My “completely random, devoid of any purpose or meaning” top 10(ish) list for 2010.

I originally wrote this a couple days ago, at the end of 2010, but since I was on vacation, and was trying to purposely make it a point not to do anything remotely related to “working”, I just saved it and decided to post it today. Enjoy!

Because lists are fun, and if my “top ten list” contains thirteen items then, well, that’s my prerogative, right?

13. Pinboard.in
I love this service. Initially, I picked it up on the recommendation of some twitter peeps, and suddenly, with the impending demise of Delicious, it became my go-to social bookmarking service. It’s fantastic. It’s like someone took the idea of social bookmarking, Instapaper, and Delicious and mashed them all up. It’s as easy and convenient as Delicious was, using the bookmarklet is quick and painless. But that’s not the best part. See, my Twitter use is almost second nature. The people I follow are an endless stream of excellent links. Political blog entries, Code hints, Technology posts. I probably see at least a dozen posts a day containing links that I want to read later, that I want to share, that I think are worth bookmarking. Now it’s as easy as flagging the tweet as a “favorite”. That’s it! Now it’s bookmarked, and I can read it later, share it, whatever. It’s an amazingly useful service, and I love how well it’s executed.

12. “No Ordinary Family” on ABC
I’m gonna let you in on a secret. I loved ‘Heroes’. Go ahead. Laugh. I don’t care. I love superheroes, I love comic books, and I love anything that’s written in the same, fun way. So I was glad when ABC picked up on the hole in the current TV schedule and filled it with “No Ordinary Family”. It’s part “Fantastic Four”, part “Heroes” and part “The Incredibles”. Toss in Michael Chiklis for good measure, and you’ve got a sure-fire, guaranteed position on Jeff’s Top “Anything” list.

11. “Walking Dead” on AMC
Take the above, throw in some zombies, sprinkle a little bit of, “this shit ain’t on network television” and you’ve got “Walking Dead”. Look, I don’t care if you’re not a fan of comics. I don’t really care if you’re not a fan of zombies. I don’t care if you’re not fond of horror as a genre. You know why I don’t care? Because none of that’s really what this story is about. Walking Dead is about zombies the same way “Gone with the Wind” was about the Civil War. It’s not. “Zombies”, and the “post apocalypse” only serve as backdrops. They’re just the set. The real story is the people. Their story and their struggles when everything that they knew is suddenly taken away from them. Not just superficial material stuff, either. Things like, running water, electricity, transportation and more importantly, anything resembling a social framework. What would *you* do if everyone you loved was taken from you and there was no society left? Anywhere? That’s the story of “Walking Dead”. It’s the story of how the human spirit endures. Even when there are zombies about.

10. Acme Novelty Library – “Lint”
Hands down the best graphic novel of the last year. Bar none. Issue 20 in Chris Wares ongoing series tells the life story of Jordan “Jason” Lint. From birth to… well… death, and all points in between, Ware creates an amazing, spell-binding book. Every so often, about every seven to ten years, a book comes along that just reaffirms my belief that sequential storytelling is a bona-fide, pure, art form. Oh, I believe it with all my heart, but sometimes you lose sight of it after Civil Wars, Secret Invasions, and Reborn Heroes. This is that book and I consider myself damn lucky that it came along this year and I didn’t miss it. It can move you to tears, and you owe it to yourself to grab a copy. Get it. Read it. Then read it again, slower this time.

9. The Netgear STORA
Of all the hardware purchases I’ve made, and believe me I’ve made a lot of them, none has been more useful than the Stora. Photos, videos, music. It’s all there, and it’s always available, no matter where we are. Owning digital cameras, Flip camcorders, and an endless supply of music was always a storage nightmare. Photos were the easiest to move to the cloud, but video and music proved to be a costly endeavor. Enter the Stora. Redundant storage with mirrored drives and a nice web interface (with the added bonus of a terrific little mobile version). DLNA and UPNP have been pretty much flawless as well, providing an elegant streaming solution for a seemingly endless variety of TV-connected devices. Xbox360, GoogleTV, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Digital Camera, Macbook, Laptops, Desktop PCs… All reading and writing to and from one central, solid, dependable place. If you live a digital life (earth to you, you’re reading a blog) then it’s a must-have.

8. “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
“A documentary about Banksy that winds up not being about Banksy.” I guess that’s how I’d describe it. It’s a brilliant piece of work. Not only is the subject matter compelling (it is after all, at least on the surface, about Banksy and in a not-so-tangential way, about street art) but the way the story unfolds it just sucks you in. My favorite documentary of last year, and I watched a LOT of documentaries last year.

