Showing posts from October, 2017

Wednesday in the garden: Painted Lady butterfly

A couple of weeks ago, I showed you pictures of a butterfly called the American Painted Lady   (Vanessa virginiensis) . This week, I have a very similar butterfly with an almost identical name, the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) . Both are members of the Nymphalidae or Brush-footed butterfly family. Another very similar member of that family is the Red Admiral ( Vanessa atalanta ). I can find all of them in my garden throughout much of the year, but they are particularly abundant in the autumn. The American Painted Lady and the Painted Lady are almost impossible to distinguish with the naked eye (at least with my naked eye) in the field. It is only with a camera that can stop those fluttering wings for an instant that you can see the differences. The difference is mainly in the pattern of white spots on the forewings. All of the Vanessas have a lot in common. For example, there is their fondness for marigolds. And all of them are beautiful.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan: A review

Jennifer Egan has given us something completely different this time. After A Visit from the Goon Squad , her multi-award winning book of 2011, we who loved that book might have expected some sort of futuristic science fiction opus as her next work. Instead, she has chosen to go back in time. She has written a historical fiction work, one set during the World War II period. Such a traditional novel may seem a great departure from Goon Squad and it is. But it still features the same inventive attention to language and a setting that is so fully imagined and described that the reader feels as though she's walking along that beach, working in that wartime shipyard, diving alongside the ships being built in that shipyard. The main protagonist here is Anna Kerrigan whom we meet as an eleven-year-old girl in 1934. She is with her father, Eddie, as he meets with a gentleman gangster named Dexter Styles on Manhattan Beach. Eddie is seeking a way to make more money to support his wife

The nail-biter Series

Five hours and seventeen minutes. That's how long last night's fifth game in the World Series lasted. It was almost 1:00 in the morning by the time it ended here in Houston. But Astros fans went home happy. Our team had won 13-12. This has been an aggravating, heart-stopping, nail-biting series all the way. Every game has been in doubt seemingly up until the last out, because these teams, the Dodgers and the Astros, just don't quit!  They've been playing baseball since March. The players must be exhausted both mentally and physically, especially after last night's game. But they don't quit. I've been a baseball fan since I was twelve years old and an Astros fan for almost forty years. It's really the only sport that I follow. The others are just background noise in my life, but baseball is the main event. This year's Astros team is the best I've ever seen. Not only are they good but they are a lot of fun to watch. This entire baseball season h

Poetry Sunday: All Souls by Michael Collier

Will you be going to a Halloween party this week? Do you love the opportunity to dress up and become someone else for a night?  Michael Collier wrote about such a party and the souls who love disguising themselves, those who can honestly say, " We love what we are; we love what we’ve become." All Souls by Michael Collier A few of us—Hillary Clinton, Vlad Dracula,    Oprah Winfrey, and Trotsky—peer through    the kitchen window at a raccoon perched    outside on a picnic table where it picks  over chips, veggies, olives, and a chunk of pâte.    Behind us others crowd the hallway, many more  dance in the living room. Trotsky fusses with the bloody    screwdriver puttied to her forehead.  Hillary Clinton, whose voice is the rumble  of a bowling ball, whose hands are hairy  to the third knuckle, lifts his rubber chin to announce,    “What a perfect mask it has!” While the Count  whistling through his plastic fangs says, “Oh,    a

This week in birds - #278

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Black-bellied Whistling Duck stands atop a snag at Brazos Bend State Park . These ducks are most likely the commonest duck species in this area. Every evening around dusk, scores of the birds fly over my yard from west to east headed toward their roost for the night. I'm sure they make the trip in reverse in the early morning hours, but I'm not outside to see and hear it. And, yes, they do whistle - incessantly - when in flight. *~*~*~* Winter in the United States is coming later and later. The first frost now arrives, on average, more than a month later than it did 100 years ago , according to more than a century of measurements by weather stations nationwide.  *~*~*~* Our current president is reversing protections for two national monuments that were established by two Democratic presidents. The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah will lose protections under the p

Wednesday in the Garden: Bordered Patch butterfly

I was out in my garden at mid-afternoon today, a bright, sunny but cool afternoon. A perfect October day. I had my camera with me and I was taking random pictures of butterflies. There are lots and lots of them in the garden at this time of year. I had the usual Monarchs, Gulf Fritillariies, various sulphurs, and skippers and then I ran across this beauty. It was something completely different. I had never seen one in my garden before. It is a Bordered Patch butterfly. My go-to butterfly guide, Butterflies of Houston and Southeast Texas , helped me to identify it. It also informed me that this is not a regular member of this area's butterfly fauna. (No wonder I hadn't seen it before.) It is a tropical species that ranges from southern Arizona and Texas through Central and South America to Argentina. It wanders northward during the summer months, sometimes reaching Kansas and Nebraska. Houston lies at the extreme eastern edge of its range. I feel very lucky to have been

