Keeping up with my little tradition of sharing stuff I liked at the end of the year, here are some recommendations from 2013.
Perhaps the book I enjoyed the most was Saunders’ “Tenth of December”. Its short stories have the kind of warmth that comes from compassion in the face of (as opposed to in ignorance of) cruelty. Catton’s “The Luminaries”, set in the New Zealand gold rush, is great, too: thematic, thrilling, brainy yet mystical. Pullman’s retelling of the Brother Grimm’s tales is fresh and snappy, and Hamid’s “How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” is a good antidote to world-lit fluff.
I loved the poetry collection “Place”, by Jorie Graham. Its poems are strange miracles: systemic, yet focused on instants; comprehensive, yet intimate. Villalobos’ “Fiesta en la madriguera” (in Spanish) is a fun, surreal take on excess told from the perspective of the pampered scion of a drug lord. And while Daylight’s interview with Peter Naur, “Pluralism in Software Engineering”, is quite uneven, it has important insights into software development and academia that continue to be forgotten or put aside, to everyone’s detriment.
A couple of good movies: “No”, on the Pinochet referendum campaign, with its ambivalent, subtle take on social and political change, and “The Queen of Versailles”, a documentary on a ridiculous and ridiculously wealthy American family going through hard times. I’d recommend “Gravity”, but I doubt it needs recommendation. I also enjoyed the genre mix of the British TV version of “Life on Mars”, and the silliness of “Archer”. As for music, I liked the bassy intensity of Savages’ “Silence Yourself”, and Chris Thile’s album of Bach’s sonatas and partitas played on the mandolin.
I was able to run again, injury-free, throughout the year, largely thanks to daily (and initially painful) stretches on a foam roller. It’s such an unassuming, cheap, yet useful accessory. I must have tasted every olive oil and balsamic vinegar at Olive the Senses half a dozen times (and if you are in Victoria you should, too). Finally, while I’ve been intimidated by electronic tinkering almost all my life, the Arduino Experimenter Kit was a very straightforward way to get me started on designing circuits and devices (and check out node-ardx, a great resource to go through the experimenter kit exercises using Node).
That’s it. Happy New Year!