Mendenhall Puzzle

Mendenhall Puzzle

Mendenhall Puzzle

On June 6, 2023, I posted a photo of a common merganser (Mergus merganser) with ducklings on her back. They were swimming on Mendenhall Lake and it was taken at from the glacier overlook. Cathy and I really enjoyed that visit and in addition to the mergansers we saw arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea). Later that same day we returned to the Glacier with our friends Brian and Lisa. The overcast sky had partially cleared and there was a beautiful mix of blue and white, both overhead and in the reflections on the water.

I had this 1000-piece puzzle made from a photograph I took that evening and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. The sky was the hardest part although the water in the foreground was only marginally easier. With our love of puzzles, I think I might make more. But we have a few more waiting to be done, including one Brian and Lisa sent us recently with state flowers and birds.

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Hawk and Vulture

Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

As mentioned in the previous post, also from today, we stopped at the Izaak Walton League’s Lake Halcyon where I photographed three different duck species. From there we continued to the C&O Canal, parking at Violet’s Lock and walking down river past Blockhouse Point. We were treated right away to the first bird shown here, a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus). He was fairly easy to spot because there were folks with binoculars looking up into the tree where he was perched.

It was a lovely day to be out, very bright and comfortably cool. Around Blockhouse Point we saw a pair of black vulturex (Coragyps atratus) enjoying the warmth from the sun. They were across the canal from us and seemed to be unconcerned with our presence. This photograph, in particular, I like. As we were walking back towards Violet’s lock, a couple with binoculars pointed out a bald eagle on a tree on an island in the river. It was pretty far away, but easily identifiable. We saw quite a few smaller birds, as well, but I didn’t get any photos of them. We saw a few turtles, too. When we got back to the parking area, what we assume was the same sharpie was in a different tree but in the same area.

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Margansers and Scaup

Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus)

Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus)

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)

We decided to go to the canal today but on the way we were passing the national headquarters of the Izaak Walton League on Muddy Branch Road and decided to stop and walk around Lake Halcyon on that property. It’s a nice little pond with woods on three sides and it’s not uncommon to see ducks there. We were blessed with three duck species. First we saw a pair of hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus), which are fish-eating ducks. They were out in the middle of the pond but with my long lens I was able to get a decent shot of them. Then we saw a pair of lesser scaup (Aythya affinis), a type of diving duck. We also saw two pairs of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). There were eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) in the trees around the pond, as well.

We see mergansers reasonably often but this is the first time I’ve seen scaup, so I considered that to be a real treat.

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Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

As the weather was so fine, we went for another walk today, this time at the Montgomery County Agricultural History Farm Park. The winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) was blooming in the shade garden and we walked through the Master Gardener’s demonstration garden, though there isn’t so much to see this time of year. There is one witchhazel that was blooming and oddly had all it’s dried leaves from last year still on it.

Then we walked around a large field and saw quite a few birds. We rarely go there without seeing at least a few eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) like the one shown here. We also saw what we think was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Corthylio calendula) although the photographs are inconclusive. We saw a few woodpeckers and a hawk fly by.

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Pavonia multiflora (Brazilian Candle Plant)

Pavonia multiflora (Brazilian Candle Plant)

Pavonia multiflora (Brazilian Candle Plant)

We really needed to get out today. In the winter it’s not quite as easy to find growing things, but we are fortunate to live in an area where there are places to go on days like this. Brookside Gardens, described on the Montgomery Parks Web site as an “award-winning 50-acre public display garden within Wheaton Regional Park. Included in the gardens are several distinct areas: Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, and the Woodland Walk. The Formal Gardens areas include a Perennial Garden, Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and Fragrance Garden. Brookside Gardens also features two conservatories for year-round enjoyment. Admission to the gardens is free.” We spent time both in the conservatories and walking through the grounds. This Brazilian candle plant (Pavonia multiflora) in the first conservatory has very interesting flowers.

In the outdoor gardens, most things are still dormant but we were happy to see different varieties of Chinese witchhazel (Hamamelis mollis) in bloom. The snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) were also in bloom. We went there specifically hoping to see both of those.

