A look back at 2015: The Rest of the Best

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Here’s the final installment of my favorite stuff from 2015, the very late edition. This covers the “everything else” category, but be sure to check out my lists for Mac and iOS.

Books

For a decade I didn’t finish a novel. I read some reference and programming books, but had lost the love of fiction that I had as a kid. Most of the times I got in trouble in grade school were for reading under my desk. It came back this year.

Secondhand Souls
After reading A Dirty Job: A Novel, Christopher Moore became my new favorite author. He writes in a style I would describe as “Douglas Adams with ADHD.” Secondhand Souls is the sequel to Dirty Job, and I recommend reading them in order.
Lamb
Another by Christopher Moore in a very different vein. The story of the missing three decades of the life of Jesus, as told by his best friend, Biff. It’s both hilarious and irreverent, but probably not terribly offensive to open-minded Christians.
Skinny Legs and All
Tom Robbins was one of my favorite authors back when I used to read. I picked this up based on the author alone, and ended up loving it. It took me twice as long as I expected to finish, mostly because his writing is so fascinating that I would frequently re-read paragraphs just to enjoy the word play.
The Jesus Cow
Michael Perry is a “midwest author.” Those curious about Midwest small town life would enjoy this, but it’s especially fun for those of us who grew up here. Aside from a wonderful story, references to local gas station chains and farm supply stores made me feel right at home.

Real Stuff

Both of the first two items are things I’ve been using since before 2015, but given their daily usage last year, I think they’re worth mentioning for anyone who missed them before.

Aqua Notes
Merlin Mann turned me onto these. Waterproof notes with suction cups for the shower. I use them for everything from todo lists to song lyrics, to ideas for tweets (which for some reason happen more frequently in the shower than anywhere else).
Sleep Headphones
A pair of soft, flat headphones for sleeping on a pillow. The headband can also be pulled down to double as a sleep mask (though not an official feature). They’re so comfortable I actually sleep better with them on even when not using them as headphones.
My wife and I have been using this product for years. The first version tended to wear out after about a year, but the newer version with the fabric cable and more comfortable band have lasted twice that long and are showing no signs of wear. There’s even a new wireless (Bluetooth) version, which I’m looking forward to if my current pair ever does wear out.
LizzyTape
I wrote these up in November, so I won’t go into detail here. Suffice to say they solve a lot of problems with slippery iPhones.
Imperia Pasta Maker Machine
I also started cooking a lot in the latter half of 2015. One of my favorite new dishes is homemade pasta, for which you absolutely need a pasta press. This one is perfect for rolling out sheets for ravioli, as well as cutting fettuccini, linguini, and angel hair noodles.

My Podcasts

Systematic
I’ve enjoyed every single episode of Systematic. The range of guests willing to do my little show always astounds me.

Some highlights from 2015 include:

Overtired
My podcast with Christina Warren has been a blast, too. I suggest listening to them all, though the order is rarely important. We pride ourselves on complete lack of direction.

You can find earlier episodes of Systematic and Overtired at 5by5.

My Projects

Then there are all of the code projects I published. There were a lot of them, but here are my favorites.

Marked 2
Recounting my development time in 2015, most of it went into my Markdown preview app, Marked. If you work in Markdown and haven’t at least taken the free trial out for a spin, you really should.
The Shuttle
My father and I made this for the (now older) silver Apple TV remote. It solved every issue I had with losing the remote, and we offered them for sale through Etsy. I wish I could solve all of the issues I have with the Siri remote as elegantly, but that’s going to take some work1.
StretchLink
Another problem solved for me. This app can automatically lengthen and clean urls you copy to your clipboard, so that by the time you paste them shortened urls, redirects, and Google Analytics data are all cleaned up. I also acquired Clean Links to do the same thing on iOS (free).
SearchLink
This is still my most useful personal project. I use it every time I write to make the job of adding web links painless, without requiring trips to the browser and back every time. It also handles automatic affiliate linking for iTunes and Amazon.
URL Preview
For those times SearchLink returns a cryptic link, this little extension lets you preview it from your editor without switching to a browser.
doing
This one was a big project for me in 2015. Originally designed to just remind me what the last thing I was doing when I left my computer was, it now handles time tracking, multiple tasks, notes, and more. The prerelease version is a huge jump over the one I published, but a year later I still haven’t updated all of the documentation.

Some others of note:

  • mdless: better Markdown viewing in Terminal
  • reiki: smart shortcuts for Rake tasks
  • Answered: Save those StackExchange answers to nvALT or other formats with a click in your browser.
  • Cheaters: The cheat sheet system received multiple updates and a bunch of new reference sheets.
  • vitag: A text-editor-based tool for quickly adding and editing Finder tags in bulk.

You can check out all of my lists on the series page!

  1. I also am truly hoping there’s a second try from Apple at the new remote, so I don’t want to invest too much time in it yet.