Showing posts from September, 2010

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

The still nearly full Harvest Moon was high in the western sky on Friday morning when I hauled myself out of my comfy bed and began to make preparations for a day of birding. We were going to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge on a day trip and we wanted to get there while the birds were still active in the morning before they settled down for their mid-day siesta. Since the refuge is some two hours away from our home, it required an early start. When we arrived at the refuge two hours later, the moon was still a pale presence above the western horizon, but the sun was up and would soon extinguish its light. Among the first things that I noticed at the refuge were the wildflowers. They were everywhere, producing riotous points of color among the browns and greens of the wetland grasses. Purple seemed to be the predominant color. But there was a lot of yellow among the purple, including these tiny flowers that look like some kind of coreopsis. This was obviously a legume of some kind.

The 10 most challenged books of 2009

Here we are in the middle of the 29th annual Banned Books Week , so in honor of that occasion, let's take a look at some of the books that people were trying to get banned last year. These are the ten books that were most often complained about and requested to be removed from the shelves by patrons of libraries. I have to admit that I'm not even familiar with some of these books that are specifically for children or young people, but I may have to read them anyway as a protest. 1. TTYL by Lauren Myracle: Never heard of it and that author's last name sounds made up, but what do I know? I lead a very sheltered life. People complained about it because of sexual explicitness, offensive language, unsuitability for its targeted age group, and drugs. 2. And Tango makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell: This one was knocked off its #1 perch where it had been for a while. The story of homosexual penguins really gets some peoples' knickers in a twist. 3

Silent Sunday: Brazilian Skipper on Turk's cap leaf


9 Habitats that are disappearing from the earth

The political news frustrates and angers me. We seem to be a people determined to undo everything that the geniuses who founded this country set out to bequeath to us. But it takes news of what we are doing to the environment to really put me in a blue funk for days at a time. Like this article that I read on Huffington Post this week about nine types of habitats that are seriously endangered. 1. Mangroves: The mangrove is not a plant, it is a habitat that can contain a great diversity of individual species of plants - like holly, plumbago, hibiscus, legumes, acanthus, and myrtle. These complex habitats do the important work of capturing carbon and provide shelter for many species of animals. Unfortunately, they exist on valuable real estate along coasts and we know what happens when the needs of the planet collide with man's greed. Greed wins. From 1980 to 2000, 35% of mangrove habitats disappeared under the developers' earthmovers. 2. Coral reefs: These are beauti

The dinosaur hunters

I guess most kids, at some time in their growing-up years, become fascinated with dinosaurs and consider what it would be like to spend their lives digging in hot, dry, out-of-the-way places around the world, looking for their quarry. In this, I was like most kids. I wanted to be a dinosaur hunter when I grew up. Not just any old dinosaur hunter, but a world-famous dinosaur hunter, the kind that gets invited onto late night television shows to banter with the host. Well, that dream, like many others, went astray. I never got to go on a dinosaur dig, but I still like to read about those who do and watch those Discovery Channel shows about them. These days, there is plenty to read about. If it's Thursday, there must be news of another new dinosaur species having been found. This week, we dinosaur fans get a bonanza - not one but two new species have been found in the wilds of the Utah desert . Both of the new dinosaurs are rhinoceros-sized animals and seem to have been closely

Wordless Wednesday: A Queen on her milkweed throne


Nemesis: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery by Lindsey Davis - Review

I love fiction set in ancient Rome and when it is a mystery, my favorite genre, so much the better. The Marcus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis is one of my favorites of the type. I've read them all and now I've read this latest one. I have to say it was not my favorite of the lot, but it was very good, very entertaining and kept me guessing, although I did have a glimmer of the solution about two-thirds of the way through. The book starts with a double tragedy. Falco loses two family members in one day and the losses change his life forever. While he is working through his bereavement, he is presented with the mystery of the disappearance of a couple who had been supplying his antique dealer/auctioneer father with statuary. A shipment was delivered but when payment was attempted the suppliers could not be found. Soon Falco is on the trail of the disappeared pair and that leads him into confrontation with a notorious and violent family. A family which may very well b

C'mon Autumn!

The seeds of the Southern magnolia are ripening and turning red. That can only mean that autumn is almost here. Not a moment too soon!

Did you know that the dictionary is a banned book?

Banned Book Week, a yearly event of the American Library Association, does not begin for another week, but I happened upon this article in the Huffington Post listing eleven of the most surprising banned books and, of course, I had to read it. And, yes, I was surprised. 1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary and American Heritage Dictionary: Can you believe it? These dictionaries have been banned by some school systems in this country apparently because they contain definitions of sex acts! No wonder our educational system seems to be falling apart. 2. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: This has been banned in some areas due to obscenity and the portrayal of the country in a negative light. Admittedly, it was a long time ago that I read this book, but I don't remember any obscenity. If it was there, it certainly didn't make an impression on me. As for portraying the country in a negative light, it was the Great Depression. An honest portrait of the times would necessarily b

The great literary feud is over!

Remember the brouhaha several years ago when Oprah Winfrey selected The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen for her book club? Franzen was not amused. In fact, he was appalled. He made some churlish statement to the effect that he was afraid his selection by Oprah would turn off male readers, that they would think that his book was "middlebrow" and would not pick it up. Well, I don't know how male readers felt, but I was certainly turned off by Franzen's ungracious and supercilious attitude. Apparently, the only people he thought were good enough and smart enough to read his book were male PhDs! Since I don't qualify, I decided I wouldn't read his book and I never have. After his stated consternation at being given the Oprah stamp of approval, Oprah rescinded her stamp and rescinded her invitation to appear on her show. Franzen ultimately apologized for his behavior, but it was too late. Ten years passed. Now Franzen is out with another book, Freedom .

