Reading Report: Late January 2022

I finished two books in January: House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune and The Walker in Shadows by Barbara Michaels.

I am currently reading The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexander Bracken.

February is Black History Month, and I have selected What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler to read next. Yes, it might be better if I tried to discover a new author instead of returning to Butler’s work, but I wanted to read the sequel to Parable of the Sower, and this seemed like a good time for it.

Posted in Reading | Leave a comment

Forgotten Pictures of 2021: Nature’s Ways

Nature’s Googly Eyes
Holy Grail of the Woods
Pretty Little Hitchhiker
The Chippy Trifecta
Almost Alien
Nature gave Staggy a cap…
And stuck a feather in it.
Posted in Local Flora and Fauna | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Forgotten Pictures of 2021: Bugs

Beautiful & Terrifying
Lunchtime for Ants
The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of
The Birds, and the Bees,
and Oh My, the Flies
Such Wings!
Posted in Local Flora and Fauna | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Forgotten Pictures of 2021: Before & After

Snail Before
Snail After
(Not really the same snail, of course, but this bleached shell is just as beautiful in its own way as the one on the live snail in the picture above)
Bug Before
Bug After
(Don’t worry–it was just playing dead.)
Posted in Local Flora and Fauna | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Forgotten Pictures of 2021: Frogs

Frog camouflage never ceases to amaze me. This frog was the perfect shade of gray for blending in with tree bark. And check out its foot, so perfect for grasping branches. Wow. I’m no expert on frogs, but it was gray and holding on to a tree branch, so I’m guessing it was a gray tree frog.
This frog was hanging out on the threshold of our front door. Though it looks different from the one in the picture above, it may also have been a gray tree frog. According to the National Zoo, the “gray tree frog’s color changes in response to its environment and activities, and can range from green to gray or brown.” This picture was taken in May, which for this frog was probably mating time. Not in my house, frog! (You wouldn’t think frogs would be interested in going into people’s homes, but over the years we have found several of them in our house–some alive, and some regrettably not.)
Here is one with leaflike camouflage. The camouflage works really well. It’s only the telltale body shape that gives this frog away.
Here’s another well-camouflaged frog. It has a noticeable dark marking across its eye, so it is perhaps a wood frog.
I remember this toad. It would not stay still. I pursued it with my camera for a little while, but I gave up before getting a really good shot, because I didn’t want to stress it out. I figure that small creatures such as this are used to being chased, so it’s OK to follow them for a bit, but they must be allowed to escape before they get worn out or really panicky.
This toad didn’t want its picture taken either. What a baleful look it gave me!
Posted in Local Flora and Fauna | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Funny Translations

I found an unpublished post from 2015 in my drafts folder. I can’t believe that it sat there so long. It’s still funny, and for me it’s also nostalgic, so I’ve decided to publish it now.

My son wanted some dominoes for vacation, probably because he remembers setting up cascading dominoes with his cousin Colby last year. So, at his Grammie’s request, I bought a big box of them before we went. I picked the Click n’ Play brand, because they seemed like they were a good size, and the price was right.

I’m happy with the product, and I would buy them again. But the best part, for me, is the writing on the box. Here are the highlights.

  • Dominoes are one kind of game, one kind of movement, also one kind of culture.
  • Its game rule is simple, the dominoes according to certain spacing becomes the single line, or the branch platoon becomes ground.
  • Sound of the dominoes hit, clear delightfully.
  • Warning: Please don’t mutually throw the toy.

P.S. 1/16/2022: We still have this set of dominoes, which we keep in the drawstring bag that came with it. The kids have been pretty good about not mutually throwing the toy, but they’re still really bad at putting the dominoes away. Just the other day I accidentally stepped on the whole bag of dominoes, which the children had left right next to my piano. Perhaps the manufacturer should add an instruction on how to put the game away after playtime is over!

Posted in Crazy Me | Leave a comment

English Is So Weird

One of the things I love about the English language is how interrelated so many of its words are. For example, when I was looking up the meaning of “kenspeckle” (a Scots word that means “well-known” or “conspicuous”), I was curious if the “speck” part was related to “spectacle.” I didn’t find a definitive answer, but my research led me to realize that there is a whole series of spec/spic words in English that all come from the same Latin root: special, species, specimen, spectacle, spectrum, speculate, inspect, prospect, suspect, perspective, perspicuous, conspicuous, etc. It blew my mind.

Later, as I was writing the word “incorporate” I realized that the meaning of it was probably literally “to add into a body.” That turned out to be true. For a word so obviously derived from Latin, you can make an intuitive leap with some confidence that you’re right.

But English gets its words from so many sources that it’s especially tricky. One day, as I was writing the word “bully,” I wondered if it might mean literally “like a bull.” Wouldn’t that make so much sense? But, according to Merriam-Webster, “The earliest meaning of English bully was ‘sweetheart.’ The word was probably borrowed from Dutch boel, ‘lover.'” The word then went through a series of transformations that took it from referring to a “good fellow” to a “blustering daredevil” to its current meany-pants definition. I never would have or could have guessed that.

English pronunciations are tricky, too. A recent discussion about how to pronounce the last name “Hough” (usually “huff,” but sometimes “how”) made me consider how many ways there are in English to pronounce “-ough.” There are more even than I had realized. My favorite case is the word “slough,” which rhymes with “cuff,” “cow,” or “coo,” depending on how it’s used. Though I never use the word to describe a swampy area, it always reminds me of the “Slough of Despond,” which I learned about in high school.

