2011 and 2012 in Review and Preview: A List of My Favourite Things

The new year started two days ago, but for many people (myself included), today is the first day back at work in 2012, so it feels like the official beginning of the new year.

I like to make lists. They are more often than not incredibly ambitious, meaning my ability to make lists far exceeds my ability to complete all the tasks on them in a timely manner. On my to-do list (resolutions, if you will) for 2012 is to write more frequently, and regularly. Ideally 2-3 times per week, but given my pace over the past two years, once a week would be making huge strides. I also had an ambitious to-do list over the holidays, which included writing a long, narrative, year in review. That never got completed, my time instead going towards more pressing, if mundane tasks such as cleaning my home, along with more enjoyable things like spending time with family and friends, and lazy mornings lying on my couch, drinking copious amounts of coffee while watching English Premier League soccer.

Anyway, I want to post some retrospective, so inspired by Andy’s post, here are a few of my favourite things from 2011. I’m not going to do a ranked list, nor am I going to limit them to things that occurred in the past 12 months. I’m also going to list things I’m looking forward to in 2012.

Finally, there’s a crowdsourcing element. Based on this list, I’m hoping readers can recommend things they think I – or anyone interested in what’s on this list – would also enjoy.

Without further ado, the best of 2011-12.

Favourite cities I visited:
Boston, MA – one of my favourite cities, if not my favourite, since the first time I visited. I could spend days lounging on Boylston and Newbury Street and be perfectly happy. I also stayed in the redeveloping South Waterfront district for the first time. I was holed up at the Westin and Convention Centre for most of it, but enjoyed the little bit I saw.

Lyon, France – admittedly, I’m consciously being somewhat of a contrarian putting this on the list instead of Paris. I loved both. But I found Paris’ major attractions to be overrated (except Musee d’Orsay). I love walking around both cities, admiring the architecture, streetscapes, and enjoying quiet afternoons at cafes and brasseries. But in Lyon you can do that with fewer hordes of tourists and less aggressive servers.

Chicago, IL – visited twice, first time since I was a kid. Will definitely go back at least once this year. The architecture is amazing (I cannot recommend the Chicago Architecture Foundation boat tour enough), Wrigley Field is a gem, and the Lakefront Trail is one of my favourite places to run. Also, Millennium Park. Everything about it is amazing. And the Loop has a more than sufficient concentration of Dunkin’ Donuts to keep me happy.

Looking west from the Wabash Avenue bridge

Portland, OR – third straight year I visited, and cannot say enough good things. In the 55 or so hours I spent there, squeezed in a lengthy visit at the Market, went to an art show/auction, ran a half marathon, had a few amazing meals, caught a free concert, and also managed to more than catch up on sleep too.

Favorite website about cities:
The Atlantic Cities – launched in September, the site has a great roster of writers, and interesting content every day.

Upcoming in 2012 – I’m interested in focusing more on urban economic development. I’ve always been more interested in the planning side, but got connected to this through the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City’s Urban 2.0 conference in October.

Ideas (and News/Current Events)
Occupy Wall Street – Which I wrote about here.
Ending Homelessness – there are some amazing initiatives happening locally and abroad towards this end, and I feel privileged to contribute towards it through my day job.
The Canadian General Election – the quiet Conservative march to a majority, the Jack Layton-driven surge that boosted the NDP (followed by his tragic death mere months later), and the collapse of the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois made for probably the most fascinating federal election since at least 1993.

Upcoming in 2012: The Alberta General Election. Politics in my home province might just get interested. Or not. But I’m curious to see what happens this spring. Learning more about poverty (and how to end it).

The Last Day of the MLB Regular Season and Entire Playoffs – The last day of the season was devastating as a Red Sox fan, but everything that night and aftewards was thrilling as a fan. Chris Carpenter’s Game 5 CG SO win over Philly in the NLDS, and the epic comeback in Game 6 of the World Series stand out.

Women’s Soccer – I seriously enjoyed the Women’s World Cup this summer. It offered a high quality level of play, without any of the defensive grind or diving that often sully the men’s international game. The top american league, Women’s Professional Soccer, offers a pretty good concentration of talent on 6 teams (now 5) as well. The Western New York Flash throwing out a front line of Marta, Christine Sinclair, and Alex Morgan is the women’s soccer equivalent of the concentration of “galacticos” that you find on Real Madrid, AC Milan, or Barcelona. Speaking of…

FC Barcelona – one of the most enjoyable squads I’ve ever watched in any sport. The sheer talent, and precision skill and passing is just an absolute joy to watch every time they’re on the pitch.

