Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shameful Voter ID laws

Texas is having one of the most important elections ever -- the Democrats have a chance to put a woman in office as governor and to take control of the legislature. Republicans are enforcing the harsh voter ID law passed in 2011 and disenfranchising the poor, elderly, and minority voters they fear might vote against them.

As a native Texan, I am so sad about this. The UK newspaper, The Guardian , has been reporting on this ever since the U.S. Court of Appeals turned down a request to suspend the law pending a hearing on its constitutionality last week. Correspondent Ed Pilkington reports, in the October 27 issue of the UK paper, on the experience of Eric Kennie, an Austin native.

Here is the photo of Eric Lyndell Kennie from that report:
Eric Lyndell Kennie, of Austin, with a current voter registration certificate and an expired photo ID card. Photograph: Kambiz Shabanakare//Corbis

 But Tennessee passed a similar law in 2012. And the Republicans have used it just as effectively here, for the same purposes as in Texas.  There is no voter fraud, the ostensible reason for these severe laws. In Tennessee there have been only 2 documented instances of voter fraud in the past 30 years. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fun with a fairy and a camera

A few weeks ago, while browsing amazon.com, looking for miniature landscaping trees, I came across a fairy garden kit. Intrigued, I ordered one. It's meant for children, but it's been a lot of fun for me.
The kit came with a shallow bowl, potting sand, a seed mixture of wheat and beans, a "fairy," two mushrooms, three flowers, and two butterflies. There were paint pots and a brush for painting the fairy grotto and the mushrooms, but I haven't used those. Also, some shiny magic stones and some purple sparkly sand, with which to make a path to the fairy's grotto. I'm now on my second crop of wheat, while the lone surviving bean plant from my first planting is still thriving, though it has yet to show me a bean blossom.
Today I took the fairy doll outside with me and posed her in several settings -- a bark crevice on an old golden raintree,

where I tried to get a busy beetle into a photo with her, but he was too fast for me, and camera-shy, to boot.  
Here is my fairy-doll poised on a fern.
And here she is reclining on a Virginia creeper vine that's trying to colonize a railing near my back porch.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Scary Fire Next Door

In the wee hours of Thursday night into Friday morning August 28 - 29, I woke up and saw an unusually bright light filtering through my venetian blinds and closed draperies. I moved the drapery and viewed a broad wall of fire next door, with flames more than 30 feet across and leaping 30 to 40 feet into the air, to the tops of the tall trees on the back property line.

My late sister's beautiful four-car garage was totally consumed by those flames.

                                                                 I did not take pictures of the fire, but I made a number of shots of the ruins it left behind.

It was a very, very hot fire. It melted the thick walls of the plastic trash containers, both those beside the garage and one in my car port.

The firefighters arrived in time to save the house (she had left that property to Lipscomb University), and to save the house I live in, too.

The storage building at the back of my carport had already caught fire by the time the fire trucks arrived.

Some of the rear branches of the large hosta bush by my back windows were charred and many of its leaves were burned to a crisp.

And some of the shingles on the roof of the side porch were smoldering.

I can't praise the quick response and efficient work of the firefighters enough. They arrived within a minute of my call to 911 -- the dispatcher there told me I was not the first to report the fire and that a fire truck was on the way. Actually, they arrived with three fire trucks and immediately more than a dozen firemen went to work and began deploying hoses and wetting down my house as well as the house next door.

Ten minutes later the main wall of fire had been replaced with a plume of gray smoke. It took about 15 more minutes to deal with the small peripheral fires.

This was a very hot fire. It melted the
venetian blinds in the upstairs window that faced the garage.
The losses from it are considerable,

and it makes me sad to look at the charred, fallen timbers and the crumpled metal of the garage doors.

My sister and I backed her van out of that garage many times and set off for the grocery or the bookstore or on an out-of-town sight-seeing trip.

But it was a close call for my own house, and I do feel lucky that the night brought nothing worse than a destroyed garage on the property adjacent to this one.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


The shrub I posted about here on Wednesday, July 30, is a Lagerstroemia cultivar. Its common name is crepe myrtle. The one in my neighbor's yard is  a white-flowering variety.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Amazon's Fight to Lower E-book Prices

Amazon has a website, Readers United , in which it goes public with its efforts to oppose publishers who are working hard to keep the prices of e-books higher than necessary.

