Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nature vs the Folly of Man

“History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of man . . .”
Blue Oyster Cult, "Godzilla" 

Monarch Caterpillar: photo by Cliff Hutson

A Book

Last night I finished reading "Career of Evil," by Robert Galbraith. This author is better known as J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame. It is the third book, written under this pseudonym,  about Cormoran Strike, a private deceive, and by far the worst in my opinion. I very much enjoyed "Cuckoo's Calling", the first in the series. The second "The Silkworm" was just adequate, to my mind. This last book stinks, in my opinion.

A more discerning reader might take exception to that. Which is cool by me. But, I found the descriptions of the crimes to be far too grisly for my taste. I feel that detective stories can be well done without this nonsense as proven by Robert Crais, Agatha Christy, and Edgar Allen Poe, whom many contend to be the progenitor of the genre.

However, I was very much intrigued that "Career of Evil" has an interesting conceit of heading up most chapters with lyrics from songs recorded by the band Blue Oyster Cult. Now, I have long considered myself to be a BÖC fan, but was not familiar with hardly any of these lyrics. And, after having seen them in this context, may never be able to enjoy listening to the band again.
Milkweed in Bloom: photo by Cliff Hutson

The Music

Even so, I will hold on to my second favorite BOC song, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper".  And, the one I like the best, "Godzilla". 

Just like the the novel, I started off this post with a snippet of actual lyrics. However, I have always thought of them as, "nature must pay for the folly of man." 

I, for the purposes of today's lesson, relate this conjecture to the decline of the Monarch Butterfly. As the referenced article states - "Across North America, the number of monarchs has dropped 27 percent in the last year alone, and by four-fifths since the 1990s. Habitat loss, especially in midwestern farm country, is a big reason. Farmers have plowed up most of the nation's milkweed patches to plant GMO soy and corn, much of it for ethanol fuels. But monarch caterpillars can only eat milkweed. And less food means fewer butterflies."

Asclepius fascicularis: photo by Cliff Hutson

The Pitch

Monarch caterpillars rely on milkweeds for food.  Fortunately, many California native species are quite attractive in the garden — and unlike milkweeds from elsewhere, they've evolved to bloom right when California monarchs need them.

Thus, I propose that many of us are in a position to give these little guys a hand. Please consider giving some space to help out our fellow creatures.

An Aside

The California Wildflower Show runs at RSABG from April 22 - 24, and the Butterfly Pavilion opens May 13, 2017.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

First Day of Spring

A nice walk

I took a walk through the botanic garden on the first day of Spring. These plants captured my attention.

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii: photo by Cliff Hutson
x Chiranthofremontia lenzii: photo by Cliff Hutson

Manzanita Berries: photo by Cliff Hutson
Manzanita Berries: photo by Cliff Hutson

Berberis aquifolium 'Golden Abundance': photo by Cliff Hutson
Berberis aquifolium 'Golden Abundance': photo by Cliff Hutson


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

February 2017 Reading

The books I finished reading in the month of February 2017

February 2107 Reading: photo by Cliff Hutson
February 2107 Reading: photo by Cliff Hutson
The month of February was a very slow month for me when it came to reading, only three books. And, fairly thin ones at that. The fault lies within myself as I became addicted to watching "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" on Netflix. Viewing all three seasons took up much of my time.

Perhaps the most interesting of the books was "Island of the Blue Dolphins," by Scott O’Dell. It is a children's novel, and, indeed, it was recommended to me by students from Sycamore Elementary School when I was leading a Native Partners program at the botanic garden. The book had come up from time to time in previous years, but these kids were very insistent once I admitted to not having read it. (I have a good excuse though. When I was in forth grade, it had not yet been written.) Presumptively based on a true story, it tells the story of a young California Indian girl stranded alone for years on one of the Channel Islands. While quite entertaining, I feel that much of it has to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. However, I am glad that I read it as it may help me put some of the concepts we teach in to a better context for children who have also read it.

Frankly speaking, “Breaking Cat News,” by Georgia Dunn is a bit a cheat as I read it last year. But, in need of some good humor, I picked it up again. Anyone who has any appreciation for cats should love reading about cats reporting on the news that matters to cats. I also read the comic on a daily basis.

