“If you know the way broadly you will see it in everything.”
― Miyamoto Musashi
For the past decade I’ve undertaking this exercise of recapping my favorite things in this particular end of the year blog post. I’m pretty sure nobody reads it and honestly that’s fine. The reason I do this is completely selfish. It forces, or more accurately, gives me the opportunity to really sit down and write the things I’ve been thinking all year long, that I usually don’t think are important enough to take time out of the day to put aside and capture. At the end of the year, when I finally do sit down and write, I realize just how important it is.
2019 is the end of a decade, which to some people means that this particular end of the year has greater currency. As I’ve become a walking cliche in my old age, I disagree. It’s just another year, just another day.
My career has been the source of existential angst for me ever since 2017 when we found out my wife was pregnant and my son was born. I looked at the people around me, what they valued, how they raised their kids and it forced me to look at what kind of father I want to be. Having a corporate 9-5 job that requires commuting 3 hours/day does not coincide with that vision. I fully intend to be more available for my son and to be around to teach him and be a significant participant in his life.
Why is that important? For me, 2019 has been an old school Catholic school nun who joyfully used severity to teach me the lessons I needed to learn this year. I almost blew it up, everything that I said I held valuable. Almost lost it all due to arrogance and selfishness. But, as that brutal nun would also preach, God (Satan, Ullr, diety de grace) has mercy, or a plan. I don’t really know why I’ve been so lucky/blessed but at my advance age here, it’s making me really feel like this bullshit 9-5 existence that has been served up to us as “normal” is complete bullshit and that I need to forge my own path.
If I fail, at least I tasted freedom. Knowing me, that taste will be enough to keep me from ever going back.
Reading last year’s recap, I included that the price of Bitcoin was $3600 as I wrote. Well, as I write this now, Bitcoin is around $7200, which if my math is correct, is double. If I hadn’t checked the price of Bitcoin since 12/31/18, I would be super-psyched. Wow, it’s back, it doubled over the year!
The problem is, I’ve checked the price over 10,000 times (about 30x per day, not even joking) and have seen it go to around $13k this past summer (right around my birthday!!). That said, it’s about half of where it was there, or 4x where it was at it’s low in December 2018. There might be some sort of golden ratio or fibonacci sequence in there as to why or how, but I’m not advanced enough in TA or pattern recognition to find it.
Is Bitcoin dead or a viagraed up rager? I still believe the latter. As someone who passed the CFA this year (well, intro CFA certification), I have some additional knowledge that has assisted in my tea leaf reading. One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned in 2019 is that most people and practically all politicians and media are completely full of shit. During the Libra hearing before congress, you got to witness some of the most blatant arrogant and pathetic grandstanding I’ve ever seen. I loathe Facebook and would never want to live in a world where a company like Facebook controlled our money, but even I felt bad for David Marcus dealing with those bought-and-sold leeches in congress.
I believe in Bitcoin and will continue to believe until the governments and banks of the world become honest and completely transparent in their actions…so pretty much until the end of time.
Mix of the Year
Boris Brejcha – Cercle
There’s a part around 39:30 where the track switches to an extended intro to his song “Faded Gravity” and the beat is a perfect injection of adrenaline. Yes, he has used this set-up in all of this mixes over the past 3 years, but there’s a reason why…it’s perfect! I’ve listened to this mix writing, coding, designing, running, working out and every single time I hear that part, it pumps me up to be better at what I’m doing. I’m actually listening to it right now and needed to write this so I could accurately describe it.
Album of the Year
Chemical Brothers – No Geography
In our current streaming, Spotify playlist world is the album dead? People who are way smarter than me have tried to answer this question, probably even writing phD thesis on the topic, so I’ll let those folks handle it. I know my listening habits have changed a bit over the past few years. Mostly due to lack of time, so I’ve leaned on experts and tastemakers that I trust to curate music for me, so I don’t have to do so much searching. Also, (here we go) becoming a parent my coolness has plummeted and a big part of that for me has been limiting the amount of new music I’ve been able to discover.
The two places that I use for my music discovery are KEXP and BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix. Pretty different that’s for sure, but if you know me and the music I like, that meaty union area of the venn diagram where these two converge is my sweet spot. This year’s band falls right into said sweet spot. There you go, my old man answer – The Chemical Brothers.
They’ve found a way to keep themselves evolving a relevant for almost 25 years now. This album is no different. Songs like “Free Yourself” and “Gravity Drops” both sound a bit like old school Chemical Brothers while still feeling new and fresh. The only song I don’t dig is the last one is “Catch Me I’m Falling.” It’s ok, but I could do without it, not that anyone is really asking.
Song of the Year
Tame Impala – It Might Be Time
2019 was supposed to be the year we got a new Tame Impala album. This has been delayed until Valentine’s Day 2020 (awwwww), but we have heard a few singles. Hearing the first few notes of “It Might Be Time” I knew it was a Tame Impala track and that I was going to love it. Then I started really listening closely to the lyrics. It was as if this song was written for me at this exact time.
