Monthly Archives: December 2021

Pigs

Josh, Abba, Dorothy, and Friends

Josh, Abba, Dorothy, and Friends

Abba and Josh flew down today to spend a long weekend here. Sadly Cathy had to work late this evening but Dorothy, Josh, Abba, and I drove out to Rocklands. Abba’s been there before but Josh had not. They were closed but since Dorothy is on the payroll (and is almost family) we went to see the animals. Dorothy isn’t crazy about the pigs, at least not when there isn’t a fence between her and them, but I’m a little more bold, as you can see from where I’m taking this photo. We also enjoyed a beautiful Poolesville sunset before heading back home.

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Josh and Abba

Josh and Abba

Josh and Abba

As mentioned yesterday, Abba and Josh came for a short visit. Josh, in particular, enjoyed my various three-dimensional puzzles. We have two copies of this one, with six identical pieces each and the two of them worked on it for a while. This was not the one that gave him the most frustration but as with anything of this sort, finally figuring it out can be very satisfying. The one that really occupied him was two crossed pieces and a square piece held in the intersection of the two (a bit hard to describe, actually). But he finally got that one taken apart, as well.

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Abba and Josh

Abba and Josh

Abba and Josh

We spent much of today downtown with Dorothy, Abba, and Josh. We went first to the American Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum, housed in the same building between 7th and 9th streets in northwest Washington. We wondered through most of the museum and wore ourselves out pretty well. We had a late lunch and then drove to Constitution Avenue and parked around 21st Street. From there we walked to the Lincoln Memorial.

The sun was setting across the river and the light on the Washington Monument was really nice. I got a few nice pictures of that but my favorite was this one of Abba and Josh, on the west side (rear) of the Lincoln Memorial, lit by the setting sun. After we returned to the front of the memorial we watched a woman who was clearly waiting to photograph a proposal, anxious on her behalf at the couple’s delay. The scene and frankly our enjoyment of the evening was somewhat marred by a demonstration by a far left, National Socialist, neo-Nazi group. I won’t give them any press, because they deserve to be unknown. I did take pictures, of course, but won’t share those.

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Rose Leaves

Rose Leaves

Rose Leaves

Abba and Josh are still in town but only stayed with us through yesterday, so life returned to normal (or as close to normal as we can get. Cathy and I went to the Ag. Farm Park after church and took a nice walk around two large fields. This time of year is challenging in terms of photography.Colors are generally less extreme with the exception of berries and other late-season fruits. I photograph those fairly often but I don’t want to post the same type pictures too often. There are still a few plants with leaf color. I really love the colors of these rose leaves.

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Francis Scott Key Bridge

Francis Scott Key Bridge

Francis Scott Key Bridge

I drove to White Marsh, north of Baltimore this morning on an extended errand. Cathy was working all morning so I thought I’d add a little photography to my return trip. I stopped at North Point State Park with it’s stone breakwater extending well out into the Chesapeake Bay. I also walked part of the wetland trail but it was pretty quiet, without even many birds. I might return in the spring or summer and walk their Black Marsh Trail, which looks promising. Then I drove across the Francis Scott Key Bridge and found a good vantage for photographs at Fort Armistead Park (which doesn’t have much to recommend it, frankly). The FSK isn’t the biggest or most impressive bridge in the area, but it’s a pretty big thing.

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Celastrus orbiculatus (Asian Bittersweet)

Celastrus orbiculatus (Asian Bittersweet)

Celastrus orbiculatus (Asian Bittersweet)

Cathy and I went for another walk after church today (that’s pretty common, as you might have noticed). This time we went to the Blue Mash Trail on Zion Road behind the Laytonsville land fill. I didn’t take many pictures and most of them were of Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) as in this photo. I particularly like this picture because of the added color of the juniper (most likely eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana). We have a native bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) but I’ll confess that I could not readily differentiate between the two, basically assuming that anything we see is the more aggressive C. orbiculatus.

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Leaning Trees

Leaning Trees

Leaning Trees

Cathy asked me to look at these trees in our back yard and wondered if they’ve always leaned like that. No, that’s new. There is a hole in the ground to the left of them, but that’s been there since before we moved in, more than 15 years ago. The trees are not straight but they seem at least reasonably healthy. Nevertheless, they have started to lean and their roots are pulling up a large mound of earth. If they were to fall they would not hit the house but it’s quite likely they would hit our back fence. Not the end of the world but it’s a hassle we’d just as soon avoid. So, I called a couple tree services to get estimates.