7. Dreamweaver CS5
Seriously, what can I say about this tool? It’s damn near perfect. Even now, when I’m sitting down and REALLY digging into it, and I stumble into things like CSS Enable/Disable, Live View, CSS Inspect, I just gain a whole new appreciation for how easy and fun this makes my workflow. This tool single-handedly reminds me why I love to do what I do. Hell, the CSS panel and Code Inspector alone is worth the price of admission. For example, one of the great things about Dreamweaver is how it really immerses you in the cascade. When you’re working with CSS in Dreamweaver, you’re smack in the middle of the cascade and your workflow becomes almost zen-like. Without really thinking about it (or maybe it forces you to think about it on such a deep level that it becomes almost invisible) you’re working directly with inheritance and working on styles at every level of the document in precisely the right way. You can have your TextMates, or whatever text based IDE you’re stuck using. One day with Split View and you’d be a changed man in much the same way people come out of the water baptized. Throw in Live View and Code Inspect? I suspect your head would explode. In fact, I almost feel a sense of pity for people who are creating complex websites and aren’t using Dreamweaver. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to work on a WordPress site, for instance, and not have CS5’s CMS capabilities. Not to mention those poor miserable souls who aren’t able to take advantage of Browser Lab. It must be kinda like building a car from the ground up, with only a hammer.

6. Green Lantern 76
Hurray! After years of searching and failed attempts, I finally nabbed a copy of one of the most important Bronze Age comics this year. Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil’s ground-breaking work took an underperforming book (about to be cancelled!) and transformed it into the voice of a generation. There is no better example of the revolution of the “socially responsible comic” than this. Considered by many to be a watershed moment in comics, when comics moved from the playful, fun, and frivolous, into the “real world”. By allowing Hal Jordan to play the straight man to Ollie’s “social conscience”, O’Neil and Adams were able to craft some of the best story-telling of the era. Their journey only last a handful of issues, but the effect of their work still resonates today. I’ve got a lot of important, rare, beautiful comics. Some are more valuable than this one, some are rarer, but this is the one I’d consider the “jewel” of my collection. The one I’m most proud to own.

5. Irredeemable and Incorruptible
Mark Waid knocked it out of the park. Imagine Superman. Invincible. All-Powerful. Super speed, super hearing. Completely unstoppable. Imagine what it would be like if suddenly he snapped. Who could stop him? Nobody, that’s who. Mark Waid took the premise of “what would happen if the most powerful being on the planet suddenly decided he didn’t like us anymore?” and went with it. I mean, he didn’t just go with it, he went all the way with it. No holds barred. You know that dark place where you just thought things like, “well, would he destroy an entire city?” Oh yes. He would. In a heartbeat. Literally. Without remorse, and without even a hint of feeling. “Yeah, but he wouldn’t like, kill kids or anything, would he?” Oh, he most certainly would. In spectacular fashion. With his heat vision, of course. Because that would literally be the definition of “blink of an eye”. “But what about the Justice League? They’d stop him, right?” Are you kidding me? He’d go through them like a hot knife through butter. You think Batman’s all that? He wouldn’t last a nanosecond. Waid takes all the archetypes and puts them in their proper places and lets the story run. It’s one of the most amazing stories I’ve read in comics in years. Remember what I wrote above about Ware’s Acme Novelty Library? Well, every so often a comic comes along that reminds you that even in a sea of Heroes being Reborn, or Secret Invasions, Black Nights (or Bright Days, whatever they’re calling it this month) there are still people putting out honest to goodness, straight up, kick you in the face, superhero comics. Let’s all take a moment and thank Mr. Waid. He made 2010 a great year for comics.

4. iPad
What can I say about the iPad that hasn’t already been said? I guess all I can say is what I actually use mine for, and how it made it to number 4 on this list. Let’s see… I don’t buy new comics anymore. I just read them on the iPad, and I probably won’t buy another new comic book ever again. Think about that for a moment, because that’s pretty significant for a lifelong comic book reader. I watch Netflix on it with headphones. I put an entire season of the Smurfs on it, and suddenly my daughter is off in a back room someplace running the battery dead. She’s better at touch navigating at four years old, than I am at 43, having far more “touch navigation intuition” than I believe I’ve ever had. I’ve got an entire library of programming reference books that used to take up a whole room in my house on my iPad that I carry around with me. They’re always available. The shelves at my house? Not so much. By the way, those shelves? Gone in 2011. I have an annual membership to Lynda.com that I’ve had for about four or five years and in the months since getting my iPad I’ve used more than all the time prior combined. I bought a $4 picture stand at Target, propped up the iPad next to my laptop, and just put the headphones on. Then, for the next several hours, I just get lost in training videos. It’s heaven. That’s just the personal shit. I have a whole folder full of apps that help me do my job for things like Analytics, data visualization, site mapping, presentations. Oh sure, the syncing sucks (seriously, it can’t sync via bluetooth? #AppleFail) but beyond that, it became an almost instant utility.