How to See: Visual Adventures in a World God Never Made,” by George Nelson disappointed me a bit. Nelson tells us that - "Einstein has been reported as saying that it is not possible to make an observation unless the observer has a theory to bring to bear on what he is looking at." So, I assumed that this book might give one the tools with which "visual literacy" may be enhanced. It did not do that for me. That could be because I am too much a technician (whose skills are primarily verbal) to pick up what was going on. Or, alternatively, perhaps I am an accomplished enough of a photographer that I already have an intuitive grasp on visual reading. Obviously, a book that has held its own for forty years must have some merit. I intend to give it another go in a few months to see if my view of it can be altered.

Another thing that remains to be seen is if March holds less binge watching and more reading for me.

NOTE: March 8 is National Proofreading Day. Did you find any errors in this post?



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

National Margarita Day

Drink Up

El Ranchero: photo by Cliff Hutson
El Ranchero: photo by Cliff Hutson

February 22 is National Margarita Day 2017 in the United States of America.

I am not one to say that Jose Cuervo is a friend of mine. My current tequila of choice is Hornitos Reposado. But, when you get right down to it, almost any tequila listed as "100% de agave" on the label is good in a margarita whether you like one en las rocas or congelada

Hornitos: photo by Cliff Hutson
Hornitos: photo by Cliff Hutson

Then, again, I am of the opinion that "rocks" is the the way to go. And, I seem to be in good company thinking that frozen is a distant second place. A frozen margarita just ruins the experience as far as I am concerned. Your mileage may vary. My research also noted that they can be served "straight up", but I have never seen that done.

Old Fashioned Margarita: photo by Cliff Hutson
Old Fashioned Margarita: photo by Cliff Hutson

A margarita is a cocktail consisting of triple sec, tequila and lime or lemon juice. There are many stories as to its origin. There are nearly as many opinions as to which type of glass in which to serve one. I am pretty much uncommitted when it comes to this. But, I lean toward the old fashioned glass, or even a mason jar, over the more traditional coupe variant.

Premium Tequila: photo by Cliff Hutson
Premium Tequila: photo by Cliff Hutson

Being born and bred in Southern California, I feel fortunate having encountered Mexican (or Mexican-American) food when I was just a tad; eating my first burrito about the age of five or six years old. My first encounter with tequila would have been in the late 60s. It took several more years before I discovered margaritas But, this was because they were not all that popular until then. I highly recommend Taco USAGustavo Arellano's history of how, and why, Mexican food has such great popularity in America; and the margarita may be its most favorite cocktail.

El Coyote: photo by Cliff Hutson
El Coyote: photo by Cliff Hutson


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

January 2017 Reading

“It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” 
– Oscar Wilde

The Books I Finished Reading in January 2017

January 2017 Reading: photo by Cliff Hutson
January 2017 Reading: photo by Cliff Hutson

Recently, I came across an article that maintains that the books we read reflect how healthy, mentally stable, and secure we are at the time in life in which we read them. I am not sure that I totally buy in to that. But, it is an interesting proposition; and, it introduced me to the wonderful quote at the top of this post.

It can be said, with little doubt, that I don't have to read anything at this point in my life. Yet, I find it hard to imagine life without reading. (And, it is supposed to be good for me.)  I read both for information and pleasure. Two of the four books I read in January fall in to each category.

The first includes “Secrets of the Oak Woodland” by Kate Marianchild. It came highly recommend by by a couple of my fellow Nature Interpreters at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. I found the information to be quite helpful. But, based on personal experience, feel that some of should be taken with a grain of salt.

I can not recall how I came across "Sage Living" by Anne Sage. I read books of this nature both to study how other photographers approach these projects; as well as getting design ideas for my house. This book was a bit disappointing. But that may just be due to the mood I was in at the time I picked it up; so I plan to reread it in the not too distant future. My main complaint is that the text and the images seem to have a certain disconnect. However, I already think that it was well worth the purchase price - the photograph on page 185 validates a vision I had previously conceived of an Eames chair and Pendleton blanket in my own home.

The books in the second group both come under the genre of mystery. I thought that I had read all the books in the Spenser series written by Robert B. Parker, prior to his death.  (Yes, I know, the concept of of an author writing a book after their demise seems strange. But, somehow the publishers of Parker, Clive Cussler, and others have managed to circumvent the obvious difficultly in this endeavor.  I don't envision myself ever reading any of those tomes.) However, somehow I had managed to miss "Potshot" so when brought it to my attention, I jumped at it. I think it is a pretty good story. An added enjoyment for me is that I am fairly certain that I know the town in Arizona that the community of Potshot is based upon.

The final book of the month was a Jack Reacher novel, the twenty-first I think, from Lee Child. Long story short, "Night School" is a good read, but not one of his best.