Of course, the fact that they are part way down will tend to make the estimates a little higher, because of the danger of them falling while they are being worked on. At least the fact that nothing will drop on the house works in our favor. But it’s a bigger job than I can handle safely and the trees really do need to come down.

Stay tuned…

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Sinuous Vines

Sinuous Vines

Sinuous Vines

Coleridge, in his poem Kubla Khan, mentions “gardens bright with sinuous rills.” That came to mind today as we were walking the circuit around Lake Frank. I know that rills are not vines, but that’s what came to mind, anyway. Sue me. The Lake Frank area isn’t exactly “twice five miles of fertile ground, with walls and towers … girdled round.” Nor, this time of year, “blossomed many an incense-bearing tree.” Nevertheless, we found the walk quite enjoyable (and probably preferable to “caverns measureless to man; down to a sunless sea”). Also, I doubt Coleridge had poison ivy in mind when he spoke of the gardens of the Khan’s pleasure dome.

We did see quite a bit of recent damage done by beavers and also found the beaver lodge. We had a good look at the bald eagle nest, although there was no sign of any eagles today. Hopefully they will use it again this year. All in all, a very nice day for a walk.

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Flower Valley Santa

Flower Valley Santa

Flower Valley Santa

We were out for much of the day and when we got home we remembered that this was the night that Santa rides through Flower Valley in his ‘sleigh’. Fortunately we weren’t too late to catch his visit. Some of our neighbors had put out snacks and such and a lot of the neighbors from our block were already there with their kids, waiting for the big man’s arrival. I took a few pictures, as I usually do, and got a fairly decent one, balancing the flash with the lights from Santa’s sleigh.

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Tree Cutting

Tree Cutting

Tree Cutting

As mentioned about a week ago (see Tuesday, December 14, 2021), these two trees are leaning and needed to be taken down. I got two quotes which were not vastly different. That made it a little harder to pick the company that would do the work because I couldn’t simply say, “these guys were a lot cheaper.” I basically flipped a coin in my head. The company I picked could do the work fairly soon as they were coming to do some work next door today and could get both that and our work done in the same day. Certainly a plus. I took some photos of the work being done, including 11 pictures taken in the two seconds or so that this branch took to fall to the ground.

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Ice Runes

Ice Runes

Ice Runes

Although it’s winter and in spite of the fact that there is ice on this sheltered spot on the creek, it was in the 60s today. Very mild and a great day for a walk in the woods. I love these ice crystals. I’m reading a book of essays written by (actually, talks given by) J. R. R. Tolkien. They are to a large extent, about language and if you know anything about him you won’t be surprised that they dealt a fair amount with Old English (a.k.a. Anglo-Saxon). These ice crystals made me think about ancient runes and that may be in part because of the book. I really don’t know.

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Christmas

Christmas

Christmas

It’s Christmas. This year, like last year, Christmas has been attacked by Covid-19 (a.k.a. the Wuhan Flu). Last year was really quite bad, with our larger family get-together being replaced by a Zoom meeting. It really wasn’t what it should be. This year things are at least a little better, although they are worse than they looked like they would be even a month ago. With what appears to be a much more easily transmitted (although apparently much less severe) strain on the loose, we decided we should all self-administer antigen tests before we got together. Thankfully we were 16 for 16 negatives and no one had to stay home. Annoying but much better than last year.

As usual, we had our immediate family Christmas (just Cathy, her mom, Dorothy, and me) at our house. That included a large breakfast and then some presents from under the tree. Then we went to Dorothy’s house for the extended gathering. All of her housemates were out of town, so we were able to enjoy their large house and it all worked out quite well. Hectic but nice. And certainly better than last year.

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Cathy, Dorothy, and Henry

Cathy, Dorothy, and Henry

Cathy, Dorothy, and Henry

It’s a little surprising, considering how many pictures I take, that we don’t have a lot of pictures of the three of us. A bit part of it is that we either need a tripod set up or we need someone else to actually take the picture. Neither happens regularly. We do set up the tripod for larger family photos sometimes but by the time we’ve taken the big group photo no one wants to sit for more. In this case, George took the pictures for us. I’m not crazy about pictures of myself, but at least with the weight I’ve lost recently I don’t hate them quite so much. This one is actually pretty decent.

