Fireflies

Jun. 15th, 2017 09:01 pm
osprey_archer: (nature)
The fireflies are out in force. I came back late from the bookstore the other night, and as I turned into my apartment complex, suddenly the dusk was full of tiny flitting lights.

Of course I went for a walk after to try to catch a few. They would not light up in my hands, but flew away and lit up in the grass.
osprey_archer: (nature)
“Enjoy” is not quite the right word for what I felt about Nate Blakeslee’s American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West. Or, rather, I did straightforwardly enjoy the chapters that were about the wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone, and the epic exciting pack dramas, and all the good ecological effects of that reintroduction: less coyotes, which meant more rodents, which meant more birds of prey; less elk, which meant more trees, which meant less erosion.

But I did not enjoy the chapters about the political ramifications of that reintroduction. It’s not that they were out of place or detracted from the book - they’re an important part of the story Blakeslee is telling - but reading about it just made me so angry. Blakeslee is doing his darndest to be fair, but nonetheless the basic blinkered selfishness of the opponents of wolf reintroduction comes through.

They are so concerned about the life stock losses the wolves will cause. Never mind that the winter causes many times that number of losses; they can’t legislate against the winter. Although they definitely would if they could, and damn the ecological effects. And they can’t bear the fact that they’re going to have competition for the elk now.

One little girl (little enough that she’s clearly been put up to it by her parents) pickets with a sign that reads “Will there be elk when I grow up?”, and, uh, yes, Virginia, there will be elk when you grow up. Unless of course humans kill them off, because we are the only species with a proven track record at that sort of thing, which is why the wolves needed to be reintroduced into their own natural habitat in the first place. The wolves and the elk coexisted for thousands of goddamn years before we slaughtered the wolves.

The hypocrisy of humans complaining about the destructiveness of any animal ever is completely breathtaking, given that we are the most destructive species on earth by several orders of magnitude. At least if we do stumble into an apocalypse and kill ourselves off, all the other animals will finally have a fighting chance - assuming of course that we don’t take them all down with us.

Ducks

Apr. 14th, 2017 10:41 am
osprey_archer: (nature)
There is a duck nesting beneath the bush by my front door. Why has it chosen this place? There's no water nearby and not a lot of green space, either, just a thin strip of garden and then the parking lot. Perhaps the other ducks already took all the nicer places.

She is not a very attentive mother. In fact for a bit I thought she had abandoned the nest, because I never saw her anymore and it was covered over with leaves; but that must have been camouflage, because she's back, and there are more eggs than ever. Some are speckled and some not.

I could've made a duck egg omelet by now if I wanted, although of course I don't, because then there wouldn't be ducklings. Ducklings! My own personal hoard of ducklings.

I foresee a Make Way for Ducklings reprise in my future.

She flies away whenever I try to go inside - as long as I'm just standing on the stoop she doesn't mind, but when I get out my key and unlock the door, that's A Bridge Too Far and away she goes.

It's fortunate she's a duck. I'm pretty sure a goose would go for my ankles in a similar situation. A pair of geese have nested in front of a supermarket near my house; one of them sits on the eggs while the other stands vigilant in front of the automatic doors, looking as if it would happily peck to death anyone who tries to go inside.
osprey_archer: (books)
We've reached another Caldecott book that I'm familiar with from childhood! (And in fact we'll run into quite a few of them for the next twenty years of Caldecott books or so.) My parents actually owned Peter Spier's Noah's Ark, so I was quite familiar with it, although I must say it never was a favorite: the ark gets awfully dirty from having so many animals in it, which is only reasonable, but I thought all the piles of dung were gross.

I also found the Noah's ark story itself a bit upsetting - particularly the bit at the beginning where alllll the animals are gathering around the ark, but Noah's only letting them on two by two so you've got, say, a bunch of elephants standing around, dolefully waiting to drown. Why do the elephants deserve to drown because humans were horrible? It seems so unfair.

