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CEO's Guide To Jetting by Jetblue. Funny videos aimed at CEOs only please. Directed by Bob "Freakin'" Odenkirk!

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We're back in San Francisco after visiting Amsterdam and Brussels for two weeks. I have 500+ photos to sift through and upload, hundreds of sites to catch up on, and I haven't checked but I'm assuming several thousand work-related pieces of email. Federated Media loves its email.

But aside from all that data to digest I'm happy to be home and happy to be in San Francisco. It only took one 12 hour flight + a full night's rest to reset my clock.

I don't know where to begin on how supremely satisfying the last two weeks have been. Instead I'll mention the four books I had with me on my trip. I think they more than adequately describe where my head is right now: the very excellent A Brief History of the Crimean War, the very good (but not as good as Pattern Recognition) Spook Country by William Gibson, and perhaps the best travel map-books I've ever used (Amsterdam, Brussels).

I included the Knopf map-books because they were not just incredibly useful, but their graphic and information design was consistently good; so good I'd almost classify them as inspiring examples of how to translate a staggering amount of information into simple tools you can carry with you. That kind of attention to detail should always be noted and praised.

This is all a round-about way of saying the books I read inspired me to try writing again. Which, to me, is pretty wondrous news. More later.

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Taking a little weblog holiday. When I return I'll have wondrous news.

It's so wondrous I don't even know what it is yet, but it's always worthwhile to expect something outstanding. Otherwise, why bother?

Please leave links and bacon recipes for me in the comments.

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While discussing our pending Germany trip:

Amber: Guten abend!
Me: It's not "guten nacht"?
Amber: Close, "nacht" is only for when you're really going to bed. And it's "gute".
Me: Ahh "gute nacht".
Amber: Yup. (Surprised) How did you know the word for "night"? Are you listening to tapes too?
Me: No, uh, "Kristallnacht" was this horrific event in Jewish German history where there was a concerted effort by Goebbels to terrorize and imprison thousands of Jews. It translates to "Crystal Night" in reference to the windows being smashed of shops and the mayhem in general.
Amber: Oh...

Me: Sorry. All the German I know comes from the History Channel and beer labels.

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My best of 2005 doesn't really stick to any one medium. I tried listing my favorite music this year, but some of it was recorded in 1993. I tried listing some favorite movies, but I couldn't think of anything I got on Netflix this year that wasn't a TV show or made in some year like 1993. So then I thought about books and there was just the one I thought was worth reading.

So here are my favorite things of 2005. In no particular order.

Fisher Space Pen

I just bought my second and third Fisher Space Pen. I accidentally left my first one in the car I dropped off at Hertz so I bought two more. I like to find something that works and stick with it, and right now it's these wonderful pens. Sure they write through blood and water, and you can write upside down, but the secret to why it's so great is that when closed it's about 3/4ths the size of a normal pen, when you take the cap off and place it at the end of the pen the size grows to a normal size pen. Add in the very simple, black matte, metal, "bullet" design and a ball point that seems to begin delivering ink a micrometer before it touches the paper, and you have the best and only pen you'll ever need. (Unless you are all about precision, in which case I have to recommend my previous favorite pen, the Sakura Microperm).

Camper Shoes

This year I went all out on Camper Shoes. I now have seven pair. Moving to San Francisco has meant I'm on my feet more, and some of the shoes (not all) do very well for walking. Now that the Camper stores are popping up in the larger US cities, they aren't as rare, so they don't make me feel nearly as unique as they did when I'd be on this page hoping I wasn't ordering a shoe that would fit on a keychain.

The Mountain Goats - "The Sunset Tree"

Mat got me into the Mountain Goats this year. It's an album. A real full album like the old days when you'd drop the needle on the record and sit in your room and follow along (not that I really ever did this but I'm told by old people with Who albums that they did). It feels like sharing any song from the album is like sharing a chapter from a book out of context, but before I heard the album Mat had given me this recording the MGs had done on the John Peel show which got me interested.

John Darnielle also has my favorite thing said this year, from this interview done in haiku:

Q. Preparing yourself
for an ominous ending
What is the magpie?

A. Only a traitor
undresses his metaphors
As if they were whores

Graph Paper

Hell yeah I said graph paper. I love graph paper. I'm going to buy stacks of it. I like to use the 8 squares to the inch though that 16 square looks HOT. When was the last time you used graph paper?

iTunes TV Shows

I totally missed the boat on the TV show "Lost" due to work and moving. I hate jumping into something mid-season and so I figured I'd wait until it showed up on Netflix. For the holidays I was able to catch up using the iTunes Music store and that rules more than graph paper. I work a lot more on my laptop than I did at my old job. The fact that I can call up a TV show for $1.99 is pure joy. Though I have to wonder, why does 99ยข seem like a bit much for a song I could conceivably listen to 100 times, and $1.99 about right for a TV show I'd watch once? I can't figure that one out.

