Showing posts from April, 2016

This week in birds - #204

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Get out the oranges and the grape jelly! The Baltimore Orioles are on their way. Early May is usually when they arrive in my yard. I'm putting my oriole feeders out for them and hoping that they don't pass me by this year. *~*~*~* Did you hear about how the large hadron collider in Switzerland was brought down by a weasel? Yes, t he world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator was brought to its knees by a beech marten, a member of the weasel family, that chewed through wiring connected to a 66,000-volt transformer . It put the collider offline temporarily, but it was curtains for the poor marten. The collider is expected to be out of action for a week while the connections to the transformer are replaced. Any remains of the intruder are likely to be removed at the same time. R.I.P., marten. Your last act made headlines around the world.   *~*~*~* Nest cams and other types of cameras set

Random Friday

Here are some things that are on my mind on this last Friday in April. 1.  Remember that old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times"? Well, we certainly do live in interesting times, but this week I'm particularly thinking about interesting weather.  We are no strangers to extreme weather here along the Gulf Coast and Mother Nature has delivered that in spades recently. Since April 17, we've had a total of 12.77 inches of rain and the forecasters tell us that more is on the way this weekend.  The last storm that came through, early Wednesday morning, was especially destructive in our community. One woman was killed when a tree fell on her house; others were injured and some areas were flooded again before they had even recovered from the floods of a week before.  The storm knocked us off the electricity grid from 4:30 in the morning until 9:30 that same morning. Even so, we were a lot luckier than many of our neighbors whose power was out all day. W

Throwback Thursday: Playing the woman card

( Update : Gail Collins also wrote on this subject today , with her usual humor. Be sure to check out her column.) The odious Donald Trump just can't seem to stop insulting women. He is an equal opportunity misogynist. He insults women from his own political party as easily as he insults Democratic women, but, of course, his most extreme and downright bizarre insults are reserved for his probable opponent in November's general election, Hillary Clinton. Thus, in his victory speech after winning primaries in five states on Tuesday, he just couldn't help himself. The only thing Clinton has going for her, he opined, is the fact that she's a woman. If she were a man, he said, she'd probably only get 5% of the vote. He sneeringly chastised her for "playing the woman card." Well, Hillary Clinton is a woman and if anyone has a right to play that card, it would be her, after having devoted her professional life to trying to raise the status and improve t

Backyard Nature Wednesday: Blue-eyed grass

Out by the goldfish pond, the blue-eyed grass ( Sisyrinchium bellum ) has been in bloom for a while. This plant is a California native, a clump-forming perennial in the iris family. The plant, indeed, looks like a small iris. The grass-like leaf blades grow from 6 to 12 inches tall and stand erect like iris leaves.  The bright blue flowers are carried on a tall branching stalk that bears clusters of bloom all along its length. These pretty and delicate blossoms are quite long lasting. When they fade, a seed pod containing abundant seed develops and eventually breaks and scatters the seeds around the area. Thus, the plant can pretty easily spread.   Blue-eyed grass grows well in sun or part shade - mine is in part shade - and it is said to be tolerant of most types of soil as long as it has good drainage. It is also tolerant of wet or dry conditions. It does not require irrigation and so is drought-tolerant, but if planted in a wetter area, it will adapt and do well there

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen: A review

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book was recommended to me since I generally like Scandinavian mysteries. It was sitting there in my reading queue, so I thought why not? I'll read you next. Then I started reading and I groaned because it seemed this was going to be just another moody Scandinavian mystery with a dour, emotionally and psychologically damaged detective with a crazy ex-wife. But I kept reading and soon discovered how wrong my first impression was. This was one funny book! Well, perhaps I should explain here that the main mystery involves a horrendous crime starting with the kidnapping from a ferry of a young, dynamic, and beautiful Danish politician. Details of her kidnapping and the crimes against her are sprinkled throughout the book, interspersed with the chapters that detail the detectives' efforts to solve her mysterious disappearance, and some of those chapters are very hard to read, particularly if one suffers

The grosbeaks are here

Each spring and fall,  Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Blue Grosbeaks pass through my yard on their way north or south. I haven't seen any of the blue guys yet, although I am sure they are around, but over the weekend I had some Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at my backyard feeders. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera at hand when I saw them, but here are some representative pictures from previous years. The adult male gives the species its name. It is unmistakable with the red breast and the big chalky white beak. The female looks a bit like a large sparrow but, again, with that very big white beak - the "gros beak." They most often travel in pairs, so when you see one, generally, its mate is nearby. They are lovely birds. This pair was likely on its way to somewhere much farther north for the summer, either along the northern tier of the United States or even into Canada. But with any luck, we'll see them or their relatives again in the fall.

