With our big 10-day Christmas voyage to Minnesota and South Dakota right around the corner, I’ll be fairly busy for the remainder of 2011, so I’ve decided to do my Year in Review wrap-up a little sooner this year. This is pretty unorganized and bouncing around a bit, but you’ll just have to make do! As you probably remember, I have done a few other Year in Review segments in recent years: 2010 | 2009/Decade | 2008. Prior to that I was doing the annual awards which I have in my personal archives if you ever need to reference them.

Pop Culture Best of 2011
I won’t do much fanfare for this year’s Pop Culture Awards. So here are my favorites of the year… off the top of my head, anyway.

TV Show: Friday Night Lights (just started Breaking Bad… it’s close)
Movie: Moneyball
Music Artist: (tie) Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Blake Shelton
Sports Moment: Francisco Liriano no-hitter / Jim Thome’s 600th HR
Song: “Beer in My Hand,” Eric Church
Athlete: Jim Thome
Actor: Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson, P&R)
Actress: Connie Britton (Tami Taylor, FNL)
Video Game: Angry Birds Seasons
Blog: Jordan Krogman Photography
Expensive Restaurant: Fogo de Chao
Inexpensive Restaurant: Torchy’s
Bar: Eastern Standard (Boston)
Festival: Minneapolis Beer Fest

Life-Changing Decisions
The biggest news of the year was when Lauren and I decided to leave Minneapolis and move to Austin. There were a number of factors that led to this decision, but I can honestly say that if Minneapolis had had the kind of winter in 2010-11 that they are having this winter, we’d probably still be there. As it was, the 100+ inches of snow and eight consecutive months of snowfall eventually got the better of us, and we decided we needed a long break from wintry weather. It was snowing at a Twins home game on May 15, after all. Weather woes aside, I also was in a rut career-wise, and having terrible luck finding anything new locally. Lauren was experiencing success at her job, but at the same time we kept wondering if we’d regret it if we never tried living somewhere else while we had the chance. With surprisingly much encouragement from various family and friends, we ultimately pulled the trigger on the idea. It was Austin that won out over Portland, Cincinnati, and other cities in the mix, mostly because I was able to find a promising job so quickly. Those of you who encouraged the move because you wished you could do the same but can’t, I hope you are enjoying living vicariously through us.

We no doubt made a gutsy move in leaving our jobs in such an economy. Plus the headache of moving in general, finding temporary and then permanent housing, and getting everything from mailing addresses to insurance to drivers licenses switched over to a new state was no fun. And now to look at the weather report and see the ridiculously mild weather in the Midwest makes me a little sick; I can’t help but believe that our leaving had a direct effect on the weather. But we’re enjoying the 60-degree weather here this winter, rain instead of snow, our much nicer apartment for the same price, my big improvement career-wise, and the many new friends and acquaintances we’ve met here.

Of course every now and then I really miss Minneapolis for one reason or another. In hindsight it is also a pretty dang good place to live and I’ll bet we’ll be back someday.

Our new city of residency.

Drastic relocation aside, we saw plenty of the country this year. In the spring I was back in Las Vegas for a week for work at a trade show. In May, we spent a week in the northeast–four nights in New York and three in Boston. My goal of seeing baseball games at every stadium continued as we saw games at Target Field, CitiField, Fenway Park, Kaufman Stadium, and Minute Maid Park. I visited several states I’d never been to before–Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Arkansas.

My 2011 travels - by land and by air. I forgot the train portion from NY to Boston.

New People and Old People
New babies kept popping up in our family, as Lauren’s sister and my sister gave birth to babies in the fall. Annika Rosok and Colton Krogman became niece/nephews #7 and #8. I won’t get to meet either of them until our trip… oh, how excited they’ll be to meet Uncle Ryan, I’m sure. And there were a lot of other babies born to friends who I have yet to meet! On the flip side, I reunited with my old WLHS schoolmate chums over Memorial Day weekend for our 10-year reunion. Not many showed up, but those of us that did had fun reliving the old school days. And not to point out the word “old” by any means, but my mother celebrated her milestone 50th birthday this year.

New Jobs, Old Jobs, and Continued Jobs
I spent the first six months of the year working for Microboards. By my count, when I worked my final day on Friday, June 24, I had come into work about 1,339 times over 5.5 years. While I was appreciative of the years of employment and the perks that came along with the job (Twins tickets, occasional travel, total access to a large-format printer) there was little question in my mind that it was time to move on one way or another. I also sprinkled in plenty of wedding DJ events on the weekends at Profile Event Center right up until the move. Just six days after my final day at Microboards, I worked my first day for Callaway Golf as a contractor. After just 20 days of work, I was brought on full time as Interactive Merchandising Coordinator.