It occurs to me, rather gloomily, that at this point we might see the Noah's ark story as something like a prophecy: the elephants etc. still don't deserve to suffer, but human activity is slowly killing them off anyway - not with a literal flood, but from poachers servicing the rising tide of human greed. It is often the innocents who suffer most.

This is rather gloomy, especially considering the book itself is about as cheery as a retelling of Noah's ark can be. There are all sorts of fun animal vignettes (the elephant who doesn't fit out of the ark; the flood of rabbits coming out, because the two beginning rabbits have bred a four score and seven baby bunnies), all of which is very cute.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Carl Safina’s Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, which is so good, you guys, I am resisting the urge to walk around thrusting it into people’s hands crying “Read it! Read it!”

I mean really, just look at this quote: “The three peaks in brain size on planet Earth belong to whales, elephants, and primates. Life has not selected one smartest line with humans as the be-all (though we may yet be the end-all).” THE BURN IS VISIBLE FROM SPACE.

I also really liked this one:

We’re obsessed with filling in the blank for a Mad Libs line that goes: “_____ makes us human. Why? Scratch and sniff the "what makes us human” obsession and you get a strong whiff of something that could fit into that blank: our insecurity. What we’re really saying is “Please tell us a story that distances us from all other life.” Why? Because we desperately need to believe we are not just unique - as all species are - but that we are so very special, that we are resplendent, transcendent, translucent, divinely inspired, weightlessly imbued with eternal souls. Anything less induces dread and existential panic.

What I’m Reading Now

[livejournal.com profile] littlerhymes and I have begun The Second Adventures of Nora (also known as Mates at Billabong). Norah is to be SENT AWAY TO SCHOOL, which filled me with excitement because there is nothing I want to see more than Norah playing cricket and interacting with other girls, but alas I think that if the books cover this period of her life at all, it will be in the next book, because this one is going to be all about the visit of Norah’s cousin Cecil, the lavender-wearing dandy.

I predict that by the end of the book Cecil will do something heroic, probably while wearing mud-spattered overalls (do Australian ranchers wear overalls? Something manly and completely un-dandyish, anyway), cured of his effete ways by the magic of Billabong.

What I Plan to Read Next

In the process of sorting out my book collection, I have discovered that I have a huge pile of unread books, so probably some of those.
osprey_archer: (books)
I found G. A. Bradshaw's Carnivore Minds a great disappointment. For a book that purports to be about the fact that carnivores of all kinds are not unthinking automatons but in fact have lively and variable personalities, there's very little about individual animal personality at all, and quite a bit of repetition of the fact that animal brains have lots of parallel structures with human brains. Okay already! I understood it the first five times you repeated it!

Bradshaw also, oddly, has the opposite problem as well: on the rare occasions that she does venture into characterizing an individual animal (as with Tillikum at Sea World; is it unfair to think that she uses Tillikum because the movie Blackfish already did all the heavy lifting of finding out about him?), she gets overwrought and sentimental. I think it is fair to say that we can tell that animals think and feel. It is probably going too far, at least in a nonfiction book, to describe in detail what an animal was thinking when he killed his trainer. In fact I don't think I would make that leap for a human under similar circumstances, unless of course the human told me about it afterward, because there are lots of things someone - human or animal - could be thinking or feeling in that moment and, as a non-telepath, I just don't know.

Fortunately, I recently found a wonderful book about the same topic, except a hundred times better done: Carl Safina's Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, which has lots of glorious detail about individual animal personalities and also animal social systems (I think the wolf section is particularly well done in this regard; it helps, as Safina points out, that wolves are probably as much like us as any animal on earth) - while also hewing closely to describing the actual behavior and what that behavior suggests about emotions, rather than going into florid descriptions of what Eight-Twenty must have been thinking when her sisters kicked her out of the pack.