3. “Contra” by Vampire Weekend
I think I wore out the ones and zeros on my copy. Best album of the year. Self described as “Upper West Side Soweto”, these guys are everything I love about indie rock. Smart, funny, catchy, and gleefully self-aware. I’m not going to wax poetic about it, or over-analyze it. It’s just great music.

2. Fallout: New Vegas
Last year I wrote a blog post listing my top ten video games of 2009. This year I’m not even going to bother. Last year the number one game of 2009 that I played was “Fallout 3” (which was actually released in 2008, but I spent most of 2009 playing). This year, New Vegas was released around October or so and I haven’t touched another game since. Oh sure, Red Dead Redemption was spectacular, no doubt. I enjoyed Singularity, even though it was over pretty quickly. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was a hoot and I enjoyed playing it with my daughter, who loved watching Spider-Man act… well… “Spider-Man-ish”. Bioshock 2 was amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed Lego Harry Potter, Dead Rising 2 was a total blast, and Alan Wake was completely ground breaking. But one game stood head and shoulders above the rest. After spending about 120 hours playing New Vegas completely through, I realized I had only scratched the surface and as soon as the credits had finished I started it right back up again and started making different decisions. The first time, I was making a conscious effort to “do the right thing” morally. The second time, not so much. The result? A completely different game, with a completely different story, leading to a completely different outcome, and a completely different experience. It was fantastic. Entire new storylines unfolded before my eyes. Characters interacted with me in a completely different way, and my life in the Mohave Wasteland of post-apocalyptic Las Vegas was wholly different as a result. Apparently, at least according to the Prima Strategy Guide I got from Toys R Us for free when I pre-ordered the game (which was the best decision I made, by the way) there are about 26 different endings. Yep, twenty six. We’re not talking slight variations on an ending, we’re talking 26 pretty much entirely different endings. Depending on who you ally with, what decisions you make, how you complete storylines, you’ll find yourself in one of about 26 different places with alliances spread among half a dozen or so different factions, each vying for a piece of the Vegas action. Considering a run through a game will take you about 100 hours or so to complete, you’re looking at a lot of gameplay. I loved it. Game of the Year for me.

1. The 2010 Cervelo RS
I don’t even know where to begin to write about how much I love this bike and how much it’s changed my whole outlook about riding. It’s perfectly sized, the geometry is dead-on, it’s quick, responsive. It feels like it was created from the ground up just for me. After spending the last several years riding an older, aluminum, Trek, I could instantly tell the difference between full carbon and aluminum. It was incredible. I’ve always loved riding, having a sense of, “I could do this all day”. But this is the first time I’ve ever gotten on a bicycle and actually thought that I could literally ride it all day. I got the bike in the late summer of this year and was only able to put about 1500 miles on it before moving indoors to the rollers, but I’m looking forward to this spring when I can pull it out and really put it through its paces. I have a feeling that the combination of speed, comfort and warm weather will make my new year’s resolution of 5,000 miles in 2011 a cakewalk.

My Top Ten Snack Foods

You know, I eat about 6 times a day. If you subtract breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that means 50% of my day is what you’d be forced to classify as “snacks”. The simple math says if you’re eating every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, and you’re consuming around 300 calories each time, you’re consuming about 1800 calories a day, on the low-end. My breakfast typically runs from 220 calories (Oatmeal and a cup of blue/black/straw/raspberries) to 270ish (6 egg whites, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and a whole wheat bagel). My HUGE lunch (Double fiber whole wheat bread, low sodium roast beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, a cucumber, half a dozen stalks of celery) stuffs me and weighs in at about 270 calories, so that leaves me some wiggle room at dinner to consume about 400-500 calories, ¬†and three opportunities during the day to consume about 300 calories and I’m still significantly under 2000 calories a day. Now factor in AT LEAST half an hour of hard cycling a day (which burns anywhere from 500-700 calories JUST for a half an hour… imagine what I burn in three hours of riding on weekends?) and AT LEAST two to three days of swimming or weight training each week… and you can see how I end up in a serious calorie deficit and a lot of times have to eat significantly more just to avoid losing too much weight.

