Showing posts from May, 2010

"Sumer is icumen in"

Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu! Groweþ sed and bloweþ med And springþ þe wde nu, Sing cuccu! - Middle English lyrics of English folk song Summer has come in, Loudly sing, Cuckoo! The seed grows and the meadow blooms And the wood springs anew, Sing, Cuckoo! - Modern English translation of lyrics The calendar may still say it is spring, but when the temperature is in the upper 90s and the humidity is close to the same, I'd say that summer has definitely "come in". For several days now, my area has enjoyed(?) those conditions and there is no doubt in my mind that summer is definitely here. Even the cuckoo agrees. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo has been present here for some weeks now and I hear its quirky calls high in the trees often throughout the day. This is the bird that, as a child, I knew as the "rain crow". This solitary and secretive bird was a well-known visitor to our woods in summer. Its call was said to presage the coming of rain. As farm peopl

Closed for Memorial Day


The spill

I can't bear it. I can't bear to watch television images of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico, my backyard, and on the Gulf Coast. I can hardly bear to read of it, only if I skip over the most excruciating parts, the parts about helpless animals caught in this man-made catastrophe. Anyone who cares about animals and the environment, for that matter anyone who cares about his/her fellow humans who are suffering because of this biggest environmental disaster in the history of our country, is being daily bombarded with hard punches to the heart as this unspeakable befouling of the earth continues. How did we ever let this happen? Why do we allow drilling for oil a mile down in the ocean when we have no effective plan for dealing with potential explosions and oil spills? Are we truly so addicted to oil that we have lost all perspective on what is important? Even a bird knows that its nest mustn't be fouled. Are we not as smart as birds? The president has reversed h

Wordless Wednesday: First fruits


It's all about guilt

I've been thinking about global climate change deniers because on one of my other blogs , I've been having a conversation with a reader on the subject. This reader is a passionate denier, and anytime I mention a story about climate change on the blog, I can expect to get a comment telling me it is all a load of horse pucky. Why is it that otherwise intelligent people, who would normally accept overwhelming scientific evidence on a subject, reject such evidence when it comes to climate change? They will argue until the cows come home that it is all a hoax. The scientists are lying to us ( but Fox News is telling the truth!) and very few people believe them. And, of course, if a majority of people do not believe that climate change exists, that means it is not true, correct? Truly, the mind boggles. It is very likely, I would imagine, that a polling agency could find evidence that a majority of people in this country believe the earth is flat and that the sun revolves aroun

Rampant intellectual dishonesty? Or just politics as usual?

Only ten short years ago the budget of this country was in the black. We had a substantial surplus and things were looking really bright for the future of the country. Then came the selection of a new president by the Supreme Court in 2000 and things began to turn around. Over the next eight years, through two expensive wars, one of them totally unnecessary, through unfunded drug programs and various other unfunded initiatives, and through tax cuts that allowed the richest people and corporations in the country to pay minimal taxes, all of the surplus was used up and we sank into the red. Way into the red. Meantime, a refusal to regulate financial institutions, oil and other energy companies was driving the overall economy into a very deep ditch, taking ordinary citizens along for the plunge. Now that the country has been driven into debt and to the brink of ruin by the policies of that Supreme Court selected president, so-called libertarians and patriots are screaming about the sta

A new love

I've been going to bed with Ian Rankin this week and it has been great fun! Most readers of mysteries probably are familiar with Rankin and with his detective Inspector Rebus of Edinburgh, but I've only just made his acquaintance, although I've known about him for years, of course. There are around twenty books in the Rebus series. I've finished one and two, Knots and Crosses and Hide and Seek . Now I'm reading number three, Tooth and Nail . These books are fast reads and are very hard to put down once you get into the story. Rebus is an interesting and flawed character. The reader can easily empathize with his weaknesses and cheer him on as he stumbles along trying to solve the latest murder mystery. Part of his attractiveness, I think, comes from his surroundings. Edinburgh is full of history and quirkiness, and Rankin has a way of painting a picture of the city with very spare language. There are no flowery passages. No word is wasted, but one feels the

Have you hugged an endangered species today?

How much do you know about endangered species and the Endangered Species Act that protects them? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the agency primarily responsible for protecting native species in this country. What with invasive species, habitat loss due to development, and changing climate patterns, to mention just three challenges, they've certainly got their hands full. And that doesn't even begin to take into account the ignorance and apathy of the public. Still, they have had some notable successes and today they are celebrating. Yes, today is Endangered Species Day. So, how much do you know about endangered species? The USFWS has a quiz to help you find out. Click on this quiz link to answer the questions and find out just how knowledgable you are.

