Showing posts from June, 2020

Poetry Sunday: Tattoo by Ted Kooser

I'll be honest. I've never really understood the attraction of tattoos. Maybe it's a generational thing. Certainly, the younger generation seems much more enamored of them than the old fogey generation of which I'm a part. But Ted Kooser puts his finger on one of the problems with tattoos; a tattoo that might look okay on taut young skin could have a different aspect altogether as that skin gets older and... ah ...softer and looser. What do you think? Tattoo by Ted Kooser What once was meant to be a statement— a dripping dagger held in the fist of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise on a bony old shoulder, the spot where vanity once punched him hard and the ache lingered on. He looks like someone you had to reckon with, strong as a stallion, fast and ornery, but on this chilly morning, as he walks between the tables at a yard sale with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt rolled up to show us who he was, he is only another old man, picking up

This week in birds - #406

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Double-crested Cormorant rests on a post in the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. *~*~*~* A new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the federal government should act more aggressively to combat climate change. *~*~*~* Did you ever think you would live to see a time when temperatures reached 100 degrees F in the Arctic Circle? That is the situation in which we find ourselves in 2020. In the Siberian town of  Verkhoyansk, last Saturday the temperature topped out at 100.4 F . *~*~*~* Here are some tips about making your garden a more welcoming place for birds. *~*~*~* What lies off Australia’s  Great Barrier Reef , in the Coral Sea?  A recent expedition to the inky depths of those waters revealed an unknown world of creatures and geologic features. *~*~*~* While people in this country are distracted by the coronavirus

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly: A review

Michael Connelly employs the same writing technique he has used so successfully in his police procedurals, private detective mysteries, and "Lincoln lawyer" stories in his latest book featuring investigative journalist Jack McEvoy. We follow the reporter step by step as he works to cover a complicated story involving the misuse of DNA data and a possible serial killer. McEvoy has investigated and helped to take down a couple of serial killers in the past, so one might say this is his wheelhouse. He has written a couple of popular books about his experiences with those cases, but he's now employed as a reporter for a website called Fair Warning that champions consumer rights so he first approaches his story as it pertains to the violation of consumer rights. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The story begins when McEvoy is visited by two detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department who are investigating the murder of a woman named Tina Portrero. Portrero is s

Throwback Thursday: The new Know-Nothings

Earlier this week, I read a column in The New York Times by Paul Krugman titled "A Plague of Willful Ignorance"   and later the same day a Washingon Post column titled  "The U.S. is falling behind its peers. Americans - if not their leaders - are starting to notice."   The columns pricked my memory. Hadn't I written something along those same lines a few years ago? A search through the blog archives revealed that my memory was correct. Almost eight years ago in 2012, I had written this post about "The new Know-Nothings." Little could I have guessed at the time to what levels these Know-Nothings would sink. They have left their nineteenth-century forbears in the dust when it comes to willful ignorance. ~~~ Thursday, September 27, 2012 The new Know-Nothings I was reading a  story about Bill Nye, the Science Guy , a couple of days ago when I came across a sentence that literally made me groan out loud. It said, "In June, a Ga

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke: A review

I read Attica Locke's acclaimed book, Bluebird, Bluebird , in 2017 and promised myself that I would read more. Finally, with Black Water Rising , I'm beginning to fulfill that promise to myself. This book is actually Locke's first published novel. It came out in 2009 and was nominated for all sorts of awards including the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. The book is set in Locke's hometown of Houston, Texas in 1981. We moved here a few years later and I can attest that her references to places in the city and to the culture and attitudes of the place in the 1980s ring true. Houston in 1981 was growing fast. Too fast. The city was built on a base of oil and the oil "barons" had virtually free rein in it. It was a city where a lot of people were trying to make a new start in their lives. Among them was Jay Porter. Porter was an African-American lawyer with a fledgling practice that he ran out of a dingy strip mall. His clients are

Poetry Sunday: The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

This poem was suggested to me by my younger daughter. It seems perfect for celebrating this the first full day of summer 2020. It has been a year full of trauma and yet we are still here. And what do you plan to do with the rest of " your one wild and precious life?" The Summer Day by Mary Oliver Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean – the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down – who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all

This week in birds - #405

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Here's a Rock Wren that I photographed on a trip to Big Bend National Park a few years ago. Big Bend just happens to be one of my favorite places on Earth and a birding hotspot. *~*~*~* Scientists are reporting that after a drastic decline this spring as the pandemic hit worldwide, global greenhouse gas emissions are now rebounding sharply  as countries   relax their coronavirus lockdowns  and traffic surges back onto roads. *~*~*~* One of the until now unreported effects of climate change is on pregnant women. Women exposed to high temperatures and/or air pollution are more likely to have premature, underweight, or stillborn babies. Moreover, based on the study of American women, African-American women and babies are harmed at a much higher rate than the population at large. *~*~*~* The Appalachian region of the United States is one of the most biodiverse parts of the country and it has been identifi

The Ex by Alafair Burke: A review

This book was my introduction to Alafair Burke, another writer that I had long intended to read but hadn't gotten around to. It was an impressive introduction. I think Burke must have learned a thing or two about plotting and character development from her father, James Lee Burke. But her voice is absolutely original and fresh; consequently, this was an enjoyable summer read. This psychological thriller presents Olivia Randall as the protagonist. Olivia is a criminal defense attorney of some renown in New York City. Twenty years before, as a law student, she was engaged to Jack Harris, but she cheated on him repeatedly and eventually when he could no longer deny it, they had a big bust-up and Jack rushed away from their argument and called his brother Owen to commiserate and get drunk with him. When his brother, a police officer, was driving home later he had an automobile accident in which he was killed. The shock of everything drove Jack into a psychotic break and he ended up

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead: A review

The horrific story told by Colson Whitehead in his 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Nickel Boys, is made more horrific by the knowledge that it is based on a true story. In 2014, Whitehead learned of the project of archaeology students at the University of South Florida who were digging up remains of boys who had been tortured, raped, mutilated, and killed at a state-run school called Dozier School for Boys in the Florida Panhandle town of Marianna. The bodies were then deposited in a secret graveyard. The Dozier School was in business for a century and only closed in 2011. The graves of its victims were still being discovered even after Whitehead's book was published. It's unlikely that there will ever be a full accounting of the number of boys who were buried in all those hidden graves, but what is known is gruesome and nightmarish enough. Whitehead recreates Dozier as the Nickel Academy of Eleanor, Florida. It's a place where "delinquent" boys are sen

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2020

Happy June Bloom Day to all! I hope the day finds you well and your garden flourishing. Here in Southeast Texas, the combination of hot, humid days and little or no rain has done a number on my garden. Parts of it are parched, possibly beyond recall, but the more stalwart of my plants continue to bloom in spite of all hardship.  The yellow cannas have been especially pretty this month. The blanket flowers wilt in mid-day but still continue to send out blooms. As do the gerbera daisies. The blue plumbago is undaunted. The shrubs are covered in these flowers.    The milkweed has been blooming nicely but has had few Monarch or Queen butterfly visitors.   Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender.'   Foxgloves suffer from the weather but are still blooming.  Petunia 'Laura Bush.'  Ornamental potato vine.  Lantana.  And more lantana. Beautyberries are, of course, known for their shiny berries rather than their blooms, but h