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By the Numbers

In case you're wondering, yes, getting a review in Slate does have an effect on a book's Amazon ranking. I'm still not quite at best-seller status, but there's no question that seeing your rank go up by an order of magnitude does make for a more chipper attitude. I also had a brief email exchange with Eleanor Davis, who created the artwork that accompanied the review, and she turns out to be incredibly cool and happy that I was so pleased by the art.

(If nothing else, working on this book has allowed me to meet three of the most talented and personable artists I've ever encountered: Ursula Vernon, Shawn Smith, and now Eleanor, whose upcoming book, How to Be Happy, should go on all your advanced-order lists now. Since I usually hang out with writers, educators, musicians, and theater folks, I feel lucky to have had such a run of exposure to people working in the visual arts.)

Today's big number, though, is 28.

Why? Because 28 years ago, on a remarkably hot and sticky day in Fayetteville, NC, I married Kelly Dalton, and thereby redeemed every stupid decision I have made or will ever make in the future.

One thing I've been doing this week, when I haven't been obsessing over my Amazon ranking, is scanning old photos, particularly those from our trip to Italy back in the spring of 2003. I think Kelly would join me in saying that our visit to Civita di Bagnoregio was one of the highlights of that trip, and this photo of the two of us sharing coffee in the garden at Antico Forno is one of my favorites.

Civita 043.bmp
Happy anniversary, hon.

12:37 PM

On the Slate

A new review of Along Those Lines from Slate:

It's fun to spend a few hours in the presence of an amateur geographer whose brain is crammed with birds and pop songs and bits of string. The end effect of Along Those Lines is of having dipped into a long-running notebook, a very pleasant one, from a person who would truly like to know how all the human systems work but has also accepted that perfect knowledge will never come. He's going to do his best and not pretend to have all the answers. Cashwell doesn't have a focused thesis about human territoriality. He wants us to open our eyes to borders, but he doesn't tell us what to do about them. Just seeing them is enough, perhaps.

Plus there's this cool illustration by Eleanor Davis:

Slate review illo.jpg

The subhead is "A Delightful and Curious Book About Borders, Boundaries, Fences, and Lines." I think I can work with that.

1:53 PM

The Home Front

The rush of book promotion having finally ended, I've been able to get a little time at home over the last week or so, and I must say it's been welcome. I've had the chance to get some sleep, hit the gym, get back on my low-carb diet, read some books, and occasionally venture out into nature. I have also, thanks to a self-imposed moratorium on social media, been able to quit stressing myself out on Facebook and Twitter (where the Supreme Court was not doing my blood pressure any good...) and get some writing done, which I haven't been able to do for some time.

Come with me on a brief tour of late June/early July:

Here's a shot from my reading at the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond:

I apologize for the fact that Fountain owner Kelly Justice and I are wearing two fabrics that ideally will not be in the same city, let alone the same photograph:

DSC01929.JPG(Note: In the background you can see my sometime birding partner Nick Morgan and my former student Jacob Geiger.)

A lovely little story, told in children's book covers, that I found at the Fountain.


Kelly's mom spent a week with us, and we took her up into Shenandoah National Park for a trip around the Limberlost Trail loop. Here we pose at the Hemlock Springs overlook on Skyline Drive:

The very next day, I made a return trip to SNP and Limberlost with longtime birding partner Mary Stevens, who also enjoys digging under logs for salamanders.



We also took the hike down to Lewis Falls, where Mary posed in triumph atop the wall of the observation platform:

Naturally, I was compelled to do likewise:

And on our return trip, we spotted a first-of-the-year species we'd only hoped for: Ursus americanus, the American Black Bear:

After I made it home, we were visited by a couple of other interesting things. First, Kelly spotted this young female in our carport:

DSC01970.JPG(That's a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, if you were wondering.)

And a few days later, we were visited by first a growly afternoon thunderstorm and then this lovely bit of weather:

All in all, not a bad way to start the summer.

