Best Things This Year (2021)

I did get a haircut a few weeks later.

Well, we’re still in year 2 of this pandemic. I feel lucky my family is vaccinated, boosted and able to fend off one covid case. But it’s still sad we haven’t returned to the world we had in 2019. I’m still hopeful we can in some ways, but things will always be different. 2021 was about adapting to new constraints and that isn’t all bad.

I never feel like I did much at the end of the year, but kind of the whole point of writing these is to remind myself I did.

2021 was a year of huge life changes. I got officially divorced on Zoom after separating in 2020 and started a new company with coworkers all over the country. I reconnected with someone and have gone on so many adventures with her already.

I feel like I’ve gotten so close with Sasha and Owen living in this small apartment and it’s been interesting to meet the people they’re becoming. They’re funny, getting straight As in school, and obsessed with anime.

These recaps are letters to my future self and I’m glad I write them every year. I wish they were more personal, but they help me remember who I was and how I got here. Here was 2021:

Carolyn Suzanne Busa

Carolyn and Ben at the One Day Smarter by Emily Winter book launch party
Carolyn and Ben at the One Day Smarter by Emily Winter book launch party

Our birthdays are just three days apart and I wrote this for her on hers:
“Happy birthday to this beautiful painter, comedian, business owner, dog owner, coffee fiend, pizza rater, subway solo artist and woman from la matcha.”
It’s hard to imagine this year without her and every entry below has a piece of her in it somewhere. We get a kick out of each other.

Vaccines were the hot item in 2021 and I got mine as soon as I was eligible. Everyone talked about their side effects like it was last night’s football. I got two doses of Moderna from Rowan and a Pfizer booster at Walgreens. Seems like boosters will be part of our lives for a few more years at least.

Yes I wear this shirt a lot.

I broke down a little after my first vaccine realizing it was the first step to this thing being over. Didn’t think we’d have this far to go.

Impossible Meat
The first time I tried Impossible Meat it was at Qdoba. It was one of the options for a burrito and I was into it. Since then at home I’ve made tacos, burritos, enchiladas, burgers, and of course my new specialty, korean beef. Trader Joe’s has the best price on it, just $5.99.

My car was destroyed
First accident I’ve been in where I wasn’t driving! The Honda Civic I bought from Jen Miller a while back was wrecked when someone plowed through a fence and drove into while it was parked. The damage totaled the 19 year old car and I got a newer model that was only 12 years old.

Common Paper
Holy crap I started a new company! I looooved my job at Betterment, but when Jake Stein asks you to start a new company what else are you going to say? We’re trying to create a seamless web of deserved trust between companies by standardizing and streamlining their legal documents and speed up the sales process. It’s been great so far and I love working with Jake and Lauren again, and getting to meet Garrett, Tiffany, and Stanley.

Focus Labs did a great job on our branding.

I’ve never been much of a plant person. I used to have one on my desk in a styrofoam cup in 2001, but it died. Now every window in my apartment is filled with plants collecting the light and I am on a strict watering schedule. So far only one has died, but I really enjoy the kitchen usable plants like the basil, mint, and green onion.

My plant highlight of the year is nursing Ricky the Snake Plant back to health. He’s thriving and recently had a baby!

I’ve always enjoyed the Studio Ghibli films, but Sasha and Owen have gotten me into some great anime such as Erased, Evangelion: Neon Genesis, Attack on Titan, and Death Note.

Ryuk is my favorite character from Death Note

Peak Secondhand
I’ve had a lot of jobs, but never worked retail until this year. It’s been so much fun helping Carolyn launch her store and get to work there as an intern on occasion. The pay is terrible but I’m gaining valuable experience. They did a write up about it in the Inquirer.

Carolyn’s secondhand clothing store, Peak

The business model of secondhand stores is fascinating, but it’s been even more enjoyable watching her build a brand and a following.

M1 Macbook
Believe the hype. The new MacBooks with the M1 processors are faster.

