DELAY WITH GUILT – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: DELAY

I have not refilled the bird feeders. The birds think we are just late. Or really, yesterday they thought it must be a brief delay because the food is always there.

Goldfinch

Today, they were back. The squirrels and a wide variety of birds, trying to find a few seeds on the deck they could eat. They were like people who have just discovered the last two decent restaurants have been closed. Some of these birds and baby squirrels have possibly never eaten anywhere else.

A few Brown-headed Cowbirds

It’s pathetic, sad and I feel guilty. Even though I know I have no choice. I have to take them down, guilt or no because we need to fix the deck. I have bought special waterproof paint. My son is readying the powerwasher.

Cardinal

The birds weren’t getting much from the feeders anyway because the cohort of squirrels had taken over the feeders, the railing, and the deck and weren’t letting the birds near the feeders except during the hour or two a day when I managed to chase them away for a little while so the birds would descend and try to get some seeds.

Lady Cardinal on a branch

Apparently, there is no way for a human to balance this relationship between birds and squirrels. I thought the squirrels would like the flat feeder and the birds would prefer the tall mesh feeder. The ground feeders could clean up the pound or so of seeds we always drop while filling the feeders.

Big Red-bellied Woodpecker

Instead, the relentless pressure of squirrels against the birds never stopped. First, there was one squirrel. Then there were two. Eventually, there were squirrels everywhere. Waiting in the trees, hiding under the deck, lurking on the stairs, waiting in rows on the railings.

Mourning Dove on the rail

With each day, they became less afraid of us and I was beginning to think it was going to become of physical confrontation, something I absolutely did not want.

Tufted Titmouse

When they started announcing on the news that the recently-arrived bears were tearing down decks to get to bird feeders and began warning homeowners to take down the feeders now, my choice narrowed from very little to none at all. I can still throw some handsful of seeds onto the back lawn, but really they should remember to be wild.

Chipping Sparrow

Today, there were only a few very small (probably baby) squirrels urgently poking around hoping something edible remained. And besides the two little squirrels, there was a big red Cardinal, a few rather tiny Nuthatches (also probably babies — about half the size of full-grown Nuthatches) and a few forlorn Mourning Doves.

Rosefinch

The delay is not permanent. In the fall, as the air chills down, we’ll put the feeders up again and hopefully by then our furred and feathered friends will have forgotten us and the feeders and will start anew. We’ll have a few months before the battle to control our feeders gets fully underway.

I guess this proves once and for all that sharing is not the way of the wild.

Squirrel just holding on to the feeder cage

It seems we don’t actually have much to say about it. This is a bird and squirrel match. We watched while the flocks of Goldfinches got bullied off the feeders by the Cowbirds and woodpeckers. How the bigger woodpeckers chased away the smaller ones. And how the squirrels chased away everything that wasn’t a squirrel.

Nuthatch

And I don’t want to hang around until a black bear drops by and chases me away, too.

DIRECTIONAL – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: DIRECTIONAL

It’s the “clicker” in the car when you need to make a turn. If you don’t turn it on, you get a ticket. If you do, everyone crowds you in to prevent you from doing anything. I swear there are a million drivers out there who see things like directionals as a challenge to their ability to block you from any movement. It’s an actual technique in Boston. If you let your car wander a bit — just enough to avoid a ticket for dangerous driving, but sufficient to befuddle the drivers behind you, you can stop at least two lanes and sometimes three lanes of traffic.

Before there were electronic “clickers, there were hand signals. These worked pretty well, except in the middle of the winter or in the pouring rain when sticking your arm out the window will make your left arm icy, wet, or both. It was also hard on your clothing.

Car hand signals for those rare moments when your directional indicators are not inclined to blink. Hardly anyone uses them, but I have found as a passenger, leaning halfway out the window and pointing furiously at the right lane so the guy behind us just can’t possibly say he didn’t see the signal — EVEN if he was on the phone or trying to find the station that plays punk rock. It ALWAYS works. I think just seeing this old lady hanging out the window and pointing and waving her arms is a real attention-grabber. In theory, you can use a hand signal along with your electronic signals, but usually, when a hand is sticking out of the window, the driving is drying her or his fingernails. Probably not a signal.

