2017 in review
Back in my LiveJournal days, for several years running I made posts like "My favorite things encountered in 2005" or whatever. I am going to give it a go once again. But this time around I will delve a little deeper into the personal -- what the year was like for me. I can indulged myself like this for two reasons. First, now I don't have to worry about gainer or keeping readers; I no longer have a "Friend of" count to check. And second, as I get older, I feel a greater need to record my life.
This post will start with a sort of summary of each season -- what important things transpired, what interested me, what I did, and so on. After that, I will post a few lists summarizing my favorite things of 2017.
January and February
Winter 2017 had a distinct center of gravity: my first job interview in six years.
Attending the out-of-state interview meant that, with little notice, I had to make plans to travel a great distance in as few hours as possible, assemble a new professional wardrobe, brush up on interview skills, and prepare a presentation for an audience of unknown size and composition. I did all of this without letting any of my coworkers or friends know, a source of further stress, since I had to come up with excuses for mid-week travel and could not ask for any sort of accommodations.
Preparing to travel was bad; doing it was worse. On a Monday I worked to 10 PM, caught a 2 AM Tuesday flight (which I almost missed because my car kept getting stuck in snow at the airport parking lot), endured a long layover, arrived at my destination at 3 PM, and then drove a cramped rental car for three hours. This gave me just enough time to prepare for the next day's 9 AM interview with a night of restless sleep. The interview was the easiest part of the whole ordeal. Everyone was nice and I was confident and comfortable. Unfortunately, I was comfortable because I had explored the town the night before and found it unbearably dreary; I went into the interview no longer wanting the job. In fact, my only anxiety during the full day of interviewing was when I wondered if the schedule I was given was accurate, and I really would have (just enough) time to drive the three hours back to the airport and catch my flight. It was close but it worked out. I finally got back home at around 2 AM on Thursday morning. A very grueling 48 hours, bookended by normal work days.
Harder still than planning and doing the travel was waiting to hear if I got the job. I had no idea what to think. Taking the job would bring me closer to home, and give my career a boost, but would come at the cost of losing most of my friends and resigning myself to several more years in a location I like even less than my current one. In the end I didn't get the job. Except for the blow it struck my self-esteem, that was fine.
In February, while practice a new lemon bar recipe I found for a friend's birthday, I started watching Cheers. I finished all nine seasons a month or two later. I cannot think of a better 80s sitcom. Maybe the Cosby Show, but that lacks Cheers's (for the time) strong plot continuity and edginess. I think Seinfeld inherited more than just Cheers's time slot. I also played the remainder of Grand Theft Auto 5, having put that on hold for the holidays, and all of A Night in the Woods.
March, April, and May
Spring -- let's say March, April, and May -- was a pretty quiet time.
About March I added a new motherboard, RAM, and CPU to the new video card and SSDs I bought in October of the previous year, so completing my first new PC build since October 2011. Using the powerful new machine, I started to play Resident Evil: Code Veronica (from late 2015 on, I had been replaying the Resident Evil series). I got fairly far, well into Chris's portion of the game, before giving up and watching a Let's Play video of the remainder. A pretty game brought down by excessive backtracking and tedious puzzles. Around the same time I played through the PSX RPG Suikoden. In doing so I completed a game that 20 years earlier I started, enjoyed a lot, but never finished (it was a rental). It is a perfectly cromulent game, but I enjoyed it somewhat this time around, as even upon release the graphics, story, and gameplay were already run of the mill.
There is an important, long-running archive of political texts. I have poked around this site for almost 20 years. In March I finally sent in some corrections to a text. 12 hours later I had FTP access and a subscription to the internal mailing list. I immediately started proofreading texts and cleaning up their HTML. I also identified some obscure texts that had never made it online. I got a scanner; obtained the texts either by buying collections containing them, finding PDFs on archive.org, or obtaining scans via interlibrary loan; and set about doing some serious OCR work. Now, at year's end, I am happy to say I made minor corrections to dozens of texts and contributed 28 brand new texts (most of which never appeared online before, at least outside of PDFs, and some of which are substantial).
In late April it became clear that coworkers were trying to set me up with somebody. What separated this from the usual attempts at meddling in my life is that this somebody was simultaneously making advances towards me. Not knowing what I wanted -- this person is probably too upbeat -- I was left confused, anxious, and bitter that other people's good intentions could do that to me. May, then, was spent avoiding that somebody, thinking about faking my own death and other immature stratagems for avoiding hurt feelings, and playing Stardew Valley from morning till night. I also found some measure of distraction in a rewatch of The Americans and Telex's awesome album Neurovision.
In March or April I made the mistake of visiting a binoculars website. It was like a drunk stepping into a bar. I spent the next several months obsessively reading about binoculars, which culminated in needlessly buying a pair of Nikon SE 12x50s in June.
June, July, and August
There is very little be said for summer. I spent the first third visiting family out of state. Afterwards, upon returning home, most days followed the same pattern: breakfast with two or three episodes of Unsolved Mysteries, a nap, and then a wasted evening inside. I hiked less and for shorter distances than past years. I saw fewer people. I felt less optimism and enthusiasm.
Later in summer I spent a lot of time on Witcher 3. I also began a rewatch of the French TV show The Returned. I finished the first season in short order, but could only abide small, infrequent servings of the second season (which was new to me).
Towards August I finally started preparing for a routine but rigorously comprehensive evaluation at work. For years I knew I would have to face this, but my anxiety over it led over a year of procrastination. Part of the reason I sought a new job earlier in the year was to avoid working on this. At any rate, by late July -- a few weeks before my return to work -- I had blocked out a couple of hours a day to prepare. This relieved my anxiety and gave me a slim head start on what proved to be an 80-hour slog (much of which I had to do in addition to 50 hour weeks).
