Top TV from 2013

  1. Breaking Bad
  2. 30 Rock
  3. Justified
  4. Parks and Recreation
  5. Happy Endings 
  6. Ben and Kate
  7. Mad Men
  8. Community
  9. Girls
  10. Louie
  11. Cougar Town
  12. Homeland
  13. Mindy Project
  14. Nashville
  15. Archer
The first 4 shows were easy. Breaking Bad is head and shoulders above the rest even in a slow-ish mini-season. If they stick the landing with the last 8 episodes, it'll be one of my favorite shows ever.  The next 3 are excellent shows that had very good years. 30 Rock especially was great. Hilarious and filled with a set of surprisingly sweet love stories.  Justified and Parks and Recreation were a bit off their all-time peaks, but still consistently good.
Really the list could end there and the rest could be a long list of good-but-not-great honorable mentions. It's a hodgepodge of challenging shows which are well-made, but filled with characters that I dislike and often actively root against (Mad Men, Girls, Louie, Homeland) and run-of-the-mill sitcoms that I laugh at for 20 minutes and then have completely forgotten 20 minutes later (Happy Endings, the ignored but very funny Ben and Kate, Community, Cougar Town, Mindy Project, and even Nashville which isn't a sitcom, but is still likable enough). 


2011 Books

After failing to do so for 4 or 5 years, I finally completed 2 books a month last year. Actually, I read/listened to 29 books total. Most of the books were good, but my favorites were probably Wise Man's Fear and The Art of Fielding.

Here's the full list:
  1. The Wind-up Girl
  2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  3. Hunger Games
  4. Catching Fire
  5. Mockingjay
  6. Name of the Wind (*)
  7. Wise Man's Fear
  8. Once a Runner
  9. The City and the City
  10. Play Their Hearts Out
  11. Blood, Bones and Butter
  12. Ship Breaker
  13. Einstien's Dreams
  14. Bossypants - Tina Faye
  15. Game of Thrones (*A)
  16. Clash of Kings (*A)
  17. World War Z
  18. A Visit from the Good Squad
  19. Unbroken
  20. Feast For Crows (*A)
  21. Dance With Dragons (A)
  22. The Rites and Wrongs of Janet Wills
  23. Night Circus
  24. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (A)
  25. Ready Player One
  26. Girl who played with Fire (A)
  27. Forever War
  28. The Art of Fielding
  29. Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest (A)
* indicates a re-read
A indicates an audiobook

Top TV from 2011

  1. Breaking Bad
  2. Parks and Recreation
  3. Justified
  4. Community
  5. Game of Thrones
  6. Homeland
  7. Louie
  8. Men of a Certain Age
  9. Downton Abbey
  10. Archer
I'm working my way through Season 5 of Friday Night Lights now. Season 4 was outstanding and would've been #3 or 4 on this list. I'm also behind on Chuck (would be around #8), 30 Rock (around #9) and Modern Family (#11).

Top Albums of 2011

I've only found 3 albums from 2011 that I really love. The rest are pretty good (with some great songs), but not in my regular rotation. 
  1. Bon Iver - Self-titled
  2. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
  3. Adele - 21
Honorable Mentions in alphabetical order:
Cults - Cults
Drake - Take Care
Decemberists - King is Dead
Radiohead - King of Limbs
Telekinesis - 12 Desperate straight lines
Tune-Yards - WHOKILL
Yelle - Safari Disco Club

Top Movies of 2011

Here are the movies I watched from 2011. What a blah year. 
  1. A Separation - 9.0
  2. Moneyball - 8.0
  3. 50/50 - 8.0
  4. Source Code - 7.5
  5. Beginners - 7.5
  6. The Artist - 7.5
  7. Bridesmaids - 7.0
  8. Warrior - 7.0
  9. Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - 7.0
  10. Super 8 - 7.0
  11. Margin call - 7.0
  12. Descendants - 7.0
  13. Midnight in Paris - 7.0
  14. Win Win - 6.5
  15. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - 6.5
  16. War Horse 6.0
  17. Real Steel - 6.0
  18. Ghost Writer - 6.0
  19. Harry Potter 7.2 - 6.0
  20. X-Men: First Class - 6.0
  21. Cedar Rapids - 6.0
  22. Crazy Stupid Love - 6.0 Dolphin Tale - 6.0
  23. Drive - 5.5
  24. Our idiot brother - 5.5
  25. Captain America - 5.5 Contagion - 5.0
  26. Kung Fu Panda 2 - 5.0
  27. Freedom Writers - 5.0
  28. Lincoln Lawyer - 5.0
  29. Kings of Pastry - 5.0
  30. Bad Teacher - 4.0
  31. Terrible Bosses - 3.5
  32. Thor - 3.0
  33. Hangover 2 - 2.5