It might be time to face it
It ain’t as fun as it used to be, no
You’re goin’ under
You ain’t as young as you used to be
It might be time to face it
You ain’t as cool as you used to be, no
You won’t recover
You ain’t as young as you used to be
It might be time to face it
Yeah, exactly. I used to be upset about losing my coolness, which is what usually happens (and should) when you become a parent. All of the things that seemed super important and valuable when you’re young and single like boozing it up, getting shit-faced, sleeping until noon, getting brunch hungover at 2:00pm, knowing the coolest indie film house that holds 12 people, fashion, etc. All that crap is just masteurbatory filler until you become a parent. Coolness isn’t the currency that I need to measure myself by anymore, it’s usefulness, particularly to my son.
(Jesus, Brian, it’s just an indie-pop song, settle down with finding the meaning of life in it).
Book of the Year
Bitcoin Billionaires – Ben Mezrich
As I mentioned earlier, I hate Facebook. The author of this book was also the author of “The Social Network” about Mark Zuckerberg, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and the founding of Facebook at Harvard. I didn’t read the book, but watched the overly dramatized film by Aaron Sorkin. I recall after watching it thinking that Winklevoss twins were entitled assholes and was happy the “underdog” won.
Sometimes we need to time to pass to give true perspective to situations and this situation is one of those. Interestingly enough, that’s the exact reason why the author felt compelled to write this book.
In this book, Mezrich starts out with he mediation between the Winklevoss twins and Zuckerberg. If you’re on the fence about how you feel about Zuckerberg and Facebook, this book will do a compelling job pushing you into the “Fuck Facebook and Zuckerberg” camp (as it should…you’re willingly giving them all your data and personal information for free, you goddamn sheep).
I’ve read and listened to podcasts with Charlie Shrem and knew a little bit about how he and BitInstant helped get the Winklevoss’ into Bitcoin, but to hear the whole story and also read about the Winklevoss’ family and upbringing you realize they are a product of hard work and dediction, not luck. It’s easy for people to look at tall, good looking men of Harvard and instantly form an unfair opinion and assume they were just handed everything they have. This book shows the stuggles they endured, the hard work they put in and the calculated risks they took in becoming successful.
Perhaps I’m the wrong person to give an objective opinion on this book, because as you’ve already read, I’m a huge proponent of Bitcoin and financial freedom. That said, I don’t love what the Winklevoss’ and Gemini are trying to do, but I view it as a necessary step to validation of Bitcoin as a legitimate investment and having them on “our” side will be important.
As the cliche goes, there comes a time in every person’s life when they have to decide what kind of person they want to be and what they want to stand for. In the era and location that we currently live, this is somewhat of a luxury. Survival, in terms of basic human needs, is relatively simple with abundant food, water and shelter that we enjoy (and often take for granted) living in the United States of America in 2018. Despite that, it’s easy for one to go through an existential crisis in trying to determine one’s purpose. So many of us go through life everyday working at a job that pays the bills, but doesn’t fully maximize our potential or allow us to share our gifts with the world. Once you add a mortgage and a family into the equation it’s easier to avoid that thinking about that and drifting towards the safety of a mundane job that is safe.
Fuck All That, It’s a Lie
Quite recently, the company which I have worked for almost 14 years had an abrupt and unexpected re-organization. Re-organizations and job eliminations are always tough, but this one was done in the most callous and unprofessional manner. I’m embarrassed for management by the spinelessness and coldness used to fire people who had built an in-house team from 2 people to 20. Not just 20, but a high-performing in-house creating agency-level digital properties.
Perhaps the technique used was the preferred example chosen by an author such as self-congratulatory blowhard like GE’s Jack Welch from their 1995 MBA business management course text book that at that time would have been ideal, but with time, has been shown to been a complete failure (ie see GE’s stock performance from April 2001 when Welch retired to today – *spoiler alert, it went from $49 to $13 in a time-frame where the S&P 500 went from 1255 to 2857). In practice, it was short-sighted, under-evaluated and foolish.
Besides losing all respect for management and how they have conducted themselves with this recent re-organization, I’ve decided that I don’t want my skills or knowledge to benefit the people who have devalued the work that my fantastic team and I have done.
It’s time to move on.
Going back to my original thoughts, it’s very easy for people to stay in a job that is safe because you have a mortgage and a family and you want to make sure they’re taken care of. The problem is, that safety is an illusion. If that safety is an illusion, why are you not working on something that you’re passionate about?
There are two things that have brought me to this epiphany, the first being this recent re-organization that I was lucky to “survive” and the second was the recent birth of my son. Ever since I first found about that my wife was pregnant, I knew that something about my job had to change. I love the field of UX/Front-End development, but rather detest the financial services industry that I’ve been in for over a decade. Even before he was born, I made a promise to myself and my son that I was going to have a job that I was proud of and that he would be proud of by the time he got to school. Well he turns one this month, which means he’s still about 4 years away from school, but that time flies by very quickly so for me, the time is now to start making this happen.
