My book is now available for pre-order. I've also put a button on the right side of this page to this effect, but in case you were looking for something to pre-order: here's your chance!
On Sunday night, my cat, Potato, was pacing around the living room meowing to be let outside. I was reluctant to let him, because it was cold, but he was insistent, so I decided to let him: usually what happens in those cases is he goes outside for 1-2 minutes and sits under a bush, presumably to prove that he can, before walking a yard back to the porch and meowing to come back in.
Unfortunately, in this case, I haven't seen a trace of him since. So if you live in Austin, particularly in Delwood/Duplex Nation/Cherrywood/French Place, please keep an eye out for this animal! Or if you know anyone who does, please send them a link to this post or this craigslist ad!
He's a pale orange adult cat, fairly tall and long. He was wearing a blue collar with his name and my number, but it was a safety collar, so it's possible that he pulled it off. (He's also microchipped, so if you see him and don't want to email me you can turn him over to any city facility and they have it on file.) For further reference, here's what he looks like when he's outside:
I've never had a pet go missing before, so I've learned a lot about that this week. About half of the people I've talked to have had stories about a cat, either their own or a friend's, who randomly went missing and turned up a few weeks or even a few months later as if nothing had happened. More ominously, I've learned that (as an evolutionary holdover), when cats are sick, they sometimes go away and sequester themselves in the best hiding spot they can find, and so a number of lost cats are within a few hundred yards of home, but unwilling or unable to respond to their name. Potato isn't that old (about 9) and hasn't been sick, and he spent his first few years as a semi-stray cat living in a music studio in north Texas, so he's good with people and is, I hope, able to look out for himself while I'm looking for him. Still, I'm worried.
In case any of you are in a similar position, here's what I'm doing (and also let me know if you have any other ideas):
--The Austin Animal Center is designated as the primary receiving site for lost cats and dogs. They have an online database, which they update several times a day, of the animals they've received--strays or owner surrenders--so you can search for your pet there, or you can stop by during their open hours to look yourself. You can also file your pet's microchip number and photos with them, so they can track you back if your pet comes in later. (They also have a lot of adorable cats and dogs available for adoption, if you're looking for a new mascot.)
--Neighborhood listservs and newsletters (in my case, there are several; the email listservs are fairly well-subscribed).
--Posters and flyers--from what I understand, these are crucial because a lot of times a lost cat wandering around doesn't look lost, so people tend to tune them out as visual background. In my case, I'm putting up posters in the neighborhood spots, but also putting flyers in every mailbox on my street and the neighboring street, which is where he's most likely to be.
--Craigslist lost and found.
--Facebook and Twitter: another reason to make a Craigslist ad is that you can pass the link around via social media. I've been touched by how many people, even strangers, are happy to help spread the word about a lost pet.
--Making sure your pet has a microchip. From what the vet explained, most microchips can be identified by a universal scanner, and (assuming you've been taking your pet to the vet) the vets will have the number on file if you can't locate it. I think some companies register the chips back to themselves, so if you aren't the original owner of the pet, as in this case, you might not know who would get the call. But it's reassuring to know the number is on file, especially if your pet doesn't have any unusual physical quirks. (There was a chihuahua at the Austin Animal Center that was listed as "Markings: Red Sweater", which is kind of adorable.)
--Making sure you have recent photos of your pet, ideally outdoor photos or photos that show scale.
--Searching the physical premises and keeping an eye on your own yard (if you don't see your pet, you'll at least have a better idea of what other animals in the area are doing, and if any of them are new/aggressive).
Thanks in advance for passing this link along. I'll give any updates when they have them. Fingers crossed!
A quick take on Ted Cruz, who spoke today at the Texas Public Policy Foundation's biennial policy orientation (as did I! thanks to everyone who came).
The Texas comptroller released her biennial revenue estimate yesterday. My story about it is here.
Josh Lovell, at the New York Times, profiles George Saunders, whose new collection of short stories is, per Lovell, "the best book you'll read this year":
Aside from all the formal invention and satirical energy of Saunders’s fiction, the main thing about it, which tends not to get its due, is how much it makes you feel. I’ve loved Saunders’s work for years and spent a lot of hours with him over the past few months trying to understand how he’s able to do what he does, but it has been a real struggle to find an accurate way to express my emotional response to his stories. One thing is that you read them and you feel known, if that makes any sense.
I know what Lovell means by that, because it's how I felt about Sweet Tooth, but I think Saunders' unique virtue is something different, and that Lovell gets closer to the heart of the matter later, in discussing Saunders's idiosyncratic professional trajectory. Saunders says that he wasn't even really a big reader until he was an adult, working in oil exploration in Sumatra, and happened to pick up a copy of Slaughterhouse-Five. Only after he came back to the United States did he start writing. (Incidentally, this sentence, from Lovell, deserves a medal: "Eventually he got sick from swimming in a river infested with monkey feces and came home."):
For the last couple of years he’d been working on what he described as a “disastrous novel” — “La Boda de Eduardo” — but he realized, with the force of epiphany, that the attempts to graft his life experience onto a Hemingway-Carver framework were foolish. There was an experience he was living that hadn’t adequately been represented in fiction yet. Not a Kafkaesque existential deadness, but something else, something that captured “not the endless cycle of meaningless activity but the endless cycle of meaningful activity.”
A typical Saunders story: the premise is absurd, the framing is ironic, the tone is comic, and you still care how it works out, maybe because you've framed your life ironically too, and yet you still care about that.
Proof of Saunders' empathy is that several years ago, when asked to explain the point of an MFA, he did so:
...it’s a mistake, he added, to think of writing programs in terms that are “too narrowly careerist. . . . Even for those thousands of young people who don’t get something out there, the process is still a noble one — the process of trying to say something, of working through craft issues and the worldview issues and the ego issues — all of this is character-building, and, God forbid, everything we do should have concrete career results. I’ve seen time and time again the way that the process of trying to say something dignifies and improves a person.”
This is my favorite of Saunders' stories, called "Jon"; I think I've linked to it before, but it's worth reading again.
Matthew Nees, in The New Atlantis, with another look at The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, fifty years after it was published:
Thomas Kuhn’s thesis has often been taken to mean that choices between competing theories or paradigms are arbitrary — merely a matter of subjective taste. As noted earlier, Kuhn challenged the claim that he was a relativist in a 1973 lecture, offering a list of five standards by which we may defend the superiority of one theory over another: accuracy, consistency, scope, simplicity, and fruitfulness. What these criteria precisely mean, how they apply to a given theory, and how they rank in priority are themselves questions subject to dispute by scientists committed to opposing theories. But it is the existence of recognized standards, even if the standards are open to debate, that allows any judgment to be available for public discussion. And we may add that if social scientists recognize the same standards, then debates over their meaning, application, and priority are harder to settle than in physics because the social sciences are intertwined with philosophical questions that are themselves concerned with what our standards of rationality ought to be.
This is good to read in conjunction with Justin Fox's post, at the Harvard Business Review, arguing that economics, which has been encroaching on every other discipline for the past couple of decades, is on the verge of losing its empire. (No elaboration given due to the irreducible risk of going through the looking glass.)
Choire Sicha, at The Awl, has a book coming out in August of this year:
There is something about the publication of a book that feels to me like the going to the airport and being manhandled by security and then heading down the long cold lonely ramp until, at last, the book is poured into InDesign or whatever they use now, which is when they slam the pressurized doors shut and then there's nothing you can do but sit there with yourself...Here in the long pre-publication period--this thing comes out in August, 2013—it's a bit chilly and lonesome. It would be easy to be riddled with doubt, and then to act out, and I completely understand why people become needy or aggrieved or childish or awful.