Category Archives: top 2008 lists

Top 5 Books of 2008

Ok, It’s the 6th and I’m still doing Best of 2008 lists. This one should be my last. This is the one that was the hardest for me, because I couldn’t make up my mind, so every time I decided to do one of my blogs this one got pushed back. Originally, it was a top 10 list, but I decided that I probably could never make up my mind on 10 books, and so 5 books was easier. My biggest problem was trying to figure out which books I’d read this year. I kept an ok record over at GoodReads.com, but I know that I missed quite a few in the last several months of 2008.

So here’s my list:


5- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger


I found the concept of this one both intriguing and compelling. The main character is afflicted with “Chrono Displacement Disorder.” He often and involuntarily will be displaced in time, although his time walks mostly seem to center on people and places that are important to him. The story focuses on him and his wife, who obviously are living in different time lines. She first meets him when she is a young girl, he first meets her when he is 28 or so. The story jumps around a lot, giving hints and whispering secrets, all the way through. It’s a very interesting read.

4- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson


I became obsessed with the Appalachian Trail at some point in 2007. I was, in part, feeding my obsession by reading this book. Bryson tells of his experience hiking the AT with his friend Katz as Bryson became reacquainted with America. His story is both funny and poignant. The two parts that stick out most in my mind is the story about Katz flinging his food from his pack because it weighs too much, and the tragic story of the American Chestnut, once prevalent in American forests, but decimated by blight. Of course, I wanted to hike the AT even more after reading this. Maybe 2009 is the year for it.

3- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


It’s really hard to explain why I liked The Name of the Wind. Perhaps the best way is to drop a quote from the main character, and let him speak for himself :

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during the day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

The story dragged me in, without me even realizing that I was being dragged in.

2- The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson


I’ve blogged about this one before. I picked up Sanderson’s first book, Elantris, to see if he would make a good substitute for Robert Jordan. I’m glad I did. It lead me to this one. Of the three in the series, this was by far the best. It really comes off as a caper story (Think Ocean’s 11) dressed as a Fantasy novel.

1- The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan


The Omnivore’s Dilemma is one of the books that most influenced me this year. I plucked it from Amy’s bookshelf and read it. I’ve been having an internal conversation about food all year. (You’d never guess that, coming from the guy who obsessively blogged his vegetables… 😉 ) Pollan investigated the origins of his food chains. He followed four meals from four distinct food chains from beginning to end. In doing so, he described America’s unhealthy relationship with food. I think I’ve changed the way I eat (fresher, more diverse food) and the way I think about food (closer to home) because of it.

So there you have it. My top 5 books from 2008. What are yours?

Bonus:

Schlock Mercenary by Howard Taylor

It’s not really a book, it’s more of a webcomic, but I spent a lot of time reading it in 2008. The story is great, the characters even better, and I’m still only part way through 2006. Go figure. I’ll get all caught up one of these days.

Top 10 Moments in 2008

I’m going to try to do this in as few words as possible

10- Voting for Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney for President

The fact that I had a choice to vote for a Mormon for President. Awesome!

9- Convincing my nephew in less than half an hour that we could be friends


That was quicker than my dad won him over.


8- Geocache #600


A walk in the woods, in the snow, with friends. Priceless.

7- Ceder Point


Proof that when I am dead, I will be buried in an amusement park. (I actually had fun at the amusement park that day!)

6- Hiking in the Big Horns



The view from the top. The real top.

5- The Regency Ball


Who knew that English Country Dancing was so much fun?

4- Tweleve Reunion

You probably wouldn’t understand… But it was awesome.

3- Kayaking the Huron

Ever heard “Peace like a River”? Well, that, except, with a river.

2- Thanksgiving Turkey

It tasted just as good as it looked.

1- Turkey Trot

A goal completed!

Top 5 Games of 2008

You know by now that I am a big fan of the games. Particularly the creative games from such companies as Days of Wonder and Mayfair. Not so much among the Hasbros and Milton-Bradleys of the world. In any case, as you’ll see I’m not just limiting the word game to games that I played in. Here goes my Top 5 Games of 2008:

5. Michigan v. Utah August 2008

I’m going to let these pictures do most of the talking on this one. Go Utes!

4. Killer Bunnies

I picked up a copy of Killer Bunnies for my birthday after I read a copy of the rules at Kara’s place (one of her roommates had it). The game play seemed unique, and now that I’ve had it out and played it with various groups of people, I can say that it is fun. Almost everyone that I’ve played it with have enjoyed it. Flo still hasn’t come through for me.


