Showing posts from January, 2015

This week in birds - #143

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Image courtesy of American Bird Conservancy . The ethereally beautiful Cerulean Warbler is the American Bird Conservancy's Bird of the Week this week. Although brightly colored, the bird is difficult to spot because it frequents the high canopy of the forest where it can often only be detected by the sound of its buzzy song. This warbler's population has declined by about 70% over the last forty years, making it one of the most seriously threatened of North America's migrant songbirds. It breeds in the eastern and central parts of North America and winters in the forests of the Andes. *~*~*~* In a recent study published in Global Change Biology , scientists revealed their findings from a long-term analysis of the movements of 38 common species of North American birds, including Northern Cardinals , Tufted Titmice , Carolina Wrens , Blue Jays , Chipping Sparrows , Eastern Bluebirds , and Yellow-rumped

Ten things I love about my man

Bethany a t  Dandelion Pie   has a blog post up about ten things that she loves about her spouse and she invited other bloggers to chime in and link up.  Well, this seems like the kind of sappy thing that a young person newly in love might do, but what about a... um ...slightly older woman who has been with a man for forty years? Can she still find ten things she loves - or even likes - about him? That is my challenge, and,  just for the heck of it, I decided to give it a try. Here we go - ten things that still turn me on about the hunk that I married. He makes me laugh. Mostly intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. When you've been living with someone for forty years, this may be be most important quality of all. He does my laundry. Of course, I still have to put it away - he's not perfect. He gets stuff down from the top shelf for me. I'm not as vertically challenged as some women in my family, but I'm not exactly tall either. It's nice to have a man

Killer's Payoff by Ed McBain: A review

Killer's Payoff by Ed McBain My rating: 2 of 5 stars Continuing with my reading of Ed McBain's iconic 87th Precinct series, I've reached number 6 which was first published in 1958. It was the second book that featured the character of Cotton Hawes. Hawes was introduced in the previous book because, as McBain explained in a foreword to the later edition which I read, his editor warned him that a married cop - such as Steve Carella was - could not be the hero. He needed someone who was unmarried and available to the ladies. Thus, Cotton Hawes was born. In Killer's Payoff , McBain is obviously still working on the development of the Hawes character. He's presented as a man who falls in love - or at least in lust - with every pretty girl he meets and, immediately after falling, he's generally in bed with them. It seems to make little difference whether they are someone who is involved in a case he's investigating as a possible murder suspect or just some ran

Wordless Wednesday: Side by side


Dear Kitten, It's stupid human time

Okay, I know it's a commercial, but it's soooo cute. And so true to cat-life. Enjoy!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: A review

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins My rating: 5 of 5 stars Shades of Gone Girl and Gaslight , this is one nifty page-turner of a thriller. Paula Hawkins has used the device of the unreliable narrative and lying narrator made famous by Gillian Flynn in her fantastically successful Gone Girl and used it with great ingenuity to tight and suspenseful effect. It was a very entertaining read. This is the story of three women - Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Each of the three shares in the narration of the story and so we see it from three different perspectives, but as we near the denouement, we begin to comprehend that none of the narratives has been entirely true. Certainly, none of the three is complete in itself. The woman who we first meet is that "girl on the train." She is Rachel. She takes the same commuter train to London every morning, allegedly to go to her job at a public relations firm. Only slowly is it revealed that she has actually lost her job because of her dri

Tom Tomorrow nails it again

The attitude of the rightwingnuts, which includes much of the Republican Party, toward science and scientists is almost as disrespectful as their attitude toward our first black president and for much the same reason: THOSE PEOPLE  are just not members of the club. Tom Tomorrow sums up their attitude toward science quite succinctly. (Hat tip to Daily Kos .)

