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2015 – The Year of the Rear-ender

December 31st, 2015

This year was different. At the end of the year, something didn’t feel quite right. I don’t know if it was the unseasonably warm air that we’re having – it was 70 degrees on Christmas Eve, but something was off. I had almost no Christmas spirit. I’m certainly not proud of it, not at all. I just didn’t feel myself. Here are the ideas that I had:

1. Ski Bum Week

Last year was the inaugural ski bum week. It just came from Mario and I trying to plan our schedules for December and figuring out that instead of doing two long weekend, we could just spend the whole week up at the ski house. It was the first time we were up at Killington so everything was new, different and exciting. Our timing was unbelievable, Killington had been pounded with snow – about 2 feet in the week or two before we went up and the mountain before Christmas is pretty empty. We had an amazing week of skiing, made a journey up to Stowe for a day of skiing, almost scored Heady Topper and got a great story out of it.

The source of all my disappointment stems from the unrealistic expectations that I set for myself and those around me. Can I change that and simplify? I don’t know, I probably could, but I don’t think there’s enough time in one’s life to be able to do that.

The one thing that did give me hope is that on the way to Christmas, we played my Christmas mix which I only listen to at Christmas time (obviously) and I played my first two songs, which are my favorites – The Pogues – Fairytale of New York and Sufjan Stevens – Hey Guys, It’s Christmas Time. I don’t know what it is, but hearing those two songs does something to me and I always just start crying. My best Psych 101 analysis is that all year I spent hustling, working hard, drinking coffee at night to stay awake to keep working, road-raging, putting on the front of a badass, battling to get ahead and then, finally, at Christmas time, I get to step out of this armor that I needed to amass and wear everyday, that fakeness, and just be me. The real me. The super vulnerable, shy, fat kid who just wants to eat stollen, be liked and see people happy. Knowing that me still exists under the Hoboken-derived exoskeleton that I had to develop to survive and thrive gives me hope that one day a clean break can be made and I’ll be able to conjure up that sweet, kind, idealistic version of myself, that I wish I could be every day.

2. Expectations

Fact: expectations, particularly – lofty ones, will only lead to disappointment. For me, that’s been the moral of this year. Whether it’s investment returns, attempted micro-management of life events, snow fall totals or creative output.

Live in the moment, realize how good you have it, be nice and work hard. Everything else will fall into place.

The boring days are often the best, it means nothing bad happened.

3. Too many hospital visits

This year, Andrea, my father and my mother-in-law were all in the hospital. The former 2, each having two visits. I, like most folks, hate hospitals. Luckily everyone came out the other end better than when they came in.

Part of me worries that it’s only going to get worse going forward, but I guess that beats the alternative. You just can’t sit around thinking about the bad stuff that’s going to happen, because it’s going to happen either way. You just have to get out there and squeeze every drop out of life while you have the chance.

Despite all the depression, there were positives this year, quite large ones, as a matter of fact. So let’s talk about those and focus on them!

Got My First Pair of Air Jordans

When I was 11-19 years old I was a total sneaker head before that term even existed. I would draw pictures of sneakers all the time, turning my favorite pair of Nike Air Jordan’s into hockey skates, which seemed completed ludicrous at the time, (then Nike bought Bauer in 1994 and started putting out Nike skates in the late 90s – and I just learned Nike sold Bauer to a private equity firm in 2008). Nike was always my favorite having Bo Jackson, David Robinson, Flights, Air Max, Air Force, etc., but I always wanted and could never get my parents to spend the money on the holy grail, Air Jordans. Now also it’s important to preface this with the fact that I sucked at basketball and my parents were more generous enough paying for me to play hockey, which my pale, husky frame was more suited for.

