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2017 in Review

Surprise, mafakkas! Despite having managed not to make a single post in 2017 I’m posting a year in review.

It goes without saying that 2017 was a roller coaster for everyone, which in my view makes it more important to highlight the good and meaningful. In addition to a wealth of personal lessons learned, 2017 was full of good stuff. I’ll update this list as more comes to me but here’s what I’ll remember most:

Moments:
Any and every time the movie club got together, wandering Savannah late at night with Honmun and Pauline, the total eclipse experience in North Carolina, watching Miyazaki movies with Felicia, any night I was able to sleep in rejuvenating suburban silence, hanging out with Chris and Honmun in New York, my first bike ride in the city, every dumpling, wonton, bowl of pho or baked good consumed in Flushing, the barbecue at Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, the barbecue at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis, the hot chicken at Prince’s in Nashville, the cheese steak at Pat’s King of Steaks in Philly, every burrito consumed in the Bay Area, any seltzer water of any flavor anywhere, the mixed doubles and womens finals at the U.S. Open, the birthday dinner at Birds of a Feather, the rooftop view of the William Vale, jazz at St. Mazie, Game of Drones trivia nights, closing down the Hi-Fi Bar and Rosamunde, wandering the Presidio with Ben and Sofia, the ingenious experience design of “Then She Fell”, the family vacation in L.A., Halloween with the queen and reaper crew, Output/drink nights with Anthony B and the old coworkers, Flash Fiction Online and Daily Science Fiction, Isaac and Saeed getting their very own talk show on Buzzfeed, the launch of Jenny’s book, crawling Austin with Nicole and Karan, driving the U.S. highways and listening to “Train Dreams” with Karan on our epic 10-state road trip, our visit to Lexington, VA, streaming games with Ben, Traghaven Whiskey Pub and upstate hiking with Karan and Anthony, wandering Chicago and staying at The Gwen with Kishan, watching old Christmas party videos with Jordan, Scott and Rebecca, the backfield tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, the improved play of Kyle Fuller and Vic Fangio’s defense, the strange Nikola Mirotic resurgence, Episode 6 of “Life is Strange”, Tiffany Hadish on SNL, Willem Dafoe in The “Florida Project”, Robin Wright in “Wonder Woman”, Cate Blanchett in “Thor: Ragnorak”, Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird”, Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water”, Daisy Ridley in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, the opening scene of “Baby Driver”, Lily James in “Baby Driver”, Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour”, Saoirse Ronan, Saoirse Ronan, Saoirse Ronan.

Favorite movies seen:
Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Get Out, Blade Runner: 2049, Spider-man: Homecoming, Beginners, Tokyo Story, Point Break, The Thin Blue Line, all Miyazakis watched

Favorite books read:
The Handmaid’s Tale, The Haunting of Hill House, The Demolished Man, Self-Help, Birds of America, Sour Heart, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, When Watched, Mastering Bitcoin, Brave New World, Understanding Exposure, The Everything Store

Favorite music:
“Fake Love” and “Get It Together” by Drake, pretty much all of Lorde’s “Melodrama” but in particular “Homemade Dynamite” and “Perfect Places”, “Los Ageless” and “New York” by St. Vincent

Favorite products:
Nintendo Switch, Canon G7 X, Nikon f/1.8G lens, Surface Pro 4, The Daily podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, Da Bears Brothers podcast, Calm, Things 3, Pocket Casts, Clash Royale, Hearthstone, mint chip Halo Top, coconut oil, Tesla Model X (not mine)

Some thoughts on Apple’s WWDC 2016 keynote

  1. I like the focus of watchOS 3. It’s a relief they’ve realized that the worst thing about Apple Watch is the ludicrous load times for apps and waiting for info to display or update; I find it surprisingly torturous even for a v1 product, and if it had been up to me I wouldn’t have launched with that experience. Now whether v1 watch hardware can really be as fast as the demo promises is another question, but at least they’re trying to do something to improve this for current watch owners. This is the first developer preview I’m going to install immediately.
  2. Siri on OS X (now rebranded to macOS) was a no-brainer, I really expected it to happen much earlier. It’ll be fascinating to see whether Amazon can maintain its lead with Alexa/Echo as everyone else tries to build out their own voice platforms.
  3. Continuity across devices continues to take small steps forward, now with things like Universal Clipboard and even the ApplePay on web integration. We’re slowly, slowly making it towards the killer app of flinging your display windows across devices like Tony Stark does in Iron Man 2.
  4. I’m more than a little horrified at how much of iOS 10’s demo time was devoted to emoji and other iMessage bubble features. Sigh. On one hand I admire Apple for being hip to where today’s hotness is. On the other I wish we as a society were focused on more substantial things. We wanted flying cars…

2015 in Review

My favorite product I bought last year was a dustbuster. No joke. And in a way, wasn’t the majority of 2015 about busting the dust of life? I wrote the most words, wrote the most code, took the most flights, took the most vacation and spent the most time in my hometown of my adult life. I went to Disneyland for the first time in two decades. I went to a feminist science fiction convention. I went to PAX in Seattle. I became an HBO subscriber. I went house-hunting in San Diego. I built a new computer in real life, and time machines in my writing life.