Poetry Sunday: To a Louse

It is Robert Burns' 255th birthday today so, obviously, he must be our featured poet for Poetry Sunday.  But which of his poems will it be? There are so many from which to choose - "A Red, Red Rose," "Tam o' Shanter," "A Fond Kiss," "A Man's a Man for A' That," "To a Mouse," "Auld Lang Syne" - the list seems endless. I must confess though that when I think of Burns' verse, the first poem that springs to mind is "To A Louse." What other poet could take such a lowly creature and derive so much meaning from its existence and drive home a philosophical lesson for us all? Namely, if only we had the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us, it would free us from many a blunder and foolish notion and we would not give ourselves such airs or think so highly of ourselves. Yes, indeed, Robbie Burns was a philosopher as well as a poet. To a Louse On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Ch

This week in birds - #142

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : As songbirds have returned to my feeders, the birds that prey on them have returned also. Like this Cooper's Hawk . Actually, the Cooper's is a permanent resident so he's around all the year, but he hasn't been much in evidence recently until the past couple of weeks. This fellow, photographed in my backyard today, kept lifting his right foot up which led me to think it might be injured, but I couldn't see any clear evidence of it. While I was watching the bird, he made a couple of strikes, including this one when he tried to grab a House Sparrow . As far as I could see, neither of his strikes were successful.  He continued watching from his perch in the tree for some time but finally gave up and moved on. I hope he had better luck in someone else's yard. *~*~*~* In other news of raptors, Peregrine Falcons , once on the road to extinction, have made a strong comeback sin

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley: A review

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley My rating: 3 of 5 stars Prodigy chemist, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce has been banished from her beloved Buckshaw in the village of Bishop's Lacey in the English countryside and sent, for her sins, to the wilds of Canada. Toronto, to be exact. It was thought to be time to send her to boarding school and so, most reluctantly, off she goes, across a dark and stormy North Atlantic, to become a student at Miss Bodycote's Female Academy. It is the alma mater of her late, sainted mother, Harriet, who is still revered at the school. She is to receive training in some unique subjects while a student there and perhaps to learn about a secret society called Nide. Torn from the company of all those that she loves and forced to leave her treasured bicycle, Gladys, behind, Flavia faces the bleak prospect of making her way in a place where she knows no one and no one knows her. And though she tries to keep the proverbial stiff upper lip,

Jar City by Arnaldur Indrioason: A review

Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason My rating: 2 of 5 stars Continuing with my survey of Scandinavian mystery writers, I have now encountered Arnaldur Indrioason. He writes a series set in Reykjavik, Iceland, featuring a detective of the Reykjavik police named Erlendur. Some have compared his writing and his main character to the style of Henning Mankell and his Inspector Kurt Wallander. Certainly, they are both morose characters and share some similar family history. Erlendur has a failed marriage and two, now grown, children. He and his wife separated when the children were young and, from then on, he seems to have been mostly absent from their lives. Now his son, who has had problems, is off somewhere doing his own thing and perhaps getting his life together. His daughter, who is the younger of the two, seems to have a totally messed up life - problems with drugs, harassed by drug dealers to whom she owes money, and now pregnant. She turns up on Erlendur's doorstep and is present

It's S.A.D.!

Yes, it is S.A.D., but that doesn't mean what you think it means.  No, what it is is Squirrel Appreciation Day!   That's right - the bushy-tailed ones now have a day all of their own on which we can pay tribute and give them all the glory that is due them. Now, how did I ever fail to notice such an important event? Lucky me, I have two species of squirrels in my yard to appreciate. There's the fox squirrel with its reddish brown fur. It is the largest of the native tree squirrels in North America and is resident throughout most of the eastern United States and ranges as far west as Colorado. Then there is the smaller and somewhat cuter gray squirrel. with its eponymous gray fur and a white or very light gray belly. Both types are squirrels are very agile, but the gray squirrel is almost unbelievably so. I have seen them perform leaps and contortions that I would scarcely have thought possible. They are the ones that give fits to people who feed birds in

Backyard Nature Wednesday: Overwintering Rufous Hummingbird

For the past few years, we've been fortunate enough to have Rufous Hummingbirds spending the winter in our garden. They're here again this winter. There are three of them that spend time in and around our yard. One of them was patient enough to pose for pictures. Wonderful little birds! I'm so glad they choose to spend their winters with us.

