Showing posts from July, 2020

This week in birds - #411

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A pair of House Finches share a meal at my feeders. I almost always see these birds in pairs or family groups. *~*~*~* 2019 was the deadliest year on record for environmental activists around the world. There were 212 murdered worldwide, sometimes by their governments and most often by those who want to exploit the environment. Colombia, with 64 deaths, and the Philippines, with 43, accounted for more than half of the deaths.  *~*~*~* The Northern California Esselen Tribe has regained at least part of its ancestral lands after 250 years with the purchase of a 1200 acre ranch near Big Sur. The land will be used for educational and cultural purposes. *~*~*~* If an animal or plant relocates into a new area because the warming climate has pushed them there, should that species be considered invasive? Scientists are studying that issue. *~*~*~* The US exiting from the Paris Accords on climate is bad enough in itself, but it

Wrecked by Joe Ide: A review

This is the third in Joe Ide's IQ (Isaiah Quintabe) mysteries. I accidentally read it out of order but it didn't inhibit my enjoyment of the book. In fact, this is my favorite of the IQ books I've read so far. IQ's fame in East Long Beach has grown considerably. He has solved some high profile cases and now he is recognized wherever he goes. But he still takes the small neighborhood mysteries as well and solves them in return for bartered products or services. This does not sit well with his new partner, Dodson, his friend and former sidekick in some less salubrious past activities. Dodson has turned a page in his life. He has a wife and a new baby and he needs to be able to support them and to have the respect of the community. His demand as a partner is to be in charge of finances and to make sure that all cases in the future are accepted on a cash basis. IQ agrees but his heart really isn't in it. People in the neighborhood still expect to be able to barter w

Poetry Sunday: Summer Rain by Amy Lowell

When I was a young child, we lived in a house with a tin roof so I understand what Amy Lowell is referring to in her poem. Many nights I was lulled to sleep by the hypnotic sound of rain hitting that roof. The house that I live in now does not have a tin roof, but at least we did finally have a bit of summer rain falling on it Saturday, courtesy of Hurricane Hanna that was churning in the Gulf south of us. It was rain that we badly needed. We could use more, but I'm grateful for the "cool, silver rain" that did fall.  Summer Rain by Amy Lowell All night our room was outer-walled with rain. Drops fell and flattened on the tin roof, And rang like little disks of metal. Ping!—Ping!—and there was not a pin-point of silence between     them. The rain rattled and clashed, And the slats of the shutters danced and glittered. But to me the darkness was red-gold and crocus-colored With your brightness, And the words you whispered to me Sprang up and flamed—orange torches aga

This week in birds - #410

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : This Red-bellied Woodpecker having a nosh on my suet cake appears to be molting, judging by the raggedy appearance of its feathers. This is the time of year when the molt is well underway and it's not at all uncommon to see bald-headed or nearly bald birds and others in various states of undress. In a few weeks, all those bright shiny new feathers will be in place and the birds will be sleek and well-dressed once again. *~*~*~* Public lands such as national parks are being inundated with visitors wanting to get outside safely during the pandemic, but those visitors are trashing the parks and also possibly making the spread of the virus more likely. *~*~*~* National Moth Week continues through Sunday night, the 26th. Visit the website to learn how you can participate by reporting your observations. *~*~*~* Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act this week. The act is intended to fund infrastr

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: A review

Mexico in the 1950s.  Noemí Taboada is a twenty-something party girl living in Mexico City, the daughter of a rich family. She wants for nothing, except perhaps independence. Her role, as seen by her parents, is to find and capture a suitable husband and settle down to producing grandchildren. But  Noemí has other ideas. She may be a flighty and flirty young woman who enjoys her effect on the men in her circle, but she also has a more serious side; she wants to go to college to study anthropology. Her father sees no need for that but since she is stubborn in her desire for an education, he offers her a deal. He will allow her to go to college and study anthropology if she will do one teensy little favor for him first.  Some months earlier her orphaned cousin, Catalina, had married a handsome English-Mexican named Virgil Doyle and they moved to his family's country estate and a house called High Place. Now  Noemí's father has received a paranoid sounding letter from Catali

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride: A review

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, now likely extinct, was the largest woodpecker endemic to North America. Twenty inches long with a wingspan of thirty inches, it was an impressive sight in flight, so impressive that folks who saw it were known to exclaim in awe, "Good lord!" And so, the story goes, it became known colloquially as the Good Lord Bird. The Good Lord Bird was a denizen of the forests and swamps of the southeastern United States. It's unlikely that it ever lived on the prairies of Kansas except in James McBride's imagination. McBride imagines the bird there in the middle of the nineteenth century, sharing "Bleeding Kansas" with the abolitionist John Brown and his "army." In his telling, the woodpecker became a talisman for the abolitionist. He carried its feathers as a good luck charm, a symbol of hope. Like many, I suppose, I have only the most rudimentary knowledge of John Brown and his campaign to destroy the institution of slave

Poetry Sunday: Invictus by William Ernest Henley

In honor of the memory of our hero, Congressman John Lewis. Invictus by William Ernest Henley Out of the night that covers me,       Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be       For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance       I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance       My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears       Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years       Finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate,       How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate,       I am the captain of my soul.

This week in birds - #409

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : "You talkin' to me?" A Barn Swallow on its nest. *~*~*~* On Wednesday, the president unilaterally weakened one of the nation's bedrock conservation laws , the National Environmental Policy Act, limiting the ability of the public to review and protest federal infrastructure projects. *~*~*~* Monsoon rains have been flooding South Asia, displacing millions of people in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, and Nepal and killing scores. *~*~*~* Koalas can suffer from a form of chlamydia that is very similar to that suffered by humans. Researchers are hoping that by studying the disease in koalas more effective treatments may be developed. *~*~*~* Andean Condor image from The Guardian. Andean Condors are the world's largest soaring bird with a wingspan of up to ten feet. They are able to soar for up to 100 miles on those wings without ever flapping them.

Begin Again by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.: A review

James Baldwin seems to be having a bit of a renaissance these days. Through films and documentaries, his life and his life's work have been brought to a new generation. The work of current-day African-American writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jesmyn Ward reference Baldwin and pay homage to him. But what relevance really do his life and writing have for today's challenges? Eddie S. Glaude Jr. has spent much of his adult life studying Baldwin and he aims to answer that question for us. Indeed the full title of his book is Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own . Glaude refers to our present-day situation as the "after times," a phrase he borrows from Walt Whitman's description of the country after the Civil War. The calumny that marks today's discourse coming out of the highest institution of our national government would seem to fit such a juxtaposition. Glaude takes us back to the beginning of this fraught era in o

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2020

July has been a tough month for the garden and the gardener so far here in zone 9a in Southeast Texas. Our daytime temperatures have hovered in the high 90s Fahrenheit while the daily heat index has been closer to 110. There has been little rain and it's been a challenge for my sprinklers to keep up. My plants are showing the strain. In spite of all that, I do have a few blooms to show you from some of my tough plants that laugh at the heat.  (Full disclosure: Some of these pictures are from my archives, but all are images of plants currently blooming in the garden.)   Crape myrtle (of course).  And more crape myrtle.  'Laura Bush' petunia.  Summer phlox. Hamelia patens , aka Mexican firebush.  The Anisacanthus wrightii is beginning to bloom which makes the bumblebees happy.  Lantana.  Crocosmia.   Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum,' aka black-eyed Susan.   Echinacea , purple coneflower.  Joe Pye weed. It isn't a we

The Wife by Alafair Burke: A review

I didn't much like any of the characters in this book with the possible exception of the kid Spencer, and that at first made it hard for me to get "into" the story. But at some point along the way, the plot grabbed me and I was all in for the rest of the ride through all of its twists and turns. The unreliable narrator has become so prevalent, especially in the psychological thriller genre, that it is almost a cliche. Alafair Burke uses the technique quite skillfully in this novel. It is impossible to tell at first whether we are being lied to or not. Is this person trustworthy? Can we rely on what she is telling us? In fact, can we rely on any of these characters? Are they all hiding secrets that they will say anything to keep hidden? Burke is certainly a talented storyteller and once she had hooked me, I loved following her character-driven plot right up until that final twist at the end. I never really saw it coming. Angela and Jason Powell have been married fo