Showing posts from September, 2017

This week in birds - #274

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Whooping Cranes will soon be leaving, or already have left, their summer home in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to make the cross-continent flight to their winter home on the Texas Coast. They will find a changed landscape when they get here. Hurricane Harvey made its landfall dead center on their habitat. But there may be a bright spot to that story. The fresh water that Harvey dumped into the bays and wetlands that the cranes frequent may have the effect of renewing them and increasing the population of blue crabs, the birds' preferred food. Safe travels, big birds. Hunters, put those guns away!  *~*~*~* The governor of Puerto Rico has warned that, without sufficient aid to rebuild, many Puerto Ricans, perhaps up to a million, may leave for the mainland . This would strain job markets, housing, and government services in the cities to which they move. This may be only a preview of climate-fueled migr

Is banning books still a thing?

Every year the American Library Associate designates the last week in September as Banned Books Week. It is a week to celebrate the freedom to read and to acknowledge that there are still people who would abridge that freedom. As explained on the ALA website, " Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular." Not infrequently, today's "unorthodox or unpopular" ideas become tomorrow's norm and I suppose that is what the would-be book banners are so afraid of, but, the truth is, it is impossible to stamp out ideas, especially in a relatively free society such as ours and in this day of unfettered access to social media. Trying to ban ideas is like playing whack-a-mole; you stamp it out here and it pops up in a dozen other places. These days, most of the books t

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders: A review

This is a book about the conflict between science and Nature/magic. It is also a book about the ethics of intervening to affect human affairs, either individually or the race writ large, even when the affecting agent means well or thinks he/she/it does. Charlie Jane Anders tells the story as seen through the eyes of two characters, Patricia Delfine and Laurence (never Larry!) Armstead. They are both misfit kids who meet at school and become close as the two outcasts in their juvenile society. Patricia is a dreamy child who loves Nature and loves going into the woods. Laurence is a science nerd who would probably never go outdoors if he could avoid it. Their friendship is challenged by demands from their respective families and from academia, but it faces even greater challenges because of their natural instincts and abilities. Patricia is a witch who can practice magic and talk to the birds. Laurence is a wizard of a different kind - a tech wunderkind who invents a time machine t


My social media accounts have been filling up over the last few days with angry screeds from "friends" who have been encouraged by our president to rage against the idea of athletes exercising their First Amendment rights to peacefully protest injustice. Typically, on Facebook, they post a picture of themselves surrounded by flag images stating "I stand!" I fully respect their right to express their opinions, but I confess that I have a few questions about their sincerity.  You see, many of these same people have in recent months been filling up my social media news feeds with images of Confederate flags and Confederate generals, angrily denouncing anyone who would argue that the public display and aggrandizement of these artifacts is inappropriate. And, of course, there have been the impassioned reimaginings of the Civil War as a defense of "states' rights" not slavery and of Robert E. Lee as a "good" slave owner whose slaves actually lo

A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré: A review

As a fan of John le  Carré's George Smiley books of many years ago, I was intrigued to read in reviews of his latest book that he was getting the old gang together one last time. How could I possibly resist? Answer: I couldn't, so I immediately let this book jump the queue on my TBR list. The book is relatively short, at around 300 pages, and is a quick read for that reason and simply because le  Carré's prose flows so smoothly. Potential readers should be aware though that, in order to enjoy this book, one really does need familiarity with those earlier Smiley books, because the action in this one harkens back to those days when the Cold War was at its coldest and a physical wall was being built through Berlin to shut off contact with the West. The time is the present and the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is in an uproar over the possibility of being sued by three children of people who died because of their work with the Circus. In order to

Poetry Sunday: Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare

Just because I love it...  And dedicated to the love of my life. Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee, and then my state, (Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;        For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings        That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

This week in birds - #273

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A female Downy Woodpecker enjoys a meal of suet from the bottom of the cage. *~*~*~* One of the notable and scary things about this season's hurricanes has been the way that they have quickly intensified. Often that intensification has come just before landfall, with disastrous results for the communities that have been in the way of that landfall. The reasons for the rapid intensification, or explosion as some call it, are not entirely understood, but climatologists believe that the unusually warm ocean waters have played their part in feeding the storms. *~*~*~* Puerto Rico, hit by Hurricane Irma and then completely devastated by Hurricane Maria, was already suffering environmental calamities. The storms worsen those and create additional public health problems , especially in poorer areas of the island. *~*~*~* The Puerto Rican Parrot is an endangered species that has been under protection for

