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Best of 2014

January 3rd, 2015

Yes, we’ve finished another year, can you believe it? If you can’t try to think back to the World Cup which was 6 months ago. I don’t know about you, but to me that seems like forever ago. I’m sure you’ve also noticed that I’m a few days late here and for that I truly apologize. I should’ve started this earlier, but I was living my ski bum dream for 10 days in Killington in December and had to do it right, so I didn’t get much writing done. Anyway, I’m going to reflect on some of my favorite things for the year below, so strap in, get a cup of coffee and please feel free to comment below.

Book of the Year:

The Martian – Andy Weir

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Two years ago, my book of the year was Ready Player One, which I found out about from This Week in Tech and this years choice was also a recommendation from TWIT – The Martian by Andy Weir. The book takes place in the near future with a failed mission to Mars leaves our protoginist Mark Watney alone on the surface of Mars after his fellow astronauts aborted the mission, leaving Mars thinking that Mark was dead…but he wasn’t. If you’re into sci-fi you will enjoy this book, if you read about the power of human spirit and ingenuity this is a book for you.

Now, I had the audiobook version of this and I was finished the book while walking around the perimeter of the parking lot at work and all I can say is that I was glad I was alone, because I was in tears as I finished the book. I won’t get into why, because I don’t want to ruin it for you, if you’re going to read it. I also just saw that they are going to make a movie version of it coming out in November 2015, so if you can’t find the time to read it, you can atleast check out the movie version. It will be directed by Ridley Scott and Watney will be played by Matt Damon as well as Sean Bean (SPOILER ALERT – his character DOESN’T die – not really a spoiler, I assure you) so it could be quite good.

Technical Book of the Year:

Responsible Responsive Design – Scott Jehl

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Just like last year’s technical book of the year – I haven’t finished this book yet! I know, that’s pretty lame, but it seems like this may just become the way I do things now. Responsive Design has been all the rage the past few years and even at work, it’s now becoming the defacto way we are creating websites. Responsible Responsive Design outlines the way that responsive design should be approached and defines the use cases and best practices that are often ignored by designers working on the latest retina MacBooks and testing on 4G iPhone 6s. Knowing the types of projects I will be working on in 2015, I know this book will be by my side at all times forcing me to take a different approach to optimizing for all users and make sure their experiences are optimal and they come back to use our site.

Album of the Year:

Aphex Twin – Syro

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Last year was pretty tough choice between Boards of Canada, Arcade Fire and My Bloody Valentine. Maybe I just love a comeback story. This year I felt that I didn’t listen to nearly as many albums. That’s the way of the music industry these days, we’re exposed to different ways of consuming music, least of which is listening to an entire album start to finish. Similar to last year’s surprise Boards of Canada release, the cryptic teases surprise news and then very shortly release of Aphex Twin took a lot people including me by surprise. This was Aphex Twin’s first full album release since Druqks way back in 2001.

It was worth the wait.

For me, a great return needs to reminds us of some of the old sounds, but also to challenge us with growth and push into a new direction. This album did just that just right. Songs like minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix] and 4 bit 9d api+e+6[126.26] are sonically amazing songs, but are also fun and playful enough to be considered pop. The whole album is high energy and works well as a soundtrack for a workout, banging out some code or as a soundtrack for a drive through the mountains. It’s an album that definitely works best when listened to with headphones as it’s the best way to appreciate the layers of sound that go into each song. Welcome back Aphex Twin! We hope you still have a few more albums

Honorable Mention:

Pink Floyd – The Endless River

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There’s nothing new or groundbreaking about this album, we all know that. Much of the music on it was created during the Division Bell sessions in 1994 and a good part of the riffs have been taken from former Pink Floyd hit, but that is reason why I’m giving this the honorable mention. It’s a beautiful victory lap for the band and tribute to their friend and bandmate Richard Wright. Ever since David Gilmour came out to perform the guitar solo in “Comfortably Numb” in London during Roger Waters’ “The Wall” tour (embedded video below), I thought that maybe these doddering old musical geniuses might be able to push past their differences and perform one last reunion tour. As you see them age, those hopes dwindle to the point where it’s almost impossible at this point. But there’s something about this record that provides a soothing conclusion to Pink Floyd’s career and makes the fact that they’re never going to play again together OK. Another wonderful thing about this album is that it makes me want to go back and re-listen to all the other Pink Floyd albums again which has helped re-realize why they are probably the best rock band of all time.

