Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Favorite Things of 2011


As promised, I bring you my Favorite Things of 2011.  Some of these things were created well before 2011.  However, all of these things were enjoyed or discovered by me in 2011.  I'll explain as I go along.  The list:

Music
1) El Camino by The Black Keys
This album has been on repeat since a bought it a couple weeks ago.  In fact, I like it so much that I found myself wishing for traffic when I went to run errands the other day so I would have more time in the car to listen to this album.  This is just good Rock 'n' Roll.  Put it in your earholes.

2) The Whole Love by Wilco
I may not wear skinny jeans, flannel shirts, wallet chains and have a ridiculous mustache but I've been a Wilco fan since my music-loving college buddies introduced them to me.  This is not their greatest album, but it's pretty damn good.  They seem to have really hit their stride and figured out how to consistently turn out great albums.

3) Nine Types of Light by TV On the Radio
I feel like TV On the Radio is a band that I shouldn't like but I love them.  They do crazy, weird shit that just sticks in my head for weeks and weeks.  I highly recommend checking out their "video album" that they posted on YouTube.  It strings together all of the videos for all of the songs and there's a great little sketch at the end with the band.  It's a cool way to listen to the album but if you'd rather not listen to the whole thing, fast forward to the sketch at the end.

4) The Grand Theater, Vol. 2 by Old 97's
Another band that I've loved since my college days.  This album and The Grand Theater, Vol. 1 really call back to their early days when they were a noisy, rollicking Alt-Country band.  I saw them live this year and it made me feel young and dumb again and it was good.


Podcasts
1) WTF Podcast  (www.wtfpod.com
Marc Maron, a comedian, hosts this podcast where he invites on other comedians and celebrities to discuss their lives and careers and an issues he may have with them.  Maron has been a part of the comedy scene for years and years and he has had contact with nearly every comedian you've heard of.  It's good stuff.  Give it a listen.  It's free at www.wtfpod.com

Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh (he played Ed in the TV series "Ed.") choose one snack per week, eat it and rate it.  The snacks are basically just an excuse for Michael and Tom to banter back and forth in their witty and hilarious way.  They have great chemistry and they work off each other so well and so quickly that you'll want to slow it down so you can catch every little bit of what they are saying.

3) The Nerdist (www.nerdist.com)
Chris Hardwick hosts this podcast with fellow comedians Matt Mira and Jonah Ray.  They talk about all things nerd and frequently have awesome nerdy guests from all the shows and movies that nerds love.  Nerd.

4) The Moth Podcast (www.themoth.org)
The Moth is a storytelling competition where regular people get up and tell true stories based on the theme of the night.  No notes allowed.

5) Improvised Star Trek (www.theimprovisedstartrek.com/)
I'm not a big Star Trek fan but I've seen enough and absorbed enough about Star Trek and the sci-fi world in general that I can enjoy this podcast. Plus, my friend and hilarious improviser Sean Kelley is in it.  Also, it's a short one so it's easy to fit in to your day.


Comedy
1) Hilarious -- Louis C.K.
I just realized that I bought more comedy albums this year than I did music albums.  There are two comedy albums that I'm not including on this list.  Fuck it, I'm putting them on the list at 5 and 6.  Anyway, if you don't know who Louis C.K. is you've been living in a cave.  He's widely regarded by regulars and comedians alike as the funniest man on the planet.  This album is exactly what its title says even if that's not what he means.  Just listen to it, you'll get it.  

Also, go to www.louisck.com and buy his most recent stand-up video for $5.  It's great too.

2) Finest Hour -- Patton Oswalt
I never thought I would like Patton Oswalt, but I do.  The guy can tell a joke.  If you don't have the time to listen to the whole damn album (which you should) definitely listen to "The Ham Incident."  You will break down laughing.  Dee and I did.

3) This Has To Be Funny -- Marc Maron
Yep, this is the same guy from the WTF Podcast.  Maybe I like this album so much because I like his podcast but the titular line is perfectly delivered on the album and probably his funniest moment.

4) Very Famous -- Michael Ian Black
If you like Michael Ian Black, you'll love this album.  This is him doing is snarky, weird thing.

5) Shakespeare -- Anthony Jeselnik
If you're the kind of person that can't laugh at death and cancer and AIDS and other horrible things, this is not for you.  There is no line he will not cross and he intentionally tries to cross all lines.  He comes at you with rapid fire jokes.  It's all setup, punchline, repeat.  Good stuff.

6) Cutting -- Amy Schumer
She likes to do dark, too.  Which is why I love her but she maintains a playful tone and she's flat out funny.