Of course, it can also mean having a direction in life — a goal, as it were. There was a time when I had future-oriented goals. Now I have survival goals. Like: how saggy is the deck? Do I need to start a fund-raising drive now or might it not crumble until after we no longer need it?

I’m pretty sure these days, the only creatures that would miss it are the few birds that haven’t been chased away by the squirrels — and of course, the squirrels.

As an example of how pointless goals really are – even short term goals -last night, I stood up to do something. Except between standing and doing whatever I was supposed to do, I forgot.

So I stood there, determined to not sit down until I remembered why I stood up. This took a few minutes, but eventually, I realized I was looking for a container for storing CD cards for my cameras. It’s my “spare” container in which I keep the cards I have removed from the reader. It’s easy enough to forget to take the card out of the reader only to discover that you have “No recording media in camera.”

Recording media? What’s … oh. You mean the SD card. It’s in the computer. I sure hope I have another one. These days, memory has gone bye-bye, I immediately replace the card before I have a chance to forget I need one … and since there’s just a 15-second lapse between remembering and forgetting, I need to have everything at hand. This message is particularly irritating when you have your shot lined up. You press the shutter. Then you get the message. The camera could warn you sooner, couldn’t it? Like … when you turn it on? Maybe they do and I don’t notice?

At least I know if there’s no battery because the camera doesn’t turn on at all. What I don’t know is that there’s only one more shot in there, after which it’s going to shut down.

It doesn’t take long to put a card in the camera. I try to keep extras with each camera (blessed be, they ALL use the same cards!) but the picture you couldn’t take because you were missing the “recording media” or SD card never comes back. You may get a better or worse picture later, but you won’t get THAT one.

Bicycles signals, usually ignored by drivers who are talking on the phone or messing with their radio …

Meanwhile, how many people remember that there are hand signals you can use in cars and more importantly, on bicycles or motorcycles where you either have no electronic signals or it can be much less obvious what your intentions are?

Of course, there are the official signals … and then there are the “other signals.”

As I said, my personal favorite is hanging out the passenger window, waving both arms and pointing at the right lane indicating (a) a parking space!! or (b) we need to make that turn right NOW. Don’t forget your raincoat and gloves if the weather is bad.

AN ILLUSION OF THIEVES by CATE GLASS – Marilyn Armstrong

This is a world where magic has been banned. Anyone displaying signs of ability to perform it is drowned, murdered … or worse (yes, there IS worse). Amidst the terror, a group of secret magic users discovers one another. Collectively, they have the talent to do amazing things, though the law forbids it. If they are caught, they will die and likely their entire family with them.



Unlike the author’s earlier writings, this series promises to be ongoing. Somewhat emotionally less intense, it is nonetheless breathtaking in its complexity and originality. Beautifully written. I consumed the book in two long evenings. Give me a week and I probably read it again. Carol Berg, all of whose books I have read as hard copies or on Kindle is — in my opinion — a very underrated fantasy author. She creates characters who, by happenstance, bad luck, politics or some bizarre law, have been beaten down to near nothingness, yet survive, find their power and are greater than before. You cannot steal or crush their greatness.

She hadn’t written anything in a few years and I have been hoping she would emerge with a new set of stories. She has.

Under the new name of Cate Glass, “An Illusion of Thieves” has the feeling of a (hopefully!) long series. A bit more upbeat than earlier works, the story is exciting and highly complex. For the entire book, it’s as if these folks are tiptoeing through a vast minefield where even a minor misstep would mean destruction for all. How many secret magickers live under the constant threat of terror of death and ruin? We can only guess, but I’m sure there are many and laws notwithstanding, many other secret practitioners exist on all levels of society.

If you have not read any other of Carol Berg’s books … well … given the state of our world, could there be a better time to start? She is a wonderful author and I highly recommend all of her books to anyone who enjoys these kinds of stories.

These days — since my eyes are not quite what they were — I prefer audiobooks. I listened to this the day after it was released. All of her previous books I read first in print, either on Kindle or as a hard copy … and later as audiobooks.

