June 11th, 2021
|04:52 pm - Anonymous commenting turned off|
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August 26th, 2015
|09:34 am - Schoolbooks & Sorcery|
My story "The Delicate Work of Bees" will be in the upcoming Schoolbooks & Sorcery anthology! There are some great authors in the lineup -- including Nina Kiriki Hoffman, who I've been a fan of since I was in high school!
I swear I wrote this story before Jupiter Ascending came out and all of fandom simultaneously started going wild over bees. (The main character is a young witch in training, who is apprenticed with her beekeeper aunt.)
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August 23rd, 2015
Sometimes it's hard being a Chomskyite in a world of people who don't know linguistics.
Like, at one level it doesn't even matter to the majority of language learners whether language is represented in your brain as deep structure (a little like computer code, with strict rules about nesting and syntax and recursion) or just a huge database of statistical data that, like my Swiftkey keyboard, can predict that when I type "most," the next words are often "important thing." I don't know that it much impacts the best strategies for learning languages either way.
But I do end up chasing down a Theory now and again, because "more comprehensible input" is usually the best advice I have, and that leads back to Krashen, and the whole idea of comprehensible input as the foundation for everything else sort of sounds like weird magic snake oil unless you go all the way back to Chomsky and his ideas for how your brain processes and models language.
There are not a lot of people writing at a curious-amateur level for people who want to know basic linguistics. Steven Pinker is actually pretty good when he's writing about linguistics instead of writing wrong political stuff (he represents a lot of stuff as true that's actually pretty controversial, but I agree with him about most of the controversial stuff, so I don't mind as much as I should). Bill Bryson is just incredibly wrong about most things.
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August 22nd, 2015
It is the worst when you have a seemingly very good interview and a specific time frame for hearing back, and then you don't hear back, and you don't know whether it's the silence of rejection or the silence of very long time frames for library hiring.
("THAT WAS BEAUTIFUL," THE LIBRARY DIRECTOR SAID TO THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR. I TELL YOU. No matter how diligently I try to practice Not Getting My Hopes Up, I was thinking I could get my hopes up a little.)
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August 20th, 2015
Riding the subway today, I had the strange impression that it was Cecil Palmer reading the subway announcements.
Alas, I don't think I'm going to write that fic; but I can tell you it almost certainly has the line,
"Remember, courtesy is contagious; but it's rarely fatal."
(Footnote for those who have not been on the NYC subways recently: one of the pre-recorded announcements exhorting passengers to give up their seats for people who are elderly, pregnant, or disabled ends with "Remember, courtesy is contagious; and it begins with you.")
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August 10th, 2015
|08:17 pm - Adam Sobel - Street Vegan|
I was very excited by this book! It is by the guy who ran the Cinnamon Snail food truck and he has many amusing anecdotes about running a food truck in New York and New Jersey. (His food truck career was rather full of mishaps. I cannot decide whether he ran into the food truck biz without sufficient knowledge and preparation, or whether that's just the life of a NYC food truck owner).
( Contains a lot of foodCollapse )
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August 5th, 2015
I am GREAT at telling stories to toddlers and LESS GREAT at handling it when a 3-year-old decides to flip out because we have to clean up the markers now.
I was doing a "scary animals" storytime -- I don't often do themed storytimes because usually I'm doing them on fifteen minutes' notice, but this time I got a couple of good dinosaur books and a good giant squid book and then decided that I'd put together a couple rhymes and "I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor" and have a storytime. At the last minute, I decided to put in "Where the Wild Things Are."
It's been a while since I've read it, and longer since I've read it out loud, and -- I just had that rare experience of being totally blown away by the music of the prose, and feeling carried off by it as I was reading out loud.
That very night in Max’s room a forest grew
and grew -
and grew until his ceiling hung with vines
and the walls became the world all around
and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max
and he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.
The ALA award committees are supposed to have very secret proceedings, but the year Where The Wild Things Are won, someone did not heed the warning. As Kathleen Horning writes:
Then she spilled the beans about how many ballots it took before they had the winners. (Also verboten.) “The Caldecott was decided on 5 ballots — an unusually large number, I was told by those who had served in previous years.” Well, that is a tasty morsel of Caldecott gossip right there, especially as the Caldecott Medal in 1964 went to Where the Wild Things Are, a book widely considered today to be the best picture book of the twentieth century, and definitely the best Caldecott Medal book ever. (Even other Caldecott medalists would likely agree.) How on earth could they have argued about that choice through five ballots, especially given that its rivals (thanks for the list) were such eminently forgettable books as Adrienne Adams’s Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella and Helga Sandburg and Thomas Daly’s
Joel and the Wild Goose?
The Caldecott Award is for illustrations, and not for writing -- but while wordless books have won, I can't think of any with outright bad prose that have. I am not an art person, and I'm probably the last person to nominate the best picture book of the twentieth century, but: yeah.
And I'm so mad at Dave Eggers for trying to turn it into a novel, because how on earth can you improve that by piling thousands and thousands of words onto it?
