Showing posts from October, 2014

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving: A review

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving My rating: 5 of 5 stars After hearing a discussion of Washington Irving's classic on the Diane Rehm Show earlier this week, I decided to re-read it in honor of Halloween. After all, it is relatively short and wouldn't require a commitment of an excessive amount of time, so it was something I could easily accomplish before the spooks and goblins descended on Halloween night. It had been many long years since I first became acquainted with the story of Ichabod Crane and his encounter with the Headless Horseman. It was in elementary school, which, I suppose, is where many people meet him. (I don't know - do they still teach Irving in elementary school? For that matter, do they still teach literature in elementary school?) I remember being fascinated by the story then, especially by the wonderful language of Irving. On re-reading it, I found that it holds up quite well. It is still a great tale. The story itself has now been

Happy Halloween from Simon's Cat

Simon is so proud of his new sofa. Simon's Cat will soon cure him of that!

Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole: A review

Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole My rating: 3 of 5 stars When I first clapped eyes on the title of this book, I had no idea what it meant. Now that I've read the book...I still don't know. The author says that it comes from a Yoruba proverb which says, "Every day is for the thief, but one day is for the owner." Well, that clears things right up, doesn't it? I suppose it must refer to the fact that Nigerian society, as explored by Teju Cole, is a miasma of thievery. There seems to be no such thing as an honest policeman, government bureaucrat, taxi driver, shopkeeper - you name it. In Cole's telling, the entire country is corrupt and a system of extortion and bribery is what makes it work even as well as it does. This book was first published in Nigeria in 2007, but it has recently received some notice in this country. His other book, Open City , which I have not read, was the winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, as well as several other literary awards

Backyard Nature Wednesday: Little green treefrog

Sitting on my patio the other morning, I happened to spy a spot of green where there shouldn't have been any green. I looked closer and here is what I discovered. It's a little green treefrog! Surely one of my very favorite backyard critters. He was pretending that the leg of one of my patio chairs was a tree trunk. He was sure that he was wearing his cloak of invisibility and that I could not see him, so I went for my camera and started recording his visit. Here is a side view that shows that wonderful eye and his white lateral stripe. Isn't he adorable? Green treefrogs ( Hyla cinerea ) are typically 1 1/4 to 2 1/4 inches in length. I think this one was about 2 inches. They are usually bright green, like this little guy, but their color can be variable.  Their range includes most of the southeastern part of the country all the way to the middle of Texas and right up the Atlantic Coast all the way to Maryland and perhaps beyond.  In our area, they are known t


Have you? Early voting in Texas and many other states runs through Friday, October 31, Halloween. How appropriate is that? Failing to vote this year is the really scary thing. So make sure you exercise your constitutional right to cast that ballot. My vote may not change the outcome of the election. In fact, in the congressional district that I live in, I can just about guarantee that it won't. But it does ensure one thing - I will have a right to complain when the bastards who DO get elected screw up! I plan to fully exercise that right.

The illustrated news of (cable) America

Sometimes the most sensible way to view the world is through a cartoon. Hat tip to Daily Kos where this Tom Tomorrow cartoon first appeared. It sums up quite succinctly the response of a certain segment of this country to its (perceived) threats, don't you think?

Fade Away by Harlan Coben: A review

Fade Away by Harlan Coben My rating: 3 of 5 stars I have to admit this series is actually growing on me. After reading the second book in the series, I was ready to swear off it forever, but a year and a half later I finally read number four (out of sequence) and liked it. So, I decided to go back and pick up number three, Fade Away, and once again I found the book was not awful. In fact, I quite enjoyed it as a diverting read. This time, the sport is basketball, which was Myron Bolitar's game before his knee was injured in a terrible smash-up with another player. That injury changed the course of his life and he went to law school and became a sports agent instead of a professional basketball player Now, several years later, he is established in his profession and he has a promising romantic liaison. Everything seems to be coming up Myron. Then he receives a blast from the past when the man who was responsible for drafting him with the Celtics all those years before con

Poetry Sunday: The Raven

In just a few days, it will be Halloween. For Halloween week, there's only one poem that will do. The Raven BY  EDGAR ALLAN POE Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—     While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—             Only this and nothing more.”     Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.     Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow     From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore— For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—             Nameless  here  for evermore.     And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before

This week in birds - #131

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently did a poll to determine its most popular migratory bird and the winner, perhaps surprisingly to some, was the Sandhill Crane . These cranes return by the thousands to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico each fall and the FWS has been posting pictures all week of the birds coming back to their winter home. The wildlife refuge hosts its "Festival of the Cranes" in November each year to celebrate the birds. I wish I could be there for it this year, but anyway, I have my memories. We visited Bosque in the fall a few years ago in late October and that is when this picture was taken. There were hundreds of the birds, along with many geese, already there with many more to come. *~*~*~* So, apparently this memo went out to all Republicans some time back, and it said that if anyone asks you a question about what should be done about climate change or even if climate change

Paul Krugman, contrarian

With President Obama's popularity at its lowest ebb according to all the opinion polls, the Inside-the-Beltway commentariat class loves to pile on, basically assigning him, somewhat prematurely, to the ranks of presidents who are considered inept and failures. Thus, many of these worthies were shocked and rather outraged recently when the latest edition of Rolling Stone featured a cover story by Paul Krugman praising the Obama presidency. I seriously doubt that Krugman has lost any sleep over the shock and outrage expressed over the article. After all, he's used to it. He does not run with the herd and he never hesitates about expressing his opinion, whether or not anyone else agrees with him. Some of the surprise, certainly, was due to the fact that Krugman has been a frequent critic of Obama. When he first ran for president in 2007-08, Krugman considered Hillary Clinton the more experienced candidate who was better prepared to lead. He was not wrong about that. He thoug

Teddy Bear the porcupine loves his pumpkins!