So my snacks have become somewhat of an obsession with me and I’ve got so many creative ways to eat 300 or so nutrient dense, healthy calories. I’ve noticed however, that over time, I’ve settled on a handful of what I would consider my “go to” snacks of choice. What follows is kind of my own personal “top ten” (but purposely in no particular order… it’d be like trying to pick my favorite child) list of snacks that I really love to eat.

Popcorn – (Serving Size: 3 Tbsp, Calories: 130) – A $20 Air Popper from Target changed my life. No oil, half a cup of kernels, and you’ve got all the makings of a delicious, 300 calorie snack that basically fills a bucket. Every night (and I mean every night) I end the evening sitting down with a nice hot bowl of freshly popped popcorn with no mess to clean up. It’s high in that dietary fiber that our hearts and arteries love so much, it’s actually got a little protein to it, and dammit if it doesn’t fill you right up.

Chobani Greek Yogurt – (Serving Size: 1 Cup, Calories: Approximately 140) – I discovered this through “Eat This Not That: The Supermarket Guide”. Actually, to be more accurate, I discovered Greek Yogurt through the book. Chobani just happens to be my favorite brand. I love the Peach, Strawberry, and Blueberry, and was fortunate enough to run across it at Costco, which sells a dozen containers for just under a dollar each, which is a pretty good price. Each one of these little gems packs about 10 grams of protein into 140 calorie servings with zero fat. It’s almost like your own little delicious cup of protein bar. Think about that. You’re looking for about 300 calories to snack on, and if you added a boatload of fruit to this, you’d be hard pressed to get it up to 200 calories. Go ahead, treat yourself to some Triscuits while you’re at it.

Kirkland Signature Dried Mango and Berries – (Serving Size 1/3 Cup, Calories: 100) – My wife found these at Costco as well. As if I don’t get enough fruit already, here’s a great way to carry it on car rides, on trips to the beach, family outings, picnics, bike rides in the park. You name it. 1/3 a cup is only 100 calories, so you could cram a whole damn cup of these things into a ziplock baggie and snack on them all afternoon. As an added bonus, I’ll point out that the dried strawberries are so delicious you’ll be fighting over them, so pick and eat strategically. I treat them like I used to treat the marshmallows in Lucky Charms. I’d eat all the cereal first, so I’d have a whole bowl of marshmallows to end my breakfast. I like to try and end with a bag full of dried strawberries. Then I treat myself to a grand finish.

Chex Mix – (Serving Size 2/3 Cup, Calories: 120) – I love Chex Mix. Some of the flavored versions are good, some of them are bad, some of them are somewhat nutritionally bad, but when it comes to guilt-free snacking, nothing beats the good ol’ original flavored Chex Mix. I love those little brown melba toast bits and my daughter and I regularly spar over them. 2/3 a cup is actually a nice bowl-full and if you wanna double it, you’re only looking at about 240 calories, so this is one snack that I don’t feel very bad about over-indulging beyond the single serving recommendation. Like all snacks of this nature, watch the sodium, but if you’re generally eating healthy and this is your only sodium rich indulgence, then I think it might be okay.

Oatmeal – (Serving Size: 1/2 Cup Dry, Calories: 150) – Breakfast? Has to be oatmeal. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime over the last year or so I became a 100% official crack-addicted oatmeal addict. I have to eat the shit at least once a day, and if I don’t eat it for breakfast because I chose egg whites that day, then I make it a point to eat it as a snack later in the afternoon. It fills you up like no other food, and when you add fruit to piping hot oatmeal, and the oatmeal cooks the blueberries, blackberries or strawberries a little, it’s heaven. Pure heaven. I don’t sweeten my oatmeal in any way, because, like I said, at some point I just started to realize that I loved the flavor of oatmeal. I don’t like brown sugar in it, but if I have no other fruit around and have to resort to a serving of raisins, I’ll lightly sweeten it with just a teaspoon of brown sugar, and when you don’t normally sweeten your oatmeal, a teaspoon is more than enough. One of the best things I’ve discovered is using frozen berries with the oatmeal. Frozen berries, like most frozen fruits and vegetables are actually as good, and in some cases better nutritionally than fresh picked fruits and berries. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and quickly frozen, trapping important nutrients that a lot of times get lost in the time it takes fresh fruits and vegetables to make it to your dinner table. You can find mixed berry medleys at every supermarket I’ve been to, and the price is reasonable. Put them in the fridge and they don’t even need to thaw all the way before use, the piping hot oatmeal will thaw anything you add to it. Quaker Instant Oats, a cup of Frozen Mixed Berries, and in about 2 minutes, you’ve got the most delicious way to start the day since coffee was invented.