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Snow

Snow

Snow

We’ve had two moderate snow storms in the last week or so. Last weekend we got about five inches of snow. Then starting early Friday we got another four of five inches. When we got up Friday there was a little over an inch of new snow. We had to go about 2 miles for an appointment and at 7:15 the roads were a bit of a mess but we got there without much trouble. The roads were a bit better by the time we came home. The snow continued falling for most of the rest of the day. This photo was taken from out kitchen door the next morning and there was a little blue showing in the sky by then.

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Wildflower Puzzle

Wildflower Puzzle

Wildflower Puzzle

Shortly after Christmas we started a new puzzle (see Wednesday, December 27, 2023). We finished it last night. This was a fairly challenging puzzle due to a combination of reason. First, many of the pieces had nothing on them. Although the background color varied slightly over the width of the puzzle, it didn’t vary much. Furthermore, the pieces were almost all of roughly the same shape. Once we got all the pieces that had any color on them in place, there were about 50 pieces that were pure white. We did eventually get them all together, though. As you can see, there is one piece missing at the top of the white clover. I’m pretty sure we didn’t lose it, but these things happen.

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Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

As mentioned in the previous post, we had a nice snowfall today, last most of the day and slowly accumulating to about four inches. We walked around part of Lake Frank early this afternoon, heading down Trailways from the neighborhood. We saw the downy woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) in the previous post in the woods at the bottom of Trailways.

From there we walked towards the dam, stopping to take a few pictures on the way. There were lots of sparrows and we saw dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), white-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), American robins (Turdus migratorius), northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) and a few eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis).

I was really pleased to see and photograph two hermit thrushes (Catharus guttatus). This is the second of those and it posed really nicely for me. It was eating the red berries in the second photo but unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch that properly. Still, I think these are pretty nice pictures and I’m happy with them.

By the time we got home my hat had a good layer of snow on the brim and my beard had some ice in it. Still, I was glad to get out and enjoy the birds.

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Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

We woke up to about three-quarters of an inch of snow this morning and it kept coming down lightly all day. It never really snowed very hard and there was very little wind, so it was actually quite pretty and nice to be out in it. In the early afternoon we went for a walk, heading down from the neighborhood to Lake Frank. We saw (and I photographed) a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) on the way there and once in the park saw quite a few other small birds, including quite a few downy woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens). This one moved from a tree to a grape vine and then let me get fairly close. I’m pretty pleased with these two photos, almost certainly the best I’ve taken of this bird species.

I could get pictures of these and many other birds in our yard fairly easily. Downy woodpeckers will almost certainly come if I were to put out suet for them. Nevertheless, there’s something special about getting them totally in the wild. It’s especially nice to get them on a snowy day, which allows a much lighter background than would otherwise be the case in the woods most of the time. The downy woodpecker and its second-cousin the hairy woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus) look much alike and at a glance it’s not always easy to tell them apart. The hairy is about 50% larger than the downy, which is especially useful if you see both of them at once. The other noticeable difference is the length of their bill. On the downy is is very short and stubby while on the hairy it is much longer relative to the size of the head.

Both are present but my experience is that the downy is considerably more common, at least in our area. They both can often be heard—drumming on a tree—long before they are seen.

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Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

  • Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

    Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

    We went to the C&O Canal today at Great Falls. It was in the mid-30s but we dressed appropriately and had a really nice walk. The river was relatively high and I got some nice pictures of the raging torrent. We didn’t see many small birds but saw three great blue herons (Ardea herodias), lots of mallards (Ardea herodias), and one sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus). Between the wind and the noise of the water we couldn’t really hear birds, even if they were there. Two of the herons we saw (which may have been the same bird two hours apart) were on the side of the river. This one, however, was in the canal, behind some cattails.

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    New Year’s Day

    New Year's Day Gathering Participants

    New Year’s Day Gathering Participants

    Many January firsts since 2004 we have gotten together with Amy and her family. Other guests have varied over the years and we’ve missed a few years (like last year, when Cathy got Covid at the end of December). A few things have been very consistent, including having fondue for the meal. Today’s meal included both cheese fondue and chocolate fondue for dessert. We decided to forego the meat fondue because Jon smoked a large piece of beef instead. Choosing between smoked meat and meat fondue is something of a toss up, but we made a good choice. We also had two new attendees this year. Carly, Jon’s wife of about a year and a half and their little one graced us with their presence. It’s great to start a year off with a relaxing time catching up with friends, even if much of the conversation these days seems to be centered around caring for parents or personal medical issues. Regardless, here’s wishing you a very happy new year.

