Saturday, July 31, 2021

Adult Summer Reading Log 2021

Each year our four local libraries sponsor child, teen, and adult reading challenges.  I've only participated a handful of times. I decided to participate this summer though, partially thanks to the ability to take out e-books from the New York [City] public library.  That ability was granted to all New York State residents during the pandemic, and is (so far) continuing.

Only one of the local libraries permitted you to list books you didn't take out from their library.  I know, their rules, like it or go somewhere else.  There may be good reasons to require people to take books out from their library (funding for the library, I'm thinking, would be a primary reason).  "So be it".

I just finished my fourth book. There's no minimum, which is nice, because it end by August 19.  Here are my four, with a little (or a lot) about each (NOT to be considered a book review).

TRIGGER ALERTS - the first book I mention includes scenes of murder, rape, and other horrors of war and its aftermath.  The third book's topic is a pandemic.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.  This is a retelling of Homer's The Iliad from the point of view of a female character, Briseis, a Trojan queen taken captive and enslaved when the Greeks take her city and sack it.   I don't read much historical fiction but this intrigued me because I have never read The Iliad.  I had to study The Odyssey, a kind of sequel, multiple times, but never The Iliad, and I have no idea why.  Could I enjoy Ms. Barker's book without any Iliad background?

YES! (although I had to look things up from time to time).

Now, I want to read The Iliad but it's going to have to wait for winter.  As for this book - I have mixed feelings about it. On the whole, it was well written. However, the British slang threw me out of the story more than once (minor quibble - certainly the soldiers couldn't speak in Greek for the English audience!) .  Also, I wondered why, if this was a book telling the story from the point of view a woman who never had a chance to tell her story, Ms. Barker spent enough time writing from the point of view of one of the major male characters, Achilles.  So it's a book about a silenced woman partially written from the point of view of a man?

I understand Barker isn't done telling the story of Briseis, which I look forward to when the next book in the series is published.

Four Stars.  I recommend it.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan.  I enjoy dystopian literature and (some) zombie literature.  I love a good zombie apocalypse, and looked forward to a good read.  It disappointed me. Stilted writing and one of the weirdest love triangles I've ever run across in dystopian young adult literature, just for starters.   I won't be seeking out the sequels.

The End of Men by Christa Sweeney-Baird.  What I loved about this book is that it was written not long before before the COVID-19 pandemic.  So, one could compare and contrast the reactions to the pandemic in the book (a virus that kills only males, and kills most of them) to what happened "in real 2020 and beyond life". The book is presented to us as written by an (initially) unknown author some years after the pandemic struck.

Ms. Sweeney-Baird did an excellent job anticipating how people would behave, even though the pandemics were totally different.  The book is written from the points of view of several women, and one man (Spoiler Alert - the man does survive). One of the characters, at the end, is revealed as the author of the book, someone who interviewed the rest of the people whose stories were told in order to heal.    The book also ponders many questions, from "what if a pandemic kills loved ones of almost everyone alive?" to "how do we handle a labor force in a world where much of the population dies over a matter of months?", to the obvious "how do we keep the human race going?"

I give it five stars.  Highly recommended.

Finally, a non-fiction book Zero Fail, The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service" by Carol Leonnig.  For the benefit of my non-American readers, the United States' Secret Service is tasked with many duties, the most important of which is the 24 hour day protection of the President and Vice-President of the United States and his/her family.  Carol Leonnig, an investigative journalist with over 20 years experience, has written a well documented (and scary) book of triumphs and failures taking place mainly from the Kennedy administration to right after the end of the Trump administration.  

It can be a bit hard to follow at times, and it took me part of the summer to wade through it (because I was only allowed to take it out for two weeks, and then I returned to a holds list), but it was well worth it. You learn a lot about our various Presidents - perhaps, in a few cases, too much for comfort.

I give it five stars.  Highly recommended.

As I approach my 70th year on this planet, I get more and more impatient over books that seem to be wasting my time.  Three out of four of these books delivered.

Now, perhaps in the next week, I'll start The Forest of Vanishing Stars, which I need to read and write a book review for on Goodreads after winning it in a contest.

Read any good books recently?

Friday, July 30, 2021

Gloomy July Skies #SkywatchFriday

On the last Thursday of July, 2021, the forecast was rain.  Again.  It's official - even before today, we had a record rainy July.

The day started out gloomy.  And then (surprise) it rained.  Hey, rain, can't you go somewhere you are needed?

After the rain stopped, spouse and I took a walk.  It was still trying to be gloomy.  There are benches overlooking the river, but no one was taking advantage of them.

As we walked, sun rays tried to break out of the clouds.  You can barely see them in the lower middle, just above the gloomy trees.

An actual patch of blue!  But it didn't last long.

Finally, I had to take a puddle picture.

Hoping for better pictures next time.

Also, hoping all of my readers and their families are staying safe from the heat, the storms, and the pandemic.

Joining Yogi and other sky loving bloggers for #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Bird Show

I think birds know when you are carrying a recording device. If I don't have my iPhone, all types of photo-worthy antics ensue.  If I have my iPhone, nothing.  Nada.

Yesterday afternoon, it was gorgeous, and after work, I sat in my backyard with my laptop and without my iPhone (which is also my camera).

So, what did I miss and what can't I show you?

First up were the hummingbirds. Since I am in New York State, they are ruby-throated hummingbirds.  Originally we had only one, a female.  We now are fairly certain we have three.  All look like females but I understand all juveniles look mainly the same as adult females.

 I have two hanging baskets and a planter with  and miscellaneous perennials that attract hummingbirds.  We've also had (first year feeding the birds) a window mounted hummingbird feeder on our dining room window.   

Here are some hummingbird pictures I've taken from that window.   These were both taken July 26.

The pause that refreshed, middle of photo, wings flapping so they are blurred

Note there is only one hummingbird in each pictures and that is because hummingbirds are extremely territorial.  They do not share.  If two come at the same time, one will be driven away.

In our yard, also, is a clothesline we no longer use, but have kept up. It's a few feet away from the feeder and the two hanging baskets.  And then there is me, sitting.  Our yard is small.

So of course, while I sit with my laptop, two hummingbirds drop by - again and again. I suspect they have gotten used to me but this is the first time they haven't seemed to mind my presence.  I'm sure it's because I don't have that weird box I hold in my hand from time to time.

At one point both sat on the clothesline, just a few inches from each other.  Were they, perhaps, siblings? I've read that hummingbirds spend much of their time perching to look for danger. But these were so close to each other.  They love that clothesline.

But no sibling love here.  One then tried to feed on a flower and was driven away by the other.

Another time, one was perhaps a foot away from my face, feeding on cuphea, an annual they love, and chirped at me while I held my breath. 

Cuphea without hummingbird

A hummingbird chirp sounds a lot like a kissy-kissy sound.  But I know I couldn't have photographed it.  I do want to maintain this trust they are starting to show.

Taken July 27, this shows the clothesline and the two feeders, and lots of house finches

We also have a yellow bag feeder (beloved by goldfinches, but they have plenty of wild food this time of year and don't appear much) and a squirrel proof feeder where we offer safflower seeds.  We are visited by cardinals, chickadees and house finches.  Lots and lots of house finches.

Since I didn't have my cameras, two chickadees got into a fight.  The female cardinal, rarely seen recently, (the male visits more frequently - in the spring they came together) feasted at the feeder. No camera to capture that.

Oh well. 

It was so fun to watch the bird show.  I'm a little surprised to see hummers checking out an orange geranium flower and some of our purple hostas, in addition to the fuchsias.  They did it again today, because I had no way to show you.

Seems red in the photo, but this geranium flower is orange

As I started to write this last paragraph, another hummer flew into our small yard.

OK, birds, I get the message.  Next time I bring my phone with me! 

The bird show.  Sponsored by Nature.  There for our enjoyment.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Purple Rain (and other Daylilies)#WordlessWednesday

The rain  let up here in New York State for several days, until it returned yesterday with a bad thunderstorm.  Of course, it could have been worse.  No flash flood (at least that I know of), no downed trees in the neighborhood (that I know of - but, to the west of us, they weren't as fortunate), and at least 1500 people lost power to our west.  Again, we lucked out.

What I do have is some wet day lily flowers.

Don't you like these frilly lilies?

There's something about wet day lilies and (these were actually from last week's wet spell) I'd like to show you some of their beauty.

Fresh out of the shower, ahhh.

Purple rain? Actually, I've probably had this day lily for well over 20 years and its name is long forgotten. Purple Rain would be a good name, though.

This was one of my favorite shots. The plant in the lower left with the white border, incidentally, is pineapple mint.

Joining Sandee at Comedy Plus for her #WordlessWednesday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Beginning of the End Song

This has become one of my annual posts.

I've heard the first cricket of 2021, the crickets of the second year of the pandemic.

It was just for a moment, on Thursday, that I thought I heard the sound.  On Friday I heard it again.  My spouse kept saying no, I don't hear it.  Then, Sunday, the same discussion.  There was  a buzzing in the air.  But yesterday, it was official.  I heard the song.  No mistaking.

In a way, I dread the first cricket song, because it means winter is on its way.

I've been tracking when I've heard the first crickets since I started to blog in 2009.  Here is my post from 2019, complete with links to the previous posts tracking first cricket song dates.

For 2020, the date was Thursday, July 23.  For 2021, I'm calling the date July 26..

So, why track this date?  In the pandemic, many of us continue to take comfort watching nature, be it birds, flying insects, or sunrises and sunsets.  With change all around us, nature is a constant, and keeps on keeping on paying little attention to us.
Which, maybe is why we have three bird feeders in our backyard today. And why, on my walks, I look for butterflies to photograph.   I am learning more about hummingbirds each day, a bird that continues to fascinate both my spouse and me.

My 30-something son calls us "old".  I call it "refreshing my interests".  If that makes me old, so be it.

And then, there is the human desire to keep records, which is why I write this annual post.

As I blogged in 2019:

"My blog, with the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day meme I participate in each 15th of the month, has become a kind of garden journal.  I'm no good at diaries or journals, but blogging is something I do keep up with. For now, anyway."

So, what does this pattern of dates mean?  Not much, perhaps.  You can see that my dates are all over the place.

But for now, I have heard the crickets, and I know the end of summer is approaching. Maybe it's still a few months away, although frost threatened us last September.

Also, COVID-19 is spiking once again.  Once again, we face the possibility of a fall and winter to dread.

I can only hope that this period in our history will, one day, be just another fact in the history books.  In the meantime, I will study the hummingbirds, try to ID butterflies, and listen to the song of the crickets.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Songs of the Late 70's #MusicMovesMe

 It's Monday, and it's time for music!  It's time to join up with the Music Moves Me bloggers.

Who are the Music Moves Me bloggers? We are bloggers who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only-meaning at least one music video, please!)   First, there is XmasDolly.  Her co-hosts are: Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy from Curious as a Cathy, and me. 

Each month we have a guest conductor. Today, for her last stint as guest conductor for July, welcome Songbird from Songbird's Crazy World.

Her theme for today:  You Pick.

I decided to go back in time just a little, to 1978 and 1979.  I'll try not to put too much disco in here, but I hope you groove to these picks. 

First, 1978. 10cc and Dreadlock Holiday.

 Sweet - Love is Like Oxygen.

I've had this song on my blog before, but I could listen to this song all day.  Frankie Valli and Grease.


OK, I've held onto the disco for long enough.  Time to release some boogie! The Trammps and Disco Inferno actually dates from 1976 but it did not hit it big until 1978.  If you can hold back the dancing when you hear this song, you have more self control than I do, so I decided on a long version.

It's time to switch to 1979 and The Cars - Dangerous Type.

The next two songs were actually released in 1978 but were hits in 1979.

Younger people may know Rod Stewart as an American Songbook type of artist but, in his younger days, he was quite the rocker. In this song, though, he shows his disco side - sort of.   Here he is with perhaps the best song ever written about one-night stands and "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"


Chic's Le Freak was actually released in 1978, but was one of the top songs of 1979.

And that's a late 70's wrap!

Let's thank Songbird for her July guest conducting.  For August, the guest conductor will be - ME! (Shameless self-promotion).  

Join us again same time, same place, next Monday!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Down the Rabbit Hole

Before I begin, I need to correct an error in yesterday's blog post.  Thank you, my readers, for catching it.

My post yesterday was about interesting names for daylilies.   I forgot to include a link to a site I found online where you can name your own daylily.  I have now corrected my post, and also included the link at the beginning of this paragraph.

It isn't cheap to name a daylily, but if you have the money, I think it would make a wonderful special occasion gift for a gardener (note, I have never done business with the nursery this link leads to, and it is not an endorsement.)

So, why not continue with more of yesterday's theme and feature the rest of the interesting named daylilies I took pictures of yesterday?  I have a few more interesting daylily names for you.  One gave me the creeps - I saved it for last, because it really is creepy.

This is called Paula Nettle and is an award winner - it must be named after somebody, I'm thinking, but "nettles" have other meanings in gardening.   There is the stinging nettle, and if you touch that plant, you are going to suffer for it.

Here is Island Lord.  Love this color!  Interesting, I found other daylilies online with "Lord" in the name, but not this one.

Last but not least, the name of this flower made me shiver a little.  In college, I majored in anthropology, and took a couple of courses where we studied Native American peoples, including the group we call the Navajo. Something seemed familiar about this name so I had to look it up.  In Navajo culture, a "skinwalker" is a harmful witch that can transform from human to animal but other Native American groups have similar legends.

I wonder why this daylily was called "Skinwalker"?  And, did I really want to know? (you know the answer to that one.  Yes.)  I had to look, and found the hybridizer of this daylily - the late Ned Roberts.

This beautiful flower apparently was named after a book by the late Tony Hillerman from 1986 called "Skinwalkers".  I read several of Hillerman's mysteries long ago - I'm not sure if I read that one, though.

But anyway, this lovely flower is a multiple award winner. Although I don't own any spider daylilies, now I want this so badly (and have no room for it).

Internet slang calls this kind of research "going down a rabbit hole".  I'm glad I emerged in time to write this blog post.

So, we've gone from daylilies to Native American legends to rabbit holes.

Not a bad day's work.