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Best things and stuff, 2014

There’s a lot of awesome things that I feel are valuable but might not be well known, so I’ve made a list. There’s no theme whatsoever, but hopefully you’ll find something on here that makes your life better for the new year.

Great purchases

Board Games: People seem to wince at the idea of a board game but will play pool or darts in a bar all night. Blokus is just one of many games that’s easy to pick up, hard and fun game. Also check out Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride.

USB Battery Packs: These things can charge your phone a bunch of times, cost $25 and go unnoticed in a backpack until you need it. And when you need it, this thing is a life saver.

Cloth Lightning Cables: The cables Apple ships are delicate, and you can’t trust your friends to treat them right when they borrow ’em. These are twice as long, MFI certified, and made out of a durable cloth material.

Rice Cooker: Seriously. This thing is a game changer for the home cook. Make brown or white rice, quinoa, lentils, bring a batch of dried beans to life, or steam cook some veggies, all with next to zero effort.

Great websites to read

Hacker News: Super intelligent technology and programming news with the best comments section on the internet. From the people at Y Combinator, a VC company.

Facebook Pages Feed: Facebook sucks because of the tons of boring/annoying people you’re obligated to add, so this link lets you only view updates from pages instead of idiots.

Reddit: Again, like Facebook, reddit sucks if you use it wrong. Make an account, unsubscribe from all the default garbage they feed you and resubscribe to small, specific subreddits, such as the Albany or Coffee ones. The fewer you subscribe to the better this works.

The Wirecutter: What’s the best TV? Or the best headphones? This site has the answers. They also have a home goods focused website, called The Sweethome which can tell you which pillows or bed sheets are the best.

Great places to eat

Tara Kitchen: This is the best restaurant in the Capital Region, and if you haven’t been, do so as soon as you can. I hadn’t had Moroccan food until I ate here a few months ago and I need to make up for lost time.

Empire Wok: Because sometimes you need trash Chinese food and they do a great job and have every meat-analog possible.

Capital City Gastropub: Great varied menu alongside solid classics. Great cocktail menu too.

Parivar: A cafe in the back of an Indian spice store serving North and South Indian street foods. The absolute best Indian food I’ve ever had.

Cheesecake Machismo: I can’t even eat cheesecake but the idea that there’s a specialty cheesecake spot makes me happy. And everyone who has eaten here loves it.

Great places to have a drink

Wine Bar on Lark: Half price cocktails during happy hour and some of the best food as well.

McGeary’s: Quite simply, a solid bar. About 30 beers on tap, a solid pub food menu and great staff.

Stacks: Not technically a drink drink, but having a multi-roaster coffee shop is amazing.

The Shop, Troy: An actual cocktail bar with no gimmicks.

Great blogs to read

Zen Habits: Focus on what matters. This is one of the most valuable websites on the internet. Start here.

James Clear: Productivity, fitness and motivation in well written, easy to read articles. Start here.

DEDPXL: Photography website that has intensive video critiques as well as photography challenges among other great things.

Great apps

Overcast: If you’ve only learned about podcasts because of Serial, welcome to the vast post-radio world. This is the best app to use for podcasts as it has Smart Speed (removes small silences between words to speed podcasts up without you noticing), Voice Boost (because some people don’t bother to master their podcasts) and a web-based player. Made by Marco Arment, the dude who co-founded Tumblr.

Waze: Social GPS, but more importantly you can report speed traps and be notified of others who report them. It also has live traffic updates and will re-route you around traffic if it’s faster.

Todoist: A to-do app. This is the only way I can keep track of what needs to be done and. Has a web and desktop counterpart as well.

Pillow: Sleep cycle alarm clock that wakes you up at the specific point of your sleep cycle so you’re not groggy and you wake up easily. It works very well and is one of the reasons I can manage to get up relatively early.

AlbanyWorks4U: This is basically Albany’s equivalent of calling 311. Report things to the city such as illegal garbage or your horrible neighbors doing crazy repair work without permits.

Instagram: It only sucks if you use it wrong. Don’t follow friends simply because they’re your friend, follow them because they post interesting things you want to see.

Spotify: Obvious, but if you’re not using this to search for and subscribe to playlists you’re missing 99% of the value of this app. There’s playlists for things such as “Songs that mention Halle Berry” and “Songs that reference Pablo Picasso”.

Great instagrammers to follow

avianrecon: Because birds are sick.

usinterior: Because America is sick.

themercerstreetproject: Local woman inherited a house full of insane things and posts photos of these things as they’re discovered.

notdumbpictures: The most slept on instagrammer. Constantly awesome photos.

arnold_daniel: Obvious, but if you haven’t heard of this dude you’re seriously missing out.

me: Shameless. Vaguely Albany themed, infrequent and interesting.

men of many crowns

Men of Many Crowns: Review

I took my first listen of Men of Many Crowns self-titled debut album while raking leaves in my parents front yard. I may as well have been aimlessly skipping stones because the afternoon wind picked up every fifteen minutes, throwing me off and giving me an excuse to keep checking my phone to see what track I had just listened to. Like the romantic I am, I was all about the juxtaposition of listening to sounds created in a warmer place while doing some east coast upstate New York chores and letting my mind get lost in the album.