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    My 2023 Reading

    My 2023 Reading

    My 2023 Reading

    My 2023 Reading

    My 2023 Reading

    I started the year with enough books waiting to be ready to last me the entire year, unless I really pushed myself. First up, I decided to read volumes two through six of Winston Churchill’s six volume series the Second World War. I read the first volume in 2017 and decided it was time I read the rest. At a combined 4,114 pages, I expected these five remaining books to take me quite a while and would probably have been satisfied if I did nothing else all year. As it turns out, I finished in the third week of February. In all I finished 57 books, the same number I read last year. The books this year, however, were about 30% longer, and I read a total of over 25,000 pages, far and away the most I’ve ever read in a year.

    As usual, the list of books is below. This year’s reading included only 3 books by currently living authors (and two of those by the same author). In contrast to previous years, when I read a significant number of translations of ancient texts, the oldest books this year were plays by Shakespeare, written only as early as 1591. As always, you can sort the table by the order read (the default), title, author, and date written by clicking on the headings.

    In case you are interested, here are links to my three previous year’s reading lists:


    Order   
    Read   
    Title Author Date    Notes
    1 Their Finest Hour Winston Churchill (November 30, 1874 – January, 24 1965) 1949 Churchill’s Second World War series, volume 2. This volume starts on May 10, 1940, the day Churchill became prime minister and the day Germany invaded Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It ends in the first week of January, 1941. This includes the story of Dunkirk (Operation ‘Dynamo’), the fall of Paris and French capitulation and—as the title implies—Churchill’s speach including the phrase, “this was their finest hour.”
    2 The Grand Alliance Winston Churchill (November 30, 1874 – January, 24 1965) 1950 Churchill’s Second World War series, volume 3. This volume covers 1941, from beginning to end, including the Blitz, the sinking of the Bismark, Germany’s opening of the eastern front with Russia, and of course Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the war.
    3 The Hinge of Fate Winston Churchill (November 30, 1874 – January, 24 1965) 1950 Churchill’s Second World War series, volume 4. From mid-January, 1942 through May, 1943, including the fall of Singapore, the decisive battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, the fall of Tabrok to the Germans, Guadalcanal, Operation ‘Torch’ and the liberation of North Africa.
    4 Closing the Ring Winston Churchill (November 30, 1874 – January, 24 1965) 1951 Churchill’s Second World War series, volume 5. From mid-May, 1943 to the beginning of June, 1944, including the fall of Mussolini, the liberation of Sicily, the Italian armistice and the liberation of Rome, taking us to the eve of Operation Overlord (a.k.a. D-Day).
    5 Triumph and Tragedy Winston Churchill (November 30, 1874 – January, 24 1965) 1953 Churchill’s Second World War series, volume 6. From June 6, 1944 through July, 1945, starting with D-Day (Operation ‘Overlord’) and including the Warsaw Uprising, the liberation of Paris, V-1 and V-2 attacks on England, the liberation of the Philippines, Iwo-Jima, the Yalta Conference, the suicide of Hitler, V.E. Day, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki followed by V.J. Day. This takes us to the end of Churchill’s second term as Prime Minister and the end of the war.
    6 Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) 1600 A very enjoyable double love story. Highly recommended, even if you aren’t a fan of Shakespeare (which I am).
    7 A Tale of Two Cities Dickens, Charles (February 7, 1812 – June 9, 1870) 1859 Ralph, I believe, hated this book, but in his defence, he was made to read it in the equivalent of eighth grade (in England). We all know the first and the last lines but I thought it time I should get to know everything in between. This is arguably Dickens’ best work, although I think David Copperfield, which is a very differetnt type of story, is also exceedingly wonderful.
    8 Master and Commander O’Brian, Patrick (December 12, 1914 – January 2, 2000) 1969 The first of the Aubrey–Maturin novels. This is similar to the Horatio Hornblower novels, by C. S. Forester, which I enjoy. I will do what I can to buy and read the remaining 20 stories to read when I need a break from meatier fare.
    9 Sebastopol Tolstoy, Leo (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910) 1855 Three sketches based on Tolstoy’s experiences during the siege of Sevastopol in the Crimea. They are dated by him as being set in December 1854, May 1855, and August 1855. Interestingly, I had to keep reminding myself that this was in the decade before the U. S. Civil War, not the second decade of the twentieth century. It felt very much like the First World War.
    10 Can You Forgive Her? Trollope, Anthony (April 24, 1815 – December 6, 1882) 1864 and 1865 This is the first of six novels in the Palliser series, also known as the Parliamentary Novels. This book chronicles the stories of three trios, each with two men competing for the affection of a single woman. No spoilers here. Very enjoyable.