I played Collingswood Porchfest for the first time in years and it truly is the best day in town. I performed a bunch of newer songs that I haven’t played much.

Illinois Trip
Saw my brother’s kids for the first time in a while, the giant world of Casey, IL, and Al Bundy’s house.

Fort Mifflin
Before 2021 I never heard of Fort Mifflin and now I’ve been there twice to see Pam Selle and my new favorite DJ, Avalon Emerson.

Patco Thread
I was proud of this Patco Twitter thread twitter I wrote.

Pizza Spreadsheet
Carolyn and I visited 15 local jersey pizza places and ranked them. We still haven’t published the results but that’s coming, I promise.

Pocono Mountains
We hiked around the “trail of doom” at the top of this mountain and Owen was afraid to use a bathroom because the drop from the seat to the tank was too much for him to handle.

Collingswood Bikeshare
My mountain bike was stolen earlier this year, but I got the best bike ever from the Collingswood Bike Share. $25/year and they’ve already rebuilt major parts of it for me for nothing. (I gave an extra donation, though)

Odyssey of the Mind
My virtual Odyssey of the Mind team won the regional tournament and finished 3rd in NJ, our best finish in the 6 years i’ve been a coach.

Fear the potato army

Trash Night
Is it the east coast’s hottest new spot or is it just Thursday? Trash Night is finally over, but I even learned how to make my own Instagram filters for this.

Garvey Corp… sold
After 95 years of independence, Garvey Corporation was acquired by a public company. I spent 10 years working there (or 15 depending on how you count it) so there are a lot of feelings wrapped into it, but I think overall it’s a good thing. I’ve seen enough bottling lines to know my dad’s legacy will be the way products are buffered in transit. His innovations will become the standard.

Asbury Park
Never went to Asbury Park before, but now I’m a fan.

TV (non Anime)
Queen’s Gambit
Nathan for You
How To with John Wilson
His Dark Materials
White Lotus
The Americans
Mare of Easttown
Rewatched 5 seasons of Seinfeld with Sasha

Class Action Park
Woodstock ’99
The Many Saints of Newark
The Guilty
Matrix: Resurrections

Spotify said my number 1 song was Cotton Candy by spill tab, who we saw perform at the Fillmore Foundry.
I also really enjoyed marinelli, Palo and Pan, Jack Stauber, Midnight Sister, Avalon Emerson and Sasha got me into Surf Curse.
Live music was (somewhat) back in 2021 and I got to see Advance Base, Florry, Palo and Pan, spill tab, JAWNY and 1910 Chainsaw Company

Previous years

Best Things this Year (2017)

Twin Peaks: The Return
Twin Peaks: The Return

Every year I write a recap of things I did and enjoyed. 2017 was packed. I re-read my 2016 recap and there’s a lot of despair, but I’m glad it didn’t slow me down. Maybe it was motivating.

TV / Movies
Twin Peaks: The Return
Silicon Valley
The Leftovers
The Big Sick
Get Out
The Last Jedi
Manchester and the Sea

The Blow – Brand New Abyss
Beck – Colors
(Sandy) Alex G – Trick
(Sandy) Alex G – Rocket

This song by the Chromatics

Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Monument Valley 2

Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth by Buckminster Fuller
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Functional Art by Alberto Cairo
Harry Potter and the Sourcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman
Tigerstar and Sasha by Erin Hunter (at the request of my daughter)
The Runic Warriors by Mickey Wren
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Kyiv – I spent a week in Ukraine! Magento has a huge office in Kyiv and I spent some time there in March working on the new Advanced Reporting feature that was just released in Magento 2.2.2. Kyiv (don’t say Kiev) is a beautiful city and I hope to go back.
Boston, MA – I attended the OpenVisConf in April and it pushed me to complete more dataviz projects this year.
Milwaukee, WI
Antioch, Illinois
Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright house near Pittsburgh

Speaking Gigs
In January I gave a talk about HTML5 canvas at the Philly Front-End / UX meetup at Industrious.
I went to BarCampPhilly for the first time in a while and gave a talk on Dataviz with Semiotic.
I gave a talk on Lineage v2 at the Philly D3 User Group Meetup
I spoke at the Data Labs meetup in Wilmington, DE in November about Dataviz and Storytelling.

