31 December: End Game

( last in a series called Photographic Advent, wherein I took a picture every day of the month )

The best thing about the giant chessboard on The Embarcadero in Morro Bay? That they felt they had to label it.

The cabinets on the other side store the giant pieces. The park also has a series of table-top boards.

There were dudes playing chess at every table on Sunday. I'm thinking about sitting down and laying out Settlers of Catan to see if I get any takers.

Well, it was fun taking a picture every day. It gave me a reason to walk around every day, instead of putting it off. Perhaps next year, I'll add a theme.

30 December: Getting Ready for New Year's

They have actual Navy beans in cans down here!

29 December: Keeping it Real

( almost done with a picture taken every day )

Those of us from the East Coast are often surprised at how folks out here tend to prefix their roads with "the". While we'll say "Route 1" to indicate the north-south US highway in the east, they'll say something like "the 101" for their north-south US highway. I wonder if it isn't a bit of the Spanish article coming into play through translation. After all, the 101 is also

Why are there bells all along here?

28 December: More Arrrrrr

( a picture taken every day in December )

I went to the upscale beach today. Their playground has a pirate ship.

You're just asking to be disobeyed if you put a big pole in a playground and then add a sign that says, "No Climbing." Also, "No Pretending to Be Pirates."

Also, "Get off my lawn."

27 December: Facade

( a picture every day in December )

So, this is my favorite building in Morro Bay, aside from the power plant. And it's just a facade for a Quonset hut.

Sadly, I went too early in the morning. I'll have to get a better landscape shot when the shadows are right.

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec (Fred Vargas)

A trail of tiny breadcrumbs led from the kitchen into the bedroom, as far as the spotless sheets where the old woman lay dead, her mouth open.

26 December: Arrrrrrr

Happy Boxing Day, folks.

The wind is blowing quite a bit, but it refuses to fully expose the skull and crossbones someone snuck onto the Cayucos pier last night.

(Spellcheck doesn't think "snuck" is a word. (It also doesn't think "spellcheck" is a word.))

25 December: Lake to Sea

You're not allowed to approach Whale Rock Reservoir because they're afraid you'll spit into it or something.

What I like about this shot is that the blue on the other side of the dam is the Pacific Ocean. The dam, by the way, is directly at the end of the street that I hope to live on on the 17th of January. If the dam goes, it's going to wipe the house into that sea. I think there are six or seven houses between mine and the dam.

Assuming it's going to be my house, of course.

24 December: Steampunk

( every day a picture in December )

Lots of pictures of the big old rock out in front of Morro Bay, but if you walk out to the rock and turn around, you get this picture.

I like it. It makes me think this town should host a steampunk conference.

23 December: Comin' Round the Mountain

Or the hill. For today's picture, I took a walk around the big hill to look on the other side.

It's downright hot today. Not sure I'm going to appreciate the lack of seasons.

22 December: Un Oso

( coming into the last stretch of a photo every day )

The next town over from Morro Bay is called Los Osos, which is Spanish for da bears.

I haven't seen a bear (other than this festive chap), but there are a lot of warnings about bobcats and mountain lions.

The Good Lord Bird (James McBride)

I was born a colored man and don't you forget it. But I lived as a colored woman for seventeen years.

I put in the second line because it's important to the story. This is easily the best book I read this year, and it took me to the last bit of December to get to it. I think there'll be one more book and then it's time to decide whether this first words experiment was interesting.

21 December: Peligro

( DecPhotoAdvent )

I suppose that one way to protect plant life you're hoping to reestablish is to tell folks that there might old bombs and hand grenades hiding in the weeds.

US Mail

Hey, Nevada City readers, check out this broadside posted today by the California Historical Society on the Flickr Commons stream.

The Flickr Commons is where museums and archives across the world are posting their photographs for public consumption. There are probably a few hundred added every week. I watch the stream and this is the first time that I've seen something from somewhere I've lived.