    11 Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ Bunyan, John (baptised November 30, 1628 – August 31, 1688) 1678 Bunyan is almost exclusively known for his allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress. Come and Welcome is a beautiful exposition of the verse found at John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
    12 Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth Tolstoy, Leo (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910) 1852, 1854, and 1857 Three short, semi-autobiographical novels. One of Tolstoy’s earliest works, this is interesting for his portrayal of the view of life as seen by a child, boy, and youth. I found it interesting.
    13 The Road to Serfdom Hayek, Friedrich August (May 8, 1899 – March 23, 1992) 1944 In his introduction Bruce Caldwell writes, “Reading (or perhaps rereading) The Road to Serfdom will be a pleasurable experience for some, and induce apoplexy in others.” I fall in the ‘pleasurable experience’ camp. I am a wholehearted believer in and supporter of liberalism, which I define (per Milton Friedman) “as Hayek does—in the original nineteenth-century sense of limited government and free markets, not in the corrupted sense it has acquired in the United States, in which it means almost the opposite.”
    14 The Federalist Papers Madison, James (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804)John Jay (December 12, 1745 – May 17, 1829) October 1787 through May 1788 These were written (under the pseudonym “Publius”) with the express intent to influence voters to ratify the Constitution. I am a strong supporter of the U.S. Constitution and am particularly thankful that the Bill of Rights—Amendments one through ten—were written and ratified. Sorry to say, as good as it is, it had not prevented some encroachment of rights and some deteriorization of federalist principles. I’d be in favor of strengthening the Bill of Rights and of repealing the 17th amendment.
    15 Anecdotes of Destiny Dinesen, Isak (Karen Blixen, April 17, 1885 – September 7, 1962) 1958 Five stories, titled The Diver, Babette’s Feast, Tempests, The Immortal Story, and The Ring.
    16 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Franklin, Benjamin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) 1793 This was written from 1771 to 1790 but was not published until 1793, after Franklin’s death. I enjoyed it but would have been happier if it had not ended where it did, before anything relating to the Revolutionary War had started.
    17 The 99% Invisible City Mars, Roman (October 16, 1974 – ) and Kurt Kohlstedt 2020 The book is subtitled “A Field Guide to The Hidden World of Everyday Design,” this book was recommended by one of Dorothy’s art professors at Gordon. I have probably noticed more of the things mentioned than most, but I found the backstory behind them quite interesting.
    18 Henry VI, Part 1 Shakespeare, William (circa 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) 1591 The play opens with the funeral for Henry V (16 September 1386 – 31 August 1422). His nine-month-old son, Henry VI (6 December 1421 – 21 May 1471) becomes king. The play centers around the battles that end the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453), including the part played by Joan of Arc (c. 1412 – 30 May 1431). It ends with peace being declared between the English and Charles VII of France (22 February 1403 – 22 July 1461). At the end of the play, Henry is engaged to Margaret of Anjou (23 March 1430 – 25 August 1482), whom he married in 1445 (see Henry VI, Part 2).
    19 Henry VI, Part 2 Shakespeare, William (circa 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) 1591 The original play had the somewhat long, cumbersome, but fairly inclusive title (spoiler alert!), The First part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the death of the good Duke Humphrey: And the banishment and death of the Duke of Suffolke, and the Tragicall end of the proud Cardinall of Winchester; with the notable Rebellion of Iacke Cade: and the Duke of Yorkes first claime vnto the Crowne. In short, the happenings between the marriage of Henry and Margaret and the beginning of the War of the Roses.
    20 Henry VI, Part 3 Shakespeare, William (circa 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) circa 1599 This—the third of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays—continues where Part 2 leaves off, chronicling the next stage in the Wars of the Roses with the houses of York and Lancaster fighting for the crown. These three plays are often grouped with Richard III, which concludes this period of history with the rise of Henry VII.
    21 Phineas Finn Trollope, Anthony (April 24, 1815 – December 6, 1882) 1868 This is the second of six novels in the Palliser series, also known as the Parliamentary Novels. It centers around the title character, his aspirations, acheivements, and loves.
    22 Vanity Fair Thackeray, William Makepeace (July 18, 1811 – December 24, 1863) 1848 This book chronicles the lives of Becky Sharp, Amelia Sedley and their friends and families during and after the Napoleonic Wars. It was published with the subtitle A Novel without a Hero, which I think is pretty fitting. I enjoyed it, although maybe not as much as Thomas Hardy’s or Anthony Trollope’s works.
    23 Post Captain O’Brian, Patrick (December 12, 1914 – January 2, 2000) 1972 This is the second of 21 stories in O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin novels. I find them an easy to read break in what might otherwise be a heavy reading schedule.
    24 Schlump Grimm, Hans Herbert (June 26, 1896 – July 7, 1950) 1928 This semi-autobiographical novel relates the experiences of its protagonist, Emil Schulz, known as “Schlump”, a military policeman in German-occupied France during World War I. The work was burnt by the Nazis in 1933 because of its satirical and anti-war tone.
