Showing posts from September, 2014

Wait'll next year and hope

The baseball season is over. All 162 games are in the books. My Houston Astros won't be going to the playoffs. Again. But at least this year they didn't end up in last place in their division. In fact, the team made considerable improvement. Last year they won only 51 games. This year they won 70. Still not .500 but getting closer. More importantly, all of their (very) young players got another year under their belts and they form the nucleus of what could be a very good team in the future and for years to come. The core of that nucleus is their talented second baseman, Jose Altuve. Altuve played 158 games out of 162 this year, including the last one. For that last game with the Mets, the brain trust of the team debated keeping him out of the lineup. He was leading in the batting title race by a few points over Victor Martinez of Detroit. If he didn't play, there was a good chance that he would back into the championship. If he did play and had a bad day and Martinez

The Deer Leap by Martha Grimes: A review

The Deer Leap by Martha Grimes My rating: 3 of 5 stars All the usual elements of a Martha Grimes mystery are here - the sleepy and quirky English village where everybody knows everybody's business; the beautiful women who are attracted to Superintendent Richard Jury and he to them; the hypochondriacal but indispensable Sgt. Wiggins; Jury's civilian sidekick Melrose Plant; the charming children; and, of course, the animals. It is the animals that are at first the center of this mystery in the village of Ashdown Dean. Something terrible is happening to the pets of the community. Several have disappeared and some have later been found dead. The pets have a champion in the person of fifteen-year-old Carrie Fleet who lives on the estate of the "Baroness" and operates a pet sanctuary there. She rescues them whenever she can - sometimes at the point of a shotgun. One of the animals that she unfortunately wasn't able to rescue was a dog belonging to the local post mist

Poetry Sunday: October

Where did September go? It seems only yesterday that we were saying goodbye to August and now, in only a couple of days, we'll be saying hello to October. As the old song said, the days really do get shorter when you reach September. Time speeds up. Slow down, October! Let us savor these days of autumn. October BY  ROBERT FROST O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all. The crows above the forest call; Tomorrow they may form and go. O hushed October morning mild, Begin the hours of this day slow. Make the day seem to us less brief. Hearts not averse to being beguiled, Beguile us in the way you know. Release one leaf at break of day; At noon release another leaf; One from our trees, one far away. Retard the sun with gentle mist; Enchant the land with amethyst. Slow, slow! For the grapes’ sake, if they were all, Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, Wh

This week in birds - #127

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Baltimore Orioles have been passing through the area on fall migration and although I haven't actually seen any in my yard, it gives me an excuse to again run these images of a male (left) and female (right) bird that I took in my backyard in May, 2013 when we had a virtual invasion of the beautiful birds that lasted for several days. It was wonderful! In spring of this year by contrast I only saw one bird in the yard.    *~*~*~* The Winter Finch Report for 2014-15 is out. This report has relevance primarily for Canada and the northern tier of states, particularly the Northeast, but it does offer some clues as to what we might be able to expect in the way of winter visitors this far south. In general, a poor year for irruptions is predicted because food crops in the north appear to have been sufficient to keep the birds there, but there is a possibility that Purple Finches might wander farther south, as mig

The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O'Brian: A review

The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O'Brian My rating: 4 of 5 stars At the beginning of The Nutmeg of Consolation , we find Captain Jack Aubrey, Dr. Stephen Maturin and the rest of the surviving crew of the Diane right where we left them at the end of The Thirteen-Gun Salute - shipwrecked on an island in the South China Sea where they were tossed by the typhoon that destroyed their ship. They've been there for a while now and foodstuffs on the island are getting low. Their situation is becoming more desperate. They have been busily engaged in building a schooner with timbers salvaged from the wrecked Diane . They hope to escape the island in it and sail to Batavia where they can find assistance. Before that can happen though, they are visited by a group of Malays who at first seem friendly and are engaged to carry a message to Batavia for the castaways. Unfortunately, the Malays turn out to be pirates and return later to ravage the camp, killing many of the crew and set

21st century book banners

The last week in September every year has for the last several years been designated as Banned Books Week , an event celebrating the freedom to read. It is sponsored by the American Library Association and a number of other groups interested in access to books and the freedom to read. It brings together readers of all types with librarians, publishers, journalists, booksellers, and teachers, all of whom are united in the support of the free expression of ideas, even those that may be controversial or unpopular. In a world where information on just about any subject is only a click away, it seems an exercise in futility for anyone to try to ban or censor a book, and indeed it is. And yet people still try. The books featured on lists published by the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. But even if a book is banned, in most cases it continues to be available. At its most extreme,