The Data Labs meetup in Wilmington
The Data Labs meetup in Wilmington

I was a guest on the Data Labs podcast to talk about data visualization. I talked too much, but it was fun.

Plot Device
I started a new dataviz site called Plot Device which features 6 projects I did this year. So far they all use Semiotic. I’m especially proud of my work visualizing auto fatalities and Twin Peaks Halloween costumes.

Visualizing the top Twin Peaks Halloween costumes
Visualizing the top Twin Peaks Halloween costumes

I participated in the Collingswood Porchfest and had a blast.

Collingswood Porch Fest
Collingswood Porch Fest

Lineage v2
I launched v2 of Lineage, my genealogical data express engine, which I rewrote using D3 v4. It now includes a timeline and a surname categorical view.

I rewrote and added new features in Lineage v2
I rewrote and added new features in Lineage v2

Magento BI Essentials
In April we launched a new product called Magento BI Essentials, which is a fast, low cost, modern, business intelligence platform for Magento merchants and it’s freaking amazing. It features fast onboarding (15 minutes), low data latency, and powerful data modeling. I’m so proud of the work my team did this year.

Odyssey of the Mind
The Mind Masters won their regional tournament this year and competed at the State Finals. Their skit was about a super hero who was kind of like Aquaman for landfills (he can talk to garbage trucks). I loved it and so did the judges.

I started seeing a therapist twice/month for all of 2017 and I highly recommend it. Feel free to reach out if you have questions about it and thanks to all the people who answered mine.

Previous years

Friday, 10/18/12 opening for the Jersey Corn Pickers

On Friday, 10/18/12 I’ll be opening for the Jersey Corn Pickers at the Bus Stop Cafe in Pitman, NJ! I go on at 7:00PM sharp and will be play mostly originals with a few covers mixed in. I haven’t played in forever and can’t wait. See you then!

Bus Stop Cafe
148 South Broadway
Pitman, NJ.
(856) 582-0009

I don’t promote my music on here as much as I used to. Here’s a couple of my songs to give you an idea of what I sound like. Live, it will just be me and a guitar.


The Cut in Half Blues (Beck Cover)

Running Mix for Tomorrow’s Race

Chuck Berry – Maybellene
The Blow – Eat Your Heart Up
Ween – It’s Gonna Be A Long Night
The National – Abel
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood
The Bloodhound Gang – Ralph Wiggum
Beck – Mattress
Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland, 1945
White Stripes – Blue Orchid
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Date With The Night
Pixies – Isla De Encanta

Top Ten Albums of the 00’s I Forgot to Include

Two days after I posted my list of the Top Ten Albums of the Decade I noticed some glaring omissions.

10. Franz FerdinandYou Could Have it So Much Better, 2004
9. RadioheadHail to the Thief, 2003
8. BlurThink Tank, 2003
7. FeistThe Reminder, 2007
6. Of MontrealThe Sunlandic Twins, 2005
5. The StrokesIs This It, 2001
4. Frank Black and the CatholicsDog in the Sand, 2001

Frank Black and the Catholics
Frank Black and the Catholics

3. InterpolTurn on the Bright Lights, 2002
2. Tapes n’ TapesThe Loon, 2006
1. Flaming LipsYoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, 2002

What was I thinking?
What was I thinking?

My Ten Favorite Albums of the Decade

They say the older you get the faster time goes by, but 2000 – 2009 seemed like a long time to me. I don’t know if this decade offered a whole lot of originality or if I was just too lazy to find it. The main thing I took away from it was that the music I listened to in the 90’s was mostly crap and holding on to it for nostalgic reasons could pose a health risk. Still, the zeros weren’t completely devoid of good music.