In-Season Fruit – (Serving Size: One Fruit, Calories: Depends) – There’s nothing I can say about Fruit except, “I’ve never met an in-season fruit I didn’t like”. Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Peaches, Watermelon, Grapes, Pineapple, Apples, Kiwis, Oranges, Tangerines, Grapefruit. I eat so much fruit on a daily basis that I never worry about heart-healthy dietary fiber because I’m sure I get it in fruit alone. I love adding fruit to my yogurt. I add fruit to my oatmeal. I eat bananas on Triscuits. You name it, I’ll put fruit on it, in it, near it…

Cucumbers – (Serving Size: 1 Medium Cucumber, Calories: 45) – Man, I can’t get enough of cucumbers. I actually went to Target one day during a lunch break to go get my own paring knife because I was hogging the one here at the office because I ate them so much. Look, they’re forty-five calories, man! What do you expect? They fill you up like mad, they’re astonishingly delicious chilled, and if you wanna REALLY knock ’em out of the park, thinly slice them, mix them with some red onion, add a dash of olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and go ahead and treat yourself to a little mouth orgasm.

Food Lion Seltzer Water – (Serving Size: Unlimited, Calories: 0) – I don’t drink sodas. At all. Ever. I don’t even like them when I go out to dinner as some kind of “treat”. I honestly can’t stand them. Syrupy Sweetness of Corn Syrups or over-sugared drinks that, at this point, just nauseate me. It wasn’t always like that though, and I can’t remember the exact moment that I realized how much I disliked sodas, but it happened as a result of discovering this at my local Food Lion. For about 88 cents (yes, you read that right) I can get a two liter bottle of Seltzer Water. Not “Club Soda”. Not “Tonic Water”. Seltzer Water. Look at the ingredients. See what it says? It says, “Water”. That’s it. Nothing else. You buy two or three of these, and with the money you saved over Coke, Pepsi, or whatever shit you’re buying, walk over to the produce section and spend it on a couple lemons and limes. Now guess what? You’re drinking water with lime and lemon… and it’s carbonated. It’s refreshing, light, effervescent, and most of all, delicious. You’ll never drink a shitty over-sweet soda again.

Triscuits – (Serving Size: 7 crackers, Calories: 120) – Again, scoring points because of the ingredients list, which (for the reduced fat version) is all of three ingredients. Whole (notice that key word? “Whole”?) Grain Soft White Winter Wheat, Soybean Oil, Salt. Seven of these babies packs 3 grams of dietary fiber too. Great for the heart. They pair up easily with other items as well. A couple of ounces of cheese slices, some fresh, homemade guacamole, cottage cheese, peanut butter. The possibilities are endless, and each one is as delicious as the last. Definitely my “go-to” snack food. The dietary equivalent to the “Multi-Tool”.

Nut Butters – (Serving Size: 2 Tbsp, Calories: About 190) – This, I believe is my number one snack (I know, I said “not in order”… but this is my one exception). Notice I didn’t write “Peanut Butter”. There’s a reason for that. Peanut Butter is a close second, but it’s just behind Almond Butter. If you haven’t tried Almond Butter, then I highly suggest you close this browser window right now, get up, get in your car and drive to the nearest location that sells almond butter. It’s easily the greatest snack on earth. High in monounsaturated fats, Vitamin E, and lower in saturated fats than Peanut Butter, Almond Butter is the gift that keeps on giving. My favorite brand is Maranatha. They sell no-stir varieties, but I believe the no-stir contains palm oil. In the case of both peanut butter AND Almond Butter, I will absolutely insist on the ingredients being simply the nut, and perhaps salt as part of the roasting process. Palm oil is a cheap oil that’s added to nut butter to prevent the oils from separating. Unfortunately, it’s really high in saturated fats, which actually makes the whole exercise of eating nut butters pointless. Why on earth would you add sugar, palm oil, or any other additive to something as delicious as a peanut and an almond? You wouldn’t, unless you were a moron. Smucker’s makes the MOST delicious all natural peanut butters. The Crunchy version has a delicious, deeply roasted, peanut flavor, and if you simply must have a sweetened peanut butter, they make an all natural smooth peanut butter sweetened with honey. The ingredients read like some down-home recipe, “Peanuts, Salt, Honey”. They’re wonderful, delicious additions to your diet, just make sure you maintain strict portion control. I recommend partnering the peanut butter with the single serving of Triscuits. There’s a great snack that will fill you up for a couple hours, and only weighs in at about exactly 300 or so calories.