    25 The Pickwick Papers Dickens, Charles (February 7, 1812 – June 9, 1870) 1836 Dickens was asked to supply descriptions to explain a series of comic “cockney sporting plates” and to connect them into a novel. This is the result and was his first novel.
    26 The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1592 I’ve seen two things based on this, Kiss Me, Kate, 1948, by Bella and Samuel Spewack with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, and 10 Things I Hate About You, 1999, a modernization of the play, set in a late-1990s American high school setting. But I’ve never actually seen nor read the original, until now.
    27 Ellis Island and Other Stories Helprin, Mark (June 28, 1947 – ) 1981 Helprin is one of my favorite modern authors and these short stories don’t disappoint. His characters are often larger than life and somewhat fantastical and the stories are often quite improbable, but they are often very poingnant and touching.
    28 Leviathan Hobbes, Thomas (April 5/15, 1588 – December 4/14, 1679) 1651 This work concerns the structure of society and legitimate government, and is regarded as one of the earliest and most influential examples of social contract theory.
    29 H.M.S. Surprise O’Brian, Patrick (December 12, 1914 – January 2, 2000) 1973 The third of the Aubrey–Maturin novels, in which the two heroes transport Mr Stanhope, an ambassador, to the Sultan of Kampong on the Malay Peninsula.
    30 Common Sense Paine, Thomas (February 9, 1737 – June 8, 1809) 1776 This book or pamphlet, initially published anonymously on January 10, 1776, presented various moral and political arguments for the common people in the North American Colonies to fight for an egalitarian government.
    31 The Eustace Diamonds Trollope, Anthony (April 24, 1815 – December 6, 1882) 1872 This is the third of six novels in the Palliser series, also known as the Parliamentary Novels. This book chronicles the exploits of Lady Lizzie Eustace, formerly Lizzie Greystock.
    32 A Pair of Blue Eyes Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) 1873 I really enjoyed this book, as I do much of what Hardy wrote. He wasn’t afraid to give you a surprise ending and even with about ten pages to go, I had absolutely no idea how the story would end. It ended differently to all of the possibile endings that I had thought of. I made a point not to read the introduction, because I didn’t want to know how it would end until I got to the end.
    33 The Complete Prose Tales of Alexandr Sergeyevitch Pushkin Pushkin, Alexander (June 6, 1799 – February 10, 1837) various dates through 1837 I really enjoyed these stories. A significant number of them were unfinished but even those were good, leaving us in the dark as to what happened, which is actually more like real life than most stories, where all the lose ends are tied up. I can see why he was an important author in general and recognize the significant contributions he made to Russian literature in particular.
    34 Daniel Deronda Eliot, George (Mary Ann Evans, November 22, 1819 – December 22, 1880) 1876 This is the last novel by George Eliot. It centers around the journey of self-discovery of the title character, as well as the story of Gwendolen Harleth.
    35 The Mauritius Command O’Brian, Patrick (December 12, 1914 – January 2, 2000) 1977 The fourth of the Aubrey–Maturin novels takes us, as the title implies, to the islands of Mauritius and La Réunion, about 500 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
    36 Ulysses Joyce, James (February 2, 1882 – January 13, 1941) 1922 I cannot lie, this is not the easiest book to read. It is the sequel to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1915). Leopold Bloom, the main character of this novel, interacts with Stephen Dedalus from that earlier work, who has returned to Ireland because of the illness and subsequent death of his mother. The book has many parallels and correspondences with the travels of Homer’s Odysseus (a.k.a. Ulysses) and is .
    37 Desolation Island O’Brian, Patrick (December 12, 1914 – January 2, 2000) 1978 The fifth of the Aubrey–Maturin novels finds our heroes on Desolation Island, a.k.a. Grande Terre, the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.
    38 Thomas Hardy Short Stories Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) from 1879 to 1897 This book has the following seven stories: The Three Strangers (1883), The Withered Arm (1888), The Distracted Preacher (1879), The Grave by the Handpost (1897), The Fiddler of the Reels (1893), An Imaginative Woman (1894), and Barbara of the House of Grebe (1890).
    39 Phineas Redux Trollope, Anthony (April 24, 1815 – December 6, 1882) 1873 This is the fourth of six novels in the Palliser series, also known as the Parliamentary Novels. It is the sequel to book two, Phineas Finn.
    40 The Gambler / Bobok / A Nasty Story Dostoevsky, Fyodor (November 11, 1821 – February 9, 1881) 1867, 1873, and 1862 Of the three stories in this book, I enjoyed the Bobok—which is also the shortest—the most, followed by The Gambler—the longest.
    41 The Voyage of the Beagle Darwin Charles (February 12, 1809 – April 19, 1882) 1839 This was originally published as Journal and Remarks, this was the third volume of The Narrative of the Voyages of H.M. Ships Adventure and Beagle, the other volumes of which were written or edited by the commanders of the ships. It covers the second voyage of HMS Beagle, from December 27, 1831 to October 2, 1836, under captain Robert FitzRoy.
