A Painting Ends

At the end of the year, I started a new painting. And now I’ve finished it. 




This is a smaller painting. It’s also about as close to a self portrait as I am likely to ever get. Acrylic on Canvas, 8”x8”

It’s very hard to find a public telephone to use as a model. 

Infomacracy: Malka Older

“The sign on the defunct pachinko parlor proclaims 21ST CENTURY, but the style—kanji in neon outlined in individual light bulbs? Who does that?—suggests it was named at a time when that was a bold look toward the future, not a statement of fact that has been accurate for more than sixty years.”



This is cyberpunk for the 538 crowd. It wants you to believe that it’s about Information: a sort-of fact-checking Google in the future. A semi-secretive organization that most of the world has ceded control of its elections to. 

I went a little crazy with hyphens there, didn’t I?

The book is really about elections. It’s not even, really, all that interested in government. It wants to try to play with an alternate strategy for conducting elections, a kind of micro democracy where the world is grouped in clusters of 100k voters. 

This book wants to talk about elections (and polling) so much that I wonder if it ran a losing campaign for student council in high school and hasn’t gotten over it. 

I’m doing a bit of anthropomorphising there, but more than any book I’ve read in recent days, _this_ book wants, I think. It wants to talk about elections; it wants to examine the decisions of voters who vote against their own best interest; it wants to convince you that it’s hard to inform a public that doesn’t wish to inform. 

I know that sounds dry. And it sometimes is.  But this book is filled witt humor. I enjoyed the journey, though it had its fits and starts, because of the people along the way. Especially Ken.  Let’s end with a different quote:

“She’s beyond attractive. Ken wonders if she would stab him in the leg.”

Gunslinger Girl: Lyndsay Ely

“They dragged in the dead scrounger in the fade of the afternoon, tied to the last truck in the convoy.”


—-

Don’t know why, but I was expecting something futuristic with a Western flavor, but we ran the gamut from Mad Max to Barnum & Bailey to romance — spoiler, the brooding male love interest isn’t the poor did you think he is! — but it never quite felt like a Western. 

It’s not fair to judge a book based on what I _expected_ it to be. It has no idea what my expectations are. 

But still, I made exactly two notes for the book, so I’ve got little to say. It moved along at an ok pace, the story of a city at the edge of a postapocalyptic regime run by a woman with a circus was what it was, and the characters were ok. 

I will say that the author was willing to kill off characters, and I always respect that.  But the fact is, I didn’t really mind when they died, so I suppose this one didn’t engage me. This will be the biggest test of my experiment — if I remember this at the end of the year, I suspect it will only be because I wrote something down. 

The Crash of Hennington: Patrick Ness

"She smelled dawn even before the sun looked over the horizon."

---

This is one Weird book. It's strange, yes, but it gets less strange as it goes along. No, that isn’t exactly right. It becomes more familiar as it goes along. It’s not standard Weird. I suppose it’s post-apocalyptic strange?


Let’s start with The Crash. They aren’t cows. I thought they were cows. They aren’t.  But they are normal animals. Amd they’re an indication that something is different about the world. 

The rhinos and the heat. 

The book walked me down a primrose path. It started to convince me that a possible solution to our world filled with conflicts rooted in centuries-old resentment and whatnot would be to erase our memory of all the past. But it seems the point is that people have destruction inside that has nothing to do with history. 

And so this book is grim. 

It’s a little bit American Gods, some BSG. Too  much golf-course owning politician.  

But overall: grim. 

Bluebird, Bluebird: Attica Locke

“GENEVA SWEET ran an orange extension cord past Mayva Greenwood, Beloved Wife and Mother, May She Rest with Her Heavenly Father.”



This mystery novel about a Texas Ranger will likely sit in my mind for some time. Not so much because it was well written (though it was) or because it made me crave fried pie (it did) but because of the underlying tension between a hostile environment and the desire to hold onto home when home is that hostile environment. 

