Top 30 Albums of 2013

January 18, 2014

in Music

I’m a bit late publishing my traditional year-end “Top 30 Albums” list this year, but it’s a good one, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

I do this more for me – as a way of discovering new music – than for you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to get as much joy from these amazing artists as I did this year. My list-making secret is to start a “long list” of albums I like at the beginning of the year. I keep adding when something strikes my fancy and use the year-end holidays to figure out which ones really made the cut.

Beyoncé’s stealth release is probably the most popular album on the list this year and I’m pretty sure Dawn of Midi’s is the most obscure. I was a bit surprised to see only four females on the list when a third of the list was female last year. My long-list had a lot more females but they didn’t have the impact as in past years. Interestingly, many of the bands had female members.

For those interested, my previous Top 30 Albums are still online:

And now, the Top 30 Albums of 2013! Enjoy!

Note these are in (vaguely) alphabetical order. I could never rank these absolutely – it would change daily.

2014-1

2014-2

2014-3

2014-4

2014-5

2014-6

I’d love to know what albums we have in common and which ones you think should have made my list but didn’t. Use the comments people, don’t be shy!

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The sixth and final season of Mad Men has started and it's got me wondering about how the series will end. Here are a few possible ways I can imagine the writers wrapping everything up for Don.

  1. Sally Draper follows in her father's footsteps, becoming a partner at the firm, just as Roger Stirling followed his father. She's hard drinking, philandering and brilliant – just like her dad.
  2. Baby Gene discovers Don's secret and decides to change his name… to Marilyn Manson.
  3. A decrepit and abandoned Don suffers from Alzheimer's and can't remember ever being Don Draper. He keeps asking for someone named Adam.
  4. The final scene shows us a now retired Don Draper walking to a breakfast reception for the firms old partners at the firm's new office. We see him meeting all the cast members as he checks details on the invitation. We zoom in and see the invite is for 8:30AM on the 47th floor of 1 World Trade Center. The date is September 11th, 2001. The camera tracks up towards the clear blue sky and fades to black as we hear air traffic control chatter.
  5. Don witnesses the fall of Saigon and is astonished when a young Captain named Richard Whitman dies in his arms. He realizes this fate telling him to return to old life, and he does.
  6. Glen gets Sally pregnant.
  7. Glen gets Betty pregnant.
  8. While celebrating his involvement in the faking of the moon landing, Don sees two CIA agents walking slowly towards him and realizes this is not only his greatest marketing coup, it is his last.
  9. Don worries about having missed the boat on the Internet boom and decides to invest his life savings in a new start-up called… pets.com.
  10. Don wins the Quanta Airline account and, after visiting their head offices, looks forward to seeing his fourth wife when his flight – Oceanic 815 – finally lands.
  11. Don, Betty, Sally and Bobby meet in a New Jersey diner for a happy family reunion to celebrate having put their difference behind them. From a jukebox we hear Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" begin to play.
  12. Pam Ewing wakes and, hearing the water running, goes into the bathroom and finds her husband Bobby in the shower. Everything in Mad Men was a dream.

How do you think the show will end? With a bang, or with a whimper?

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Top 30 Albums of 2012

January 5, 2013 · 3 comments

in Music

It has become my tradition to publish a year-end “Top 30 Albums” list – at least it’s a tradition if three years in a row makes a tradition. Last year I posted my Top 30 Albums of 2011 and the year before I had my Top 30 Albums of 2010.

While I love doing this to help others discover great music, it’s actually more important for me personally as it drives me to stay on top of new music all year long. In fact, next week I’ll start building my “Top 30 Albums of 2013″ list!

I’m really happy with the 2012 list. Lots of new acts – Jack White is probably the closest to a mainstream rock act on the list – and lots of geographic diversity with bands from Canada and the US abut also Iceland, Norway, Sweden, The UK, and Australia. Hell, I’ve got two bands from Iceland in my Top 30. I’m also happy I ended up with 10 or so female vocalists without any conscious effort on that front.

Here you go! Enjoy!

Note these are in alphabetical order. I could never rank these absolutely – it would change daily.

And as I did with my Top 3o Albums of 2010 Mixtape and 2011 Mixtape, I’ve done a Top 30 Albums of 2012 Mixtape featuring one favourite track from each of these thirty albums.

I’d love to know what albums we have in common and which ones you think should have made my list but didn’t. Use the comments people, don’t be shy!

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With today’s sad news that Neil Armstrong has died, all the participants in this story are gone and the truth can be revealed.

Armstrong didn’t actually say “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. He said, “this is one small step for man, one giant leap for Manny Klein”.

See when Neil was 12 he was playing ball with some friends and the ball fouled off into the yard of Manny and Esther Klein who lived next door to the Armstrongs.

