Ruminants’ Ruminations, or The Coolest Things We Ingested This Year

Another best-of list blog post! Another best-of list blog post whose preface warns you it is a best-of list blog post! So sue me. Or don’t read it. ‘Tis the season, and I’m a copycat.

2011’s been a kind of wild and crazy year, both for us as a company and for the software world as a whole. But rather than do a straight recap, I decided to poll our crew on the hands-down coolest thing/language/trick/product/comestible/visual symphony/regular symphony they’ve ingested this year, and let you extrapolate your own state-of-the-union conclusions from these. Alors:

  • Sean Kermes:
    • Sugru! Sugru is super frigging cool.  It starts life as putty that can be hand-molded at room temperature for a bit upwards of half an hour, then over the next 24 hours it adheres to whatever you stuck it to and becomes a flexible (but tough) and slightly grippy silicone.  I’ve used it to repair and craft drawer and cabinet handles and fix some random crap, and I’m planning on starting to make some custom-fitted mouse grips so that I’m not dragging my fingers across the desk all day.
  • David Wihl (@davidwihl):
  • Shawn Vallant:
    • One of the cooler things I saw this year was the Stanford hack of the Xbox Kinect that integrated a projector and allowed for Minority Report-style mid-air tactile computing.
  • Ben Jones (@bcjonesey):
    • Rails partials can be recursive.
    • How to break into a hot tub.
  • Ryan Cole (@snoboston):
    • Joined Twitter.
    • Bought a “Go-Pro Hero” HD camera.
    • Learned that Teflon is the slipperiest substance on earth.
  • Dan Medeiros (@danmedeiros5):
    • 73 is both a prime number and a palindromic binary number 73=1001001 (binary)
  • Annie Johnson Graffam (@anniedj2):
    • Learning about my husband’s and my Epic passes from Northstar (now owned by Vail).  The pass tracks your activity/vertical feet/pics, etc… and automatically updates your facebook/twitter/whatever accounts with the info.  The owner obviously has control over what and how much is posted, if at all.
    • Also, researching a new digital SLR camera.
  • Chris Baldwin (@chrisrbaldwin):
  • Nick Martin (@aesphades):
    • Hadoop
  • Whitney Sternberg (@w_sternberg):
    • I learned what a pseudocarp is. (We talk about fruit more than is necessary at lunch down in dev.)
  • Dan Wieme (@sa_danw):
    • MIPS assembly code and about how compilers work
  • Jim Stallings (@james_stallings):
    • Coolest thing learned (that I can recall) is that you can installed Hyper-V on a bootable virtual hard disk.
  • Sam Haddad (@samplusplus):
    • Google will do a barrel roll in non IE browsers
  • Ozgur Topcu:
    • This year I got the chance to start using Ubuntu distribution of Linux. It is the latest version 11.10 of Ubuntu. I like its new desktop environment called “Unity”. It has a very different UI compared to the other traditional desktop environments like GNOME. However it is a bit slow, it takes a second or two for it to actually launch an app after clicking on the icon. But I think it has a potential and will get better in the future releases.
  • Will Lubelski:
    • Dropbox’s public folder. When editing the CSS for a hosted service, Dropbox’s public folder provides a really easy place to put the a few files that you temporarily want to include.  When you save the file, Dropbox automatically syncs the changes, and you just need to refresh your browser.  It’s a lot easier than using an FTP server or something complicated, and you can write in the IDE of your choice instead of trying to use whatever is provided by the hosted service’s UI.
  • Ramon Armen:
    • Generating and rendering planet-sized procedural terrains with non-symmetrical plane slicing and ROAM (real-time optimally adapting meshes)
    • Various things with Kinect, like using it as a 3D radar to fly an autonomous (model) helicopter that avoids obstacles and potentially SHOOTS LASERS!!
    • Searching in the memory space for certain byte patterns, in order to programmatically determine things about the memory layout of a system, such as the CONFIG_PAGE_OFFSET of a linux kernel

And my own:

  • Concept: Using social data to do predictive analytics. I’m especially excited about the cultural, linguistic and anthropological insights that can be gleaned from this, though the fact that hedge funds are using it is pretty neat, too.
  • Blog: Floating Sheep. Produced by geographers from the University of Kentucky and Oxford, this blog uses kriging to create comparative maps on everything from zombie references to slackers to pro-life/pro-choice advocates.
  • Book: Infinite Jest. I know, I know, such a quarter-life cliché, but when all the story lines began to converge, Wallace’s opus switched from being a slog to a pleasure. Plus, it takes place in (a mildly dystopic, industrialized) version of my hometown. Plus, what a vocabulary enhancer! The ending was a let-down, until I reread the beginning.
  • Album: NewVillager, NewVillager. This Brooklyn collective is best known  for their elaborate Tim Burton-meets-Spike Jonze-meets-Gaultier installations, but their music—which combines TV on the Radio/Minite Vultures vocal funk with orchestral instrumentals, is worth listening to on its own.

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