That tension is on my mind lately as we go through our current national crisis. I see how easy it is for us in the safety of our coastal enclaves under a shared blanket of comfortable liberalism to look on those parts of the country with populations that skew heavily to those hostile to my beliefs and wonder, how can people who are hurt by the environment stay there? How is it that Alabamans of color and/or liberal bent stay? 

It’s also easy to be shallow and see it in merely economic terms or believe them in other ways trapped against their wills. But I’m certain that’s not really the case for everyone. So what is it keeps them there?

In this book we follow a Texas Ranger of African American descent. He has had and continues to have the opportunity to leave East Texas. In his investigation, we can certainly see many reasons that he would be safer in other parts of the country. And yet he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to fight against the evil in his state. It’s why he joined the Rangers. He wanted to stake his claim to his home. 

For me, I generally identify more with the young widow. I was born in the South and moved around a bit. Everywhere, I’ve been an outsider and it suits me. But it means I have no real concept of home in the way that people talk about having particular soil in the blood. 

So for me it’s good to have examples who are self-aware enough to know why they choose to stay and to make that decision consciously. It’s a good reminder for folks who wonder why our liberal friends want to stay “behind enemy lines”.  They are doing the harder work of fighting to make things better, refusing to be chased out of their own homes. 

There’s honor in that, I know. Still, I’m also craving fried pie. 

Another Painting Begins...

Not much daylight, so it's hard to make much progress. (I paint in a shed outside.) But I've started a new painting.



EOY: Reading

When I look at this picture of the 36 books I read this year, I can't help but wonder am I really absorbing any of these.



11:15 F:M (by book count)

So here we are at the end of the year. I'm going to try to write 2 line reviews for every one of these books without looking at anything but the cover to see if I got any of it. If I'm wrong, blame my memory. Wish me luck:

A Closed and Common Orbit

A sequel to the excellent The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet where the ship AI tries to live on a planet. It had interesting gender stuff, but not as interesting now that we're off-ship.

Just One Damned Thing After Another

I don't think I remember this. I keep thinking of scenes from the Nunslinger series.

The Forever War

I don't remember this one either. I keep thinking of scenes from Old Man's War.

Rose's Run

This one is about a First Nations woman, her family, and a sexy new boss. There was a mystery, but Rose overcoming her own feelings of inadequacy are the core of this very good book.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Sisters live in their house. This is a creepy book.

In the Woods

The protagonist investigates a murder that happens in a patch of woods that he had a bad experience in as a kid (and he keeps it from everybody). I really didn't like how he treated his partner.

The Glass Key

I know this was a mystery. I remember nothing about it.

The Lady in the Lake

Same. Was one of these Philip Marlowe? Oh, wait, this one had a cabin on a man-made lake.

Every Heart a Doorway

I think this one was an alternate world/portal thing. It had a school in it maybe?

Star Nomad, Honor's Flight, Starseers

A series about a strong woman with a ship and a crush on a cyborg, plus a chef and a missing child. I wouldn't say that Buroker's books are deep, but they always drag me in and make me want to read more. Still, I'd start with the Emperor's Edge series.

Redshirts

An examination of how and why certain characters wind up dead in a Star Trek-like world. It was ok.

Song of Time

Dang, I wish I remembered this one. Even looking at the cover doesn't remind me of a single thing.


The Stolen Child

I read this one because it was written by the wife of the LibraryThing founder. It was spooky and very American-in-Irelandy.

Chalk

I think this was a supernatural one and it might have had to do with chalk in the ground, not on a board.

Leviathan Wakes, Caliban's War

Two books from the Expanse series, which I remember because I watched the series on Amazon, which goes up to the first half or so of the first book. I don't remember what happened in the second book. Maybe Saturn or Jupiter started going bad?

The Puzzles of Peter Duluth

Early twentieth century detective.

East of Eden

Story about a family living in the Salinas Valley over the generations. I enjoyed visiting places I've been (the stretch from King City to Salinas is just a few hours north of me) but I'm not big on sins of the fathers novels.

