Showing posts from February, 2020

This week in birds - #391

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Northern Shoveler pair basks in the bright sun of a mild winter day in a South Texas wetland. *~*~*~* Today a federal judge in Idaho voided nearly one million acres of oil and gas leases on federal lands in the West. He ruled that the federal government had limited public input on those leases and that that was "arbitrary and capricious". The leasing policy had been challenged by environmental groups trying to protect the habitat of the  Greater Sage-Grouse . *~*~*~* Also this week, conservation groups filed a legal petition challenging the federal government's plan to allow 3,500 new gas wells in southwestern Wyoming. The gas wells would block the migration route of pronghorn antelopes, a route they have traveled annually for six thousand years. The petition alleges that the wells were approved without properly analyzing potential harm to the antelope and to the Greater Sage-Grouse that sh

The Awakening by Kate Chopin: A review

I saw a reference to this book in The New York Times recently and it jogged my memory. I had actually wanted to read the book several years ago, but I guess newer and shinier books distracted me from that goal and I never got around to it. Well, it's time. The Awakening was published in 1899 and it was controversial from the beginning. It was not outright banned but it was censored and denounced as immoral because it depicted a woman's sexual desire in a frank manner. It further outraged critics because it told the story of a woman who was not fulfilled by the roles of wife and mother and who chafed at the social constraints that the roles forced upon her. She wanted to be free and did not consider herself a "mother-woman". Rather, as the narrative states, she was "fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way" and she did not constantly devote herself to their care. The protagonist is Edna Pontellier. She and her husband, Leonce, and their two bo

Through a Glass, Darkly by Donna Leon: A review

Time for a trip to Venice to see what's happening with Commissario Guido Brunetti. It is spring in Venice and Guido is enjoying the early greening of the vegetation and the soft, sunny days of the season. He takes every opportunity he can to escape from his office at the Questura and bask in the sensual vernal pleasures. But, of course, as always happens, work has a way of interfering with Guido's pleasure. In this instance, it starts with his assistant Vianello asking him to intervene in a case in which a friend of his who is an environmental activist has been arrested during a protest. It turns out there really is no case against the man, Ribetti, and he is released. But as they are leaving the police station they encounter the man's father-in-law, Giovanni De Cal, who is the owner of a glass factory in Murano. De Cal despises his son-in-law and is furious with him for being arrested. He takes Ribetti's environmental activism as a personal affront. He accosts hi

Poetry Sunday: February by Margaret Atwood

Winter is winding down where I live, but it seems to be readying one last blast for us. We are expecting some quite cold temperatures this week as February ends. Margaret Atwood understands February:    February, month of despair,      with a skewered heart in the centre. And she understands cats and life:     It’s all about sex and territory,      which are what will finish us off      in the long run. Here is Atwood's take on February. February by Margaret Atwood Winter. Time to eat fat and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat, a black fur sausage with yellow Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries to get onto my head. It’s his way of telling whether or not I’m dead. If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am He’ll think of something. He settles on my chest, breathing his breath of burped-up meat and musty sofas, purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat, not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door, decla

This week in birds - #390

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Purple Martin image courtesy of All About Birds website. The Purple Martins are back. They began arriving back in our area around the end of January. First to arrive are the scouts, adult males like the one in the picture above. The adult males are followed by the adult females and first-year birds. The martins are among the first of our summer residents to return to the area and they are generally among the first to leave. Most of them are gone from here by July 4. In the eastern part of the continent, martins are now entirely dependent on nest boxes erected by humans, a tradition that goes all the way back to early Native Americans. In the west, the birds still sometimes nest in natural cavities. *~*~*~* In this election year, it is worth noting that a majority of Americans surveyed said that dealing with climate change should be a top priority for the president and Congress. Nearly two-thirds of those surv

