Showing posts from May, 2021

Hello, again!

Well, that went quickly, didn't it? Here I am at my new site already and the only difference you may see is the change in the URL. Isn't it wonderful when things work like they are supposed to? 

Poetry Sunday: Irish Weather by Tess Gallagher (With note to readers)

  In Tess Gallagher's telling, I have to say Irish weather sounds an awful lot like Texas weather. Or maybe we should just say "weather." Irish Weather by Tess Gallagher Rain squalls cast sideways, the droplets visible like wheat grains sprayed from the combine. As suddenly, sunshine. If a person behaved this way we'd call them neurotic. Given weather, we gust and plunder with only small comment: it's raining; sun's out. *** Note to my readers : The Nature of Things is moving to a new domain. It will have a new URL but this current site will automatically redirect to the new one. No action needed from you. The process will begin around 7:00 pm on May 30 and it could take as much as a day to complete. During that time, the blog will not be accessible. I apologize for any inconvenience this might cause. Also, if you have not signed on as a follower of the blog, I would hope that you would do so. It won't make any difference to your reading experience; I just

This week in birds - #452

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : American Avocets photographed on the beach at Rockport, Texas.  *~*~*~* This is a shocking story although not really surprising. The official death toll from the February freeze that hit Texas this year, turning off the electrical grid and running water for an extended period in much of the state, stands at 151. A recent analysis maintains that the actual death toll may be four or five times that number .  *~*~*~* When the next disaster hits, FEMA may be better equipped to help deal with it. The Biden administration has doubled to $1 billion the fund that helps communities prepare for disasters. *~*~*~* Wind farms on the Pacific coast? It may happen . A stumbling block in the past has been military objections to the project but on Tuesday the Navy abandoned its opposition and joined the Interior Department to give its blessing to two areas off the California coast that the government said can be developed for wind turb

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz: A review

So here's yet another novel about a writer and the experience of writing. Particularly that part of the experience that involves writer's block and being completely devoid of ideas. In such a circumstance, any writer might do what Jacob Finch Bonner did. Jake, the protagonist of this tale, had had two books published. The first one was mildly successful and was praised by The New York Times reviewer. The second one dropped like a stone and landed with a thud. Hardly anybody read it. Years passed and Jake tried unsuccessfully to write another book. He just couldn't come up with a plot. To keep body and soul together in the interim, he did a little editing and a little teaching. It was the latter that brought him to be an instructor in a graduate-level writing class at Ripley College in Vermont. And it was there that he had a thoroughly annoying student named Evan Parker. Evan felt himself far advanced in relation to any of the other students and not really in need of any i

Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind by Kermit Pattison: A review

  I got this book as a sort of companion to another book that I read earlier this year, The Sediments of Time by Meave and Samira Leakey. The books cover basically the same territory, literally, the Great Rift Valley of East Africa where the search for fossil human ancestors has been most intense. And they reference many of the same personalities, several of what we might term the rock stars of the fossil search. Meave's book is a memoir that, of course, focuses mainly on her family, the Leakeys, who are the First Family of the paleoanthropology world, but it also gives credit to the work of such people as Don Johanson of Lucy ( Australopithecus afarensis ) fame and Tim White who was also present at the Lucy find and at the 1994 find of what is, for now, the oldest known possible human ancestor at 4.4 billion years, nicknamed Ardi ( Ardipithecus ramidus ). Kermit Pattison's book focuses primarily on White and the Ardi find. Tim White actually began his fossil-hunting career in

Poetry Sunday: To Daffodils by Robert Herrick

Gardening is a hobby, some might say an obsession, of mine. I live in an area with a growing season that is virtually year-round so there's always something going on in the garden and I spend a lot of time attempting to grow many different kinds of plants. Many plants thrive here and it is very rewarding to watch them grow. But there are some that I've tried to grow that have been a bust. Among those failures are daffodils. You might think daffs would be easy. I mean you can see them growing wild around old abandoned home sites with no one to care for them, but there is something about the heat and humidity here, or maybe it's the soil, or perhaps a combination of both that is inimical to the growth of daffodils. I plant them and they bloom for one year and then they disappear, so I've pretty much given up on them and moved on to other things. Poets love daffodils, of course. One always thinks of William Wordsworth, but Robert Herrick was fond of them, too, and he saw

This week in birds - #451

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Black Skimmers in the late evening sun photographed on the beach at Rockport, Texas. *~*~*~* Once again federal scientists are predicting an "above average" Atlantic hurricane season . This follows the record season in 2020 when there were 30 named storms. The scientists say there could be 13 to 20 named storms this year with 6 to 10 being hurricanes and perhaps 3 to 5 reaching category 3 status or above. *~*~*~* And on the other side of the continent, severe drought, made worse by climate change, is ravaging the West . Heat and shifting weather patterns have also intensified wildfires and sharply reduced water supplies across the Southwest, Pacific Coast, and North Dakota. *~*~*~* A new study warns of "zombie fires." With a changing climate, fires in northern forests that smolder through winter and erupt again in spring are expected to become more common. *~*~*~* And now we are seeing climate refug

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie: A review

  This book was published just over five years ago but somehow it only came to my attention recently. I'm glad that it finally found me because it was an absolute joy to read. The title of the book might lead you to think that it is about iconoclastic sociologist/economist Thorstein Veblen (1857 - 1929) if indeed you had ever heard of him. Those of you who have ever had an introductory course in sociology as I did long ago will no doubt remember him as the coiner of phrases like "conspicuous consumption" and the author of the book The Theory of the Leisure Class . He had considerable influence on later economists like John Kenneth Galbraith. He also had influence on Melanie, the mother of our protagonist here. She named her daughter Veblen after Thorstein who was a distant relative. Our Veblen is a thirty-year-old woman living in Palo Alto, California in an old cottage that she has rescued and renovated. Veblen describes herself as a "freelance self." She never

Blogger problems

There seem to be continuing problems with Google's Blogger platform. I experienced problems with publishing last Friday and I know other users of the platform did as well. Since then, I've been unable to comment on some of the blogs that I regularly visit. I'm not sure what is the source of the problem, but apparently, Google is working to fix it. If you have experienced such problems with my blog, I can only apologize. I have no control over that and can only hope that it is soon fixed.

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark: A review

  Biographies and memoirs are not really my favorite reading, but one of my goals for this year is to diversify my reading and free myself of some of my reading prejudices. Such as my prejudice against biographies and memoirs. When I saw a notice of the publication of this biography of Sylvia Plath, it seemed like a worthy addition to meeting my goal. I've long been interested in Plath's life, poetry, and the tragic end to her life, so this was a good opportunity to learn more about all that. And learn more about it I did! Heather Clark's 1,000-page biography of her is nothing if not exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting to read. She details the most complex and intricate events of her subject's daily life. At some points, it seems as though she is providing a daily, or even hourly, blow-by-blow account of Plath's complicated life.  It took me just about a month to read it, reading a bit on most days.  Clark's focus is clearly stated in the subtitle of her book:

Poetry Sunday: Inertia by Jane Kenyon

I'm sure we've all experienced moments like the one that Jane Kenyon describes in her poem. Moments when we are overcome by a feeling of lethargy, languor, torpor - whatever you might choose to call it. Kenyon calls it inertia.  Inertia by Jane Kenyon My head was heavy, heavy; so was the atmosphere. I had to ask two times before my hand would scratch my ear. I thought I should be out and doing! The grass, for one thing, needed mowing. Just then a centipede reared from the spine of my open dictionary. lt tried the air with enterprising feelers, then made its way along the gorge between 202 and 203.  The valley of the shadow of death  came to mind inexorably. It can’t be easy for the left hand to know what the right is doing. And how, on such a day, when the sky is hazy and perfunctory, how does it get itself started without feeling muddled and heavy-hearted? Well, it had its fill of etymology. I watched it pull its tail over the edge of the page, and vanish In a pile of mail.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2021

What's blooming in my zone 9a garden near Houston this month? Several things. Here are some of them.  If it's May, then of course the old southern magnolia must be in bloom. On the patio, a couple of pots of pentas brighten things.  Here's #1. And here's #2. And helping them brighten things is this pot of Helianthus 'Brown-eyed Girl.' 'Julia Child' rose with an insect friend. 'Peggy Martin' rose. Ever-dependable 'Lady of Shalott' rose. My antique polyantha rose, 'Caldwell Pink.' Some of the daylilies are blooming. Here's a beauty next to the goldfish pond. More daylilies, the variety name unfortunately lost. For the first time, this cestrum which I've had for many years was killed back to the roots in last winter's freeze, but it has recovered and is beginning to bloom. Coreopsis in a tangle of blooms next to my Japanese maple. I've just added this coreopsis, 'Uptick Gold & Bronze,' to the garden. I ha

This week in birds - #450

    A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : White Ibises  in flight photographed off South Padre Island, Texas. *~*~*~* An Environmental Protection Agency report that was delayed for years by the previous administration was released on Wednesday and the news is not good. The report documents the changes that are a signal that  climate change caused at least partly by human activity is intensifying  and negatively affecting public health and the environment. *~*~*~* In other EPA action this week, the agency  ordered a controversial refinery  on St. Croix in the Virgin Island to be shut for 60 days because it poses an imminent threat to human health. The refinery had been permitted to open by the previous administration. Since February, it had showered oil on local residents twice, spewed sulfuric gases into the surrounding area, and released hydrocarbons into the air.  *~*~*~* New research indicates that a third of  global food production will be at risk  from th