Things have changed a lot since those days of the Nike Air Jordans. Now, Jordan is it’s own brand and they’re always re-issuing modernized versions of the originals in some funkier color combinations. I decided to go with the original AJ1 in a black/grey/23 red. They weren’t ridiculously expensive, but going to the store and putting them on I felt like a little kid again. That feeling that you got that if you had the shoes that Michael Jordan wore, you could almost transform yourself into him and create magic on the court. I’m certainly aware that the shoes won’t do that, but just looking at them reminds a bit of my childhood and I think the cost of the shoes was a pretty small price to pay to experience that.

First time driving a Tesla

I’m a HUGE Elon Musk fan and pretty much have been ever since I first used PayPal however long ago. I’ve also been a huge fan of Tesla and have been ever since I first learned about the Roadster. The company made such an impression I made a small investment in it company stock which has had about an 8x return at this time. Now when I say small, I really do mean small. Let’s put it this way, the Air Jordan’s I bought are roughly 1/6 of the value of my initial investment. I’ve continued to invest along the way and now have a nice little nugget of value.

But we’re not talking about that, we want to talk about the actual car…and what a car it is. It just unlike anything else I’ve ever driven. It just has this presence to it when you’re standing next to it. The first thing you notice is that it’s a BIG car 196” long (a 2015 Cadillac Escalade is 204”) and weighs about 4700 lbs. A normal, boring family sedan like a Toyonda Accamry probably weighs in around 3300 lbs. The first cool thing you experience is the key fob which is a little Model S. To unlock the car you can double-click the roof of the model and if you want to open the trunk, you click on the trunk of the model and the same goes for the hood. The one that I drove was a Obsidian Black Metallic P85 with the 21” grey turbine wheels – just the way I would spec it out. The interior is so elegant and unlike anything else I’ve been in. The touchscreen massive, but so intuitive. It can be divided into two “hemispheres” north and south so that you’re able to see two different apps at the same time – for example navgiation in the northern and music in the southern.

Now we come to the driving part. I probably had the worst possible conditions in which to drive the car, Friday afternoon in the summer on Route 17 in Paramus, NJ. My test drive involved a lot of regenerative braking, which helps to recharge the batteries, but I got several chances to lay on the gas and MY GOD does that thing respond. No downshifts, no build up to peak horsepower/torque, just power. It had a similar feeling to taking off in a plane, minus the build up. Imagine you’re parked on that plane, then all of a sudden you’re at the speed just before the plane’s front wheels come off the ground. That’s what it feels like in the Tesla. Besides the power, the handling of such a large car was surprisingly nimble. The was very little body roll when taking corners very fast.

I loved everything about the experience and if I were rich dude looking for a large car to push the family around, I’d be all over this. The only dicey bit is long distances and needing to recharge. One day when pondering how to spend my non-existent lottery winnings I grew concerned about how I was going to charge my Tesla when driving up from NJ to Vermont when going skiing. I did notice that there was a supercharger station available in Albany NY which is where I would need to stop both to and fro unless I wanted to really baby the car, roll the dice and wait until I got to my non-existant ski house with solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall to recharge the car overnight. I’m sure by the time I’m serious about picking one up they’ll have extended the range enough where I can use the auto-pilot mode to cruise at 90 mph for the majority of the trip and still have plenty of juice until recharging is necessary.

Sadly, it’ll be at least 3 years until I can even consider buying a new car but that’s OK, the stock will be to the moon by then and I’ll be able to cash some of it in for either the new Model S or perhaps the new Model 3.

First Autocross Driving Experience

At the end of 2014 with Andrea getting a new job, we got a new car, a BMW X3 (because we FANCY) and as a BMW owner (leaser) we get invitations to all kinds of driving events that BMW holds throughout the year. One of those such events was at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ for a BMW Driving Experience. What this entailed was signing up ahead of time for an autocross course.

