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December 31, 2013

Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:20 PM * 87 comments

Well, it’s next year where I am. Time for summing-up.

2013 scared me. Our weather really does seem to have taken a turn for the worse; I think the fact that we broke the planet is starting to have real consequences. I can well believe this is the beginning of a worsening whose end I cannot see or predict. Likewise, it’s the year we saw how helpless we were in the face of pervasive, intrusive spying into our affairs. How thin is our privacy, how fragile our rights, how brittle our financial security. Again, we knew, but now we’ve seen it writ plain.

There were good signs, too: a pope who talks about poverty and inclusion; marriage equality spreading to more states; a breach in Republican intransigence; the beginning of Obamacare. Will these good trends continue into 2014? What suprises will the new year bring? (Close to my heart: how will Scotland vote in its upcoming referendum on independence?)

Winter is not my best time. Joy is an effort of will, and hope a work of faith. My online community of friends, which clusters around Making Light, has been a persistent source of will and joy, faith and hope, and I am grateful. May this fellowship continue into the new year, and the years to come.

Happy New Year, my friends, when it comes to you.

Comments on 2014:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 07:47 PM:

I believe the revelations about the NSA spying and corporate prying are actually good news. Scary, but good. We know it is happening now. It isn't paranoid ranting or hearsay. Snowden still has more to reveal.

I'm scared by the climate, but frustrated by the actual weather, for refusing to be consistent. Every untimely cold snap gets pointed at as proof the scientists are in it for the money, or because liberals hate cars and freedom. There is too much money, and stubborn ignorance, behind the climate skeptics. I suspect things will have to go from unsettling and ominous to downright terrifying.

* * *
I had, overall, a good year.

The only relative I lost was living on borrowed time. Ten years living with lung cancer? Astonishing.

I've settled into my new home, and had my first house guests. More are due in the spring.

I went to Italy. My first substantial trip overseas. It went very well.

I started writing RPG material again. Trivial stuff, but substantial trivial stuff. A 500 section "choose your own adventure" type of thing. Playtest comments are positive. I'm going to be buying art and self-publishing.

I still have a job. Prospects for this continuing look good, but nothing is guaranteed.

* * *
I hope the GOP continues to tear at itself in 2014. I hope their base gets tired of having their resentments stoked and fears reinforced.

I hope Obama does a few more surprising good things.

I hope we get an overdue scientific or technological miracle.

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 07:56 PM:

I hope next year is better for everyone who needs better. I'm tired of feeling like civilization is losing to barbarian hordes in three-piece suits.

#3 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 08:04 PM:

This moose hopes that 2014 is better for everyone regardless of whether they need it or not.

(Note: Better does not mean that evil people get what they want, more that they get what they deserve (and that it makes them into better people) - they probably won't enjoy that, but it's their own fault.)

#4 ::: canisfelicis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 08:29 PM:

I'm ending the year like I began it--with a *doozy* of a head cold, several hundred miles from home. But 'home' is a different place now, and the company in illness is excellent this time. Also there are cupcakes.

I gave up the place I was happiest with, out of all of the places I have ever lived, to move instead to the middle of the woods. Today I bought seeds for dozens of plants, and planned my deer fence. I'm honestly excited for what comes next.

I started the year still out of touch with all of my siblings but one; now all but one are talking to me again, almost certainly a bit against my mother's wishes. It's grand.

I have a lot of hope for the new year, all things told.

#5 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 08:42 PM:

It's been a hard year for the cats, and not much better for some of the people around here. I'm not quite with the pilots who say that any landing you live through is a good one -- some years are much better than others. This was not my favorite, though I do have less to complain about than many friends -- still and all, I hope 2014 will be better for all. In the Moose sense above, at least.

#6 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 09:33 PM:

7DD was a pretty good year for me. I re-kindled some old interests/subjects of fascination that were long overdue for it, and learned new things about them; I made some progress with my trebuchets, and had the company of 3 good friends (but feel like I could use a couple or 3 more.)
The climate thing? I don't know how to feel about it; I have always thought the resourceful will thrive, but this time it may take people working together. I am disabled and can't do a whole lot. But I did help save a library, this year and last--the process is not over, its fate is not yet secure, but a bunch of determined people are not giving up.
All this spying and prying really ticks me off--I went thru enough of it when young. I take heart in something I read just the other day, I forget just where--a suggestion that we should all read, view or make as much varied Rule 34 material as we can, just to confuse them.

#7 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 09:41 PM:

I'm not going to let go of 2013 for another few hours :-) Cats have already decided that the year should start off with a nap, so they're getting an early start after a hard day of chasing the Christmas catnip mice around for one of them, and a day of napping for the other.

I've heard that Dutch New Year customs seem to include blue LEDs, dressing as an owl, and smelling spices and newly-canned pears, so best wishes for those and a better year for the world.

