Showing posts from May, 2014

This week in birds - #111

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Wild Turkeys photographed at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Coast. *~*~*~* The Ivanpah Solar facility in California continues to be a death trap for migrating birds, as well as flying mammals. April was one of the deadliest months yet with 97 birds being found dead or mortally injured around the plant between April 1 and April 29. *~*~*~* We tend to think of invasive species as being all bad, but sometimes these invaders become an integral part of the environmental system and are utilized by native species. This has been found to be the case with the invasive cordgrass called Spartina alterniflora in California. The endangered California Clapper Rail nests in the stuff which makes eradicating it a particularly prickly proposition . *~*~*~* We hear quite a lot about the problems of Monarch butterflies and honeybees, but, in fact, many native North American bees and butterflies are in

The masseur will see you now

Who doesn't love a good massage? It's just the ticket after a hard day of gardening. Or even a hard day sitting in front of a computer. Maybe especially after a hard day in front of the computer. Those muscles really need some kneading. And who knows kneading better than cats? In our house, we call that action that they do, rhythmically pressing on the object of their affection with their paws, "making biscuits," and we do have some prime biscuit-makers. The cats in these videos, though, could certainly give our cats stiff competition in the biscuit making business. Their canine friends are just happy to be kneaded.

Thursday Tidbits

Random thoughts on a Thursday afternoon : A few days ago, another privileged young male who thought that the women of the world owed him subservience and sex on demand made the decision to take out on a bunch of innocent people his frustration over the fact that the women of the world didn't agree with him. He killed six outright and grievously injured several others. Sadly, it's an oft-recurring phenomenon in our gun-happy society. In response to this atrocity, as has become the norm when such things happen, a hashtag account was started on Twitter - #YesAllWomen . The purpose of the account was to give women a place to vent about being sexually harassed and demeaned, discriminated against, raped, and all the other everyday injustices that women in this society experience because of their gender. The response was overwhelming. Very soon, the utterly predictable backlash from the misogynistic multitudes began. There were responses on Twitter and elsewhere deriding these

Wordless Wednesday: May lilies


The Abominable Man by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo: A review

The Abominable Man by Maj Sjöwall My rating: 3 of 5 stars I've come to the conclusion that this series should not be read so much as police procedural mysteries as social studies of Sweden at a particular point in time - the 1960s. So much of the narrative is taken up with the authors' observations about and critiques of the social welfare society that was that country at that time. The central point and organizational theory of this particular entry in the series is the consequence of police excesses. It presents a police department that has lost the respect of the populace because of the rampant corruption and brutality that has become so much a part of that essential organization. We are introduced briefly to a police inspector who is known to be exceptionally cruel in his treatment of the policemen under his command and particularly the prisoners who are unfortunate enough to find themselves under his control. Beatings are routine. Ignoring medical needs is a common occu

"...a prayer for my country."

Poetry Sunday: Two poems for Memorial Day

The black granite wall with 58,000+ names in white that is the Vietnam Memorial, monument to the men and women who gave their lives for this country in that needless war that was the defining issue for my generation.   Memorial Day 2014. Again we pause to remember those who have fought for this country and have given their lives in its service. Including those who fought in wars that maybe shouldn't have been fought, like Vietnam or Iraq, but nevertheless answered the call when their country needed them. Memorial Day is especially meaningful this year as we contemplate the scandal surrounding the apparent failure of our Veterans Administration to adequately serve those who survived their wars and came home to broken promises. Poetry cannot heal the pain we feel for their loss and for ours, but perhaps it can express it more succinctly and clearly than prose. Here are two poems for this Memorial Day. At the Vietnam Memorial BY  GEORGE BILGERE The last t

This week in birds - #110

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Purple Gallinule is a wonderful bird that frequently can be found in wetland areas in the late spring and summer here. It's a bird that I'm always on the lookout for at this time of year whenever I visit a park or wildlife refuge that has water features. *~*~*~* The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is out with its prediction for the upcoming hurricane season. That season starts in just over a week, on June 1. NOAA believes this will be an average year for hurricanes , which means three to six storms, with perhaps one or two being major storms. Storms should be somewhat suppressed this year by the development of El Nino in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This regular weather phenomenon warms the Pacific which helps to stabilize things in the Atlantic. All things are connected.  *~*~*~* It's always exciting to learn of new species of birds which we previously didn't know exi

Putting the grass in Neil deGrasse Tyson

Are you a fan of Cosmos , the currently running television remake of the old Carl Sagan series about the wonders of the universe? I admit that I look forward to each of the Sunday night episodes, which I actually watch on Monday because my viewing schedule on Sunday night is over-crowded. I am very interested in the subject matter, but one of the main attractions of the series for me is its host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, who does such an excellent job of narrating and of making the complicated material understandable for an average viewer like myself. Not everyone is a fan, of course. Tyson and his series have thoroughly freaked out the creationists whose basic approach to history and to science is that if it isn't covered in the Bible then it never happened and it can't be true. They have twisted themselves into pretzels trying to disprove the science that is covered in the series. They've even gone so far as to demand equal time to present creationist views. The creat