What is autocross you ask? It’s pretty much taking a giant parking lot then setting up a race course using cones, then driving as fast as you can through it. Ever since I got my WRX back in 2002, I wanted to get involved in Autocross, but was always afraid of using my own $25,000 tarted-up econbox. The WRX is gone, but today I cemented my desire for a BMW automobile. The day started out with basic classroom race course, discussing the physics of braking, acceleration, momentum in the corners, etc. Nothing earth-shattering, but still cool. After that it was onto the track. How it worked is that you got into the type of car you signed-up for, in Andrea and I’s case it was a 428i Grand Coupe and 328d sedan (diesel). To start, the instructor drove a lap explaining how to visualize the house, explaining where to brake and accelerate, then took us around for a real lap, which was awesome. These BMWs were stock, just as you could buy them at the dealership and they were extremely capable. I remember wondering what percentage of owners of these cars had a clue and would ever drive this way. Most BMW drivers in Hoboken just ignore traffic lights and change lanes without signaling.

Then it was our turn to drive. The instructor was a rally driving champion and parked herself in the passenger seat, while the others (Andrea and another bloke) were in the backseat. I went first and because it’s my nature was extremely aggressive in my driving, which the instructor was quite happy with, Andrea and the bloke in the backseat, not so much. I accelerated hard, broke hard and had a blast. After my laps were over I could feel the adrenaline pumping through me and was excited about my next time behind the wheel. We all completed our laps, then switch to the diesel sedan. You could definitely feel the slower acceleration of the diesel, but it was still a blast to drive.

At the end we held a race among our entire group of roughly 20 people. I was one of the first to go and I was having one of the best laps until I creamed a few cones in the last turn. Each cone hit was a time penalty, which all but disqualified me. If I hadn’t hit, I would’ve had the fasted time of our group.

Racing season pretty much the perfect opposite of ski season, so this could be an excellent hobby and keep for from hating non-ski season so much. All I need now is a sweet car in which to autocross with. Can the new BMW M2 coming out next year be that car? Maybe, except that we live in Hoboken and only have one garage spot, but that’s a problem for another day. Autocross was a blast and I really want to make it a hobby in the near future.

First Half Marathon

I’ve never been a runner but over the past decade or so I’ve forced my aforementioned husky, extremely non-aerodynamic frame into sneakers and did some of that-there jogging (or is it “yogging”?). Being the competitive fella that I am once I was able to do 2 miles, I started pushing myself and then started doing 2.5. Before I knew it I was doing 5ks. Then I signed up for a 10k. My normal runs ended up being 5-6 miles per week. Well, I guess the next thing to do now is a half marathon.

Andrea signed up for the “Beat the Blerch” half-marathon back in April knowing full well that the event wasn’t until September, thus providing more than adequate time to prepare. Plus this race was going to be different. “Beat the Blerch” is a fun race devised by comic Matthew Inman of “The Oatmeal” fame. The Blerch is a character he created, that evil cherub that shows up and tells you that being a slacker is fine and that you don’t need to for that run, just sit back and watch TV. To beat your Blerch, you’ve got to figure out what motivates and inspires you, grab that and get it done!

One of the fun aspects of the race is that at a few of the rest areas they had couches to relax on as well as cake and nutella that you could snack on, pretty much allowing your Blerch to take full control of the situation. The organizers also encouraged people to dress up in costumes while participating, adorable, I know!

The event took place at Lewis Morris park in Morristown, NJ (a little know BJS fact, that’s where Brian participated in his first and only mountain bike race – believe the hype!). Now, a few concerns going into this, completely outside the physical challenge of running 13.1 miles – the Oatmeal’s Twitter handle has over a million followers and this event was the only Blerch race on the east coast. The traffic getting to the race was a complete nightmare. It took us roughly 30 minutes to go the last mile just to get to the parking lot before having to take a shuttle to the race. It was a logistical nightmare and that was just the start.

The race advertised “some off road running.” OK, no biggie, I’m cool with that, in fact, I prefer that! In reality it was more like 1/3 trail running, with the last few miles being all very technical single-track terrain. Not a big deal on paper, but when you have a race that’s advertised as “fun” and is being on by a web comic who has a large following of people who are fans of web comics and want to participate in costumes you create a frustrating end to a race where half-marathoners, and 10kers are coming together onto said last few miles of technical single-track. As someone who was trying to get the best time, but getting behind someone dressed up in an oversized pizza slice costume with no way to get around, it was extremely frustrating.

