Where Does the Time Go?

Yesterday marked one year since I bought this house in Cayucos. I suppose it's a sign of my age that the year just flew right by. Just like that, I'm 20% through my maximum stay in one place. 


It's been quite a year, without a doubt. 

I have found very little to complain about here. Although it's a beach town, the only  time tourists really made it hard was the Fourth of July. Otherwise, the beach is always fairly empty at the end of my street. 

I've not biked as much as I thought I would, it's true.  The wind here seems to never let up. But the wind on Morro Bay isn't always bad and I've gotten to kayak a bit. The seals and otters make it a nice paddle, and I like that I can hang out in the built up harbor area or launch into the empty estuary. 

My neighbors moved at the end of last month and took their very loud dogs with them. New folks moved in yesterday and I learned that while people will apologize for their loud dogs, they'll never apologize for their kids. 

I haven't done as many improvements as I'd like--even a run down beach shack was more expensive than I expected--I replaced the shower doors with a curtain, put covers on the shed walls and made a place to put my kayak. 

All-in-all I'm pretty happy with living at an altitude of 60 feet, though it has made travel to Boulder harder on my head. It's hard to imagine finding a place after this one, but it is still early days. 

Next step is to find this year's birthday tree. Last year was late, and this year will be, too, because of travel. 

Off the Hook part 2




Yep, I'm giving them a second try. I had a small kayak paddle around the bay today and I'm hungry. Already they're doing better: I've already been asked what I want to drink. 



The waitress confessed that she doesn't like seafood, either, and gave me advice on the sushi. This trip is looking good. 

There's a huge seal playing with some kayakers out the window to my right, but the staff has/have brought down the blinds to cut the bright light. And that's good; otherwise it'd be a million degrees in here. 


The lighting is hard, but it looks like good food. There's plenty of wasabi, which is nice and the avocado roll has an interesting mayo sauce. 

This is tasty food. 

The waitress was pretty good at asking about soda refills (I got a couple big wasabi chunks) and the table cleaner kept taking my plates. 

Overall a good experience and so much better than the first try. Sushi and fries--I'll be back


EOY: Reading

This will really be the only End of Year summary. I'm not feeling much for retrospection this year, which is ironic considering my involvement in this year's Retrospective Facilitators Gathering.

Here are the books I read in 2014:


There are 61 covers in that picture, but I'm only going to credit 56 because the six books of the Nunslinger Saga are each really just novelettes (if that) and were collected into a single book anyway.

With that number revision, 2014 was in line with 2012's 56 and above 2013's 42. I suspect this reflects the added stability of a single home for the whole year (almost).

Favorites


It's been a good reading year.



This is the year when I fell back in love with science fiction. At some point, I tweeted that I thought Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice should win the Hugo. Gosh, it did that and more. A lot has been written about this science fiction novel, so I'll just repeat what I said last January: this book is completely up to the hype.



This is also the year that I fell back in love with fantasy. This series by Patrick Rothfuss is delicious, though it has not yet ended. I know there was a lot of talk about Lev Grossman's Magician books, which were good, but for me, if you're looking for a grown-up Harry Potter then The Kingkiller Chronicle is for you. This is a magic story as it should be told, with real adventure and a pint. If you like Locke Lamora, then you probably have already read these books.



I think that there are often stand-out books in the YA section that should live on their own on the adult shelves. I said in February that this series by Patrick Ness kept me enthralled to the last page. And snatches of it still walk around in my head. This is the story of a human colony that has fallen into the clutches of religious extremism and (more interestingly) is infected by a disease that makes the men (and only the men) involuntarily broadcast their thoughts to everyone around. I'd love to see this as a movie, but I can't imagine how they'd do it.



Not everything great this year was SF/F. Mick Herron's Slow Horses is a great spy novel. It tells the story of British agents who have failed into a division that's meant to keep them out of the way -- they messed up badly enough to be pulled off the streets, but not so badly that they can be fired, I guess -- and how they take initiative. This is good stuff.

Goodness, I could just go through and list every single book. Here are some other thoughts that fall neatly into categories:

eBooks


In 2013, less than half the books I read were electronic. In 2014, 100% of the books were. And all of those, by the way, I read on iPhone. With this smaller shack I live in, there just isn't room to keep adding to the 1000 books I already can't fit into the house. On top of that, it's just so much more convenient for my business trips, especially now that we don't have to stop reading during take off and landing. I do miss the smell of used book stores, but I just can't justify bringing another object into this house to be put into a box or in storage. Maybe after the next move.

At any rate, I did read some things that I wouldn't have if I hadn't gone to Amazon Prime, and most of it was dreck. However, I did read one self-published series this year that really pulled me in. I wouldn't call it the most polished thing I'd ever read, but it hooked me and dragged me from book to book: The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker is worth the time.

Apocalypse Now


I'm not really a fan of apocalypse or post-apocalypse novels. I did not like The Road at all. But this year had two standouts for me, both I highly recommend:

The Last Policeman (Ben Winters) and its sequels tells the story of the time leading up the destruction of earth. Everybody knows it's coming; nobody can do anything about it. Should life go on normally anyway? What's a police officer to do when there's no future?

Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel) is another book that everybody has been buzzing about. I'd be surprised if this isn't on the Hugo ballot this year.

SF/F


Speaking of the Hugo ballot reminds me that some time in the past I had started to grow bored with SF/F. It's the genre where my heart lives, but it hadn't done much for me for a few years. But this year, with the books above, I am excited about it again. So much so that I have to mention a couple more books I read this year.

City of Stairs (Robert Jackson Bennett) combines the best of other world fantasy with a detective/spy novel. This one will also likely make the Hugo ballot, if I am living in the same world as everybody else.

The Moon King (Neil Williamson) is a beautiful novel of the fantastic that is another great example of fantasy without all the baggage that the last century gave us. It deserves awards, but I suspect it's too quiet and beautiful to gain traction.

Miscellaneous


Female:Male -- 15:21 (by author count), 26:28 (by book count) - 1 writer/book unknown

Not much to say there, I think. It's about the same as last year. One of these years I will make a concerted effort to switch the order. I'm only a few books away. (I seemed to like to read other works by a woman author more often than books by men this year.)

Birth Country (by author count) -- 25 US, 5 England, 3 Canada, 1 France, 1 Scotland, 1 Australia, 1 Unknown

Still heavily American reading habits, sadly, and almost identical to last year. I am embarrassed by the lack of Asian and African writers in my pile.

Birth Decade


  • 1860s: X
  • 1870s: X
  • 1880s:
  • 1890s: X
  • 1900s: X
  • 1910s:
  • 1920s:
  • 1930s: XX
  • 1940s: XXX
  • 1950s: XXXX
  • 1960s: XXXX
  • 1970s: XXXXXX
  • 1980s: XX
  • unkwn: XXXXXXXXXXXX


I had a lot more trouble finding out ages this year. This is the first year I've read folks born in the '80s (thanks Robert Jackson Bennett and Nathaniel Rich). Neil Williamson is the closest to my own age.



Polar Bear Dip

There were no polar bears for this year's Polar Bear Dip, which was held near the pier in Cayucos.

However, a dolphin did come to visit right beforehand:


Yeah, hard to see. Here's a close-up:


There was also a seal cruising along for a bit, but its picture wouldn't have been any better. Still, it was a lovely day, on the chilly side, but not really polar bear weather. The water, though, was likely verrrrry cold.

But that didn't stop the hordes of crazy people from running to the ocean when directed.

Hofbrau



After yesterday's fun with service, today it seemed like a good idea to go more self-seve. Not that I was about to make my own food, of course. Today I stopped by the Hofbrau, where you stand in line with a tray to order your sandwich. 



I got pastrami and fries. 


It's dang crowded for 3 in the afternoon, but I still got an outside table with a view of the rock. The clouds from yesterday were only brief visitors. 


There's horseradish and real mustard for fixings. I wish I could have had onions, but I guess I could have ordered a salad if I needed them. 

The pastrami sandwich was excellent.  The fries were good. I like this place, though it doesn't quite have the ambience of the pub from yesterday. 

Well, there are these lights. 








Bathroom Quiz

So you walk into a restroom. It has two commodes. One is in a stall with a door. The other is in the open. 



Are you supposed to lock the restroom door? It's obviously for more than one person, but one can't have privacy. 

The Libertine Pub

Ok, second try. 



They're playing Jack Johnson as I walk in. This might be more my speed anyway. This is a seat-yourself kinda place. I wonder if I have to order at the bar. I'll give it a minute. 

Meanwhile, the view is nearly identical to the Hook place. 


Wait staff interaction at two minutes. Good. 

There aren't as many choices here, but more than enough for a lunch. I consider the chicken quesadilla but go with a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. There are four cheeses coming, my friends. 

More important, a second member of the waitstaff just checked in to see if I need anything. And this place is twice as crowded as the other place. 

Folks, service makes up for a lot when you're just eating lunch. The grilled cheese was good, but the fries were terrible. Will I be back? Almost certainly, and it's because the food was acceptable, but the service was great. In the end, I was helped by three separate staff members. 

Oh, and they have Cayucos Hot Sauce on the tables. 

Sadly, they've stopped playing Jack Johnson. 







Off the Hook


I know what you're thinking: "Abbot, you don't like seafood."

Or maybe you were thinking, "I hate that noise the phone makes when it's left off the hook!"

If you're thinking the latter, then I expect you are getting up in years. 

If it was the former, then I have to say, "Yes, but I have to give all the restaurants on Embarcadero a try."

It's been a few minutes since I sat down. So I might have to walk out of here without ordering. The hostess was nice, but if I don't get to give a drink order at least, I've got better things to do. 

It's sad, too. I was looking forward to a cucumber roll and French fries, surely a marriage made in heaven. Add a bit of gyoza for a complete meal. Also, look at the view:


Quite a grumpy looking day, huh?

Nope, 11 minutes is a long enough wait, I think, don't you?  Sorry, Off the Hook. I tried. 

[NB: I wrote all of the above while sitting at the table waiting to be, well, interacted with in any way whatsoever. The hostess seated me, but after that nobody asked if I wanted a drink or to order, nobody said they'd be with me in just a moment. In retrospect, 11 minutes seems fairly short, but I guess I was hungry and I didn't fancy waiting around for half an hour to get a meal. Consider: It wasn't terribly busy. There were two tables seated when I arrived and two new tables were seated after I arrived. The two after I arrived were both served drinks and had entree orders taken while I sat alone and unnoticed. So I left and tried a different restaurant.]

Otter Rock Cafe

I've been coming to Morro Bay restaurants for a year now. Last December, I stayed in a vacation house and then in January stayed a week at a motel while I waited for my house to settle. You'd think I'd have had a chance to suss out the Morro Bay eateries.  But the truth is: a) I don't like seafood and b) I fall into ruts pretty easily. 


I early on found a restaurant that had friendly staff who remembered me. it had a pretty good view of the rock, so I tended to return to it on my weekly meal on the Embarcadero. 

But the owners have changed and last week my favorite waitress left to start her own restaurant. Now, I'm certainly going to check that out, but it seemed like a good week to try out other places especially since I have the week off. I tend to give up on diet until my birthday. 

I'm looking for a casual place to sit and watch the water and read. The food doesn't have to be great, but the environment and cost are important. 


Otter Rock Cafe has a nice enough view. Some windows actually show the big rock. 

The staff was friendly and efficient. They checked whether I wanted a soda refill twice, which is a big plus. On the other hand the burger I ordered medium rare came out burnt and the bun was dry. 

Verdict: a maybe 


I Didn't Know I Was Lost At The Time

Back in Nevada City, I tried to make a Thanksgiving tradition of driving out to some small town with a name from "Back East." Down here, I never got around to doing anything on Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd try something different for Christmas. I decided to pick a town with a presidential name. I figure there must be a bunch, so this could be a good series. Today, I drove to Taft, California.

Sadly, driving on Christmas leaves you in towns with even less going on than on Thanksgiving. And Taft didn't really jump out at me as picturesque, so I wound up not taking a lot of pictures. There's the cool theater:


And the town is surrounded by oil fields, with many of the major names represented. So I suppose this was inevitable (click on the pictures to get a slide show):


On the way, I had a nice couple of hikes in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. I was excited to learn that there's a mountain in my county that's over 5000 feet high. That might not sound like much to you mountain folk, but if you consider that my house is at 60 feet, then you see the jump you get. I didn't make it down to see Caliente Peak, but I figure it's worth a return. Today, I mostly walked around the lake and the salt flat for Soda Lake:



The San Andreas Fault runs through here. It's not very exciting. Apparently, it's responsible for the bend in this creek bed:


The tumbleweeds are everywhere, and the wind was high today. If you're driving into the wind, it's a little like there are all of these spherical dogs running at you. I found a pack of them all cuddled up in the corner of this gully:


The neatest thing was outside the park just to the north.


