Friday, February 16, 2018

Great Backyard Bird Count

This is the first year I am participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count. My view is pictured in the photo of my blog header and I can look out over my patio, as well as birdfeeders in two other places easily seen. In fact sitting here typing, I can see shadows of birds as they fly to one of my feeders. With those views I have little excuse and more than plenty of reasons to join in the fun.

All of the data is used to help answer questions such as those listed on the GBBC website:

• How will the weather and climate change influence bird populations?
• Some birds, such as winter finches, appear in large numbers during some years but not others. Where are these species from year to year, and what can we learn from these patterns?
• How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
• How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
• What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?

Also, here is a map that show, in real-time, lists being submitted all over the world.

For me, it is simply a time to sit still, watch, and let the wonder of birds take me over for a short time. I always come away with a sense of awe at their beauty and diversity, and that awe always leads to worship and gratitude.

I'll be listing my observations for the next few days and if you want to join. Click on the link above for more details. In as little as fifteen minutes for one day you can participate ( in that short amount of time I saw 2 of the beauties pictured above) and add to our understanding of these remarkable creatures.

Observations for February 16, 2018

Species Count
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) 1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 2
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 2
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 1
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) 2
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) 1
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) 1
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) 3
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 10
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 2
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) 1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 1
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 2
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) 20
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) 4
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 2
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) 1
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 1

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Loose strings and tight knots

The year is coming to a close and I am tying up a few loose strings and untying a few knots. One loose string is posting my reviews of some of the books I have read this year. So here are a fair number of them. As I look over this list, two stand out. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life and Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

I plan to use Liturgy of the Ordinary, along with a few other sources, to set up practices and disciplines that I hope will help me in attending to my faith in a more consistent pattern which I hope will begin to develop practices I can use throughout my life to shape my life and faith and remind me of the very Good God, who loves me.

Hidden Figures. What an incredibly inspiring book to read at this time in history. Women who took advantage of every opportunity, dealt with racial and gender discrimination with character, poise, and determination, and did it all while enjoy and appreciating the good that life has to offer. A lesson I hope to take with me into this new year and use as wisely as they did.

I would be interested in hearing what others have read this year and what you would recommend as well.

A Grief Observed

Listened to this while driving during a trip. Lewis, honest and raw, shows us the value of wrestling with doubts, fears, and overwhelming emotions that threaten to sink us at times. While a book primarily about his grief from losing his wife, I found parts of it invaluable in dealing with other losses. Narrator is Ralph Cosham.

A Christmas Carol
This is the edition that I listened to this year. Well done!

To Be Where You Are (Mitford Years #14)

The title says it all. Be all in where you are, with those you are with. No flash, no spin, just live the quiet life with joy.

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place

Finished this awhile back. What I appreciate most about Andy Crouch's writings is his ability to frame questions about the issues of the time we live in. Asking the proper questions, and knowing how to do that, is crucial to our ability to then think well about those issues. He does so in this his latest work and I found myself making some changes to how I approach and use technology. It was also a pleasure to attend his talk on this subject in my local city. His fleshing out (literally...we participated in some of the activities presented in the book) added to the book and I do wish he would continue to present in that manner.

The Grace of Dogs: A Boy, a Black Lab, and a Father's Search for the Canine Soul

Thoughtful, engaging book on the shaping influence relationships with dogs can have on their owners. I could see better how my dog, Samwise, has shaped me for the better because of his patient faithfulness to me.
Update: after entering quotes into my commonplace book, I realize this book, in many ways, is also a theological anthropology. He presents a view of man and his ways of relating based in imago Dei. Setting aside the book for a short time before I entered quotes allowed me to realize how subtly this book has challenged me to examine beliefs that I truly hold to that may or may not be rooted in a sound theology or that I thought I held to but in practice have failed miserable. This has been both a pleasant surprise and a rude awakening.

The Confusion of Languages

More to come later. This is a remarkable book on several levels. Her characters are well portrayed, especially their interior life. Her exploration of how our thoughts can provide motivation for our emotions and actions, and vice versa, the way language (especially defintions) can influence those, and the enormous effort it takes to recognize it all has left me mulling over this work.

Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South

After watching a few of her episodes of A Chef's Life, I borrowed her cookbook from the library. She is a storyteller. I enjoyed reading more of her experiences as she came to enjoy and appreciate her East Carolina roots, food, family, and traditions. Gathered recipes to try and continued to enjoy this twist on cookbooks that serve up good food and incorporate storytelling in the mix.

Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors

This is a remarkable book. President George W. Bush fills this book with portraits he painted of wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He highlights the individual stories of those soldiers included in the book using his plain-spoken style and occasional dry wit he is known for. One more note, many of those whose stories are include here speak of their healing being a life-long journey they have embraced. Most cite the love of family, faith, medical care, and exercise as key components in their recovery. And as the author mentions several times the soldiers courage played no small part as well. Think this will be my Dad's Birthday present this year.

How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life

I read this out of curiosity about the trend of hygge. An interesting peek into Nordic lifestyle. However, from this author's representation, nothing that I haven't read before from Charlotte Mason, Edith Schaeffer, Amish officiandos, etc. At the core is a lifestyle centered around keeping simple the activities of nature and outdoor living , food and hospitality, family and friends with an eye to enjoyment of the good gifts of life.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

As someone who grew up during the early stages of the space race, I was enamored with all things NASA. So much so that the first thing that I ever earned money for was a book produced by the Gulf Oil company about the Apollo 13 space mission. I remember going with my dad to get the book from Bubba McCoy's gas station one morning before school and it was worth every penny. I wonder what happened to that book. So it's no surprise that I enjoyed this well-written, well-researched account of the role of African American women in NACA AND NASA. It was captivating. The author writes in the style of David McCullough and easily kept my interest. These women succeeded facing all manner of prejudices and other odds against them not just because of their intelligence and tenacity but due to a sense of accomplishing something bigger than themselves. And they loved mathematics, who would argue with that?

Barbara Bush: A Memoir

I loved reading her memories and thoughts about so much of the history that I remember. She is a remarkable woman who clearly loved and served with all she has. This was the third year in a row that I read about the Bush family and this coming year will be no exception. Decision Points by her son is waiting in the stacks for the 2018 New Year's Day.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life

This will easily be one of my top 5 books of the year. A much needed, well written apology and description of the ways liturgy can shape us as the people of God if given both the mental and willful assent that we often subconsciously give to the other habits. Recommended by James K. A. Smith, whose _You Are What You Love_ and Cultural Liturgies trilogy I hope to finish this year.

The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

Thanks to the audio version, traveling and cleaning this week were not tedious and I was able to finish this quickly. The story and narrator easily kept my interest. She tells her story with an eye to both the beauty and corruption of human nature. Her's is a story of perseverance. more to come later

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

This is a yearly re-read for me. I can take it slow and enjoy the writing, which is satisfying.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love

Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love by Katherine Wolf
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A poignant tale from a couple who have faced great suffering and have learned to walk in it because of the faith and trust they have chosen to place in God who wounds and gives life out of that suffering. Highly recommended.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

One of my favorites

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

This Place

This place I can stop for awhile 
bluebirds' visits
during winter's barrenness; 
storms roll in, 
and through;
pastures green 
from spring's storms 
threaten life; 
another day's sun 
in the west.

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