In today’s episode of Corvids Being Awesome

Crows learn to recognize faces. In particular, the faces of crow-catching researchers. And pass this knowledge on to their friends and families.

This having been tested by having humans wear different masks when catching birds in different places:

The birds quickly learned that the masked bird-trapper was bad news and proceeded to scold the mask-wearer anytime they saw him or her. But over the years, the researchers found, the mobbing became more and more widespread. In February, Marzluff said, he ventured out of his office in a mask he’d worn five years earlier while trapping seven birds.

“I got about 50 meters [165 feet] out of my office and I had about 50 birds on me, scolding me,” he said. “I hadn’t worn that mask on campus for a year.”

The study itself is old news, but the final line of this particular account caught my attention:

The researchers … are now using brain-scanning techniques on captured birds to find out what’s happening in the crows’ brains when they see a dangerous face.

Crow pov summary: Crows know crow-catching humans are bad news. They warn them to back off. But the humans keep it up. So the crows get all our friends to warn said humans off, too. And they keep it up for a full five years, just to be safe.

So how do the humans respond? They amp the bird catching up and throw in some bonus brain scans.

Your move, crows.

One … doesn’t imagine this ending well for the two-leggers. (Except for the part where, apparently, it did.)

Intelligence, effort, and talent followup links

Specifically, some followups/tangents spinning off from this post.

Some thoughts on the 10,000 hour/10 year rule that I’d thinking about as I wrote the above. Specifically, on the idea that those considered unusually brilliant in a field all tend to have one thing in common: that they’ve put in roughly the same amount of time.

Two new things this article adds to my understanding: First, that the 10,000 hour rule tends to apply to cognitive tasks more than physical ones. And second, that having 10,000 hours to put into something is a sort of privilege, and often requires outside support. Which gives clarity to the conflict between my sense that insisting “anyone can do it if they work hard enough!” was simplistic and even unfair, and my sense that most people really can do most things if they put in the time. The latter is true, but the resources to put in that time aren’t equally available to everyone.

Marissa Lingen on why while effort is worth praising, it’s also important to develop the skill of knowing when not to do your very best. Or, as she puts it, why “… figuring out what to do your best on and what to half-ass is a major adult skill.”

I have been making a lot more excellent breakfasts this summer. I have been making a lot more breakfasts that wow me. But I am also noticing the effort that takes, and even those wow breakfasts are not always new wow breakfasts. Because going the extra mile every day (or, more realistically, every time I’ve used up the previous wow breakfast) is just not possible. I am not writing a breakfast cookbook. I am not running a breakfast restaurant. Sometimes it’s a good idea to strive for just that one step better, for a variety of breakfasts that are better than just okay. But there are other things on the list, and there always will be.

In a world that values full-on intensity and all-or-nothing measures, learning that it’s okay not to go full-out at everything is valuable, too.

“This is the same place / no not the same place / this is the same place we’ve been before.”

Dani Shapiro on writing and scale and careers:

“Solotaroff wondered where all the talented young writers he had known or published when he was first editing New American Review had gone. Only a few had flourished. Some, he speculated, had ended up teaching, publishing occasionally in small journals. But most had just . . . given up. ‘It doesn’t appear to be a matter of talent itself,’ he wrote. ‘Some of the most natural writers, the ones who seemed to shake their prose or poetry out of their sleeves, are among the disappeared. As far as I can tell, the decisive factor is what I call endurability: that is, the ability to deal effectively with uncertainty, rejection, and disappointment, from within as well as from without.’

“… my internal life as a writer has been a constant battle with the small, whispering voice (well, sometimes it shouts) that tells me I can’t do it. This time, the voice taunts me, you will fall flat on your face. Every single piece of writing I have ever completed — whether a novel, a memoir, an essay, short story or review — has begun as a wrestling match between hopelessness and something else, some other quality that all writers, if they are to keep going, must possess.”

More than a bit of cane-thumping follows, with many of the same arguments about publishing’s newly fallen state being made that I remember from 20 years ago. But amid that, the author’s point about writers needing to be willing to struggle and persist and fail, and most of all resist the need for, even expectation of, the instant score–when every overnight success is so quickly spread and shared–are well taken.

(Link via tltrent.)

“Every time you love just a little … it echoes all over the world”

What would happen if every one of us had one and only one soulmate, whom we would automatically know the moment our eyes met? The world would be a much lonelier place.

“You are my daughter.” Yet again, Darths and Droids gives a scene that should have happened, if only Star Wars episodes 4-6 had been written with an awareness of episodes 1-3. Heck, those guys are still trying to get the Peace Moon plans back to Senator Binks on Naboo, too.

On the buying and selling of reviews. The phrase, “These were marketing reviews, not editorial reviews,” says so much about what’s wrong with … so much.

Justine Larbalestier on dealing with (real) reviews: “You publish books, you get bad reviews. If you don’t want bad reviews don’t write books.” Yes. That.

And another bit of perspective from M.J. Rose: : “While a presence on social media outlets can be valuable it can’t–except in unusual cases–take the place of strong publisher support. And even more important, it can very seriously interfere with nourishing our creative souls.”

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.

Friday afternoon linky

You chose wrong. Required reading for anyone with fond memories of Choose Your Own Adventure books.

“Trumpet Vine Love Song,” a poem by asakiyume.

I’m amused to admit, until a few days ago, I really did think YOLO stood for You Obviously Love Owls. Because it should.

When hyphen boy meets hyphen girl, the names pile up. Because unlike some countries, the U.S. still hasn’t come up with a good system for passing on both male and female surnames.

On the fat shaming of Kate Upton: “I’m finding it harder and harder in my daily life to come across a woman who doesn’t exhibit some form of disordered behavior around food, exercise, or body image. What constitutes a ‘disorder’ if the majority of the population engages in it?”

A transgendered researcher’s take on the gender gap in science: “As the applause died down, a friend later told him, one scientist turned to another and remarked what a great seminar it had been, adding, ‘Ben Barres’s work is much better than his sister’s.’ There was only one problem. Prof. Barres, then as now a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University, doesn’t have a sister in science. The Barbara Barres the man remembered was Ben.”

From the same article, and relevant to other fields as well: “Almost without exception, the talented women I have known have believed they had less ability than they actually had,” Prof. Petsko wrote. “And almost without exception, the talented men I have known believed they had more.” (This latter, I have met among writers as well, perhaps with a few more exceptions, but still pretty widely. Male writers tend toward overconfidence, bragging too soon about work that isn’t ready yet; female writers tend toward underconfidence, apologizing for the work even when there actually is external validation.)

And finally, some Puma concolor love for your weekend. Do not try this at home:

Disconcerting how not-unlike our older housecat’s behavior with us this is, actually.