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Dorothy and Lexi

Dorothy and Lexi

Dorothy and Lexi

We went over to see Cathy’s best friend Jean and her daughter (our goddaughter) Lexi this evening. We were especially glad to get a chance to finally meet Lexi’s fiancé, Zach. He was down from New York for Christmas so we planned an evening together. We couldn’t be happier for them both. I fixed panang curry and rice and we spent the evening laughing and telling stories. There were a few presents exchanged but mostly it was presence, not presents. I took pictures with my new camera and like this one of Dorothy and Lexi. I took a few of Lexi with Zach, too but decided to go with this one for now.

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Cathy

Cathy

Cathy

Last year I posted my final photo-a-day photo after ten years of taking at least one picture every day. That photo, like the first ten years earlier, was of Cathy on a walk we took on the North Branch Rock Creek, leaning against a large sycamore tree. We actually took the same walk today, a year later. The Kengla trail runs from the Kengla House, which is across the street from the entrance to Meadowside Nature Center, north to and under the Intercounty Connector (the ICC, MD 200). There it meets the Rock Creek trail, which crosses the creek. We took the right hand side—we didn’t cross the creek—and followed that up a side creek past a large drainage pond to the Norbeck Meadows Neighborhood Park, between Valley Forge Drive and Custis Drive, both off of George Washington Drive, a little further than we went on last year’s walk. It’s a nice walk and fairly easy.

Cathy

Cathy

Our favorite spot is a small side creek that has two, very large sycamores growing on the bank, with the creek going between them. The photo of Cathy I posted on December 31 last year was taken there and took a few more of her there again today. The first of them is Cathy just above where the two trees are and the second is standing next to the tree on the southern side of the small creek. I’m pretty pleased with them both.

This year has been a challenge and I don’t think I need to elaborate on why. The restrictions imposed in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic have become quite tiresome. We continue to work mostly from home, although we both go to the office now and then. I try to shop for groceries early on Sunday morning when the store is least crowded (not least because I simply dislike crowds). We have tried to get out and walk as much as possible and did that most weekends. We also managed to get away for a few days, as you may remember from early October. We’re surviving, obviously, but there are times when we just want to take a break from it all. Nevertheless, we continue to soldier on as best we can. Here’s to a better year in 2022.

God bless you all.

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My 2021 Reading

My 2021 Reading

My 2021 Reading

As the year started I had four fairly substantial books that I wanted to read this year. They were The Faerie Queene (1,043 pages), Don Quixote (957 pages), The City of God (1,142 pages), and The Bible. I’ve read the Bible straight through in its entirety a few times before but wanted to read in a different version, the relatively new English Standard Version (ESV), published in 2001 by Crossway. The copy I have, a study Bible, runs 2,091 pages of actual Biblical text, although to be fair, the pages probably average somewhere in the range of 40% to 50% notes. Nevertheless, even without notes it’s a fairly long book and I got through it in 25 days. Are these all ‘Lifetime Achievement Books’? I don’t know, but they are significant, anyway.

I had a few other books in my ‘to-read’ pile and of course we went to our two favorite used book stores a few times throughout the course of the year. As you can see from the photo and the list below, I got through quite a varied collection. I’m presenting the list differently this year. I’ve put the information in a table that can be sorted by the order I read them (the default order), or by title, author, or date published. If you are interested in comparing this to last year, I’ve updated last year’s post, putting the list of books into a table similar to this one.

My 2021 Reading

My 2021 Reading

Note about dates: If the work was written over a period of years, sorting by date will use the latest date. The most notable example is the Bible, written over a period of about 1,500 years. It is listed as though it were published in A.D. 96 (the latest accepted date for the writing of the Book of Revelation). Also, I only label dates with B.C. or A.D. if they are earlier than A.D. 1000. All unlabeled dates are A.D.

I have a stack of 27 books waiting to be read starting in the new year (a.k.a. tomorrow). That includes a few larger works, such as General Sherman’s Memoirs, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, and a book of poetry and prose by John Milton (including Paradise Lost), and the other two volumes of Livy (The War with Hannibal and Rome and the Mediterranean. I also want to read six or so more plays by Shakespeare in my hopes to read all 39 of them (I’ve read 14 so far).

