Instead of the standard 'year in review' post, I thought I'd so something different and create a list of "twos" for 2017. These can be 2 good things, 2 bad things or a mixture. But just two.
And, yeah, sorry it's taken a while – thinking and writing up all these things has taken some serious time to do.
And in no particular order…
I'm not the kind of person who will go to another country and insist on eating burgers, fish & chips and whatever I'm most comfortable with – I'll try local food to discover things which are new and exciting. However, despite all of the travelling in 2017, my two food items of note are not particularly exotic.
- Bacon, US/Canadian style. I love bacon but the crispiness and taste of how it's made in North America is another level.
- Grits. Also, whilst in the US, I got to try grits. It looks like porridge and is often eaten with breakfast. Stick to porridge.
A close third must have been the recommendation, by a colleague, to try adding peanut butter and cheese to bread. The combination actually does work.
Bands & Singers
I make a thing of it, every day, to listen to a random track of music from a genre that I wouldn't normally be interested in. This has has been interesting – most I remain disinterested in but some real gems have come out.
- Skinny Lister. Classed as 'folk', they have a bit of a modern Dexy's Midnight Runners vibe to them. My favourite album so far is The Devil, The Heart and The Fight.
- The Blossoms. Not even sure how I discovered them, particularly as they're most definitely a genre I would be interested in, but their self-titled album "Blossoms" is fantastic.
I love a good film soundtrack and, yeah, I'll admit, due to my love of all things Marvel, Star Wars and Trek, they tend to be pretty high on my list here. However, I do try to discover additional soundtracks (e.g. I love the Oblivion soundtrack). Having said all that, my two favourites are indeed from my trusty classics…
- Doctor Strange. By Michael Giacchino, this is a bizarre and trippy soundtrack to go with a matching film. The end track, "Master of the Mystic End Credits", in particular is fantastic and odd at the same time, sounding like it came from either an episode of Sherlock (ironically, as both star Benedict Cumberbatch) or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
- Spider-Man – Homecoming. A great return to form for a Spider-Man film and a great soundtrack to go with it. Again by Michael Giacchino, I particularly love the use of the 'classic' theme for the Marvel logo.
Indeed, Giacchino is fast becoming my favourite composer right now, as possibly my two favourites from 2016 were Star Wars: Rogue One and Star Trek: Beyond, both are his too.
I read a few (but not enough) books in 2017, with the following being my two favourites…
- Why Did the Policeman Cross the Road?: How to solve problems before they arise by Stevyn Colgan.
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This is my geek coming out and I'm looking forward to the film release this year.
According to my Letterboxd account I watched 57 films last year. So, here are my favourite 2 that were released in 2017…
- Wonder Woman. Yeah, I like a superhero film and this was done remarkable well for a DC movie.
- Thor Ragnarok. Another superhero film. Injected with humour this really pushed Thor on a notch. Very fun.
Spider-Man: Homecoming and Star Wars: The Last Jedi came a very close 3rd and 4th here.
And my 2 favourite that I watched for the first time but were released earlier…
- Sully. Genuinely amazing film. This flight was covered in detail in one of my recommended books (Black Box Thinking) so to see it dramatised as stylishly as this was fantastic.
- Minions. I wasn't expecting much but I saw this whilst in the US and really enjoyed it. Have watched it again since with the family.
There were close calls here for Passengers, ELF, The Man from Uncle, John Wick, Kong: Skull Island and The Monuments Men, all of which were very enjoyable.
I most certainly consider myself a gamer but I do tend to stick to just a small number but, generally, play them to death. On the console, the year started off on Titanfall 2 and I ended up on Battlefield 1. Both are excellent games but were both released pre 2017.
- Jackbox. A collection of crazy games that you can buy on all sorts of platforms and then play, with your friends, using your mobile devices as controllers. They're terrific fun and they released their latest games bundle late last year.
- Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. It's silly and frivolous but highly addictive. I ended up moving it off my phone and onto my iPad simply because of the amount of battery it drains!