#8 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 09:54 PM:

It's still 2013 here; it's still the day of endings.

Today has been strange; I've known it was coming for a month, and hoped for a year--but it was still strange. I packed all my things in boxes, and carried them to my minivan. I sent out an email with my contact information. And then I went to the security desk and turned in my badge.

I have never worked as an actuary anywhere else.

Happy New Year to all!

#9 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 11:06 PM:

Happy New Year, all!

Thanks for making Making Light happen.

#10 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 11:43 PM:

Aww, c'mon! It's not 2014 here yet! Spoiler warnings, please! (Yes, I'm kidding.)

#11 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 11:46 PM:

Happy new year all!

#12 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 11:59 PM:

Happy new year, Xopher!

#13 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 12:02 AM:

Happy New Year to the East Coasters.

I set aside a carefully measured pile of chips and salsa, and three pieces of candy, for chomping on during and after the countdown.

I put some of it back, and ate it all, early, because I'm so tired after my trip that I don't know if I'll make it to 1200.

#14 ::: Alma Alexander ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 12:13 AM:

West COast, still 3 hours away from seeing the back of this one - but I can't wait to shake the dust of 2013 off my feet. I don't know that next year is going to be any more shiny but at least it has that new uncreased potential. 2013 has been... godawful, really. And most of it - from mid-May when my father was diagonsed with metastatic terminal lung cancer through to the end of August when he died through to the end of the year as I had to grapple with the logistics and fallout of that death - has simply been swallowed by grief and loss and desperation (tried to deal with health insurance lately? You'll know what I mean...) I don't know what 2014 holds but it must be SOMETHING good. we're about overdue for something good.

#15 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:10 AM:

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2014 be much, much better than 2013 was.

#16 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:21 AM:

Two years ago this time, life was...bad. Last year this time was better.

This year...
--One year and three months at the job (and two raises!)
--A place to live where I can have my cats and that also works well for life in other ways
--Two trips out of town for music! (It's been at least three years...)
--Catching up with friends again
--Moving up a step or two on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Heh.)
--Feeling...safer. I may never feel safe again, not to the level I did before, but in this, I'll take what improvement I can.

All my goals for 2014 currently sound generic, so the first week or so of the new year, I'll make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (another Heh). Because I think, just maybe, it's time to spread my wings a little more.

To all for whom 2013 is best forgotten, may you find the peace to take whatever lessons were offered and leave the rest behind. For all of us, may 2014 be as wonderful as possible.

Sincere thanks to Making Light, as in our gracious hosts, the moderators (with a wave at abi for the DFD threads), Their Esteemed Lownesses, and the commentariat at large. This place is second home to me, and I don't know if I'd have made the progress I have without your help.

Y'all ROCK. HAPPY NEW YEAR! (Envision many more exclamation points, which I have left off lest they increase Their Lownessess' workload...) :)

#17 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:37 AM:

Happy New Year! And to people on the West just wait. It's a whole other year over here!

#18 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 02:06 AM:

2013 was a another year of slow gains for me, building up my situation and making key realizations. I switched from smoking to e-cigs, and decided to give up my dog, who I do love but she's eating my life.

#19 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 02:13 AM:

2013 can suck it.

I lost my best furry friend on the Summer Solstice
I screwed up my finances again (not entirely unrelated to the above)
I can't seem to be motivated to pick up the cello
I'm losing a great sister-in-law to divorce

On the other hand...
I read a lot of great books
I'm learning to hand-spin
My cooking is getting way better
I started the first chapter of something that may turn into a book, hopefully by the end of the year. (well, it may be book-shaped anyhow.)

So bring on 2014! And please, lord, let is be a tiny bit less of a shit-show than 2013...

#20 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 02:54 AM:

My 2013 involved: (firstly) a lot (a *lot*) of hard work whose payoff will be long-term and probably non-monetary. And (secondly) discarding a fistful of close-clutched fears, leaving space in my hands for unexpected joy.

I am good with that. Those were good ways to spend 2013. Maybe I could have done 'em in 2010 or 2005 or 1999, but 2013 is when I did 'em. If those are trends, 2014 will be very good for me.

More for all.

#21 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 03:46 AM:

2013 was a little better for us than 2012, but that was a really low bar to beat.

Because I believe in ending the year on a positive note: as of Feb. 1, I will have medical coverage for the first time in 15 years, at a price that won't put me on the street. Thank you, President Obama.

Syd, #16: Thank you. In a time when I keep hearing about bad things happening to people, it's really nice to be reminded that good things happen as well.

#22 ::: Andrew Wells ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 05:01 AM:

In theory, I will comment later on today with my deep and insightful thoughts on 2013 and 2014. In practice, of course, I probably won't get round to it, so I shall just content myself with wishing you all a very Happy New Year.