Song of the Year

Todd Terje – Delorean Dynamite

Back in June I was listening to the Hot Natured essential mix, when all of a sudden this high energy, synthy monster started. After hearing only about 30 seconds of it, I immediately went to the playlist page and tried to figure out which song was now attaching itself to my brain, not unlike when Venom attaches itself to Spiderman. Often times in these mixes you get some unreleased or white label songs or samples that leave you SOL if you’re trying to find and acquire said song to add to your collection, but this time it was there – Todd Terje – Delorean Dynamite. I ended up finding the video on YouTube and watching it about 5 times in a row. The video was a collection of 80 styles graphics and mixed with 80s Corvette dashboard looking like it was plucked from the video game Test Drive. As much as the car geek in me appreciated the homage to the Vette, the song really didn’t even need to the retro awesomeness, but it was a nice bit of icing on the cake.

Mix of the Year:

Tycho – Palms DJ Set

It’s always exciting when weird coincidences occur and you learn something interesting. On New Year’s Eve, Andrea were at her sister’s place and I started talking to some guests and for whatever reason, I started mouth-saxing the saxophone riff a song which one fella knew by name as “Calabria.” I always knew and liked the song, but would mockingly mouth-sax the saxophone riff when referring to ghetto party anthem. Two days later on the Essential Mix Future Stars of 2014, Pete Tong’s essential mixer was Kolsch. As mentioned in Mr. Tong’s intro, Kolsch was perviously known as Rune RK, the man who created as he said “the saxtastic ‘Calabria’.” It was such a great Dj set filled with much of Kolsch’s 1977 album, which if I were to revisited my 2013 list of best albums, I would certainly add it to the list. As the year progressed there were some monster mixes, as there always are including Hot Natured, Jon Hopkins, Ten Walls and Caribou (voted Essential Mix of the year).

But this year, the mix of the year was not an Essential Mix. Nope, this year it goes to Tycho and his Palms DJ set. Over the summer I saw in my ISO50 rss feed, I saw posted that Tycho had posted a set on SoundCloud from the 4th of July weekend in Las Vegas. I took a listen and was instantly blown away. The mix of music was so perfect. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve listened to this mix in so many different situations – working, exercising, driving, relaxing – and it works perfectly in all of them. Tycho has put out several other sets over the year, but none of them are as good as the Palms DJ set.

Obsession of the year:

Bitcoin

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Bitcoin, Bitcoin, Bitcoin – it’s been my biggest obsession this year, by far. I’ve been paying attention to it for the past few years and remember hearing about it at a family party back in 2011 and immediately swearing it at off as something stupid – which is a severe character flaw of mine – that I’ve done several times in my life before looking at things from a different point of view and coming around. Sadly, some of my favorite and best things in my life have come after going through this foolish exercise.

Well, looking at the price of Bitcoin, maybe it would’ve been smarter to wait, but this is how we learn. I’ve watched and listened to several podcasts from “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” to “The David Seaman Hour” to “Bitcoin Rush” and can’t get enough of it, always trying to learn more.

Bitcoin is starting to develop a reputation, much like people who become obsessed with CrossFit or becoming Vegan where they’re obsessed and all they can talk about is this new found hobby. I don’t think most of my real life friends would say that I’ve become one of those people, but my Twitter followers would probably disagree. It’s just one of those things that when you see how Bitcoin works and how it’s such a better solution than what we have, you just want to pound it into everyone’s head so that they can get on the train early with you in doing things the new and better way.

There was a situation a few months back where my wife went to a concert with some friends and needed to pay her friend back, but didn’t have any cash. The wife did what most people would do and got the checkbox to write her friend and check. Then said friend had to take said check, drive home 5 hours, go to bed (it was a Sunday), wake up, go to the bank, deposit the check, wait three days, receive money, pay student loans. Now, if that’s the way your used to, it doesn’t seem like a horrible system, since that’s what you’re used to, but you’ve pulled back the vail and seem what’s capable with Bitcoin and more specifically the blockchain, you realize how antiquated and silly this old system is and wonder how and why it’s still being used.

At this point, Bitcoin has been to my money invested much as a smoke detector is to a 9-volt battery, just slowly draining it while really providing nothing in return, but it’s still early days. There are great things to come in the future for Bitcoin and crytocurrency. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll wonder how and why we ever did things the way we are doing it now.