20 December: Arbor Day

( ... DecPhotoAdvent ... )

My sister sent me a Christmas present. I'm surprised it made it through the California Ag inspectors.

It might seem an odd present for a homeless man, but it is timely because when I got back from my Boston trip, I found that the plant I've been carting around in my car had died.

It's a shame. I've had that plant since 1991. It belonged to the office I worked in in Annapolis and I rescued it when the office closed down. It survived me being away in Scotland for two years and the trip across the country, but it didn't deal with being in a cold car for a week at the airport parking lot.

19 December: Next Door

( picture a day in December )

Remember that house that's being built next door to the vacation rental I'm in this month? It's growing.

The River of No Return (Bee Ridgeway)

Julia sat beside her grandfather's bed, holding his hand.

Considering my favorite book is Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog (Well, about half the time it is. The other half of the time, it's Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.), you'd think time travel was a thing I was into. But I'm not. The thing about time travel books is that they talk too much about the time travel itself, while TSNOTD concentrates on the characters and doesn't seem to care too much about the mechanics. The River of No Return makes a really good go of it, to be sure. I was interested in the characters, though the love story wasn't all that interesting or fun, but there was just a shade too much worrying about the mechanisms and philosophy of time travel for my taste.

(And I know this is odd, because in general with regard to SF, I'm interested in the explanations. There's just something about the trope of time travel that digs at me. I'll examine it closer in the future.)

18 December: Hey, Diddle Diddle

That's actually the title of this bit of public art.

(It's December Photographic Advent. More than halfway through the month and I've taken a picture every day.)

I took this in San Luis Obispo, which about 20 minutes from here. It's the location of the closest Fedex Office. My printer is still in a shed in Grass Valley, and the bank or title company sends me a new thing to sign almost every day. Luckily, a lot of them are e-signatures, but there are still quite a few things that need a wet signature.

17 December: Time

( Picture every day in December, trying to keep up )

It's amazing how unobservant I am. Here's the world's tiniest sundial.

I went to observe the house inspection on the house I hope I can move into. I was shocked by how many cacti are around the place, not so much because cacti are shocking (as long as you don't touch them) but because of how I missed them completely when I was looking the house over to make an offer. What else have I missed?

16 December: Lines

( a picture every day of December )

Apparently, I'm interested in natural geometry. Folks back east have no idea how much of California is flat out flat. I loved the pattern of these furrows I saw in Salinas this morning.

15 December: Almost to Mars

( a picture a day in December )

14 December: Dave, Winter is Coming

( photographic advent and Wee Toaty Explorers converge )

It's wicked cold up here in Massachusetts, so these shots were taken very quickly. I thought about doing something with "Winter is coming..." but not only could I not make it through that first book, another work caught my attention.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here. The whole set is available if you click on Wee Toaty Explorers.

13 December: Whoooa

( pic every day of December )

I took this because when I stare at the carpet, I get a bit of vertigo. Maybe you can stare hard at it and we will be feeling the same thing at the same time!

12 December: If I Only Had a Hammer

( everyday a photo )

The light over the sink in my hotel room was behaving strangely. So they fixed it while I was gone. And they left me this:

It was even wrapped up all nice and pretty. Might be the only Christmas present I get:

11 December: I Know Where My Towel Is

( it's still Photographic Advent )

( Huh, I've started putting spaces around my English parentheses, just like I do in my other languages. You know, Perl, Javascript, Ruby. People don't like it there, either. )

Gosh, I'm almost caught up from all the fallout from my horrible Sunday (then also Monday) flights. More on that, eventually.

Here's a notice in my hotel room. Most hotel rooms have something like this nowadays.

I like to imagine the group of technical writers who must have huddled around the computer discussing this paragraph:

"Well, we can't very well say, 'Throw them on the floor.' We'll have people tossing things around all willy-nilly."

"Oh, aye, but 'Placing them on the floor,' it just seems a bit froofy."