Poetry Sunday: Shakespeare's sonnets

April is Shakespeare's month. He was born in April, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and died on April 23, 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon. In between, he invented - or at least reshaped - the English language. April is also National Poetry Month . Could there perhaps be a connection? For in addition to his immortal plays, we also have 154 sonnets that are attributed to him. Here are three of his greatest hits.  Sonnet XVIII Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimmed, And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed: But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st, Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,     So long as men

This week in birds - #203

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Pied-billed Grebe , one of the very common water birds of this area. *~*~*~* Diplomats gathered in New York on Friday, Earth Day, to sign the climate accord that was reached in Paris last year. Whether the goals set by the accord will be achieved depends primarily upon the actions of the world's biggest polluters, namely China and the United States. *~*~*~* One of the shortcomings of the climate accord that has been pointed out by some is a failure to adequately address the air pollution that is the single biggest cause of disease and death in the world today. *~*~*~* Meanwhile, back in our real world, 2016 is already the hottest year on record through March. Each of the first three months passed the records for those months that had been set only a year ago. *~*~*~* The oldest known living tree in the world is a bristlecone pine named Methusaleh by its protectors at the Inyo Nation

R.I.P., Will

April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of the greatest playwright in the English language and I can't let the day pass without acknowledging it. Even The New York Times got into the act with an obituary in today's online edition. Trust me, it is worth a read . All of which started me thinking: If William Shakespeare were alive today, what would he think of social media? Would he be on Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? Could our greatest playwright learn to express himself in 140 characters? Would he accept my "friendship"? Would he, heaven forfend, be a blogger???  What would Will think about our tendency to express ourselves in acronyms or shorthand?   Maybe it is just as well that he is long dead and doesn't have to hear the depths to which the language that he so lovingly crafted has fallen. R.I.P., Will.

Widow's Tears by Susan Wittig-Albert: A review

Widow's Tears by Susan Wittig Albert My rating: 3 of 5 stars "Hide from the wind, run from the water," is a mantra that is well-known to Gulf Coast residents. It is something that we hear every hurricane season when there is a storm stirring in the Gulf and headed our way. The wind can create chaos and damage, but the water will kill you. And water pushed by the wind is more deadly still. Unfortunately for the residents of Galveston, Texas, on September 8, 1900, when the killer hurricane smashed into their island, there was no place left to hide, no place to run, because the island had already been effectively cut off from the rest of the world. Through that long, horror-filled night, all the residents of Galveston could do was to try to stay alive and wait for the storm to pass. We'll never know for sure how many of them didn't make it. Estimates of casualties range from 8,000 to 12,000. Thousands were washed out to sea and never seen again; many, many more we

Earth Day

Earth Day is an annual event that was first celebrated in hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities in the United States in 1970. The date is now recognized and celebrated in 193 countries each year on April 22. It is a special day to demonstrate our reverence for our home planet and support for protection of its ecosystem.  The anthropologist Margaret Mead had this to say in 1978 regarding Earth Day: Earth Day is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space. Earth Day is being celebrated this year by at least 167 countries signing the landmark Paris Agreement on climate protection. The warming climate is now perhaps the grea

The Republican nightmare

How the Republicans see President Obama... White House photo. Winter is coming.  Or is it already here?

Throwback Thursday: The never-ending Paul Ryan myth

In this blog, I typically write about whatever I happen to be thinking about on that particular day. Thus, the blog serves as a kind of diary, and it is interesting from time to time to look back at what was on my mind five years ago, six years ago, etc. Today, I'm looking back five years and I find once again that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Five years ago, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was being lauded by the Washington Beltway press as the serious, intelligent, wonky Republican, a "Young Gun" savior for a party that seemed to be veering out of control. The basis of all this dewy-eyed "analysis" was the budget that he had just presented. When he introduced his "budget," he said that it was not a budget but a cause. As details of his opus became clear, it was obvious that the cause was Ayn Randian . Ryan remained true to his primary political influence.  As House Speaker today, he still remains true to it and he's

Backyard Nature Wednesday: April showers

Texans like to brag that everything is bigger here. It's a sentiment that I have heard expressed in many ways regarding any number of things since I married a Texan and moved here back in the mid '70s. Little did I know that the boast would also be appropriate for Texas-style April showers. We live about thirty minutes outside Houston, that behemoth city that sprawls all over much of Southeast Texas. Houston is notoriously flat, with a downtown that is about 50 feet above sea level. The city slopes downward toward the Gulf Coast and it is crisscrossed by numerous bayous, streams, and rivers that drain into the Gulf. Anytime we get a heavy dew, it can be prone to flooding. Well, we had a very heavy dew over the weekend. A storm reached us early Sunday night and settled in to spend the night. All Sunday night and Monday morning thunder rolled and rain fell, often in torrents. It brought back unsettling memories of Hurricane Ike in September, 2008. When I was finally able to

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante: A review

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante My rating: 5 of 5 stars  "Where is it written that lives should have a meaning?" - from The Story of the Lost Child I couldn't wait any longer to get back to the story of Elena and Lila. I had read the first three books of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels over the past five months, interspersed with my other reading. Now it was time to face up to the end; to find out how the relationship of these two women, built on a foundation of childhood friendship and resentment, would resolve itself. In returning to the story, I quickly felt again my irritation with Elena. Do you ever feel the urge to reach into the pages of a novel you are reading, grab a character by the shoulders and shout, "No! Don't do it! You're being stupid! Can't you see that he is just like his sleazy, philandering father who disgusts you?" That's exactly how I felt throughout reading about Elena's grand passion for Nino

Poetry Sunday: Paul Revere's Ride

Monday, April 18, is celebrated as Patriots' Day in some states, most notably in Massachusetts where it is a very big deal indeed. It commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the beginning of the American Revolution. Part of the festivities in Massachusetts include a reenactment of Paul Revere's legendary ride. In reality, Revere was not the only one to make that ride but in Longfellow's famous poem about the event, he rode solo. Thus, history becomes legend and legend becomes myth. I loved Longfellow's poem when I was a child. I think it was the rhythmic cadence that first attracted me, and, long ago, I was able to recite it from memory. I can't really get past the second stanza now, but I still enjoy reading it. So here it is once again. Paul Revere's Ride BY  HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; Hardly a man is