What have you read of late?


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Movie Log - 2016

All the Movies I Watched in 2016

On Location: photo by Cliff Hutson
On Location: photo by Cliff Hutson
I watched eighty-eight movies in 2016. This works out to about 1.7 per week; I am unclear to me if that is a little or a lot. The list, in chronological order is as follows:
  1. Life Itself
  2. Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's
  3. Bill Cunningham New York
  4. Iris
  5. RocknRolla
  6. Pride and Glory
  7. Maltese Falcon
  8. Fargo
  9. Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman
  10. The White Diamond
  11. Romancing the Stone
  12. Strangers on a Train (British version)
  13. The Wrecking Crew
  14. The September Issue
  15. Exit Through the Gift Shop
  16. Inside Llewyn Davis
  17. Between Heaven and Hell
  18. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  19. Dog Day Afternoon
  20. Deep Impact
  21. Armageddon
  22. Burlesque
  23. Dog Soldiers
  24. Body of Lies
  25. Conagher
  26. The Red Violin
  27. Inception
  28. Blazing Saddles
  29. Fame (1980)
  30. Coffee and Cigarettes
  31. Stranger Than Paradise
  32. Down by Law
  33. The Italian Job (1969)
  34. My Dinner with Andre
  35. Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
  36. Black Angel (1946)
  37. Flashdance
  38. Trees Lounge
  39. High Anxiety
  40. A Chorus Line
  41. Jaws
  42. The Postman
  43. They Were Expendable
  44. Mr. Majestyk
  45. They Died With Their Boots On
  46. Finding Vivian Maier
  47. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
  48. Spotlight  
  49. Cabaret
  50. Young Frankenstein
  51. Twister
  52. The Producers (1968)
  53. Adaptation
  54. Blade Runner (The Final Cut)
  55. Tangerine
  56. Trumbo
  57. Take Out
  58. Fed Up
  59. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream
  60. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
  61. The Girl Who Played with Fire
  62. Anchors Aweigh
  63. The Fifth Element
  64. Battle: Los Angeles
  65. Take Me Out to the Ball Game
  66. Pal Joey
  67. On the Town
  68. Cat People (1942)
  69. Waiting for Guffman
  70. Best in Show
  71. A Mighty Wind
  72. This is Spinal Tap
  73. I Walked with a Zombie
  74. The Body Snatcher
  75. The Curse of the Cat People
  76. The Shawshank Redemption
  77. Art House
  78. Lo and Behold
  79. Tiny: A Story About Living Small
  80. Hell or High Water
  81. Wall E
  82. The Dark Knight
  83. Open Range
  84. Die Hard
  85. Sour Grapes
  86. SOMM: Into the Bottle
  87. Minimalism
  88. The Hunter (2011)

On DVD: photo by Cliff Hutson
On DVD: photo by Cliff Hutson

The vast majority of these were seen on DVD; many of which are in my personal collection and the remainder from Netflix. The ones that I own I tend to watch time and again. Some of these viewings could be considered to be ritualistic. I like to revisit "Jaws" at the beginning of the Summer season, which (for me) is anytime between Memorial Day and the Forth of July.  "Casablanca" I watch every Bastille Day. It is not that the movie is really connected to that date, but the pivotal scene of the singing of La Marseillaise evokes that for me. My birthday always calls for watching "Twister", as it reminds me of my fiftieth birthday. I have had quite a few great days in my life. But, the celebration of that event was one one the best;  seeing the movie with my wife, daughter, and grandchildren; and then eating at Russell's. It is a great film, and, in an alternate universe, I can easily envision myself as a member of Jo's team.

Others I frequently turn to are the works, of the Coen brothers, Hitchcock, Mel Brooks, and Christopher Guest. 

Missing from the list this year, for reasons I can not recall, are "Silverado" and "Trading Places". The former is easily among my top ten favorite movies of all time, if not the top five. The second I usually  watch in late December.

The best of the recent movies I saw was, by far and away, "Hell or High Water". I like this movie so much that if I see any best of 2016 list does not include it I say say 'screw it', that person does not know what that are talking about.