A Burglar's Guide to the City

A non-fiction examination of how architecture and urban planning can be seen through other eyes. Very interesting.

The Best of All Possible Worlds

I don't remember this one much, except that it had some sort of government-sponsored team of researchers and I think a love story.

The Glimpses of the Moon

I'm sorry, Edith, I don't remember your book. I loved My Antonia and Alexander's Bridge, though.

Slade House

Siblings feed on unsuspecting souls to live forever. I didn't like the episodic repetition of the attacks over the years.

Mars Evacuees

Children sent to Mars to study how to make war to help protect Earth from invading aliens. I liked the goldfish robot.

Luna: New Moon

Oligarchs on the moon. I read this because I read something the author wrote about figuring out cocktails on the moon. Would have liked more cocktails.

His Majesty's Dragon

Patrick O'Brian with dragons, I guess.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

My favorite of the year. Imagine how the other kids in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the ones not in the Scooby Gang) try to get through high school. Very witty and also well-done characters.

Six Wakes

A mystery on a generation ship, where clones are killing each other. Slow.

The Princess Diaries

From Carrie Fisher. What can I say?

Parable of the Sower

This would have been my favorite of the year if I wanted to count books I'd read before. Superb, and also a little too resonant for today's climate (but hopeful, in the end).

The Accidental Sorcerer

Another protagonist learns he can do magic, if I remember correctly. Something about harbor towns and kings and weather.

Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans

Light, fun reads narrated by a less-than-self-aware member of a family full of detectives. She's on the edge of unreliable narrator, but not so far in that it spoils my enjoyment.


Yep, my memory is terrible. I need to start writing about books again. I think that'll help my retention.

Wow



Have I really been quiet since September? I need to get back to writing. The practice is important. 

Too much work travel this year, I guess. Last week i was in LA. I got to spend a few days 30 miles south of the fire in Ventura and 15 miles west of a fire on the 405. The Ventura (Thomas) fire kept me from coming home up the 101.  I drove up i5, which added a couple of hours, because it’s longer and because there was a fire along the 5, too. 

I’ve really adopted the “the” in front of road names. I find this odd because I could never bring myself to say Nevada City the way the locals did. It just felt pretentious of me, like coming back from France and spouting off about Paree. 

Before I left today, I stopped in Morro Bay for a flu shot. Here’s a picture of Morro Bay’s crab pot Christmas tree. 



I went to the drug store and was shot by a certified immunizer! She commented on the weather (which was gorgeous). I noted that I hoped the wind died down. This led to the fires, of course. I mentioned I had been down there. She said that they were set on purpose by people throwing flares at the grass. I shook my head and said “What’s wrong with people?”

She said, “Well the truth is, we let too many people into this country who don’t like us.”

I was stunned. I didn’t want to have a political conversation at a drugstore. But what are you supposed to do? Even after having lived in Nevada County, I forget that California isn’t all hippies. I feel bad that I didn’t fight the woman. At least it wasn’t a public conversation. Would you have said anything?

I just said, “Well plenty of people who are born here don’t like us.” I should have mentioned that I was in Vegas last month. I was there for a conference in Mandalay Bay. It was surreal how everything just seemed normal (except for all the Vegas Strong merchandise). 

What a world.  

Well, as we stumble blindly into this holiday season, I hope for peace on earth and goodwill to all, but I wouldn’t place a bet on it. 


Big Falls Hike

This weekend's hike was down on the other side of San Luis Obispo up in the Santa Lucia Wilderness.


Along the way, I had to drive across a creek several times. I even had to drive in it for a bit at one point:


I tried this hike earlier in the year, but the creek was too high for my car to get through. I have a four-wheel drive car, but it isn't high-clearance. I've not driven it into deep water.

The hike was a good one. It was less than two miles to Big Falls, but it was good climbing, so a good bit of exercise.