As he was digging for the ball in the shrubs under the Klein’s bedroom window young Neil heard Mr. Klein pleading with his wife to give him a blow job. Mrs. Klein replied to Manny, “the day I give you a blow job is the day that brat next door lands on the moon.”

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The Schafer Tax Plan

January 22, 2012 · 5 comments

in Ideas

Reading Fred Wilson’s post about tax rates made me want to share my (incomplete) thoughts on taxation.

I’d like to see a Flat Tax on income with only a few tweaks to remove some of the inherent unfairness in that approach. I’m not sure if this is a model already proposed by someone else so I’ll immodestly call it the Schafer Tax Plan until I’m (inevitably) told this is not an original idea.

My goal here is to increase transparency, simplicity, compliance and fairness. I’d love to hear thoughts on ways those goals are not met with these proposals as well as suggestions on increasing them beyond what I’m proposing here.

Of course this is a “Clean Slate” approach to taxation. Other than starting a new country and applying these concepts I have no idea how this would implemented without financial chaos ensuing during the transition. Would a “big bang” approach (“everything changes January 1 2015″) be possible?

The Schafer Tax Plan

1. No corporate taxes.

Corporations aren’t people. Tax the companies’ shareholders as they earn income from their investments.

2. No sales, consumption or usage taxes.

These are all mechanisms of double taxation that obscure the taxation rate by hiding it in purchases of goods and services. This process also adds massive complexity to commerce and tax collection.

3. No welfare, child tax credits or old age security.

Don’t worry, I’ll deal with this in point nine below.

4. You are an individual if you are alive during a year.

Yes I’m radically suggesting that babies and old people are individuals for tax purposes. I’m not sure how to deal with cross-border income or transnational individuals.

5. A flat income tax of x percent on all individual’s income without regard to source or amount.

This becomes the only tax the government can collect.

I have no idea what “x” might be. Ideally we’d equal current tax the government collects less the savings from shuttering almost all of the income tax collection function of the government.

6. Income tax is deducted at source.

Income seems to be the easiest thing to tax other than consumption which I feel is regressive, complex and has compliance issues.

7. There are huge financial penalties for incorrect source deductions.

Compliance could be a big issue once taxes are collected through a single channel so a “big stick” is needed.

8. Individuals are not required to file tax returns.

The government already has your money. There is no need to report anything.

9. Individuals with annual income below y dollars may apply for a Cost of Living Credit if they wish.

This becomes the only means of redistribution of income to the needy.

I have no ideas what “y” would be. It would be nice if we could bring every individual above the poverty line with this credit. Not sure that is a good or reasonable idea. I’m also not sure how to deal with the credit coming after people need it (assuming you’d apply for the credit annually you’d only start getting the credits after your year of hardship).

Babies and old people can apply for this too. That ideally gets rid of the need for child tax credits or social security.

One potential downside is that this might make having babies economically advantageous. I tried to avoid having any concept of “family” in this approach. Maybe individuals under 18 get a different type of cost of living credit. This also means the kids of rich parents would get the Cost of Living Credit which doesn’t seem quite right.

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Top 30 Albums of 2011

January 2, 2012

in Music

Last year I published my Top 30 Albums of 2010. I quite enjoyed that project and decided to do the same thing again this year and to make it a bit of a tradition each year.

For me 2011 was a fantastic year for music. Tons of new artists and some great new albums showing the old dogs can still learn a few new tricks.

Note these are in alphabetical order. I could never rank these absolutely – it would change daily.

And as I did with my Top 3o Albums of 2010 Mixtape, I’ve done a Top 30 Albums of 2011 Mixtape featuring on favourite track from each of these thirty albums.

I’d love to know what albums we have in common and which ones you think should have made my list but didn’t. Use the comments people, don’t be shy!

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Lucy and I were watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” tonight and we started talking about movies we were happy to watch repeatedly. Here’s a quick list I made.

  • (500) Days of Summer
  • 24 Hour Party People
  • A Simple Plan
  • Almost Famous
  • American Graffiti
  • Anchorman
  • Back To The Future
  • Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
  • Die Hard
  • Do The Right Thing
  • Elf
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Fight Club
  • Goodfellas
  • Groundhog’s Day
  • High Fidelity
  • Monty Python & The Holy Grail
  • Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Out of Sight
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Rushmore
  • School of Rock
  • Stop Making Sense
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Zoolander

What movies do you watch whenever you get a chance? Any idea why some movies bear up to  - or improve with – repeated viewings?

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You Are A User

November 19, 2011

in The Internet

There is an old saying, meant to shame those of us working on websites into acknowledging that we really don’t care about other human beings.

“The only two industries that call their customers “users” are software developers and drug dealers.”

