Showing posts from November, 2019

This week in birds - #380

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Each morning when I step out the back door of my house, I hear these birds calling all around my neighborhood. It is an Eastern Phoebe , the bird that announces its name with its call. Many spend their winters in this area, but I don't remember there ever being quite as many as this year. A symphony of "phoebes" - not a bad way to start my day. *~*~*~* This week there was yet another bleak report on the status of the planet in regard to climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are still rising in spite of repeated warnings from scientists. China and the United States,  the two biggest polluters, further increased their emissions last year. *~*~*~* There was a horrific tale out of Texas this week, where a woman was killed by feral hogs . This was only the fifth recorded instance of a fatal wild hog attack in the country since 1825. Feral hogs are an increasing environmental problem in many p

The Old Success by Martha Grimes: A review

I had thought that Martha Grimes was finished with her Richard Jury mysteries. Then I ran across a note in one of the book review sections that I read about this book that was published this year. It is the twenty-fifth in a series that has been running since 1981. Since I had read all the previous twenty-four, it seemed incumbent on me to read this one, too. The thing about Richard Jury and all his posse of fellow characters that readers have come to know over the years is that they never age. When the series started way back in the prehistorical days of the '80s, Jury and his sidekick and best friend Lord Ardry, aka Melrose Plant, were dashing, devastatingly attractive, upper class, 40ish Englishmen. Now, almost forty years later, they still appear to be dashing, devastatingly attractive, upper class, 40ish Englishmen. If only I knew where to find their fountain of youth! All of Grimes' well-loved characters appear in this tale. It starts when the murdered body of a Fre

To the Land of Long Lost Friends by Alexander McCall Smith: A review

As the year winds down, I have been catching up on some of the series that I have read faithfully over the years. Now it is time to head off to Botswana to visit with the practitioners at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It is no. 1 and the only ladies' detective agency in Botswana. This is the twentieth entry in this series that has been going since 1998 and I've been reading them for just about that long. This is a mystery series virtually without blood or violence. Instead, the mysteries generally feature a common moral dilemma of the human condition. Dilemmas which allow Precious Ramotswe, the founder and proprietor of the agency a chance to ruminate philosophically and humorously as she considers how to respond to the dilemma. We are always privy to Precious' thoughts throughout the narrative and at one point, she thinks: "The bad behaviour with which No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was concerned was not really all that bad. They saw selfishness and gre

Poetry Sunday: A Proposal by Carl Dennis

Variety is the spice of life we say. And there is certainly truth in that, but sometimes there may be something to be said for sameness as well. Carl Dennis says it with this poem. A Proposal by Carl Dennis Why don’t we set aside for a day Our search for variety and have lunch At the same café where we had lunch yesterday And order the same avocado and Gouda sandwich On whole wheat bread, toasted and buttered? Why don’t we stroll again after lunch To the river and back? I’ll be glad to interpret Your wearing the blouse you wore yesterday As a sign you’re still the person I think you are, That this is the walk you want to take, The one you didn’t get your fill of before. And later, why don’t we hope for a sunset That duplicates the valiant effort of yesterday: Enough clouds for the light to play with, Despite a haze that dims the hues? Isn’t the insight worth repeating That the end of the day may show itself To be just as colorful as the beginning, That a fine beginning isn

This week in birds - #379

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : As Thanksgiving approaches, our thoughts turn to turkey. Here, two wary Wild Turkeys keep their eyes on me as I take their photograph at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Coast. They will not be gracing anyone's holiday feast! *~*~*~* Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has hit the highest annual level in a decade, according to new government data which highlights the impact Brazil's new right-wing president  has made on the world’s biggest rainforest.  The new numbers show almost 10,000 sq kms were lost from the beginning of this year to August. The "lungs of the planet" are being slowly destroyed. *~*~*~* California governor, Gavin Newsom, has placed a moratorium on new permits for potentially dangerous oil drilling techniques, which officials said are linked to illegal spills across the Central Valley of the state. The temporary ban on new permits for steam injection and fr