No one knows what a new year is going to bring, but there is something very exciting about getting a virtual clean slate to change some of the things that we may not be happy with in our lives. It’s extremely powerful to realize that you are the master of your own destiny and that you do have the ability to change the things you’re not happy with to improve your lives. The smallest positive changes, whether it be eating better, exercising, or not wasting money can lead to personal revolution.
I knew 2017 was going to be a year of gigantic changes because at the end of 2016 my wife and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child. So at the end of 2017, our new little son is 4 months old and has changed our lives in ways I could never have imagined. Besides getting way less sleep, my perspective on how I view the world and what I put into it has dramtically changed. It’s not just about what I want, but it also about what sort of message it sends my new little son and in what light he will see his father. Do all fathers think this much about this? I don’t think so, but to me, this is very important.
What are my resolutions for 2018? I just want to do less, especially when it comes to work. I’ve stretched myself too thin, not allowing myself to focus and I think my work has suffered because of it. In 2018, that will have to change. The only question is what will the focus be on?
High Falutin Ski Bum Podcast, mentioned in Boston Globe
We’ve been hustling the past two years to figure out what to do with this podcast and to be recognized by some folks at the Globe is a huge honor. In 2018, I want to focus more on the podcast, put more energy in and find a way to make this a real job, a day-to-day focus, actually produce revenue. That’s a priority for 2018.
Bitcoin of the year – Bitcoin
Looking back at my former Year in Reviews, I’ve noticed that every year I’ve made some mention of bitcoin. Whether it was “Obsession of the Year” in 2014 or “Comeback of the Year” in both 2015 and 2016. Bitcoin’s rise to just below $1,000 at the end of 2016 seemed like an amazing accension. That is, until 2017.
Wow, what a ride this year has been. I’ve believed in Bitcoin since I made my first investment in 2014 and I always had 2020 circled as the year that bitcoin would change our lives, but 2017 has far exceeded what I thought could’ve been possible. One of the best quotes of the year was from @desantis (tweet as been deleted) who stated that bitcoin is a wrecking ball and a bootstrap. This is only now starting to making sense to me. Towards the end of this year, with the price acting as wrecking ball to Wall Street and banks, it felt like it was a small taste as to what is going to happen going forward.
Here’s some fo the highlights from the past year.
Segwit2X Hard fork, thwarted
Lightning network activated
Jamie Dimon (whose firm has paid over $30 billion in fines for fraud) called Bitcoin a fraud
CME and CBOE bitcoin futures
2017 had a ton of great music from LCD Soundsystem and Grizzly Bear to collaborations like Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett.
One thing that we’ve started to realize the past few years is that the musical stars that folks my age grew up with who lived and partied in the 70s and 80s are starting to get older. Every year there’s always a death that hits harder than the others. If you look at my age, the death of Chris Cornell should’ve been the hardest. I was in my teens when grunge was at it’s height and Soundgarden was one of my favorites. As terrible and surprising as Chris Cornell’s death was, the one that really hit me the hardest was the death of Tom Petty.
I saw Tom Petty in concert in 1995 on the “Wildflowers” tour. To be honest, I wasn’t really a fan going into the concert. I went to the show with my girlfriend-at-the-time and a group of friends. Hip-hop was more my thing and I didn’t feel anything either way going into the concert. Of course, I knew a few of his big hits and loved the video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” but other than that, didn’t know too much. By the time the concert was over, his energy, songwriting ability and musicianship had transformed me into a fan for life.
Several years (and another girlfriend) later, back before streaming and just before Napster, I stole said girlfriend’s Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits album and listened to it over and over again. It was also around the time the “Echo” album came out which featured the song “Room at the Top,” which really resonated with me at the time. Life was going quite well and that song worked as a theme song for that part of my life.
For the longest time, I took Tom Petty and his music for granted and just assumed he’d always be around and always be making music. Now he’s gone. I’ve spent a good deal of time driving around this December and spend a good deal of that time listening to the Tom Petty Channel on Sirius and just appreciating the music he created. RIP Tom Petty and thank you for all the amazing music you’ve created.
This is Maya’s 4th essential mix and somehow she always find a way to out-do herself.
Song of the Year
(Tie) Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile – “Over Everything” and Real Estate – “Darling”
The first time I heard the collaboration between Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, “Over Everything,” I knew that I was hearing a song that was going to be in the running for song of the year. The song title just personified everything I was feeling about life (aside from my family).
Speaking of that new family, the co-song-of-the-year came out at just the right time as our new family member was introduced to the world. If you’re not familiar with the song, it was written by the lead singer when him and his wife were expecting the birth of their child. As crazy as it may seem, this was actually the song that was playing when I started the car to take my wife to the hospital to give birth to our son. Now whenever we hear the song, we get pretty emotional as it reminds us of that day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Julio Bashmore – Holding On
George Clanton – Bleed
Tame Impala – The Moment
Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin’
Album of the Year
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
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
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.
Alice In Chains – David de Sola
Digital Gold – Nathaniel Popper
Chasing the Scream – Johann Hari
Word of the Year
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.