Safina is also delightfully salty about animal intelligence researchers and in fact the whole thorny thicket of animal intelligence debates. Like this:

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher, famously said, "If a lion could talk, we wouldn't be able to understand it." Like most philosophers, he had no data. Worse, he seems not to have known any lions. Such impediments never give philosophers cause for pause. But okay. He implies that humans, at least, understand each other. But do we? Our words often fail...After all, with lions on the same plains, with both of us following the same prey and stealing each others' kills, we became human. We have a lot in common. It's not the lions' fault if some humans later became philosophers.
osprey_archer: (cheers)
It's snoooooooowing! Or rather, it was snowing earlier, and if there is one thing better than sitting inside toasty warm watching the snow fall outside the window, it is arriving home after a long drive and then being inside toasty warm watching the snow that you are no longer driving through fall.

I am back in my hometown for a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and I am planning to make chocolate muffins with peanut butter chips tonight. Back when I was in high school, I used to buy one of these at the local grocery store every Saturday - it was about a mile walk, and I would get the muffin and walk across the parking lot to the newly opened Starbucks and get a hot chocolate and eat it with my muffin.

Then the grocery store stopped selling chocolate peanut butter chip muffins, because I guess they didn't realize that that is the most perfect muffin ever and they should have sold them into perpetuity. I mourned these muffins for years before realizing that I could, in fact, make them myself - they're particularly good with the peanut butter chips studded over the top so they get just a little bit toasted in the oven.

I've also been thinking about learning how to roast my own granola, although now that I'm looking at recipes I'm no longer sure that this would, in fact, be cheaper than just buying granola at the supermarket. But on the other hand, think of all the variations you can try! Honey or maple syrup? Almonds or cashews? Almonds and cashews? And of course there are pecan possibilities for that delicious autumn flavor! (It is getting late for autumn flavor, what with the snow and all, so maybe next year for that.)

Walking

Oct. 25th, 2016 07:47 am
osprey_archer: (snapshots)
I walked to the library yesterday, which is rather a long walk and mostly alongside a busy street; but I found a couple of picturesque scenes along the way.

Like this Swing )

I also found this house, which looks like a throwback to the old days when this area must still have been farmland: here )

Mondays are my day off, so we made a rather fabulous dinner last night. For hors d'oeuvres we had slices of apples with honey and brie (I did not take a picture of these, because they were not visually very interesting, but they were delicious, highly recommended), and I also caramelized onions to put on bagel pizzas.

I caramelized only half an onion, and ended up putting all of it on the bagel pizzas. This was delicious, although it probably would have been better to caramelize a whole onion and save some for later.

The world's most loaded bagel pizza )
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain. I complained last week that I thought Bryson was getting a bit cranky, but then Brexit happened and his contention that Britain might very well be headed to hell in a handbasket seemed less cranky and more alarmingly prescient.

This is still not on my list of top Bryson books - my favorites are probably In a Sunburned Country, The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way, and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: Travels through My Childhood - but still worth reading, and very funny at times. I do love a good travel book.

Ngaio Marsh’s Black as He’s Painted starts out with the completely enchanting tale of retired diplomat’s Samuel Whipplestone’s unexpected infatuation with a house. He’s just walking along one day, feeling a bit glum, when he sees the perfect house, lit up brilliantly in the sun, and next thing you know he’s visiting the estate agent and getting to know the local butcher and adopting an adorable little black cat with a white tip on her tail.

I could have read an entire book - possibly an entire series of books - about the quiet life on Capricorn Way. But of course, this being a Marsh book, a murder had to intervene. (Not of Mr. Whipplestone or his adorable cat, I am happy to say.)

Then it got… a bit more racist than I was expecting, although I’m not sure if it’s because other Marsh books I’ve read were actually less racist, or if I’ve just become more sensitized to it; it’s been a few years since I read one of her books. So it is perhaps unfortunate that Marsh didn’t stick with Mr. Whipplestone’s Adventures in Charcuterie.

What I’m Reading Now

I’m reading Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds, because apparently I will read anything if it’s about animal intelligence. Unfortunately, at this point I’ve read so enough books about animal intelligence that there’s not much in this particular book that is new to me, but I’m a sucker for stories about crows poking things with sticks to get at a tasty treat so I will probably read the whole thing anyway.

I’m also about a quarter of the way through Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley, and there is still no one named Shirley in the book. We have met a possible heroine, however, Caroline Helstone, who I like very much.