In Plain Sight by C.J. Box: A review

And now for something completely different - a western mystery. It has been three years since I last read one of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett mysteries, so it was time for me to check in once again on the Saddlestring, Wyoming game warden and his family. This is the sixth book in the series and here's a caveat for potential readers: Don't read this book until you've read the previous five; you will be lost.  Joe is still the game warden in Twelve Sleep County but that's one of the few constants in this story. The old sheriff of the county, Joe's nemesis, is gone. There is a new sheriff in town and he has quickly become another Pickett nemesis, mainly because he seems incapable of caring about or upholding the law. Joe's old supervisor, who had helped shield him from some of the bureaucratic minutiae and infighting that he hates, is gone. There's a new head of his department who has taken over the direct supervision of his Twelve Sleep game warden, with

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta: A review

Mrs. Fletcher is Eve Fletcher, a 46-year-old divorcee whose adored son, Brendan, her only child, has just left for his freshman year in college, leaving her with the proverbial empty nest. In her loneliness, she casts about for something that will bring meaning to her life. It's not as if "empty nest" means an empty life. Eve has a satisfying job as the executive director of a senior center. She has friends and interacts daily with her staff and with the seniors who come to the center, but she definitely feels that something is missing. She signs up at the local community college to take a course on Gender and Society at night. The course is taught by a fascinating transgender instructor and the other students are an interesting mixed bag of personalities and life experiences at all stages of life. Eve becomes engrossed in new avenues of thought that are opened up for her by the course. At some point, after Brendan leaves for college, she receives an anonymous tex

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken: A review

I was reading a column by James Fallows in The Atlantic yesterday in which he referenced this book. He said that this is the kind of book that Will Rogers would have written if Will Rogers had been in the Senate. High praise indeed! And probably true. My husband and I had been listening to the audible version of the book over the last couple of months whenever we had some free time or were spending more than just a few minutes in the car. It began to seem as though we were never going to finish it. But perseverance had its reward and we finally did hear it right up to its end this week. I don't mean to make it sound like listening to it was a chore. It wasn't. Al Franken is a very funny fellow, even though he says that, being in the Senate, he's had to learn to tone down the funny or jettison it altogether. It seems that constituents don't want a funny man as their representative; they want someone who takes them and their problems seriously and who shows that

Poetry Sunday: Far Afghanistan by James Taylor

My poem of the week this week is a song lyric. I have felt the need for comfort music lately and when I think of comfort music, the first artist I think of is James Taylor. James and I have a long history together and when I've needed him, his voice has never failed me. I love his old songs, of course, the songs that he wrote in his 20s and that I listened to in my 20s and have continued to listen to through the years, but recently I've also been listening to some of the newer stuff, including an album from 2015 called "Before the World".  That's where I found this song. We are coming up on the 16th anniversary of the war that we have conducted in Afghanistan. And what has changed in all those years? What have all our efforts produced? What has been made better by all the blood that has been spilled there? This lyric may not exactly qualify as "comfort music" but it certainly expresses things that it is hard for those of us who are not James Tayl

This week in birds - #272

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A male Wood Duck is right at home swimming among the grasses in a marsh. *~*~*~* Among all the other problems caused by Hurricane Irma in Florida was the massive overflow of raw sewage , highlighting the dangers of an aging infrastructure amid the increased flooding caused by the effects of climate change. The sewage has created a public health issue as well as potential damage it does to the greater ecosystem. *~*~*~* Meanwhile, back in Houston, testing organized by The New York Times found that floodwaters there are contaminated with bacteria and toxins that can make people sick. One would think that such testing would be organized and warnings to the public given by the EPA or even by our state environmental quality agency. Apparently, you would be wrong. It is indeed a new world that we live in. *~*~*~* Of course, it wasn't just humans and animals who live on land whose lives were disrupted by t

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2017

I didn't get to participate in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens in August, first because I was otherwise engaged at the time and second because I really didn't have much to show anyway. Now here we are in September and there's probably even less to show, but I'll give you a peek at what I've got. In the interim, of course, we had a bit of excitement when Hurricane Harvey came calling. He was actually relatively gentle with my neighborhood. We had no destructive winds and we only got 24 inches of rain. Two feet of water is less than half of what some areas got. But even a "gentle" hurricane was no fun for my garden. Plants that were in bloom at the time had their blooms shredded and knocked to the ground by the pounding rain. Several shrubs and perennials had many or most of their leaves knocked off and a lot of the leaves that were left quickly turned yellow. In short, it left the garden in a mess and, since I&