The Rainbow Connection

On September 24 ( Corrected from 21 ), 1936, in Greenville, Mississippi, a genius was born. True, it took the world a few years to recognize and acknowledge that genius, but by the 1970s when James Maury Henson joined "Sesame Street," he was already well on his way. It was "Sesame Street" and a certain green frog that made Jim Henson a star and a household name. Henson continued with the show until his untimely death on May 16, 1990. During those years, he also created films like The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper and was involved in creating the puppets for Dark Crystal and Labyrinth , as well as the television show "Fraggle Rock." All of these titles were staples of my daughters' childhood. They watched them - and I watched with them - over and over again. We never tired of them. Henson's creations live on and continue to entertain and inform children - and adults - right around the world. How fortunate we are that that is true.

Prayer of the Dragon by Eliot Pattison: A review

Prayer of the Dragon by Eliot Pattison My rating: 2 of 5 stars "Omit needless words," wrote William Strunk Jr. in The Elements of Style . It is a dictum that Eliot Pattison could profit by following. He seems to suffer from diarrhea of the pen or word processor. Words pour forth in great profusion, often repetitively and to very little effect. The words do not really seem to advance the narrative or provide enlightenment. They simply occupy space on the page. One would think that Pattison is being paid by the word. Not only is he overly wordy but Pattison has certain writing tics that get under my skin. For example, the repetition of the descriptive phrase "the old Tibetan." This appears on practically every page of the book and sometimes more than once on the page. We get it. There are no young lamas, but find an alternative way of describing them, for Buddha's sake! What irritates me most about this series is that I really, REALLY want to like it. I keep pi

Willie does his trick

It's Monday and my mind feels dulled after a weekend of frivolity and riotous living. Well, not really, but the part about the dull mind is true. So, instead of boring you with my dullness, let me introduce you to someone who is sharp as a tack - Willie the cat. He may be a one-trick cat, but it is quite a trick, I think you'll agree.

Poetry Sunday: Ode To Autumn

Autumn, the season we have been longing for for weeks, arrives here officially tomorrow night, September 22, at  9:29 PM. One hundred and ninety-five years ago, September 22, 1819, John Keats wrote a letter to a friend referencing a poem that he had just completed in praise of the new season. And here it is - the poem of the week. Ode To Autumn by John Keats 1. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,         Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;     Conspiring with him how to load and bless         With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;     To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,         And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;           To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells         With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,     And still more, later flowers for the bees,   Until they think warm days will never cease,           For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells. 2.   Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?      

This week in birds - #126

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The most ubiquitous gull along the Gulf Coast at most seasons is the raucous Laughing Gull , seen here in flight over Galveston Bay. *~*~*~* According to the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was a record high for the month , at 0.75 degrees C (1.35 degrees F) above the 20th century average of 15.6 degrees C (60.1 degrees F), topping the previous record set in 1998. *~*~*~* A new study published in Environmental Science and Technology journal states that the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf in 2010 dumped 22,000 tons of oil on the Gulf Coast, mostly on Louisiana. *~*~*~* "The Prairie Ecologist" writes about the effects of fires on the prairie . The frequency of the fires determines to a large extent the effects that will result. *~*~*~* A creek is

The Pusher by Ed McBain: A review

The Pusher: An 87th Precinct Novel by Ed McBain My rating: 4 of 5 stars Now this is more like it! It seems for years I've been reading about the 87th Precinct series - what a groundbreaker it was and how Ed McBain has been such an influence on writers of mysteries since the 1950s when this series started.  But after reading the first two entries in the series, I confess I was disappointed. As far as I could see they were mostly just interesting for their historical value, but I didn't find them particularly entertaining. Then I picked up The Pusher , third in the series. He had me with the first sentence. And with the first couple of pages of that wonderfully evocative description of the city in winter, I was hooked. I could have read the book in one sitting, except I had to stop and do other things for a while. I rushed back to it as quickly as I could. It seemed to me that McBain really hit his stride with this book. The 87th Precinct and the city began to come to life for

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear: A review

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear My rating: 3 of 5 stars Jacqueline Winspear still mines the trenches of World War I in this seventh entry in the Maisie Dobbs series. It is 1932, more than a decade past the end of hostilities and yet the war continues to have repercussions in Dobbs' life and the lives of her clients. Her clients this time are an elderly American couple searching for their son's past. Mr. and Mrs. Clifton have recently been informed that their son's remains - he had been listed as missing in the war - have been found in France. Among their son's belongings were found some letters from an English nurse whom he had met and had apparently had an affair with. The parents hire Maisie to find the woman, who must now be in her thirties. The son, Michael, had been a gifted cartographer and it was in that capacity that he served the British Army. In August 1914, he had been mapping the land he had just purchased in the Santa Ynez Valley in