As I'm quite active on Twitter, I thought I'd highlight my two favourite Twitter accounts for the last year.
- My daughter's 3rd year teacher. So, whilst my daughter was in her 3rd year, her teacher used social media to share the day-to-day activities of her class. It was really good to see what was happening through-out the day and lead to many good discussions back at home (8 year olds are very good at shrugging when you ask them what they've done during the day, otherwise).
The idea you can't share pictures of children "because peadophiles" has always seemed silly and over-the-top to me and it's good to see a teacher potentially putting their neck on the line to do something that, to me, was amazingly useful.
Since moving to the 4th year this has stopped as her new teacher doesn't do this.
- @lettoysbetoys and @letclothesbe. Two different accounts but related. These raise the continuing issues of retailers who gender stereotype clothes and toys. I've written a few times myself on this subject and it's something important to me.
This was quick a difficult one to narrow down as, mainly due to my new job, I've purchased a lot of tech in the last year. However, the two which continue to give me the most pleasure are…
- Apple Watch. The rubber strap, which I thought would be annoying, isn't, I get 3 days, at least, of battery life and it's just always there, helping me out, day-in and day-out. I had an Android Wear watch before and, sorry, but the Apple one is much better.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones. Expensive for a set of headphones but they've been well worth the investment as they've been an absolute god-send during long flights. Excellent sound and equally good noise reduction adds to a package of brilliant battery life and thoughtful packaging.
Bearing in mind I also bought the iPhone X and AirPods this year, you can see how difficult this was. There were also quite a few gadgets that I bought to make my travelling more convenient and are rather fantastic – however, I'll share these later in the year with an update to my "what's in my bag" post.
My Blog Posts
Now this is an interesting one. What are the two most viewed blog posts from last year on my site?
- My review of the SoundPEATS Q29 wireless earbuds. An interesting take on the Apple AirPods.
- How to extend the battery life of an Oral-B toothbrush. Information on this is quite inconsistent but I dug through various websites and documentation to show how that toothbrush can last a bit longer. Last year also marked the year my Oral-B battery finally gave in.
However, what about my particular favourites?
- Whatever you do, don’t trust Doros Kiriakoulis. This man ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, promising the end product despite constant delays and then walked away stating that all the money had been spend. I detailed what happened and made sure that this person will never be able to hide from this in future (indeed, search for his name on Google and my posts is the top result).
- Should we still be separating children’s clothes by sex? I've had a real 'bee in my bonnet' this year about companies that are gender stereotyping and Next was first in place for a tongue-lashing.
- Monzo. Yes, it's an app but it's also a bank account too. Monzo is the future of banking – starting off as a top-up card they have now launched a current account. Using their card abroad is cheap and simple and the app shows you everything quickly and easily. All they need now is Apple Pay integration and my life will be complete.
- Letterboxd. I've been a huge fan of this social movie website for some time but last year they released their matching app. And it's rather splendid too. If you're a film fan and not signed up, you really, really should be.
I've been gadding about quite a bit this year – Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Washington DC, Whistler and a castle in Scotland. So, which were my two favourites?
- Washington. My first visit to the US and it was a great city to start off at. Clean, green and generally pleasant with some amazing buildings and monuments, the rest of the US really has to step up for me to enjoy as much!
- Whistler. What a great place – high above sea-level and with the most amazing snow-capped mountain vistas. Indeed, I loved Canada in general. This marked my first trip outside of Europe and it was an amazing first place to go.
- Working for Automattic. I started last January and I've had an amazing year. It had been my wish to work for them for years so this really is the cliched "dream job". I've not mentioned too much about this in this post for the simple reason that I'm not long away from my 1st anniversary, which will prompt a post all of its own 🙂
- Becoming a journalist. For years there had been two things I wanted to achieve – working for Automattic and becoming a 'proper' journalist. Last year I started writing for the technology website 'The Big Tech Question' with great feedback from the owners (who have both been or are technology magazine editors). You can read all my articles but the one that I think cemented my 'proper' journalist credentials was the one about Expensify.