What I Plan to Read Next

I’ve gotten a card at a new library, which conveniently has a large and varied selection of Ngaio Marsh books! I’m definitely going to read Death of a Peer (known outside the US as A Surfeit of Lampreys, but I suppose the American publishers didn’t think that sounded deathy enough); I have not yet decided which of the others I shall read. Perhaps I should start by ascertaining which of Marsh’s books I’ve already read.
osprey_archer: (books)
I found one surpassingly cool picture book today: Leslie McGuirk's If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet, which is entirely illustrated with photos of ocean-shaped rocks that McGuirk found on the Florida beach near her home. Not just rocks shaped like letters, although that's cool enough - how often do you find a rock shaped like a K? - but also rocks shaped like the objects the letters stand for: E is a rock like an elephant's head, for instance. Or O stands for ouch! - accompanied by a picture of a rock that looks like a face grimacing in pain.

And she has a unique answer to the X problem. Rather than using X-ray or xylophone, she has X stand for XOXO, and illustrates it with a rock shaped like an embracing couple - rather like a natural sculpture of Klimt's The Kiss.

The book is cute, but most of all I love to imagine the author beach-combing, walking softly along the sand to look for rocks washed into sculptures by the waves.

Crocuses!

Mar. 8th, 2016 08:06 pm
osprey_archer: (snapshots)
Spring is here! The crocuses are in bloom!

osprey_archer: (window)
[livejournal.com profile] poeticknowledge asked: What are the top 10 best films you have seen this year (or in the past year, either one)?

Oh, wow. I actually think that if I listed my top ten films this year, I might end up listing every film I’ve seen, because I haven’t seen that many. I tend to watch more TV than movies, probably because I’m already invested in the characters.

...Okay, I actually went and did a count, and in fact I saw seventeen movies this year, seven of which I already posted about, so this is clearly a providential opportunity to post about the other ten.

This got long. Short reviews of Wreck-It Ralph, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Electric Horseman, Inside Daisy Clover, Rebel without a Cause, Snowpiercer, Blackfish, The Hot Rock, Antman, The Incredible Hulk, and Mosquita y Mari follow )

In short, here are my movie recs from the things I watched this year.

For something funny and light, I’d recommend Night at the Museum 3.

For something that will make you sob like a baby even as you delight in its clever world-building, Inside Out. Blackfish is also quite sad, although in a very different way.

For tense and cynical with a tough, complicated heroine, Inside Daisy Clover or Fried Green Tomatoes. (Fried Green Tomatoes also has some delightfully light-hearted and funny moments. Inside Daisy Clover is pretty much 100% intensity, all the time.)

For tense but uplifting (with great scenery), The Martian.

I don’t think I’d anti-rec anything I saw this year, but the others are all flawed in some way that means I wouldn’t rec them unreservedly.
osprey_archer: (cheers)
For [livejournal.com profile] greenet: 5 things you really like about summer! Or winter! you can pick whichever one most appeals. :)

(All the seasons appeal. All of them. But I am just going to do summer for now.)

1. Ice cream. I mean, I like ice cream during all seasons of the year, but it’s best in the summer when you can walk to the ice cream parlor and eat the ice cream on the walk back and it’s a race against time to see who will finish the ice cream first: you or the sun…

However, I don’t particularly appreciate it when the sun actually tries to win.

2. Long summer evenings. It’s so lovely to be able to take a walk after dinner, and it’s still light out, and the sun takes a long, long time setting.

3. Fresh peaches - when you walk into a supermarket and can smell the peaches from the door, when they’re rich and aromatic and soft enough that they give, just a little, when you press your thumb against their furry sides.

4. Daylilies. Bright orange and tall enough to waver in the breeze.

5. Fireflies.
osprey_archer: (cheers)
Happy Fourth of July to my American friends! And everyone else, have a nice lowercase fourth too.

Last night I was lying on the couch reading, and a flash of light caught my eye; and I looked up, and there was a firefly, hovering above the easy chair. I caught it and took it back outside.

I suppose a firefly could slip inside as easily as any other bug; but I've never seen one indoors before. It seemed like a little bit of magic.

Spring!

Mar. 9th, 2015 01:48 pm
osprey_archer: (window)
The sun is shining, the snow is melting, the day is warm! Spring is here!

Spring will almost certainly leave again, possibly in yet another snowstorm, but I'm enjoying the warmth while it lasts.

It is perfect ice cream weather, and as incentive I have placed myself on Ice Cream Interdict: no ice cream until I get a story done. Presumably this will kick my ass in gear on the next Chevalier story.
osprey_archer: (food)
Can it be that this cruel winter might finally, haltingly, draw to a close? I saw the first crocuses of spring today.

Crocuses )

I've been selling off my old academic books with the help of my friend Paula, and as we were attending a ballet together this evening, we decided we should spend the proceeds on a delicious, delicious pre-ballet meal.

The mussels were tasty. The pizzetta with gorgonzola and prosciutto and honey was great. But at the end of the meal, we got chocolate pecan caramel pie a la mode, and it was...well.

It looked like this )

Photographs

Mar. 6th, 2014 08:16 am
osprey_archer: (snapshots)
It's been a long, hard winter, but during the intermittent snow melts, I've taken a few walks and a few more photographs.

The stream winds through the golden grass...

DSCN3297

And a couple of photos of the Well House, an odd little stone gazebo on the edge of the woods. In the late afternoon - and, I imagine, at dawn - the view seems enchanted, as if the arched windows are a gateway into fairyland.

The Well House )

Lights Out

Nov. 18th, 2013 09:24 am
osprey_archer: (nature)
Greetings, gentle LJers! Things have been most exciting here! The power is still out at home, so I came to Starbucks to get my daily dose of internet and also a working heater.

I came back to my hometown this weekend to see a Yo Yo Ma concert with my mother, but ALAS, we arrived at the theater contemporaneously with a tornado warning, so they herded us into the catacombs beneath the theater, through which we dispersed as more and more people crowded down.

AND THEN THE POWER WENT OUT. Utter blackness.

And then everyone got out their cell phones and bathed everything in a blue and spectral glow.

Sadly, the concert was canceled, but tromping about in the bowels of the theater was kind of awesome, and I think it could be the beginning of a great story. Young Margaretta goes to the newly reopened repertory theater to watch something Shakespearian, only to have the performance interrupted by a tornado warning. The audience (rather sparser than the Yo Yo Ma audience) troops into the basement, where curious Margaretta drifts away from the group, gets lost, and finds...

The ghost of a long-dead actor? Costumes that make you time travel when you put them on? Decisions, decisions!

So we went home, and then later that evening the lights went out there, too. So I ended the evening reading Sutcliff by candlelight.
osprey_archer: (nature)
As part of my quest to watch all the Disney movies, I watched The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh yesterday, which left little impression aside from my sudden strong sympathy with Rabbit. I never cared much for Rabbit as a kid - Rabbit is a fussbudget - but watching it now, Rabbit has spent months working on his garden and he’s just bringing it in for the harvest and Tigger bounces in and spoils everything.

And he never even apologizes! Even though they will clearly go hungry now that the food is all ruined! No wonder Rabbit wants vengeance.

Oh, and I liked the animation style: the book illustrations that come to life. Who hasn’t wanted to see book illustrations do that?

***

In other news: SNOOOOOOOOOOOW! Actually, we do not have enough snow to justify quite so many Os; it’s just a dusting on the trees and grass (and, of course, my car). But still, the first snow of the season!
osprey_archer: (nature)
I've been trying to get proper photos of the leaves for ages now. I'd almost given up; I was sure the rain would wash the leaves away before I got them.

But today, when I left my apartment, the every picture I took seemed to be perfect. The sun and the leaves did all the work.

Silhouettes under the golden trees )

Shadows )

Profile

osprey_archer: (Default)
osprey_archer

July 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
2 34 5 6 78
910 11 12 13 14 15
1617 18 19202122
2324 2526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 26th, 2017 02:44 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios