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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some Superlatives

It seems to be obligatory to make end-of-year lists. This obligation is only increased by the fact that today brings both a year and a decade to a close. To be the proprietor of a blog and fail to issue some sort of list would be a dereliction of duty. I feel unqualified to make lists in most aspects of culture, but I think I can narrow this past decade of life to superlatives in three key areas: music, movies, and doughnuts.

Top 15 Albums of the Decade
1) Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica
2) Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
3) Lateduster - 5 Easy Pieces
4) The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin
5) TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
6) LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
7) Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
8) The Arcade Fire - Funeral
9) Ugly Casanova - Sharpen Your Teeth
10) The Weakerthans - Reconstruction Site
11) The Avalanches - Since I Left You
12) Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
13) Radiohead - In Rainbows
14) The National - Boxer
15) Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It in People

Top 10 Movies of the Decade
1) Mutual Appreciation
2) Grizzly Man
3) A Serious Man
4) Mulholland Drive
5) Sideways
6) Capturing the Friedmans
7) Beeswax
8) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
9) The Fog of War
10) Donnie Darko

Top 5 Doughnuts of the Decade
1) Granulated sugar coating, custard filling (Lisbon, Portugal)
2) Pumpkin glazed (Doughnut Plant, NYC)
3) Vanilla glazed with plum jam filling (Doughnut Plant, NYC)
4) Coconut glazed with coconut cream filling (Doughnut Plant, NYC)
5) Glazed (Hoehn's Bakery, Baltimore)

Regarding the doughnut rankings, I would allow that the spectacular and atmospheric setting in which I encountered the custard-filled doughnut at a small bakery on a hillside in Lisbon might have made its memory more delicious. But it was one tasty doughnut -- I think the shock of how good real custard could be in a doughnut was a big part of its success. And the doughnuts from Hoehn's earn their 5th place rank because even though they're not quite as good as Doughnut Plant, they cost 70 cents (or at least used to) and the old ladies behind the counter are lovely.

Anyway, off to the New Year's revelry, which is almost as obligatory as lists. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

States of mind

Five Most Minnesota-y Names of Minnesota Counties
1) Otter Tail
2) Yellow Medicine
3) Kandiyohi
4) Koochiching
5) Blue Earth

Five Most Texas-y Names of Texas Counties
1) Bexar
2) Val Verde
3) Jim Wells
4) Jim Hogg
5) Maverick

Monday, December 28, 2009


I had a good time visiting my family for Christmas. As per our usual holiday routine, we had Mom's side of the family over on Christmas Eve, and got together with Dad's side the day after Christmas. There, each family received a balloon animal kit in its stocking, resulting in a few minutes of uninterrupted huffing, puffing, and squeaky balloon twisting. This is rather blurry, but here's a picture of my parents wearing the balloon hats that my brother and I made for them:

Sunday, December 20, 2009


We sure did get a lot of snow. Looks to be somewhere in the 15"-18" range in our yard, but at that point the precise measurement doesn't really matter. It's a pretty big snowfall for most places, and it's a really big snowfall for DC. So it's perhaps not too surprising that that "Snowpocalypse" appears to have caught on as a name for this event.

I love snow, so I was thrilled. I also appreciate the way that big snowstorms like this one barge into everybody's daily life simultaneously. Normally, everybody's doing their own thing, moving along in their own bubble of narrowcasted culture and self-absorption. But a big 'ol blizzard comes along, and -- boom! -- the first thing on most people's minds is that there's a crapload of snow. Hopefully the next step for most people is realizing that they should forget whatever they were going to do and frolick outside or curl up with a book...but anyway, it's nice that everybody is in sync in a small way for one day...

I wandered around town for quite a while today, eventually heading to dinner and game night at James and Courtney's place. I put up a collection of blizzard pictures on Flickr.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Different kind of bubble

The Hirshhorn -- the Smithsonian's contemporary art museum -- is shaped like a doughnut on stilts. They are proposing a temporary bubble structure that would be inflated a couple times a year, billowing out of the doughnut hole and turning the courtyard into an indoor space for events.

If it turns out to be feasible, I think it would be pretty cool.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Different type of mashup

This nifty web gizmo will speak text you type through snippets of songs that use those words. Fun trying to identify some of the songs -- I recognized a few for the text I put in.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Swiss Army Knife

Keying off an NYT article I read this week on cities releasing databases for creative public use, I was reminded of two instances in the past week where technology pulled together information in a way that was very useful:

I just got the iConcertCal app for my phone. It's not that complicated, but it's clever and saves a lot of time. It looks at the songs on your phone, and makes a list of the artists. Then it looks at your current location. Then it checks to see if any of those artists have shows planned in your area, neatly organizing them by date or venue. You can click through a link to purchase tickets. This solves my problem of not checking club websites often enough, only to find out about shows after they're sold out. For instance, now I know to get tickets for the RJD2 show on January 9. The database the app pulls from is pretty impressive -- it must be assembled through some sort of web scraping -- and includes shows at venues that I wouldn't know to check. (iConcertCal is also available as a free iTunes plugin.)

I've mentioned NextBus before. On Saturday night, I didn't want to ride my bike, so I took the bus to go out. Before NextBus was available, I might have ended up shelling out for a cab back home because it's hard to count on the bus at 2:30 AM. But I simply checked the NextBus times for the nearby stop when I was thinking about heading home, and saw when the next one was expected. I hung around the bar for a while longer, then walked out to the stop, where the bus appeared right on cue. Banishing the dilemma of standing forlornly at the curb and wondering if you should bite the bullet and hail a cab is a major achievement, in my book.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Defriending threshhold

I just defriended someone on Facebook for the first time. My standards for accepting a friend request are pretty low (i.e. Do I know who you are and not actively dislike you?), so perhaps it's surprising it took this long.

This is an individual who went to high school with me, but I barely ever talked to him. In addition to constant Farmville updates, during the past week he posted 13 different status updates regarding Tiger Woods, all containing the term "manwhore." Example: "[former friend] wonders if anyone knows how many manwhores it takes to screw in a lightbulb not counting Tiger Woods of course".

Good gravy. Anyway, I'm done with that.