    42 The Prime Minister Trollope, Anthony (April 24, 1815 – December 6, 1882) 1876 This is the fifth of six novels in the Palliser series, also known as the Parliamentary Novels. In addition to the obvious focus on the title role, this novel revolves around the life and loves of Emily Wharton.
    43 Walden and Civil Disobedience Thoreau, Henry David (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) 1854 and 1849 In Walden, Thoreau chronicles his experiences living for 26 months in a cabin he built near Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. In his essay Civil Disobedience, Thoreau argues that individuals should obey their consciences rather than their government and that it is their duty to disobey the government rather than acquiesce and thereby participate in injustice.
    44 The Oak And The Calf Solzhenitsyn, Alexander (December 11, 1918 – August 3, 2008) 1975 This is a memoir about Solzhenitsyn’s attempts to publish work in his own country, subtitled “Sketches of Literary Life in the Soviet Union”.
    45 Go Down, Moses Faulkner, William (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) 1942 This is a collection of seven related pieces of short fiction whose most prominent character and unifying voice is that of Isaac McCaslin, “Uncle Ike”, who will live to be an old man; “uncle to half a county and father to no one.”
    46 The Origin of Species Darwin, Charles (February 12, 1809 – April 19, 1882) 1859 This is another of those books that everyone knows but few have read. I can’t say that I find his argument compelling. That’s not so say I disagree with everything he says, mind you. He talks a lot about variations of animals and plants and it cannot really be argued that they do not vary over time. What I don’t necessarily buy is that they become new species or even new genera or even (eventually) tribe, family, or order. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, just that I don’t think it’s as obvious as he makes it out to be. I am impressed that he spends as much time as he does on what he admits are potentially serious difficulties with his theory. What I don’t necessarily agree with is that he deals with them adequately.
    47 Twelfth Night Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1602 A romantic comedy set in Illyria (across the Adriatic from Italy), this play is the source of the quote, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” It actually appears three times, very slightly each time.
    48 The Duke’s Children Trollope, Anthony (April 24, 1815 – December 6, 1882) 1879 This is the sixth and final novel in the Palliser series, also known as the Parliamentary Novels.
    49 Kon-Tiki Heyerdahl, Thor (October 6, 1914 – April 18, 2002) 1948 In 1947 Heyerdahl and five others sailed from Peru to French Polynesia in a balsa wood raft. This book documents the building and sailing of that raft and his theories of possible migrations of the past.
    50 Adam Bede Eliot, George (Mary Ann Evans, November 22, 1819 – December 22, 1880) 1859 This is a love story with a bit of a twist. I certainly didn’t see it coming and really enjoyed this book.
    51 The Well-Beloved Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) 1892 (Serialized) and 1897 (in book form) I have the 1897 version, which has some changes from the serialized version of 1892.
    52 Dead Souls Gogol, Nikolai Vasilievich (April 1, 1809 – March 4, 1852) 1842 Sadly, this story is not complete and doesn’t really have an ending. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting painting of early 19th century Russian life.
    53 The Intrusions of Peggy Hope, Anthony (February 9, 1863 – July 8, 1933) 1902 While the plot focuses on the life of Trix Travella, Peggy is central in shaping the outcome of the story. Anthony Hope is mostly known for The Prizoner of Zenda but I liked this story just about as well.
    54 Refiner’s Fire Helprin, Mark (born June 28, 1947) 1977 This isn’t my favorite of Helprin’s books (I think that distinction goes to Soldier of the Great War) but he paints such beautiful pictures with words, even when the subject isn’t necessarily pretty.
    55 An Indiscretion In The Life Of An Heiress and Other Stories Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) from 1865 to 1929 How I Built Myself a House (1865), Destiny and a Blue Cloak (1874), The Thieves Who Couldn’t Stop Sneezing (1877), An Indiscretion In The Life of an Heiress (1878), Our Exploits At West Poley (1892–93), Old Mrs. Chundle (1929), The Doctor’s Legend (1891), The Spectre of the Real (1894), Blue Jimmy: The Horse Stealer (1911), The Unconquerable (written circa 1911, published posthumously).
    56 Coriolanus Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) between 1605 and 1610 One of four plays by Shakespeare that drew heavily from Plutarch’s Lives. This isn’t a particularly well known play and I guess I can see why. An interesting story without many enviable people.
    57 Richard III Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1592–1594 Richard III could be classed as a tragedy rather than a history, such is the life of this English king. I don’t know if he was the most ruthless but he certainly is in the running for the title. The play opens with the familiar lines, “Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this sun of York.” and near the end we get the possibly more familiar, ”A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” (twice, opening and closing the penultimate scene).


