Best of 2016
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Inspired by “Fogus’ yearly list of great things and people that I discovered, learned, read, met, etc.” - this is my own version of what were the best things I discovered in 2016.
Technical and Non-Fiction Books
  • The Greek Experience - I do not even remember how I found this, probably some discussion about Stoicism - I am a sucker for “general overview books about a specific topic” and this one did not disappoint.
Fiction Books
I am glad to report that I am slowly going back to dedicating more time to actually read books (either paper or digital). Most of these are still pure escapism/entertainment stuff, but it sure beats just surfing the web for hours.

  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde - please do not get sidetracked by the title similarity with the bestseller DBMS tripe. This is a completely different item, and - alas - the first book of a Trilogy which is not getting any sequel any time soon. It is set in a post-cataclysm Britain where the capacity of seeing colours is the main title to social status. Original and fun.
  • Ninefox Gambit First book of a trilogy, maybe a bit more probable to see volume 2 at least. Far future military SciFi in an universe which is part Chinese Empire and part High Level Math (while still being pretty much unfaithful to both).
  • Too Like the Lightining - I can compare this author only with Alfred Bester. Which is pretty much the highest praise I can give for SciFi works. Alas, this is - yet again - only “part 1”, and I was genuinely unhappy finding out I have to wait months to see the end of the tale.
Favorite non-book media and entertainment
  • Not much to list here - I have bought a couple of DVDs, but these are still sitting unopened so I cannot really consider these as “best of…”. I saw a couple of movies but nothing I can really say that positively surprised me.
Gaming
  • Tabletop Gaming magazine - I was anyway glad to find out that there still seem to exist at least one printed magazine about boardgames (including RPGs).
  • Same here - I keep an eye on the RPG/Boardgames scene, financed some kick starters, bought some PDF over RPGNow. Nothing really notable unless I get some deeper experience with it.
Tools
  • Dyson Animal DC34 got it in a end-of-line sale from Lufthansa gift shop. I had heard a lot about Dyson in the past, and decided to take the plunge. Some reviewers on Amazon etc. lament that these are prone to braking down and repair/replacement can be extremely expensive. I use it sparsely, but so far it had been really great, and it definitely blows (sucks?) away anything similar I handled in the past.
  • Rains.dk Long Jacket Pretty slick, seems to be built to last, can be folded down to small size and kept in your backpack, and is pretty much waterproof.
  • iPhone 6S bought one because my iPhone 6’s battery started behaving erratically. Replacement was impossible (apparently the shop I got it from in Italy had done some sort of parallel import and for Apple my iPhone had been sold originally in UK) so I decided to jump to the most current model, even if I would prefer to keep my iPhones for a longer period. It works great, but I still think I could have waited another year before getting a new phone.
  • UNIQLO heattech Uniqlo has a couple of shops in Berlin, so I have started buying some stuff from them. Specifically, this winter I “tested” two different pair of heat tech pants (jeans and corduroy). I like the style and the cost is ok, too. I am not entirely sure if the heat generation part is acrtually making much of a difference (I haven’t tried their underwear stuff) and winter has been not so cold so far but I am satisfied.
  • Foldio portable photo studio. I own one, bought last year, but I haven’t found any use for it, so far. I still want to include it in the list because I originally bought another as a gift to someone who likes to work on miniature and static modelling. He was quite enthusiastic about the item, so I think it deservers to be in the list. Caveat: I managed (by working a bit on that) to get two Foldio1 (26 x 26 x 26 cm when opened) but these are not in production anymore, and you -at the time- buy only the larger Foldio2.
Services
  • Shipito this is a re-send service that provides you with a legal postal delivery address in the US, collects anything arriving in your name and resends (on request repackages, too) stuff to a different address. Quite useful for some eBay sellers and (admittedly rare) cases where the online shop will not serve your country. Pretty good service, quite satisfied with it.
  • Rentafone Japan - I actually used it already in 2013, during my first trip to Japan, but I was more than happy to use it again this year. They provide you with either a cellular or a 3G portable modem so that you can have a phone/internet during your stay in Japan. Most western providers will cost a lot to use in Japan, so this makes really sense. You can get it delivered to your hotel and can simply drop it into a post box on your way to the airport.
Calligraphy/Art
  • Yunzhang an (iOS only) app that catalogs plenty of ideograms in different styles. It is prone to crashes and requires an internet connection to download the samples, but is pretty neat and very useful.
  • Heart of the Brush Kazuaki Tanahashi has used the drafts for this book in his previous seminars - as soon as it was finally available in print I immediately ordered my copy.
  • Miyabi - nice online shop, particularly convenient if you are in Germany or Austria.
Martial Arts
  • Aikido Kyoto I managed to have half a dozen training lessons in two different locations. Definitely my Aikido highlight for this year.
Dining and Shopping
  • Idee a German chain catering for art and handcraft. I visited mostly the Hamburg site, but you can find a shop in other major cities, too.
  • Kyoto Handicraft Center Kyoto is still considered the traditional craft capital of Japan, and in this multi-storey shop you can find, along with lots of nice souvenirs, also laboratories where you can try your hand at producing some objects yourself.
Places
  • Kyoto - for my second trip to Japan I decided to spend the whole time in a single place, and I decided to go to Kyoto because it somehow it resonated more for me than Tokyo (I spend a few days in both cities during my previous trip).
  • London - after maybe 20 years I visited London again. This time it was a gift for my nephew’s 18th birthday - I accompanied him over an extended weekend trying to find only things he was actually interested in seeing. I enjoyed the stay myself, and I think I may go there again alone, soon.