Have you met Teddy Bear the porcupine? He REALLY loves pumpkins and he'll be glad to tell you all about it!

Wordless Wednesday: A prayerful predator


Private Venus by Giorgio Scerbanenco: A review

Private Venus by Giorgio Scerbanenco My rating: 3 of 5 stars Giorgio Scerbanenco was born in Kiev to a Ukrainian father and an Italian mother, but at an early age, his family emigrated with him to Rome. He wrote in Italian and in the 1960s, which seems to have been a very prolific and creative period of the mystery genre, he essentially founded the the school of Italian noir fiction. Private Venus was the first entry in that new field of fiction. This book was the first in a series known as the Milano Quartet . Other books in the series are Betrayers of All , The Boys of the Massacre , and The Milanese Kill. The first one was published in 1966 and the last one in 1969. Unfortunately, Scerbanenco died prematurely in late 1969, so the literary world never got to see where he might have taken his new genre. Private Venus introduces us to the main character, the "detective" in the series. He is Dr. Duca Lamberti. We meet him just as he has been released from prison after ser

Just because...

Just because I need to be reminded that there are some good people in the world...

Poetry Sunday: At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border

Living in Texas and having traveled along our border with Mexico, I'm always bemused by all those "patriots" who are constantly moaning about our "porous border." Truly, I seriously doubt they have ever been there or they would see that in fact it is quite secure and well-policed. The same people never seem to worry about our border with Canada, even though there is much more of it and it is certainly equally as "porous" - with more points for all those "Ebola-infected ISIS terrorists" to slip across and spread their disease. (Yes, we do have more than our share of very silly and foolish people in this country.) As a country, we are very fortunate in our neighbors - both Mexico and Canada. Some poets have even taken note of that. William Stafford for one. At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border by William Stafford This is the field where the battle did not happen, where the unknown soldier did not die. This is the fi

This week in birds - #130

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : This is why they call it "hummingbird bush." This little Rufous female in particular loves this Hamelia patens shrub and considers it her personal territory. She chases other hummers who try to feed there.  But it is not just hummers who love it. Butterflies love it, too, especially the little yellow sulphurs of autumn. This is a Dog Face Sulphur enjoying a sip from the blossoms. *~*~*~* Capturing carbon that is emitted into the air is one way of helping to reduce greenhouse gases and ultimately reduce global warming, and a Texas company is preparing to do just that . For profit, of course. The Skyonic Corporation of Austin will open a factory next week at a cement plant near San Antonio that will make industrial chemicals. In order to make the chemicals, the plant will capture the carbon emitted from making cement and reuse it. This technique holds promise for being a practical and profitable solu

Ebola is coming! We're all gonna die!

That's what you've heard recently if you have ventured into the right-wing echo chamber. It starts with Fox News and resounds through various fear-mongering websites and is finally spouted through the megaphones of people like Ted Cruz and Steve King and Joe Wilson. It becomes a torrent of sound with which the simple unembellished truth cannot compete. The voices of those who try to impart common sense and actual scientific facts about this disease are drowned out. And that's how we get people in small towns and villages and large cities all over the country totally panicked that the Ebola monster is coming for them. Maybe through ISIS or Hamas fighters infecting themselves then sneaking over our southern border to spread disease throughout the country. (Did you ever notice how in these narratives the enemy is always sneaking over the SOUTHERN border? Now, I wonder why that would be? Obviously, their maps are defective and do not inform them that we also have a much long

Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn: A review

Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn My rating: 4 of 5 stars The saving grace of this book is that it's short. If I had been forced to read ten more pages, I think I might have slit my wrists. Not that it is a terrible book. Actually, it is quite a good, well-written book. Edward St. Aubyn is a skillful writer adept at telling the story that he wants to tell. But the story that he tells is so unrelentingly depressing that it is a very fortunate thing that there are only 132 pages of it. The characters in the book are for the most part simply awful people and the most awful of the lot is the pater familias David Melrose. David is sadistic and utterly without morals, cruel to both humans and animals. He delights in torturing ants with his lighted cigar, but not as much as he enjoys torturing and humiliating his wife, Eleanor. Eleanor has retreated and descended into addiction as an escape from the cruelties she endures. She drinks incessantly, striving for a constant state of drunkenne

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - October 2014

October Bloom Day in my Southeast Texas garden is much like September Bloom Day. There are still quite a lot of blossoms around, but they are mostly my "old faithfuls" - blooms that I've shown you many times before. Nevertheless, get ready, because here they come again! My October parade of flowers... Orange cosmos reaching for the sun-drenched sky. A sky in the shade that I always think of as "October-blue."  Gotta have marigolds and here they are. I like the look of these orange ones in combination with the purple basil. It hasn't been a great year for brugmansias but the cooler weather is encouraging some blooms. The same could be said of my roses. They've mostly been a flop this year, but here's pretty 'Peggy Martin' showing a few late blooms. 'Molineux,' a David Austin rose. And 'Caldwell Pink,' my favorite old rose. 'Ducher.' The Knockouts have continued to bloom when f