"Fine, just 'Leave them on the floor then.'"

10 December: An Apple A Day

(to go with a picture a day)

In addition to an unexpected night in Philly, I landed in Boston to find that my laptop stopped working. It's the same laptop that we wiped the hard drive a few weeks ago. It had seemed to be happy, but the happiness was not to last.

Sadly, you can't teach much coding without some equipment.

So I drove up to New Hampshire and bought a little baby laptop.

9 December: Brotherly Love

(a picture every day, if it kills me)

Didn't expect to take a picture in this particular city this month.

Assassination Vacation (Sarah Vowell)

One night last summer, all the killers in my head assembled on a stage in Massachusetts to sing show tunes.

First non-fiction in a while. I think reading this must be what it's like to listen to me when I'm in manic overly-detailed-factlets mode. In other words, it was a fun!

8 December: Capacity

(Continuing a photo-a-day)

I used to think of SMF and Reno as small airports. Now that I have a new home airport, I have an updated definition for small.

San Luis Obispo airport has two airlines - USAir and United -- and two gates. That's it. There's no little train to ride. The restaurant is on the other corner of the parking lot from the terminal.

I expect it's going to be a pretty small airplane on the first leg to Phoenix.

7 December: Rub a dub dub

...a picture a day...

Apparently, I'm missing a great snow storm back up in Nevada City. Keep warm, folks.

Down here, it's not so cold as all that, but it has been dropping into the 30s, and I didn't bring my winter clothes. In fact, I have a small subset of my clothing and so I have to visit places like this:

I'm not sure the last time I had to do laundry in public. And this place reminds me why it's worth it to buy a washer/dryer: there was a man with an electric guitar and amp plugged in wailing away in the corner. He wasn't any good, of course, but the thing is more that the place was so small. So the rest of us huddled in the farthest corner and fought over the wheelie-baskets.

6 December: Howdy

Continuing to post a picture a day for December.

One of the important things for a person who wants to re-establish his diet _and_ is moving to a new town is to audition restaurants for Cheat Day. "Cheat Day" is the day of the week reserved for gluttony -- eat sensibly the rest of the week, and on Friday, eat whatever you want. After a bit of time sticking to that regimen, the amount you can pack away even on Cheat Day starts to diminish. I've been waaaaaay off the diet for six months and now that I have a stove, I can start to think about getting back on the horse. (Of course, upcoming travel will completely screw that up, so we're not really serious until after I finish eating the cookie dough on my birthday next month.)

In Nevada City, my Cheat Day haunt was the North Ridge on Nevada Street. It was about a mile walk, which also helped add to my weekly walking goal, and I liked the little personal pizzas (and lately, the Jersey salad -- how can you beat a salad with French fries on it?)

Cayucos doesn't have a lot of restaurants. So far, I'm really leaning toward the restaurant guarded by these fine gentlemen:

The great thing about this place is that there's dining on an open upper deck with a plexiglas screen between the tables and the ocean. I like sitting at the bench table and watching the waves. The food is standard pub fare, but the waitstaff is very nice.

(I think my new mobile phone's camera is nearly as good as my old beater SLR, for shots I don't want to zoom on. I forget to turn it landscape, though. Of course, that seems to fit well into the way I've formatted the middle column of my blog, so maybe it's OK.)

5 December: Rock Rock Never Stop

Continuing to post a picture every day (for December Photographic Advent).

I'm staying in Morro Bay while I start the settlement process for a house in Cayucos. (My offer was accepted! Well, I accepted the counter-offer. Hopefully, this place won't be riddled with termites.)

At any rate, the town of Morro Bay is pretty much dominated by this giant old rock that defines the bay.

4 December: Mazlow's Hierarchy

Continuing to post a picture a day for December Photographic Advent.

I'm staying in a vacation rental. It's very nice. I like it a lot, except for one thing.

They're building a house next door.

