31 October 2009

Bald Eagles, Meadowlark, and Hooded Mergansers






In addition to the usual birds, I also saw two bald eagles, a meadowlark, and 5 hooded mergansers this week. The eagles were in a tree looking over Union Bay. The meadowlark was a surprise since I hadn't seen one here before and they're not really common. There were 4 males mergansers and one female. They're pretty distinctive birds.

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
I've heard so much about this one, and have been meaning to read it, so I finally got to it when a friend loaned it to me. I expected that I'd think it was interesting, but I didn't really expect that I'd like it a lot, since it seemed that a lot of people whose book opinions I value didn't really love it. But it turns out that I liked it, a lot. I think the timing had something to do with it, since I've recently done some other dystopian novels, and this one was a nice contrast to the others I've read this year. Atwood is a good writer too, which helps any novel (I fear for the last book in The Hunger Games series, and I honestly just got bored with Orwell). I'd love to discuss this book with a group sometime because there's a lot in there that's worth talking about.

Sunshine

Sunshine
I think this will be my last vampire book ever. Since it was written by Robin McKinley, it was certainly better than, say, the Twilight series (Stephenie Meyer isn't anywhere near as good a writer as McKinley) and it's unfortunate that Twilight is the one that got all the attention instead of this one. The plot is just much better, even though it's certainly not as "clean" as Twilight (although I think you can make a good argument that those aren't as clean as some people make them out to be). I didn't love it, though. McKinley's books always seem to spend a lot of time in the narrator's head, but it seemed that we almost parked in Sunshine's head for long chunks of the book. But it was a quick read, and fun, and different.

The Rock: A Tale of Seventh Century Jerusalem

The Rock: A Tale of Seventh-Century Jerusalem
This is an interesting book- it doesn't really fit into any category. It's fiction, but it's rather scholarly fiction, and not exactly engaging, even though it's interesting. There isn't a lot of historical fiction about this time period, and Makiya does a good job of bringing in a wide variety of viewpoints and perspectives. Because of that scholarly bit, and since I wanted something more like fiction, I skimmed some, but overall, it was worthwhile and different.

25 October 2009

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

I found this old never-posted bit from a couple of years ago about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And since I never wrote much more about any churches in Jerusalem, I at least need to post this about my favorite church there before some of my favorite people visit Jerusalem. I still need to do that post about church disgust, since the Holy Sepulchre is the perfect example of it.

I love to walk into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and see the Unction Stone kissed and rubbed smooth. I love to put my hands on the crosses scratched on the walls of the stairs leading down to St. Helena's Chapel. I love to see the variety of Christians from all over the world praying inside the walls of the church. I love the Rotunda. I was able to visit the church both before and after the reconstruction of the Rotunda. It was dark and almost dank in 1995, but in 1997 it was filled with light.

I love to remember the Holy Week I spent in Jerusalem, when I watched the Greek Orthodox patriarch wash the feet of some of his priests on Maundy Thursday. I followed the Stations of the Cross through Jerusalem on Friday and climbed the stairs to Calvary. I wish I could have gone to the Holy Fire ceremony on that Saturday, but we had church that day.

I'm fascinated by the history, even though it's a tragic one, of the church. I spent a semester at BYU reading the small collection of books in the library about the Church and getting a few others through ILL. But that history is getting better. The Rotunda was actually finished. The Armenians, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox often work together well now, although the Syrians, Ethiopians, and Copts don't.

Many Mormons who've been to Jerusalem to prefer the Garden Tomb. I can understand why. The way the Garden Tomb is maintained fits in much better with our religious tradition than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Garden Tomb looks and feels right and is peaceful and quiet- not the way you'd always describe the Holy Sepulchre. But someday when I go back to Jerusalem the Holy Sepulchre will be the first place I want to go.

22 October 2009

The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide: A Novel
There was a lot I liked about this book, and when I closed the book I thought it had been a worthwhile read. But still, there's just a little something in the back of my brain that thinks it wasn't quite as good as it could have been. I felt like there were a lot of ideas that were just hinted at and not really developed. Sometimes that's okay, but not here.

This was another book group read, and I think it'll be interesting to talk about, especially since the woman who is leading the discussion is married to an Indian. Some of what I liked, and what bothered me, were the relationships between the various characters. They were sort of cliched, but then, they weren't at all cliched. I'm looking forward to the discussion.

I really liked learning a bit more about this area of India that I've only read a little about. Recommended.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four
I hadn't actually ever read this book before this week. But with a book this well-known and oft-quoted, it can be sort of a letdown to actually read the thing. I think I like the bits and pieces that have been picked out of this book and used by so many others better than actually reading the book. And, unfortunately, I read it for a book group that was just postponed for two weeks to a date that I probably can't go. So I didn't even need to read it. I think it would have been a better book to talk about that just to read.

21 October 2009

Nook, Kindle, and Sony Reader

There's another e-book reader out there. I still don't have one of any type, but I hope to soon, and a little more competition is always a good thing with new technology. I like the look of the new Nook (but who came up with that name) more than the Kindle and probably the Sony Reader, but I'll have to wait and see if B&N has as much available for its reader as Amazon does for Kindle. I'll enjoy reading the reviews and comparisons over the next few months.

20 October 2009

I love it when you use binoculars to look at what seems to be a bunch of boring ducks and you see something like these birds instead. The reddish one is a cinnamon teal, the black and white a bufflehead, and the other one is a lesser scaup.



15 October 2009


There were a bunch of wigeons in the bay today. They were a jumpy group and kept stirring up the coots. Son #3 loved watching all the birds fly around.












I think I saw a merlin today. It looked a bit like a hawk, but it was too small to be one. I finally figured it out when I got home.



There was another bird I was trying to figure out, but it was too high in a tree to be sure about.

14 October 2009

The People Who Are Wrong on the Internet

Some days you just don't have enough time to sort out all the people who are wrong on the internet. Today I am barely managing to ignore discussions on whether Islam is important in Central Asia, whether service is about the server or the servee, and whether the LDS Church's policy on undocumented residents is reasonable.

For the record, Islam is a vital part of Central Asia, service is about the one who is served (although it's nice if it also benefits the one who serves), and it's crazy to think a person should be denied baptism or other rites in the LDS Church because they are not legally in the country they are currently in (and therefore the current policy is very reasonable).

Now I can get on with my day.

13 October 2009

Three New-to-Me Birds



Western grebe- common this time of year














Northern shrike- I saw this one because a group of birders were looking at it. They knew it was a shrike, but since it had more black on its back than a typical shrike (so more black than the one in the photo), they were wondering if it was a different type. I left before they agreed and decided I'd assume it was a northern shrike since it's the only one that is generally in my neck of the woods. It's uncommon right now.



Wood duck- this one also is uncommon at this time of the year. I'm glad to have seen some- they're such interesting-looking birds.

12 October 2009

A Leaf in the Bitter Wind

A Leaf in the Bitter Wind
I read this one on Julie's recommendation and thought it was pretty good. There have been other books I've read about the Cultural Revolution that I thought were better though. It did make me realize again that I don't really want to read more books about the Cultural Revolution from the point of view of urban, usually more upper-class individuals (although it's because they're urban and a little better off that they had the opportunity to write their memoir of the decade). I'd like to read some books from the perspective of the rural families who had people sent to their villages to be re-educated, and to read about the effect of the Cultural Revolution on the lives of the minorities, and outside the most densely-populated areas of China. I suppose I should start looking.

Spoilers ahead:
I was bothered by the author's decision at the end of the book to go to Canada. I felt like she was trying to justify her choice by saying it would be for the good of her daughter. There weren't very many times throughout the book that I felt that her daughter's interests her most important concern, even though she clearly loves her daughter very much. This is not to justify her first husband's actions in any way, but I think she went to Canada for Bill and herself, not for Qi-meng.

08 October 2009

Convent of the Sisters of Zion


You get to this church from Lions Gate. If I'm remembering correctly, you just continue down the street after entering the city. The Palm Sunday procession we went to ended here, and I think I went in the church one other time. The Ecce Homo Church is in the convent.

But the main reason I always noticed this spot is the arch over the street outside. Since we often used Lion's Gate, we'd walk under this arch and I'd always think about this church and the story in the Bible about it.

07 October 2009

The Language Instinct

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (P.S.)
I think I'm mostly winding down with the language books for now, and I think this is a good one to finish with (except for The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language that I'm slowly but surely working through). Steve Pinker writes clearly and makes what could be a confusing or boring topic interesting.

Definitely worth reading, even if it took me forever to get through it. I'm glad I didn't major in linguistics though.

06 October 2009

White-Fronted Geese and American Coots



I'd suspected that I'd figured these out, but I was glad to find a real birder who told me I was right.

There were about 10 geese together, some young and some older, so I could easily see the differences in the black markings.

05 October 2009









I'm still learning to figure out what I'm seeing, but here are a few of my neighborhood birds.