#23 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 07:36 AM:

2013 was not a great year for me. No major losses, but severe underemployment that has eaten away at my self-esteem to the point where I finally threw up my hands and applied to grad school.

Luckily, my uncanny ability to score well on standardized tests has survived this long. Unluckily, it looks like my goddamn transcripts are not going to arrive in time for early deadline, so (since there's no way I can do this without serious financial aid, probably an assistantship) I may be stuck spinning my wheels for another year.

Still...trying my best to level up. If I don't make grad school, maybe I can at least finish the novel and submit it somewhere.

Here's to a better 2014 for everyone.

#24 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 08:04 AM:

I am one of the richest few billion people who have ever lived. I am rich beyond the dreams of avarice of kings and emperors who lived just a few centuries ago. About 100 billion humans have ever lived -- by wealth, everybody in this thread is in the top few percent.

I am safe -- the last time my country was attacked by another, my parents were toddlers. War casualties worldwide continue to trend sharply downward. My chance of suffering from criminal violence is also extremely low. Per capita, the twentieth was the safest century ever in terms of chance of dying from violence (despite containing two world wars and several genocides). The twenty first is, so far, even safer.

I am healthy. Like almost every citizen of an advanced nation, I have access to approximately the greatest healthcare that has ever existed. The average life expectancy of the worst nation today is better than that of the best nation about 130 years ago. Fearsome killers like polio, diphtheria and smallpox are all but extinct.

This is the best of times. And it's getting better.

#25 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 08:07 AM:

nerdycellist #19: I'm losing a great sister-in-law to divorce.

Regarding this one: I'll note that my Dad always said that he may have divorced Mom, but never her parents -- he and my maternal grandparents stayed friends for the rest of their respective lives.

For that matter, I've got a friend down here who's a closer match to your case: she's kept a close friendship (with regular visiting) with her ex-sister-in-law (also referred to as her "was-band's sister" and her "sister-out-law").

#26 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 09:36 AM:

I haven't got prostate cancer, or any cancer. My blood sugar was down to 5.9, last test. My knee is arthritic, and so is my spine, but the arthroscopy on the knee was effective, and the exercises have improved the back and neck.

I've lost 25 kg, about 55 pounds, slowly, over the last 18 months, and continue to lose.

Sally and I will celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary in six days time.

We lost Morgan. But we have Bella, and she's lovely. This year, we go to WorldCon and we cruise the Rhine and the Danube, and we walk Hadrian's Wall, and Paris.

It's good. "Socialised medicine" is good. Being able to walk is good. I will be rather sorry to leave, but it's getting to be time for making plans in that direction. Pity.

But NASA is working on an FTL drive. It's probably not real, but maybe - maybe it might come true.

I tell you what, if from my deathbed, I see the ship leave, I'll die happy.

#27 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 09:52 AM:

2013 had its ups and downs: for many people I love, it was a hard year. I bow respectfully to its back.

2014, welcome. May the God who opens and closes all doors bless us. Guard [us] from hostile scheming, and from the rage of the violent. (Psalm 64). May peace and comfort attend us, and may we grow in love. Amen.

#28 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 09:54 AM:

Started the year with a great Lloyd parkrun: 114 finishers, a couple of one-lappers and 14 great volunteers. Hot, spiced apple juice and home-made flapjacks were enjoyed after the run and the results were really easy to process - a good beginning (the wind and rain were surplus to requirements but not entirely unexpected).

I've had to give up the running goals I had for 2014, but I have another large goal to work towards, so that's also a good start to the year.

Here's wishing all of us a year of health and happiness.

#29 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 10:02 AM:

2013 was a transitional year for me, with (in chronological order) a return to work after Sandy, an overhaul of the library, semi-major surgery, a new car, and a new apartment out of the flood zone. I had hoped to finalize that last item by unpacking the last of the boxes today, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Instead, I'm starting off 2014 with a truly horrendous cold. Nap time!

#30 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 10:48 AM:

2013 was not a winner here but it was at least a start on excavating a way out of the hole that was 2012.

#31 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 11:29 AM:

We are wishing a happy 2014 to all of you, from here in the lovely desert morning.

#32 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 11:58 AM:

(abi and others correct me if I'm off) ...on the Scots belief that the year will be lucky if your First Foot (the first visitor to cross your threshold) is a tall, dark male, preferably unknown.

My First Foot was a little spider. I don't see them in my apartment very often, and I'm not sure of the gender, but it was definitely a dark stranger. Perhaps tall to its fellows? As it came via my kitchen window* and headed for the sink, perhaps it desired a refreshing cool beverage? I sent it good wishes and let it go about its arachnoid business.

This custom was certainly fostered by tall, dark men.

*drafty old apartment, but the radiators keep it cozy

#33 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 12:14 PM:

Happy new year! The good news is I have health insurance again, woohoo! The bad news is the prescription coverage isn't in the database yet, so I had to pay full price this morning at the drugstore and file a claim later. I BLAME THE FAILED DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION.

The highlight of 2013 for me was landing a gig doing freelance translation with an agency on a government contract, which hopefully will give me steady work for months to come. Still an open question is whether I can get it to pay enough to give up one of my two part-time day jobs (actually, since the government takes its time reviewing and then paying for the work, I haven't seen a penny for my work yet, and I started in October). And with January comes the opening of tax season and my other freelance clientele knocking at my door. So I'm looking at the next few months as the Season of Four Jobs.

If whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger, I really should be able to pull those trains with my teeth by Memorial Day, right?

#34 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 12:24 PM:

Carol Kimball @32 -

My name may not be high enough on the sign-up sheet for Idris Elba to get here before noon. Do you think it would be OK if I took a quick break to go to the bookstore, or do I need to be present for this "first footing" thing to work?

#35 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 12:42 PM:


Though traditionally visitors start showing up right after the turn of the year at midnight, as far as I've been able to find out there's no time limit. If your ways are those of the hermit, your First Foot might bear a May Basket.

I will gladly give Spidey a map to your place.

#36 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 12:50 PM:

I've always been less interested in the physical attributes of a first footer than in what said first footer brings. Not the coal, though it's nice to have the first fire over the threshold.

It's the whisky that I wait for.

#37 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:00 PM:

Given the way I live, my first footer could step over my threshold in February.

#38 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:32 PM:

Xopher (37): I was going to agree with you, but my sister is coming over late next week. Hmmm. Can one be one's own first-footer? My hair is darker than hers.

#39 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:34 PM:

Xopher: the only reason that's not true for me is that 2 of my 3 daughters are home for the holidays. (I guess technically this is still home for the youngest, as she doesn't have an address of her own apart from her dorm room. But the middle one has her own digs, albeit nearby.)

#40 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:43 PM:

For me 2013 was, I think, the beginnings of getting out of a rut. I think I'll take my personal theme for 2014 from Jessica Hagy's How to Be More Interesting: "Less crankiness, more marveling."

Wishing the best of the new year to all.

#41 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:50 PM:

Mary Aileen 38: Can one be one's own first-footer?

I took the term 'visitor' to mean "someone who is not a resident of the house." I'll be stepping across my own threshold later tonight (if I can tear myself away from ML long enough to go to a New Year's Day party), but I don't count as a visitor.

#42 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:55 PM:

It's also...well, let's put it this way. If a tall, dark-haired man stepped over my threshold, that sounds lucky in the same sense that it's unlucky to fall down the stairs.

#43 ::: MJH ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 02:13 PM:

Happy New Year from this shy lurker who wants to begin the year by saying how much I value the wit and great heart of this community. May 2014 be a year happiness and improving circumstances for all.

#44 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 02:55 PM:

Happy New Year all!

2013 was a challenging and difficult year for me; losing my mother, and not being there in time to say goodbye, was the biggest part of that. And yet, 2013 was a year of profound changes in me, where I found I was able to accept that with gratitude (because she wanted to go, and knew that I loved her and that all her children and grandchildren loved her.)

After 35 years of Zen meditation practice, struggling to even figure out what I'm doing or trying to do with it, suddenly in 2013 I could feel it making sweeping changes in me. In July I stopped my ADHD meds and antidepressants, because I thought it possible I didn't need them any more, and this fall - usually the most difficult time of year for me - I have felt no need to go back. I recently looked back on an email I wrote in April about how fragile and precarious I felt, and was amazed to realize I'd felt that way so few months ago. I know, too, that this is only the beginning.

My daughter landed a better paying and better job early in December; the hanai daughter is now working steadily at a discount clothing store, after a couple years struggling to get into the workforce. I lost some wages what with traveling to see my mother after her stroke and for her funeral, but have no regrets over that. It feels like we're doing incredibly well, especially in this difficult environment. We have much to be grateful for.

I'm looking forward to 2014 to see where it takes us.

On the broader world... I share Abi's and Stefan's outlook. Worry about what we've done to the world, and how it will come back around to affect us - but also a lot of hope for change in our society and in others around the world. I feel China is poised for big positive changes, and they could happen very fast. It's a question of whether their government can catch up with where their people are headed.

#45 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 03:06 PM:

Last year was a quietly productive year for us. I feel optimistic that we are finally starting to catch up on all the things that had fallen out of whack over the last few years. I'm starting to look forward to new things, instead of focusing on what I desperately need to manage right now. It's a lovely way to start a new year. I hope everyone else is similarly lucky.