In other exciting news, I cooked my own meal for the first time in three months last night. I made eggplant parmesan, and it was delicious, thank you very much.

3 December: Quota

For some of us, exceeding our quota means a bonus.

I guess for others it just means you can sit down for a moment.

December 2's Picture

To be titled, "Farewell, Cayucos." Yesterday, I checked out of this motel and moved into a vacation rental. This keeps me a little stable until January. Since I just put yet another offer on a house, I hope it's enough of a bridge.

Gosh Darn It

Of course, I start off the month boldly proclaiming my intention to put up a picture-a-day, and on day 2, I fall behind.

I _DID_ take a picture today, but when I started to download it tonight, my camera battery died. I'm going to bed while it recharges. I'll get it up here tomorrow.

It wasn't very exciting, but a project is a project.

Paladin of Souls (Lois McMaster Bujold)

Ista leaned forward between the crenellations atop the gate tower, the stone gritty beneath her pale hands, and watched in numb exhaustion as the final mourning party cleared the castle gate below.

Well, I went ahead and read the sequel.

Farewell, Nevada City

It's December. Time for another attempt (it's been a few years since I've tried) at photographic advent -- take a picture every day.

This was Nevada City this morning from the bridge at Sacramento Street.

I drove up to Nevada City yesterday to pick up the cat, and tonight we're safely back in Cayucos. It has been a few weeks since I sold the house behind the Outside Inn and I still haven't found a new place to live. Tomorrow, we move into a vacation rental for a month and hope that the third house I've put an offer on is more successful than the first two.

It was odd to see new furnishings in my old house. The new owners were extremely kind and watched Tubby while I had to go on a work trip immediately after settlement and then drove down here to try and make temporary arrangements, at least. I hope he didn't bully their two cats too much.

The Curse of Chalion (Lois McMaster Bujold)

Cazaril heard the mounted horsemen on the road before he saw them.

This was my first fantasy Bujold. I really enjoy the SF series, but this one didn't do much for me.

Submission Rejected

This one.

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall: A Novel

November 2013 It wasn't dark, and it wasn't light. It wasn't anything except cold.

Ha. I read this in November 2013.

The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler)

It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.

This book was so like the movie that I kept asking myself if had read it before. But then the book would describe the pornography going on or mention a gay character and I knew it was different.

Also, there's a lot of rain in here. Did it used to rain more often in California?

Here's the titular line:

What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell.

Game, Set, Match in Natomas

Near Sacramento, California.

Lane, Strike, Turkey. All kinds of puns available.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here. The whole set is available if you click on Wee Toaty Explorers.

The Stars my Destination (Alfred Bester)

This was a Golden Age, a time of high adventure, rich living, and hard dying...but nobody thought so.

This is one of those classics of science fiction that I never got around to reading. It's worth tracking this book down, though if you've read The Count of Monte Cristo, you'll have already read this, too.

Black Hearts in Battersea (Joan Aiken)

On a fine warm evening in late summer, over a hundred years ago, a boy might have been seen leading a donkey across Southwark Bridge in the city of London.

This is a part of a series of YA books that I had never heard of before. It was written in the '60s and takes place in an alternate England, where the Hanovers didn't take over. It never got bogged down.

UL40_Box23_Folder23_004 (Flickr Commons)

Oh, come on UL Digital Library. Tell us what is going on here!


I am the gosh darn bat man.

20 on 20: Oops

Well, I had this great idea.

On Labor Day, I drove the entire length of California Route 20, east to west, stopping every twenty miles or so to take pictures. I took a lot of pictures.

I came home and I thought I'd make it more interesting. I wouldn't just show pictures from every stop; I'd write a short story around each set. And I did one for mile zero.

I dilly-dallied a bit. I was starting to write a post for the 20ish-mile-marker, where the dead baby lives, but I hadn't quite gotten it all done.