The album is the first release of a new collaboration between San Diego emcee MoodSwingKing and DJ/producer W. Steele, and has with ease found a place in my heart’s top 10 albums released this year. For me, this was a year of “good, not great” hip hop releases in general, and the last two months of this year are totally making me reconsider and get hyped for what 2015 has in store.

Plus, wicked bonus – it’s available for the generous pay-what-you-want download option.

Continue reading…

j57

KC’s Music Monday: J57

If I was a musician, after finishing a project, I’d probably allow myself take some time to relax before starting the next one. And that’s one of maybe thirty reasons why I’m not a producer or rapper. Brooklyn-based J57, of the Brown Bag All Stars, just happens to be both. And he puts the work in.

I always personally enjoy when an artist breaks into another element of creating – such as a DJ learning production or a rapper getting into more than just rocking the mic. It’s all about putting passion into learning your craft inside and out, and J57 is living proof there’s nothing wrong with being well-rounded in the studio these days.

I also really appreciate the “no days off” vibe I get from all members of the Brown Bag All Stars. After all, you get out of it what you put into it – in this case, it’s a multitude of amazing tracks. Additionally, it’s noteworthy that with the BBAS (much like with our music scene in the 518), there is a solid and visible balance between independent projects and group endeavors, and support for every effort from both the members of the group and those listening alike. It’s hard to keep up, really, and that definitely holds true with J57.

Today, URB Magazine debuted a new track by J57 titled “Heisenberg Blue” which is this pretty instrumental that holds a large, cinematic feel before turning into a tease by ending quicker than I’d have liked. Luckily, the track is part of an forthcoming “freEP” presented by URB Magazine, titled 0057: FlaskLIFE, so there will be more to look forward to in the near future of this capacity.

Continue reading…

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William Gibson at EMPAC: Recap

The following is a guest post from Scott Birdsey.

Legendary science fiction author William Gibson has a new book out called The Peripheral, and appeared in support of if at EMPAC on Sunday night. Mr. Gibson did a few readings from the new book, and took questions from the audience, which was a diverse mix – academics and punks, literati and nerds.

To pay tribute, I wore my black MA-1 bomber jacket, which was the iconic wardrobe mainstay of Cayce Pollard, the main character of Gibson’s 2004 novel Pattern Recognition. Gibson’s stories occupy a space between fiction and non-fiction, and that jacket is the perfect example: Buzz Ricksons, the high-end Japanese designer of the jacket referenced in the book, didn’t actually make the MA-1 in the color black in real life – but decided to shortly after the book came out and found themselves flooded with requests. Mine was a cheaper Alpha Industries model, but did the job.

Gibson read chapters from the new book, which is set in two timelines – one near-future, which includes veiled references to Walmart and Google Glass – and a more alienating far-future, about 100 years from now. EMPAC is very much a great environment for William Gibson. This is the guy who coined the phrase ‘cyberspace’ in Neuromancer, years before Al Gore would invent the internet. But Gibson was down to earth about EMPAC, focusing on the podium of all the things – that it was the tallest he’d ever used, and that it was even adjustable. The Peripheral feels a bit like this – epic in its scope and vision into where our society is going, but stopping along the way to explore the odd little details.

After the reading, Mr. Gibson took several questions from the audience, summarized below.

On whether video game storylines are becoming on par with literature:
“Pong was the only video game I was any good at. When they went to Tetris I said ‘no, that’s too complicated’.”

On what music he listens to:
“It disappoints people.”

On whether Neuromancer will ever be made into a movie:
“People don’t realize, the end point of the novel IS the novel.”

On whether or not any other careers were considered:
“I’d been an aspiring cartoonist as a kid. The only thing that remains of that is how I’ll sign your books tonight.”

Myself, I wasn’t able to get my copy of the Peripheral signed – I’d bought an electronic version of it the previous week from Apple. Exactly the stuff that makes William Gibson tick.

levelup

Early bird tickets available for Level Up Conference

Level Up, a creative tech conference taking place on October 8 and 9 in Saratoga has put for sale their first set of tickets. If you’re likely to attend such a conference, you can save $50 by purchasing your tickets before tomorrow.

Speakers for Level Up include talented designers from Amazon, SoundCloud, Quora, Seven Heads Design, Appropriate, Inc., UserScape and more.

Learn more about Level Up on their website.