#46 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 04:32 PM:

2013 had its ups and its downs. It was a productive year for me. I signed two book contracts, and saw one go all the way to fulfillment (my first collection of poems, Mango-Red Leaves available for e-book reader), and another will, I hope, be out this summer, in my academic field. I had an article commissioned, and completed, for an encyclopaedia of post-colonial studies, and that will be out in 2015.

I've had some positive academic achievements otherwise, at conferences in my favourite part of the world, and seen a couple of places that I might never have otherwise seen (not to mention meeting fellow Fluorospherian Praisegod Barebones). I've also had some positive developments in my personal life, including my favourite ex-wife, my wife, and I all growing closer as a family.

I've also watched from afar as a close relative has been struck down by serious illness, and I've had to worry about my own health more than once. But I am, on balance, still alive and glad to be confronting a new year with both determination and hope.

May you all have a prosperous 2014, and may the year that unfolds bring you all that you wish for.

On the other hand, I al

#47 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 04:35 PM:

Happy New Year, everyone!

I spent last evening watching all three "That's Entertainment" movies on TCM with Luciano on my lap.

I wasn't sorry to say goodbye to 2013. It wasn't the greatest of years. I lost way too many four-footed friends, and having the furnace die in December was just the icing on the cake.

Today began with a titmouse on the kitchen window feeder, and I noticed yellow buds on the winter-blooming witch-hazel, and so I will end with "Spring is coming!"

#48 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 07:21 PM:

Doug, #24: I appreciate your viewpoint here, but there are nonetheless some ways in which this post is troubling to me.

Yes, by 13th-century standards or even 18th-century ones, I am incredibly wealthy and have a lifestyle kings would envy. But I am not typical. Even in my own country, there are people who struggle every day to get enough food to live on and a place to stay out of the rain and cold. It is much worse in other parts of the world.

There are people even in my own country who are not safe, who cannot be sure that someone will not randomly decide they should be killed -- for their political beliefs, their country of origin, the color of their skin, who they love, their gender, or sometimes just because they're in the way. It is much worse in other parts of the world.

Despite the miracles of medical progress, there are people even in my own country who have no access to medical care, who die young from preventable diseases and conditions that we know how to control. It is much worse in other parts of the world.

In our haste to say how wonderful things are in the world today, let us not forget those for whom it is not wonderful, who do not have access to the things that make our lives well-off, safe, and healthy.

#49 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 09:26 PM:

My "first foot" may well have arrived in my absence, in the form of my downstairs neighbor coming up to water the plants. We've been out of town since Christmas Eve and will only be getting back in late tonight.

Alma, I had no idea 2013 had been so rough for you. All my sympathies for your suffering and loss. I fear my note in the US Post may come across as horribly tonedeaf, with its oblivious inquiry as to whether the year had been a good one. Argh. Please consider it amended to say "May 2014 treat you right, and then some, because you darn well deserve better."

Pretty much wishing that for everyone, really. A lot of us seem to be recovering from a shitty year.

#50 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 10:08 PM:

I spent part of this afternoon falling asleep in a deckchair in the sun on the South-facing balcony. And not thinking about a drought.

And the formerly feral cat came up on my chest and rubbed his face against mine. His name is Buddy, but all his friends are gone now.

May we all have better times this coming year.

#51 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 12:03 AM:

Lee @24: I am certainly mindful that I am lucky not merely compared to the hundred billion dead, but also compared to the seven billion living. Rich people like myself should definitely consider giving to an appropriate charity; my favoured guide is GiveWell.

But for many now living who are less fortunate than me, the world is still getting better. That decrease in casualties from war helps them at least as much as it helps me, for example.

And over the last thirty years, we've lifted a billion people out of extreme poverty (income less than $1.25 per day). This is the first time we've ever done this. There's still a billion left in extreme poverty, and lifting them out won't be easier than the billion we've just done, but progress is being made.

Yes, violence still exists, and any amount is too much; yes, people still die of preventable disease, in both rich countries and poor; yes, a billion still live in extreme poverty.

I absolutely agree that we must not forget those for whom life is not wonderful, but: on average, it is improving. And we, the lucky ones, should not forget how lucky we are.

#52 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 02:23 AM:

This is the year I accepted that I had fallen out of the workforce. Working conditions for preschool snd K-12 teachers have become intolerable anyhow. I have a widow's pension. I'm just writing now. Maybe I'll even get good at it now.

#53 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 09:01 AM:

#51 Doug Burbidge

Rich people like myself should definitely consider giving to an appropriate charity; my favoured guide is GiveWell.....And we, the lucky ones, should not forget how lucky we are.

I'm genuinely glad that you can look back on a year of wealth and contentment. And grateful I haven't yet read, "You guys just need to remember your blessings!"

I'm sure you know the saying that money cannot make a person happy. But In my experience, if I am talking with a person, and they are talking about what a tough time they are having, charity is best expressed by opening my own heart to that person. Rather than trying to get them to affirm me in my own good works. And certainly not broadly hinting that they should join me by opening their wallets.