San Francisco

This town is swell. We love it here. The weather isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be, we're still in California after all, so Christmas Eve, when I was getting ready to drive down to my parents house it was clear and sunny, and I didn't need a coat. I dunno why everyone is all crazed about this weather, I've seen bad weather and this isn't it. I love being able to walk and get a beer, or coffee, or ride the train to downtown without worrying about parking. I do hate that I don't have easy access to stores like Target and Home Depot, though. Back in Long Beach it was easy to get to those stores if you had a lot of stuff to buy, now you have to plan a bit more. Plus I don't have my truck so you have to get creative with getting large things into the house.

To say it's a bit segregated would be an understatement. There are things about this neighborhood (Noe Valley) that annoy me and I think I'd like to be closer to the Mission if I could, but overall I like San Francisco and it beat out Italy when I made this list so that's pretty good.

Quicksilver

Along with TextMate, Quicksilver is an application for Macintosh that I use religiously. I find it better and more agile than Tiger's Spotlight, and the plugins made for it are pretty varied. If you have a Mac you should try it out. Then check out Merlin's post on using its append to text file feature for your todo lists.

HipsterPDA

Speaking of Merlin, you should really meet Merlin. He's an interesting guy with great ideas and great hair. Seriously.

Anyway, Merlin "invented" the HipsterPDA and it's become my favorite organizational tool behind my .Mac residing todo.txt file. I've owned several palm organizers and learned how to chicken scratch letters on them only to have them trickle down to the bottom of my pile of crap I have no use for. Also, it's cheap!

Products

Like I said in my Fisher Pen item above, when I find something that works well I stick with it. And this year was all about three products: Tom's of Maine Toothpaste, Dr. Bronner's Soap, and an array of Kiehl's  products.

When I was a kid I remember toothpaste being toothpaste and not candy. It seems like toothpaste now is so sweet and candied that I don't feel like I'm getting my teeth clean so much as coating my mouth with stuff that smells good. It's like air freshner for the mouth when I really need to be cleaning it. Tom's of Maine just works. And it's in a simple tube that doesn't make me feel like I'm not only buying toothpaste but funding some toothpaste manufacturer's R&D budget to make some crazy dispenser.

Dr. Bronner's Soap isn't a very new product, it's apparently been around a while and I've seen it in people's bathrooms and heard about it from friends but didn't really come around to using the soap until this year. It comes in a bottle straight out of crazy world and being a sucker for packaging I bought a couple bottles when I saw them at Trader Joe's. Of the three companies I'm talking about, Dr. Bronner's wasn't featured in any Seth Godin book I know of, but it should. It's the purple cow to end all purple cows, and it's damn good soap.

I am a sucker for good marketing and good packaging. When I first saw a Kiehl's store I knew I was going to buy a cartload of stuff. The fact that I think the products (specifically the shaving cream, non-alcohol toner, and shampoo) work so well is why I keep buying it. Only later did I find out it was a Lancome company with a trumped up back story. Being a fan of Seth Godin's books means that sometimes you either feel like a total hypocrite or just an informed shopper when you fall for stuff like Kiehl's. It is good though.

Other Stuff

A few things that were good but not great last year:

<ol>
		<li>A <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0007TFLLC/nutshell-20">PSP</a> and
			<a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00006FSLC/nutshell-20">Wipeout Pure</a> for
			my trip to Italy. Sitting on the train or waiting out jetlag in the hotel went by quickly
			with this game. I still can't hear the music and not think of Rome or Venice.</li>
		<li>Any game I was insanely excited about after E3. Nothing really kept me playing this year. All the
			GTA:III styled
			games turned out to be the yellow-fade of the gaming world. &quot;Ooh, I get to drive a motorcycle around and
			run over people. That's a game?&quot;
			Even <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0007PIEAQ/nutshell-20">Psychonauts</a> became
			tedious and grating after a few hours. I did nearly finish <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009I6S0O/nutshell-20">Shadow of the Colossus</a> but
			it was during a time when I was swamped at work and couldn't really devote my evenings to it. I'll probably
			finish it up in the next month.</li>
		<li><a href="http://www.netflix.com/">Netflix</a> is a great service, but it feels like they hit a brick wall in terms of building their application.
			It's the same service it was (to me) as it was a year ago. They added some friend features and cleaned
			up the interface a bit, but nothing that really made me feel like they were devoting much time to its future.
			Where are the video games? Where are the PSP movies? Netflix is rapidly becoming the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cdnow">CDNOW</a> of online rentals.</li>
</ol>

