Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 10 Albums of 2011

10. Janes Addiction, The Great Escape Artist

This one probably didn't make too many 10 top lists but I don't care. There are three bands that will likely always make my list, regardless of their material. They are Linkin Park (!), Smashing Pumpkins and Janes Addiction. Plus, this album is actually pretty darn good. The first four songs are terrific and then it drops a bit but it still gets heavy rotation, especially when I'm running.

9. Black Keys, El Camino

Though certainly not a new band, I'm kind of just getting turned on to these guys. I saw them live at Outside Lands in San Francisco this Summer and they blew me away. Plus, this album is co-produced by Danger Mouse. I don't know how that dude does it, but virtually everything he produces blows me away. I think with a few more listens this one would move up even higher on my list.

8. The Weeknd, Thursday

I don't know who this dude is and I don't know why he gives away all his music as free downloads (go to his website; easy enough to find via Google) but boy does he create some fantastic music. He just released another mix tape last week, Echoes of Silence, and though I've only listened to it a few times it seems equally as good as his previous works. Dude is pretty prolific, too.

7. Keep Shelly in Athens, in Love with Dusk

This genre is described as "downtempo." I'd describe it as ethereal. I usually don't like ethereal, but this just has a great beat. It's one of those albums you keep on your phone/iPod and don't think much about until a song comes on and you think to yourself, holy crap, that's great, who IS this? And when that occurs time and again ... well, it makes your list at number seven.

6. Phantogram, Nightlife.

This is a band that I am growing to love. I saw them this Fall at the Portland Music Festival (look at me, getting out to see all this music this year!) and they too blew me away. The singer just might be the hottest woman I have ever laid eyes on and they absolutely rock. As good as this album is - and I really do like it quite a bit - it isn't quite as good as their previous one, Eyelid Movies, which I think might be a classic (for me at least).

5. My Morning Jacket, Circuital

I saw these guys too just a few weeks ago (detect a trend here?) with my boy Nick and they were fantastic. I've long admired Jim James and dig the whole southern fried rock thing. I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as Nick about their catalogue, but I think Circuital might be my favorite MMJ album.

4. Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto

Part of me is embarrassed to have this album on my top ten list, let alone at number four, but screw it; it's terrific and ridiculously listenable. Yes, these guys are a bit over the top and their formula is a little TOO dialed in, but damn if they don't create excellent pop music.

3. Girls, Father, Son, Holy Ghost

These San Francisco dudes are awesome. I didn't fully love their first album, though it did grown me over time, but this one resonated from the beginning. I suspect the more I listen to this one, the more I will regret not putting it in the one position. It's that good. This is a band that excites me because as good as they are, I suspect they haven't yet tapped their full potential.

2. The Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee

The Beasties are BACK. How could my three Jewish boys from Queens not make my list? Truth be told, this is far from my favorite Beasties album, but it doesn't matter; this is the Beasties we are talking about. Is there any other band out there that's nearly as fun?

1. Jay Z and Kanye West, Watch the Throne

"You are now watching the throne. Don't let me get in my zone. Don't let me get in my zone." Each year I have a clear cut favorite and this year was no different. This is the one. I'll be listening to it years from now. Though I am a big Jay fan, I think Kanye actually carries this one. No matter - this is a classic. It was massively overhyped and in typical Jay Z and Kanye fashion, somehow managed to exceed expectations.

And there you have it. I'll conclude with my favorite song of the year, which is Midnight City by M83 and the worst album of the year; the Metallica/Lou Reed collaboration. Holy unlistenable, Batman. I wanted so bad to like this, but it's simply dreadful in every respect.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I know - I've gotten hurt pretty severely at CrossFit. I suspect it might not even be the last injury I get there either; my form and flexibility are both terrible, which is a recipe for disaster.

But that being said, it might arguably be the most addictive thing I've ever done in my endurance career and that includes a seven year addiction to triathlon.

For the sake of brevity, I'll distill it down to the three point which matter most to me:

- variety. It's rare that you do the same workout twice. I love going to class not knowing what the hour will bring. Some days it is a strength workout; others, more cardio. One thing they have in common: they will make you work.

- strength. I've never been strong. Sure, I can run, swim and long ago, bike for long periods of time, but that's all cardio. My limiting factor has been strength. In just three months, CrossFit is starting to change that. Granted, I'll never be mistaken for a 70's era Arnold, but I've noticed a big difference in the first 90 days and I think it will translate to making me a stronger runner (if and when my hip ever heals).

