- Over-confidence and Other Stuff October 30, 20141. So I had to go for jury duty yesterday and one of the questions on their questionnaire was "What languages do you speak?", and for some reason I had a burst of over-confidence and wrote, "English, Spanish." Fortunately when I turned in the questionnaire they told me they'd filled their quota and I could go home, so my proficiency (or not) was never tested.2. This week The New Yorker has a story by Tom Hanks. Man, I miss Lucius -- he could have taken care of that story in half a heartbeat. It's about four people who build a rocket and orbit around the moon -- I mean, didn't Robert Heinlein write something like this about a million years ago? And it's told in a dull, deadpan voice, completely wrong for someone who wants to describe the wonders of space. The voice is so deadpan, in fact, that at first I thought the main character was that staple beloved of beginning writers, the unreliable narrator, but I don't think Hanks is that clever.3. And Bonnie killed another squirrel. I know it's something dogs do and it's natural and all of that, but it was heart-rending to hear the squirrel squeal, all the while I was shouting, "No! Leave it! No! Leave it!" She didn't pay any attention, of course.
- New Review at the B&NR October 28, 2014My thoughts on the new Gibson novel:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/the-peripheral/
- Costa Rica 3 October 27, 2014More things I liked about Costa Rica:I liked the Spanish school itself, the Costa Rica Language Academy, which I would recommend highly. My teacher was enthusiastic and a great confidence-builder, and she had a way of teaching the difference between "ser" and "estar," and of explaining the subjunctive, that got me to understand them for the first time in my life. She also had a lot of terrific expressions. "Todo tuanis" means "Everything's cool," though she said it might be a little out-of-date. A song like "Besame Mucho" they called a "cortavena" song, one so sad it made you want to cut your veins. She swore with the German word “Scheibenkleister!”, which sounds like the worst swear word in the world but which she said had something to do with corner windows. (Though Google translates it as “disk glue needed.”)Another teacher there reads fantasy, and we discussed El Señor de los Anillos [The Lord of the Rings] and other books. He liked El Nombre del Viento [The Name of the Wind] but agreed with me when I said that it sometimes seemed slow and that very little happened. (I have to say I was pleased to find that this opinion wasn't just confined to the United States.) And the third teacher looked up Spanish songs for us on his computer, even though he said his friends, heavy metal fans, would make limitless fun of him if they saw him now -- especially when we asked for Shakira.The other students were great, hardly a bad apple in the bunch. They were mostly older and mostly women, people who had raised families and now wanted to travel, who had interesting lives and knew a lot about a lot of things.The weirdest part was being the best Spanish speaker in the group -- though this says more about the level of the group than my abilities. I'd expected an immersive experience, where we would all speak Spanish all the time, but we spoke English outside the class and sometimes even within it. Still, my Spanish improved a lot. Even better, I now know I can talk to native speakers and be understood, which was a huge boost to my confidence. So I'm thinking of this as a good first step, and the next step will be another class somewhere else, one that's harder and more immersive.Arenal volcano. Note the car parked facing outward: this was the first step in the hotel's evacuation procedure. They didn't have a second step because, as a lecturer told us, once a volcano blows there's very little you can do.I actually walked on this suspension bridge. Then I had to walk back over it, in a thunderstorm, while holding up my umbrella. And yes, the bridge is made of metal.Iguana grande
- Ebooks! October 22, 2014My backlist becomes available as ebooks today. Here are the covers -- I like the way they have them as a sort of matching set, and the way they manage to evoke magic and strangeness in real places.Also, today is the third anniversary of the day we met Bonnie and took her home. In celebration, she gets a liverwurst dinner tonight.
- Costa Rica 2 October 21, 2014Some things I liked about Costa Rica (in no particular order):Staying at Selva Verde Lodge near the Sarapiqui River. This is a place with cabins inside the forest, so that when you walk on the paths you see frogs and toucans, geckos and iguanas, and when you wake up you can hear everything peep and cheep and croak and buzz and ring all around you. The best was a coatimundi, which wandered up near us as boldly as you like. (The picture isn't very good because I was so startled it took me a while to get to my camera.) We also saw monkeys and caimans on a trip down the river itself.Raised walkway, so we don't disturb the jungle. Though there were paths through the jungle as well.A visit to a chocolate factory, where the guide made chocolate the way the Aztecs did (though with sugar, which the Aztecs didn’t have). We got to drink a cup after it was made, and it was some of the best chocolate I ever had. (The guide was named Willy, like Willy Wonka. Really. People in Costa Rica have names like William and Frank and Justin, though of course there are Spanish names too.)Zip-lining. For some reason I wasn't afraid doing this, possibly because I trusted the lines and the guides. It's a fantastic way to see the jungle.This guy is actually holding me up with his feet. (You can see his untied shoelaces, which I was terrified he'd trip over while walking on the platforms.) Before we'd gone out on a single line I asked, "Can we scream?" and one of the guides said, "You can do anything you like as long as you don't pee in your pants." This was the trip where I screamed, startling him, I think, because I'd been so quiet on the other ones.
- New Review at LOCUS ONLINE October 20, 2014A horror novel of a different sort from Fowler:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2014/10/paul-di-filippo-reviews-christopher-fowler/