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July 29th, 2015
After many Travails, we arrived at Coney Island.
S: There was this lady on the train who was going on about Jesus, and gays, and abortion, and... and reptilians...
Me: Coincidentally, I also spent much of the last hour yelling "Jesus Christ!" But that was because I was trying not to die.
I am SO FRUSTRATED sometimes by how much I like cycling and how much I dislike fearing for my life. Even the road that goes up to Prospect Park, which is only a mile away from me, has a vicious intersection right near the park, and that's the only road where I've actually had a collision with a car.
It is possible that if I cycled more, then I would trust myself more and not get angry and scared at every near miss; but between my own anxiety and the fact that South Brooklyn roads are in fact pretty bad to ride on (no bike lanes, or bike lanes in awful shape), there may not be much I can do about that.
I guess my long-term plan is to not live in Brooklyn, but, well.
Thinking about this because I do want a bike that fits, but it seems like such a silly indulgence if I don't actually ride that often...
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July 20th, 2015
After way too long in the Crying Toddlers Convention that is Park Slope Whole Foods, I came back with supplies for dumplings, and made a lazy veg take on pork chive dumplings: soy crumbles, chives, thai sweet chili sauce, sesame oil, mirin.
I made half a dozen dumplings before I started to wilt in the kitchen heat, so I packed the rest of my mix up. This morning, I decided I did not have the energy to make dumplings but I still had to do something with my leftovers, so... I fried patties of my dumpling filling and made it into a sandwich.
It was a good sandwich.
Ultimate Terrible Fusion Cuisine Idea: the Dumpling Burger!
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July 16th, 2015
When I first heard about Wassail, I was thrilled that someone had opened a restaurant JUST FOR ME -- a vegetarian restaurant and cider bar?
Well, almost. Not just a vegetarian restaurant but a vegetarian restaurant that does tiny plates and molecular gastronomy -- foams and purees and a dessert of figs and tiny cakes of medicinal herbs, which is perhaps the strangest (and least sweet) dessert I've ever had. All the food was great -- with the exception of the figs, which the NICEST WAITER IN THE WORLD took off the bill even though I did not ask -- and the drinks were good and afterwards we had cupcakes.
Because those were some extremely tiny plates.
And that was a birthday!
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July 10th, 2015
In every endeavor, you get the first flush of enthusiasm, and then the entirely-too-high ambitions, and then you run into the first thing you don't know how to do, and every attempt to solve the problem just further reveals the limitations of what you know how to do, and then you keep putting in new keywords into search engines to bang at this one little thing that won't come out the way you want it, and you get stuck in a trough of despair because to make any real progress would involve going back and trying to get a better ground-level understanding of things, and then you give up and decide you aren't going to learn Drupal after all.
Well, I'm going to go back and try things again, but it'll have to wait till I pull back from the whole trough-of-despair thing.
I'm also in the three months of the year when I can't use my desktop because my living room isn't air-conditioned, so that doesn't help.
I would really like to be a good enough just-for-myself/just-for-fun web designer that I can hack together something simple that looks good, without having to rely entirely on other people's themes and code. But I suspect it's like writing, where there are absolutely no shortcuts to good taste and trial-and-error successive approximations toward something that works.
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July 8th, 2015
|09:42 am - Books versus other books: fight!|
The Washington Post has an interesting article on tensions over print book and e-book collections in libraries.
1) I keep seeing job ads for librarians who can do 3D printing, and digital media, and coding, and makerspaces, and I think these are all great things in general, and great things for libraries to do and participate in, but I really question the perception that public libraries will be irrelevant unless we can do those things. As a really valuable blog post says, We don't have to be cutting edge to make a difference, and the kid who's at the library because they need a safe place to do homework, or because they need a book for school, is as much an essential part of the library's mission as the kid who wants to use the recording studio or the 3D printer. There is good research out there on just how few books low-income kids have access to. This is a serious problem. It's not boring, it's not old-fashioned, it has been one of the best reasons to invest in libraries from the beginning of free public libraries, and it's still relevant in the 21st century.
2) When two things seem to be in competition with each other, the question we sometimes miss asking is: why don't we have enough funding for both? How can we convince people to invest in libraries so that there are enough print books for the people who want print books, and enough e-books for the people who want e-books, not forgetting that these are very often the same people?
3) Let's not forget that there are still a lot of unsolved problems with libraries lending e-books. Publishers have reasons for putting restrictive licensing terms on their books, and they're not evil (mostly), but when they can result in an e-book being significantly more expensive than a print book on a per-checkout basis... I think we have to be a little skeptical. Public libraries, as well as most academic ones, are not-for-profit institutions that depend on for-profit institutions for so much of what we do (some libraries outsource more and some do more in-house, but my library outsources book processing, catalog software, collection development tools...) and that's not a bad thing but it means that we can never take for granted that our missions and goals are going to be aligned.
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July 7th, 2015
Actual conversation that I had just now at Shake Shack:
"When are you going to try our chicken burger?"
"Well, I'm a vegetarian."
"The chicken burger is a vegetarian option!"
