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?
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.
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.