Showing posts from March, 2013

Poetry Sunday: On Easter Day

How far has organized Christianity fallen from the simplicity of its beginnings? On Easter Day by Oscar Wilde The silver trumpets rang across the Dome: The people knelt upon the ground with awe: And borne upon the necks of men I saw, Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome. Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam, And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red, Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head: In splendor and in light the Pope passed home. My heart stole back across wide wastes of years To One who wandered by a lonely sea, And sought in vain for any place of rest: "Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest, I, only I, must wander wearily, And bruise My feet, and drink wine salt with tears."


Simon's Cat meets the (Easter?) bunny. Happy weekend!

The plight of the honeybees - and all of us

Honeybees have been dying off in unusual numbers for years now. Conservationists have raised the alarm repeatedly about what this could mean, that it could be a harbinger of an even larger problem for the environment as a whole.  Some who work in agriculture have been dismayed also, because many of the crops they raise depend largely upon honeybees for their pollination and production. Typically, others have pooh-poohed the whole idea that there is anything unusual or out of the ordinary going on. Now comes word that in the past year alone  40 to 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables have been wiped out by the mysterious malady that has ravaged the honeybee population. This finally seems to have gotten the attention of some people who had ignored the story before. For example, there is this instance cited in The New York Times' story about the plight of the honeybees: But Mr. Adee [the South Dakota owner of the nation's

Got nine minutes? Here's two seasons of Game of Thrones.

HBO's blockbuster series Game of Thrones starts its third season Sunday night. You say you'd like to watch it but you missed the first two seasons? Never fear! If you've got nine minutes to spend, this video will catch you right up and you'll be all set to go on Sunday! Got all that? Of course, you do! Enjoy season three.

The dying Monarch

Lately, the  news for the Monarch butterfly  has been all bad. It seems that every week we have a new story detailing the depressing news of the beautiful butterfly's decline. Illegal logging, rampant ecotourism, and unusually harsh winters have damaged the butterfly's winter sanctuary in Mexico. Mid-America's big factory farms' reliance on the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides have killed butterflies and their caterpillars and have destroyed the stands of milkweed which caterpillars need to feed on in order to grow and transform into butterflies. And looming over all of this are the effects of global climate change which is reeking havoc with weather patterns, causing extended droughts and, paradoxically, historic floods, and contributing to raging wildfires which damage the butterfly's food source and kill butterflies. It is estimated that today's population of the butterflies is approximately one-fifteenth of what it was in 1997. This marks the thir

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice by Andrea Kane: A review

I have very few rules about what I WON'T read.  I won't read novels about vampire lovers. I won't read books with pictures of over-endowed and half-dressed pouty women (or men, for that matter) on the dust cover. I won't read books that glorify sadism or sadists.  I won't read books about Hitler.  And I won't read mystery or crime books in which children or animals are the victims. Other than that, most anything goes. Why, then, did I wind up reading this book in which a five-year-old child is the victim? Well, that's easy enough. It was this month's selection of my local book club.  In the last couple of years as a member of this club, I've been introduced to several writers that I had never read before. I've liked a few of them (Tom Franklin, Harlan Coben, e.g.), a lot of them I found to be mediocre, and a few I've actively disliked. This one, I think, falls in the  meh  category.  I found the writing rather simplistic, as

Glory days to come

Just a few more days until Major League baseball season starts. Spring training is almost over and many young players go to bed at night dreaming of glory days. Will this be their year? Even young players on "rebuilding" teams like my beloved Houston Astros , the team with the worst record in baseball for the last two years, have such dreams. All of which, of course, brings to mind the Springsteen song. Nearly everything in life brings to mind some Springsteen song.  Here he is with the E Street Band in a 1985 performance of his anthem to those lost days. Were any of us every really that young? (Props to Paul Krugman for first posting this video in his blog today. He was writing about the lost "glory days" of  tea party idol Paul Ryan, but I prefer to think about the glory days to come for talented young baseball players.)  