Here is the view from the top of Big Falls.


When I say from the top, I'm being literal. The waterfall was completely and utterly dry. Here's a view from the bottom.


It was a good hike, but I can't imagine how I'd get up there when there's water.

Still Foggy

Such a foggy year!

A Walk on the Pacific Coast Highway

Well, more like a walk on the Cabrillo Highway. California One runs along the coast and is famously known as the PCH, but many stretches have different names. Along the Central Coast, it's named after Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo.

And up past the county line, the road has been closed these several months, first because of a bridge failure. Then, while a replacement has been under construction, an extraordinarily large landslide ensured that the highway would be closed for some time.

So I figured why not take a little walk on it? Wouldn't it be neat to walk down the middle line of a highway I've driven on so many times?

Here's a picture of the highway:


Why is it so far away, you ask? Well, the road is blocked just past the curve where Salmon Creek is. And yesterday, the roadblock had an attendant. I didn't want to ask if it was ok to walk on the road.

Yes, I was chicken.

Instead, I walked up the Buckeye Trail. The trailhead is at the parking lot where the old house sits, between the creek and the road block.


I'm glad I went this way. I had no idea the trail was here and it's a great trail! It starts off steep, but within a mile, I was walking along the tops of hills overlooking the highway and the Pacific.


Isn't the Pacific gorgeous? Ugh, the fog has been crazy this year. This is only my fourth summer, but it's certainly been more foggy and foggy later than I've ever experienced.

But at least it's not hot.

At times, the fog made it seem like I was walking along an island mountain, ready to fall off at any time.


And there were a few scary spots that I didn't take pictures for. I liked the feel of being in a fantasy world, where unknown creatures might appear at any moment. Certainly, it was deserted, since only one end of the trail is accessible these days.


I took a left when the trail intersected with another one. I look forward to taking the Buckeye further north to see what I can see.


The Soda Springs trail took me to actual trees! Deciduous and everything!


The trail winds down between two creeks (still flowing even in August) and different kinds of trees. I can't remember the last time I saw leaves on a path like this. The trail terminates at a parking spot along CA-1. It was empty, of course. It was 600 feet back up the hill, so I decided to walk back along the highway.


I walked about a mile back to my car. I'm glad I did it. It was a lot of fun to see the road without cars and look over the cliffs in places where I'd never have been able to pull over. And I got a closer look at things I'd seen before -- this has been here since way back before the slides, when there used to be a single lane control signal.


But it was also scary. I don't know if walking on the road there is legal. There was a helicopter buzzing the coast, and I could imagine I was being pursued by the fuzz. But more scary were the trucks. Most of the time you could hear them coming, because nothing else was going on on that road. And so while there were stretches of quiet and weirdness walking along the highway, other times there were airbrakes and the need to get out of the way. These tractor-trailers were carrying big boulders up to the landslide site for the new road construction. When I say large, I mean like only fitting three in the trailer.

There were also a few locals driving around, so my image of an isolated abandoned highway weren't quite realistic. Still, it was another good walk, and when I got back to the road block, the roadblock attendant was talking to a local in a pickup truck. I walked along the other side of the truck and wasn't stopped. I'm sure they noticed me; I just wasn't worth the bother.


The end of the Poppies



Valencia Peak Trail Hike - Montaña de Oro

Trying to get a little more exercise in these days. Travel makes it hard to be daily.

Today I took a long walk on several connecting trails in Montaña de Oro. Badger to Beebe to Valencia Peak to Rattlesnake.

The fog is heavy this year.



Salmon Creek Hike

I went hiking up north of Ragged Point today. They've opened the road almost to Gorda. I have no idea when CA 1 is going to be open again, what with the broken bridge and the quarter-mile mudslide.

I wonder if it's allowed to walk on the closed highway. That would be a nice walk, and an unusual opportunity.

I hiked up the hill above the falls. I didn't make it very far, but there were some nice views of the fog:



Poppies #3

And so today I start my third painting within a 12 month period!