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout: A review

I've sometimes thought that Maine would be a great place to live. Land of four seasons; summers that do not feature 100 degree days with 90% humidity and the threat of devastating hurricanes; autumns that feature brilliant colors; and winters with snow. Sounds ideal.  But then I think about all those white people who live there. Not that I'm prejudiced against white people; after all, I'm one of them. But I do enjoy living in a place where, on any given day, one might encounter any color and any language available in the human condition. Diversity rules! Still, Crosby, Maine sounds like an idyllic place and it does have its town character, Olive Kitteridge, to recommend it. Yes, I would love to live next door to Olive. She speaks her mind bluntly. She's irascible and does not suffer fools gladly. Or at all. In short, she is everything I aspire to be. Olive loves her home town, but she recognizes its lack of color diversity and is delighted that a group of Somali

The Templars' Last Secret by Martin Walker: A review

Time to check in once again on Bruno Courreges and his friends. Bruno is the chief of police in the little town of St. Denis in the Dordogne of France. St. Denis is in the middle of an archaeological treasure trove featuring the famous painted caves and that features heavily in the plot of this book. It is also in the middle of a region of famed French cuisine and Bruno is an avid practitioner of that cuisine, a talented cook who likes nothing better than entertaining his friends with one of his superb meals. That, as always in this series, is also an important part of the plot.  But Bruno's day job is as chief of police and as such he is called to the scene of a death in suspicious circumstances. The body of a woman has been found at the base of a cliff. She appears to have been climbing the cliff and to have fallen to her death, but was it an accident or was she pushed? There is evidence that at least one other person was present, but that person is nowhere to be found. And

Poetry Sunday: Reluctance by Robert Frost

I've read a lot of Robert Frost over the years. He's long been a favorite of mine for his expression of feelings about Nature and country things. Having grown up on a farm, I can identify with many of his poems. But in all the time I've been reading him, I don't recall ever coming across this poem until last week. I like it very much, especially that last stanza. The man did have a way with words.  Reluctance by Robert Frost Out through the fields and the woods And over the walls I have wended; I have climbed the hills of view And looked at the world, and descended; I have come by the highway home, And lo, it is ended. The leaves are all dead on the ground, Save those that the oak is keeping To ravel them one by one And let them go scraping and creeping Out over the crusted snow, When others are sleeping. And the dead leaves lie huddled and still, No longer blown hither and thither; The last lone aster is gone; The flowers of the witch hazel wither; The heart

This week in birds - #378

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Migrating Sandhill Cranes converge on Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico by the thousands at this time of year to spend the winter there. I photographed this pair during a memorable trip in late October a few years ago.  *~*~*~* The city of Venice is in a constant battle against the encroachment of the tides, but this week has seen it being hit by the highest tidewaters in over 50 years. The event is expected to cause millions of dollars in damage. *~*~*~* What's a conservationist to do when faced with the dilemma of one threatened species feeding on another threatened species? That is the case with Caspian Terns that feed on endangered salmonids along the West Coast river systems. The solution has been to try to lure the  terns away from areas inhabited by the fish. *~*~*~* An investigation by the AP has revealed at least 1680 dams across the country that pose a potential ri

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - November 2019

Here in Southeast Texas, we were not exempted from the effects of the Arctic front that enveloped much of the country this week. We had two nights of freezing temperatures, unusual for us this early in the season. The freeze put an end to some of the blooms I had intended to include in my post. Things like my Cape honeysuckle which had bloomed beautifully for a few weeks. But it can't take temperatures below 30 degrees F so the blooms are faded now.   The bees were very sorry to see it go. So were the hummingbirds.  The almond verbena was also affected by the freeze. The large shrub was full of these sweet-smelling flowers.  Fortunately, I had recently added a few plants for winter color. These cyclamen, for example.    They are unaffected by freezing temperatures.  My winter garden wouldn't be complete without the sweet-faced pansies.  And their smaller-bloomed cousins, the violas.  The snapdragons add their splash of bright color to the

Throwback Thursday: Confronting Evil

I recently came across this post that I wrote almost ten years ago in December 2009. It blew me away to remember that I once felt like this; to remember that I had utter confidence in the leader of our country to try to do what was right and just, whether or not I agreed with his interpretation of that. Those were simpler, more innocent times. ~~~  Wednesday, December 16, 2009 Confronting evil I'm not a big fan of David Brooks and I admit I don't often read his column in  The New York Times , but a couple of days ago, he wrote one which had a title that intrigued me. It was  "Obama's Christian Realism." The gist of the column was that President Obama's thought processes are revealed by his speeches and that his public speeches, taken as a whole, have reflected a remarkably consistent philosophy throughout. It is essentially that there is evil in the world which must be confronted, and, as Brooks states it, that "life is a struggle to pus