Poetry Sunday: The Year's at the Spring

The year's at the spring, And day's at the morn; Morning's at seven; The hill-side's dew-pearled; The lark's on the wing; The snail's on the thorn; God's in his Heaven—  All's right with the world! -  Robert Browning,  The Year's at the Spring  Maybe all isn't quite so right with the world, but on a beautiful day in spring, filled with sunshine, fresh green leaves, flowers, and birdsong, it is almost possible to believe that it is. Happy spring! 

Happy National Puppy Day!

Did you know that we have a National Puppy Day ? Well, we have a "day" for everything else, so why not puppies?  Who doesn't love puppies? And doesn't "every dog have his day"? Actually, the day is not altogether whimsical. It does have a serious purpose which is to call attention to the abuse of dogs through "puppy mills" which produce puppies for profit only, with no regard for the health of the animals or for the betterment of the breed. In honor of the day, Huffington Post has put together a mashup of cute puppy videos called "When puppies attack."    Just click on the link to enjoy. The article which contains the video also has a whole bunch of adorable puppy pictures in a slide show. If all of that gives you saccharin overload, then here's a Grumpy Cat antidote. Take good care of the animals that depend on you, whether you are a cat person or a dog person. Or even a hamster person! Photo by Andrea Zampatti, court

How to Buy the Right Plants, Tools & Garden Supplies by Jim Fox: A review

This is a short book, but it is chock full of advice and information for gardeners on everything from how to read and understand a plant tag to choosing the best tools for your purposes and where to site and establish your plants where they will be happiest. It gives us some common sense rules that, if followed, will help to make us successful gardeners. The book is divided into seven chapters, starting, quite logically, with one that reveals what you need to know before you buy anything. Things like your climate zone, soil types, what purpose your garden will serve, and how much money you can spend on it. That last one, in my experience, is the toughest and the bottom line keeps getting erased and rewritten once you get into it. The writer, Jim Fox, a gardener with forty years of experience, goes on to tell us how and where to buy plants, how to judge the health of plants, how to select the best tools, how to make your plants happy by planting them in the right place, and, final

Sacred Games by Gary Corby: A review

I had looked forward to reading this book which I won in a Goodreads giveaway. It is the third in a mystery series set in ancient Greece and I had greatly enjoyed the first two entries in the series. Then, only a few pages into the book, I read something that made me want to toss the tome across the room. Tell me, do you see anything wrong with this sentence? "He'd seen Timo and I play together when we were children." THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF MY ABSOLUTE NUMBER ONE PET PEEVE IN WRITING! The use of the subjective pronoun, "I," as an object just sets my teeth on edge, like fingernails scraping on a blackboard. Unfortunately for the state of my psyche, it is becoming more and more common, even with writers who should know better. Halfway through the book, there it was again. "Men about us gave him room, and he slid in to join us, with Markos to his left and I to his right."  What writer in his right mind would write sentences that say "He&#

Unenlightened HBO

Well, HBO did it. They canceled the best show on television . I can't say that I was really surprised. When no immediate announcement was made following the finale of the second season of "Enlightened" two weeks ago, the handwriting on the wall was pretty clear for all to see. Still, I am deeply disappointed in HBO. Somehow, I had expected better from them. The only hope for us devoted fans of the show now is that some other provider of quality television will give writer/director Mike White a call and make him an offer he can't refuse. (Come on, Netflix. You've started something with "House of Cards." "Enlightened" could be your next big venture.) At the very least, we have two perfect seasons "in the can," so to speak, and we can watch them over and over again. I would actually love to watch the entire series from the beginning once again. There are so many moments there that were meaningful to me, as I identified so strongl

Ten years later

Ten years ago today, the United States initiated a war against a nation which had not attacked it and which posed no viable threat to it. It invaded the sovereign country of Iraq, based on the lies promulgated by the Bush Administration pursuing its wet dream of remaking the Arab world in some ill-conceived Wild West image of rough justice and democracy. And the American media and the American people let them do it. Only a few brave voices were raised in protest and those people were called traitors. We were told that the war would be a cakewalk. It would only last a few weeks. American troops would be greeted as liberators. Iraqi oil (the real reason for the invasion) would pay for the costs of the war; American taxpayers wouldn't be out a dime. Eight years, thousands of dead and injured Americans and Iraqis, and billions of dollars later, in 2011, it would be left for another president to finally extricate us from this war which his predecessor had chosen. Certain pol