3. That Bang game in midsummer where I took out Chalsea in a one on one shoot out

Bang! was another game that I really really liked a lot this year. I got it for my sister for Christmas, and enjoyed it so much that I got it for myself. I selected one individual game as my top 5. We were playing at my apartment, at some point midsummer, and I had drawn the Renegade card and Chalsea had drawn the Sheriff. Somehow, I had managed to knock off a whole bunch of players in a very short time frame, effectively tipping my hand as to who I was. Somehow, it came down to a shootout between Chals and myself. I kept drawing cards that would keep her from shooting me, which was fortunate. In the end, I shot her and won. It’s very hard to win as the Renegade, so it was memorable.


2. Utah v. BYU November 2008

Another one where I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

1. Settlers of Catan

Ok, so Settlers of Catan will probably always be my favorite game. This year has been a great year for Settlers. I’ve had a great group of friends who like to play, and who make for a great game. The rivalries between Jonathan and myself, and between Jonathan and Mike, (Wow, Jonathan, lots of rivalries. What does that say?) have been epic. The victories have been sweet, and the defeats have been bitter. The occasional food has been delicious. I’ll admit that I even had to go buy two more chairs specifically so that I have enough seating for Settlers at my house. In short, I pretty much love Settlers of Catan.

No one has actually made a Settlers of Catan pizza yet, but now that I think of it, I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be a good idea.

So there you have it. My favorite games of 2008. What were yours?

Top 5 Listenings of 2008

This retrospective is probably one of the more difficult of the ones that I’ve written so far. I enjoy my music, but I don’t really think about it so much. How do I go about choosing my top 5 list for this one? I decided to broaden it to things that I listen to… that made my list making easier. I’m going to try to figure out how to make one of those embeddable music thingies too.

Anyhow- Here goes:

5- This American Life Podcast

Of all of my podcasts, I’m glad I started getting this one. I’d caught episodes here and there, but never with a concerted effort. For a while, my favorite run was on Monday night because I could listen to the new TAL podcast. I began to consciously avoid driving while TAL was on, so I could listen to it while running. My best TAL story was of me running a few days after Halloween on a dark and deserted road, and then having a story about rabid raccoons come on. On that run, I was later terrified by an opossum with beady little red eyes.

4- Pandora Playlist – AltRock Mix Tape

My old go-to Pandora Playlist. (You can listen to it at the link back there.)  When I’m busy at work, and I need to focus, I pull up Pandora and set it to this playlist. I’ve got it so well trained that it only plays me music that I will like. Unfortunately, that means I don’t get any new music anymore. (See #2 below). 

3- Artist – Ronnie Day (The Album)

I really don’t know why, but I can’t listen to enough of Ronnie Day’s music. Most of my playlists include at least one of his songs right now.  I don’t really know what else to say, other than you should listen to some of his work.

2- Pandora Playlist – IndieAlt Mix Tape

My new go-to Pandora Playlist.  (Again, you can listen at that link).  I got a little tired of my AltRock Mix Tape, after I trained it so well. So I seeded this list with The Decemberists, Ben Folds, and the Killers. It’s a pretty good playlist.

1- Hum Hallelujah – Fall Out Boy

My Power Song on my iPod+Nike system. I’ve learned that it’s worth a good half-mile at a decent pace, especially right at the end of a run. And it will move me. According to both Last.fm and iTunes, this is the song I listened to the most in 2008.

So there are my Top 5 Listenings of 2008. Anyone else have any favorites from this year?

Bonus #1:

I heard this song by Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet on NPR and rushed home and bought the whole album. It’s Bluegrass meets Traditional Chinese folk music. It’s really quite awesome.

Bonus #2:
Ok, I think I figured out how this works. I’ve added a handful of the songs that I mentioned here, plus some that got thumbs up on my Pandora playlists, plus some that Last.fm and iTunes say that I listened to a lot this year. Enjoy!


Top 5 Recipes of 2008

As well established readers of this blog will know, I enjoy cooking. So what retrospective of 2008 would be complete without a list of recipes that have influenced me this year. I’ve tried out a lot of new recipes this year, and these are the ones that I loved the most and wanted to share with you all.

5- Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

Amy made this recipe for one of our regular get-togethers to play Settlers. I loved the recipe so much that I tried and failed to replicate it by myself, and eventually just broke down and asked Amy for it. With my CSA this summer I had no dearth of zucchini and summer squash, and this became an easy dinner recipe that I relied on time and time again. This recipe is very easy to both scale and tweak. Add extra little bits of whatever you’ve got (ham, cheese, other veggies, whatever) or vary the spices and you’ve got a completely new experience.