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly: A review

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly My rating: 5 of 5 stars What can a defense lawyer do when he realizes that he has failed to recognize innocence in one of his clients? How can he sleep at night knowing that he failed that client and that he is now spending all his days and nights in San Quentin? Furthermore, what can he do when he realizes that the person really responsible for the crime for which that man was sent to prison is the person that he is currently defending on a charge of assault and battery and attempted rape? How can he begin to balance the scales of Justice? Well, Perry Mason would have found a way. Those Erle Stanley Gardner books and the later television series were my introduction to the world of thrillers featuring legal eagles and I loved them. I devoured the Gardner books and never missed an episode of the series. There's been a bit of a void in my life since then. No one could quite fill Perry's shoes. After reading The Lincoln Lawyer , I think

Wordless Wednesday: The muncher


Tuesday Tidbits

The appalling scandal at the Veterans Administration seems to be heating up as more hospitals are accused of having a "secret wait list" for services that resulted in unconscionably long waits for some veterans, some of whom died while waiting. There are calls from several quarters for the resignation of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the head of VA, and countervailing statements from many supporters who hold that he is doing his best to clean up the mess. On the other hand, we have several surveys over the years, including the most recent one from the American Customer Satisfaction Index , an independent customer service survey, that confirm a very high degree of satisfaction among veterans regarding the services that they receive from VA. No doubt, as in most cases, the objective truth lies somewhere in between, but there can be no argument that the backlog of claims which continues to dog the VA and the long wait for services at least in some areas is entirely unacceptable. It i

Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom: A review

Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom My rating: 4 of 5 stars Throughout several years of the 1990s and early 2000s, we kept a flock of chickens in our suburban backyard. They were never completely free-range, although we did let them out of their pen almost every day and they lived for those hours! Chickens are actually quite interesting creatures, unlike the stereotypes of them. They have personalities and curiosity and they can be companionable and affectionate if allowed to be. I had grown up on a farm and taking care of the chickens was my job when I was little. I learned to enjoy them early in life and I was delighted to have them back in my life during those years. We finally gave up on keeping chickens because of the predator problem in our neighborhood. It was a constant and often losing battle to keep our charges safe. So, the first thing that anyone considering the option of keeping chickens needs to know is this: YOU

Poetry Sunday: The Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird in my backyard. Bluebirds seem to be omnipresent in my garden these days. A pair of the birds (male pictured above) recently fledged four youngsters from this bluebird box in my vegetable garden. These days, I often see the juvenile birds following their parents around the yard, learning the necessary skills of being a bluebird. These gentle and beautiful birds have long been favorites of humans. These days we put up nesting boxes to help them out because so many of the dead trees that they used to nest in get removed from the landscape before they can be utilized by birds.  In the early 1900s, though,  it was still possible for a pair of bluebirds to find a dead tree with a hole where they could build their nest and raise their family. The naturalist John Burroughs was an admirer and he wrote a poem about bluebirds that referred to their use of abandoned woodpecker holes - "the Downy's cell." It is a paean of praise to this wonderful bird.

The Leopard by Jo Nesbo: A review

The Leopard by Jo Nesbø My rating: 2 of 5 stars Jo Nesbo is a trickster. He delights in providing false clues and leading his readers down long winding paths and into the weeds. One can almost see him rubbing his hands together and chortling with glee when the reader realizes he/she has been fooled once again. The landscape of a Nesbo novel is littered not so much with red herrings as with red whales and the stench of those decaying red whales becomes pervasive by the time one has read halfway through the book. Well, this is the eighth book that I have read in the Harry Hole series and, by now, I am on to Nesbo's tricks and not so easily fooled. I know, for example, that when Harry thinks he has the murders solved by the middle of the book, and again at the two-thirds mark, it's going to turn out to be the wrong - or an incomplete - solution. After a while, all those false clues and misdirection become seriously annoying. The reader feels as though the author is straining t

This week in birds - #109

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Green Heron - my favorite among the small herons, I think. *~*~*~* One of the deadliest environmental hazards for birds is glass - as in glass windows. Scientists have estimated that between 365 million and 988 million birds die annually from crashing into buildings, most often crashing into glass which they cannot see. The solution to that deadly problem would seem to be to make the glass visible to the birds and researchers are working on how to best do that . *~*~*~* The big news in the environment this week was that part of the gigantic West Antarctic ice sheet is collapsing and it seems to have passed the point of no return. The collapse now seems unstoppable. This means rising sea levels around the world which has dire implications for coastal communities. Still, some elected representatives of those communities are unconcerned and deny that human activities have anything to do with melting ice a

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2014

Happy Bloom Day and thank you for dropping by my garden this month. Here are some of the things in bloom in my garden in the month of May. May is the month of the magnolia. The Southern magnolias are in bloom for most of the month. That's the good news. The bad news is that it is the month that they get new leaves and drop their old ones. The thick leathery leaves make a bit of a mess in the garden, but this, too, shall pass. This is also the month when many of the early blooming daylilies are in flower, always a happy sight.   The oakleaf hydrangea is really the only member of the hydrangea family that seems to like my garden, so , of course, it is a favorite of mine. The time of the bluebonnets and pink bonnets would seem to be long past, but a few blossoms still linger.   In the vegetable garden, the eggplants are blooming. As are the green beans. And the squash plants. The blossoms of the African