Friday morning linky

Had a great time chatting with the Young at Heart Book Club about Bones of Faerie last night. If you’re an adult reader of YA anywhere near Mesa, AZ, you should totally stop by. Next month they’re reading Lisa McMann’s Cryer’s Cross.


On the confidence game: “Truly confident people have already worked out who they are and what they stand for, and more importantly – what they will not stand for … There is very little “gap” between the public and private self. They trust in themselves. Confident people don’t always need to be right, because deep down, they already live by their own moral code. Similarly, confident people have no need to draw attention to themselves because they aren’t particularly interested in what others think. They are too busy getting on with their own stuff.”

On raising resilient children: “So many parents have said to me, ‘I can’t stand to see my child unhappy.’ If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you are in the wrong business. The small challenges that start in infancy present the opportunity for “successful failures,” that is, failures your child can live with and grow from. To rush in too quickly, to shield them, to deprive them of those challenges is to deprive them of the tools they will need to handle the inevitable, difficult, challenging and sometimes devastating demands of life.”

On the online culture of “liking”: “A better literary culture would be one that’s not so dependent on personal esteem and mutual reinforcement. It would not treat offense or disagreement as toxic. We wouldn’t want so badly to be liked above all. We’d tolerate barbed reviews, some quarrels, and blistering critiques, because they make our culture more interesting and because they are often more sincere reflections of our passions.”

Not only do you catch more (fruit) flies with vinegar than with honey, they seem to prefer vinegar over other household condiments as well. Which would explain why fruit flies are also known as vinegar flies. (With a nod toward this XKCD.)

Also, it doesn’t take fewer muscles to smile than to frown.

The first law of metafictional thermodynamics; or, why few series can last forever.

Something for everyone who’s wondered how anyone can make the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs. Or in any other number of parsecs, for that matter.

No, really, I’m not in the market for that. Or that either. Or even that.

Dear Internet and Google and Advertisers Everywhere,

By changing the ads you show me almost daily based on my latest round of intense book-based research, you may think you’re just showing you care.

But actually, the effect is way more stalkery than that.


Crows vs ravens

As I’m working on this book about ravens, I’ve had several conversations where I’ve explained that no, I’m actually not working on a book about crows. :-) Crows being lovely in their own right, but also not frequent visitors to the area where my book is set. (Going by American terminology here; as I understand it, in UK terminology “crow” describes a larger group of black birds that includes ravens.)

I’m still working on telling crows and ravens apart in the wild myself, but I thought this was a pretty good breakdown of the differences:

Well, except for the part where it claims ravens are quieter. Because quiet is … not quite the word I’d use, for some of that krawking.

42C / 108F / 315K

Dear Tucson,

I know, I know. I’m probably just getting complacent, after our recent stretch of merely warm temperatures. It’s not like we haven’t been here before, after all, here and quite a ways beyond here.

But even so, I feel the need to say: It is really quite hot out today.

That is all.


P.S. Yes, I have noticed that Phoenix is warmer still. I do appreciate that this means all is as it should be. Like I said, it’s not you, it’s me.

A morning with jaguars

Unlike the last time I visited our local zoo, today the jaguars (black morph, both of them), were awake and moving about. When I got there, one was watching from a perch above, the end of her tail twitching; the other paced back and forth, roaring in the quieter-than-lions yet distinctly roar-like way that jaguars do. Yawns gave flashes of teeth, of long pink cat tongues.

The pacing jaguar seemed more uneasy, less inclined to move about, the closer I got. I backed off for a while, watching from a distance. When I got too close again, she retreated out of view. So I went off for a while, visiting other animals (and learning that mating Galapagos tortoises have remarkable endurance). When I returned (after a brief intermission for a keeper to clean their enclosure), the jaguars kept moving about, but less energetically than before. The day was already growing warm.

Jaguars jump the way we walk: easily, because jumping is sometimes simply the best way to flow from one point to the next, nothing worth remarking on. Those long tongues are put to regular use grooming, as cats of all sizes tend to do, and territorial though jaguars are, these two, sisters, seemed begrudgingly willing to groom one another, from time to time.

They really do have lovely teeth. Their ears flick in irritation from time to time, their legs and tails twitch, when they are wanting stillness but not yet settled into it. They are quite good at stillness, most of the time, good at it even, in a way that’s hard to explain, when in motion. Sometimes stillness is a thing that happens beneath the skin, rather than on the surface.

Once, one of the jaguars lifted her head and looked toward the pond neither of them had much interest in swimming in today. I saw, long moments after she had, the human family heading our way, three adults, one child. The jaguar tracked them with head and eyes as they moved past the exhibit and walked on. It was the same way both jaguars had been tracking the brave birds who kept entering and leaving their enclosure, the way they no doubt tracked me, when I wasn’t looking: with an awareness not energetic enough to be genuine interest, though I suspect in another time and place it could easily turn into interest, were the opportunity to present itself.

I wandered off again, drank some water against the growing heat, visited a tiger whose sacked-out sleep made the jaguars look positively industrious. I almost headed home, but couldn’t resist one more jaguar visit. They were moving less now, but were still awake, still aware, still twitching the occasional paw or ear or tail. I stood there, watching them, wondering about the undefined something I always feel like I’m trying to understand, when I linger to observe any animal.

The jaguars watched me in turn. Or rather, they didn’t watch me, not the way humans are used to thinking of it. They remained highly aware of me without ever looking directly at me. There’s an element, as I understand it, of dominance play going on here: I know that among housecats direct staring can feel like a challenge, and I’ve been assuming this is so among larger cats as well, though I haven’t confirmed it.

Yet as much as I know that one doesn’t want a jaguar directly staring directly at one and doesn’t want to stare directly back (with the fence between us, it would merely be rude; without it, it would be the start of a game I’m not prepared to play), I realized this was one of the things I was instinctively looking for, without fully understanding it: that meeting of eyes, that sense of “I see you and you see me,” that being-to-being connection that isn’t friendship but is a sort of acknowledgement.

There are animals that are close enough to us, through evolution or domestication or some other mysterious random convergence of traits, that they can indeed give us that acknowledgement, and give it in terms that as humans we can even understand.

Jaguars, to my still-limited understanding, aren’t among them. I was there. I was noted. I was part of their awareness, and I was as real as awareness required, but no more real, I think, than that.

A thing that is done

“The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011, are incalculable. Avoiding a trial will allow us–and we hope the entire Southern Arizona community–to continue with our recovery.”
–Gabrielle Giffords & Mark Kelly

“Today’s events make me very proud to be an American. It’s not a perfect solution. The perfect solution isn’t one that we can have. What we want is not available. This is the best that can be expected. We can’t bring Christina back, but that shouldn’t stop people from mentoring and participating, to get involved and stay involved.”
–Suzi Hileman

The cat goes on little fog feet

The indoor cat who has had a (brief, unsanctioned) taste of outdoor life spends a day scratching at screens and voicing his discontent beside doors through which he cannot pass, and then, with a sigh as evening falls, returns to the world of food dish and water bowl.

We shall have to watch the doors carefully a while longer, though. Especially that one, which did open for him, just once, when the slightest crack appeared to let a paw through.

Meanwhile … (more email culling)

The first half or so of my backlogged emails took all of an hour to delete, mostly a matter of determining I could have deleted them ages ago and doing so. I suspect the lesson here is to get better at deleting email when it arrives.

I expect the next quarter of them to take more work, because they require writing actual responses.

The last quarter take the longest, though, because those will be the ones that require me to actually do something, or finish something. I fear finding out how many of last quarter have been in my inbox since the last time I cleaned out my inbox.


What strategies do you all use to keep on top of your email?