Books
1) The Postmortal by Drew Magary
Humans find the cure for aging.  Everyone gets the treatment.  Shit goes down.  Well thought out, well written, funny, clever.  It's by the guy who writes for Deadspin.com.  

2) The Kingkiller Chronicles Series (In the Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear) by Patrick Rothfuss 
I believe this is classified as Fantasy.  Who cares.  It's good shit.  It's the tale of a young man who learns magic and goes on great adventures.  I guess that describes just about everything in the genre, but this is a great tale.  Rothfuss has yet to finish the third book in the series but I can't wait to get my hands on it.  The first two were fantastic.

3) A Song of Ice and Fire Series (A Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin
Another Fantasy series.  You may have heard of or seen the HBO series "A Game of Thrones."  That series is based on these books.  There are five that have been published and I believe there are two more (possibly three) that remain.  The first two are fantastic and dark and twisted and super involved.  I was worried about being able to remember the names and stories of all the characters but the characters are so memorable that it's not hard at all.  Everyone who knows about this will tell you it is awesome.


TV
1) Breaking Bad
I'd heard about this show but never dove in until this year.  I started with the first season and worked my way all the way through the next two seasons before watching the just completed fourth season as it aired.  It's dark, gritty and intense.  Highly recommended.

2) The Wire
Okay, I'm super late to the party on this.  HBO introduced their HBO Go app which allows subscribers to watch HBO programs (past and present) on their computers or phones.  I took advantage of this and watched every season of The Wire.  It's as good as everyone says.  I love me a good cop show and this is by far the best cop show I've ever seen.  In fact, it may just be the best show of all time.  Okay, maybe it's in a tie with Breaking Bad.


iPhone Apps
1) Downcast
Downcast allows me to search out and manage my podcasts on my iPhone and iPad so I don't have to go searching all over the web for my podcasts.  They download when they are available and they're ready for me to listen to whenever I want.  I use it nearly every day.

2) Evernote
Do you need to remember things? Do you have stuff you need to keep track of?  Are you creative?  Do you write?  You need this app. You don't know it yet, but it will save your ass. Evernote will store and make searchable anything that you need to keep track of. Anytime I have an idea for a blog post, I pull up  Evernote on my phone or computer and jot it down.  Evernote then syncs with the cloud so that I can have access to my notes at all times no matter where I am.  You can take clips of web pages, you can snap photos of things and if they have text in them, Evernote will recognize the text and make it searchable.  If you're the kind of person that tracks receipts, it's perfect for that.  I use this multiple times a day (I'm using it right now!) and it's free!

3) Tiny Wings
A game for the iPhone.  You guide a little bird with tiny wings through a land of hills and valleys.  You have to use the hills to help him fly.  It sounds dumb, but it's totally addicting.

4) Google Voice
This allows you to set up a phone number and manage that phone number however you want.  Does Greg annoy the shit out of you?  Set Google Voice to automatically send Greg's calls to voice mail.  Then Google Voice will transcribe Greg's voice mail and send it to you in email so you don't even have to listen to his dumb voice.  I use it to send calls from our front gate to both my phone and Dee's phone so we never miss a package or food delivery.  It also has all sorts of other awesome features, but I'll let you go to the site and read about them.  Also, it's free.

I know it's a little too late to run out and get some of these things for your loved ones, but do it anyway because all of these things are awesome and it doesn't matter when you get them because they're awesome year-round.
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Weekend Football Thoughts and Other Things


Miracles do happen!  The Colts beat the Titans 27-13!

Tim Tebow lost yesterday.  That means America will stop believing in God, right?

Tim Tebow’s stat line from yesterday’s game: 11-22 for 194 yards passing, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 2 fumbles (1 lost).  Twelve rushes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.  Nineteen handoffs for 159 yards and one touchdown.  Approximately 55 prayer-inspired tackles and one prayer-inspired 26-yard field goal.  One loss.

Here are the early games you got to choose from this week.  Imagine you didn’t know the outcomes:
Dolphins @ Bills — The battle for last place in the AFC East!
Seahawks @ Bears — Who likes terrible quarterbacks?
Panthers @ Texans — We dress like two Arena League teams!
Titans @ Colts — We can’t stop the run!  Neither can we!
Packers @ Chiefs — Let’s watch Neckbeard (Kyle Orton) lead another terrible offense!
Saints @ Vikings — Will the Saints score 70?
Redskins @ Giants — Rex Grossman!  Still playing quarterback!
Bengals @ Rams — Will the Rams even bother to show up?
A couple of those games turned out to be pretty good — Packers at Chiefs and Redskins at Giants — but the rest were stinkers.