    Books by Living Authors: 2

    • 99% Invisible City (2020), by Roman Mars (October 16, 1974 – )
    • Ellis Island (1981), by Mark Helprin (June 28, 1947 – )
    • Refiner’s Fire (1977) by Mark Helprin

    Note about dates: Not all dates—either publication dates or birth/death dates for authors—are known with any certainty and some of them are not much more than educated guesses. If the work or collection of works was written over a period of years, sorting by date will use the latest relevant date.

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    White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

    White-throated Sparrow (<em>Zonotrichia albicollis</em>)

    White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

    We went to Meadowside Nature Center today and walked down to Lake Frank. We could see the eagle’s nest but didn’t see any eagles. It isn’t clear if the nest is in use. It seems to have deteriorated a bit, but it’s hard to know.

    We returned by way of the Pioneer Homestead. On the small pond between that and the nature center we saw two pairs of hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus). As we walked up from the pond I stopped to take a few photos of this white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). They are quite common here, especially in winter, moving north in the summer. They have a distinctive whistle, often described as “Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody.”

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    Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

    Carolina Wren (<em>Thryothorus ludovicianus</em>)

    Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

    We went to the C&O canal today, starting at Riley’s lock, where Seneca Creek flows under the canal snd into the Patomac River. We walked about 1​1⁄3 mile upstream. We saw a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) below the towpath beside a stream, some turtles across the turning basin, and I even got a few pictures of a golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa). Those last were a bit blurred, though, so I decided to post this photo, which is one of five I got of a Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) in the trees growing in the old canal bed. It’s a cute little bird don’t you think?