September, October, November, and December
The aforementioned evaluation, combined with an already heavy workload, meant I had little free time until mid-September. Once that was over, I played both of Witcher 3's expansions, and finally beat Super Mario World, after 25 years of playing it. It is amazing how so many of its secrets were burned into my memory.
Around Halloween, on a lark, I started watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch. What a dumb show. I wish I could stop watching.
Reading: Favorite reads of 2017
China Mountain Zhang - Maureen McHugh. A beautiful, melancholy soft science fiction novel set in a future where North America is in a minor satellite in the Chinese orbit. The episodic story mostly follows Zhang, an engineering student who works his way up in the world despite his homosexuality and non-Chinese heritage.
House of Suns - Alastair Reynolds. Space opera of the highest caliber. Exciting and mind-expanding, but also warm and humane. I did not especially like Reynold's first Revelation Space novel (which I read afterwards), but House of Suns earns my unreserved recommendation.
How to Sharpen a Pencil - David Rees. This was a gift from H. The funniest book I ever read, so much so that while at work I downloaded a pirated copy just to show H. a specific passage I thought was hilarious.
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters - Emil Ferris. A beautiful, melancholy graphic novel. I only wish the whole cycle was available right now.
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro. The slowly and almost too-perfectly unfolding story of a butler who is prompted to look back on his life.
Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand. This fit in well with my renewed devotion to Ougenweide and Steeleye Span. In this novella, a British electric folk band spends the summer recording and dabbling in the esoteric in a "haunted" country estate. Told in the form of interviews or reminisces given as part of a documentary on the now-legendary album that came out of that summer.
Albums acquired in 2017 that I listened to a lot
Blue Oyster Cult - Agents of Fortune (1976, rock)
Budgie - Impeckable (1978, metal)
Curved Air - Second Album (1971, progressive rock)
Forefather - Tales from a Cloud-Born Land (2017, black metal)
Glass Shrine - Lapidary (2016, black metal)
Imperium Dekadenz - ...und die Welt ward kalt und leer (2006, black metal)
Initiation - A Ritual of Blood, A Pact of Ashes (2015, black metal)
Joyless - Blue in the Face EP (1999, rock)
Lesley Gore - 20th Century Masters (2001, pop)
Marillion - Fugazi (1984, progressive rock)
Marillion - Misplaced Childhood (1985, progressive rock)
Moonless - Calling All Demons (2011, stoner metal)
Nuclear Assault - Game Over (1986, thrash; I had this album briefly in about 2000)
Ougenweide - All die weil ich mag (1974, electric folk/progressive rock)
Ougenweide - Eulenspiegel (1976, electric folk/progressive rock)
Ougenweide - Ohrenschmaus (1973, electric folk/progressive rock)
Ougenweide - Ougenweide (1976, electric folk/progressive rock)
Steeleye Span - Below the Salt (1972, electric folk/progressive rock)
Steeleye Span - Parcel of Rogues (1973, electric folk/progressive rock)
Telex - Neurovision (1980, electronic/pop
Wulkanaz - Paralys (2017, black metal)
In addition, old albums that I came to appreciate include Black Sabbath - Dehumanizer, King's X - Out of the Silent Planet, Gentle Giant - The Power and the Glory, Temnozor - ... Horizons ..., Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe - Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. The Gentle Giant and Black Sabbath albums had been in my collection for a long time. I put off listening in order to savor them, I suppose. I got Bangs - Sweet Revenge in album form; for the last 15+ years I had most of the songs as individual tracks.
My Top Songs of 2017 according to Spotify
Thanks to Spotify's user-tracking, it was able to compile a list of my "top" 100 songs of 2017. I assume "top" means most played. The start of that list is below:
Lesley Gore - Maybe I Know
Fireball Ministry - The Trouble With...
Anonymous, John Potter, The Dufay Collective - Edi Beo Thu Hevene-Queene (Blessed Be Thou, Queen of Heaven)
Bangs - Telephone Game
Peter Tosh - I Am That I Am
Billy Cobham - Le Lis
The Gladiators - Roots Natty Roots
Billy Cobham - Quadrant 4
Entartung - Flucht in die Finsternis
Fireball Ministry - The Sinner
Ougenweide - De Ruiter
UFO - Lights Out
Lesley Gore - Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows
Fireball Ministry - The Second Great Awakening
Cancer Bats - Into the Void
The Gladiators - Rich Man Poor Man
Ripaille - Les Loups
Male Group - No More, My Lord
Graumahd - Ohne Welt
Billy Cobham - Stratus
Chick Corea Elecktric Band - Side Walk
Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians - So You Think You're In Love
Malicorne - Landry
Telex - We Are All Getting Old
Roxy Music - Love is the Drug
Steeleye Span - Alison Gross
After that, the list trails off into songs I didn't really listen to very often. Also, note that I mostly use Spotify to sample stuff I would not typically download or buy, so this list over-represents genres like jazz, reggae, and top 40 pop.
Favorite games played for the first time in 2017
A Night in the Woods
Witcher 3 and expansions
Favorite movies watched in 2017
Fail Safe (1964; an American nuclear bomber accidentally begins an attack run on Moscow)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974; criminals hijack a subway car -- it's up to Walter Matthau to stop them)
Under the Shadow (2016; excellent Persian-language ghost movie set during the Iran-Iraq war)