Let’s not even talk about the Thursday (Falcons 41, Jags 14) and Saturday (Cowboys 31, Bucs 15) games.  Yikes.

Dee can’t get over the fact that the NFL Network called the Saturday night game, “A special Saturday night presentation of Thursday Night Football.”

I also think it’s stupid but I’ve let it go.

With the Colts’ win and the Packers’ loss, there are no more zeroes in the NFL standings.  I’m not counting the zero in the tens, smartass.

Strangely, the Colts last two games (vs. Houston, at Jacksonville) are actually winnable.  They may still play themselves right out of that #1 pick.

My one piece of breaking Notre Dame news: I could really use another pair of these super comfortable Notre Dame sweatpants.

How do the Ravens get Ray Lewis back and then decide to completely roll over against the Chargers?

Guys, don’t watch the Johnny Knox injury.  It’s amazing that he still has the use of any of his limbs.

Al Michaels says “Cleveland” like it’s the punchline to a sarcastic joke about the greatest city in America.

Isn’t Joe Flacco supposed to have a cannon for an arm?  Why does he always check down to Ray Rice?  I know Ray Rice is really good and checking down to him is a good option, but Flacco doesn’t throw the ball to anyone else.

Do they make TVs that allow you to divide the screen into quarters and watch four shows at once?  I ask because I’m in the midst of planning my man cave that I hope to eventually have sometime in the not-so-near future.  I also plan to install a courtesy sweatpants closet so all guests can slip into their own pair of sweatpants.  I want my guests to be comfortable.

Also, do you want to be my friend?  I’ll need someone to come over and marvel at my yet to exist man cave.

I haven’t watched the 49ers play all year.  However, I did see Stanford play twice so I’m pretty sure I’m up to speed on how they play.  I guess we’ll see tonight.
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Neglect


Have I been neglecting this blog?  No.  Yes.  Yes, I have.  More importantly, I have been neglecting you, Mindsilt.com Reader.  (Is it okay that I’ve stolen that bit from Schadenfreude.net?  I think it’s okay since my work appeared there consistently for over a year.)  You are the people I am most concerned about neglecting.  A blog has no feelings.  A blog can’t come up to me and say, “Jeff, I’ve sunken into a mild depression because I miss your posts.”*  A blog isn’t disappointed when no one is clicking on its frond end to read or on its back end to post.  A blog waits patiently and responds when — and only when — called upon.  Readers are an entirely different beast.  You have feelings.  You can come up to me and talk about your depression.  You can be disappointed when you check Mindsilt.com or Google Reader or your own Blogger.com blog and see that nothing new has appeared in several weeks.  However fleeting those feelings might be, you have them.  Except for those of you who aren’t capable of feelings.  You feel nothing and that’s not normal.  You should talk to someone about that.  Preferably a professional, but I am here for you if you need me.**  Anyway, I don’t want you to feel those feelings.  I want you to feel the feelings of satisfaction and joy when you realize that I have posted something new to Mindsilt.com.  I want those feelings to last at least until you start reading.  Ideally, they’ll last for the entire time that you are reading but I can’t make those kinds of promises.  
I think you get my meaning.

I apologize for the neglect.  I hope to rectify the problem with some good and interesting posts before the end of the year.  I’ll even do an Oprah-style “Favorite Things” post except I won’t be giving anything away to my audience.  I’m also busy crunching numbers based on my workouts and fitness for the year.  That will probably only be interesting to you, Brian.  Plus, I think The Bachelor is coming back in January so you can look forward to those reviews, too.

I haven’t forgotten about you, Mindsilt.com Reader.  I appreciate your readership so much that I want to gently stroke your cheek with the back of my hand and open mouth kiss your bellybutton.
Don’t give up on me.  I haven’t given up on you.


*No one has ever in the history of the world come up to me and said, “Jeff, I’ve sunken into a mild depression because I miss your posts.”  However, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t feeling that way.

**I’ll probably just listen patiently and then tell you to speak with a professional.  Of course, I mean a professional psychiatrist or psychologist.  I am merely a professional project manager.  They don’t have Gantt Charts for feelings. 
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Weekend Football Thoughts and Other Things


Bears-Broncos: Who likes punting?!

Do Tebow fans have a clever/slightly religious nickname yet?  If not, I nominate Tebowtees.  You know, like devotees.  You're welcome, Internets.