Though my Microboards career had come to an end, I worked out an arrangement to continue performing my old duties in a contract role for several reasons. First of all, I wanted to have something to fall back on in case the CG job for some reason didn’t pan out, and secondly it was important additional income we’d be losing when Lauren had to leave her job. On top of all that, I continued to do some freelance web design work, building a website for Tree Party and upkeep for Classic Rides & Rods. Hard to believe, but with the four different jobs I didn’t come close to using up all my allotted vacation time!

Callaway marketing team
The marketing team at CGI

Minnesota Fun
It is easy to forget that the first half of 2011 was spent living in Minnesota. During the winter, in order to fill our boring snowy nights, C. M. Walsh and I started a zany podcast, The Shed Party Show, which produced a total of 16 two-hour episodes. In January, I won a contest to become a featured bartender at the Moose on Monroe, where I served up free drinks to 31 of my closest friends. Lauren and I blazed through the end of our Best Picture project and continued to make a small name for ourselves as metro area food critics. Our men’s softball team reassembled and was quite competitive for much of the spring. We also camped at a state park or two and took in a few Twins games when the weather didn’t interfere. But of course that was the big downer, the weather.

From One Extreme to the Other
If it was cold, winter, and snow that I wanted to get away from, I found the optimum spot. I went from record lows, record snow, heavy flooding, and icy roads to all-time record highs, heat-waves, droughts, and fires. From wind chills of -40 on January 20 to heat indexes of over 125 in late August, I experienced 165 degrees of temperature swings. Now, I am embarrassed to admit, the high 40s we’ve been experiencing this December make me feel pretty chilly. I’m sure my return north this week will be a huge shocker.

Oh Yeah, There’s the Beagle… As If You Hadn’t Heard
After such great experiences with Sarah D’s beagle Roscoe, we bought a beagle puppy of our very own in September. I thought it was high-time I had some sort of responsibility! He is out-of-his-mind insanely hyper 90% of the time, loves to bite us and pee on the floor, and  jump up at everyone he comes into contact with. But he is also a loyal, furry friend who brings some joy into our apartment and slowly is learning how to behave in a non-lunatic fashion with weekly classes at PetSmart. Good luck to Kristin and Brian Mego as they attempt to dog-sit for us for ten days.

Eating Good Things Is Good
I took the time to put together this collage that highlights the times we remembered to take pictures of the food we ate and drinks we drank in 2011. It’s impossible to sort through and rank them all, but like I said earlier, Fogo is right up there along with Biryani (Edina), Jasmine 26 (Uptown), Neptune (Boston), Gallagher’s (Las Vegas), Torchy’s (Austin) and Salt Lick (Driftwood Springs).

Individual Athletics
Naturally, working in the golf industry has seen my ability in one sport skyrocket upwards–hackysack. Not golf, but hackysack. Every day, 6-8 members of the Marketing and IT teams gather to play for 15-20 minutes. I’m now kicking it around behind my back! Not to say that I haven’t tried golfing. I hit up my fair share of driving ranges and even bought a new Diablo Octane driver. But I only golfed once, at the company tournament, and embarrassed myself badly. 

I played on two softball teams–one in Minnesota and one in Texas–and hit .592 with 2 HR and 26 RBI in 49 at-bats. It was fun playing on competitive teams for a change! Whereas in the past I pitched a lot, this year I spent most of my time at third and first.

Teams I Cheer For
To put it mildly, it was a year to forget. The Twins had the worst record in the AL. The Timberwolves had the worst record in the West. The Vikings have the worst record in the NFC. That is a total record of 82-178. A winning percentage of .315. Less than one-third of the time, one of those teams won a game that they played. That has to be close to a record for a single city in a single year. That’s borderline unbelievable. 

The Chargers suffered a ridiculous 6-game losing streak that likely will keep them out of the playoffs, but they have been good at times. One Minnesota pro team won a championship. The Lynx ended Minnesota’s absurd 20-year title drought this summer. I rejoiced from afar. There’s a lot to look forward to in 2012 with the new-look Timberwolves and first-place Wild. But 2011 as a whole was unwatchable on the sports scene.

Wrapping It Up
I’ve clearly wasted enough of mine and everyone else’s time already. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!