Up until mile 11, the race was great. The hilly off-road course was challenging, but I was tearing through it and felt pretty good. That is, until mile 11. It was at that point, running up a hilly trail where dehydration/lack of nutrition hit me; my calves started cramping something unholy. It was as if some grabbed my calves and started squeezing with all their mite. I had to start running up hill landing on my heels which sucked and forced me to slow down a bit, but there was no way I was stopping or walking – fuck that. Luckily my awesome playlist (see below) helped me get through the last two miles, which were pretty brutal, I’m not gonna lie. It was a dynamite experience and I’m going to look into doing additional halfs next year and who knows, maybe a fun triathalon is in my future.

Skiing!!!

This year was by far my most prolific year of skiing. Not only did I do a full share house up at Killington, making frequent visits all season, but I also went to Ischgl, Austria for a week as well as Telluride, Colorado (my first time in the Colorado). Not only did I have more days of skiing than ever (33), I also took my abilities to the next level – actually seeking out bumps and trees like I never have before.

71.6 mph, bitches

Speaking of Skiing – High Falutin Ski Bum Podcast!

“Everybody keeps on talking about it, but nobody’s getting it done” – James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem “Yeah”

Ever since I became obsessed with the Joe Rogan experience in 2012, I’ve always thought about doing a podcast, but I never knew what I would or could do it about. It just kind of came to me (and my podcast partner Mario) that we should do something about skiing. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know everything about skiing, not even close. Christ, I just started figuring the difference between a front-side and all-mountain ski, but you know what, that’s OK. I’m sure if you’re that super hardcore into skiing and know everything about equipment, you don’t need me to describe that to you.

One thing I’ve always been good at is vetting information and giving people good advice about booze, restaurants, experiences, news, tech tips, etc. Take all that and making skiing the central theme and there you have what the podcast is all about. It started out a bit of a train wreck as we were all over the place, but after about a dozen episodes we came up with a nice formula – Weekly Flavor, Ski News, Topic, Around the Horn. That’s been our formula and it’s worked pretty well for us.

Things learned along the way.

1. A good podcast takes a lot of work
2. We’ve got a ways to go to get good – still too many ums, so-s, etc.
3. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.
4. Adobe Audition – how to record, mix and edit audio tracks
5. Using a mixer and microphones
6. Garage Band – I made our theme song!
7. The web development for the podcast – WordPress plugins, iTunes setup, etc.

I have no idea where this podcast is going. Mario and I love doing it and it gives me a great canvas to build my design and development skills. If I were able to develop the ideal formula I would have us going for a week to different location every other week during ski season, interviewing and spending time with folks in town and the best bars and restaurants, sample the local beers/spirits and come up with recaps of the experience. Even better would be if we were sponsored and would have all expenses paid to do these excursions. Along the way, I’d be designing cool shirts that we could promote and sell. We might even do some video along the way. This would become lucrative enough that we could start purchasing vacation houses along the way and rent them out at High Falutin Ski Bum approved destinations decorated with dope art that we created and have available for purchase. That’s the grand vision. I don’t know if it’s even possible, but that’s what we’re working towards.

Awards

Mix of the Year

Tycho – Elsewhere (Burning Man 2015)

Once again, the mix of the year goes to Tycho. This years Burning Man set really did have it all, it had one of my favorite songs to ski to – Jon Hopkins – Open Eye Signal, my new favorite song to ski to – Jamie XX – Gosh, old school Boards of Canada, then ended with a track from my album of the year (see below) and Tycho’s own “A Walk”.

It’s just so good.

I believe it was performed just before sunrise one of the days at Burning Man. Listening to this mix and imagining that atmosphere is actually giving me chills just writing about it.