Still, time moves on. I’ve only managed to post a Best Of list two out of the past four years so let’s not get too precious about it. Here are some of my favorite things I remember from the year that was 2015:

Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, the soundtrack of It Follows, Bill Hader and LeBron James in Trainwreck, anything and everything Amy Schumer,

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2011 in Review

You didn’t think I’d skip tradition, did you?

I’ll say this, 2011: you taught me a lot. And while the natural inclination is to shower you with nostalgic encomiums, the more truthful answer is that you were a fairly uneven year filled with highs and lows both visceral and numbing. There is, not for the first time, possibly too much to think about, but here are a few of my favorite things from the year that was 2011:

Anything written by David Foster Wallace, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, “Bossypants” by Tina Fey, “Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” by Haruki Murakami, “100 Bullets”, “Batman: Year One”, the idea and spiritual philosophy behind Grantland, the first hour of Super 8, the cinematic styling and evocative soundtrack of Drive, Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class, Rose Byrne and Emma Stone in anything, the “Life’s a Happy Song” number from The Muppets, “Upular” by Pogo, “So Insane” by Discovery, “Brand New Shoes” by She & Him, the entire Foster the People album, my iPhone 4S, my work iPad 2, my 3rd generation Kindle, Apple TV, any coconut water I found anywhere, Philz coffee, the Blue Bottle bar at work, Mister Lew’s Win Win Bar, the bookshare at the gym of the Opera Plaza, the magazine rack at Books Inc., the super rolls at Them Ky, brunch at Brenda’s, any macaroon served by anyone anywhere, any Off the Grid or Underground Market I made it to, Derrick Rose’s Adidas commercial, the relentless Tom Thibodeau, the new and improved Jay Cutler, the ingenious storytelling mechanics of “How I Met Your Mother”, the midseason 2 finale of “The Walking Dead”, “Lie to Me”, “Archer”, the killer supporting cast of “Parks & Recreation”, season 4 of “The Wire”, Zooey Deschanel in “New Girl”, Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live”, “Game of Thrones” nights at the former house of Brad and Ben and Motts, all Netflix streaming apps, Time magazine for iPad, the redesigned UI of Path, Comic Zeal, Kindle for iPad and iPhone, Plants vs. Zombies, Jetpack Joyride, the gorgeous production values of Castleville, Final Fantasy VII on PSP, Dragonvale, the vastly improved controls for Mass Effect 2, Mark pushing the button to open the NASDAQ on the day of the IPO, the Frank Lloyd Wright tour in Chicago w/Mom and Dad, biking along the Embarcadero with Caryn, New Year’s dinner courtesy of Seeyew and Ashley, the Super Bowl party at the Potrero house with a stunning number of rabid Packers fans, Cubs vs. Giants at the company suite, Red Door Cafe w/Ben and Steven, the single trivia night I attended, the Gun Store in Las Vegas, the Asian party house at Sundance, conversations in the car with Emilio, conversations with Kishan in San Francisco, random startup parties with Anthony, watching plays written by or starring friends or friends of friends, shooting zombies and Smuggler’s Cove runs with Ben, pizzas with Caryn, drinks with Liz, comics talk with Chris and Stephen, anticipating the baked good every morning in the cafeteria at work, any time I went snowboarding, Mars Bar with the team at work, Rebecca’s Christmas party, Cathy’s birthday dinner, Thanksgiving II at Sallie and Danielle’s, Henry and Melissa’s first dance at their wedding, launching my first iOS game, reuniting with Curtis and Vee on the dance floor of the holiday party, the incredibly long summer-in-the-fall-in-San-Francisco, the mild winter in Chicago, falling asleep at night listening to Steve Jobs interviews and speeches, the brief and wondrous life of Steve Jobs.

新年快乐!

