Showing posts from April, 2015

The worm turns and about time, too!

Who could have predicted? Very few baseball people, I think, would have thought in March that the end of the first month of the new baseball season would find my lowly but no less beloved Houston Astros in first place in their division. But that's where they are! Regardless of the outcome of today's games, they will end April in first place. STANDINGS AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST CENTRAL WEST   W L PCT GB Houston 14 7 .667 - LA Angels 10 11 .476 4.0 Seattle 10 11 .476 4.0 Oakland 9 13 .409 5.5 Texas 7 14 .333 7.0 After suffering through several years of below par teams, it has been a decided pleasure to see the team playing well and performing above expectations. Can they keep it up? Who knows? It's a long time until October. But no matter what happens, we'll always have April. And hope. Hope has been rekindled. Go 'Stros!   

Wordless Wednesday: Magnolia season


Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indriðason: A review

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indriðason My rating: 4 of 5 stars Jar City , the first mystery by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason that features Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson of the Reykyavik police, traced the origins of a modern-day murder to a heinous crime that occurred some forty years before. The solution to the mystery turned on the idea of Iceland as a very insular society with a shallow genetic pool where most people are at least distantly related. In this second book in the series, we again get a very cold case - something that occurred during World War II. But was it truly a crime or simply a situation where justice was at last served? The story begins with the image of a baby gnawing on a human bone. A young medical student had dropped by a children's birthday party to pick up his young brother who was attending. As he sits waiting for the child to be ready to leave, he watches the honoree's younger sister who is gnawing on something that at first appea

The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan: A review

The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan My rating: 3 of 5 stars Poke Rafferty is a half Filipino, half Anglo American living in Bangkok. He is a writer, author of a series of travel books with the title Looking for Trouble in... wherever. This is the second book in Timothy Hallinan's series featuring this character. Poke has put together a family of himself, his fiancee Rose, who is a former go-go dancer, and his newly adopted daughter Miaow, a former street kid. They live together in his apartment and he is looking forward to marrying Rose and living happily ever after. His idyllic life in interrupted when the cleaning service co-owned by Rose and another woman becomes involved, through no fault of their own, in a counterfeit money scheme. The women find themselves under investigation by local police and a Secret Service Agent who is there because some of the counterfeit money is American. Poke, of course, jumps in to try to help them and gets on the wrong side of the Secret Se

Poetry Sunday: Double Dutch

I admit I was not familiar with poet Gregory Pardlo's work before it was announced last week that he had won the Pulitzer Prize for his book , Digest . Apparently, that was a common reaction to the announcement. He is not well-known, but, based on what I've read over the last few days, perhaps he deserves to be. His poems - at least the ones that I've now read - seem very descriptive. He paints vivid pictures with his words, and many of the poems seem firmly based on childhood experiences or childhood scenes observed. Such is the case with his poem "Double Dutch" which paints a picture of girls jumping rope and of a jumper who "stair-steps into mid-air as if she's jumping rope in low-gravity." Can't you just see it? Double Dutch BY  GREGORY PARDLO The girls turning double-dutch bob & weave like boxers pulling punches, shadowing each other, sparring across the slack cord casting parabolas in the air. They whip quick as an

This week in birds - #154

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : It's been a week filled with migrant visitors here. Baltimore Orioles , Indigo Buntings , and Yellow-breasted Chats have all put in an appearance. But, of course, we birders are never satisfied, are we? What I want to know is, where are my Rose-breasted Grosbeaks ? Usually, when the Baltimore Orioles show up, the grosbeaks are close behind, but so far I haven't seen any, although they are reported to be in the area. This is a picture that I snapped of a pair that visited in the spring of 2013. *~*~*~* It's an ill wind indeed that blows no good, and the deaths of sea lions along the California coast this spring have provided a feast for endangered California Condors . The state's largest birds have been flocking to the sites of the unfortunate die-off of the sea mammals, where they settle in for a banquet provided by Nature.  *~*~*~* The humpback whale has had protection under the Endangered Spe

The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson: A review

The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson My rating: 3 of 5 stars When I picked this book to read, I was under the impression that it was the first in a series featuring female police inspector Ann Lindell of Uppsala, Sweden. It soon became apparent that it was not the first. Evidently, it is actually the fourth in the series but was the first to be translated into English. Never mind. The author actually does a good job of providing the backstories of his main characters, so I did not feel as lost as I might have. This is a police procedural, much in the vein of Ed McBain or Sjowall and Wahloo. It features a unit of the Uppsala police that is led by Inspector Lindell, but, in fact, in this particular book, Lindell is on maternity leave and she is only tangentially involved in the investigation of the crimes detailed. This is where it would have been useful to have read the previous book in order to get the full story of how she came to be where she is in her life. She has a nine-mo

Throwback Thursday: The more things change...