Crazy(and remembering 1Corinthians 13:3 when presented with the false choice of her material circumstances versus her
spiritual and emotional health)Soph

#54 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 10:40 AM:

The new year came in for me at work. We didn't have any customers in the store right at midnight, so I was able to step out and blow a horn to welcome the new year.

Late last year I started collecting a pension from a place I used to work. It's not enough to live on, but I figured I'd be able to pay for my new health insurance, gradually pay off my credit card debt, save a bit, and have enough for an occasional trip out of town. Instead, my current employer cut my hours. I'd been getting 40 per week for several years. This week it's 28. Next week, 26. It's going to be a tough year.

#55 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 11:13 AM:

I retire tomorrow, so whatever the new year is like, it'll be different for me.

#56 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 11:27 AM:

The world got a little better in a lot of different ways last year. (Progress on sustainable energy, mostly, is what I noticed, but you see what you're looking at. This is a discussion of how 2013 had less failure overall, which is a good thing if true. )

I spent last year, mostly, on the sidelines for no good reason. This year I hope to contribute more directly.

#57 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 11:28 AM:

The world got a little better in a lot of different ways last year. (Progress on sustainable energy, mostly, is what I noticed, but you see what you're looking at. This is a discussion of how 2013 had less failure overall, which is a good thing if true. )

I spent last year, mostly, on the sidelines for no good reason. This year I hope to contribute more directly.

#58 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 11:29 AM:

NoScript played badly with your scripts; apologies for doublepost.

#59 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 01:42 PM:

Well, 2013 overall was an interesting year, but mostly good, with some bumps in the road. The Ex settled down, and stopped being Angry At Me all the time. The Son got healthier, noticeably so. The FG turned into the FF, and is still very F. Her daughter is finishing law school, and will likely have the baby just after her bar exam; her son-in-law managed to score a residency at a very good place that is local to me.

I lost only one cat, and am counting myself very lucky to still have the others (plus kittens!).

On the last day of the old year, I visited my eye surgeon for the follow up; my retina is healing well and I proved that I can see "well enough" to begin perceiving letters on the eye chart, thus moving from "off the chart" to 20/150. The gas bubble has totally disappeared, ahead of schedule (according to the surgeon, who ascribed it to my relative youth, thankyouverymuch). However, I now have a cataract in that eye, so my vision is growing more blurry again, in a different way. I'll be getting another surgery (to be scheduled, once the surgery scheduler calls). On the gripping hand, I am lucky enough to live along a decent bus route which takes me to work easily, so I have no driving to worry about for now. All this walking is good for me, and I might even manage to lose a few pounds along the way.

#60 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 02:25 PM:

Ginger: Sorry, I'm not sure I got the FG to FF change: is that from girlfriend to simply a friend? I congratulate you both, if so, on successfully navigating the difficult journey from romance to friendship, and wish you both luck in finding new romance in your lives.

#61 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 02:27 PM:

Clifton @60:


#62 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 02:40 PM:

SamChevre, I do hope you have another place to go to work as an actuary..

we spent the dying days of 2013 holed up in a cabin in the shadow of Mt Princeton, with a wood-fired stove and three dogs to keep us warm (yes, a three dog night). Snow quiet and the wind in pine trees, that's about as much partying as I like anymore.

for myself: still have a job though tenuously, my persistent ailments are all minor though tedious, I still aten't dead though I'll be old until I die now.. good enough to be going on with.

#63 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 06:51 PM:

2013 had a lot of damage reports in it, but some wonderful working-together too, and a few surprising gladnesses.

2013 personally was... interesting. I learned things I didn't want to need to know, and did my best to pass along a road map for anyone navigating similar terrain. Besides that, there was some excellent travel with people I love.

2014 is likely to contain more excellent travel with people I love, as Juan and I have Plans. It's also going to have some fun in the form of working for the Helsinki in 2017 bid. Have I talked to you about Helsinki in 2017? It's a good idea!

2014's also already surprising me and filling me with anticipation and gladness, and it's not just the awesome new haircut.

Happy New Year, all!

#65 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 10:57 PM:

Clifton @60: My apologies for the confusion! She's now my fiancee, and wedding plans are percolating. (We had to postpone nuptials when her mom got sick, and then died.)

Changing topic: for the cat owners who have Kindles, may I recommend "Mouse Chase"? Brady won't let me use my Kindle without begging for this game repeatedly. It's hilarious to watch him play, too.

#66 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2014, 12:35 AM:

Ginger: Oh yay! I totally missed that. Way better congratulations in that case!

#67 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2014, 12:52 AM:

2013 was
not something I want to repeat.