"My mind is a village, and my body is a city"

- Municipal planner Sasha (8:00 pm, 7/23/2010)


Inception - 8.5

Christopher Nolan's new movie is a pretty good approximation of what Memento would look like if a $100 million special effects budget and some of the best actors in the world. This, of course, is a very good thing. Inception isn't flawless --- there are stretches, especially towards the end, that are a bit too talk-y --- but it's damn good, and a whole lot of fun. A relatable sci-fi storyline is paired with solid performances, a good-enough script, breath-taking special effects and some of the best editing/cinematography I've ever seen (it's a lock to win that Oscar), and the result is Nolan's best movie to date.

Along with Memento, Inception is Nolan's 2nd great movie. Add to that 4 very good films (the two Batman movies, the under-rated Insomnia and the over-rated, but still good, Prestige) and it becomes pretty clear that he belongs right up there with the Mexican trio of Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo Del Toro and Inarritu in the discussion of the the best young directors working today.


Top Albums of 2010 (So Far)

  1. The National - High Violet
  2. Local Natives - Gorrilla Manor
  3. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
  4. Future Islands - In Evening Air
  5. The Morning Benders - Big Echo 
  6. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
  7. Vampire Weekend - Contra
  8. Sleigh Bells - Treats
  9. Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks
  10. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
  11. Menomena - Mines
  12. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
  13. Hot Chip - One Life Stand
  14. Hold Steady - Heaven is Wherever
  15. Spoon - Transference


Top TV Shows From The Past Year

  1. Breaking Bad
  2. Party Down
  3. Community
  4. Lost
  5. Treme 
  6. Chuck
  7. Modern Family 
  8. Better Off Ted
  9. 30 Rock
  10. How I Met Your Mother
  11. Glee
  12. The Office



I've spent most of my day re-setting up my XP virtual machine that I use for work (The old one died along with my new computer's hard drive). It surprised me that I only really needed 10 things to have a fully functional work computer running on my macbook. Here they are, in order of installation:
  1. VMWare Fusion
  2. Windows XP 
  3. Firefox
  4. AdBlock Plus (Firefox plug-in)
  5. XMarks (Firefox plug-in)
  6. Dropbox
  7. Symantec Antivirus
  8. Microsoft Office (unfortunately, this is still a necessity)
  9. F5 Client (To connect to the server at work)
  10. VNC client (To control my machine at work. I'll run SAS, but not much else from there).
I also run R and a few other programming things from the Macbook, but that honestly pretty much covers it.


Quick Update

After yesterday's opus, this will be quick since, really, there is nothing much to report. I'm writing this from Starbucks since we still don't have power (or water or gas or internet) at the apartment. We did get to shower for the first time since the earthquake at a friend's house yesterday, so that was pretty sweet. Alexa is back to work today. My new Macbook decided to die of non-earthquake related causes, so I'm here checking email and researching how one brings a macbook back to life. It has a bunch of stuff I'd rather not lose on it, so I don't really want to format and reinstall, but nothing else has worked so far. Anyway, I'm sitting here downloading some stuff for work that can be done on the netbook without internet. We emptied the fridge yesterday, so I'll probably pick up some lunch and head home in a bit and see if I can bring the mac back to life.Fingers crossed. OK, that's all for now, more tomorrow probably.


The Quake

Hi folks,

First and foremost, we're doing well here. Nothing to worry about.

Second, Thanks for all of your calls and messages over the weekend. We really appreciate it.

So, here's the story. We were in bed when the earthquake hit Friday night. I was just getting to sleep, when the building started rocking gently. We thought it was just another tremor at first, but after 10 seconds or so the shaking got pretty violent, and we decided to get out of our building. We live on the 7th floor of a 30 year old building which is a bit of a mixed blessing since the building survived the previous earthquake in 1985 intact, but it's also, well, old. Anyway, I grabbed the cat and we ran down the stairs barefoot in our pajamas as the building shook. The only sign of damage on the way down was pieces of plaster on the floor, cracks up and down the walls and the sound of breaking glass in people’s apartments. The cat, by the way, provided the worst injuries of this whole affair by creating a nice grid of scratches on my chest and stomach. By the time we got downstairs the shaking had pretty much stopped. The quake itself was scary, but neither of us freaked out too much … Well, Alexa did a little, but not nearly as much as I would’ve predicted beforehand. All told, it was more unpleasant than traumatizing and neither of us seems to be dwelling too much on the quake itself.