Recently, I happened upon a blog post that I had written in early 2012. It was published on January 9, 2012, at a time when the presidential election campaign was already in full swing. As I reread the post, I thought to myself that I could have written it today. Here we are again with another presidential and congressional election campaign already heating up even though the election is more than a year and a half in the future. The press is thoroughly obsessed as usual but mostly with inanities. It is doubtful they will ever get around to asking the important questions. Since today is Throwback Thursday, I'm using that as an excuse to run the post once again. See if you don't think it is still current. *~*~*~*    The American Caste System The New York Times  last week had a  report about how the myth of the American meritocracy  is just that - a myth. In fact, of all the countries in the industrialized world, it is harder for a person of low economic status to

Wildflower Wednesday: Sneezeweed

Gail of clay and limestone hosts "Wildflower Wednesday" each month. I am happy to participate again this month. I'm featuring a wildflower with a somewhat unfortunate name. It is a name which refers to one of the traditional uses of the plant. The dried and powdered leaves and flower heads will cause sneezing if sniffed and they were formerly used in the treatment of colds and congestion. An infusion of the leaves was also reportedly used by some Native Americans as a laxative. So, altogether, a fairly useful plant. I don't use it for any of those purposes. This member of the aster family produces a plethora of pretty yellow ray flowers with dark brown disks. Moreover, the plants have an extremely long bloom period, beginning in April and lasting through much of the summer. I like them because they are pretty to look at. My plants have just begun to bloom but soon they will be covered in blossoms. Just like this plant that I photographed last summer. I

Happy Earth Day!

To the lucky residents of the most beautiful planet in the universe: Happy Earth Day! Please take care of her. She's the only home we have.

Return of the orioles

The Baltimore Orioles came to town today. Or, that is, they arrived in my backyard today. I had heard over the weekend that they had been seen along the coast, so yesterday, I filled one of my oriole feeders with their preferred jelly and oranges and hung it along with my other feeders in the backyard. And, right on cue today, there they were! Male... ...and female. Beauties, both of them. Today's orioles were hungry for the jelly that I had put out and not so much for the oranges. Perhaps the jelly gives them a quicker boost after their long flight from South America. I don't see Baltimore Orioles in my yard every spring, but when I do, it usually begins the first week in May. These are just a little early, but that seems to be typical of migrant birds these days as many are making their trips earlier because of the warming climate. My little garden sun is smiling because he has some orange company in the yard once again.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen: A review

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen My rating: 4 of 5 stars Since the mid 1970s, we have not lacked for literary and film retellings and interpretations of the Vietnam War. But all of these have been told almost exclusively from an American perspective. Although the war was fought in their country, decimated their land, and killed untold numbers of their people, we have not had the Vietnamese viewpoint of events. Viet Thanh Nguyen, with his first published novel, remedies that glaring lack for us. Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American. Born in Vietnam, he and his family were among the boat people who escaped following the fall of Saigon and the overrunning of the South by the North Vietnamese. He was raised in the United States and educated here, so he has a unique perspective of the war and its aftermath. With this novel, he has finally given voice to the previously voiceless Vietnamese people who endured the horror of the war. The novel is written as a confession. Our narrator, wh

Poetry Sunday: A Book

Here's short poem but one that will be very meaningful to those who love their books. Readers will certainly understand and appreciate these sentiments as expressed by Emily Dickinson, a poet who always got straight to the point! A Book by Emily Dickinson There is no frigate like a book To take us lands away, Nor any coursers like a page Of prancing poetry. This traverse may the poorest take Without oppress of toll; How frugal is the chariot That bears a human soul!  ~~~ As a constant reader, I am well aware of "the chariot that bears a human soul." I ride in those chariots - books - every day of my life. Perhaps you do, too.

This week in birds - #153

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Our backyard birds are busy nesting and raising their young and so are the birds of the wetlands, seashores, and swamps. Here, a Clapper Rail leads two of her chicks on an expedition through the weeds at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. *~*~*~* In a story that illustrates the harm that can be done by dumping unwanted pets in the wild, a Colorado lake has been infested with thousands of goldfish . You might think that goldfish are pretty and benign, and in habitats that are designated for them, they certainly are. But in this lake, they have brought diseases that the native fish there are not equipped to deal with and they are destroying the plant life within the lake and upsetting the balance of Nature.   *~*~*~* But here is another view on invasive species which basically states that they are the wave of the future and that we should learn to accept them and coexist. Essentially, the theory is that the fit