Honorable Mentions

Song of the Year

Jamie XX – Gosh


This is one of those songs that when you first listen to it, you kinda ask yourself “is that it?” But then you listen to it a few more times and it kinda gets in your head. Then it kinda gets into your soul, then it gets into every ski movie this season, which just cements the dopeness of the track.

Honorable Mentions
  • Julio Bashmore – Holding On
  • George Clanton – Bleed
  • Tame Impala – The Moment
  • Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin’

Album of the Year

Tame Impala – Currents

Tame Impala - Currents

This one I had to think about a bit. Like most people, I don’t listen to albums the way I used to – especially now with services like Spotify, Pandora, Songza, etc, but every year there’s a handful of gems out there that really get my attention. This year, I’m giving it to one of my favorite bands (who I think I would’ve given the nod to Album of the year on my 2012 Best of List, but I didn’t make one – for shame!). It was’t easy to give Tame Impala the nod, after I heard the first single “I’m a Man, Woman” and let Andrea listen to it, she noted and then proved, the rhythm and background sounded a lot like a New Kids on the Block song. This did not sit well at all. After their first two albums which were incredible, it was conceivable that the third would be point when it all started going downhill. The psychedelic feel of “Innerspeaker” definitely was less pronounced in “Lonerism” but there was a yearning and beauty in that yearning that transformed their music to another level. Now New Kids?

Fear not, once the album came out and you got the first song “Let It Happen” a beautiful 7:47 journey followed by “The Moment” and “The Less I Know the Better” all fears of this album being the downhill spiral of band were wiped out. It took a few listens to really appreciate The album does have a bit of a different feel than their previous two, but it showed a maturity and evolution

Honorable Mentions
  • Jamie XX – Colors
  • George Clanton – 100% Electronica
  • Thundercat – The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam
  • Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down
  • Neon Indian – VEGA INTL. Night School

Book of the Year

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk

I’ll admit it, I love Elon Musk. I also love Tesla as you may have been able to tell from my description of my first drive of the Tesla Model S. I knew a bit about Musk, but I didn’t know the whole story, so as soon as I found out about this book, I pre-ordered it and as soon as it became available dove right in (audiobook, of course).

It was fascinating to hear about his journey, especially his family and their history of challenging the status quo – both his parents were entrepreneurs and his grandfather was the only person at the time to have ever taken a private single engine plane from Africa to Australia.

After “reading” the book, I spent the next few nights watching every speech/interview with Musk on YouTube. Truly and amazing individual.

Honorable Mentions
  • Alice In Chains – David de Sola
  • Digital Gold – Nathaniel Popper
  • Chasing the Scream – Johann Hari

Word of the Year

Dope

Yup, it’s back and I don’t care if you think I’m trying to sound young and by doing so, may sound like a douche. I love the word and I’m still going to use it.

New Podcast of the Year

High Falutin Ski Bums

Come on, no one else has us on their list yet. If you don’t vote for yourself, why should anyone else?

Comeback of the Year

Bitcoin!


Forget about Dre, you may be the first billionaire of rap, but this year’s comeback kid is Bitcoin. It looks like it’ll be ending the year around $430 and started the year at $220. And it’s not just the value, it’s the fact that it’s been able to grow and develop use cases from big banks and Wall St. that have helped to legitimize the currency. It’s still very early days for Bitcoin and it’s tough to say what will happen next year or even the next five years, but considering how many scandals it’s managed to survive and still grow its use cases, it should be a pretty good indicator that the product and the technology behind it could make a lasting impact across many industries.

You Called It The Year of the Rear-Ender, but No Explanation.

Good point, it’s actually quite simple. Andrea got rear-ended twice this year while driving (both within 2 months) and I ended the year just getting rear-ended in Jersey City (12/30), about 5 minutes from home. No damage and my car old, so it was no biggie.

As much as 2015 had it’s share of challenges, it also had some amazing firsts which will hopefully set the table for a great 2016.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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