2010 in Review

Yes, it’s been a while dear readers.  But no year would be complete without the traditional End of Year list to put it all in perspective.  Here are some of my favorite things from the fantastic, serendipitous year known as 2010:

Coke Zero, Season 4 of Mad Men, the anticipation of finding out what the signature sandwich at work was each day, any sandwich served by anyone anywhere, The Walking Dead, the brief and wondrous life of Caprica, the performances of Andrew Garfield & Rooney Mara & Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, the rich dialogue of True Grit, the team dinner in Vegas, any work party that I remember the ending of, the soundtrack of Inception, the extremely detailed and thought-out universe of Mass Effect, “Lisztomania” by Phoenix, “Horchata” by Vampire Weekend, “I’ll Try Anything Once” by The Strokes, Lady Gaga’s music video for “Telephone”, Ryan’s Prison for Bitches fanzine, Owl City, Betty White hosting Saturday Night Live, Sunday dinners with the roommates and assorted guests, whiskeys, old fashioneds, Blue Moons, any Chicago Bears offensive play that did not result in a Jay Culter sack or fumble or concussion, any play in which Devin Hester touched a football, Jim Harbaugh, Andrew Luck, the World Champion San Francisco Giants, Derrick Rose, the company suite at AT&T Park, EverNote, Foursquare, 750 Words, Flipboard, Instagr.am, Legacy of a Thousand Suns, the art and science of game design, Cityville, Sid Meier’s GDC keynote, Will Wright’s ridiculous GDC presentation, Julius Peppers, Michael Vick, my iPad 3G, Kanye’s Twitter account, Fashion for Writers, Signal vs. Noise, Olivia Wilde in Tron, staying up all night in New York for a get-together of three generations of my friends, drinks with Nita, Parkside drinks with coworkers, Connecticut Yankee drinks with roommates, the psychedelic Playa at night at Burning Man, the last 30 seconds of Black Swan, the last 10 minutes of Lost, the last four minutes of the USA vs. Algeria World Cup game, the animated sequence from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, lying on the beach all day without a care in the world in Tahoe, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Write the Future” commercial for Nike, Pop Chips, beers by the lake on the Wisconsin campus, beers by the lake in Eric’s hometown, Katanaya ramen, Perogi SF, Rebecca’s Christmas party, Breathless with Princess in NYC, deep sea fishing with Eric and Les and Eddy in San Diego, Thanksgiving dinner at Sallie and Danielle’s, Snow Crash, the first eight volumes of Fables, the first three volumes of 100 Bullets, the first two volumes of Blackjack, tennis sessions with Anthony and Clint, partying with Mitch at a GDC party, Alice’s birthday party, A Moveable Feast, Scotch Club at work, the Daily reunion with Jennie in SF, early morning phone calls with sis, the Wisconsin band at Whazzmaster’s wedding reception, the Cubs game with Dad & Wil, Seeyew being able to go to the Rose Bowl.

Thank you, 2010.

Podcast Review: This Week in Startups

This Week in Startups

The opening title card of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid reads, “Most of what follows is true.”  The same could be said for the content of entrepreneur Jason Calacanis’s weekly video/audio podcast, This Week in Startups (or TWiST, as aggressively abbreviated throughout the show).  Calacanis’s contract with his audience is that he will always speak his mind, and he will usually (but not always) be right.

Based on the episodes I’ve seen thus far, it’s hard to disagree.  In this post-postmodern age of self promotion, where every individual is a self-branded social marketing expert (expert in the marketing of ME), a camera can be placed in front of anyone. The results are hit or miss.  TWiST succeeds primarily through its honesty: it’s clear that every opinion and anecdote the host provides is passionate, unrehearsed, and (as promised) usually insightful.  The show’s unvarnished production values lend to this authenticity — for a podcast that actually has sponsors and claims to run in the black, there’s a remarkably consistent lack of visible producing involved: transitions to phone callers, video and sound cues are nearly always muffed, and expletives are rarely edited out despite references to a human tape logger that exists solely for this purpose.  Where this comes in most unwieldy is in each show’s running length: sessions can range from a little over an hour to just over two and a half hours.  There’s something to admire in the sheer audacity of this fact, but on the whole one senses the same content could be delivered in half the time; sometimes less really is the same.

Episode 13 features many of the show’s recurring segments: there’s “Ask Jason,”  reminiscent of the lightning round on Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” where entrepreneurs call in to get Calacanis’s thoughts on their ideas; an interview with a featured entrepreneur (in this case Matt Mickiewicz, founder of SitePoint and 99designs); a segment called “The News,” where again Calacanis provides his off-the-cuff reactions to tech news stories; “The Deadpool,” where recently destructed startups are announced; and “Homework,” which appears to be an audio bookclub/marketing segment for Audible.com.

Calacanis’s personality and his ability to tell an engaging story are clearly the driving force behind the show — tangents are prone to superfluous name-dropping or backdoor bragging, but they’re usually more entertaining than not, ranging from a hilarious gift for hyperbole (“An iPhone costs what now, seventy thousand dollars a month?”) to comically vicious vendettas (pity Jimmy Wales, who had the poor misfortune to launch a competing product to Calacanis’s own Mahalo).  Calacanis’s competitive East Coast personality is a surprisingly endearing love-hate proposition, though it’s hard to envision him occupying the same room as a Mark Cuban, one of his current investors.  (For a good proxy, check out Episode 14 for some fascinating repartee between Calacanis and none other than Michael Arrington.)