On that website, Amazon is appealing to its e-book customers to write to the CEO of Hachette, one of those book publishers, in support of Amazon in its dispute with them. An e-mail address to use in sending this message of support is provided towards the end of the Readers United post:  CEO Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Dierk Haasis posted this link to Readers United on his Facebook timeline, which I recently shared to my own. And then I wrote the following e-mail message to Mr. Pietsch:

Dear Sir,

I am an Amazon customer who greatly enjoys the e-books I buy to read on my Kindle device and, using my Desktop Kindle application, on my computer monitor. I buy these e-books on-line, both from Amazon and from Delphi Classics. A retired public schoolteacher, I greatly appreciate lower prices when they're offered to me, occasionally at Amazon, and often at Delphi. I do realize that most of the reasonably priced offerings are for works now in the public domain; but copyrighted works could be offered more reasonably than they are now and still give authors, publishers, and distributors alikean adequate return for their invested resources, time, and talent.

Like other Amazon customers/readers, I have noted your illegal collusion with your competitors to raise e-book prices. I was alerted to it by Amazon via a fellow reader's post on Facebook. For the sake of all of us, please stop working so hard to overcharge for e-books.

Lowering e-book prices will help -- not hurt -- the reading community, the same way that the less expensive paperbacks did when they first came on the market.

So please stop using authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon's offers to take them out of the middle.

After all, you must be aware that authors are not united on this issue. For instance, when the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they headlined their post: "Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors" (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled "Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages," garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are many, many articles and posts, by both authors and readers, which support Amazon in its effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading economy. Author David Gaughran's recent interview is another piece worth reading. (Here I'm paraphrasing Amazon's post, A Message from the Amazon Books Team, on its website, which is also worth reading. http://www.readersunited.com/ )

Please reply to me and tell me that you are going to accept one of Amazon's offers to take authors out of the middle. And then get in touch with Amazon and do just that.

After all, e-books represent only about 1% of the revenues of Hachette, and your parent company Lagardere, and you could easily afford to do this. Please consider us, the e-book readers, who are the ultimate source of that tiny percentage of your revenues. Please also realize that the lower the prices of e-books are, the more we, the readers, can afford to buy, and consequently the more we will buy. To the ultimate benefit of their authors, and to the benefit of Hachette and its parent company, and to the benefit of readers like me.

Sincerely yours,
Mary R. Bull

I wish that whoever reads this Reckon post would take a little time also to support Amazon. Together, we might actually succeed in convincing Mr. Pietsch of the benefits to us all, including Hachette and its parent company, that would result from lowering all e-book prices across the board.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Feline Fourth of July Eve

Tired out from his play yesterday evenng with the ribbon that might have been a dangerous snake, Thistle fell asleep on his prey and slept deeply for about an hour, then roused long enough to roll over to the other side, still clasping his captured ribbon.  The first few pictures I shot, when he was so deeply asleep, the camera and its fill-flash didn't disturb him at all. But after he rolled over, one click of the camera and he was sitting up, considering the situation. And, still sitting on his prey, he then began to groom himself. A little later he had departed to seek the litterbox.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Windblown golden raintree lanterns

This morning I was astonished to find my driveway littered with little green lanterns -- seed pods that the golden raintree's falling flowers had left behind only days ago. Developing almost invisibly within  the tree's dense foliage, the little green pods had grown to their mature size in yesterday's steamy sunshine, and then sometime in the night a gusty rainstorm snapped their fragile stems and brought them down. In the fall, the pods that are still left on the tree will mature to a warm brown, resembling little lighted Chinese lanterns when backlit by the autumn sun.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Windfall of raintree gold

Two days and nights of gusty rainshowers have left drifted piles of fallen golden raintree blossoms along the edges of the driveway and beneath the old tree's massive, lichen-covered main trunk.

The tree has many branches still displaying their bright sprays of tiny flowers against the overcast skies.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Golden Raintree Blooms in June This Year

Abundant rain the past few weeks, followed by several hours of hot sunshine yesterday, has coaxed the golden raintree in my front yard into unfolding the yellow blossoms on its hundreds of brilliant racemes. I think I can expect to enjoy them now for the next few weeks.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fall Creek Falls State Park

Last week I spent an enjoyable 3 days at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Stayed in the Fall Creek Falls State Park Inn -- had never been to this park before, and I highly recommend it as an excellent vacation destination. Worth the drive for Tennesseans whether to spend one day or an entire two-week vacation.  It's said to be the most beautiful of Tennessee's state parks.  Here's a sampling of the photos I took while there:

Fall Creek Falls

View from my room at the inn

George Hole
George Hole is a large body of water, deep in a steep gorge. I could not safely get close enough to the edge to do justice to the beautiful calm surface of the water as it reflected the sky.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Golden Dandelions in May

Beneath my mailbox this morning, two little dandelions and a clover blossom:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blue Iris, Before the Storm

Blue iris clump, between two driveways.

Closeup of blossom.

Blossom and buds.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Yellow Iris in April

Early morning sun on a clump of iris, newly bloomed out this week:
View looking east, about 8:00 AM, CDT

Closeup of newly opened blossom:
Blossom newly opened on the morning of April 26
Detail from first view:

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