Showing posts from October, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Halloween - the scariest night of the year. Unless you count November 8. And here is my younger daughter in her Halloween costume - a voter. Because, really, what could be scarier than a woman voting?

Poetry Sunday: Haunted Houses

Haunted houses are always a popular attraction around this time of year. Tomorrow we'll be celebrating Halloween and then All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, the Day of the Dead - Dia de los Muertos - when we remember the dead and are visited by their spirits. Houses reflect the spirits of those who have lived there and died there. As Longfellow says, "All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses." But they are harmless phantoms, inoffensive ghosts, this world of spirits around us. Spare a thought for that vital breath of the spirit-world as we enter this time of celebration and remembrance .   Haunted Houses by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow All houses wherein men have lived and died Are haunted houses. Through the open doors The harmless phantoms on their errands glide, With feet that make no sound upon the floors. We meet them at the door-way, on the stair, Along the passages they come and go, Impalpable impressions on the air,

This week in birds - #229

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Pied-billed Grebe *~*~*~* In a decision that was literally unbelievable and seemingly indefensible, a federal jury in Oregon found seven terrorists, who occupied and did inestimable damage to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for forty-one days early this year, not guilty on all charges . The verdict sparked outrage in the county where the refuge is located and in supporters of the national wildlife refuge and national park system around the country, a group in which I count myself. So, no one is to be held accountable for the damage done to our public lands or for threatening and intimidating federal employees in the performance of their duties. The reaction of many, again including myself, to the verdict was summed up in this cartoon from The Buffalo News :    *~*~*~* In another trial, this one in Beaumont, Texas, a man was fined $25,815, sentenced to five years probation and 200 hours of

I voted!

Early voting started in Texas last Monday and every day so far has been a record-breaker. People are turning out in yuuuuge numbers to vote! Amazing. We waited until today to go cast our votes, thinking the crowds might have thinned out. They hadn't. We still had to wait in line for a bit, but it wasn't too long. And it was a really good feeling to see all of those people engaged in the governance of the country and the state, making the effort to turn out and vote. It was a crowd I was happy to be a part of. What do these record numbers of people casting ballots mean? Well, we'll find out on November 8, but at least it is very promising, I think, that so many people are choosing to make their choices known. I found it interesting, also, that the early voters on the first couple of days of voting were 54% women. I haven't seen the stats since then, but if that trend continues, it could be significant. Does your state have early voting? Have you voted yet? If n

Wordless Wednesday: Tawny Emperor


False equivalence explained

One of the most annoying things about this presidential campaign, or politics in general in this country, is the false equivalence between the two sides that the media has invented, and that has become an ingrained part of our national consciousness and vocabulary. How often have you heard, "Both sides do it!"? But, in fact, both sides don't do it, and pretending that two things are equal doesn't make it true. Facts are still facts, even in 2016. Jen Sorensen's four-panel cartoon skewers the utter ridiculousness of the concept. Two. More. Weeks.

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin: A review

Several months ago, I read and enjoyed A Wizard of Earthsea , the first book in Ursula K. Le Guin's "Earthsea Cycle." It seemed to be about time to move on to the second one, and after re-reading my review of that first book to refresh my memory, I did just that. But the start of The Tombs of Atuan and the first several chapters were a disappointment. Reading about the young girl, Tenar, who is taken from her family at the age of five, in a process that is very reminiscent of the Buddhist search to discover the new Dalai Lama when the old one dies, is really tough going. There are no familiar characters here and there is really no satisfactory (to me) explanation of just what these Nameless Ones whom Tenar is destined to serve are and why we should care about them or her. Tenar is transformed into Arha, the High Priestess who serves the Nameless Ones of the Tombs of Atuan. Serving them involves spending an awful lot of time underground in the dark. Light is forbid

Poetry Sunday: Definitely

Browsing the Poetry Foundation's online magazine last week, I came across this poem. It is by a poet that I was not familiar with and I'd never read the poem. A little research turned up the fact that she is an American poet from Missouri and she is 70 years old. She is an honored poet and has previously won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. I was entranced by her poem, although I can't really explain why. I'm not even sure that I know what it means, but something about the cadence of the words, their energy and subtle imagery caught my imagination.  So, what do you think the poem means?  Definitely by Mary Jo Bang What is desire But the hardwire argument given To the mind's unstoppable mouth. Inside the braincase, it's I Want that fills every blank. And then the hand Reaches for the pleasure The plastic snake offers. Someone says, Yes, It will all be fine in some future soon. Definitely. I've conjured a body In the c

This week in birds - #228

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Red-tailed Hawk rests on a post at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. *~*~*~* There is enough data accumulated to declare that 2016 will be the hottest year on record . This will be the third consecutive year to claim that title. 2014 was the hottest until displaced by 2015 and now that year has been displaced by 2016. But never fear! The New York Times has got your back. They've done investigative reporting and have now listed the nine cities where you can move to escape the effects of global warming. *~*~*~* Remember Pedals, the New Jersey black bear that walked on two legs? His front legs had apparently been partially amputated or else he was born with a congenital defect. I told you about him here in  installment #220 of "This week in birds. " Well, New Jersey recently had its first sanctioned bow and arrow bear hunt in decades and Pedals was killed by one of the hunters , sparki