Stuff That Didn't

There were a few things I had been excited about this year that turned out to not be what I had hoped for. While PHP turned 10 years old, Ruby on Rails (or, as I lovingly refer to it: Ruby on Rims) went 1.0. I know, Ruby on Rails runs best on LightTPD, PHP runs best on nearly everything. I think Ruby as a language is wonderfully simple and a good language to be introduced to programming on, I think I just didn't mesh with the RoR way. I can't wait to do an app with it, I just didn't trust it when I first tried. It really isn't you, Ruby, it's me.

Gamefly was a huge disappointment. Their turn around times are atrocious and it's like their interface people have never used Netflix before. When I first signed up it took nearly 2 weeks to get my first games, and my original calculation of $50 a month for one game vs. $30 for unlimited games seemed to be thrown off. Waiting a week or so to see a new game in the mail is hardly what I expected.

Not to sound like some tech-pundit blowhard but what is Microsoft doing? They're almost completely off my radar now that I and nearly all my friends work on Macs. I realize that's dangerous, but come on, isometric views of my apartment? Big whoop.

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I was in Italy with my gf for a couple of weeks. Two weeks of no Internet or web browsing (okay, 10 minutes of CNN.com + Kottke + Waxy in the hotel but the connection died and never came back). We went to Sardinia (Alghero), Rome, then Venice. It was highly enjoyable and relaxing—and nothing to do with the Pope, I swear.

As is my M.O., I told hardly anyone I was going. It felt nice to just disappear for a bit. Drop out. (Only Dakota noticed).

We just got back a few minutes ago and I wanted to check my mail and make sure nothing awful happened. Nothing awful happened. In fact I think I like this whole spend more than 36 minutes (my current commute) away from the computer.

That said, I should go to sleep. I have the wobbly jet lag bends. It's like 11am somewhere and I should be sipping an espresso and nibbling on some prosciutto (which my auto-correction is trying to change to prostitute...)

ciao!

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B0002uryyi01a8d6jg7eef1iu_scmzzzzzzz_It occurred to me after we landed in Long Beach that my girlfriend had me smuggle this bath BOMB from SF in my luggage.

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I spent the weekend in San Francisco and hung out a with a few friends. After last month's project I needed a couple days to myself in another city I could easily explore, so SF seemed like the natural choice. I spent a large part of it by myself just walking until I felt like turning and walking in a different direction. I even spent some of my nights programming. I turned the television off, ordered up a hefty room service bill, and wrote some code I'd been meaning to write. It amazed me how much I could churn out, and I think in the future I'll make another trip like this if I ever need to get a lot of work done.

I have a couple of friends who work at Google, so on my drive back to Long Beach I had a chance to eat lunch (in the Google cafeteria of course) with Kevin and Brian--after Brian graciously walked me around the offices and showed me all sorts of cool Google things that I have no idea if I'm allowed to talk about since I signed some long agreement that I didn't read when I got my badge. I'm sure the agreement covered that alien life-form with wires coming out of its brain I saw in the basement, and not the butcher paper with the search engine's build history and milestones, but I'm not prepared to take that risk.

Google was a very interesting place. Nobody appeared to be in a hurry or stressed, and as we walked towards the cafeteria I noticed everyone walked like they were on a stroll through a park, like we were going to see a band play (which, there actually was for part of lunch). I had kind of expected Google to be like a college, but very little of it is like any college I've seen.

The free food was the most noticable difference. There seemed to be food around every corner. Bins of nuts and cookies, specialty sodas (a couple days ago I had paid $7 for) were available for free. Maybe because it was lunch and I was hungry, but I kept seeing (free) food, (free) food, (free) food.

But it wasn't excessive in a dot-com way. Each of the conveniences were there to remove that stress from your work day. The cafeteria, the on-site doctor, the day-care, the free food. I always thought working at home would be the ultimate way to work stress free, but I can see now after my time in my hotel room and my tour of Google that I just need a better work environment at work.

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