December 31st, 1997.

That was 1997.

Boy! What a ride!! That year couldn't have gotten anymore full of incident and drama if it had tried. On a personal level, it's been a big year for me too. So in this little time we have between the seasonal parties, let me take a couple of minutes to look back on a year of huge change.

I guess I'd have to start by saying that when I went 'online' back in January I had no idea what that would mean for me on a personal level. I thought I'd use the net to do a little bit of surfing and exchange the odd e-mail. I had no idea that at the end of the year I would have a website, a job in the internet industry, and contracts to do freelance web design! I have to say that I have enjoyed this year on that level because I have seen my life change direction radically, from being more or less unemployed and in a state of confusion about my 'future' to having a real sense of direction and not just a hope but real promise for the future. The mid-nineties hadn't been altogether good years but 97 was a turning point.

But what of the rest of the world? Well, I guess the news story that is probably the one that everyone will remember will be the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. An accident on a Paris road... or was it? She'd been getting under the skin of the Royal's for ages and it seems odd to me that now a few months after her death the investigation into what happened has more or less disappeared. I guess we'll never know. The case for it being an accident is a good one, as is the case of the conspiracy theory.

Whatever, I have never in my life seen anything like the outpouring of grief that I witnessed after Diana's death. For as long as I live I will never forget, like millions of others I'm sure, the scenes brought to me by the media. Kensington Palace gates were inaccessible for days afterward, buried in a sea of floral tributes brought over some quite amazing distances from people who just wanted to show their respect. The tragic end to a tragic fairy tale.

NASA finally landed on Mars and broadcast the pictures of the 'red planet' to the watching world. In a live webcast, I watched as pictures from the 'Pathfinder probe' as they were broadcast in a time-delayed live broadcast from NASA's mission control. On the other side of the coin of achievement for NASA, the Hubble space telescope came back with some astounding pictures from deep space. But the troubled space station, Mere, had a rough time in the latter half of 97. It got battered in space by all manner of problems ranging from power failures to orbital collisions! The futures of the space station looks to be 'up in the air' so to speak.

Hong Kong was formally handed over to China by Great Britain. The ceremony and parties that followed were spectacular, however, the Chinese army worryingly marched in thousands of troupes from the moment the clock turned midnight before the day of the hand over had begun. Since the parties though, there has been no trouble that some people predicted, however, in my opinion, it is still early days yet.

Science made the news on many levels this year. For me, the most amazing piece of scientific news was the successful cloning of an adult sheep. Dolly the sheep was cloned not as you might think in a US laboratory but here in the UK, Scotland to be precise. The cloning caused more than a few ripples and almost immediately laws were passed banning the cloning of human beings. However, being something of a skeptic, I believe that while no public labs will undertake human cloning, surely someone somewhere will be doing just that. A case for Scully and Mulder here I feel.

Cloning is all well and good, but what I want scientists to figure out is how to come up with a real-life holodeck like the ones on Star Trek! Just imagine all the things you could do in total holographic immersion! The mind boggles.

So what about the coming year then, what's going to happen in 98? I intend to further my knowledge of internet design and programming to perhaps go solo as a freelance web designer full time? That's not so much a plan as a though. Looking forward is always a daunting exercise because it always looks so unclear.

The future is uncharted territory, an endless stream of minor gambles and decisions that could radically alter the course of one's life. The future is perhaps a little scary at times, but with all the uncertainty that it holds one thing is for sure, we can't stop it coming, and in truth, I wouldn't want to. I'm looking forward to 1998, more than that, I am excited about it!