Poppies #2 - Final

Well, it looks like I haven't provided a painting update since April. The painting went through several iterations, but I'm now at that point where anything I do is either unnoticeable or makes the painting worse. Maybe this is the limit of how good I can get.

I like the layout of this one, but I'm really not happy with the way the texture of the canvas shows through. I don't know if I'm not putting enough paint on my brush or if my paint isn't mixed well enough. Maybe the paint isn't wet enough.

Here's what I'm talking about. Take a look at this texture:


If anyone knows what I'm doing wrong here, please drop a line in the comments. It's frustrating.

Anyway, here's the finished product. This is more or less what the end of my street looked like back in March.





Kitchen Evolution

Since I moved in, the thing I've really wanted to do is get rid of this:


It's metal so it is hard to work with. It's metal so it's rusting. And it's metal so I can't have a dishwasher. Without a dishwasher, what counter space was there was taken up by the drying rack. And on the other side, everything I chopped would roll into the sink, which was annoying if I had suds in the sink.

So, I contracted with a company back in January and they came in in early April to do this:


Then they did this:


And it was awesome, but then I had to wait for the counter people to get their act together (and for my travel schedule to calm down). Finally, last week, it turned into this:


And I could cook my first meal in months:


The silver rectangle under the counter is a dishwasher and I love it. It's a drawer that pulls out and it does about half a load. Half a load is perfect for a guy living on his own in a shack by the ocean.

And today I installed this for the blind cabinet next to the stove:


I haven't put anything on it because I'm still waiting for the backsplash to be installed, but the metal racks are for using the space that's hard to get to under the counter beside the stove.



Painting Update

Well, I'm also slow at getting the painting started this year. I only got around to a second painting session today. I spent some time penciling.


This year, I'm trying something different. Usually, I work from back to front, as if painting the foreground over the background were some sort of 3D exercise in my 2D painting. This year, I'm starting with the important details and will try to fill in as I go.


Here, I'm talking about the first three flowers' petals. I'm not sure if this will work for me, but that's what experimenting is all about.

Birthday Tree 2017

Wow, I'm behind on everything.

Generally, I buy a tree every year for my birthday. I'm rarely on my birthday when I do, but this year has been particularly slow. And then I've been slow to document it. I got the tree over a month ago. Now it's time to show you.

But first an update on previous trees planted here in Cayucos.

Last year's tree was a wee lime tree. It looked like this:


Now it looks like this:


The poor thing lost all of its leaves in the sun last year, so I moved it behind the fence for a little protection and a good number of leaves grew back.

2015's tree was an olive. It looked like this:


Now it looks like this:


Everyone talks about how the weather on the Central Coast is "Mediterranean." i think the fact that my most successful tree so far has been the olive kind of bears that our.

My first tree was back after I moved in in 2014.

It was a happy little tree:


And I killed it.


I was trying to move it from the whiskey barrel to a nicer spot with a little shade, but I think I hacked at its roots. Poor thing went quickly.

Since I've had the most success with the olive tree, this year I kept to the Mediterranean theme.


I planted another stick! This one is a fig tree. The nursery said the fig is the only tree it won't guarantee for a year, so wish me luck.

And So It Begins

This year's painting has been started. 


 
 

Halcon Days

It was another gorgeous day today, so I thought I'd go try the Rocky Canyon Trail in the sunshine instead of in the rain.


Unfortunately, part of the road to the quarry was missing. This is Halcon (sic) Road. The hike starts from the other side of the river and goes up hill. Driving there is still possible, but I think it would have taken another half hour to get there. So, I took a walk around on this side of the river.


This is the first year since I've moved to the Central Coast that I've seen the Salinas River actually have water in it.

There were a lot of signs around warning about Trespassing and Parking and other disreputable things a man can do in the wilderness. But I have to say, this sends a bit of a mixed message:


Still, I guess folks around here have an opinion about Good and Evil: