Just as I did last year, I felt that I should do the obligatory “end of the year” post. I have always had an issue with “Best of [year]” posts because while it makes sense for things like movies and video games, it doesn’t make sense for things like TV shows, podcasts and software where they span/change over multiple years. Therefore, my spin on this concept is little different, and rather than naming what was the pure “best” of the year, I limited the qualified properties to things that I discovered in 2011. So you may see things on this list that did not come out in 2011, but instead are things that I first used/watched/absorbed in 2011. I dub these my “2012 Newsies Awards”, which is also an homage to my all-time guilty pleasure movie Newsies.
TV Show – Homeland
This show actually debuted in October 2011, but it was after the initial first run ended before I actually got around to watching it. At this point, the first two seasons are in the books. That first season was one of the best seasons of television I have ever seen. It was incredibly suspenseful and intense, and set the bar for the second season incredibly high. It’s probably one of my ten favorite TV shows right now, and while it isn’t going to be as good upon second viewing, it was still amazing.
New Girl – Another show that debuted in 2011, but wasn’t actually watched by me until summer 2012. I have always been indifferent about Zooey Deshanel, but this show stopped focusing on her late in season one. The supporting cast is ridiculously good, and Jake Johnson has been a revelation. One of the few sitcoms (along with The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family) that I actually look forward to.
The Newsroom – Tough call between this and Girls. I know that many people didn’t enjoy The Newsroom, and it has some flaws, but I am a suck for Sorkin shows. I still love Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and love the way things come together on his shows. Season two has a high bar to hit to keep people coming back, but we shall see.
Movie – The Company Men
I just recently mentioned this movie on the podcast and talked about how it was moving onto my all-time favorite list, so it would have been crazy not to put it in this spot. Continuing the trend of things that actually came out in 2011, this movie isn’t super new, but I have seen it again and still love it. Affleck, Costner, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kevin Costner and Maria Bello. Such a great cast.
- Argo – Another Ben Affleck movie. This one actually came out in 2012, and was the best movie I saw in 2012, that actually came out in 20121. It was a great period piece, and extremely suspenseful. Affleck did a great job directing, and I still don’t understand how he wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award.
- 30 Minutes or Less – Another 2011 film, this one is a crazy comedy with Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride. Crazy, unrealistic premise, but the contrasting styles of Eisenberg and Ansari are just amazing. This is another movie I have seen a couple of times, further proving to me that it’s very good. This was a tough call over The Bourne Legacy and Lincoln, but re-watchability is key.
iPhone App – 30/30
Although I have struggled a bit to get into a rhythm with 30/30, it’s one of those apps I tried to use every day. The idea is basically timeboxing, where you set a task and an amount of time, and then enter your next task with the amount of time and so on. Then you hit the start button and it counts down your time before moving on the next task. I use it to try and keep myself from spending too much time on one thing and to limit my time spent doing non-productive things.
- Drafts – One of the many “quick entry” apps that has come along in the last year. Drafts is very clean looking and is great if you just need to take a quick note down. It can send text to many different applications and has a virtually limitless amount of possibilities. They keep adding more and more support new actions as well.
- Buzz Contacts – A replacement for the built-in Contacts and Phone app, but with a whole lot more. The dial pad uses not only numbers, but the letters on the keys to try and figure out who you are calling. So if you have a friend named John, hitting 564 gets that to pop up. It also has the ability to create groups, like the Favorites list on the built-in Phone app, but you can have more than one. It also allows for emailing, texting and more, so it’s a much more featured communication app. I mostly use it for making calls though.
iPad App – Tweetbot
I really didn’t start using my iPad extensively until I got my iPad Mini in November. So the number of options for this category was a bit limited. Tweetbot seems like an unspectacular choice since it’s so similar to the iPhone app, but it’s still by far the best Twitter app I have used. That’s about I can say.
- OmniFocus – Another application I use on all platforms. The iPad version is special for it’s implementation of the Review feature. It’s more much intuitive than the same function on the Mac2. The Forecast feature is also a favorite of a lot people, but I don’t really use it much. I expect to use my iPad more in 2013, and this app will likely play a role in that.