I lost a man most dear to me. I have good days and bad moments. I'm very greatful for intarwebz, without which I would be more hermit-like than I feel I am.

But because of him, I have a residence of my own, a whole raft of new and dear friends (and sometimes both at once). I was adopted by a cat who most definitely keeps me from getting melancholy. I'm learning the pleasures of living by myself. It's very odd. I figure I've lived just over 3 years of my life, in bits and pieces, being the only resident. Having only myself to consult is proving rather nice.

In 2014, I hope to find my voice and with it, the spoons to do and write the research I want. I plan to grow a garden, play the piano, and get all of my tchotchkes unpacked, in some cases for the first time in 20 years. Yes, it's been 20 years since the Northridge quake. It's been a strange journey, those 20 years.

Happy New Year. May the best of the past be the worst of the future.

#68 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2014, 03:44 PM:

I would try to write something lengthy here, but alas, Menhit ("she who massacres") has decided that my desk, and keyboard, belong to her, and when she's not massacring rubber bands and other cat-toys she lurks behind the monitor and attacks my fingers as I type.

In many ways 2013 really sucked, especially medically[*], but I am still alive and it is slightly offset by having been my most productive fiction-writing year ever (finished a half-written novel, wrote two more, wrote the first half of another, and found time to cough up a novella as well).

[*] Bell's Palsy, high risk of familial colon cancer discovered (now being screened regularly), finally diagnosed with Type II diabetes.

#69 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2014, 05:11 PM:

For the first time ever, I'm considering leaving teaching. This is causing me misery and worry. I have a few ideas, but all suggestions and kind thoughts are welcome. (Whatever I do *must* be word-based. Interacting with people is also OK but numbers can't be part of it, for lo, I am terrible at them.)

#70 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2014, 07:17 PM:

Kind thoughts, always, TexAnne...

#71 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2014, 08:32 PM:

Kind thoughts from here too, Texanne. And wishes for a better 2014 for you, Charlie, as well!

#72 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2014, 08:51 PM:

Theophylact @ 55: congratulations! (I hope -- I've heard of ~involuntary retirements. I am not formally retired, but am unlikely to find more work after a layoff in early 2013 and have been working out the numbers for retirement.) I note you share your departure with Boston's head of snow removal -- whose resignation took effect about 5 hours after the last flakes of the latest storm (#3 of the season); TexAnne has gotten an unusually vigorous introduction to Boston weather, while I've just found that the owner of the across-the-street property is quite willing to run his blower down my triple-length walk (the lot is on an acute corner), making twinging joints much happier.

The 2nd-biggest news of 2013 was that I added at least 10 to my life list of composers performed. (The number is uncertain because some of the arrangers also compose; how radically can someone wrap a known melody before you call it a composition rather than an arrangement?) They ranged from how-could-I-have-missed-them classical giants through what-did-he-actually-do (a respectable if not massively inspired mass by Salieri) to several moderns. A performance of Beethoven's Ninth got canceled by the lockdown caused by the hunt for the Marathon bombers, but turned into 3 performances in September. And the St Matthew Passion, the last plausible piece on my bucket list, is coming up in March.... My father wrote at age 83 that he'd finished his formal education at 37 but never stopped learning; that's an example I hope to live up to.

Although I don't know what he'd think of my latest hobby; I started in the SCA's thrown-weapons program last year, and reached the first ranked level last summmer.

And as usual I started the new year by staging a large spaghetti feed (helped by the willingness of a friend to keep opening a much larger house than mine); even given that it was mid-week, I was surprised that less than 4.5 pounds were eaten. But everyone was complimentary about the sauce, and the remainder may last through the year.

I see this is more good news, and less-dire bad news, than many of you report; I am very conscious of how much of my state comes from sheer luck, and wish all of you better years to come.

#73 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2014, 09:27 PM:

Thank you, Serge and Tom.

CHip, it hasn't been that bad, especially compared to the three heatless weeks after Sandy last year. I got to stay inside and enjoy my last two days of vacation. (After I got over my festive New Year's stomach flu. I choose to think that means the year can't possibly go downhill.)

#74 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2014, 04:17 AM:

CHip @72

I hope you can last until the Spaghetti Harvest

#75 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2014, 01:52 PM:

2013 was ... not even vaguely the best of years.

Moving into 2014, I treasure my remaining two cats, and am thankful for work, sane coworkers, a house that frustrates and contents (in variable measure), and for friends and chance joys.

#76 ::: Larkspur ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2014, 02:00 PM:

Best wishes to all.

2013 left me alone, for which I am deeply grateful. Now I ask mostly for rain in my region of northern California. According to the Marin County Independent Journal, "[w]ith just 3.31 inches of rainfall in San Rafael since Jan. 1 [2013],this year is on pace to be one of the driest on record. In San Francisco, where rainfall has been recorded since 1850, the 3.94 inches that has fallen this calendar year is more than two inches below the previous record through Nov. 11. That was set in 1864...."