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens: A review

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Martin Luther King, Jr. It often seems that we are afflicted with an epidemic of sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity in our public life these days, but Allen Eskens reminds us that this is not a recent development. The ignorance/stupidity movement has deep roots in our society. He takes us back to 1976, to the little town of Jessup, Missouri and shows us life there through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Boady Sanden. Boady is a freshman in high school and has been enrolled by his mother in St. Ignatius High School, the local private Catholic school. He left behind all of his friends in the public school he had attended and he is an outcast in the new school. He is either ignored or bullied by the St. Ignatius kids. Boady lives with his widowed mother (his father died in an accident when he was five years old) who works as bookkeeper for a drywall hanging company

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anaparra: A review

In a slum in an unnamed city in India, something terrible is happening. Children are disappearing and the police can't be bothered. After all, the people who live in this slum are the poorest of the poor. They are worthless in the eyes of society, so why should the police exert themselves on their behalf? Frantic parents beseech the police and offer them whatever bribes they can scrape together to try to get them to act. But none of the children are found and others keep disappearing. Nine-year-old Jai lives in this slum with his older sister and hardworking parents. He is an indifferent student at the local over-crowded public school. His best friends are Pari, a whip-smart girl who loves studying, and Faiz, a Muslim boy who works hard to help his family. (No doubt any resemblance to Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley is purely coincidental. Or maybe not.) When the first child disappears, it is a boy from Jai's school, a neighbor of his. Jai is addicted to t

Poetry Sunday: Winter: Tonight: Sunset by David Budbill

Winter sunsets can be particularly colorful and impressive and they can remind us of how lucky we are to be here, to be alive at just this moment and to be able to enjoy a sunset. David Budbill celebrates such a moment in this poem. Winter: Tonight: Sunset by David Budbill Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road, my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first through the woods, then out into the open fields past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue, green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere. I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening a prayer for being here, today, now, alive in this life, in this evening, under this sky.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2020

Spring may not have quite sprung in my zone 9a garden outside of Houston but it is definitely peeking over the windowsill and bringing with it quite a few blooms.   This is the antique rose 'Old Blush'.  And the 'Peggy Martin' rose. The daffodil Narcissus tazetta .    Leucojum aestivum .  The cyclamen have been blooming all winter.  As have the violas, aka Johnny-Jump-Ups. And the pansies.  My waxed amaryllis plants finally bloomed after three months. I don't think I'll be purchasing any more of these. I prefer potted varieties. The Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens , has bloomed gloriously all month.  Turk's cap, Malvaviscus arboreus , is an ever-bloomer. Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'. Purple oxalis, Oxalis triangularis .  Loropetalum chinense .    Solanum luxum , ornamental potato vine.  I recently bought this 'Bright' hibiscus at one of the big box stores. I

This week in birds - #389

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A windblown American Goldfinch visits a crape myrtle still bearing its seeds. Goldfinches and other members of the finch family love these seeds and spend a lot of time in winter munching on them and later spreading the seeds around the yard. In recent winters, our backyards have been alive with goldfinches and sometimes their cousins, Pine Siskins. Not so much this year. I have only seen very small flocks of the birds in my yard. The same goes for Cedar Waxwings . Instead of flocks in the hundreds that we've had in past years, there are flocks in the tens this year. Is the warming climate encouraging them to stay farther north in winter? *~*~*~* This is the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count when birders report the location, species, and numbers of the birds that they observe. It's a way for citizen scientists to participate in helping scientists to track where the birds are in mid-winter. It's

Weather by Jenny Offill: A review

I had been looking forward to the publication of this book since I first read about it a few weeks ago. I had preordered it on my Kindle. When it was delivered this week, as luck would have it, I had just finished reading another book and so I pounced on it. I read Weather essentially in one sitting, something I almost never do. True, it is a short book, just over 200 pages and it was raining outside that day and so my other preferred activities were limited. But the main reason for the quick read is that the writing is propulsive. Each paragraph or section leads one inexorably to the next.  The format of the narrative is somewhat like a diary. Each entry could almost be seen as discrete, standing on its own, and yet each entry also encourages the reader to read on, to see what is coming next. The narrator of the novel is Lizzie Benson, who abandoned her graduate studies to take care of her drug-addicted and depressed brother. She never returned to those studies, but with the