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
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.
You ever have one of those days? You know, the one where your brain is taking you places you didn’t know existed? I had one of those mornings a few weeks ago where I felt so free and capable of thinking so deeply and profoundly. I can’t even remember the last time I felt that way. It was absolutely glorious.
Where am I going with this? A little patience, friend, we’re getting there. Ever since our amazing ski trip to Ischgl, Austria, I’ve been completely obsessed with on-slope transportation, particularly snow cats. In fact, I was so obsessed, I actually purchased a Pisten Bully toy snow cat. I’m not even ashamed to admit it, I think it’s badass.
Around that same time, I saw an article on Autoblog about the Nissan Juke Nismo RSnow, which started out as a Nissan Juke RS, but instead of wheels and tires it was outfitted with a Dominator Track System (all terrain tank-like treads). The article mentioned that it was built for an ice driving event in Finland and showed a video of the Juke cruising through the snow with ease.
That got me thinking, what other kind of all-wheel drive vehicles could a track system be added onto to create the perfect unstoppable skimobile?
Then it hit me.
What is my dream car? A Porsche 911 Turbo…which has all wheel drive!!!
It was time to do a photo search to get the biggest photo of a Nissan Juke RSnow I could find as well as finding a 911 photo taken at a similar angle. This is the final result, a vehicle I would be proud to drive around Vermont, Utah or Colorado on those fresh pow days when others are stuck in ditches. Behold, the Porsche 911 TurbSNOW (OK, we may need a better name…and a ski rack).
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
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
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
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
Pink Floyd – The Endless River
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.
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, 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.
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:
(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:
I literally don’t hear a word you’re saying after you say literally…literally. Please stop.
Best Travel Surprise:
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!
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!
Like many other, I really enjoy taking inventory at the end of the year to figure out where I am in several aspects of my life in comparison to the previous year. As any year, there are a series of ups and downs and as I type this on the last day of the year at the Starbucks in Denville, NJ, I look back, excited about what I’ve achieved this year and looking forward to 2014. Some of the highlights included:
Taking a dream ski vacation to Whistler, BC
Learning to count cards (but unsuccessfully executing a winning strategy)
Skied more days and at more mountains than any season before
Had a dream job interview at the NHL (sadly, didn’t get it)
Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to Sonoma in a Mustang convertible with my wife
Leading the development of our company’s redesigned website and forcing a promotion at work
Seeing my biggest freelance client expand his business after only a year of being in business
Learning to use a mitre saw
Went to three weddings in three consecutive weekends in three different states (and two coasts)
Had my first fresh Krispy Kreme donut
Tasted Macallan 30 year old scotch (AMAZING)
Seeing my father finally retire shortly before his 74th birthday
Confession #1, I don’t really read books. All of the non-technical books that I “read” are all audiobooks. I have a miserable commute and I’m on the road a lot for family adventures so to make the most efficient use of my time, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts.
Confession #2, I haven’t finished this book, but I’m almost done and I think it’s the only book that I “read” that came out this year. Because I was so busy with work, I listened to good number of science fiction including the Old Man’s War and Ender’s series.
I’ve been a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell ever since being first introduced to his book Blink in 2005. Since then I’ve devoured all of his work. When I found out about the release of David and Goliath I downloaded immediately, but had to keep it on the shelf since I was right in the middle of Ender’s Game and after that immediately had to delve into Speaker for the Dead. Once I got around to “reading” it, I devoured it in large doses. If you’ve never listened to a Gladwell book, it would behoove tou to give it a try. It’s great because Mr. Gladwell reads his own books and has such a pleasant tone to his voice that helps his stories sink into brain. And that’s what his books are – they are a series of stories that support a concept or idea and in this case, one that is incorrectly accepted by our society – that of the underdog, exemplified by the story of David and Goliath.
To describe the book in a nutshell, Mr. Gladwell looks at what is an advantage and what is a disadvantage and how depending on circumstance and individual things that on the service look like an advantage are actually a disadvantage and vice-versa.
Like I said, this year was about rolling up my sleeves and getting work done, which didn’t leave a whole lot of space in my brain for acquiring new skills. I went to the CSS Dev Conference and got to learn all about Sass, but never got the chance to play or implement any of it. Luckily, with my revised role at my job, I’m in charge of front-end technology used, which means I’ll be able to spend some time researching and experimenting in early 2014 and this is going to be my first stop.