Favorite New YouTube Channel:

Regular Car Reviews

I love cars, but have only had one cool car – a 2002 Subaru WRX – but I’ve always enjoyed living vicariously through the blokes at TopGear or Chris Harris who get to play with some of the worlds most amazing cars. Somehow while searching for some nugget of car news, I encountered an review on Jalopnik of a 2007 Porsche Cayman by the guys at Regular Car Reviews. It was an absolutely beautiful and hilarious work done in the style of Hunter S. Thompson a la “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Over the next few weeks, I consumed all the Regular Car Reviews videos, particularly the Subaru WRX review. Believe it or not, what they do is take regular cars and do reviews. Mr. Regular, the main reviewer and voiceover, crafts very compelling reviews by combing history, engineering and humor, often times praising overlooked vehicles and criticizes other vehicles that are often proselytized in car forums and magazines (I’m looking at you S2000). Even if you’re not into cars, you’ll get a kick out of the clever writing and humor that Regular Car Reviews brings to all or their videos.

Word of the Year:

Bespoke

be·spoke
bəˈspōk/
adj.
(of goods, especially clothing) made to order.

Maybe I’m becoming a classier fella or maybe I just didn’t notice it before, but I’ve heard the word bespoke more times this year more times than I have over my entire life combined time 10.

Most Hated Word of the Year:

Literally

I literally don’t hear a word you’re saying after you say literally…literally. Please stop.

Best Travel Surprise:

Utah

The only things I knew about were SLC Punk and stereotypes from the Book of Mormon. All ski magazines have championed the “Champagne Powder” of the Wasatch Mountains, but I had no idea what to expect. Besides the one guy wearing Google Glass, my first impressions of Salt Lake City airport were very positive -everything was clean, organized and made for a quick disembarkment from the airport to the mountains. We hopped in our shuttle and were up at Snowbird in less than 45 minutes.

We stayed at the Cliff Lodge and it wasn’t terribly fancy, but it was ski-in and ski-out, which is what we were there to do, so it was perfect. The first thing we did was get a bite to eat and of course, a drink. Now this is something that I learned, Utah only has 3.2% alcohol content beer on draft. Indian Pale Ales (IPAs) are by definition 5% or higher, so you cannot get them on draft in Utah. After waking up at 4am and having been up until 1:00 packing and prepping, not drinking enough water on the plane, being above 8000 feet and then having a beer had negative, almost dire consequences. Andrea and I headed out to Snowbird, right outside our hotel after the meal and immediately had trouble catching our breath. We took the Peruvian Express Quad to the top of the Peruvian Gulch (10,500 feet) and started to ski down. It was an absolute train wreck. We had to stop every 15 seconds just to catch our respective breathe. In addition, we both started to get pounding headaches. We completed one run on the mountain. ONE. It was bad, but we survived the first day. We both slept over 10 hours that night and were slowly able to acclimate to the altitude. We had an amazing 4 days of skiing at Snowbird and Alta. The snow and the terrain were unlike anything I’d every skiied. My favorites were the Gad Valley at Snowbird and the Catharines of Alta where we hiked a bit to find some amazing fresh powder.

The second leg of our trip, we went to Park City for 3 days and 2 nights. Folks about at Alta and Snowbird were talking a bit of trash about Park City (or Park Shitty) as they called it, but we went there with an open mind and exhausted legs. What blew me away was the amount of amazing skiing that was so close together. From Salt Lake City you can go 45 minutes to Little Cottonwood (Alta and Snowbird) or 45 minutes to Park City where you have Canyons, Park City and Deer Valley, so much epic skiing all so close. We only skied Deer Valley which was easily the fanciest place I’ve ever skied. The bathrooms at the lodges were nicer than the bathrooms at a W Hotel. Some of the people that were “skiing” were ridiculous with their $2000+ ski outfits tearing up the green slopes and making sure they were seen at the lodges. Very different vibe than the hardcores at Snowbird and Alta. The mountain was beautiful and we were lucky to have snow fresh snow that day, but it was almost more fun just to take in the craziness of the mountain’s amenities and insane real estate ($23 million house, right on the mountain for sale). Here’s me at the top of the mountain…what a view!
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Park City the town.

The town of Park City itself was a blast. We stayed right it he Park City ski resort area and there were free shuttles running every 15 minutes that would take you to the town. What was even more awesome, was that there was a chairlift that went right out of the town, almost across the street from the High West Distillery (worth the wait in line for both the food and the whiskey). The town itself is the host of the Sundance Film Festival, so as you could imagine, it had a very cool artsy vibe, unlike most of what you would think of Utah. Main Street was filled with art galleries, bars, restaurants, shops and if the sun is out, you can see both the mountains and the planes.

I had such a wonderful time out there, I’ve added a Salt Lake City search to my Monster account so that if the right job opportunity comes up I will have an excuse to move out to the Wasatches!

That Does It

So that about wraps it up, my year in review. It’s been a fun and exciting year and this year is already off to a humdinger of a start, so we’ll see where we are a year from today. Happy 2015 everybody!

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