Remains of the year 2003

What I'll remember from 2003...
New Zealand - Seems to have become the travel destination of choice for everyone I know. It may be that many people were inspired to visit by The Lord of the Rings movies, but it's likely more accurate to say that New Zealand contributed more to The Lord of the Rings than vice versa. The country is worth the hype, and my time there was one of the most fulfilling period of my life, not just for the country's natural beauty and friendly people, but because of all the fellow travelers who befriended me along the way. It will be an annual rite of jealousy that in January, February, and March, I'll envy my friends who head off to the land down under the land Down Under.
Sydney - a lovely city, a cross between San Diego and San Francisco, and yet different. One of the great cities of the world. I learned that all Aussies, no matter how petite, can drink me under the table, and that Aussies regard Foster's as horse piss.
Scuba diving - One item on my list of 30 before 30 was to obtain my scuba certification, and I did so on the Great Barrier Reef. It doesn't look like I'll make it into space before I turn 30, so this will be the closest I come to weightlessness. In the water, sound and light and movement and time all seem to slow, and so do one's breathing and heart rate My memory of scuba is of floating in a green-blue medium, nurse sharks and rays and giant turtles and schools of fish swimming past, brilliantly colored anemone fronds swaying to and fro lazily in gardens of coral. It was my Benjamin Braddock swimming pool moment.
Trekking through Torres del Paine - So it was off peak season. Still, I didn't expect to go three days without seeing another human being. I trudged through the musty corridors of my personal history and determined that it was the longest I'd ever gone in my life without seeing another human being. At night, devoid of moon or star light, I experienced the thickest darkness of my life, when I literally could not see anything. The human deprivation and proximity to the wild did not transform me into a scruffy, bearded, crazy, feral hillbilly, though I began to understand why Tom Hanks turned his Wilson volleyball into a friend in Cast Away.
Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu - Just noses out my Torres del Paine trek as the longest time I've gone without a shower. That's not what I'll remember of the trek (though it may be what my fellow trekkers remember). What will stay with me is the brutal several-thousand foot hike up to Dead Woman's Pass the first day, lugging twenty-something pounds of camera equipment. Dozens of hands of Hearts with my fellow trekkers. The spectacular views. The super fit porters, sprinting past me in flip flops with fifty or sixty pounds on their backs. Sleepless nights in the freezing cold, feeling every contour of the rock-hard ground through a cheap rented sleeping bag. Seeing the sun rise over the mountains that last morning, its rays like fingers gliding over the walls of Machu Picchu, a city suspended in the clouds. Many have said that the city of Machu Picchu is a disappointment after the Inca Trail. While the journey is indeed the reward, I consider Machu Picchu part of that journey.
Glaciers - It's doubtful I'll ever visit as many glaciers in a year as I did in 2003. From the Fox and Franz Josef in New Zealand to the Perito Moreno in Argentina, and all the others in between, I learned more about glaciers than I ever knew. The Perito Moreno was the highlight for its sheer size and the awesome spectacle and sound of hundred meter chunks of ice breaking away from the face of the glacier wall and crashing into the water. It sounded, to my ears, like someone tearing apart a stalk of broccoli the size of the Eiffel Tower.
Alpe D'Huez - It's not the most difficult French mountain I've climbed on my bike, but it's arguably the most historic of the Tour de France peaks, and it was my favorite stage from my trip to this year's Tour. The ride up that morning was beautiful, and partying with the Dutch by Turn 7 was nearly as epic as the stage that followed, when everyone from Mayo to Vinokourov to Beloki to Hamilton attacked Armstrong like he'd never been attacked in all of his five Tour victories. Awesome.
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Will there really be no LOTR movie to line up for next holiday season? Oh sadness.
Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson - Keira was the hot new young face with the sexy British accent (Bend it Like Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean, Love, Actually), Scarlett the hot new young actress with the bee-stung lips (Lost in Translation, Girl with a Pearl Earring).
Mark Prior and the Cubs - Mark Prior's magic was not enough to break the Cubs streak of World Series rejection, but they gave fans a great run. Every Cubs home run in the playoffs was accompanied by a dozen cell phone calls. "That's what I'm talking about!" we shouted to each other. And for the first time in years, it looks on paper like the Cubbies can repeat their success in consecutive years.
Reality TV - It's been around for years, but in 2003 it took over television. The only television shows I ever hear anyone talk about are the ones on HBO or reality TV shows, or HBO reality shows. My fave is still Curb Your Enthusiasm, which isn't technically a reality TV show but displays more reality than most shows that are classified as such.
No Limit Texas Hold'em - Who knew that some of the most compelling television characters around were high stakes no limit poker players? Shows like The World Series of Poker on ESPN and the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel and books like Positively Fifth Street made household phrases of "I'm going all in" and Binion's Horseshoe Casino. The negatives? Televising celebrities playing poker (they stink) and going to your monthly poker game only to find one of your friends wearing a cowboy hat and giant wraparound sunglasses indoors.
Babies - It's that time of my life when all my friends are having babies. The year prior, everyone was buying DVD players, and this year, everyone's having babies. At parties, people wear babies on their chest in Baby Bj