Sunset Express by Robert Crais: A review

Well, that was fun. The World's Greatest Detective, Elvis Cole, is back on his home turf of Los Angeles after a sojourn in Louisiana in the last book. In Louisiana, he met Lucy Chenier, who, along with her young son, is still a part of his life.  In Los Angeles, high-powered defense attorney Jonathan Green is defending millionaire restauranteur Teddy Martin who is charged with his wife's brutal murder. Green hires the WGD to try to prove that an LAPD detective named Angela Rossi planted evidence - namely the murder weapon - to make Martin appear guilty. Elvis' investigation doesn't go the way Green wants it to. In fact, he proves just the opposite. Angela Rossi seems clean and dedicated to her job and it looks like Martin is guilty. Green thanks Elvis for his work and moves on. But soon it appears that some of the people interviewed by Elvis are unaccountably changing their stories to make it appear that Rossi is untrustworthy and Green's appearances on te

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: A review

This one has been on my "to be read" list for months. I kept skipping over it thinking the time wasn't right or I wasn't in the mood for it. Then, last week it was announced as the Man Booker Prize winner for 2017. The time was not going to get any more right; time to read. I had read countless professional reviews of the book and they were all raves. Moreover, the reviews on Goodreads, which normally represent a diversity of opinion, were almost universally five-star. I was intimidated before I even opened the cover, thinking that I had to love the book - or else! Then I read it and I didn't love it.  I didn't hate it. It's difficult to put into words my reaction to the book. It is undeniably a creative and poetic telling of a tragic story. One would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the scenes of Abraham Lincoln with the weight of a country at war on his shoulders grieving over his recently deceased greatly loved 11-year-old son, W

Poetry Sunday: So We'll Go No More a Roving by Lord Byron

George Gordon, Lord Byron, may have been a rake and a wastrel but give the man his due: He could write a nice poem.  Just listen to the lilting rhythms of this one. So We'll Go No More a Roving by Lord Byron (George Gordon) So, we'll go no more a roving     So late into the night,  Though the heart be still as loving,     And the moon be still as bright.  For the sword outwears its sheath,     And the soul wears out the breast,  And the heart must pause to breathe,     And love itself have rest.  Though the night was made for loving,     And the day returns too soon,  Yet we'll go no more a roving     By the light of the moon.

This week in birds - #277

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : I didn't take this beautiful picture. (I can only wish.) I stole it from Allen Wildlife photographers. It is a Purple Gallinule , one of my favorite birds, and the picture was taken at Port Aransas on the Texas coast. In recent years, Purple Gallinules have extended their range northward and they are becoming more common all along the coast.   *~*~*~* Republicans moved closer to opening oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with a Senate budget vote late Thursday, setting off a new political scramble over the future of the pristine habitat in northern Alaska.  The ANWR  consists of about 19 million acres of pristine land in northeastern Alaska.  The refuge, one of the largest in the United States, is the nesting place for several hundred species of migratory birds; home to wolves, polar bears, caribou and other mammals; and spawning grounds for Dolly Varden trout and other fish. *~*~*~* R

Throwback Thursday: Paraprosdokians

Have you ever heard of paraprosdokians?  According to Wikipedia, "a  paraprosdokian ( /pærəprɒsˈdoʊkiən/ ) is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part." Here are some examples from a five year old post of mine. They still make me chuckle. ~~~ Tuesday, November 20, 2012 Paraprosdokians A friend sent me this today. I guess it must be making its way around the internet. It gave me a chuckle. Maybe you'll find it amusing, too. (I especially like #3 and #14.) Winston Churchill allegedly loved  paraprosdokians  which are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently humorous. Here are a few I've collected. 1. Where there's a will, I want to be in it. 2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still o

Wordless Wednesday: American Painted Lady


Free Fire by C.J. Box: A review

I read the previous book in this series several weeks ago and the ending left me hanging, wondering how the main character, Joe Pickett, would respond to the changes in his life. He had just been fired from his job as a game warden for the state of Wyoming. He had finally run afoul of bureaucratic politics once too often.  The job had defined who he was as a person. What would he do now? The answer was that he would become a ranch foreman for his wealthy father-in-law. But, of course, that didn't last long. Soon, the governor of Wyoming came calling with a proposition for Joe. There had been a spot of trouble in Yellowstone National Park. A lawyer had shot and killed four people, environmental activists who worked for the company that had the contract to provide visitor services at the park. He admitted to the killing, turned himself in to the rangers, and said that he had shot the people because they had insulted him. When the justice system attempted to prosecute the ma

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2017/Poetry Sunday: Autumn Flowers by Jones Very

First, a poem about the beauty of late-blooming flowers. Autumn Flowers by Jones Very Still blooming on, when Summer-flowers all fade, The golden rods and asters fill the glade; The tokens they of an Exhaustless Love, That ever to the end doth constant prove. To one fair tribe another still succeeds, As still the heart new forms of beauty needs; Till these, bright children of the waning year! Its latest born have come our souls to cheer. They glance upon us from their fringed eyes, And to their look our own in love replies; Within our hearts we find for them a place, As for the flowers, which early Spring-time grace. Despond not traveller! on life's lengthened way, When all thy early friends have passed away; Say not, " No more the beautiful doth live, And to the earth a bloom and fragrance give. " To every season has our Father given Some tokens of his love to us from heaven; Nor leaves us here, uncheered, to walk alone, When all we lo