Some of my favorite things of 2015

2015 was a strange year for me. I lost my mom to cancer in June, and so life came to a halt for a few months while I worked through that and got her estate organized (not done, coming along fine, but it takes time and energy). I’ve been fighting some physical issues on and off that have limited my mobility at times, and in and around that, work has been both fun and very busy.

But this year wasn’t nearly as bad as 2008 when we lost dad, perhaps because I better understood what was going to happen, and overall, I can’t say it was too bad, although I’m really looking forward to seeing things get better in 2016. And a lot of things I normally would have done didn’t get done either due to lack of time, or lack of energy.

Here is a short summary of interesting things I created or discovered in 2015. Many of these things deserve longer reviews, but, well, time. So consider this a public ToDo list to try to get some of those written before I write up my summary of 2016…

What am I hoping for in 2016? How about quiet? and normal? Whatever that is…

My Things

Other Things

Books

Podcasts

This year I finally started digging into podcasts and came to really like the format, although I can only handle so much geek talk so most of my favorite ones are tangental to geek or non-geek.

  • Rocket: Some great geek (and non-geek) talk by three geeky and interesting women. Great to hear a different take on this stuff than the normal ones…
  • The Incomparable Podcast: Jason Snell’s Hugo winning podcast on science fiction, fantasy, movies, books, and general entertainment media. Always fun and fascinating.
  • The Incomparable Radio Theater: Jason’s crew takes on — with fun and fascinating results — classic radio drama. Fun and high energy, well written and produced, with special call-out to Chris Breen for his music that ties the whole thing together.
  • TV Talk Machine: Jason Snell and Tim Goodman (chief TV critic for Hollywood reporter) talk television. Even though I don’t watch a lot of TV (beyond sports), the discussion is fascinating, fun and entertaining
  • Accidental Tech Podcast: Marco Arment and John Siracua attempt to out-pedant each other on tech topics, with Casey Liss joining in, occasionally trying to referee, and sometimes simply trying to avoid being the ping-pong ball — and it works, in both an educational and entertaining way.
  • Exponent: Ben Thompson and James Allworth in a weekly discussion of business and technical topics.
  • Still Untitled: the Adam Savage Project: Adam Savage of Tested.com and MythBusters doing a weekly discussion of varying issues with a focus on media and technology.
  • The Talk Show: John Gruber interviews people within the high tech world with a strong focus on Apple. By far, the best ongoing tech discussion out there — and definitely more discussion than interview, which is a good thing
  • America’s Test Kitchen Podcast: Chris Kimball and the ATK staff’s weekly podcast of recipes, food news and info and food or cooking related interviews. Kimball is one of the better interviewers I’ve found in podcasts today.
  • Honorable mention: the Relay.FM Podcast Network and the Incomparable network. Also Adam Savage’s Talking Room.

Geek Gear

  • Anker Powerport 6: somewhere along the way, USB because out link to a universal charger to kill off all those wall warts, and this Anker is my favorite. I have one on my desk for all my random stuff, and another in my bag for carrying around on trips.
  • Anker Lumos LED Desk Lamp: A surprisingly good and decent looking desk lamp. You can tweak the color space of the lamp based on different tasks, and it generates good light and is flexible but non-intrusive.
  • Elder Scrolls Online: When I decided to take a break from stuff, diving back into Tamriel was my choice for a foxhole. My character’s now an 8th level veteran as I work through the entire set of storylines…
  • Jabra MOVE Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headset: I’ve tried a few bluetooth headset options this year, and these are my favorites — I just don’t find earbuds comfortable, but these are good sound for music or podcasts, can be used for phone calls, and I can wear them for extended period of times without wanting to throw them across the room.
  • Kenu Airframe+ Portable Car Mount for Smartphones: I tried a number of ways to use a phone in the car, and this is the one I finally liked. Very low profile and very secure attaching to an air vent with easy in/out for the car.
  • Accell D080B-015K Powramid – 1080 Joules Surge Protector: I think I finally have enough power strips in my office. For now. And this is the one I keep up on the desk instead of on the floor for plugging random things in when needed.
  • Anker Multi-Angle Portable Stand for Tablets: Another thing I’ve tried a bunch of things before finding one I like, this is small, light, inexpensive and easily stuffed into a bag, but holds an iPad securely with flexible viewing angles.
  • MantaRing – Cable Key Ring with Screw Lock: Do you hate those split-ring things we use in keychains? I definitely do. Then I found these…
  • Rolodex 82412 Wire Mesh Large Monitor Stand: There’s a lot of crappy ways to raise your monitor up on your desk, but this one is good looking and sturdy; even when I switched to the monitor on a VESA mount hanging over things, I kept this around to hold stuff on a side table.
  • Rain Design mTower Vertical Laptop Stand: Another of those things I tried multiple things before deciding on this unit: a nice, simple, pretty way to stick a laptop on your desk with minimal fuss and without taking up huge amounts of desk space

Photo Gear

  • Think Tank Photo Urban Approach 15: I’ve worked with a few different bags in the last couple of years, where what I want to be able to do is carry both my laptop (and iPad) along with my Fuji XT-1, plus chargers, cables, etc — something I can take on the road, to work, or out on a shoot in a single bag. I’m not sure this is the best possible bag, but it’s the best one I’ve found and my current favorite.
  • Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS: my new big, heavy, pretty birding lens. Not cheap, but worth it.
  • Opteka GH1 Pro Heavy Duty Metal Gimbal Head: and with a big 600mm lens, you need a tripod mount that can handle it
  • Tiffen 67mm Digital Neutral Density Filter Kit: I gave up on the “vari-ND” filters because there were simply too many artifacts in the images. So I’ve gone back to the old school ways, stackable fixed ND filters. And I’m loving these.