2016 in Review

2016 in Books

I read 75 books in 2016 (I thought I had read 76 but Goodreads counted a book that I hadn't read in 2016, that sassy website).

I've already blogged about some of my favorites, but here's the whole list (this post is inspired by Justin Blanton's. He and I read very different kinds of books):

*****

The Sparrow by Mary Russel Doria

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2) by Becky   Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky   Chambers

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2) by Liu Cixin

Woman with a Blue Pencil: A Novel by Gordon McAlpine

Slade House by David Mitchell

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) by V.E. Schwab

Anatomy of Evil (Barker & Llewelyn, #7) by Will Thomas

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2) by Daniel O'Malley

Zero K: A Novel by Don DeLillo

Necessity (Thessaly, #3) by Jo Walton

The Yard (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #1) by Alex Grecian

The Devil's Workshop (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #3) by Alex Grecian

The Harvest Man (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #4) by Alex Grecian

Lost and Gone Forever (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #5) by Alex Grecian

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Kopp Sisters, #2) by Amy  Stewart

The Privilege of the Sword (Riverside, #2) by Ellen Kushner

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

****

The Trials (The Red Trilogy Book 2) by Linda Nagata

Night Life (Michael Cassidy, #1) by David C.  Taylor

Staked (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #8) by Kevin Hearne

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Strangler Vine (Avery & Blake, #1) by M.J. Carter

The Steel Remains  (A Land Fit for Heroes #1) by Richard K. Morgan

Acceptance (Southern Reach, #3) by Jeff VanderMeer

Updraft (Bone Universe, #1) by Fran Wilde

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin

Linesman (Linesman, #1) by S.K. Dunstall

Alliance by S.K. Dunstall

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Singer from Memphis (The Athenian Mysteries #6) by Gary Corby

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen, #1) by Aliette de Bodard

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey

The Black Country (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #2) by Alex Grecian

Four Roads Cross (Craft Sequence, #5) by Max Gladstone

Dark Run by Mike Brooks

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel  Gonzales

Throne of Jade (Temeraire, #2) by Naomi Novik

The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #1) by Elly Griffiths

The Cold Between (Central Corps, #1) by Elizabeth Bonesteel

A Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton

Look to Windward (Culture, #7) by Iain M. Banks

Blind Justice (Sir John Fielding, #1) by Bruce Alexander

Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Daggerspell (Deverry, #1) by Katharine Kerr

In the Land of Giants: A Journey Through the Dark Ages by Max    Adams

Swordspoint (Riverside, #1) by Ellen Kushner

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner

Hell Bay (Barker & Llewelyn, #8) by Will Thomas

***

Murder at the 42nd Street Library (Raymond Ambler #1) by Con Lehane

Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

Dr. DOA (Secret Histories, #10) by Simon R. Green

Hour of Judgment (Jurisdiction, #4) by Susan R. Matthews

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Wolf Star (Tour of the Merrimack, #2) by R.M. Meluch

Dead Man Walking (Ishmael Jones, #2) by Simon R. Green

All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park

**

Manhattans & Murder (Murder, She Wrote, #2) by Jessica Fletcher

Raising Caine (Tales of the Terran Republic, #3) by Charles E. Gannon

Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr

The Myriad by R.M. Meluch


I read lots of books from a variety of publishers, but here's the top three:

Tor Books: 8

Del Rey: 4

G.P. Putnam's Sons:4

I got to wonder about the author gender breakdown of the books I read in 2016, and it is pretty good:

Gender2016books

I didn't make an effort to read any particular kind of author's work, and I don't plan to. I read whatever strikes my fancy, but I think these numbers are telling me that I'm hearing about more books written by women, which Im all for!


2016: A Year In Walking

2016 Steps

Thanks to my handy Fitbit I know that I walked over 10,000 steps each day in 2016.

My lowest step day was 11/18/16 (10,001 steps) and my highest was 10/18/16 (23,476 steps in Ireland!).

In total I walked:

Steps: 4,310,553
Miles: 2151.39

Not too shabby!

Oh, and you can click on the graph above to see it bigger, if you're interested in such things.


Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

2016 Year in Review: Scott's favorite Chrome extension - Library Extension

Libraryextension

I like me some books, and I usually end up at Amazon to find out more about a book or another.

Library Extension alerts you if any book you're looking at on Amazon.com or BN.com is available from the library (either physical or ebook, assuming your local library offers ebooks). This has saved me lots of money, since you can add a hold with a few clicks right from Amazon.

Go forth and borrow books!


Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

2016 Year in Review: Mulitport chargers

Scottchargers

I love gadgets, but I hate charging them. I contain multitudes.

This year marks a turning point in my charging life; I kicked individual chargers to the curb and picked up two multiport chargers. I'm never looking back (expect for this post).

On the left in the image above is the Anker PowerPort 4 which I keep plugged into a powerstrip next to my bed. I plug in my Apple Watch charger, an iPhone charger, and a microUSB cable for charging either my Kindle or Fire. It is fantastic. And when I travel I just unplug it, wrap the cables around it, and pop it into my backpack. This way I don't forget any charging cables or adapters.

On the right you see the PowerPort 5 USB-C I have affixed to my sidetable in the living room. I use it to charge my iPad Pro, iPhone, Kindle/Fire, and best of all: my MacBook. This allows me to keep a computer charger in my bag and not clutter up the living room.

Lest you think I tested a boatload of chargers before getting these, I didn't. I did, however, read this Wirecutter article.


Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.



2016 Year in Review: Scott's favorite movie theater

Alamo

This Christmas I spent a few days in Austin with Marisa's family celebrating Christmas. One of my father-in-law's presents was a night out to see Rogue One (with myself and Marisa, of course!).

Being in Austin I wanted to check out an Alamo Drafthouse since I've heard many good things about this, and I wasn't disappointed. It is clear that the folks who run this chain love movies.

Instead of a bunch of inane ads before the previews they played old Star Wars toy commercials and YouTube videos. The seats were comfy, and you could order booze/food (I had a pretzel).

Thumbs up, Alamo Drafthouse.

The one bad thing I can say about this particular movie watching experience is that the sound was turned up a little too much. It was super loud, which I didn't mind myself but Marisa had to cover her ears a couple of times.



Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.



2016 in Review: Scott's favorite cheap iPhone 7 Plus Case

Iphonecase

This year I got myself an iPhone 7 Plus, which meant I needed to retire my super cool iPhone 6 Plus Lego case (man, that case is awesome). I am holding out hope that a new iPhone 7 Plus Lego case will appear at some point, so I didn't want to spend too much money on a case.

That's when Lex tweeted about the AmazonBasics Slim Case for iPhone. For $10 it seemed worth a try. I'm still using the blue one I bought, and it is perfect. Even better? It costs $2 less now.

This case isn't going to garner any compliments from anyone, frankly, but it is a cheap, well made case.

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


2016 in Review: Scott's favorite way to pay for the trolley

We're Getting There

SEPTA is a word that triggers strong reactions from Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians in general. People outside of Philly are annoyed that they have to help pay for public transportation for folks in a city they don't live in (Thanks, PA!). Philadelphians aren't thrilled with SEPTA's general lack of... being good.

I don't envy SEPTA though. The system is pretty large and has a puzzling array of options including:

  • Trollies
  • Buses
  • Commuter Rail (which we call the Regional Rail)
  • Subway

I, as it happen, am a nearly daily trolley rider. I've been on the trolley almost every weekday for the last decade. And for the last decade nothing about the experience has really changed. Sometimes you get on the Christmas Trolley, but that's about it.

I've been buying, and using, tokens to get on the trolley for ages. I even have a cup on my desk full of tokens, just so I don't forget to grab 'em on my way out (though I do often forget to reorder them when my supply dwindles).

SEPTA has slowly been rolling out a card based payment system called SEPTA Key. When I heard that there was a brief beta period where one could get a SEPTA Key with Travel Wallet (i.e. load up a card with money and use it instead of tokens) I got me to the SEPTA retail location and bought one.

SeptaKEY

This thing is both great and not so great, but I still really like it. The Key card is contactless, so you just hold it up to the fare reader, it beeps, and you get on the trolley. Simple? Yes. Fast? No. The readers on the trolley seem to be pretty slow... so I always hold up the line a little bit as I wait for the approval bing.

I do like that I can just pop the card in my wallet and I don't need a pocket full of tokens. Plus, when I reload the card I just tap it at a pay station, select how much I want to put on it, and pay with my Apple Watch. Very nice.

At the moment you can only pay for one ride with a Key card, so if you are looking to pay for multiple people on one ride you'll still need dumb old tokens.

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


2016 in Review: Scott's top 5 Star Trek episodes viewed this year

RandomtrekiconHere's a fun fact about me: I have a podcast that's all about Star Trek. It is called Random Trek, and I think it is pretty fun. iTunes reviews say, "Great concept that doesn't really pay off!"