Thanks to the thoughtful generosity of my children, who gave me a flat screen TV and an Apple TV device for my seventieth birthday, the last ten movies of 2016 were seen using modern technology. I enjoy this so much that I have a challenge for myself of watching 104 movies in 2017. That is probably achievable once I get past past binge watching TV shows such as "Person of Interest", "The Blacklist", and "House of Cards"; which are all new to me.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reading Log - 2016

December 2016

The books I finished reading in December 2016:

December 2016 Reading: photo by Cliff Hutson
December 2016 Reading: photo by Cliff Hutson

A Year of Books

I read a total of fifty-four books in 2016. This puts me about 35% ahead of David Allen, who was the impetus for my starting to track my reading. My list, in chronological order:

Books Read - 2016
  1. “Go, A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design," Chip Kidd
  2. "Black Cherry Blues," James Lee Burke
  3. "Shock Wave,” John Sandford
  4. “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” Irving Stone
  5. “Dark of the Moon,” John Sandford
  6. “Heat Lighting,” John Sandford
  7. “A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams,” Michael Pollan
  8. “Rough Country,” John Sandford
  9. “Fight Club,” Chuck Palahniuk
  10. “Bad Blood,” John Sandford
  11. “Mad River,” John Sandford
  12. “Storm Front,” John Sandford
  13. “Deadline,” John Sandford
  14. “Faceless Killers,” Henning Mankell
  15. “Caesar, Let the Dice Fly,” Colleen McCullough
  16. “Red Gold,” Alan Furst
  17. “The Rosie Effect,” Graeme Simsion
  18. “After I’m Gone,” Laura Lippman
  19. “On the Beach,” Nevil Shute
  20. “Landfall,” Nevil Shute
  21. ”Sayonara Slam,” Naomi Hirahara
  22. “The Dragons of Eden,” Carl Sagan
  23. “The Postman,” David Brin
  24. "Breaking Cat News: Cats Reporting on the News that Matters to Cats,” Georgia Dunn
  25. “The Little Sister,” Raymond Chandler
  26. “Moscow Rules,” Daniel Silva
  27. "A History of the End of the World,” Jonathan Kirsch
  28. “An American Genocide,” Benjamin Madley
  29. “The Sixth Extinction,” Elizabeth Kolbert
  30. “Cooked,” Michael Pollan
  31. “The Man in the High Castle,” Philip K. Dick
  32. “Personal,” Lee Child
  33. “Make Me,” Lee Child
  34. “In a Sunburned Country,” Bill Bryson
  35. “Hogs Wild,” Ian Frazier
  36. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” Philip K. Dick
  37. “The Mother Tongue,” Bill Bryson
  38. “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” Bill Bryson
  39. “Pied Piper,” Nevil Shute
  40. “The Harvest Gypsies,” John Steinbeck
  41. “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” George V. Higgins
  42. “Ecotopia,” Ernest Callenbach
  43. “The Devil’s Star,” Jo Nesbo
  44. “Biophilia,” Edward O. Wilson
  45. “Hold Tight,” Harlan Coben
  46. “Reversible Errors,” Scott Turow
  47. “Last Train to Istanbul,” Ayse Kulin
  48. "Escape Clause," John Sandford
  49. "The Wrong Side of Goodbye," Michael Connelly
  50. “W is for Wasted,”Sue Grafton
  51. “Heat Wave,” Richard Castle
  52. “Orphan X,” Gregg Hurwitz
  53. "Susie’s Seniors Dogs,” Erin Stanton
  54. "Shop Cats of New York,” Tamar Arslanian
It is fair to say that I am glad that I read all of these, as I have reached a point in my life where I no longer finish a book that I start but then has no appeal for me. However,  not all of them were enjoyable. “An American Genocide”, for example, was very disturbing. But, it opened my eyes to a part of California  history of which I was unaware, and gave me a new perspective in which to frame the work I do in ethnobotany.

Sheer entertainment was found in the Virgil Flowers mysteries by John Sanford. I guess I put the entire series under my belt just this year. Bill Bryson offers both humor and information, so his books were a real treat. (His "A Walk in the Woods" is one of my all-time favorites.)

Picking the best book of this year's lot is a bit problematic, but the nod goes to "Pied Piper" by Nevil Shute. He is probably best known for "On the Beach", which is also on my list. However, I choose "Pied Piper" as I found the story more compelling; and I strongly identified with the protagonist. He and I are the same age, seventy years old. It seems that was considered to be much more ancient in the early days of World War II than it is today. (I like to think that 70 is the new 50, anyway.)

Also near the top was “The Rosie Effect” by Graeme Simsion  However, it was not as good as "The Rosie Project" which tied at number one for me last year.

I am starting 2017 with a pile of eleven books that I intend to get around to reading. The one that has been in it the longest is “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty, which I acquired back in May 2014. This might be the year for it.