Posted in Crazy Me, Interesting words, Reading | Leave a comment

SITY: Points of View

In January of last year I showed you a picture of an ant farming aphids on a maple-leaved viburnum. That picture had been taken in the late summer or early fall of the previous year. During the spring of last year, I found more little insect farmers.

Big Ants Farming Aphids on Maple-Leaved Viburnum
The plant hadn’t even quite bloomed yet.

During the summer I found some smaller ants farming aphids on a jewelweed leaf.

Little Ants Farming Aphids on a Jewelweed Leaf

I learned a few things from these discoveries. One thing is that the ants start farming early in the year, before the plants even bloom. Another is that we have at least two types of farming ants and at least two types of plants that make good aphid farms.

Finding these hidden farms was also a reminder that there’s a lot going on in this world that we don’t see because our points of view are so limited. I only spotted the farm on the viburnum because I happened to be looking at the plant from the side rather than above. I saw the aphids on the jewelweed because the leaf was twisted so that the underside faced upward. Otherwise, I’d never have realized that the farm was there. If we want to have a full understanding and appreciation of this world, we need to look at things from many different angles.

Posted in Crazy Me, Local Flora and Fauna | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How I Met My Book: Part IV

Previously in How I Met My Book I told you about some of my hand-me-downs, unexpected loaners, and permanently “borrowed” books. This time I want to tell you about my treasure trove of old paperbacks. I keep most of them behind another row of books, not because I’m trying to hide them, but because that’s where they fit. My husband often comments on my ability to pack books into boxes and onto shelves with very little wasted space. It would seem an odd gift for someone like myself, who typically struggles with spacial puzzles and tasks. That’s because it’s not a gift, but rather a skill developed over a lifetime of having more books than shelves. When you have inadequate storage space for your books, you learn to organize them not by genre, author, color, or any other such nonsense, but rather by size. You squeeze them in, layer them up, and stack them horizontally, even diagonally, if need be. You learn to use every square inch of shelving.

Revealed: Hidden Trove of Paperbacks

Though I don’t hide these books deliberately, some would say I have reason to. They’re a shabby lot, mostly genre fiction. Many of them look and smell very old, pages all brown and spotty, covers crumbling, spines cracking. Some of them are almost bizarre in that the prices on their covers no longer resemble normal prices.

OMG, the prices on these books! What can you even buy these days for 35 or 45 cents?

As a general rule, I prefer hardcovers to paperbacks. Paperbacks are great, though, when you don’t have a lot of room, and they’re ideal for a collection of Agatha Christie novels. She wrote a lot of books, and I own a lot of them. I wouldn’t be able to keep such a large collection if they were all hardcover. But, the reason that I prefer hardcovers is that they’re more durable, and indeed, some of these paperbacks aren’t holding up so well. The pages of Crooked House, for example, are falling out. I won’t be able to read the book again unless I can find a way to repair it.

As to how I met these books, I can’t tell you where each one came from, but a lot of them came from tag sales. I used to love shopping for books at tag sales. When I was a kid, books were so much more difficult to get. New books were too pricey. Used books were often hard to find, and though they were cheaper, they weren’t cheap. Tag sale books were wonderfully affordable, though, and much more readily available. During the summer it seemed like someone was always having a tag sale somewhere nearby.

Tag sale books were a great deal of fun to look through, if a little scary sometimes. The trouble with books is that they are so common and cluttery, not to mention hard to store, that they end up everywhere, including places where they don’t really belong, like basements. Wherever books go, they are bound to absorb elements of their surroundings–food, water, dust, mold, insects, perfume, cigarette smoke, and other alarming smells–and while it is interesting, this way in which books incorporate their history, it is not always pleasant. But, for those intrepid souls with the spirit of treasure seeking, and greedy for new reading material, nothing was more fun than digging into a box of dusty old books. You just never knew what treasure you might find.

I have read all of the books in my hidden trove, and will probably read most of them again. But I think the reason I love these books is that, more than anything else, they speak of that time in my life when all the books were “new to me” and it was such a joy just to find them and be able to bring them home with me. Now I can afford to buy new books, and I can buy them from all over the world, at any time of day or night. And while that is fantastic in its own way, it does take away a tiny bit of the magic of ownership. We love most those things that we have had to struggle for. Some of my books are treasures, not because of any intrinsic value, but simply because I found them while hunting for treasure.

Posted in Crazy Me, Reading | Leave a comment

Twitter Asked…

Twitter asked, “What’s your best advice for young adults?”

My best advice for young adults is to find a way to forgive yourself for your mistakes. This might not seem like a pressing issue when you’re young, but as you grow older and your mistakes accrue, it can become one. The sooner you learn to deal with guilt and regret, the better off you’ll be.

First, remember that everyone makes mistakes. “Life is so easy and all the answers are so obvious!” said no human ever. Forge a path to forgiveness and keep it open. Formalize or ritualize the process, if necessary. Focus on fixing the mistakes that you can, making amends where possible, and taking whatever life lessons you can learn from those mistakes. Then let the mistakes and all of their attendant feelings go–officially and permanently–and never allow anyone to continue to beat you up over them, not even yourself. And last, do the same for other people. Forgive them, and do what you can to help them along their path to redemption. A society that doesn’t foster redemption not only creates unhappy people but also gives its worst offenders no incentive to do better. Life will never be easy, but it can be made to be less difficult if we all work to make it that way.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment