Good bye 2011 - My top travel, music, and podcast favorites

It's never too late for best-of lists. In 2011 I was fortunate to travel to new places and meet many wonderful people. Here are my top lists for travel, music, and podcasts. I'd love to hear your lists on the same topics.


Shanghai, China 
Although I live in Shanghai full time I can have the "travel" experience just walking down the street.

Binzhou, Shandong Province, China
The first day of Chinese New Year was spent with a friend's family observing holiday rituals. They offered food, fake money and spirits to their ancestors. For more info click here. Boom Town pt. 2: The Shang Cemetery

Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China
The amount of human labor needed to construct Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Army is mind blowing. One historical account lists that 700,000 laborers where used during the 40 years it took to complete the compound. Glad I got to see them late this summer. For more info click here. A few days in Xi'an pt. 2: The Terracotta Warriors

Yixing, Jiangsu Province, China
The labor of Yixing workers is equally impressive but very different from the Terracotta Warriors. Individuals often spend weeks working the surface of one teapot. This low volume/high price method of production is a dying scenario in China. I did a quick day trip to Yixing this fall. For more information click here. Yixing pt. 2: The Makers

Raglan, New Zealand
My favorite travel experience was the two weeks I spent in New Zealand last spring. The scenery and the people I met were first class. Between teaching engagements I had a blast playing adventure sports. For more information click here. Kiwi Kraft Pt 1: Dive, Jump, Climb, Paddle...I'm in love.


Southern Independent Vol. 3. 
Shooter Jennings describes this Southern Independent volume as "the rebel soundtrack of the summer of 2011". Amanda Shires offering What happened last night? is one of the sweetest tunes off this otherwise rowdy collection. Other songs include Have Gun Will Travel's To the victor goes the spoils and Outlaw Shit by Struggle ft. Yelawolf.   You can download the compilation for free here.

Alexander Alexander
The infectious off-kilter rhythm of Truth makes it my favorite of the album. The neo-psychedelic quality of the album is very similar to Alexander's band- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Click here to see the video.

Hanggai's Mongolian folk rock = Genghis Khan + Bon Jovi + Avett Brothers. This band caught me totally by surprise when I saw them at Shanghai's JZ Festival this fall. Click here to see a video.

Adele 21
The first  time I heard Rolling in the Deep was while watching the Sam Brown directed video. Click here to see the video. I love the combination of her Aretha Franklin-style voice, the breaking dishes, and the Ninja/dancer filling the room with dust as she moves. 

Fleet Foxes  Helplessness Blues
I am a big fan of their self titled release so I was glad that they hit a home run with the follow up. Great album start to finish. The Shrine/An Arguement is my favorite at the moment but like many good albums it keeps changing.


Brian R. Jonescast- Episode 7 The Molly Hatch Interview
Discussion with Molly Hatch about her studio life, design work with the company Anthropologie, and questions about success. Click here for more information.

Freakonomics Radio- Waiter there's a Physicist in my Soup!
Food science showdown- Molecular Gastronomy's Nathan Myhrvold vs Slow Food's Alice Waters. Click here for more info.

The Moth- Charlene Strong's It Wasn't Enough
Activist Charlene Strong tells a story of love and loss. (* Tear jerker alert *) Click here for more info. 

Fresh Air- Two episodes stood out as classics. They both were part of Fresh Air's food week.
Alice Waters 40 years of Sustainable Food
An interview with Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse and proponent of the slow food movement. Click here for more info. This is the same Alice Waters from the Freakanomics podcast that I mention above.

Grant Achatz: The Chef who Couldn't Taste
The story of avant-garde chef Grant Achatz. He started a popular and innovative restaurant but later lost his sense of taste after a bout with tongue cancer. Click here for more info.

1. Radio Lab- Memory and Forgetting
An explanation of the way our mind creates, stores, and forgets memories. Click here for more info.
This episode actually came out in 2007 but I only found it this summer. It sent me on a tangent, sparking a quest for me to understand neural anatomy and learning. The result was a blog series that I wrote about how we learn. Click here to read How we Learn Pt. 1: Neural Anatomy and the 15 minute teapot test.



  1. amazing travels! and thanks for adding another podcast to my list - will have to check out Jonescast :D

  2. Its never too late to make a "best of" post!...a lot of good things for me to check out here...have enjoyed your travels and experiences via your blog...looking fwd to more.
    Here's one I should have mentioned on my list...I wish I read for pleasure as much as I wanted but thats just not going to happen... so listening to a book is the next best thing...Patti Smith's "Just Kids"...really great and highly recommend the listen as she is the one who reads it...art and rock&roll history rolled in to one...in her voice. dig.

  3. Thanks guys for stopping by the blog. Mel, the Brian R. Jonescast has a few great episodes. Check out his interview with Linda Arbuckle and Simon Levin also. Kyle, Thanks for the Patti Smith suggestion. I am a huge fan of listening to recorded books. I remember more through listening than I do from reading. Its also nice that I can listen when I'm working in the studio.

    Hope you guys both are having a good week. Happy Potting!