For the second year in a row (last year I didn’t have time to make an official list) the JRE is my podcast of the year. I had no idea what to expect when I first downloaded an episode of the Joe Rogan experience at the beginning of Labor Day Weekend 2012 and I certainly never thought it would be life changing, but it has been. The podcast’s diverse list of guests has changed the way I look at the universe, technology, nutrition, drugs, and the world in general. The fact that a cage-fighting commentator who has been in multiple documentaries about illegal drugs can provide so much education is proof that the way our society acquires information has changed completely. I honestly believe that what I have learned in the past year and a half of listening to the Joe Rogan Experience is equivalent to the 5 (yes, 5) years of college. An example of this was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend after Joe had Graham Hancock on the podcast as they discussed human evolution and planet earth, I woke up at 4am and read for two hours about panspermia, the idea of microorganisms being sent through space by asteroids, comets and meteors and taking root on another planetary body, potentially leading to new life forms or unexplained leaps in evolution. I never learned about that in school! The topic was fascinating and I spent hours that day reading about and researching the topic, which lead me to Carl Sagan and then to reboot of his series Cosmos which will be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson (someone else I didn’t know much about until the podcast). If this doesn’t get you excited about science, nothing will:
As I’m typing this I’ve convinced myself to change my original to choice to this one. I had already typed Arcade Fire’s Reflektor as my favorite album of the year, but then I decided to look at the decision with a much broader scope. Don’t get me wrong, I love Reflektor and can’t tell you how many times “Reflektor”, “Joan of Arc”, “Porno” or “Normal Person” have been stuck in my head in a glorious way, hours or days after their last listen. There was huge expectations for the release since it was not only following up the hugely successful and beautiful The Suburbs (my 2010 Album of the Year), but was also to be produced by mastermind James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. It’s a great album and I still excited about listening to it, but I couldn’t give it Album of the Year.
If had told me on January 1st 2013 that the year would bring a new album from My Bloody Valentine, Boards of Canada, the Dismemberment Plan and Burial (an EP) I would have rolled over from my Fireball-induced hangover and made a note to myself to revisit the statement made then slap you across the face the next time I saw you for messing with my emotions. The rumors of the MBV follow-up to “Loveless” have circulated for years, but to have a new album come out in February was unbelievable. It was so unbelievable to me that I was afraid to purchase it for fear of disappointment. After seeing a positive review on Pitchfork, I quickly navigated the not so user-friendly mybloodyvalentine.com site (the only place it was available) and purchased the album. It took a few listens, but I really enjoyed the album and have it in my top 5 for the year.
There was a tweet and blog post from Fact magazine that caught my eye in early April that caused me great initial excitement and anticipation stating that Boards of Canada were working on a new double-LP album named Quetzalcoatl. After reading further and seeing that it was a hoax. I was pissed off at Fact, but more pissed off at myself for not looking at the date of publication. I wasn’t the only one upset by the article. We were back where we started, listening to old BoC and trudging though, waiting for the next false claim of a new album and re-listening to their older albums, the last of which was Trans Canadian Highway, 6 song EP released in 2006.
Did they have to go through all that to build excitement for the new album – no way. They could have just tweeted out a date and had the music available for download that day as BoC fans would’ve been swooning and counting down the days, but that’s not their style. Just as there are many layers of complexity and beauty in their music, there was that same complexity and beauty in the leading up to the release of Tomorrow’s Harvest and it was worth it. The album starts of in similar but still fresh and new sound and builds throughout. One of the best track on the album is Cold Earth which feels like a transition point on the album to more upbeat portion of the records, before sliding back to a beautiful mirth with the closing Semena Mertvykh. The first listen of this album was similar to the first listen of MBV, nervous excitement and anticipation as to whether the wait would be worthwhile and this most certainly was.
So what that Arcade Fire’s Reflektor wasn’t my album of the year, I’m making the song Reflektor my song of the year. The funkier side of Arcade Fire was great to hear and the guest spot by David Bowie just seared in the awesomeness.
Honorable Mentions – Fuck Buttons – “Brainfreeze”, Atoms for Peace – “Default”, Queens of the Stone Age – “If I Had a Tail”, Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Daze”, Maya Jane Coles – “Comfort”, Toro Y Moi – “Say That”
I’ve been a big fan of Eric Prydz since “Call on Me” because it reminds of the times going out and dancing with my at-the-time girlfriend, now wife, early in our relationship. I didn’t know much about him at the time, but as I got more into listening to DJ sets I learned about what an excellent DJ Eric Prydz was. This year, as every year, there were some amazing Essential Mixes including Maya Jane Coles, Atoms for Peace, Andy Baxter and Skrillex. Eric Prydz actually had two different Essential Mixes this year and his original one from February 2nd, was named Essential Mix of the year (congrats, Eric!). It was a fantastic mix, but for me it was his other mix, the one they recorded Live at Cream in Ibiza that was my Essential Mix of the year.
The mix explodes out the gate with sonically hypnotizing bumping beat which grabs a hold of your body and soul and slingshots you into the direction of your desires. It then flows into a mix of Underground Resistance’s Transition which contains the revolution inspiring lyrics, that I’ve taken up as my personal battle cry:
There will come a time in your life when you will ask yourself a series of questions.
Am I happy with who I am?
Am I happy with the people around me?
Am I happy with what I’m doing?
Am I happy with the way my life is going?
Do I have a life or am I just living?
Do not let these questions strain or trouble you just point yourself in the direction of your dreams find your strength in the sound and make your transition.