Wordless Wednesday: Gulf Fritillary caterpillars and butterflies


Jerusalem Inn by Martha Grimes: A review

Jerusalem Inn by Martha Grimes My rating: 3 of 5 stars Superintendent Richard Jury of Scotland Yard seems to constantly be meeting beautiful women to whom he is instantly attracted, but the attraction never goes anywhere. The women never stick. That's true again in Jerusalem Inn , but at least this time the beautiful woman has a good reason for not pursuing a relationship. She's dead. Jury meets the lovely Helen Minton in a snow-covered graveyard in the Newcastle village of Washington at Christmastime. He has taken days off to spend Christmas with his cousin's family in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and, delaying the inevitability of their company on a afternoon, is taking a walk in the graveyard when he comes upon Helen. She seems unwell and he walks her back to her home and makes a date to have dinner with her. But, on the appointed day, when he goes to collect her at the Old Hall museum where she works, he finds the local police already there. Helen Minton has been discover

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2014

Welcome to Bloom Day in my September garden. Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting this monthly tour of gardens around the world once again. Here in Southeast Texas, for the last two days we have been enjoying our first really cool and pleasant weather since spring. The official beginning of autumn is still a week in the future and yet one might almost believe that it has arrived early. My mid-September garden does not have an abundance of blooms. We are in transition here. The summer bloomers are slowly shutting down and fall bloomers are just beginning. Still, there are some colors to be found in addition to the falling leaves. Some of the color is provided not by blossoms but by berries. Beautyberries, in this case. This shrub with the white berries still remains mostly untouched by the birds, while the shrubs with purple fruits have already been pretty much stripped of their berries.  Lantana is in its glory at this time of year. Here is the crea

Poetry Sunday: September

Saturday was the first cool day we've had since spring. The temperature never got above 80 degrees F. and a cool breeze ruffled the leaves all day, making them fall even faster. One could actually begin to believe that autumn is almost here, playing hide and seek with us, peeking from behind that tree, winking at us from scudding gray clouds. Autumn is a season loved by poets. And by me. Looking at poetry of the season this week, I came across this description of September, written by an early 20th century poet, Hilaire Belloc. It paints a vivid picture of these days "with summer's best of weather, and autumn's best of cheer" and reminds us in the last stanza of why September is so special for many of us. September by Hilaire Belloc The golden-rod is yellow; The corn is turning brown; The trees in apple orchards With fruit are bending down. The gentian's bluest fringes Are curling in the sun; In dusty pods the milkweed Its hidden silk has

This week in birds - #125

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : House Finches are among my favorite visitors to my feeders at all seasons of the year. The female... And her mate. Finches frequently visit in family groups, so if you see one, there's a good chance you might see four or five at least but you can be pretty well assured of seeing a pair. They are inseparable. *~*~*~* The big news in the world of North American birds this week was the report by the Audubon Society which detailed the anticipated effects of climate change on the species that make their homes here. The prospects are grim. A study, the results of which were announced on Monday,  found that  climate change is  likely to so alter the bird population of North America that about half of the approximately 650 species will be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find new places to live, feed and breed over the next 65 years. If they do not or cannot, they could become extinct. *~*~*~* The

My father's war

Like very many people of my generation, I grew up with stories of World War II. My father had been a soldier in the infantry in the Third Army commanded by Gen. George Patton. As such, he walked over a good part of Europe and saw quite a lot of action. It was the defining experience of his life and he talked about it until the day he died - perhaps to rid himself of some of the memories that haunted his dreams. I got tired of all those stories after a while and began to tune them out, but things that are embedded in one's memory in early childhood are never really forgotten. Bits and pieces come back to me at unexpected moments and I often wish I had listened more carefully to what he had to say and that I had taken notes. Still, some images are hard to forget. I remember him talking about his regiment's attempt to cross the Moselle River . It was a hard fight. He and one of his buddies had taken shelter behind two trees along the river. There ensued an intense firefight in

How to love your human

This is just very sweet. And very familiar. Especially the part about adding fun to daily chores and accompanying them at ALL times.

Wordless Wednesday: Oxblood lilies, aka "Schoolhouse lilies" - red and pink