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2014 in the rear view mirror

The year is drawing to a close, and I am succumbing to the urge to look back. The calendar year is an arbitrary unit for contemplation, but it's also a handy way to parse things into intelligible chunks. As such, 2014 doesn't seems very remarkable in any way, but maybe I'm just in a jaded mood.

In many ways the highlight of the year was the trip I took to Europe in August. It's hard to overstate what an acre lot of fun that was. The first part of the trip, in which my sister and I treated Mom to a visit to Amsterdam and ancestral lands in eastern France was definitely one none of us will ever forget. My sister's French friend, Kelly, opened up doors to our past that we probably wouldn't even have noticed if we'd been on our own. Then for me it was onward to London for beer tourism and the mighty Worldcon, which was almost fannish overload. Well, no, it was definitely fannish overload. There's a part of me that doesn't enjoy overseas travel as much as I once did, but it's hard to remember why while I'm in the middle of it having so much damned fun.

Other than that I traveled to San Jose for Potlatch in February and had a splendid time there with exotic foreign visitors (the Fishlifters) and various other well-memorized faces. This was followed by another of my retreats to Astoria and the Olympic Peninsula, which have rapidly become one of my very favorite things in the whole wide world ever. The other relatively long trip was the drive to Southern California with my parents in November, and I once again really enjoyed the scenic drive along the Sierra Nevadas on Highway 395. Other than that there were several trips to Oregon to visit the family, including the big pig roast family birthday party at my brother's place in July and another family birthday party at Waldport on the coast. Now that my parents' Oregon abode is back in Portland, I've really been enjoying taking the train from Seattle. It's a lot more relaxing than driving or flying.

A lot less satisfying in some ways was my year in writing and publishing. We only got out one issue of Chunga, and that was way back in January. We had been getting out two issues a year recently, so this felt like a step backward. I also felt like I didn't do much writing for other fanzines. I had pieces published in John Purcell's Askance and Pete Young's Big Sky (thanks, guys!), but the more major piece I wrote about 30 years living in Seattle was rejected by the fanzine that solicited it. Even worse, I had to agree that it wasn't a very good piece and thus not worth submitting elsewhere, and this failure has had me contemplating my navel a bit. Have I gotten stagnant? Do I have anything left to say? Why do I want to write? Sometimes I think I just write from reflex now, but then again, maybe that's the best reason to write. I just don't want to get rote, right?

The bulk of my writing was on the internet. I still feel very ambivalent about my (mostly) film blog, Dreamland Cafe, but it does give me a reason to write, even if I'm not sure of the reason why I write. Do I really have anything to say about film? Wouldn't I be better off to just write about science fiction, where I have twice as many decades of experience and knowledge to back up my analysis? Perhaps the most striking thing to me about the blog is that the two most popular articles in the past year have been one I wrote in 2013 about slavery stories, which keeps getting found by people using search terms like "plantation sex stories," and the piece I wrote in February about the French film The Ring Finger. Considering the fetishistic sexual interest that seems to be driving the readers of the slavery post, it's hard not to assume that people are searching for the piece about The Ring Finger looking for nude screencaps of Olga Kurylenko or to contemplate the sadomasochistic bent of the film. Nonetheless, that's probably the best thing I wrote for the Dreamland Cafe last year.

Meanwhile, my LiveJournal plugs along as a repository for trip reports, convention reports, book reports, and memorials to dead friends. I think I'm still writing some good things here, although since I outed my true identity it feels as though I'm writing less personal stuff. Not sure if that's actually true. Is this post personal?

The biggest surprise development this year came on the job front. After years of stasis partly caused by reduced budgets in the aftermath of the Great Recession, we were finally given the funds to hire two new reporting positions. Since I'm a "super SME" for student data, it will be my responsibility to train these two new people in the mysteries of student data, which means a lot more work is being put on my plate. What is perhaps most surprising is that one of the key figures behind the allocation of funds for these positions also pushed heavily to give me a significant raise commensurate with my new responsibilities (and my old ones too). That's all still being negotiated, but the tea leaf readings are positive. What I take away from this is that after 25 years of working here, I have developed some powerful allies. I still worry about what's going to happen when one of my biggest long-term allies and mentors retires next year, but it's encouraging to know that I'll still have people who might be able to help me if I need it.

Finally, there's my health. Three years after getting a wake up call about growing insulin resistance, which caused me to make fairly significant dietary and life style changes, I developed a nagging pain in my right shoulder that was diagnosed as rotator cuff tendinitis. This put me on a course of stretches and exercises that have increased my upper body strength. Between the recent weight loss, eating better, getting more cardio, and now putting on some muscle in my shoulders, I'm feeling unexpectedly fit. At the same time, at age 54 my body is definitely showing its age, and while I may have built up my shoulder muscles, I'm losing muscle mass elsewhere. Part of me wonders whether the tendinitis, which is caused by impingement, was the result of losing muscle mass that had previously been keeping the impinging bones at bay. In any event, I'm feeling pretty damned good physically right now, but the slow slide is in progress.

Well, no doubt I could natter on some more about various projects and plans and desires, but I won't. I've been feeling slightly blue today, but I think it's just a random existential mood. I remember when I broke up with Sharee back in 2005 I felt that I'd probably reached the pinnacle of what I was going to accomplish in life and it would be all downhill from there. Two years later I'd somehow finagled my way onto some Hugo-winning coattails. The thing I ask myself more and more these days is how can I help younger people face their challenges in the way that I was helped as a young man. My goal for a long time has been not to be a burden on anyone else, even if I'm not strong enough to carry anyone else's burden. But can I do more? Can I help to lift other people up? I really don't know, but it's been on my mind.

And on that note I wish you bottoms up for the new year.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
Yup, at 54 you've used up almost half your life-potential (and... be honest now... it was mostly fun, wasn't it?). So it will be, on the whole, downhill from now on. But I'd say (currently working on my 87th year) that even going downhill can be a lot of fun, so wotthell, Archie.
Dec. 31st, 2014 11:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's been mostly fun, and it continues to be mostly fun. I'm glad to hear that chances are it'll stay that way! Happy New Year, Don.
Jan. 1st, 2015 04:53 am (UTC)
Happy New Year Randy. See you soon.
Jan. 1st, 2015 09:48 am (UTC)
Indeed you did, and I saw you too. Happy New Year!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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