Thanks to the podcast I get to talk to lots of people about Star Trek AND watch a bunch of Star Trek. In honor of my podcast I'm going to list my 5 favorite episodes of Star Trek that I watched for Random Trek. Now, this doesn't mean that these are my favorite episodes of Random Trek: I love all Random Trek episodes equally.

Here's the list, in no particular order:

  • “The Wire” (DS9) - Garak is the best. And this season 2 episode is a great Garak story.
  • “Parallels” (TNG) - So many Worfs, so much cake! Also, the kookiest TNG opening ever.
  • “Future Imperfect” (TNG) - A lonely alien just wants Riker to be his friend. Don't we all?
  • “The City on the Edge of Forever” (TOS) - Let's face it, this is the best episode of Star Trek no matter what the series. Edith Keeler must die!
  • “The Inner Light” (TNG) - Picard lives an entire life in 40 minutes... and it pretty much has no impact on him as a person, other than he learns how to play the flute.

That's a lot of great Star Trek!

Now, I know I said I didn't have favorite episodes of Random Trek, but if I did I think I would have to pick Episode 100. That was a special episode in which I had listeners submit questions. It was great to hear from people who enjoy the podcast.



Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.


I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


2016 in Review: Scott's favorite wifi router - Orbi

Orbi

When it became clear that my Airport Extreme was on the way out (RIP, Airport Extreme) I had to decide if I should just get another one or opt for a different WiFi router. Being the clever consumer that I am I sensed Apple's lack of commitment to their AirPort (and I was right!) so I went for something new and exciting.

I did what I always do and went to the Wirecutter and bought the WiFi router they recommended for most people. For whatever reason, when I set that router up half of my devices stopped working. So I returned it and bought the router the they recommended if you wanted all the bells and whistles (assuming that it was the lack of bells and/or whistles that was the stumbling block). Sadly, that router also ended up creating a network that some devices wouldn't connect to (though different devices this time). I should point out that I don't think the Wirecutter is wrong to recommend these routers; I have my network configured in a slightly odd way which I am sure is the real culprit.

After I returned the second router, and set the AirPort Extreme back up, I decided to go with Netgear's Orbi. At this point I had read a lot about it, but it wasn't actually available for purchase.

As soon as it became available I bought an Orbi (well, two Orbis in one package) and I am very very happy with it. I plugged it in, rebooted my Comcast router and everything worked right off the bat.

Sure, it is a little expensive but this router is easy to set up, it is super fast, and best of all both Orbis sport ethernet ports.

Now, this isn't a highly technical review or anything like that. I just like the Orbi and it is doing a great job!

I suppose I should explain what the heck the Orbi is. It is one of a new generation of WiFi routers that use a mesh network to create one wifi network using a few routers that you place throughout your house. The mesh network allows the routers to talk to one another, and make sure that your entire house is bathed in sweet, sweet WiFi.

The main reason I went with the Orbi is not only does the main Orbi (the one you connect to your internet connection like a traditional router) sport 4 ethernet ports (a WAN port for plugging in your internet and 3 LAN ports for ethernet cables to your stuff) but the satellite Orbi (the one you place in a different room to extend the network further) also has 4 ethernet ports. This allowed me to simplify my home network by getting rid of an ethernet cable I had running into the den and a few dumb switches to boot.

At this point I should say that Netgear did have an issue where some of their routers had a serious vulnerability. They've released an update, but the Orbi didn't have this vulnerability. And best of all the Orbi automatically updates its firmware, so you don't have to try and remember to do it manually (as if anyone does that!).

Orbiports

The web admin interface is pretty nice too:

Orbiadmin

It seems I have 23 devices on my network at this moment:

Orbidevices

But is it fast? I ran a couple of speed tests from my MacBook and it is pretty darned fast.

Speedtest by Ookla says:


Ookla

The Xfinity speedtest reports:

Xfinityspeedtest

And Fast.com (Netflix's speed test) agrees:


Fasttest

There are other mesh WiFi routers that offer more software features, but I'm glad I went with the Orbi because all I wanted was a network that was easy to setup and fast enough for all our streaming needs. The Orbi covers that easily.

And just to close the loop, The Wirecutter agrees with me! What a nice little coda, huh?

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


2016 in Review: Scott's top books

I've read 73 books so far this year, and I'm hoping to squeeze in a couple more to hit 75 which would make this year my most productive reading year since I've been keeping track.

How exciting for me!

But I know what you're thinking: what's in this for me? I'm glad I had you ask that, rhetorical reader. I'd like to share with you some of my favorite reads of 2016.