The Surgeon's Mate by Patrick O'Brian: A review

Jack Aubrey is such a dunderhead on land. On sea, captaining a ship of His Majesty's Navy,  he may be canny and virtually invincible - "Lucky Jack" they call him - but on land, his only luck seems to be bad and it's the luck that he makes for himself through utterly foolish decisions.  Time and again he's had to be rescued by his friend, the ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin. That will be the case again in The Surgeon's Mate , seventh in Patrick O'Brian's excellent historical naval fiction series of the Napoleonic War period. This book is a continuation and completion of the tale begun in part six of the series, The Fortune of War . Jack and Stephen have been ordered home by dispatch vessel from Halifax, following their escape from captivity by the Americans in Boston.  With them is Diana Villiers, Stephen's long-time love, who escaped from Boston and an abusive relationship, with the two. Her presence is enough to goad her former lover, a

Poetry Sunday: Digging

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here's a poem from an Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. I love the point that he makes - that we each dig in our own way, some with a spade, some with a pen. And some perhaps with a word processor. Whatever implement we use, we are all digging after truth and understanding and always seeking to make our mark on the world. Digging  by Seamus Heaney Between my finger and my thumb The squat pin rest; snug as a gun. Under my window, a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: My father, digging. I look down Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds Bends low, comes up twenty years away Stooping in rhythm through potato drills Where he was digging. The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft Against the inside knee was levered firmly. He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep To scatter new potatoes that we picked, Loving their cool hardness in our hands. By God, the old man could

What about the needs of everybody else's children?

With mounting anger, I read the report of Republican senator Rob Portman's "coming out" in favor of allowing same-sex marriage because he learned that his son was gay. While he was receiving plaudits and pats on the back from many liberals for his willingness to change his views when it became convenient for him and his family, I just couldn't join in the praise.  He was fine with discriminating against homosexuals as long as he thought it didn't affect him, but when he learned that it actually did affect him, he about-faced and announced he would support the rights of two gays to marry because his son was gay. My first thought was, "What about all those other people's children, Rob? Don't they count? What about their rights?" I mean, after all, Rob is an elected representative of the state of Ohio, where, I feel reasonably sure there are a few gay sons and daughters of his constituents, but he wasn't concerned about representing or prot

Proving there really is nothing new under the sun!

Source: via Erin on Pinterest

The visitor from outer space

The comet Pan-STARRS is (allegedly) visible now in the western skies just after sunset, alongside the setting crescent moon. I had intended to look for it earlier this week, but I was busy with other things and frankly just forgot. But tonight I was out there with my binoculars searching the sky near the moon for some bright object with a tail. I didn't find it. It was only later, when I was reading about the comet online, that I realized I had been looking in the wrong spot! I was looking in the area to the left of the moon where the comet had been earlier this week. The updates on Pan-STARRS from Sky and Telescope magazine indicate that tonight the bright object with a tail should have been visible to the right of the crescent moon. Lesson learned. In the future, I need to do my research before I go comet-hunting!     The comet has now passed its brightest point, but it should be visible for a couple of more weeks according to the astronomers, and this helpful chart from

Wordless Wednesday: Spring butterfly


The Fortune of War by Patrick O'Brian: A review

The Fortune of War , sixth entry in Patrick O'Brian's historical tales of the seafaring adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin, was first published in 1978, but the writing seems so fresh that it might have been published yesterday. The two have just survived their adventure among the ice floes of the Antarctic and their stop on Desolation Island. Now, they arrive in the Dutch East Indies to find that Jack has been appointed to command the fastest and best-armed frigate in the Royal Navy, but he must get to England in order to receive his command.  He and Maturin, along with several of his officers and midshipmen who have been with them throughout their adventures, take passage on a dispatch vessel, but before they can reach their destination, a combination of accidents causes that ship to be burned and all on board are cast into the sea. Jack and Stephen are picked up by the  Java  which heads north along the eastern coast of the Americas. They learn, to t