10. Yeah Yeah YeahsShow your Bones, 2006 – Their breakout album, 2003’s Fever to Tell, was fun but had too many cringe moments for me when I wished the lyrics were more thought out or the music was more interesting. The best three songs on the album are the last three mellower tracks; Maps, Y-Control, and Modern Romance. I thought Show Your Bones showcased Karen O’s range and songwriting and felt a lot less gimmicky than Fever to Tell. I’m couldn’t be more envious of Nick Zinner’s guitar work, too.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

9. Wolf ParadeApologies to the Queen Mary, 2005 – I have a confession. Until I saw them live in 2007 I didn’t realize Wolf Parade had two singers. Seems F’ing ridiculous to me now, since they sound and write so differently.

8. The NationalBoxer, 2007 – Another example of a followup album surpassing the breakout, but even more so. On Boxer, the National finally figured out what the hell to do with Matt Berniger’s voice (ie. raise the tempo just slightly and elevate the drums on the mix). It wasn’t a huge change from Alligator, but it sounded better.

7. The Blow Paper Television, 2006 – I was late to this band, but found them through this year while painting my son’s room. On came True Affection and I instantly fell in love with Mikhaela Maricich’s voice and songwriting. It’s electro-folk-pop and Eat Your Heart Up is the power song on my iPod when running.

6. BeckSea Change, 2002 – Flashback to the late 90’s: Beck ruled my life. There was no other stronger musical influence than Odelay, Mellow Gold, and One Foot in the Grave. I adored Midnight Vultures. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mutations, but I still excited when I heard Beck was going to continue his alternating Rock and Folk albums. Sea Change ended up being his last truly original statement as an artist. He’s still relevant. He’s still putting out good music, but Sea Change was the last time he blew anyone’s mind. It’s easy to remember things differently before Beck was an XPN staple, but despite the Grammy and awards for Odelay, many people pegged Beck as a novelty… especially musicians. He was a few rungs above Weird Al and the Monster Mash and it was ok to listen to him once and a while, but he shouldn’t be taken seriously. On Sea Change he surprised us by being serious.

5. Modest mouseThe Moon and Antarctica, 2000 – It’s hard to believe this album came out this decade (and yes I’m including 2000 in decade, otherwise I’d be doing this list next year). I have a soft spot for any songs that throw in weird questions about space and time and try to connect them to humanity. On this album they do that better than anyone.

4. Clap Your Hands Say YeahClap Your Hands Say Yeah, 2006 – It’s almost a crime that this is above the Moon and Antarctica, but that tells you how much I like this. My fascination with this band started back in 2003 when I saw Alec Ounsworth at an open mic in Philly. Their debut album was a battle between being a pop band or an art band with the pop side winning a little. Their later efforts have been less interesting so far, but what a start. I listened to it thousands of times.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

3. Black keysThickfreakness, 2003 – Dan Auerbach is a guitar god in a world where kids stand in front of the TV pretending to play guitar for their video game system. It would be like if Tiger Woods showed up just as miniature golf overtook golf’s popularity. The Black Keys are a 20ish, two piece, garage-blues band from Akron, Ohio and they should be loved by everyone.

The Black Keys
The Black Keys

2. The White StripesElephant, 2003 – For better or worse, I think the White Stripes defined the decade. They were fresh, but retro. Simple, but artsy. Somehow, they came up with a Smoke-On-The-Wateresque riff that no one had thought of before and called it Seven Nation Army. It helped to kill off some of the god awful bands popular at the time and Elephant was the album that established their reign over the first half of the Zeros.

1. Arcade FireFuneral, 2004 – I don’t know how anyone can be in a band as large as Arcade Fire. I can barely stand to play with 2 or 3 others, much less the 10 or 12 in Arcade Fire. They were somehow able to record the best album of decade. I didn’t write this list because I think I’m a great writer. I wrote it to make sure anyone who reads it buys this album.

Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire