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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 1860s: X
- 1870s: X
- 1890s: X
- 1900s: X
- 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.
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.
So you walk into a restroom. It has two commodes. One is in a stall with a door. The other is in the open.
Ok, second try.
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.
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:
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.
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.
We had rain yesterday, but it's clear today, so I can set the "hasn't rained since" clock.
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.
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.
I think we all have to admit that this song does not hold up. I don't remember it droning quite so much.
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.
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.
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.
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.