The mix doesn’t stop there, it just keeps going and going with fantastic track after fantastic track. It ends on such a high note, you wish he would’ve never stopped playing. A brilliant and beautiful mix that gets better with each listen.
Confession #4 – I really wasn’t into Pearl Jam in high school (1991-1995).
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, not cool, but I was too busy liking rap before it was cool (and now not liking it). Once I discovered grunge in the late 90s I finally got into Pearl Jam. I, like everyone else, loved the early stuff, and always tried to check out their new releases. Watching Eddie Vedder’s performance of Comfortably Numb with Roger Waters at 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief, reminded me what an amazing performer he is and inspired me to revisit some Pearl Jammy goodness.
This year, my awesome sister in-law got my wife and I tickets to see Pearl Jam in Philadelphia. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but was completely blown away by the experience. For being huge superstars who have been there and done that, they were very humble and genuinely seemed to love what they were playing, even though I’m sure they’ve played Even Flow and Alive a million times, it still felt like they were the guys in 1991 trying to make a name for themselves.
The crowd was so into the show and were signing along to almost every song, even the tracks from their new album Lightning Bolt which I made sure I checked out before the show and enjoyed. It was also cool to check out everyone’s shirts from previous concerts, since just about everyone had a shirt from a previous tour. I didn’t, but I made sure I rocked the flannel.
Eddie Vedder is definitely one of the coolest people on the planet. He was working the crowd, passed around champagne to the front row since it was Pearl Jam’s 22nd Birthday that night. He also dedicated a song to a former US Army soldier from the crowd who had written him a letter telling him that Pearl Jam’s music kept him going while he was in the middle east. Eddie even walked out to where he was sitting and shook his hand. It was very cool.
That About Does It
Those are the things that dominated my 2013. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did putting it together. If you have any comments, please comment below. Looking forward to a powerful 2014!
This past Sunday I decided to fire up the ol’ Apple TV to see if any new and exciting was available on Netflix or HBO. Before I even had a chance to scroll down to Netflix or HBO GO, Apple, in that way they are so good at doing, caught my attention with new movies that are new and available through iTunes. There I saw “The World’s End” and got really excited. Simon Pegg is one of my favorite actors and he’s one of those actors that when I see that he is in a movie, I’m pretty sure that the movie is going to be good, especially when his buddy Nick Frost is also involved as in this film.
So, I’m excited about watching this movie, but before I purchase I click on the movie in iTunes and see that it’s $5.99 to rent. That seems a little steep, so I decide to see if my cable provider, Optimum, has the film on demand and alas, they do and for only $4.99. I consider myself a pretty logical person so if I can spend $4.99 instead of $5.99 on the exact same thing, $4.99 is the way to go. The page of the movie has a menu on the left side with the options Preview, Add to Cart, Purchase and Close. Why exactly they have both Purchase and Add to Cart seemed a bit strange, but I knew I wanted to watch the movie and didn’t have time for the cart so I click on Purchase – BOOM, let’s make this happen!
Blank black screen.
I must have pushed the wrong button or something, so let’s do it again. Purchase – BOOM, let’s make this happen!
Blank black screen.
Obviously, something that I’m doing is wrong, because Optimum, in their wisdom and infinite supply of money, and thus limitless user experience and testing resources, would never make it difficult for their customers to give them more money, right? So, I add the movie to the cart, so far, so good – until I try to complete my purchase again – you guessed it, blank black screen.
Back into Apple TV I go, annoyed at Optimum for their crappy user experience as well as with myself for having subjected myself to that to save a whole $1. The movie was right there at the top of the home screen, I was able to click on it, click the purchase button, enter my iTunes password and the movie started playing. It was so simple. I’m sure there’s a setting that automatically remembers my iTunes password that would’ve made it even easier to complete the purchase – so simple!
This whole experience couldn’t be that dissimilar to what others must have experienced when trying to purchase on demand movies through their cable/satellite providers. I consider myself pretty tech savvy and I was having problems, so I’m sure others who are less so would have also given up trying to make a purchase and may never go back to trying again. What sort of unrealized annual revenue are cable companies losing out on due to their shortsightedness in regards to testing and user experience? I have no idea and I’m almost positive they don’t either. That got me thinking about Apple and their model of selling through iTunes.
Apple and Cable/Wireless – Enemies and Allies
Apple has two classes of products, hardware: iPhone, iPads, Macs and content: movies, music, books sold through iTunes and now (ugh) iBooks. I don’t know the breakdown in terms of revenue for Apple, but I find it interesting how dependent Apple is on another company whether it be the cable/satellite or telecommunication providers who are also selling the same products. It’s an interesting relationship that Apple has to maintain with these companies are imperative to Apple’s success. I’m sure deals are made and the cable/satellite/telcomms are receiving a money from Apple to assure that this relationship continues to be beneficial for both sides.
But what if the cab/sat/tel companies got their acts together and created some exquisite user experiences that made users want to use their native interfaces for media instead of iTunes? Even more potentially game-changing, what if one company created hardware and access to content like Apple but also controlled the network connection. Imagine and company crazy enough to try that?!