Order   
Read   
Title Author Date    Notes
1 The Faerie Queene Spenser, Edmund (circa 1552 – January 13, 1599) written in 1590 and 1596 This is a longish book and the spellings are archaic, which made it fairly slow going. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
2 Mr. Midshipman Hornblower Forester, C. S. (August 27, 1899 – April 2, 1966) 1950
3 How to Make Your Money Last Quinn, Jane Bryant (born February 5, 1939) 2016
4 Life’s Little Ironies Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) 1927 This collection of short stories was originally published in 1894, and republished in 1927 with a slightly different collection of stories. I have and read the 1927 version.
5 Don Quixote Cervantes, Miguel de (September 29, 1547 – April 22, 1616) 1605 and 1615
6 The Island of the Day Before Eco, Umberto (January 5, 1932 – February 19, 2016) 1994 Translated into English in 1995
7 The Abolition of Man Lewis, C. S. (November 29, 1898 – November 22, 1963) 1947
8 An Act of Courage Mallinson, Allan (born February 6, 1949) 2005 This is the seventh Matthew Hervey story, set mostly in the Iberian penensula.
9 The Mayor of Casterbridge Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) 1886 Subtitled The Life and Death of a Man of Character
10 Escape from Camp 14 Dong-hyuk, Shin (born November 19, 1982 or 1980) and Journalist Blaine Harden (born 1952) 2012 Subtitled One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West
11 The Island of Doctor Moreau Wells, H. G. (September 21, 1866 – August 13, 1946) 1896
12 Middlemarch Eliot, George (a.k.a. Mary Ann Evans, November 22, 1819 – December 22, 1880) 1871 and 1872
13 The Time Machine Wells, H. G. (September 21, 1866 – August 13, 1946) 1895
14 The Bible English Standard Version (ESV) sometime before 1400 B.C. through somewhere around A.D. 96 Published in 2001 by Crossway
15 Around The World In 80 Days Verne, Jules (February 8, 1828 – March 24, 1905) English translation published in 1873
16 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Twain, Mark (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens, November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910) 1876
17 The Invisible Man Wells, H. G. (September 21, 1866 – August 13, 1946) 1897
18 As I Lay Dying Faulkner, William (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) 1930
19 Richard II Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) probably 1595
20 Gorgias Plato (circa 425 – circa 347 B.C. ) circa 380 B.C.
21 Jude the Obscure Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) 1896
22 The Tolkien Reader Tolkien, J. R. R. (January 3, 1892 – September 2, 1973) 1966 This contains four works, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, a short play first printed in an academic journal in 1953; Tree and Leaf, 1964, which contains an essay called On Fairy Stories and the short tale Leaf by Niggle; Farmer Giles of Ham, 1949, which I read last year; and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, 1962, a collection of 16 poems.
23 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Twain, Mark (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens, November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910) 1884
24 A Farewell To Arms Hemingway, Ernest (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) 1929
25 How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor Smith, James K. A. (born October 9, 1970) 2014 This is a review and summarization of A Secular Age, 2007, by Charles Taylor (born November 5, 1931).
26 The Tempest Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1611
27 Master and Man and Other Stories Tolstoy, Leo (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910) 1912 This book includes three stories: Father Sergius, written between 1890 and 1898 and published (posthumously) in 1911; Master and Man, 1895; and the novella Hadji Murat, written from 1896 to 1904 and published posthumously in 1912.
28 Troilus and Cressida Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1602
29 Njal’s Saga Unknown circa 1280 This Icelandic saga relates events purported to have taken place between A.D. 960 and 1020.
30 The Sound and the Fury Faulkner, William (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) 1929
31 City of God Augustine of Hippo (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430) A.D. 413–427
32 Lieutenant Hornblower Forester, C. S. (August 27, 1899 – April 2, 1966) 1952
33 Cossacks, The / Happy Ever After / The Death of Ivan Ilyich Tolstoy, Leo (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910) 1863, 1859, and 1886 Three novellas. Note that Happy Ever After was originally published as Family Happiness.
34 War In Heaven Williams, Charles (September 20, 1886 – May 15, 1945) 1930 Williams is “the other Inkling” and is hardly known today.
35 The Prince Machiavelli, Niccolò (May 3, 1469 – June 21, 1527) 1513
36 Best Plays by Chekhov Chekhov, Anton (January 29, 1860 – July 15, 1904) 1903 The four plays in this book are: The Sea Gull (1895), Uncle Vanya (1898), The Three Sisters (1900), and The Cherry Orchard (1903).
37 Romola Eliot, George (a.k.a. Mary Ann Evans, November 22, 1819 – December 22, 1880) 1863
38 Two Gentlemen of Verona Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) 1593
39 Are Women Human Sayers, Dorothy L. (June 13, 1893 – December 17, 1957) 1947 This book contains a address—Are Women Human?—given to a Women’s Society in 1938; and an essay—The Human-Not-Quite-Human—from 1947
40 The Nibelungenlied Unknown poet circa 1200 This epic is known today mostly through Richard Wagner’s operatic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, although his version differs in some ways from the original story. The setting is Germanic-speaking Europe in the 5th and 6th centuries.
41 A Handful of Dust Waugh, Evelyn (October 28, 1903 – April 10, 1966) 1934
42 Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book Percy, Walker (May 28, 1916 – May 10, 1990) 1983
43 Idylls of the King Tennyson, Alfred, Lord (August 6, 1809 – October 6, 1892) published between 1859 and 1885
44 Between Heaven and Hell Kreeft, Peter John (born March 16, 1937) 1982 The book is subtitled A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, & Aldous Huxley. All three died on the same day, November 22, 1963, and this is a Socratic dialog on faith between the three of them when they meet in Purgatory. I have the expanded edition published in 2008.
45 Henry IV, Part 1 Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1597
46 Civilization And Its Discontents Freud, Sigmund (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) 1930
47 On The Road Kerouac, Jack (March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) 1957
48 Seven Gothic Tales Dinesen, Isak (a.k.a. Karen Blixen, 17 April 1885 – 7 September 1962) 1934 The seven stories are: The Deluge at Norderney, The Old Chevalier, The Monkey, The Roads Round Pisa, The Supper at Elsinore, The Dreamers, and The Poet
49 Henry IV, Part 2 Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1599
50 A Grief Observed Lewis, C. S. (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963, as N. W. Clerk) 1961
51 Metamorphoses Ovid (Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō, March 20, 43 B.C. – A.D. 17 or 18) A.D. 8
52 The Basic Works of Cicero Cicero, Marcus Tullius (January 3, 106 – December 7, 43 B.C.) between 63 and 43 B.C. The works included in this Modern Library edition are: On Moral Duty, book 1, circa 43 B.C.; Tusculan Disputations, book 1, circa 43 B.C.; On Old Age, 44 B.C.; Scipio’s Dream, from On The Republic, 51 B.C.; On The Character Of The Orator, book 1, 55, B.C.; First Oration Against Catiline, November 7, 63 B.C.; Second Oration Against Catiline, December 5, 63 B.C.; For Caelius, April 4, 56 B.C.; The Second Philippic, 44 B.C.; and selected Letters.
53 Dubliners Joyce, James (February 2, 1882 – January 13, 1941) written 1905 but not published until 1914
54 Natural History Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23/24 – August 24, 79) circa A.D. 79
55 Rome and Italy Livy (Titus Livius, 59 B.C. – A.D. 17) circa 27 B.C. Livy’s History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita Libri) contained 142 books, of which 35 are extant. This volume contains books six through ten, picking up where the first volume (The Early History of Rome, which I read last year) left off after the Gallic occupation in 386 B.C. and runs up to about 293 B.C., part way through the Third Samnite War (298–290 B.C.).
56 A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man Joyce, James (February 2, 1882 – January 13, 1941) originally published in serial form from February, 1914 through September, 1915 in The Egoist
57 The Jewish War Josephus, Titus Flavius (born Yosef ben Matityahu, A.D. 37 – circa 100) circa A.D. 75
58 Horologicon Mark Forsyth (born 2 April 1977) 2012 Subtitled “A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language”.
59 Brave New World Huxley, Aldous Leonard (July 26, 1894 – November 22, 1963) written in 1931 and published in 1932
60 Doctor Zhivago Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich (February 10, 1890 – May 30, 1960) 1957 Translated by Max Hayward and Manya Harari, 1958
61 Euripides I Euripides (circa 480 – circa 406 B.C.) 414 B.C. The first of three volumes of plays by Euripides and volume five in the Modern Library’s The Complete Greek Tragedies. The seven plays are: Alcestis (438 B.C.), The Medea (431 B.C.), The Heracleidae (430 B.C.), Hippolytus (428 B.C.), Cyclops (unknown), Heracles (416 B.C.), and Iphigenia in Tauris (414 B.C.).
62 Company of Spears Mallinson, Allan (born February 6, 1949) 2006 This is the eighth Matthew Hervey story, this time set in South Africa and fighting the Zulus.
63 The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays Tolkien, J. R. R. (January 3, 1892 – September 2, 1973) From 1931 to 1959 This is a collection of essays, published in 2006 by Christopher Tolkien. The parts are: Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics (1936), On Translating Beowulf (1940), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1953), On Fairy-Stories (1939), English and Welsh (1955), A Secret Vice (1931), Valedictory Address (1959).

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