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My 2022 Recommendations

From 2022, my recommendations span games, viewing, cooking, and reading.

Video Game: Super Mario Galaxy

I didn’t grow up with any gaming consoles, so although I played many great PC gaming franchises, I never played the likes of Final Fantasy, Zelda, or GTA.

Recently, I tried out Super Mario Odyssey, and I couldn’t put it down. Between the whimsy of the world, the perfect level of difficulty, and clever level design, I was blown away how good a platformer could be.

After that, I went back through the franchise. I tried NES Super Mario Bros. and didn’t like it. Then I tried Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, and neither hooked me in the same way. However, Super Mario Galaxy felt just right. The controls, level design, and world all worked. Despite being 15 years old, it still felt fresh to me.

The game isn’t perfect. I didn’t enjoy swimming much, and I occasionally was frustrated with the camera. However, the game provides the freedom to skip over levels, so I just played what was fun and left the rest behind.

Article: How to Recycle a 14-Story Office Tower – The New York Times

Fascinating article about another vision for construction and infrastructure in a circular economy. I love hearing stories about how old buildings get repurposed, like turning an elementary school into a hotel. This article goes in another direction about how we might design buildings to be disassembled rather than demolished when they are no longer needed.

I hope I’m coming at this with some modesty. I somewhat frequently see articles describing breakthroughs in fields I’m more familiar with and look at it with some skepticism coming from a place of expertise. In the same way, I wonder whether those who actually work in construction roll their eyes at articles like this.

Book: The Scholomance Trilogy

A Deadly Education came out a few years ago, and it’s about a magic school. Of course, this immediately leads to Harry Potter comparisons, but it is quite different.

The series has remarkably few “bad guys.” El, the protagonist, encounters various rivals along the way, but given a chance, almost all of them turn out to be well-motivated and understandable people in the end.

Rather than taking down some villainous evil wizard, the story is more about surviving and dealing with somewhat complex consequences of the world as it is.

Along those lines, the last book The Golden Enclaves came out at the end of this year. To be honest, I liked the other books more, but I was impressed how Novik stuck the landing on the series. The world seems rich and internally consistent, and the ending fit really well with everything put together.

Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy

I first played one or two games before and didn’t get it. Then one of my coworkers suggested it again, and we really got into it.

In The Castles of Burgundy, you play as a medieval aristrocrat building out a settlement. You roll dice to figure out what terrain tiles you can take and place in your settlement, which is all with the goal of scoring the most victory points by the end of game. Although there is some competition with other players on which tiles you can take, it’s mostly a satisfying experience of figuring out how to optimize arranging your own settlement.

I also liked that this game is mostly doable. Some other board games feel like a struggle to achieve what you want or get things put together.

TV: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

I wrote about this show before, but to recap, this show best captures the spirit of older Star Trek shows. It’s a good mix with an ensemble casts, episodic structure, character development, and deep connections to Star Trek lore

Recipe: Rice Cooker Steel-Cut Oats

I cook a lot of different recipes, and I even have quite a few staples. However, the dish I cook by far the most frequently is oatmeal. Twice a week, I cook up a double batch for four breakfasts a week in total.

For over ten years, I cooked steel cut oats on the stovetop. At first, I did it live, then I switched to doing it overnight to save time in the morning. However, even overnight, it still took a moment, and more importantly, I had to pay attention to avoid boiling over.

All of that changed when I found this recipe to use the rice cooker.

I have a Zojirushi rice cooker with a delay timer and a porridge setting. Perhaps it should have been obvious, but I always assumed that porridge meant “rice porridge.” However, it works perfectly for oatmeal. The night before, I measure and set the timer. In the morning, I give it a quick stir, then ladle it into bowls. It takes a minute in total and genuinely couldn’t be easier.

Video Game: Mario Strikers: Battle League

Mario Strikers is Mario Kart meets FIFA. It’s soccer with your favorite Mario characters and power-ups put together.

Book: Remembrance of Earth’s Past

This series has some issues. The Three-Body Problem is fun, but I took a break for years because I didn’t find it gripping. The Dark Forest literally imagines a manic pixie girl, which is then fridge. Death’s End has some very strange tangents.

And yet, I thought the ending was incredible.

Carl Sagan captures the sense of awe in the vastness of the universe when he calls Earth a “pale blue dot.” Liu captures this again with an ending that spans time and space in an exceptional way. And he redeemed his understanding of love.

These books are long, and I well might have given up several times, but I’m glad I didn’t

TV: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Another show I already wrote about. It’s not obviously my kind of show, but I’m glad I gave it a shot because it’s delightful.

Article: Book Review: A Square Meal – Part I: Foods of the ‘20s and ‘30s – SLIME MOLD TIME MOLD

I don’t exactly remember how I stumbled across this article, but it’s delightful. Hopefully the book itself is, too, but this article picks out some strange stuff that we once ate. I tend to generalize that weird food is a new, industrial phenomena, whereas past generations ate more “real” food. In fact, they didn’t. They ate weird sandwiches filled with watermelon and spaghetti.

Board Game: Wingspan

My own interest in birds has been piqued by my daughter and a desire to get her more interested in the natural world. That happens to be well-aligned with this game.

In Wingspan, you are gathering birds into your wildlife preserves. Each bird confers abilities and points with the goal to get the most points over the course of four rounds. This game is perfect for fans of engine-building games. It also helps that the physical game nicely crafted.

I have played on the iOS app, Board Game Arena, and the physical game, and they’re all great. The game itself is great, and the theme just feels really nice and peaceful.

Recipe: Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage (Classic Italian Cooking) | Kenji’s Cooking Show – YouTube

I trust Kenji implicitly in all things cooking. Since the pandemic, he’s been making first-person YouTube videos as well, and he generally has a casual, informative, and practical style to it.

Some recipes are quite laborious. I think even Kenji admits that he doesn’t cook much out of his book The Food Lab since it’s largely project cooking.

However, this recipe is on the other extreme. It comes together as quickly as it takes to boil water and cook pasta. It only takes a few ingredients, is easy to follow, and has a simple and compelling flavor.

Final Thoughts

After writing this post, I compared it to my 2021 recommendations. I stand by that list, but it’s interesting to see what stuck. Some things are by nature completed, but I still play Rocket League from time-to-time. And the chicken fajitas are great for hosting.

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