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning TM
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine zucchini, egg, and butter or margarine. Stir in seasoned crumbs, minced onion, and seasoning. Mix well.
Shape mixture into patties. Dredge in flour.
In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until hot. Fry patties in oil until golden brown on both sides.

4- Amy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I blogged about Amy blogging about these cookies. I’ll refer you to her recipe for the details, but these are far and away the best cookies you could ever make. Ok, maybe I’m gushing, but this recipe sings. And instead of hoarding the recipe to herself, she shared it! And now you can try them too. I’ve made them several times and they’re great.

3- Cranberry Relish

I’m a cranberry geek. I love cranberry sauce, but its very rare for me to get well prepared sauce not from a can. (Has anyone ever gotten good stuff from a can? I don’t know!) For Thanksgiving this year, I decided that if I wanted good sauce, I would have to make it myself. So I did. And it was good. I trialed the recipe twice, and got slightly different results, but the outcome was great both times.
Cranberry sauce

Here goes:

Cranberry Sauce
1 C Water
1 C Sugar
1 Bag Cranberries (12 oz)
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1/2 orange
Apple Pie Spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)

Bring water and sugar to a boil, dissolving sugar. Add orange juice and cranberries. Return to boil (It’s hard to tell, because there are now more cranberries than anything else in the pan, and not terribly important, just get the temp back up). Lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cranberries will start to pop. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries have softened and the liquid starts to gel. Add zest and spice to taste. (I just dumped it in, I didn’t measure… probably 1-2 teaspoons.) Mix on the heat for another minute or so. Remove from heat, pour into serving dish. The gel will harden as it cools. When it has come to room temp, put in the fridge until showtime.

My first go with the recipe, I simmered for less than 10 minutes, and the berries were more whole and the gel less firm. The second round, which I brought for dinner, I simmered a little longer (I wasn’t paying attention), and it worked out fine, and set up a lot harder.

2- Spring Rolls

When I went out to Salt Lake this spring, I surprised my MBA friends. They’re always inviting me over to dinner, but rarely give me enough advance notice to get out there. This time I told them I’d go (which was the part that surprised them!). Jodie was hosting the dinner, and since I was staying at her place, I weaseled my way into helping make it. Or mostly watching Jodie make it. The appetizer course was Spring Rolls, which are fancy and very simple to make.

Spring rolls

I later hosted people for a roll your own dinner, and also forced them upon my family over the 4th of July. I think I ended up taking them to a mingle as well, except I called them Summer rolls.

This is another recipe that is very customizable to whatever you have available.

Here’s a basic recipe:

Spring Rolls

1/4 pound vermicelli rice noodles, soaked in boiling water to barely tender (2 to 5 minutes), drained, rinsed, and drained again
1/2 pound Asian barbequed pork, lean beef or chicken, thinly sliced, or thinly-sliced tofu, or any fairly dry cooked vegetable or meat
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise (optional)
12 lettuce leaves, washed, dried and thinly sliced
1 to 2 cups shredded carrots, or other vegetables shredded on a cheese grater
1 bunch spearmint, washed and dried
1 bunch coriander or basil, washed and dried
20 rice paper rounds (6 to 7-inch diameter)

1. Moisten rice paper by rubbing with water, or dipping in hot water for a few seconds. Let stand a few moments until softened.

2. On the bottom third of the rice paper round, make a small pile of rice noodles, a few shreds of meat, half a shrimp, some lettuce, carrot, and a leaf of each herb.

3. Roll up the rice paper over the filling, taking it halfway up the uncovered portion of rice paper. Now fold in the side flaps and continue rolling until you have a tight cylinder. Put on a plate and keep covered with a damp cloth.

You should serve these with dipping sauces. One easy dipping sauce is Sweet Chili sauce, which you can find in most Asian sections at the grocery store. Another easy sauce is Peanut Sauce. In a small sauce pan, add 2 parts peanut butter (natural and chunky is the way I like it!) to 1 part hoisin sauce (another Asian section staple). Heat it up a bit while stirring. When it seems well mixed, add some coconut milk or water (or both) to thin it down. Whisk vigorously and serve.

It’s that easy! (Special thanks to Jodie for helping me refresh my memory of how to make these, especially the peanut sauce. She is absolutely awesome!)

1- Indian tomato sauce

I love this next recipe. I’ve blogged it before, but I’m going to go ahead and put it here again. Because I love it that much. And because you probably won’t click the link. I discovered this in my How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook (by Mark Bittman), when Melanie, Leilani, and I were having one of our Vegetarian cooking nights. We did Baked Garbanzos with Fresh Cheese and Spinach (basically a fancied up saag paneer). But this sauce was the star of the show. I’d make this for dinner every day if my stomach wasn’t so sensitive to tomatoes.

Here’s the recipe:

Spicy Indian Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 cups.

4 T butter or 1/4 c neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
one 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 T minced fresh chile or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste
2 T garam masala or curry powder
1/2 t chili powder
large pinch sugar
2 c chopped ripe tomato (about 1 lb. whole), preferably peeled and seeded, or drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cream or coconut milk
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 t cumin seeds
1 t mustard seeds

1. Put 3 T of the butter or oil in a deep skillet over medium0-high heat. When the butter is melted or oil is hot, add onion, garlic, ginger and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garam masala, chili powder and sugar and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook and stir until spices become fragrant, a minute or two more.

2. Add tomato and cook, stirring frequently, until it starts to release its liquid, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and cilantro and keep cooking and stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.

3. Turn heat down so the sauce bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato breaks up and the mixture comes together and thickens, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. (The sauce may be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before proceeding.)

4. Put remaining butter or oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add cumin and mustard seeds and toast them until they begin to pop. Spoon over the sauce just before serving.

And now two bonuses:
Bonus #1: My favorite new spice: Garam Masala. Technically, a mixture of spices, garam masala is an Indian spice, which packs such an incredible punch of flavor. I had been using my own mixture until I realized there is an Indian grocery just down the road a bit. I found it, and I’ve been finding ways to use it ever since. So far, I have seasoned my Thanksgiving backup ham with it and a lentil soup. I’m looking forward to the other ways that I can use it!

Bonus #2: A Christmas cookie recipe: Rolo Cookies.
I got a great response to these on my cookie trays, and thought I’d share the joy. Clicky the linky above. Mmm!

So there you go. My favorite recipes of 2008. What are yours?

Top 5 Moving Pictures of 2008

To round out the year, many of the blogs that I read are doing their year in summary posts these days. I thought I’d follow suit. I’ve compiled several lists of my favorite things from 2008. I think that it will provide a welcome relief from other recent subjects.

This first list is rather broad. I’m counting anything that I watched, on a big or small screen, for the first time in 2008. And basically, it’s just the 5 things that stand out in my mind. I probably forgot more than I remembered.

Here goes:

5- Strangers on a Train –

I had people over to watch this classic Hitchcock film, after asking Brian of Brian Presents fame for some recommendation to spice up my Netflix queue. The Carousel scene haunts me to this day.

4- Sherlock Jr

Another Brian Presents entry. This was my initiation into the world of silent films. I laughed, I cried.

Here’s the Chase Scene from the end (Be warned, it’s long, but well well worth the time to watch it.)

3- Iron Man

Iron Man proved a point to me. Don’t always believe the critics. I had heard a scathing review on my way home from work, and had no intention of seeing it. Fortunately, somehow I managed to stumble across the Rotten Tomato index for the movie. It was a stunning 93% fresh. Apparently, the poor review that I’d heard on NPR was the only bad review. It was a fun fresh movie.

2- Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

I’ve already talked this one up. It was so clever and witty that it inspired me to dress as Dr. Horrible for Halloween. If you still haven’t seen it, check it out at Hulu.com.

1- The Constant, LOST season 4, Epsiode 5.

Hands down the best episode of LOST, ever. EVER. I don’t even know where to begin. The whole Desmond / Penny plotline is one of the most wrenching, raw, real emotion parts of the show, and the story, the directing, and the acting all came together in one beautiful episode. If the rest of the show fizzles out (highly unlikely), The Constant will have made the whole series worth it to me.

I’m not one to cry, but of all of the shows I saw this year, this one brought me the closest to tears.

You have to be well grounded in Lost lore to really understand this episode, so I won’t put a clip. If you aren’t, you should be. I think ABC.com is still streaming all of the episode from all of the seasons. Go! Now!

And a bonus:
Show I most like to complain about:

Heroes Season 3. The plot is rambling all over the place. Foreshadowings are ignored, characters are taken down inconsistent paths. I watch, and I hope they tie a nice bow on it, but it doesn’t happen. What happened to Heroes, Season 1? That was awesome.

So there you go. My top 5 Moving Pictures for 2008. What are yours?