The freedom of speech conundrum

Freedom of speech is an idea that is bred in my bones. It is one of my most, if not my most, firmly held beliefs. I even believe in the right of idiots like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, Bill Maher, and Sean Hannity, to name just five, to spew their uninformed, bigoted hate speech into the world - and, most importantly, I believe in my right to call them idiots and to describe their discourse as uninformed and bigoted. But are there limits to the right to free speech? It's something that thoughtful people struggle with. Even the pope has weighed in on it following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. What if your "free speech" is such that it incites others to violence or is an affront to public safety like yelling "fire" in a crowded theater? And what about free speech that is deliberately intended to insult and provoke others? When people are hurt or killed by those who have been provoked by the free speech, what is the responsibil

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: A review

I don't get it. I was looking at a site on Facebook called Reading Addicts and there was a poll that showed a list of writers that had been great influences on the members. Number one on the list was J.K. Rowling. Okay, she's not the writer that I would rate number one as my influence but she's a great writer, so I'll give them that. But number two on the list was Paulo Coehlo and the book that he wrote that had so greatly influenced these people? The Alchemist!   Now, for years I have been hearing about what a great book this is and the universal truths that it proclaims, so in 2011, I decided to read it and see what all the shouting was about. I read it, and I'm still wondering. In my estimation, the book was nothing but dreck. What am I missing? Did you read and love this book? What was it that you loved about it? Please explain it to me. I wrote a review of the book for Goodreads when I read it in May 2011. Here is that review. ~~~ The Alchemist by Pau

Poetry Sunday: Winter Trees

Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams All the complicated details of the attiring and the disattiring are completed! A liquid moon moves gently among the long branches. Thus having prepared their buds against a sure winter the wise trees stand sleeping in the cold. ~~~ I love the image of the "wise trees that stand sleeping in the cold" after "having prepared their buds against a sure winter." The deciduous trees in my garden stand bare now, but very soon they will be attiring themselves again, for spring is coming!

This week in birds - #141

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : FINALLY! For the last two days, I have begun seeing birds in my yard once again and even at my feeders.  Well, the Carolina Chickadees never really left. They have been my most faithful visitors throughout the Great Absence. But now they are joined by Tufted Titmice . ( He wouldn't turn around to give me a shot of his face.) Downy Woodpeckers . The Red-bellied Woodpeckers , like the chickadees, never really left, but the downies haven't really been around lately. The Boss of the Backyard, the Northern Mockingbird . Pine Warblers . Their cousin, the Orange-crowned Warbler , has been a faithful visitor all along, and the Yellow-rumped Warblers are everywhere in the trees and shrubbery but they haven't started coming to the feeders yet. The American Goldfinches have been feeding on the crape myrtle seeds - a very good reason not to be hasty about pruning your crapes. But no

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson: A review

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson My rating: 5 of 5 stars Pete Snow is a walking contradiction. As a social worker for the Department of Family Services in Montana, he spends his working hours trying to rescue troubled and often neglected or abused children. He is preternaturally kind, patient, helpful, and non-judgmental. But off the job, we see that Pete is no stronger than the people he is charged with helping. Perhaps he has such empathy for them because he is just like them. He is an alcoholic, a failed husband and father. He is estranged from his own father and brother. He is, in short, a mess. Anguish seems to be his natural default emotion. We meet Pete in a family scene where a young girl is nearly drowned by her drunk father. It turns out that the father is Pete. His unfortunate daughter, Rachel, lives in a household with two dysfunctional, alcoholic parents. She really needs a social worker to save her. But she is not so fortunate. Eventually, the parents separate

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2015

Happy January to all my Bloom Day visitors. Do you have color and blooms where you are? Here in my zone 9a garden in Southeast Texas things are looking pretty bleak these days. Just over a week ago, on January 7, I showed you some of my blooms that were still going. That night we did finally have our first experience this season of below freezing temperatures with frost and that put an end to most of those blooms. It has continued to be chilly and rather dreary since then, although the temperatures haven't dipped quite that low again. Still, even now, I do have a few blooms to show you. The violas, planted for their winter color and just because I love them so, continue to bloom, of course. As do the cyclamen. The ornamental cabbage "blooms" in a pot with heuchera, foxtail fern and pansies. Somewhat surprisingly, some of the Copper Canyon daisy blossoms survived the frost. As did some of the nearby 'Mystic Spires' salvia.  Even m