- time. The class I've been going to most is 5:45 am. I'm home, having coffee before the family is awake and I'm done with my workout for the day and haven't interfered with work/family. Something to be said about that.

Anyway, I don't man to be a walking billboard for CrossFit; there are some things I'm not crazy about which I will save for another post (because I am dashing off .. to CrossFit). But the reason why I wrote on this subject is that I know this is the time of the year when people are considering their goals for the upcoming year. If you are intent on improving your health/fitness, I strongly urge you to at least give CrossFit consideration. I promise you will see results - quickly.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vacation Books

Read two great books while on vacation. The first was Turn Right at Machu Piccu. What a great read; it was a travelogue in which the author re-created in its entirety Hiram Bingham's journey to discovering Machu Piccu in 1911. It was an excellent and entertaining read. MP has long been on my list of places to visit and this book helped seal the deal. Only thing is if/when i go, I'm only doing the four day hike in. No chance of taking the train. Not sure if my kids are up for a four day hike so it might be a few years. Anyone out there care to join us?

The other book chronicled Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, and what that streak meant to the nation as it prepared to enter World War II. It too was a great read and truly captured a bygone era. Of all the records in sports, I think that's the one that will never be touched.

Also put a good end in the Steve Jobs book. That one is proving slower going than anticipated; probably because I'm familiar with most aspects of that story.

Anyway, I'm on the market for something new. Any other recommendations out there?

Monday, December 26, 2011

New York Jets and Coach Ryan

I'm not as passionate about the NFL as I am about college football. There's only so much time one can devote to football on a weekend. But my NFL team is and always has been the New York Jets.

Like other Jets fans, I was initially charmed by Coach Ryan. I thought he was indeed just what that team needed; fiery, controversial, unafraid and funny. The team seemed to respond in kind too, going to the AFC championship game the past two years.

But this year, the team has stepped backwards and in the process, how act is starting to wear very thin. Virtually every move he made building up to this past weekend's game with the Giants backfired in a big way. To me, covering up the Giants super bowl trophies was the last straw in bombast and stupidity. I come from the Michigan school of coaching and Coach Ryan's way is the antithesis of the Michigan way.

For me it comes down to this. He is starting to do to me what Isaiah Thomas did for the Knicks; turn me off from them completely for years, to the point where I was rooting against them simply so he would get fired.  I suspect my sentiment might be true for others out there as well.

Still time to reverse course a bit Coach Ryan. Let's see how smart you really are.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Sorry so quiet; we just got back last night from a week long visit to Club Med, Cancun with our homies the Berlents.

The recap: we ate, swam, hung out, ate, hung out, ran, hung out, ate, drank tequila. Lots of tequila (Todd and I anyway). Rinse and repeat for seven days.

A great time was had; we are enormously lucky in that the parents and kids all get along beyond famously.  Makes for an enjoyable time. Pictures to follow soon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


One of my personal goals for 2011 was to read at least 12 books (mission easily accomplished) during the year and to participate in 12 races. If I didn't injure myself (update: the leg is a tad infected and didn't respond to an antibiotic salve, so now I am on oral antibiotics. It looks like it's getting better though) I'd be there - I am one race short. I'm hopeful that before the end of the year I can squeeze in a 5k or maybe even a trail 20k, if the leg is up to it. To date this year I have run:

3 5k's
3 half marathons
1 10k
2 50k's
1 50 miler
1 100 miler

I'm relatively pleased with that.

For whatever it's worth, the books I've read include:

Seal Target Geronimo (ok)
The Psychopath Test (excellent)
The Art of Fielding: A Novel (fantastic)
Endgame: Bobby Fisher (excellent)
Inside Scientology (fascinating)
My Korean Deli (decent)
The Pirates of Somalia (fair)
Rawhide Down (excellent)
Sex on Six Legs
The Sportsman (good if you are a Michigan sports fan I guess)
Steve Jobs (excellent)
Unbroken (absolutely fantastic and maybe my book of the year)
The Wave (fantastic)56: Joe DiMaggio (good, though a little slower than I anticipated)

I am thinking about my personal (not professional - personal) goals for 2012. One thing I am contemplating is making ,massive changes to my diet. More on that later but thinking about completely eliminating processed foods and moving towards a paleo diet. Need to do some more research though before I fully commit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RIP, Dr. London

Some of you know this story, which started with a cold.

The cold was a persistent one, and so I went to see my doctor. I learned that she didn't work on Mondays. Taking her place that fateful Monday was a semi-retired gentleman named Dr. London.

He asked me when I last had a physical; I told him it had been several years. "Well, you are already here" he said. "Do you have 20 minutes?"

