, which threw off my timing significantly. This year I was prepared, and added 45 minutes to the calculated roasting time of the two birds.

However, just before I put them in the oven, I let someone convince me to try cooking the birds very hot for a short time first, then lower the temperature for the remaining time. This supposedly ensures nice crispy skin. I must have over-estimated what “a short time” means (I roasted at 425°F for 45 minutes), because only two hours into the four hours I had alloted for roasting, the birds appeared to be almost ready.


I recovered by tenting the birds in foil and dropping the temperature to a very low 225°F. I let it stay for the full four hours, and it worked out perfectly; the birds were cooked just right, with golden skin and juicy meat.

two turkeysThere you go, two elegant recoveries. I’m happy to report that nobody seemed to mind the simplified menu. At serving time I set up a plating line in which I plated the roasted veggies, then handed it off to a brother in law who plated the mashed potatoes and stuffing, then to another brother in law who added the turkey, and a third brother in law ran the plates to the table. Everybody was served in about four minutes.

So there. Keep it simple. Maybe next year we’ll just order from Saint Hubert.

Intruder Alert!

Toute la famille is gathering chez nous for Christmas. Tonight we’ll have four overnight guests, and tomorrow it will be up to seven. Oh – and there’s a dog. An adorable ten-month-old labradoodle who stands about three feet tall and is still in the throws of full hyperactive puppydom.

The mini, however, is not impressed. He spent the first half hour of Maggie’s presence in “hallowe’en cat” mode; arched back, puffed-up tail, hissing and spitting. All that from the safety of the stairs that go to up to the second storey.

Then he calmed down a bit and was content to simply glare and send lightning bolts of hatred from his eyeballs. He still hasn’t come face-to-face with the dog, and I suspect he never will.


It’s going to be an interesting three days…