Shakespeare, Hitchcock, and Me

How did Shakespeare describe it?

Spring’s ragged-edged advance

Well, maybe not, but he might have if he had lived in Canada. As Edmonton and Winnipeg enjoy late snowfalls and Ottawa looks forward to one next week, spring continues with two steps forward, one step back. This first full winter we’ve spent in Canada in many years and the first *ever* with a bird feeder has seen another first too: The first time I’ve had the opportunity to observe the seasonal changes in local bird populations.

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Changing of the Guard

The Redpoll Gang is gone: The 50 birds that stripped my feeder bare every day for several days with just an hour of concerted effort. A few still come, but the main body has moved on. May they have fair winds and re-filling feeders wherever they go.

In the great circle of being, the wooded area behind and beside our house is coming to life again, literally greening in some cases. Last year’s burdock burrs snuggle into the leaf litter, waiting only for the first rain to burst into hideous life.  Wee brown bunnies emerge, blinking, from burrows.

The robins tease us by dropping off nesting materials on the same porch column where they nested last year and then disappearing for days on end. Like, are they coming back or not?

In even unhappier news the squirrels have once again found the magnolia’s buds, which emerge before the tree’s leaves. Time for chemical warfare.

4-photo spring collage

Magnolia bud with cayenne treatment, early leaves, heather in bloom, tulip likewise.


All’s Fair

“Agent Or’nge” adheres.
Rat-like noses sniff the buds,
wrinkling in dismay.




Posted in Appreciating Deeply, Laughing Frequently, Photos of Flora, Through the Calendar | Tagged , | 2 Comments


Ingenuity, the helicopter that is part of the Perseverance mission to Mars, just underwent some flight test “stuff.” That’s the technical term.

During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday,
the command sequence controlling the test ended early
due to a “watchdog” timer expiration.

There was an “issue.”  That’s the political term. A normal human would say that something failed.

The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry
to diagnose and understand the issue.

But wait a minute. How did they know there was a problem? I mean, an issue?

The helicopter is safe and healthy
and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth.

Yes, folks, that’s right: ET phoned home.

And sometime this week — once all the issues are resolved but no earlier than Wednesday, April 14 — NASA will fly a helicopter cum drone on Mars. A helicopter. On Mars.

Check your local TV and internet listings. It’s not quite like people landing on the Moon, but it’s still very cool.


Posted in Appreciating Deeply, Through Space | Tagged , | 6 Comments

A Good Run

His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Thus starts the Wikipedia section on the Full Style of one man who died this week (of the more than 1 million people worldwide): Philip Mountbatten, husband to Queen Elizabeth II. It goes on for quite a while in all its fullness and style:

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Posted in Appreciating Deeply, Feeling Clearly, Mortality | Tagged , | 6 Comments

The Song the Cicadas Sing

As a follow-up to last week’s piece on ci•ca•das, here’s an excerpt from a Washington Post piece that Tom W. shared with me.

Every time the cicadas return, the human calendar has accelerated. When they were here in 2004, there were no iPhones and only about 24 percent of American adults had broadband at home. On their previous visit, in 1987, the top-selling music storage system was the cassette tape.

But as we’ve seen in recent years, a balanced, healthy mind cannot live on acceleration alone. There is such a thing as too much stimulation and too much focus on the events of the past day, the past hour, the past minute.

Slow down, the cicadas sing to us; look at the world through a longer lens. I know not where they come from, but the message is a godsend.

– The Cicadas are a Godsend, Washington Post

I don’t have a subscription so I can’t link to the source article, but the title is shown at the end.

Close-up of all-green grasshopper on yellow wildflowers.

Herbivorous, not homopterous, but we work with what we have.

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To Eat, Perchance to Dine

Health inspectors were shouted out of a Vancouver restaurant on Saturday [03 Apr] by patrons dining indoors in contravention of public health orders. . . . [Vancouver Police Const. Tania] Visintin says no one was arrested at the eatery and no tickets were issued, adding any further action would be taken by provincial health authorities.CBC

Given last week’s discussion, what struck me first about this article was its use of “dining” in almost the same breath as “eatery.” Why isn’t “dinery” a word? It could be one, if we wanted it to. After all, it’s clear no one is in charge of the language. We can do whatever we like.

What struck me second was that the diners at this eatery seem to think they can do whatever they like, too. I’d suggest they channel their frustration and irritation through the mechanisms in place to give feedback to elected officials, rather than shouting at enforcement officials.

“Harassment of enforcement officials will not be tolerated, and closure orders by Vancouver Coastal Health or any other health authority must be respected,” Farnworth [BC’s public safety minister] said in a statement.

Well, closure orders must be respected in the sense of “obeyed,” I’d say. We can all have our own views about their logic, wisdom, and necessity, which views I’m sure the Minister will be happy to hear and open to considering. That’s the respect he owes to the diners of Kitsilano.

And now that we’re on the topic, what’s with that word — diner? It means both the person who is eating and, in some cases, the place in which they are eating. It’s clearly time to embrace “dinery.”

Posted in Language and Communication, Politics and Policy, Thinking Broadly | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Lies, Damned Lies, and Advertising

Words can be slippery customers: They have both denotations (literal or primary meanings, often more than one) and connotations (feelings or ideas that they suggest). It’s the connotations that trip us up (or down, usually): Words that seem to be similar can have subtle shades of meaning that make them less than fully equivalent. Walk with me as I explore one word. And for goodness sake, watch your feet.

dine (verb)

eat dinner.
“we dined at a restaurant”
have dinner
have supper

eat, consume
feast, banquet
take, partake of
nosh, sup
tuck into, devour, scoff

“Why are we here?” you might also wonder. Because this past week a fast-food company offered me the opportunity to dine with another for $11.98.


I cannot say it was a lie. It’s a big world, full of wonders, and it might be possible for two people to dine, somewhere, for $11.98 (plus taxes). But in this establishment, although it is possible to eat, consume, partake, and scoff/scarf it is not possible even to tuck into, which implies altogether more enthusiasm than is either likely or appropriate. And it certainly is not possible to dine.

I say this with confidence, even though I myself never dine. I do, for goodness sake, know what the word means.

Posted in Language and Communication, Laughing Frequently | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Bread Face

Some people say that everything happens for a reason.

I don’t say that. I don’t even believe that.

But I do say that if the grocery store had had sliced bread this morning, then I would not have seen this face this afternoon.

Found face on a loaf of bread.

Posted in Laughing Frequently, Photos of Faces | Tagged | 4 Comments

They Can’t Get Us All

They’re coming. Although “when” isn’t precise, apparently “whether” isn’t in question. After almost a full human-generation underground, there will be billions of them out-and-about sometime between now and the end of May. Yes, billions of them.

Billions of whom? Cicadas, that’s whom.

a large homopterous insect with long transparent wings,
occurring chiefly in warm countries.
(Ed’s note: Just to be clear,
the whole insect occurs there, not just the wings.)
The male cicada makes a loud shrill droning noise
(Ed’s note: I have known males like this.)
by vibrating two membranes on its abdomen.
(Ed’s note: Just to be clear, not exactly like this.)
– Oxford Languages

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