I recall that I didn't have 20 minutes but he was such a genuinely nice guy, I said sure, why not.
And that is when he detected the nodule on my neck.

"You have bronchitis," he said, "but I am really concerned about that nodule. Promise me you will get that looked at immediately."

And though he was just a "temp" working I believe one day a week, he called me regularly - for months - for status reports.

The rest, as most of you know, is history. Within a month I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, had my thyroid removed and started radiation protocols. At the risk of sounding a bit melodramatic, my life since has never been quite the same.

I've though about Dr. London a lot these past several years. I credit him with helping save my life. My sole physical interaction with the man lasted 20 minutes, but I will remember him for a lifetime.

I'm not exactly sure what kind of a man, or even what kind of doctor he was. But to me, he was Superman.

I was not entirely unsurprised, but still crushed to learn that he passed away last week.

Rest in peace, Dr. London. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kicking Butt

The Little Boy did just fantastic on his first meet - exceeded expectations and then some. I'm stoked, he's stoked, his mother's stoked and so is his sister, who also did great. Really exciting to see him out there. I'll post a YouTube video later for the grandparents.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Swimming and the Little Boy

I write a lot about the Girl and her swimming. In a nutshell, she's a superstar. I'm spectacularly proud of her and yet I'm equally proud of The Little Boy, who started swimming in earnest only about six months ago.

He's been swimming his little ass off night and night and he has made incredible headway. It's almost amazing how much progress he's made in a few short months.

Anyway, tomorrow is yet another swim meet yet this time it's not just about her. The Little Boy is making his swimming debut with a 100 breast and 50 fly. He might come in first in this meet or more likely stone cold last. Either way, it doesn't matter to me in the slightest. It's all about the effort and I couldn't be more proud of the little dude.

Go Little Boy, Go. You stoke me.

Pictures to follow soon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Albert Pujols

I have to admit that I was beyond surprised to wake up this morning and learn that Albert Pujols has signed with the Anaheim Angeles.

I just don't get it and I'm just niot getting sports in general these days. Greed has trumped any sense of reason or legacy.

Pujols was on the cusp of establishing a legacy as the greatest player ever to play for one of the most storied franchises in baseball. If he kept on pace, he likely would have surpassed Stan the Man himself.

And he trades that legacy to play for ... the Angeles? Really?? Honestly, when you are getting paid in the area of $200 million - MILLION - plus over the extended period of a contract, what in the hell does a few million dollars really mean, particularly when such a legacy is at stake. A ten year contract versus the nine that the Cardinals offered? Really?

I just don't get it.

And the Angeles are equally stupid. Offering a ten year deal to a 31 year who had a "down" year (granted - it was a hell of a down year) with a no trade clause is asking for big time down the road problems. They are going to find themselves in the same position the Yankees are currently in with ARod. The dude is an albatross and you think the Angeles would have observed as much.

And where are the Yankees in all this? Seemingly on the sidelines. That I don't get either I suspect they have something in the works. Expect to see some sort of December surprise and soon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kindle Fire

Trying something new; I'm using my iPad as my new computer. I received a bluetooth keyboard/case from my client, Logitech and it is making for a pretty cool experience thus far. I'm going to see how it works out as my primary computer during an upcoming trip too LA and San Diego. Should be an interesting experiment.

I haven't posted on technology for a while and have a few dedicated posts coming up. But I did get my kid a Kindle Fire for his birthday and so far, I am pretty impressed. It's more robust than I though and at $199 I think it's an excellent value. What it in't, however is an iPad and I don't think it's necessarily fair to compare the two. But it is an excellent media consumption device and if you are an Amazon-phile and have purchased a lot of digital content from Amazon, it is definitely worth considering if you are in the market for a tablet.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Junior Olympics

Congrats to the Little Girl, who spent the entire weekend at Junior Olympics in Morgan Hill, CA. She swam best times in both the 50 and 100 back and her relay team also did well. I'm super proud of her; these are some of the best swimmers in the State.

My buddy Nick from Chicago was in for the weekend and we had a great time. We went to see My Morning Jacket on Friday night awesome) did the Marin thing yesterday (Tennessee Valley-Muir Beach-Muir Woods et al) and today he ran the half marathon at the North Face challenge - his first *real* trail run. He did very well and I think was pretty stoked. The Little Boy ran with him for a bit and I .. cheered him on. It was nice being out there and not the end of the world but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was dying to run. That said, I get the stitches out on Thursday (seems to be healing pretty well) and should be back in the mix some time soon.