Previously I never understood why people become so attached to them, though I never gave it much thought. But with new roommates I'm now living with a bunch of dogs and they’re a whole lot of fun like good buds. Dogs definitely make life just a bit richer.
14. The Washington Redskins
Being fully away from any form of school I’ve been able to get back into football. I enjoyed following the Skins throughout high school, but now that my mind’s a bit more matured I suddenly see there’s so much more to the game. This has become my new religion insofar as I set aside time each Sunday and think about it all week...and insofar as it’s not really a religion.
13. The Stock Market
Stock prices fluctuate in relation to demand for them not in relation to how good a company is. On a very intuitive level, this has never made sense to me, and it still doesn’t. But this year I’ve become intrigued with finding good intro books, reading about the market, researching companies, and even buying my first couple of shares. It’s essentially a mind-puzzle, a very tempered and controlled form of gambling. But boy is it intriguing. Sometimes I’ll just go to finance.google.com and watch the numbers change.
12. iTunes Genius
iTunes Genius is like an automated DJ who works with your digital music collection. You “play a song, click the Genius button, and iTunes creates a playlist of other songs from your library that go great together. Genius playlists help you discover songs in your library you never knew you had — and rediscover forgotten favorites.” Each song transition is tasteful and perhaps even artistic. It’s not perfect as it doesn’t recognize every song, and you can only use it for one song at a time. But its playlists really rival my own, some of which I've spent some time on. Even if you prefer to make your own mixes, you can use Genius to generate new ideas when you're stuck.
11. Motley Fool Caps
Motley Fool CAPS is an addictive stock market stimulator in which you vote on which stock picks will out- or under-perform the S&P. It’s as close as you’ll get to a true social networking community focusing on the stock market. And it’s taught me a good bit the market, both through making picks and reading others’ commentary. Tons of people use it and many stocks have thousands of predictions. For instance, Apple is currently the most frequently rated stock with 19,512 members for it and 1,593 members against it. TMF collects the data to generate all sorts of stats on players and stocks. It's only been around since 2006, and they're constantly tweaking it for the better. No one is even sure yet how it’ll turn out: Will it provide accurate real-world predictions? Will the highest rated stocks win out in the long run? In the meanwhile though who cares because it’s more fun than real investing.
10. Good cappuccinos
I’m not one to make elite aesthetic distinctions – they're often just puffs of ego and semantics. But this year a friend introduced me to a coffee shop that makes “real” cappuccinos and boy what a difference. Ones that look like this:
Cappuccinos are supposed to be thick and made with whole milk. The whole point in adding milk is so the dairy fat can bring out the flavor of the coffee. I'm hooked, and Starbucks' – who recently made skim milk their default for cappuccinos – now taste pretty empty to me.
Metacritic.com combines critics' reviews on any given movie, music album, video game, or TV show. Each item gets a combined score across all critics, similar to rottentomatoes but with more media and a more user-friendly layout. I’ll often check it out before – and sometimes after – seeing or purchasing related media. The service is topnotch, since being bought by CBS, who've supplied it with more than adequate bandwidth, better quality control, and new features.
8. Coldplay’s album Viva la Vida
Like a revelation unfolded in sound. The collaboration between Coldplay and producer(/ambient maestro) Brian Eno worked perfectly. Coldplay and Eno are each intellectual aurally-aware introverts – sometimes to a fault – but here they build off each other quite well.
7. Improv acting classes
A few months ago I capriciously decided to give improv acting classes a try, as inspired through this article at CNN. It's taught me some unique life lessons, which I wrote about previously, but moreso it’s just a great release.
6. Slumdog Millionaire
The world is getting more connected, and we could only go on for so long before some artsy director pondered "why not make an American version of a Bollywood film?", and Slumdog Millionaire is the glorified result. An intense journey through the deepest reaches of poverty and fantasy, it’s the sort of film that could only have been released – or made money – this decade. Americans are truly getting smarter with each passing generation. Movies like Slumdog Millionaire or the Dark Knight are too complex and edgy to have been widely accepted a couple of decades ago. I loved them. We’re demanding more from pop-culture Mecca’s like Hollywood, and they’re giving us the goods. For more see Steven Johnson’s book Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. Check out Slumdog's soundtrack as well.
5. iTunes audio-books
I enjoy music and my iPod gives me freedom to listen to it anywhere. But I’ve recently begun digging iTunes’ audio-books as much as its music. At first I thought that I’d rather just listen to my favorite tunes everywhere and get into a groove. But audio-books have slipped into my daily iPod use with surprising ease. Just be sure to pick ones that aren’t too complex to listen to on the go. For example, an audio version of Newton’s Principia Mathematica won't work.
4. New Balance motion control sneakers
A few months ago I decided to give these shoes a go. They're called motion control shoes, because they have extra support around the arch in order to force your foot into correct pronation. They’ve completely corrected my posture, solved a running injury that I’ve had for years, and allowed me to run again. Who would’ve thought? The New Balance store by me has exceptional customer service as well, far exceeding similar high-end running shoe stores that I tried.
"Graphite Rollbar® is a boomeranging positioned piece of graphite in the midsole which maximizes rearfoot stability. Rollbar can be combined with a TPU medial and/or lateral post for motion control."3. Economics
Economics suddenly intrigues me to no end. I don’t know what it is, but this topic seems to pervade everything. This year I’ve spent some time trying to finding the right books to teach myself about economics, and so far my picks have exceeded my expectations. Among the top is Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics.
This year I’ve reached new plateaus in how good my sleep feels. Wrote Vladimir Nabokov, “Sleep is a rose the Persians say.” (For more see a previous post).
1. Robert Pirsig's Zen & the art of Motorcycle Maintenance
I've returned to this book for the first time since a teen and it hits the spot like a popsicle on a hot day. I first read it a decade ago but it seems so much more relevant now. You can feel yourself learning with each page. And I even see how its lessons – which I’d forgotten explicitly came from the book – left their mark on my thinking since I was teenager, such as: the importance of analysis, both regarding its benefits and limits; the notion of honest work; quality and gumption; the limits of ego, opinion, and rigid-thinking. Other lessons are particularly relevant to my life now: the notion of moving laterally in life instead of forward; that roadblocks in life or in the mind are equally or more important than success; the severe limits of the empirical sciences. His discussion on lateral movement is exactly what I find so fascinating about free markets and alternative uses of scarce resources. But the book's reach extends far beyond.
Media (in order of appearance):
Photo: (1) Jason Taylor, 08/16/2008, jf; (2) iTunes Genius logo; (3) CAPPUCCINO, 07/22/2007, by kina3; (4) Movie poster from the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, fair use rationale to provide commentary on film; (5) 365/365: Audiobooks, 01/09/2008, by David D Muir; (6) New Balance motion control technology; (7) Cover from Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Video: (1) Music video from caleismachinegun of the song "Lost" by Coldplay from the 2008 album Viva La Vida. Sphere: Related Content