We should be at around 35 inches annually. When the dry years hit, I always wonder whether this is the real normal. Maybe the wet years were the anomaly.

#77 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2014, 03:27 PM:

The whole state would like the rain. All y'all being buried in snow, please send it west.

#78 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2014, 03:27 PM:

The whole state would like the rain. All y'all being buried in snow, please send it west.

And I get the dreaded Internal Server Error, with a footnote of 404.

#79 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2014, 04:16 PM:

Atlanta narrowly missed setting a new record in 2013 for annual rainfall. I'm sure they'd be glad to share. (Although they were coming off of several years of drought, so I daresay the reservoirs are much happier now.)

#80 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2014, 06:47 PM:

CHip @ #72: No, it's entirely voluntary. After 35+ years at the US Environmental Protection Agency, it was time. The work was still interesting and (I believe) important. But three years of pay freezes, sequestration of funds and a government shutdown gave me the spur I needed to make the decision. It was certainly the right one, and Marcia's been very eager to have me retire while we're both still reasonably well.

#81 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2014, 09:17 PM:

I realize I forgot earlier to wish everyone a happy New Year, and I send kind thoughts to all who need them.

#82 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2014, 01:18 PM:

A belated, but quite relevant, link to a piece from the great Teju Cole, for anyone who missed it:

All years are terrible years; the predicament of being human tends towards the negative. We read the news and are left feeling nothing more noble than “only I have escaped to tell thee.” A given year can be pronounced good only in a solipsistic sense.
(Read the rest.)

#83 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2014, 09:33 PM:

Doug K @ 62

SamChevre, I do hope you have another place to go to work as an actuary.

I do; I'm leaving for what promises to be a substantially saner job as an actuary in western Massachusetts. (Never having lived north of Virginia, this promises to be an adventure.)

#84 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2014, 09:04 PM:

Rain in California: the nice fellow I married used to say you could make money over time by always betting that it wold be a "drier than average" year.

We had a lot of wet years in the nineties and up through the oughts. And now we're having a string of dry years like we had in the eighties.

I couldn't say that the presence or absence of rain is climate change evidence all by itself, especially since the latest models are predicting more rain for the central coast over time.

BUT, I do see a real, substantive change, that I have not seen discussed. Our rainy season really does appear to be moving later in the year. We used to get a lot of rain in November and even October and definitely in December. Now we're lucky if the season starts by the end of January.

A measure of this is the local wild mushroom harvest. The ones we like the best, the boletes and the chanterelles, come up after the rain: but if the rain doesn't come before New Year's, there's nothing much to be found. We haven't had a good bolete year since a bit before the nice fellow died 5 years ago.

#85 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2014, 04:45 AM:

It has been a long year. My big news is that I married my long-time lover. But also, out of work. With prospects still (I have a valuable specialty), but we are tight. Our national government seems to have settled back into its usual state of deadlock, meaning that we're stuck with most of the bad policies until they become intolerable, and who knows when that will be?

Yet, somehow, most of the people around me are hopeful. I am, too. But why?

#86 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2014, 02:58 PM:

Dave Bell @ 74: thanks, I think; I'd never heard of that. I'm still trying to figure out how the BBC could have staged the pieces that had to have been staged, with the trivial budgets they had then.

P J Evans @ 77: the problem is that the snow keeps getting washed away by rain before we can pack it up and ship it out. I wouldn't usually expect ~2.5 water-equivalent inches (all we got in Boston proper) would help, but anything's got to be a win when you're at 10% of normal.

Mary Aileen @ 79: a late friend once discussed an alternate world in which Japanese refugees from a Mongol invasion (not broken up by storms as in our history) became established in the SF Bay area. He figured they'd go native further north (too many resources) and fail further south (not enough water), but climate since then suggests he was an optimist.

Stephen Frug @ 82: If I had any verse in me I'd feel the onset of a filk titled "Always Look on the Dark Side of Life"....

Theophylact: that long? I was making lightning visits (software installation day trips from Boston) 34-32 years ago. Did you start in the space near/over a small shopping center, IIRC somewhere around M St. SW?

#87 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2014, 06:23 PM:

Checking in late, but here. 2013 had quite a few positive occurances and continued an upwards trend for me from the suckfest that was 2009 (various serious medical issues, feeling stuck at work, my mother passing away...). At the end of 2013 I identified some behavioural patterns that need work to improve other areas of my life, and have begun seeking help in various ways for them. I am optimistic that these efforts will bear fruit this year (have already seen a few small positive outcomes).

As to the weather, Oregon also saw a dry year (half the normal rainfall). I really would kind of like my old rainy Pacific Northwest back again.

Here's hoping for a good 2014 for everyone, including the planet!

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