2016bookcovers

Uprooted by Naomi Novik is a fairy tale of sorts with a wizard unwittingly getting wrapped up with a girl who is more than she seems. Based on that sentence alone you probably aren't running off to buy this book but let me know you this: it is great. Very well written with an interesting world and characters that feel real this book is a must read.


The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is a scifi novel in which not too much happens, but it is a fun ride. Space ships, lots of aliens, peril, and AIs are sprinkled throughout. I'm reading the sequel now and it is just as much fun.


Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen is just the book for you if you ever thought to yourself "I wonder what would happen if animals evolved into spacefaring races, populated the galaxy, and discriminated against Fants (elephants that is) because they don't have fur. The answer is a compelling story with a dash of spiritualism.


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles details what happens when your country changes around you and you become a drift in a history you helped to create but can't understand. The entire story happens over the course of decades in a hotel in Moscow. Sounds thrilling, right? But it is very compelling. In fact, I devoured this entire book in 2 sittings.


Zero K by Don DeLillo doesn't really have a story. The characters aren't fully realized, but the relationship between the two main characters is like a character itself. And DeLillo is just a damned fine writer. Perhaps the greatest living American writer, and this novel is beautiful.


The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley feature a mechanical octopus. Need I say anything more? It also plays with the narrative, which I enjoy, and is well written.


Yard

Scotland Yard's Murder Squad by Alex Grecian is one of those series that just sucked me in. I read all 5 books in a row over the course of a month. Now, I do think that the cover style for the last two novels is unfortunate, but don't judge these books by their covers!



Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.


I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


2016 in Review: Scott's favorite stop in Ireland - Newgrange

IMG_0374

Marisa and I had the good fortune of being able to spend a little over a week in Ireland this October and it was a fantastic trip. We ate well, stayed at very nice hotels, and saw a number of very cool things.

One stood out to me though: Newgrange (seen above).

I hadn't heard of Newgrange until I started researching places to visit near Dublin (we only spend one night in Dublin so I figured we should see something on the way out and Newgrange was it, though it is about an hour outside of Dublin). Newgrange is a passage tomb, and they think that neolithic man used it to store the ashes of people and to perform certain rituals on the solstice. In fact, it is constructed in such a way that the chamber inside this massive mound is in complete darkness all year except for the solstice. At dawn the sun slowly creeps up the passage and lights the chamber. You can enter a lottery to actually experience it, though they don't guarantee a cloud free day!

IMG_0388

While we were in Dublin Marisa and I marveled at all the buildings that are older than our country. Living in Philadelphia one gets used to living with history, but visit any European country and you realize just how new to the scene the US is.

All of that pales in comparison to the feeling one gets when you're standing in a chamber that people created 5,200 years ago.

IMG_0384

While we didn't visit during the solstice, they do simulate it for each tour. You squeeze/crouch your way into the chamber. Gather around with 15 or so folks and the tour guide asks, "Is anyone afraid of the dark?"

She then turns off the lights and you're in complete darkness, surrounded by tons of dirt and stone and the quiet breathing of a few other people. Slowly, the "sun," or in this case an LED light, dawns and light edges into the chamber. More and more of it is revealed in the simulated solstice light and you're transported back 5,000 years. It was quite the experience.

IMG_0386

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


2016 in Review: Scott's Top Headphones - Bose QuietComfort 35

BoseQC35The Bose QuietComfort 35 bluetooth headphones are fantastic, and if you've read any stories about the best noise cancelling headphones you already know this.

I mention that because I'm not breaking ground here with this opinion, but these things are really good. How do I know that? I bought a pair for myself and when they arrived I let Marisa try them out. She immediately said, "where's my pair?" and that's how I ended up buying 2 pairs of these expensive headphones this year.

Setup is easy, the noise cancelling really works, and they sound good. They sound good to me, I should say. I'm not an audiophile, but if you are chances are you aren't using bluetooth headphones anyway!

If you fly often you should really buy yourself a pair of these things. We took them on our flights to and back from Ireland and they were a dream.

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


2016 Year in Review: Scott's Top Tablet - Amazon Fire HD 8

FireHD8

I'm going to tell you a little secret: I buy a lot of tablets but I haven't really figured out where they fit into my tech life.

The Amazon Fire HD 8 has solved the dilemma: tablets are for watching TV shows at the gym. This Fire is fast, pretty sturdy, and best of all: cheap. Whenever I brought an iPad to the gym I worried about dropping it and breaking it. With the Fire if I break it, I can just get another. They're cheap!

If you have Amazon Prime and are looking for a speedy tablet to watch Prime Video on (I download shows to my Fire so I don't have to depend on my gym's spotty wifi) then the Fire is for you

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.