Overall, the show could use the general tightening up that comes with practice.  One hopes that Calacanis will eventually be able to quarterback the episodes to a more consistent length and content, both live and in the editing room.  Guest interviews can probably follow a more standard template — perhaps prototypical of this space, Matt Mickiewicz proves an amiable but somewhat reticent fellow, requiring Calacanis to shoulder most of the work.  The number of segments could also be cut or follow a rotating schedule.

Still, Calacanis’s heart is in the right place — his fierce desire to win, his belief in the middle class work ethic and his numerous marketing ploys to boost interest and traffic for himself and his sponsors — are all worthy of admiration.  There’s also a generosity of spirit that can’t be faked; even in his harsher criticisms of pitches (during a new “Shark Tank” segment, where callers literally pitch their startup ideas to get feedback) it’s clear that he’s willing to stay open-minded and encouraging.

There’s no telling how long this train ride will last, but This Week in Startups would do well to stay true to its core passion and truths — it offers a fascinating viewpoint on the current zeitgeist of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

Well played, Sirs

All right, so I started off yesterday ready to pen a rant of Whazzmaster-like proportions against that entity known as AT&T.  What inspired my ire?  The downright strange policies surrounding current AT&T customers and the new iPhone 3G S, of course.  Primarily the steep upgrade pricing for current iPhone users, though as demonstrated by the reception at WWDC the lack of immediate MMS and tethering capability also reek of epic fail.  I even took the time to craft my post in the form of a “Really !?!” segment straight out of Weekend Update/Saturday Night Live.

So imagine my surprise when I go back to check the eligibility tool on Apple’s website last night to confirm the troubling details of the situation and discover that suddenly I AM eligible for the phone discount again.  I have no idea what happened between last night and last week, but before I knew what was happening I’d already reserved a 3G S for myself at the local Apple store.

I just want to be clear that AT&T has provided amazingly poor phone “service” (of all things) during my time with my v1 iPhone — the thing simply is not able to receive and make calls in seemingly normal areas of multiple cities I’ve been to — and yet the Apple experience is still enough to make me leap for the chance to sign another 2-year contract.  Isn’t that amazing?  Maybe it’s incredibly shrewd on AT&T’s part, milking that exclusivity and investing as little in infrastructure as possible during their time in the sun, but as soon as that exclusivity runs out (or the Pre/Android becomes available on Verizon) I can’t see anything but major hemorrhaging of AT&T’s customer base.  They’ve still got some time to correct this, and I do hope they actually follow through.

But yes, I can’t help hearing a voice whispering, “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” as I ponder renewing my contract.

The simple answer: yes, yes I have.  Dancing with the devil gets you the best consumer electronics product that money can buy.  Ocassionally this product makes phone calls.

Breadcrumbs 5/28/09 – mobile edition

  • I was pleasantly surprised (actually, quite dumbfounded) today to discover that my office building was already available as a check-in point in foursquare.  And triangulated from my first-gen iPhone’s EDGE signal, no less.
  • I also hadn’t realized that Blackberry App World already went live.  I used it to download the latest Facebook upgrade and found it a much better experience than I expected — the UI’s got that same space-age style introduced with the Bold and Storm.  Oh, and it looks like some companies are actually pricing apps way above App Store price points…wonder how that’s going over?
  • I also noticed the latest TwitterFon update finally introduced AdMob ads.  Sigh.  I’ve been enjoying desktop Tweetie so much I may just purchase the iPhone app.

Pre in 9 days.  v3 iPhone in 11.  Tablet Mac in…

Gadget lust

I’ve gotta confess to harboring an ungodly amount of gadget lust of late.  On my list:

  • I’ve been playing around with my old DV camcorder recently and I’ve decided that I really want me some HD video.  I’m thinking either Flip MinoHD or the Canon Vixia HF10.
  • The idea of owning an Xbox 360 has been haunting me for months, and then I find out they’re coming out with a red one THIS WEEK.
  • Though I was underwhelmed with the Kindle 2 design I still find myself wanting it.
  • The poor performance on my three year-old MacBook Pro has caused me to seriously consider getting a new computer, and gasp…I’m not even requiring that it has to be a Mac.  If only Windows 7 would hurry up and release already.
  • I’ve held up on upgrading my iPhone, but only because I’m dying to see what the Palm Pre and the next gen Android and iPhone models look like before deciding on my next contract.

And well, thus concludes my brief ode to consumerist hedonism in the midst of economic fallout.  At least the market was up today.

Shout out to Anthony for getting a content management system up and running!