10:19 AM

Donna Seaman reviewed Along Those Lines for the July 1st issue of Booklist:

"Birding state-by-state got Cashwell (The Verb 'To Bird,' 2003) thinking about lines and boundaries geographical, social, scientific, and cultural and the problematic if intriguing divide between concept and reality. A zesty storyteller, creative thinker, and energetic researcher, who chases obscure facts as ardently as dreamed-of birds, Cashwell brings his inquiry into the meaning and influence of lines to the practice of map-making, exploring the role politics plays in creating borders and our insistence on fighting wars over these largely arbitrary divides. Cashwell's love of language and particular interest in naming inform his consideration of how we delineate everything from species to musical genres to the geometries of religious tenets and the demarcations of time. Fascinated by all border skirmishes, Cashwell shares arresting thoughts about our longing for clear categories when it comes to gender and the phases of life as well as natural death and forced extinction. Crossing into sunnier territory, Cashwell enthusiastically, humorously, and shrewdly conducts his line-seeking investigation in the realm of sports and takes a foray into the LEGO craze. Intellectual reveling at its finest."

I am, as you might expect, pleased with this review.

8:02 AM

Can You Hear Me Now?

"Oh, no!" you cry. "I was trapped under a large boulder yesterday afternoon and therefore unable to hear PC discussing Along Those Lines and sharing his thoughts about boundaries on WMRA's 'Virginia Insight'! How can I live with myself?"

Lucky you. Not because of the large boulder, obviously, but because I have the answer to your problems right here in this link:

PC's appearance on Virginia Insight

Click above, then click "Listen," then kick back for about an hour and enjoy. Just watch out for boulders this time, okay?

5:15 PM

Radio, Radio

Just a reminder: this afternoon (Monday, June 23rd) I'll be chatting about Along Those Lines on WMRA's "Virginia Insight" with Tom Graham at 3:00 p.m.

You can tune in in a variety of ways, including live streaming at , or by using the more traditional radio dial:
103.5 FM Charlottesville
  91.3 FM Farmville
  90.7 FM Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley
  89.9 FM Lexington
  94.5 FM Winchester

Listen in... call in at 888-WMRA TALK... or leave comments live on Facebook at

It'll be a blast.


8:51 AM


I'll be reading from Along Those Lines, answering questions, signing books, and generally shooting the breeze starting at 6:30 p.m. Bring friends, relatives, and anyone with disposable income!

anteater.jpg(Note: PC is not and never has been an anteater. No anteaters were harmed in the making of this blog post. No accounts of this anteater may be reproduced with the express written permission of Major League Baseball. Consult a physician before beginning any anteater program. Side effects may include aardvarks, echidnas, honey badgers, and tool-using chimpanzees. Offer void in Nebraska.)

6:27 PM

Old North Statements

As some of you may know, I got to do my first reading/signing for Along Those Lines at McIntyre's Books in Fearrington Village, NC, back on Saturday, and I had a blast. This was not unexpected, as I'd had a similar good time at my last McIntyre's appearance, and it's always helpful to know there will be friendly faces in the audience. In this case, those faces included those of family (my parents, my aunt, my brother and my nephews), family friends from decades past (the Haigs and Nebels), schoolchums (Ginny and Bruce and Tom and David and Laura), and friends of more recent vintage as well.

Rather than reading length sections of a book, I tend to view readings as a chance to provide both snippets of the text (for those who haven't read any of it yet) and answers to questions (for those who have read some). This also allows me to go back to the book when someone asks a question that the book itself answers, and I will thus often end up reading a passage that I hadn't originally intended to read. I guess it's sort of like showing up with a set list and also taking requests. (No, this is not an excuse for you to yell, "Free Bird!" when I call for questions.)

In any case, the reading went well, and the one audience member who suggested that the book was basically just free-associating (which is at least partially true) was followed by another who praised my ability to seemingly go off on endless tangents before suddently, right at the end of a chapter, bringing the audience back to the original point (which is something I definitely try to do.)

After about an hour of reading and talking, I settled in to sign some books and take a couple of photos, including this shot of some of the CHHS crowd, taken by emeritus professor Sterling Haig:

DSC01848.JPG(Standing are three members of my own 1981 class,Tom Cell, Bruce Cairns, and David Nelson, while Laura Thomas '82 sits on the arm of my chair.)