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    Starting a Puzzle

    Starting a Puzzle

    Starting a Puzzle

    I’ve posted a pictures from time to time of puzzles we’ve completed. Today’s photo is of a puzzle we’ve just started. It’s got drawings of flowers with some text but looks like it’s going to be pretty hard, with a lot of pure white pieces. This is how we start a new puzzle, though. The first step is to turn all the pieces right side up. At the same time, we pull out any edge pieces, known by their straight side, and put those all together. We also move the pieces towards the edge of the table, so that when we have the edges together, most of the pieces are outside that. All the edge pieces that we had found by the time I took this are in the lower left. After this was taken, I started working on the edges and Cathy started grouping other pieces by color, since it appears that each of the flowers is somewhat unique in terms of flower color. Note that looking at the box once the puzzle is out on the table is cheating.

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    Winter Tree

    Winter Tree

    Winter Tree

    We went for a late afternoon walk at Sandy Spring today, starting from the Friends Meeting House. It was at this Friends Meeting that my great, great grandparents meet, sometime around 1850 (they were married in 1952). One of them traveled up from Washington, D.C. and the other from Northern Virginia, which was more of an effort then than it is now (even with our traffic problems).

    A road runs south from the meeting house across a field to the spring. We turned right just before the spring and looped around, basically circling a large field and going into the woods a little before coming back up to the spring. It was foggy day and getting foggier through the afternoon. We didn’t see many birds and I wasn’t able to photograph any. I like the way this tree looks, though, with the green lichen on it against the foggy background.

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    Dot and Her Great Grandchildren

    Kaien, Silas, Dot, and Eloise

    Kaien, Silas, Dot, and Eloise

    At about 2:00 PM my family started to arrive, starting with George and Carmela (and their dog Chester) who drove down from New Jersey and made better time than expected. The rest came between 2:30 and 3:00 and we have a very lively Christmas afternoon. Our meal this year was all sorts of appetizer-type things. Some might call them tapas but we prefer the name ‘what-nots’. There was considerably more food that the 15 of us could eat so plenty of leftovers. I had planned to make latkes and had already prepared the potato and onion batter but lost track of things and didn’t make them. I fried up a few the next day and they were terrific, but we really didn’t need them today. We didn’t take a whole-group photo but I did get some of mom on the sofa with her three great grandchildren, from left, Kaien, Silas, and Eloise.

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    Christmas Morning

    Margaret and Friends

    Margaret and Friends

    As we did last year, we took Christmas breakfast to Cathy’s mom. Also like last year, I made a quiche Loraine and it turned out quite well (it’s not really very difficult, to be honest). Today’s visit was a bit more hectic than last year, though, when it was just Cathy, Dorothy, and me. This year, Tam and No were visiting, having arrived shortly before us. Then Tam’s sister Dieu and her husband Henry and his aunt arrived while we were there. We don’t get to see Henry and Dieu very often, because they live in Florida. Tam and No were planning to leave for a visit to Vietnam tomorrow and Henry and Dieu towards the end of January. So, a very nice reunion but not really a quiet Christmas morning.

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    Christmas Eve

    Christmas Eve

    Christmas Eve

    With my beard and wearing a red and white ‘Santa hat’ this morning I was asked if I would stand in for Santa in a picture with some friends’ kids. I was happy to oblige, of course. This evening we returned to church for our Christmas Eve service, which is a real favorite of mine. Sadly, there are more good Christmas hymns than there is time for in a service and some of my favorites are inevitably missed. We do end, as many churches do, with a song sung by candlelight. We sang Silent Night, where our former church ended with Joy to the World. I took pictures and of course without flash, had to set the camera at a high ISO. The pictures are naturally lower quality because of that but it gives them more of the feel of candlelight, anyway.

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    White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

    White-breasted Nuthatch

    White-breasted Nuthatch

    Cathy, Dorothy and I went for a nice walk along Croyden Creek this afternoon. We started by walking east (downstream) on the north side of the creek. Shortly before Croyden Creek runs into the Northwest Branch Rock Creek, the trail goes up onto a wooded hill and then circles around to the left, eventually running into the roadbed of the old, abandoned Avery Road. We continued west from there, crossing the creek on a bridge and then returning to the Croydon Creek Nature Center across the bottom of the field beloe the Glenview Mansion. Back at the nature center I photographed birds at the feeders and got a few nice shots, including this one of a white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis).

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