We waited downstairs with most of our neighbors for 10 minutes or so (the scientifically proven time to determine if a building is safe) and then went back upstairs to grab our flashlight, shoes, cash and passports. There was some broken stuff that had fallen off the walls and broken glass in the kitchen, but in general our apartment seemed ok. With just the light of the flashlight it was hard to tell.  After 10 minutes of packing, we set out to Alexa's grandmother's (Nana) apartment to make sure she was ok.

Nana lives about a mile away, and there were lots of people out both walking and driving way too fast through dead stoplights as we walked. People were freaked out, but there was really no looting or anything scary like that in our area. We heard that the earthquake was an 8.5 or so, so we knew it was big, but other than that we didn’t know much about the details until the next morning. We got to Nana's and went up to her apartment (9th floor – my calves are incredibly sore from all the stairs) to check on her. She was fine if a little freaked out. She told us she had waited out the earthquake in bed with a pillow over her head. There was more broken stuff at Nana's place (due to the fact that there is more breakable stuff). A few vases and light fixtures broke, so there was lots of glass lying around and some bookshelves had fallen over. Her building was in better shape than ours though, with almost no cracks in the walls and only a few of plaster on the floor. We spent the next few hours cleaning up, then I slept for a bit (only to be woken up by the biggest of the constant aftershocks at 6 am). Nana's phone was still working (thank goodness) so we managed to call the states and let our parents know we were ok. Then we cleaned some more (professional carpenter Jeremy rebuilt the bookshelf) and headed back to our place to check out the damage. Back at out apartment, there was still no electricity, water, or gas and  we saw that there were pretty significant cracks in the walls, but it looks to me (professional engineer that I am) like it's just the drywall and not anything that would affect structural integrity. We're going to get a real engineer to take a look soon, but I'm not too worried. Clean up at our place took all of 20 minutes and then we slept for a few hours.
The rest of the weekend was rather uneventful. I'd say 75% of the buildings in our area have power at this point, but us and Nana are in that unlucky powerless 25% (I'm writing this from a coffee shop filled with people on their way to work). Nana has gas for cooking and water, but our apartment doesn't have either. So we mostly just slept and ate and cleaned and read and cursed the aftershocks and checked up on friends her in Chile and talked on the phone. Alexa and I wandered around a bit while out to buy bottled water and saw lots of broken glass and cracked plaster, but nothing overly dramatic in our neighborhood. In general, things are ok.

One of the weird things about this experience has been the fact that we've gotten most of our news over the phone from people in the US. The pictures painted in the news ("The Earthquake in Chile was 1000 times larger than the one that killed 200,000 people last month in Haiti") are considerably more grim than what we're experiencing here. In Santiago at least, most of the damage seems to have been to buildings and infrastructure and not to people. Six hours to the south, in Concepcion, things seem considerably worse with over 700 deaths reported, but we're experiencing that in the same way you are all, through the news.

So, that is the story from here. Thank you all again for the messages over the weekend. Alexa and I both really do appreciate it. I'll be checking email sporadically until our power returns, at which point, I should be able to return to life more or less as usual. I'll be sure to update everyone if anything changes. Until then, take care and enjoy your stable ground :)

Jeremy and Alexa


Crazy Heart - 7.0

I liked Crazy Heart and would watch it again (mainly because I am a sucker for this formula), but honestly the movie is all Jeff Bridges. As such, in lieu of a real review, here are 5 Reasons this movie wins The Dude an Oscar.
  1. First and foremost, he made a relationship between an old drunk and a Maggie Gyllenhaal seem believable. Hell, that alone gets him a nomination. This is the rough equivalent of me picking up Halle Berry at a bar, and he pulled it off. I am impressed. 
  2. He can sing! Who knew?
  3. Biographies (Fictional or non) win Oscars these days (2004 - Ray, 2005 - Capote, 2006 - Last King of Scotland, 2007 - There will Be Blood, 2008 - Milk), and this is most definitely a biography. 
  4. Just like last year, it's a mediocre crop of Best Actor nominees and Bridges has to be the sentimental favorite. He did give us The Dude after all.
  5. Bridges carried this movie in a way the other nominee's didn't have to. I thought Clooney was excellent, but the actresses and script in Up In The Air were top notch as well. Renner was great too, but Hurt Locker was the best movie of the year.  Invictus sucked (and I didn't think Freeman was that great in it). Haven't seen Single Man, but then again, neither has anyone else, so that knocks that one out. Without Bridges, Crazy Heart would've been a complete disaster - with him it was pretty damn good. That puts him over the top.


Alexa Links

One and Two. G'night all. More substantial post tomorrow. Promise.



Alexa's buddy Fritz has a new band called "Long Walks on the Beach". And I can confidently say that I like their entire catalog. Of course that is currently only 2 songs and a ringtone, but still, it's a pretty awesome start. Check out the music here or befriend them on Facebook.