Things I liked in 2013
I used to write elaborate annual posts detailing my favorite things in a variety of media. For 2013, I only have time to squish it all into one abbreviated post. My #1 favorite thing this year was of course the arrival of my daughter, an event which itself drastically impacted my ability to find other stuff to rank. But I did manage to find a few things that I highly enjoyed and recommend:
- I finished Ancillary Justice just before the end of the year, and coincidentally it’s also the best book I read in 2013. Author Ann Leckie does fascinating things with consciousness, narrative perspective, and gender while still telling a great worlds-spanning space opera tale. (The cover, not unusually, has virtually nothing to do with the book)
- I didn’t have a ton of gaming time this year, but I keep wanting to go back and play more Monaco. The cooperative heist game pits you and your friends against a variety of robbery goals. It’s difficult, but in a way that feels hilarious when you fail rather than frustrating. One of the best cooperative games I can remember.
- You will pry my Yonanas Elite machine from my cold, dead hands. Frozen fruit goes in one end, delicious not-quite-frozen-yogurt comes out the other. In a blind taste test I don’t think I could differentiate this from the real thing. I received the Elite model as a Christmas gift, and it’s worth the upgrade. The motor is both quieter and more powerful. My current favorite combo: Bananas and cantaloupe.
- The Chromecast is just a really neat, inexpensive media streamer. I use it almost every day to watch youtube videos or play music, and it works well with a number of video streaming services too. I still can’t quite wrap my head around fumbling for a pause button on my phone instead of a traditional remote, but I’ll get there.
- A few months ago I switched to a Macbook Pro at work, from a PC. The learning curve was shallower than I expected, and now I wonder how I lived without the ability to easily swipe between multiple desktops. I have issues with some of the functionality in Finder (image previews in particular work better in Windows), but my quibbles are all minor. I’m particularly blown away by the 8+ hour battery life.
- I have fallen in love with Google Plus’ Auto-awesome photo features. I throw all my photos at it, and Google figures out what the highlights are. I took a ton of photos in 2013, thanks largely to the aforementioned daughter’s arrival, and would never have time to sort through the whole pile on my own. Google also automatically creates motion gifts from burst photos, merges exposures to HDR, and creates photobooth style portrait montages. This is by far the best feature of Google Plus, and it makes me wish I knew more than three regular users of the service to share the resulting photos with.
- Paired with Google Plus, I now use Adobe Lightroom for more serious photo organization. It’s not flashy, but has solid and in-depth management options for metadata and organization. I don’t have every photo I ever took in my Lightroom library, but the most important ones are there. And if you work at a .edu employer, there’s a steep discount available.
- Bioshock Infinite was another of the rare video games I played all the way through this year. While I found the minute-to-minute gameplay got repetitive and stale after a few hours, the beautiful environment and underlying themes of the story kept me glued to the screen. I’m looking forward to playing through the new expansions.
- Google gave away Chvrches’ album The Bones of What You Believe, and I can’t argue with the price of free. Along with The Naked and Famous’ In Rolling Waves, I have these two albums in constant rotation. I don’t know what to call their genre exactly, but it’s a blend of rock, pop and electronica.
- Playstation Plus is Sony’s game subscription service. For $50 a year (or $30 on Black Friday) gamers get access to an incredible library of downloadable titles. I now have more PS3 games than I’ll ever be able to realistically complete, and couldn’t be happier. And just today they added Bioshock Infinite to the list of included games.