Friday rant

You know what pisses me off about the 2016 presidential campaign? A lot of things, actually. But there is one thing in particular that I feel the need to rant about today. Throughout the campaign, I've heard and read journalists considered (at least by themselves) to be knowledgable about such things describe the election as a choice between "the lesser of two evils." Thus do they normalize a completely unqualified and clueless candidate the likes of which this country has never before seen and - please God! - never will see again. Not only do they normalize him, they set this man who is the worst that America has to offer, a man who personifies misogyny, racism, privilege, and anti-intellectualism, on the same level with a candidate who is intelligent and qualified, perhaps the most qualified candidate who has ever sought the office, at least in my lifetime. This is a woman who has spent her entire adult life working to make the world more just, equal, and caring fo

In the Woods by Tana French: A review

How is it that I have never read Tana French? Time to remedy that oversight. I recently read in The New York Times online a review of French's latest book, The Trespasser . It sounded fascinating and I wanted to read it right away, but then I digested the fact that this is the fifth book in a series and my reader OCD kicked in. Of course, I could not start a series at the end. I am constitutionally unable to do so. One has to start at the beginning. And that's how I came to pick up the first entry in French's Dublin Murder Squad series, In the Woods . This book won all kinds of literary awards when it was first published in 2007 and, from my perspective having now finished reading it, all the awards were well-deserved. It is a marvelously well-written book that tells a powerful story through the actions and relationships of interesting if imperfect characters. The story is told in first person voice by Detective Rob Ryan of the Dublin Murder Squad. He introduces

Wordless Wednesday: Black Swallowtail on lantana


The joy of reading long books

Do you like to read lengthy novels, tomes that could double as a doorstop? Do you have the patience? Or do you prefer brief, pithy works that just get on with it and don't tease you along for four hundred pages before delivering a (sometimes unsatisfactory) conclusion?  There's something to be said for both and I am on record as enjoying both the long and the short of it, when it comes to novels. I stand by that. The book I most recently finished, Nutshell by Ian McEwan, was a brief, polished gem, as most if not all of his books are. The one I'm reading now, In the Woods by Tana French, is more than twice its length, but just as polished in its own way. Every word counts. And that, in a nutshell (pardon the reference), is what I like in books: Every word needs to count. There should be no extraneous, superfluous meandering. Meandering is fine, but the writer needs to have an end in mind and know where she's taking us. I was led to consider this by reading a rece

Poetry Sunday: An October Garden

Yesterday we observed the monthly Bloom Day meme. Let's follow that with a poem about the garden in autumn. Christina Georgina Rossetti wrote of a garden that is on the wane as the last rosebud uncloses to autumn's "languid sun and rain." Even that last rose, "least and last of all," is still a rose and still smells sweet. My garden, too, has begun its slow decline into what passes for winter here. In colder areas, the decline is swifter, more sudden. But it is the natural progression of things and we welcome it because the garden and the gardener need their rest. An October Garden by Christina Georgina Rossetti In my Autumn garden I was fain To mourn among my scattered roses; Alas for that last rosebud which uncloses To Autumn's languid sun and rain When all the world is on the wane! Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June,  Nor heard the nightingale in June. Broad-faced asters by my garden walk, You are but coarse compared wi

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2016

What's blooming in my zone 9a garden on this October Bloom Day? Here's a sample. Convolvulus  'Blue Daze' has been in bloom all summer and now well into the fall.  'Molineux,' a David Austin rose, is at its best in the fall. Red cypress vine, an old-fashioned plant that is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds. This purple porterweed is being visited by a Long-tailed Skipper butterfly. Bronze Esperanza is still in bloom. As is its yellow cousin, popularly known as "yellowbells." If you are guessing that this plant is a member of the very large pea family, you are correct. The family resemblance is right there. 'Cashmere Bouquet' clerodendrum. Tithonia, aka Mexican sunflowers, are visited almost constantly throughout the day by butterflies like this Gulf Fritillary. The blooms of the almond verbena are not particularly showy but their heavenly scent permeates the part of the garden where the pl

This week in birds - #227

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Glossy Ibis *~*~*~* One of the many depressing facts about the presidential and vice-presidential debates this year has been that there has literally not been one single question about the biggest challenge facing our planet, the challenge that could ultimately make the place uninhabitable for human life. That, of course, is climate change. Meantime, in September, carbon dioxide passed the symbolic 400 parts per million , never to return below it in our lifetime, according to scientists. This is a reminder that day by day we are moving further from the climate humans have known and thrived in and closer to a more unstable future. *~*~*~* A new study provides even more evidence that the current harsh drought in California may be only a glimmer of what is to come. Warming temperatures and uncertain rainfall mean that if more isn't done to combat climate change, megadroughts lasting thirty-five years