Why does Fox insist on putting Tony Siragusa on the sidelines when he chimes in like he's in the booth?  Is he too fat to climb the stairs?

Even the God-fearing Tony Dungy said, "This isn't about Tim Tebow winning this game.  It's about the Bears losing the game."  Aside from the folks at Deadspin, this is the first reasonable thing I've heard the media say about Tebow in the last three weeks.

By the way, I think this Tebow winning streak is hilarious.  It should come to an end next week agains the Patriots but if it doesn't, they'll win the last two as well.  The Broncos defense and running game is too good to lose to the Bills and Chiefs.

Andrew Luck wore a Johnny Unitas Colts jersey to an award ceremony this past week.  Folks should probably get used to him in those colors.

I did not watch the Army-Navy game this weekend for three reasons: 1) I hate America. 2) I like when teams pass. 3) I was busy catching up on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and The League.

I officially quit The Office.  It's been terrible this season.

Parks & Rec has been fantastic, however.  Consistently hilarious.

I'm also sad that they're putting Community "on the shelf."  All my favorite shows get cancelled.

It's the Rams and the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.  ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!

Robert Griffin III has done more for the novelty sock industry than any other famous figure in history.  He's also pretty good at football.

We all knew that the Cowboys were going to miss that second kick after the timeout, right?  That game couldn't finish any other way after last week.  I say we make it three in a row next week.

I didn't watch the game, but how in the fuck did Jacksonville score 41 points?

When the Falcons got down big to the Panthers, they decided to run the ball instead of panicking and going into comeback mode.  What happened?  They came back and won the game.  There's a lesson here somewhere but I'm to lazy to figure it out.

Green Bay will eat your children if they are in the way of their quest for the Super Bowl.
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Monday, December 05, 2011

Weekend Football Thoughts and Other Things


Tennis has the whole line tracker thing, why can't the NFL and college adopt or adapt the technology for goal line situations?  Or invent their own technology? At the very least, we should have mandatory goal line cameras. 

Good news!  Notre Dame didn't lose this weekend. 

I didn't watch much of the Colts game.  I gave up when it was 31-3. How did the Colts score 24?  Seriously. I didn't think they were capable of scoring that many points in three weeks. 

BCS thoughts. 

As I'm writing this, another Detroit Lion just got flagged for smacking a guy in the head after the whistle. Is there any doubt that Jim Schwartz is teaching this?  Why is Collinsworth surprised?  He should be calling out the coaches. 

By the end of the game, there were at least three more unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and yet Collinsworth never called out the coaches for having out of control players.

First Jay Cutler's thumb and now Matt Forte's knee?  The Bears season just went from playoffs to, you know, not the playoffs. 

That HTC phone commercial where New York buildings are blowing up while the dude walks by unscathed, not only makes zero sense but is pretty insensitive to those who lost loved ones when real buildings in New York blew up. 

Tight Ends are always a major mismatch for defenses. Why hasn't anyone started playing these exact types on defense to cover them?

I hear the new Muppet movie is fantastic.  I'll probably wait for the DVD.  Then I'll wait even longer because I won't realize it's gone to DVD and one night Dee and I will rent it on iTunes and fall asleep watching it.  So it goes with a baby.

Gotta love the Cowboys icing their own kicker.  Especially since he made the field goal.  I'm shocked Jerry Jones didn't fire Jason Garrett on the spot.

The Fighting Tebows just keep winning and John Elway and John Fox just keep crying themselves to sleep.

Now that the Bears have zero talented offensive starters, expect more of the same next week when the Broncos face the Bears.

The Colts at 0-12 have only scored 174 points all season.  That's 14.5 a game.  Believe it or not, but three teams have scored fewer points than the Colts.  The Chiefs (163), the Rams (140) and the Jaguars (138).  Granted, the Jags have played one fewer game than the Colts but it still averages out to 12.5 points per game.  That's some real bad offense.

I'm glad that everyone has finally stopped talking about how tough the NFC East is.

The 49ers and the Packers have already won their divisions.  Thankfully, the 49ers are going to push the Packers to keep winning in order to gain home field advantage in the playoffs.

Also, it's going to be a short drive to Indianapolis for all those Packers fans who go to the Super Bowl.

Is the best team in the AFC the Patriots again?  Is it?  The Steelers?  What a mess.

People are upset about the Alabama-LSU rematch in the National Championship game and say that we need a playoff.  Here's my question: If we had a four team playoff and Alabama and LSU still ended up in the National Championship game would everyone suddenly be okay with that?  If so, why?  Because they each won an extra game?
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