The happy taxpayer

I've been away from the news of the world for a couple of days, thinking about other things. It was a nice respite. But back to the world of politics. I see that our politicians are still wrangling over taxes, specifically the so-called Bush tax cuts, and that the Republicans' new buzzword is "uncertainty." Every Republican you see on TV or hear on radio uses that word in practically every sentence. Uncertainty bad! Furthermore, uncertainty equals Obama. They claim that the economy isn't growing and recovering faster (from the ditch they drove it into) because businesses are "uncertain" about their taxes. They don't know whether they will have to pay more taxes because the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire as the law presently requires. President Obama and most Democrats want to extend the tax cuts that apply to the middle class but they want the ones that apply to people and businesses earning more than $250,000 a year in taxable income

David Foster Wallace - worth a second look

Recently, I wrote a post here about the 13 books that everybody says they have read but haven't . I had actually read seven of the books on the list, but one of the remaining six was a book that I could not remember having heard of. In fact, I could not remember having heard of the author either. That writer was David Foster Wallace and the book was Infinite Jest . It had been published and evidently made a big splash back in the mid 1990s when I, apparently, wasn't paying attention. I commented in my post that I had no intention of reading the book, but I felt guilty about that. How could I dismiss a book and a writer that I didn't even know? So, I decided to find out about the writer and his work. Reading about Wallace, the man , gave me a lot of empathy for him. He was almost terminally shy and suffered from depression. He was also quite a prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, much of it highly praised and award-winning. He had a philosophical turn of

Super foods that even a non-foodie can love

Every time you open a newspaper or check out a news website online it seems that you run across another report of some food that is supposed to be so powerful that it might even help you live forever. Often it is some exotic food that you might have to visit a specialty store to find. But there are some everyday foods that can give any of those exotics a run for their money. They may not help you live forever, but it is possible that they could prolong your life and they could definitely make your feel better while you are enjoying that life. Here are ten of them that you should be able to find in just about any grocery store and that you can easily work into your daily diet. 1. Berries - Fruits like raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are high in fiber. There is evidence that they help to protect against some cancers. Plus, they are good for your sweet tooth. They are low in calories but taste sweet and can help satisfy that craving for a sweet. 2. Beans - They conta

Burning the Qur'an and other loathsome ideas

This idiotic leader of an extremist sect of socalled Christians in Florida is all set to burn a bunch of the holy books of Islam to commemorate the murder of Americans (some of them Islamic) by other religious extremists on September 11, 2001. Well, that sounds about par for the course for religious and political discourse in America these days. When the professional hater Glenn Beck can set himself up as the inheritor of the moral mantle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I suppose we should not be surprised by this man's audacity of dope. Gen. David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, various religious leaders, and now President Obama have spoken out against this charlatan's intended desecration. It has been pointed out that such actions play right into the hands of al Qaeda and other such extremists and will likely bring them more angry recruits eager to blow themselves up in some crowded American venue, taking innocent people who never considered burning a Qur'

Liar, liar, pants on fire!!!

Haley Barbour is the Republican governor of Mississippi. He and I have at least one thing in common: We grew up in that troubled state in the same generation. We both came of age in the 1960s. Strangely, Barbour remembers those days a bit differently than I do. He recently gave an interview to a conservative magazine and website in which he claimed that it was his generation - my generation - that led the switch in the South from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party and that it was all because of that integration thing. He said that the old Democrats fought "tooth and nail" against integration but by the time the '60s generation came along, they realized that it was indefensible, so the people who changed from Democrat to Republican were a whole different generation than those who fought integration. Barbour's generation, he said, led the switch because they had gone to integrated schools and an integrated college and they "never thought twice about

Silent Sunday: A new kind of "hummingbird"


13 books that everybody says they've read - but haven't

As an avid reader, I'm always interested in book lists. Lists of the best, the worst, the funniest, the saddest, the ones I wouldn't be caught dead reading - you name it. Give me an article with a list of books in it and you have caught my attention. I WILL read it! So when I saw the headline on Huffington Post about 13 books that everyone claims to have read even though they haven't , I was hooked. I had to read it. And you know what? I HAD read seven out of the thirteen. 1. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - Probably like most people who have read it, I read it in school, in English lit class. That was a long time ago and today I can't claim to remember a lot of details about it, but I do remember that, at the time, I quite enjoyed it. 2. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville - I haven't read it, but maybe I should. From what I've read about it, de Tocqueville penned some very powerful and cogent insights about our democracy. 3. Ulyss

Maybe it's Wyoming

Two of the crankiest, foulest-tempered, meanest-minded men in current day politics are Dick Cheney and Alan Simpson. Dick Cheney has done and said so many nasty, intemperate things over the years that he's pretty much retired the trophy for cranky old politicians, but now here comes Alan Simpson to challenge him. Simpson has been in the news lately because of his emails about Social Security, the social safety net that we all depend upon and which he serves on a commission for investigating and shoring up for the future. His comments leave little doubt that instead of shoring it up, he, like most right-wingers, would prefer to see it done away with altogether. (So, why, again, did the president appoint him to this commission???) One of Simpson's most offensive and reported remarks, of course, compared Social Security to a cow with "310 million tits." Coming from a man who has been sucking from the American taxpayer's teat for most of his adult life, that is ric


So, the Astros have swept the St. Louis Cardinals , making the second time in just a little over a week that they have swept a playoff-contending team, their first being a four game sweep of the Phillies. Not only that, but they didn't allow Albert Pujols to get a single hit during the three game series. He ended up 0-for-Houston! I tell you, some days life is good!

Wordless Wednesday: The sycamore says, "Autumn's coming!"