This raises the question of what the appropriate collective noun is for a group of people who visit and interact with a website. If not “Users” then what?

The most common alternative to “Users” is “Visitor”. That’s a bit more promising as to be at your site they had to visit it in a metaphorical sense, but “Visitors” is, for me at least, too passive. It has a “take it or leave it” feel to it. Is someone who relies on your site as a part of their life and who might use it multiple times a day really a “visitor”? This to me diminishes the importance of the person using your site.

I want to think of you as much more than a passing ship in the night, so I reject visitors for general use.

The saying suggests we call them “Customers”, but this seems problematic to me for two reasons.

Many people using websites aren’t actually customers. Most sites aren’t even looking for customers. You are not a customer of my blog for example. Calling people who visit my blog “Customers” just seems wrong. Even if you do have paying customers, you still have to build your site to deal with non-customers such as prospective customers, job hunters, or teens looking to a school report on your industry.

I therefore reject “Customers” as too narrow a view of who might use your site.

Interestingly enough I also reject “Customers” as too broad.

There is a movement to replace “Consumers” and “Users” with “Customers”. But people aren’t generally “Customers” except in the context of a commercial interaction. Yes I accept that my Acura dealer thinks of me as their customer and I appreciate them treating me well as their customer. But after the few days of interaction with them as a customer, what I really want is a car that is designed for “Drivers”. You might be a customer of Williams-Sonoma but you are a “Baker”. You are Amazon’s customer but you are a “Reader”.

If I was designing the Acura or Williams-Sonoma sites I’d definitely want my team thinking about Customer Experience, but I’d also want them very aware that the people using the site are Drivers and Bakers.

So what do people do on a site. They use it. The person using your site might be a a baker, or a driver, or a student, or a job hunter or they may idly followed a link to you and think of themselves as just visiting. But the common thread is that they are at your site, and they are using your site.

To me, User is to Web Site as Driver is to Car. As Reader is to Book.

So for me, “User” is the perfect word for what we are on the web.

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The Joy Of Easy Listening

July 30, 2011

in Music

When I was young (in the sixties) my parents weren’t really in to music. But we had the radio on all the time. We listened to Easy Listening stations. This naturally drove me crazy. But it also embedded these songs in my head.

This BBC 4 documentary (below in six parts) is well worth watching if you’ve either never really heard of Easy Listening or if you (as I did) simply dismissed it as irrelevant.

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Photobooth, 1964

January 13, 2011

in Me Me Me

Here we see a very young me (I’m pretty sure I’m four years old) with my sister Karin (who would have been 23).

Don’t we look young and happy and (at least in my case) sun-stroked?

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Skeptic At Work

January 10, 2011

in Ideas

I love this John Stossel segment with one of my heroes, Michael Shermer. He presents a funny, articulate and relatively non-condescending world-view, arguing that reason, logic, and science will serve us better than superstition and the opinions of the famous.

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Hypocrites

January 10, 2011

in Ideas

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I almost forgot to mention that today is the 15th anniversary of schafer.com.

I registered the domain for personal use back in 1996 and it’s had something on it pretty much ever since. It’s been a resume for me, a list of links, a corporate site for while I was self-employeed for many years, and since 2001 it’s had a blog attached to it (my first blog post was July 4th, 2001).

Interestingly enough, and entirely coincidentally, today is also my fourth anniversary on Twitter.

I wonder what the Internet will look like fifteen years from now?

When did you buy your first domain name and what did you do with it when you first started out online?

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My Top 30 Albums Of 2010

January 8, 2011 · 2 comments

in Music

I’ll let you in on a secret: If you’re going to do a “Best of…” list, wait until the year is over so you can see what everybody else thought was the best and add to your own list.

This is not cheating. No one can keep up with all the music, books, movies and what-not that we clever mammals produce each year. I keep a running list of my favourite albums and add and delete from that list as the year goes on. But then I see other people’s end-of-year lists and realize that I missed a ton of great stuff. So, while I completely ignore retrospective news stories and generally turn my nose up at “what’s going to happen next year” commentary, I find “Best of…” for media a great way to grow and learn.

So, having digested a ton of other people’s lists and thought about my own favourites from 2010, here are my top 30 albums for the year.

Note these are in alphabetical order. I could never rank these absolutely – it would change daily.

Well there you go. Lots of great music. I hope you take some time to really dig in and find some new tunes.

As an added bonus, here is my 8track mixtape featuring one of my favourite tracks from each of these favourite albums:

Let me know what you think! Leave a comment below and tell me what I got right, where I blew it, and suggest your own top albums.

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I’ve been really happy with my Hug Bunny experiment and now that I’ve got a better handle on WordPress, I’m moving my personal blog (this one) over to WordPress (hosted at Page.ly) too.

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