Fantasy Baseball – I finally won my league (in the 6th season), claiming not only the regular season crown, but also the scoring title (only done twice) as well as surviving the randomness of the playoff round to win that as well (first one to win all three). I have decided to enjoy this moment and become insufferable, declaring myself the first “Triple Crown Champion”, much to the annoyance of the rest of my league, I’m sure. Of course, karma is already rearing its ugly head, as I’ve lost Ryan Braun for a 1/3 of next season to suspension. But who cares? Flags (or in this case, league champion bobbleheads) fly forever.

For 2012: Euro 2012, Yu Darvish in MLB (I hope), a Red Sox club that doesn’t implode (I really hope)

The Head and the Heart – if I had to pick a favourite album of the year, this would be it. Beautiful, melodic songs that will never get old.
My Morning Jacket – loved the new album, and caught them in concert at the Roosevelt Auditorium in Chicago.
Jazz – I’ve really started getting into the genre, anything from Miles Davis or Steve Coleman, to contemporary artists like Avishai Cohen.
Wilco – always. But the new album is enjoyable too.
Brian Fallon – The lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem also delivered an album with his side project, Horrible Crowes. A nice deviation from Gaslight’s sound.

For 2012 – Finally checking out the new Roots and Black Keys albums. Jessica Lea Mayfield, who I just discovered through Austin City Limits. Further exploring the jazz genre.

Parks and Rec – this is literally the best show on television.
How I Met Your Mother – after a shaky couple of years, this season has delivered in spades so far.
Austin City Limits – The Decemberists/Gillian Welch and Americana Music Festival episodes in particular were great.
The Wire – started in 2010, finished this year. Just an incredible 60 hours or so of television. I don’t know what else to say about it.

For 2012 – 30 Rock, which returns next week. This Old House, I have the entire Bedford season to catch up on. The remaining new episodes of Austin City Limits look great.

Moneyball – I don’t watch many movies, but I greatly enjoyed this one. Different enough from the book that I didn’t have to compare apples to apples, but well written and executed as a story.

For 2012 – The Dark Knight Rises, On the Road, The Great Gatsby

Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America by Paul Tough – great narrative about the effort to overcome the challenges created by poverty and give kids in Harlem a shot at a better future.
The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri – how the small-market Tampa Bay Rays are able to compete with (and beat) the big money Yankees and Red Sox.
The Dragonfly Effect by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith – interesting look at good uses of social media.
For 2012 – The Art of Fielding, which I started on New Year’s Day. So far, it’s fantastic. Re-reading On the Road and The Great Gatsby in anticipation of the movie versions being released. Michael Chabon’s new book Telegraph Avenue.

The Atlantic – a long-time favourite, it delivered some great long-form essays in the magazine, and regular interesting content on the website.
Chamber of Comics – Mike Winters’ comics are brilliant. That is all.

For 2012 – suggestions welcome.

Other Things
The Holiday Half and 5K – fun race, complete with Christmas carrollers along the course, excellent swag, and ample post-race food and drinks. I would have enjoyed this more had I not been running with an injury (which forced me to jog the last 5 miles), but that’s not any fault of the race. Will definitely do this again in 2012.
(Farmers’) Markets – I go to the 104th Street Market in Edmonton every Saturday I’m here. Greatly enjoyed the Portland Saturday Market a few weeks ago as well.
Libraries – I probably get more ROI on my $12 Edmonton Public Library membership than I do on anything else all year.
Torres Wine – discovered them this year, fantastic reds (especially the blends) and whites at affordable prices.
Restaurants – brunch at Cafe Nell in Portland, the Rib Crib in Philadelphia, pretty much everywhere I ate in France.
Airlines – Thoroughly enjoyed flying United several times, as well as Horizon/Alaska Air on my Portland trip in December.

For 2012 – Chicago Marathon (and other races TBD), Oregon and Washington wineries. Finally eating at The Girl and the Goat in Chicago.


One Response

  1. […] new year, I also like to think about some of the things I’ve enjoyed and valued. Last year, I posted a list of some of my favourite things and some things I’m looking forward to, and I want to continue […]

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