Back in the 60s, some developers tried to divide up the land and sell parcels in a to-be-built subdivision under speculation that the California Aqueduct would come through here. It wound up going elsewhere, but there are a bunch of street signs left, even without streets. I assume it was some sort of attempt to say, "Look, we're serious here. Trust us. There'll be a real town some day." Anyway, here's one for the Gin Blossoms:

Greening of Cayucos

All this rain (which seems to have ended for real yesterday) has brought back the green.


That's the dam at the end of my street. Even with all this rain, I don't think the lake is more than a quarter of the way up that dam.

Proud Day

Pretty proud to say that it didn't take me an entire year to replace the plastic bin of tools in my living room with a proper table.

Rain is Done

We had rain yesterday, but it's clear today, so I can set the "hasn't rained since" clock. 


The best part of this time of year is that I can actually get seated at the marina restaurant. (It's always too crowded in the summer.) And today I'm right up front. 




Rainy Days and Butternut Squash

For the record, it's been raining again these last few days. We can certainly use it.

This weekend, I stayed in the house and cooked.


I found this recipe from Jamie Oliver for a pasta casserole with ricotta and butternut squash.


I've got to believe that English butternut squashes are smaller because I had enough for a big casserole dish and a smaller single serving one, and I wasn't careful to use every part of the thing


It was delicious.

Sunset


Wow, we've gotten to the time of year where the sun actually sets over the water. It always sets over the water, of course, but the water is actually south of my house, so for much of the year, it's setting over the hills on the arm of land that just out west on the north side of the bay.

It's Raining Again

I think we all have to admit that this song does not hold up. I don't remember it droning quite so much.

Rain!


I'm reading that we haven't had measurable rain in 186 days. Then last night the water finally returned to the Central Coast. Not sure how much we got and it's still drizzling.

It's been so long since I slept to the sound of rain on the roof -- my bedroom's ceiling is the roof -- and last night was the best shuteye I've gotten in a long while.

Tree Update

Everybody remember my bacon tree? I planted it for my birthday back in the winter. Here's what it looked like then:


With the drought, we're restricted to outside watering only on Monday and Thursday. Do you know how hard it is to remember to water on those days? I finally had to put an appointment in my calendar to remind me.

Unfortunately, travel doesn't help. Last week, for example, I missed both days. I can't understand why one of the days can't be a weekend day. So, given that, I think the tree is in fair shape, though it definitely has a sunburn.


Truly, it's just the mist from the ocean keeping this thing alive.

Denver Cowboys

Took a few days to visit my company's office in Denver and I found a couple of cowboys.





My favorite thing is still watching folks walk right by these things without noticing they're around.

Speaking of Whale Rock Reservoir

This weekend I took a walk around it. This would be a lovely lake to kayak upon. I walked as far as allowed along the southeastern shore (about 2 1/2 miles) and back and didn't once see another human. That's pretty rare down here.

A shame there isn't kayaking because people are afraid.


It's not like the dozens of birds I saw in the water are all that clean. And you can pay a $2 fee to fish, though you have to do it without touching the water somehow. That implies there are fish in there. Fish never poop, I guess.

[Aside. Well, I just read up and it looks like it's a California thing. You need a special exemption to allow recreational uses of drinking water reservoirs. These reservoirs are exempt from the rule: San Diego County reservoirs, Modesto Reservoir, Nacimiento Reservoir, Sly Park Reservoir and Canyon Lake Reservoir. I thought Jackson Meadows, Scotts Flat and Spaulding were used for drinking water, but this would imply not? Maybe Scotts Flat is for flood control. I know Spaulding is also used for electricity. Or maybe NID is also exempt?]

I do like the view up into the hill. The little white house very much reminds me of Scotland.