I spent the rest of the weekend relaxing with my folks, watching the NBA Finals (in which Danny Green became, if I'm not mistaken, the 14th former Tar Heel to play on an NBA champion team) and the World Cup, and zipping around town to catch up with friends, several of whom generously bought me beers and/or meals.

But on Monday afternoon, my mother and I packed up our water bottles, met my friend Tom, and headed out into the heat to the Moral Monday protest outside the NC legislature. Organized by the state NAACP and its president, the Rev. William Barber, Moral Monday has become a regular feature of the summer landscape in Raleigh, and after Mom attended a rally last year, I thought this might be a good opportunity to join her. Thanks to the arrival of Governor Pat McCrory and a host of his Republican brethren, Raleigh has become a source of concern for me because of the damage they are doing to my home state and its people. Whether it's turning down a Medicaid expansion that could save lives, encouraging ecologically dangerous policies (shielding power companies from coal ash cleanups, refusing to acknowledge climatologists' predictions in making policy, and even making it illegal to reveal what fracking companies are pumping into the ground), or even trying to shut down the Moral Monday protests themselves, the GOP majority is doing its level best to turn the South's most progressive state into its most regressive one. I figured the least I could do is show up and offer my support to my fellow North Carolinians.

Despite the brutal heat--a good 95 degrees when the speakers began at 5:00--the 800-1500 attendees on the mall were treated to a string of strong speeches from a variety of perspectives; we heard from a lawyer, a union organizer, a rabbi, a teacher, a couple of fast food workers, and a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, all of whom kept the crowd focused on the injustices caused by the policies enacted across the street. Then Rev. Barber himself took the lectern, and I'm hear to tell you: the man can speak. Despite his frail health, when he gets his teeth into an idea, he pulls on it with power, and he's not afraid to spit blood in the process.

DSC01867.JPGIn some ways, though, I was most impressed when he stepped forward to interrupt another speaker (seen above). He cut in after she had said only a few words, and he did so in order to scold some members of the audience who were conversing among themselves. It was important, he argued, that they give their undivided attention to those at the lectern, because their words were so important to understanding the stakes of this fight. And since the woman speaking was a young single mother working at Wendy's--and thus both too poor for insurance or Obamacare, yet unable to get Medicaid thanks to NC's refusal to expand it--her tale of struggling with cervical cancer was one that the crowd absolutely did need to hear. That was the act of a man who is more than an orator; it was the act of a man who intends to educate, and to bring about change through that education.

Following the rally, we filed across the mall and into the legislature's rotunda, where we did some chanting and singing, and where Judge Carl Fox's recent smackdown of the NCGA's rules about what can/cannot be said in the building was apparently ignored by law enforcement officials. About 20 people were, according to their own plan, arrested downstairs for their civil disobedience, though Mom, Tom, and I were not among them. (Instead, we withdrew the cooler confines of Gravy, a very nice Italian restaurant, where we rehydrated, caught the tail end of the USA/Ghana game, and were treated to dinner by Tom.)

If you're interested in fighting the good fight, and in hearing some remarkable oration in the process, I'd urge you to consider visiting Raleigh some Monday. Visit the NAACP/North Carolina's website and get more information about supporting and/or participating in this democratic (small D) effort.

The people of North Carolina would appreciate it. I would appreciate it as well.

Keep 'em flying, folks.

5:27 PM

If you're going to be in North Carolina on Saturday, June 14th, I'd love to see you at McIntyre's Books at 2:00.

Boost the signal!

Batty Night.jpg

6:09 PM

Radio Free Cashwell

Good news, everyone!

On Monday, June 23rd, you can tune in to WMRA (Central Virginia's NPR affiliate) to hear me talking with Tom Graham on Virginia Insight. I'll just bet we'll be talking about ALONG THOSE LINES.

This will come on the heels of my appearances in North Carolina (McIntyre's Books, Fearrington Village, 2:00 p.m. on  Saturday June 14th) and Richmond (The Fountain Bookstore on downtown Cary Street, 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 19th.)


1:42 PM


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