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Currently Reading

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris.

It’s David Sedaris, need I say more?

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Currently reading

The Trees in My Forest by Bernd Heinrich

A natural history of your yard; if your yard happens to be a 300 acre forest in Vermont, that you

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The list of books to come

In the spirit of posting madness, a list of the books in my new ‘to read’ pile. I am not one to make resolutions for new year’s, however, this mass of books is in part a sort of resolution to myself… to read more, or rather, more often. Too frequently, I find myself decompressing or my relaxing involving watching something on tv (care of the TiVo or DVD’s) or sitting with this lap top in front of me reading (generally something that is crap anyway).

It seems lately, that my reading time has been relegated to those moments right before I go to sleep. Training my eyes and mind that it’s okay to fall asleep while reading, or almost to the point that I can’t fall asleep unless I have taken even a minute or two just to read something.

But here it is, my list of books to read in my effort to read more often:

Winter World : The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich

The Trees in My Forest by Bernd Heinrich

Anatomy of a Rose: Exploring the Secret Life of Flowers by Sharman Apt Russell

The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Charles Neider

I had in my possession for many years, a leather bound copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was a gift I had bought my brother many, many years ago. It was placed and forgotten in a closet until I resurrected it and gave it a proud home on my shelves. Well, recently, that brother adamantly decided to reclaim the volume. But in return, purchased a three volume set of the trilogy to return the books to my shelves for xmas. So, I plan to re-read these as well.

Add to this pile a few entomological and conservation biology books I also received as xmas gifts, as well as a few books I’m still amidst reading concurrently… I’ll have my hands full and will have no reason to not be reading something for relaxation everyday.

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Simple pleasures

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Interesting new read

Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson.

An interesting evolution/sexual selection book written in the style of an advice collumn from the view point of animals wondering about certain behaviors or structures in their species. Actually Mark picked this up for me and it is definitely a gem of a book!

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Currently reading:

Monkey Dancing: A Father, Two Kids, and a Journey to the Ends of the Earth by Daniel Glick

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It’s All Relative

My internet travels found me upon and reading a trilogy of short stories written by my cousin Karen. It took me a moment, but during my initial reading I did not realize she was writing in the voice of a male character. In my minds eye, or ear rather, I heard the shorts from the perspective of a lesbian voice.

Now shoo! Go read them!

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Well, that’s that!

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I enjoyed this, this in general, reading through the series over the past few weeks. There were things about this last book that I didn’t like, for one, it was entirely too long. The story that was being told could have been told better in half the pages, there were times that I labored through the pages as they became tedious to read. But by the last third or quarter it picked up and held my rapt attention again.

It’s nice to see that the other characters are developing in personality, but I wish it was a little more drastic than it had been. They’re 15 now, and they are and should be different than when they were at 11, but their personality growth seems to have been a little too slow. They come across as slightly emotionally stunted. I can understand it, because the books aren’t actually for 15 year olds (nor approaching-30 year olds) they’re for 10 year olds, so the characters need to stay identifiable, and its certainly reasonable to just consider their stunted growth parts of their characters. (Someone commented about this very subject before I read the books and now I really understand what they were talking about).

Well, on to my next read Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser.

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Currently reading:

The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Leland Childs

Childs, who regularly contributes to Morning Edition on NPR, is a naturalist, a geologist and has a general interest in the history, biology, culture and lore surrounding American deserts and locating water therein.

Beautiful inspiring imagery and poetically written prose… and I am only into the first chapter. It’s a mix between a travel journal and a natural history narrative as the author is a geologist. It is intensely personal, almost spiritual in his observations and meanderings through the desert, yet it is riddled with eloquently compressed scientific knowledge and history. These observations and musing come from his quest of mapping out water locations for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, even the smallest of transient puddles or unexpected pools protected deep in craggy granite.

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What is she reading now

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

I’m looking forward to this one, it’s about the true and frightening but bizarre world of orchid poaching. Actually, I had read a number of excerpts from this book years ago. It was for an environmental ethics and public policy course, a rather fitting venue to be exposed to the subject. Nothing gets me more worked up than rare or endangered organisms getting exploited out of existence.

A very recent example of this is the rather horrific story of the discovery of a new species of Phragmipedium orchid, whose genus has flowers that are typically small and dull brown or green. A nursery owner purchased an unknown orchid, which had an enormous magenta and purple bloom measuring six inches across perched on foot-high stem, from an Indian family in northeastern Peru. Systematic botanists at a botanical garden who had come across the plant independently posted a systematic paper, determined that it belonged to that particular genus and named this new species Phragmipedium kovachii. In just a few days time, from the discovery of the population to the published taxonomic description, the slope where the only 500 known individuals of this species were discovered had since been stripped clean.

This happened last year! Last year! Humans are barbaric. The entire population was disseminated before anything was understood about its reproductive biology or the pollinator ecology or what its environmental requirements were.

This story was the subject of a discussion I had with one of the botanists over lunch last year. She explained that most orchids have extremely complex and extended life cycles. Most are not fully understood. There are species that may only flower once every 50 years, triggered by unknown environmental cues, may be well camouflaged by looking like contemporaneously occurring species of weeds. More often than not, populations are clustered with very limited distributions, they are highly endemic.

That there are people who are this passionate about orchids solely for the cause of collecting, solely for who can possess the most unusual and rare, in an era of environmental and species protection is completely astounding to me. I know for a fact that the same sort of people and conditions exist for the trading and selling of illegal insects (i.e. those that are rare or endangered, those that are protected in some way). All orchids everywhere are protected, it is illegal and punishable by fines and jail time to remove specimens from the wild. Even claiming innocence through ignorance to owning a protected species is punishable with fines. Again, similiar conditions exist in entomology.

Am I wrong to be under the impression that we are in an era of heightened awareness of the value of biodiversity? This is what I do for a living, this is my passion! I study the importance of diversity in maintaining ecosystem health. The current funded project involves studying aquatic insects as indicator species all along the watershed of the Susquehanna River.

In spite of my passion, regardless of my commitment to biodiversity research, my faith in humanity continually diminishes.

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Current reads

Currently reading:
Insect Lives: Stories of Mystery and Romance from a Hidden World by Hoyt and Schultz.

It’s an intriguing collection of excerpts from natural history writings, literature, mythology, art, popular culture… and it all involves insects! It’s one of those reads that rewards you many interesting tidbits of information. Each section is fairly short, so even those who have a hard time digesting dry writing can easily enjoy the science sections. There is even Gary Larson bug cartoons interspersed throughout the book.

Cultivating Delight: A natural history of my garden by Ackerman

One of those pleasing and casual reads. I generally enjoy writings by naturalists, this particular book focusing on the observations of the wildlife activity witnessed around the garden. This is something I hope to include in later entries, wildlife surveys of my own green surroundings.

I guess I’ve already embarked on this endeavor through my garden album online. This is an ongoing project I’ve started in order to document the species and flowering times of the wildflowers that occur in my garden and around the other parts of the front and back yards or along the sides of the house.

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