Back in March of 2011 Google announced that they were going to roll out their Google Fiber initiative which would bring broadband internet and television to a small but growing list of communities in the U.S. Though Google has said that they don’t intend to become an internet service provider, the fact that they have gone ahead and done this is a massive game changer in the ISP realm, shaking up the monopoly and lack of choices that has been in place since the beginning of cable television. The number of communities they service is still small, but what it shows is Google being able to control the entire media transaction. A user in Kansas City, MO using Google Fiber at home can now use their Google Nexus 7 tablet running the Android operating system (another Google product) to access the Google Play store, which is similar to the Apple iTunes store to purchase music, movies, books, apps, newspapers and comics. That is the ultimate start to finish transaction through Google. The only way it could be more Googley would be if Google curated their own content like Netflix has done with “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” That doesn’t seem likely at this time, but if someone told you 3 years ago that Google was going to roll out broadband service, you might have thought that sounded crazy too.
Why is it important to control the end to end connection, besides the fact that it gives you ultimate control?
SOPA, PIPA< CISPA
In May of 2011 the Protect IP Act (PIPA) was introduced to the United States Senate that would give the U.S. government more tools to fight “rogue websites dedicated to the sale of infringing or counterfeit goods,” especially those outside the U.S. Opponents to the bill included Google and American Express who proclaimed that the proposed law would defend and protect outdated business models while stifling innovation from newer, more innovative companies and smaller businesses who wouldn’t have the legal and administrative budgets to protect themselves if they were found in violation and needed to defend themselves.
Shortly after PIPA, SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that was created with similar intentions to PIPA, protecting content creators from having their works of art stolen and pirated by blocking access to sites that contained pirated material and blocked as well as blocking advertisers and search engines from linking to infringing websites. Sounds like a nice thing, right? The can of worms that it opened was that it violated first amendment rights in the United States and would attempt to use U.S. law to block international sites without jurisdiction. It has had the potential to take down entire domains where only a fraction of the domain was in violation. Imagine if you had an entire network of 50 websites built upon one WordPress installation and one of those sites was in violation and your entire network was taken down. That’s the reality of life in a SOPA world.
The latest bill to come through congress is Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which allows the sharing of information between the U.S. Government and technology companies in hopes of preventing network cyberattacks. This bill used the Patriot Act and PROTECT Our Children Act to boost support which it already had from some big name tech companies like Verizon, Oracle, Symantec, AT&T, IBM and Intel. While there was a large amount of support, there was equal if not greater opposition from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) the Constitution Project (TCP) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) among many others. Opponents saw this as “Big Brother” collecting massive amounts of information on user behavior, without any restrictions or guidelines to how that data could be used. The bill had passed in the House of Representatives, but was blocked in the Senate.
Luckily, all three of these acts have been shot down for the time being, but there always seems to be the threat of another law. What makes laws like this so tricky is that with the increased use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we are often reposting content from elsewhere to share with our friends and users. That could be interpreted as copyright violation, even when the content is being shared, giving credit to the original creator. That’s a very slippery slope, especially since we are now being an online society of sharing which is only going to increase over time.
Part of the reason the internet has always fought these bills is that the people who are trying to enact them don’t seem to understand the technology they are trying to create rules for. Let’s me honest with ourselves, if a lobbyist who is pledging to give you $1 million for next campaign and access to a private jet, would you be able to do the right thing, or would you just keep pushing the agenda of the group funding you? We’re all humans and we all have biases that affect our judgements, values, beliefs and actions. It’s not possible for human’s to be able to decide which sites are in violation of these rules with 100% accuracy.
Can You Have it All?
The landscape of the internet changes so quickly and smart corporations and governments of the world (don’t laugh) are doing all that it can to adapt and protect their interests. It’s hard to say where things will be in 5 or 10 years. The internet is still so new and so quickly mutating that if we were today shown what our internet looks like in 10 years, we might not recognize it. What must happen in the future is that for the internet to continue to have value, it must continue to build on its collaboration capabilities and increase interactions that were once only possible in person in the ways that Skype, Facebook and Twitter among others already have.
What that all starts and ends with is the network connection. Where will it come from and who will own it? Ten years ago, most of us had to get internet from our cable or DSL providers. Now usage is split between cable/DSL and mobile providers. Right now Google looks to be in the best situation with their Fiber product as well as the hardware and Android OS, but only time can tell. All we can do as internet users is to support companies that believe in a free and open internet, because it’s that freedom and ability to connect that gives the internet and in turn, us, its power.
It’s now been about a week since my wife and returned from our trip to the West Coast (OK, it took me a month to hit the publish button…I”ll explain why in upcoming posts). It was a typical Schneider vacation with 50% more things to do than time provided, little of which is relaxing. It’s not for everybody, but it works for us. The trip started in San Diego, followed by a drive up the coast to Sonoma, concluding with a short flight up to Seattle before an unpleasant red-eye flight home before driving from Hoboken to Richmond, VA.