"It's... made with chicken..."
I think there are a bunch of very cheerful corporate people here right now to promote their chicken burger, but still...
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June 26th, 2015
Nothing will make you feel like an Old like working at a library.
"Can I get the Karate Kid DVD?"
"The new one or the old one?"
"There's an old one?"
"Can I get the Tron DVD?"
"The new one or the old one?"
"There's an old one?"
The Sound of Music is big among Orthodox folks at my library even though the main character starts out as a nun. Well, it's a family-friendly World War II movie that ends happily; I guess that's enough to recommend it. So normally I wouldn't even ask "the new one or the old one?", passing the remake over without comment like the Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho. But one embarrassing time I was forced to say, "We don't have the original The Sound of Music checked in, but do you remember last year Carrie Underwood starred in a remake on TV? Well -- it's not supposed to be very good. But we have it checked in."
Last week I got "Do you have any old-fashioned DVDs?" and I was about to suggest some classics, but it was my colleague who guessed what the patron was looking for: VHS tapes.
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June 22nd, 2015
June 6th, 2015
|06:54 pm - Captain America Murder Walk|
Today I read this tumblr post (cn: does contain animated gif) advising that if you want people to get out of your way as you're walking, you should "wear comfortable shoes, square your shoulders, and walk like you’ve been sent to murder Captain America."
Later this same day, I went to Times Square to see Mad Mad: Fury Road.
Which I liked SO MUCH, wow. I thought it was doing some very smart things thematically, plus the visual imagination, plus the compellingness of the performances, plus FURIOSA OMG.
But, you know, LITTLE BIT of a migraine trigger there.
Now, I couldn't tell you why I went to Times Square. It was a combination of the show times and not being in 3D and wanting to stop in at Kinokuniya beforehand, I guess. Because New Yorkers do not go to Times Square if they can avoid it. Times Square is stuffed full of tourists walking in very slow packs, and people who want to tell you about Jesus or their free comedy show, and people in cartoon character costumes trying to get tips for photo ops (as you may recall from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).
So, feeling migrainey and claustrophobic and a teensy bit panicky, out on the hot street with enormous crowds milling about, I squared my shoulders, I put myself in the correct frame of mind, and I started walking like I'd been sent to murder Captain America.
I may need more practice, but this doesn't seem to work on the people walking very slowly in front of me.
But I kept it up as best I could, thinking murder walk, murder walk, Captain America murder walk, until -- directly in front of me on the sidewalk -- my eyes locked with Captain America's.
Okay, a guy dressed as Captain America to get tips for photo ops.
My "walk like I'd been sent to murder THAT GUY" strategy suddenly failed.
I'm not sure if he noticed my "MURDERGLARE - wait never mind better not murder you after all" face.
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May 27th, 2015
|03:27 pm - Space Weird Thing|
Space Weird Thing is a translation of "Space Oddity" into Up Goer Five (that is, using only the 1000 most common words in the English words -- thus, Major Tom becomes Top Space Man).
It's really astonishingly well done in terms of the production values, but also, I suspect that I will never get "Home space ball is blue, and there's nothing I can do..." out of my head.
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May 22nd, 2015
I can never decide whether I'm better off for having learned about things like AI risk and Roko's Basilisk.
At least it's a more entertaining thing to worry about when my brain hits the Let's Worry About The Nearest Available Thing track.
Also I will eventually write my postapocalyptic-ish novel about the half-wild girl gang up against the weird/capricious AI that lives in the postorbital satellites and has weird plans for humanity, so there's that.
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May 20th, 2015
I am at a meeting for Summer Reading. At the break they passed a pipe cleaner out to everybody, and then we listened to Jackson Bird from the Harry Potter Alliance, and then the person who heads the library division for children with special needs, and by the time she came on I was starting to get fidgety. I moved through yelling at myself to not fidget with the pipe cleaner, to get distracted and being horrified to look down and find my folded and twisted pipe cleaner, to rushing to untwist it... and finally, it was time to explain what the pipe cleaner was for.
It was for explaining what fidget toys are and how you can give out pipe cleaners to use as fidget toys.
Apparently they are now called chenille sticks.
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May 11th, 2015
Since almost everything I've read advises against getting an MFA in fiction writing, I was pretty surprised to read The Real World vs. the MFA:
No, I do not advise waiting as long as I did to get an MFA, if you are sure that what you want to do, what you are cut out to do, is to write. What I do advise is gaining some awareness of the world, and of the people in it who are not like you, before you go into a program. And I recommend practicing your craft until your fingers bleed (metaphorically of course). And being your own toughest critic, because people—especially people who love you, and those who don’t want you to get better—will lie to you.
Sometimes I desperately want the degree and sometimes I desperately do not want to be competing for a very small number of jobs teaching creative writing and sometimes I think I do not need an MFA program to give me either writing instruction or time and space to write and sometimes I think that I could be a lot better with a little help. Even if I wanted to get an MFA it would have to be the right program, that would let me write genre stuff but push it to be really strong in terms of literary value.
Why do I have to make life decisions.
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