Then my computer crashed. I had a back up of most everything (anyone who started following this blog from its beginning 10 years ago, would be horrified if I hadn't been storing my code in a version control system). My code was safe. My music was safe. A few ancillary record-keeping files and documents about moving were safe.

But something was not right with my backup of pictures. Every picture I've taken with my camera since 2010 is gone. (I have a few pictures taken with my iPhone, but nothing all that interesting).

Gone: All the lakes. All the wee toaty explorers. All the Frankenstein-a-days. And all the 20 on 20 pics.

I'm glad I have a version of all the wee toaty explorers on the blog, but they are all smaller versions than the original files, and there were more angles I kept on hand in case some day I'd like to do something with them.

20 on 20, my shortest series ever.


The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks)

I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped.

I didn't realize Iain Banks had written a Chuck Palahniuk novel.

Submission Transmitted

Just submitted a very short story to the literary journal called The First Line. This issue's first line: "I came of age in a time of no heroes."

Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand (Fred Vargas)

Leaning his shoulder against the dark basement wall, Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg stood contemplating the enormous central heating boiler which had suddenly stopped working, two days before.

Knight Moves (Walter Jon Williams)

I have a little story that I made up, and I'll tell it to you if you don't read that much into it.

20 on 20: 0ish

And so it starts with a fork in the road. I didn't want this to be about decision-making and how difficult it can be to choose options, but here we are at the east end of California 20 and already I am uncertain how to decide.

"This isn't the place to begin." My imaginary great uncle stands at the stop sign near the salt house. "There's at least a mile up that way." Great Uncle Leadbelly points up the road under the bridge.

"That's the on-ramp to I-80," I say. "I don't think that should count."

"There is still a double-yellow line along a portion of that roadway," Prasad points out. He is as imaginary as my great uncle. "Surely, that is the definition of a two-lane highway."

"This sign up here says West 20. It doesn't say you can turn left onto East 20." The kid whose name I can't remember has walked up the other fork. We all gather near the sign and nod our heads. It's true. There is only one sign.

"Awful lot of blacktop without a name, then," Great Uncle grumbles. "In my day, we called that a road."

The three start squabbling like chickens and I am really beginning to doubt the wisdom of this road trip. I leave them to it and scramble up the hillside alongside the ramp. The view is spectacular up here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We're down the road from Donner Pass, but the peaks are lovely.

"What are you doing?" Prasad has scrambled up beside me. "You're going to hurt yourself."

"No, I'm safe. Worry about yourself."

"You keep insisting I'm not real," he says. "It follows, then, that I am invincible."

"Geez, don't give that notion to Great Uncle Leadbelly."

"What is that?"

"That is Spaulding Lake. It's pretty low. Usually, it's much bluer."

"Are we going there?"

"Sadly, we are not going to Spaulding Lake." I wonder where Annabel Lee is. I look around, sigh, and climb back down.

"When I was with Augustus," I hear Great Uncle Leadbelly pontificating, "we built better roads than this."

"You were never with Augustus," I say.

"Well, Octavian, whoever."

We walk back toward the car, where Bertie is crouched down looking at something on the ground. He growls a little as we come close.

"This is my idea," he says. "Nobody steal it."

We stare at the ground. "Nobody wants your trash," says the kid with no name.

"It's going to be a fortune. It's a goldmine, I tell you."

"How do you figure?" I don't want to ask, but I do anyway.

"You know how a big box of that cereal you like costs less per ounce than the medium sized box? And then the smaller box is even more money per ounce? And then, if you buy a single serving package, it's an astronomical per-ounce price? Imagine what it would add up to if you paid for every single bite. That's what this is."

I stare down at the road and shake my head. "If we're ever going to get to the sea, we need to get a move on."

And it is that easily that it is decided. We're not going to start at the fork in the road.

We're starting at the spoon.

20 on 20 is a series of photographs taken at (approximately) 20 mile intervals traveling east to west on California 20.