Rand Paul, the quintessential tea party candidate

So, Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Kentucky, is ready to fight the good fight to "take our country back." Take our country back from whom, I wonder? He celebrated his victory in the primary at an exclusive country club where most of his prospective Kentucky constituents would not be welcome. It would appear that he wants to take the country back and give it to the country club set that he "pals around" with, to coin a phrase. On Rachel Maddow's show last night , he professed to be leery of parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and of the Americans with Disabilities Act, so I guess he wants to take the country back from folks who are covered by those acts. He doesn't think that private business owners, WHO OFFER SERVICES TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC , should be forbidden from discriminating against someone because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, or gender. He also apparently does not believe that businesses, WHO OFFER SERVICES

Wordless Wednesday: May means magnolias


Election Day

It was primary day in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Oregon, and an interesting one it was, too. At this hour, it has been determined that the tea party candidate, Rand Paul, has won the Republican primary for senator of Kentucky. The Democratic race for that office has been much closer with two strong candidates, the current Attorney General and Lt. Governor of the state. At present the Attorney General has a slim lead. Interestingly, both the Attorney General and the Lt. Governor have received more votes than Rand Paul did! I wonder if the mainstream media will mention that. I would guess not. In Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter found that switching parties was not the golden ticket to continued incumbency that he had thought. Rep. Joe Sestak beat him rather decisively. It will be a tough battle for Sestak in the general election, but he might just pull it off. He's a pretty tough campaigner. The really interesting race in Pennsylvania was the special election for the

Oil? What oil?

So, Brit Hume of Fox News can't see the Gulf oil spill from his window in Washington or New York or wherever it is that he is based and so it must be no big deal . On Fox News Sunday he said: There's a good question today if you are standing on the Gulf, and that is: Where is the oil? ...It's not on -- except for little of chunks of it, you're not even seeing it on the shore yet.... But you know where the greatest source of oil that seeps into the ocean is? It's from natural seepage from subterreanean deposits. That's where most of it comes from, not from drilling accidents....The ocean absorbs a lot, Juan, an awful lot. The ocean absorbs a lot. I guess Hume hasn't seen the satellite pictures taken from space of the the oil slicks spreading out over thousands of acres of the ocean. He probably also hasn't seen the pictures of the dead animals washing up on beaches along the Gulf now. But even if he has, why should he pay attention to them? He works fo

Oh, just turn down the thermostat and forget it!

NASA is out with another report on the climate. Their data on the earth's temperature show that the last 12-month period is the warmest on record . In addition, April 2010 was the hottest April on record and March 2010 was the hottest March on record. Furthermore, taken together, January, February and March this year set records as the hottest of that three-month period on record. NASA now predicts that a new record 12-month global temperature will almost certainly be set in 2010. This has all happened, or is happening, in spite of the "moderate negative effect of the reduced solar irradiance." So, during this period, there has been reduced solar irradiance which should have meant that the earth would be cooler. Instead, we've recorded the hottest temperatures on record. Gee, I wonder how that could have possibly happened? But...but, 1998 was cooler. And all those purloined emails from scientists in England - didn't they prove that the data was dodgy and t

They do protest too much, methinks

In Hamlet , Shakespeare has Gertrude say in regard to a character in a play, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Like so much else that the Bard wrote, this quote has come to address a particular circumstance in life. When one is guilty of something which he/she does not want known, he/she may strive to give the appearance of being and doing the opposite of that thing. And so the dishonest woman proclaims her honesty - "I would never lie to you!" The thief professes his innocence - "I've never stolen anything in my life!" The false lover vows, "Of course I'll still respect you in the morning!" We've seen this play so often in recent years that we should be able to write its ending every time. Nowhere is the ending to the play more obvious than in the political arena with those politicians who wrap themselves in the blanket of family values and excoriate anyone who is deviant from what they define as the path of righteousn

Root, root, root for the Astros!

Baseball season lasts from April through September, and, if you are very good, even longer. But even fans of the most mediocre baseball team are guaranteed at least six months with the best outdoor game ever invented that involves a ball. It's a long season and that's the way it is supposed to be - the way God intended - although, to some of us, the season seems to go by in the blink of any eye. The analogy is often made by sportscasters and writers that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, and there is truth in that. Teams have to play all 162 games and every inning of every game, but even though it doesn't always seem that way, the games that are played in April count just as much as the games that are played in September. The point being that teams that get off to a slow start can find themselves in a hole too deep to climb out of even before a quarter of the season is over. That's the position that my favorite team, the Astros, find themselves in th

Elena Kagan = Harriet Miers? Really?

It's funny how one's perspective changes with time and circumstances . For example, when George Bush nominated Harriet Miers, who had zero judicial experience and little other experience except for being a Bush sycophant, for the Supreme Court back in 2005, our own Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison thought it was a great nomination. Hutchison said Miers was a "wonderful choice" in 2005, but today she "has some concerns over Elena Kagan's lack of judicial experience." Likewise, Texas' other esteemed senator, John Cornyn, said of the Miers nomination, "One reason I felt so strongly about Harriet Miers' qualifications is I thought she would fill some very important gaps in the Supreme Court. Because right now you have people who've been federal judges, circuit judges most of their lives, or academicians." But that was then. This is now. Cornyn says of Kagan, "Ms. Kagan is a surprising choice because she lacks judicial experience. Most

A taxing canard

There is a meme that is perpetuated by every conservative organization, think tank, pundit, and man in the street in this country. That meme states that we are a heavily and unjustly taxed people. That meme is a total falsehood. In fact, ours is one of the lower taxed countries among western nations. Any member of the tea party movement, meanwhile, knows and will be glad to tell you in a very loud voice that taxes have been raised since Barack Obama became president. The fact that this, too, is totally false will never stand in the way of a true teabagger rant. In fact, taxes for most Americans were lowered in 2009. In actuality a USA Today analysis shows that taxes in 2009 were the lowest they had been since 1950 when Harry S. Truman was president. Yes, he was a Democrat, too. So much for the Republicans' constant harping about how taxes are always higher under a Democratic president. The USA Today story stated in part: Federal, state and local taxes — including income, pr

Down with pundits!