- Kingdom Rush – I don’t play a lot of games on my iPad or iPhone, but Kingdom Rush is by far the one I have enjoyed the most of any to this point. It’s a tower defense game set in a sort of medieval time period. I don’t think I beat every level, and I might even go back and play it again, but I had a lot of fun with it along the way.
Gadget – ZAGGfolio Keyboard Case
This is a somewhat ironic pick since I no longer have a full-sized iPad. I used the crap out of this keyboard case while I did though. The keyboard was surprisingly usable and comfortable and it protected my iPad quite well. It’s for sure the keyboard case I would recommend to someone who wanted one, and I will still make use of the keyboard itself with my iPad Mini.
- iPad Mini – I got this way too late in the year for it to make sense to make it the winner, but otherwise it would have been. This is the perfect size for a complementary device and use it much more frequently than I used my iPad 2. I think that a lot of people will get iPad Minis in the next couple of years and be thoroughly happy with their decision. This is the tablet of the future.
- Jabra Clipper – I wanted one of these little Bluetooth clips for years, but finally picked one up when Amazon had it on sale. This thing is about the size of your thumb, and can clip onto clothing. It has a headphone jack, a power/play/pause button and volume controls. It’s very small and compact and holds a charge for quite a while. I like that it allows me to keep my phone in my pocket without a headphone cord having to go all the way there. It’s especially nice for working out.
Mac App – Tweetbot
Tweetbot again. Most of what I said in the iPad section is true here as well. Another pro it has going for it is the fact that it syncs so well between versions, so I can rely on it all the time. I don’t think I ever used a Twitter app for Mac as long as I have been using Tweetbot, so I think that says something.
- Byword – This has become by long-form writing application of choice. In fact I am writing this very post in it. Most of the writing apps I have tried for the Mac have been pretty similar. Everyone has a preference and Byword doesn’t necessarily bring anything special to the table for me. I enjoy the focus mode that makes the color of the current paragraph/line different than the other lines so it’s easier to focus. I also enjoy typewriter mode which keeps the line you are working on right in the center of the screen. It supports and can convert Markdown, which isn’t all that special of a feature anymore, but it’s still a necessity.
- Coda 2 – An app for building websites, that sort of acts as an all-in-one solution. It has Terminal and FTP built right in. It comes with obvious things like syntax highlighting, but there is so much more. The support for projects means that you can switch between projects without losing all your open windows and such. It is really feature filled and I have only barely scratched the surface of some of the power feature. It’s really the only thing I use for web development at this point.
Website – MacStories
I was aware of MacStories prior to 2012 but really became a fan throughout the year. They have very solid reviews of new apps on iOS and OS X. The proprietor, Frederico, also posts lots of good power user guides for many apps (or combination of apps). Many Apple-centric blogs are a dime a dozen these days, so it’s nice to have one thinking of new things. Their post volume is solid too, without being too extreme or overwhelming. All around, very good website.
- Better Mess – One of the many productivity-centric blogs I read. I, like many people, probably spend more time reading about productivity than actually acting on it. Better Mess definitely slants towards OmniFocus at times which I use as my GTD app of choice. Michael Schechter is very rational and honest and that makes a big impact when you are reading about this kind of stuff.
- Feistees – My obsession with geeky t-shirts really grew this year with sites like Busted Tees, TeeFury, The Yetee and Qwertee. Then I discovered there was a website that not only had those, but other daily shirt sites as well. Feistees shows them all and it’s a great one-stop shop for finding all the geeky t-shirts of the day.
Podcast – The Trenches
I really fell behind on podcasts this year. I don’t know what happened, but I got buried in a rut that I couldn’t get out and therefore didn’t spend much time listening to new podcasts. A couple that I am still catching up on are going (or have already) ended. In the meantime, the only podcast I deemed worried of talking about from 2012 was The Trenches, one of the Grantland podcasts I like. It’s essentially the football version of the Jalen Rose podcast. Former NFL offensive lineman Ephraim Salaam talks about current happenings all while giving his unique perspective as a former player.