Many people that I spoke with before and after my trip have told me about how they are obsessed with San Diego and understandably so. The weather is always perfect, the beach is right there and there’s no shortage of great mexican food, bars, breweries, parks, museums and other various attractions. We even took a drive across the Coronado Bridge and drove down Silver Strand Blvd. all the way down to Imperial Beach, about two miles from the Mexican border. It was definitely worth getting the convertible, even if it had just been for that drive.
Upon conclusion of our long weekend in San Diego, we began our drive up the famous Pacific Coast Highway – Route 1. I had done the drive once before about 10 years ago, but it was my wife’s first time. The first time had been in a Coors Light colored Chevy Malibu, but this time we were doing it in a candy apple red Ford Mustang, which was way for fun. Even before we got on the PCH, we started playing California songs – my favorite being Marlena Shaw’s “California Soul” (Verve Remix) and the one that I’ve heard thousands of times, but didn’t resinate with me until listening to it in California – the Mamas and the Papas – “California Dreaming.” When you see the incredible landscapes of the ocean and beach hitting the mountains it blew me away. How someone could have grown up in Southern California experiencing that beauty everyday and being immersed in a life that revolved around the sun, beach, outdoors and everything that goes with it, then to be taken out of that and transplanted anywhere else, especially somewhere much further north, in the winter time, I could see how someone would feel like part of them was missing -like losing a limb or an organ – that all made perfect sense to me at that moment.
It’s not just the weather, but what that weather does for one’s way of thinking. In the northeast, many people start to get seasonal depression when the mercury begins to drop. It’s going to get cold and we’re going to have to be inside more, binge-watching shows on Netflix, gaining weight because we’re only watching TV and eating take-out until the merciful spring thaw which usually takes place somewhere in mid- to late-March. So roughly 3 months, or 1/4 of your life, you’re in hibernation/depression mode. That’s a scary way to think about it, 25% of your life is winter, where you’re depressed.
Not in Southern California.
There’s something to that, when you don’t have 1/4 of your year that you always dread it frees your mind to focus on the things that you truly enjoy – like surfing, skateboarding, golfing – whatever outdoor activity it may be. It sounds a bit cliche, but if you look at where a large number of elite athletes in those sports have come from over time, it’s been Southern California. Besides the weather, which plays into it, there’s the vibe that is equally as intoxicating. The laid-back, chill attitude that even penetrates the rock-salt encrusted, bitter New York/Northeast defense layer. The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” slacker/Buddhist existence is so real and prevalent you get it in your head that you to can see yourself ridding your existence of worldly possessions, save for some Credence tapes and join a bowling league and let the universe play out for you the way it is meant to.
We meandered up the PCH all the way to San Francisco and Sonoma, stopping in Big Sur for an beautiful hike where fortunately we did not encounter any mountain lions, rattlesnakes or poison oak, even though we were frequently warned that all three of these could be encountered. What we did encounter was a hike to a beautiful beach. Beaches are always great, but there were two things that made these beach particularly special, one was that at that spot, there was an estuary, where the river met the sea and the second was the large collection of rocks right by where waves broke. Each wave crashed over this collection of rocks, but as the tide went back into the ocean, the water pulled over these rocks creating a calming, peaceful harmony that I couldn’t get enough of.
After some wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa, we took a flight up to Seattle to visit friends who had recently moved out there. Seattle has a very recognizable skyline with the space needle and Mt. Rainer looming in the background (assuming it’s not foggy and you get a chance to see it), but to be there in person and to go to the top of Queen Anne and look west out over Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains, when spin around to see the city skyline, dominated by the space needle and snow-capped Mt. Rainer you wonder if you are on another planet. That type of environment certainly played a part in how and why Starbucks was founded there, why Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, etc. spawned from there…it all just made sense. I wish I had the guts (and lack of family connections in the NYC area) to just move out there, but I know I don’t. We’ll see what the future holds. Hopefully the future is bright and snowy and I’ll be able to make my way back to the Pacific Northwest this winter.
This past Wednesday, Joshua Sacks of the Oink and Moo BBQ food truck appeared on Fox 5 New York’s morning show “Good Day New York.” I got an email from Josh the night before and made sure to set the DVR to record his appearance.
The hosts of the show went on the truck and Josh made them several of the items off the menu. The one host, Greg Kelly ate two bowls chili, which is another great endorsement for
I have to tell you, it was pretty incredible getting to see the logo and truck that I designed on TV. The truck looked awesome and the food, even better. Great job, Josh. I hope the appearance gave you more business than you can handle!
Another surprise came this past weekend when I saw a tweet from my friends Karen and Eric at SpecialLoveSongs. A writer from OK! Magazine was doing an article about Valentine’s Day and the service provided by Special Love Songs. Basically, you tell them about the person or people you want to write a song about, choose a genre of music you’d like the song to be done in and Karen and Eric whip up a custom song (and even video or slideshow). They are amazing musicians and do beautiful work. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the someone you care about, a special love song is a fantastic gift. Check out their website for information.