The Washington Post asked twelve people what in the world they would like to get rid of . Surprisingly, perhaps, one of the people that they asked, Donna Brazile who is herself a TV pundit, said that we should get rid of pundits. I agree. As far as I can tell, the only function of the TV pundit is to scream at his/her opposite number. The modus operandi of cable television is to bring on two pundits from opposite ends of the political spectrum and let them yell back and forth at each other, adding heat but no light to the subject. They get extra points if they constantly interrupt the other person and never let him/her finish a thought. In fact, the whole purpose of the pundit is to keep the other person from coherently stating his case. It doesn't matter if the professional pundit doesn't really have a cogent case himself/herself, he/she wins by simply not letting the other person talk. This, then, is what passes for "fair and balanced" journalism in the worl

Evolution 101

"Life will find a way." - Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park Two stories in the news this week remind us of the power of evolution and the fact that life will fight hard to sustain itself and that, very often, it will "find a way." These stories are all about the ability of species to adapt to new circumstances. First, Science Daily reports that the mosquito that carries yellow fever has developed a resistance to the widely used insect repellent DEET. They have lost the ability to sense the product and so are not repelled by it. Some scientists are now urging restricted use of this and other repellents so that other species of mosquitoes do not become resistant to them. Secondly, a story in The New York Times detailed how "superweeds" are becoming resistant to the ubiquitous weed killer, Roundup. This herbicide is the number one chemical used in fighting weeds by farmers and by many gardeners around the country. It is not really surprising that weeds

Our brother Neanderthal

For years, conventional wisdom among biologists has been that modern humans and the Neanderthal people evolved along separate branches of the hominid tree and that they did not interbreed. Now a set of researchers has presented evidence that this theory of human evolution was all wrong , that in fact there was interbreeding. Their research on the Neanderthal genome, about 60 percent of which has been recovered, indicates that 1 percent to 4 percent of the genome of modern non-Africans was derived from the Neanderthals. This does not necessarily indicate a strong and consistent blending of the two strains, but it seems certain that there was some at least intermittent intermingling, even though the Neanderthal influence does not seem to have played a significant role in the evolution of modern humans. Back in the 1980s, writer Jean Auel had something of a literary sensation with her "Earth's Children" series of books. The first book, The Clan of the Cave Bear , introdu

Why do Republicans hate America?

They want to abrogate the Constitution in regard to the right to be advised that one does not have to incriminate oneself when questioned by authorities, but can instead remain silent. They do not believe that people accused of crimes should be advised that they have the right to counsel. They believe that one's citizenship should be taken away if one ASSOCIATES with the wrong people - not that one has been accused of a crime or has been convicted of a crime, but simply that one has associated with someone that the government doesn't approve of. They have a low opinion of our police departments and of the FBI, believing them incompetent to protect us against domestic terror threats, even though those agencies have been remarkably successful in interdicting such threats again and again. And again just this last week . Oh, but God forbid that someone who is suspected of the potential for terrorism and is on a "no fly" list should have their right to purchase an AK-47

The light at the end of the oil spill tunnel

Paul Krugman had a column in The Times on Monday with which I totally agree. That's hardly news because I usually agree with his columns - some more than others. He says things that I want to say but he says them so much more intelligently and persuasively. And he has a slightly larger audience than I do. Plus there's that Nobel Prize thing... But anyway, I thought he made a particularly cogent point about this awful oil spill that is consuming our attention. (It seems that we have little time for the flooding disasters that are happening in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky , or the would-be bomber of Times Square because we are mesmerized by the sight of that gigantic oil slick sliding, virtually unimpeded so far, toward our coast.) And now that our attention is focused, let us hope that people who are concerned about the environment and who are concerned about the efficacy and safety of offshore drilling can make their points to the public. It seems that the public mi

The great oil spill

( Cross-posted from Backyard Birder .) Our regular weekly roundup of news of birds and the environment is this week completely dominated by one story: The explosion of the BP oil rig in the Gulf and the subsequent gigantic and potentially disastrous oil spill. As thousands of barrels of oil continue to gush from the area of the rig every single day that the leak goes unstopped, the possibility of a true environmental catastrophe along the Gulf Coast grows hourly. Even now the first of the oil has reached the coastal areas and the first oil-soaked bird, a young Northern Gannet, has been found and is being cleaned by volunteers. There are several national parks and wildlife refuges that are in the path of the spill which could threaten the coastlines of four states - Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Among them is the Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, where mated pairs of cranes have just hatched their babies in April. These hatchlings would be part