Carol Berg’s (Cate Glass) books are not like other fantasy novels. Her characters are not typical fantasy characters. Her stories aren’t long quests to save the world from a dark lord or prince. They are profoundly personal, deep, and sometimes, heartbreaking … yet good in the end, great events. You’ll meet dragons, lords, prisoners, sorcerers and many more. If you’ve been looking for something new — Cate Glass’s new book is a fine start, after which, you can joyfully dig into Carol Berg’s earlier series.

You will not be disappointed.

NOTE: As part two of this prompt — which is prompting me to review this book which I meant to do before now! — I’m including another review of a book by the same author. The secret word is DRAGONS.

RDP Friday: PROMPT – Part 1

SONG OF THE BEAST By CAROL BERG – Marilyn Armstsrong

“Song of the Beast” is available on Kindle and Audible.com.

Song of the Beast | [Carol Berg]After years of waiting, the book finally came available as an Audiobook. Since I have the book on Kindle, Audible.com let me buy the audiobook for just $4.49 I was delighted. A steal!

Narrated by Claire Christie and Jeremy Arthur, I was reminded again at how much more I get from an audiobook than from print. I think it’s because I read so fast. When I listen, the pace is that of human speech, perhaps slightly slower than standard talk. I absorb more of the story and I give my aging eyes a well-earned rest.

The dual narration works well. Aiden and Lara having their own voices and perspectives.

Song of the Beast is a standalone book. I wish it were a series. I have it on good authority that another story (short story — not an entire book) will be coming out based in the same world, though not featuring the same characters. I would prefer more books, but I will settle for whatever I can get. If Carol Berg writes it, I will read it. I think she’s brilliant and not nearly as well-appreciated as she deserves.

I came to love her fabulous dragons.

I found the story’s characters well-drawn and three-dimensional. Many relationships are between different species because, unlike her other books, not all characters are human. The relationships are logical extensions of the cultures from which they come. The slightly abrasive relationships between different peoples are fundamental.

The main character — Aidan McAllister has been imprisoned and tortured. His beautiful voice has been silenced, his hands brutally destroyed. His music, which offered solace and hopes to war-torn Elyria, is gone. The god in whom he never lost faith and nurtured him and his music since he was a child seems to have abandoned him.

Yet no one has yet told him what his crime was. He has no idea what earned him such punishment. He has emerged from prison a broken man, battered beyond endurance, wanting nothing more than peace and safety … and the end of pain. Having lost himself, he must find his way back to himself, remember who he was because that’s the key to what happened to him, what is happening to the world and the dragons. There is, of course, a beautiful woman.

Through it all, Aiden remains a gentle soul in a cruel world, a man to whom violence is abhorrent no matter what was done to him. He’s neither vengeful nor mean-spirited. Music is his magic.

I wish there were a sequel to this book. I wanted to know what happened next, how this society evolves. The book left me with lots of questions. It isn’t a cliff hanger — not exactly — but it didn’t seem quite finished to me. There’s plenty of room for more stories as this world realigns and reconstructs itself in the wake of a new understanding of dragons.

I liked the book so much I was sorry it ended. I never want any of Carol Berg’s books to end.

Song of the Dragon is available via Audible download, on Kindle, and as a paperback. It was originally available in hardcover and I have that, too. Next up, Rai Kirah in audio! I have the first volume and this month will get another.

Please don’t miss part one of this prompt, Cate Glass’s (Carol Berg) “Illusion of Thieves.”

RDP Friday: PROMPT – Part 2

DEFINITELY PINK – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday: PINK

I don’t wear much pink or at least light pink. I do occasionally wear hot pink, though.

The flowers are often pink and here are a lot of pink plants, flowers and a few dolls.

It’s a sunshiny day, so maybe we’ll go find more pink. It’s going to be a day full of flowers. I can just feel it. It goes with the sunshine.

WORDPRESS AND REGENERATION – OH NO! – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Thursday – REGENERATE

They’ve done it again. I don’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it.

For those of you who actually use the various settings for your blog? WordPress has, without any notification to users, changed the way it’s done and what can be done … and worse, changed what the things used to mean to something else.

A lot of changes that were easy to find in a single column in the “old dashboard” are spread into other “new” files that I will only try by using an “open in new tab” option. Otherwise, I’m sure it will become the only option I’ve got. I made that mistake with the block editor, which I wanted to look at to see if I was interested (I wasn’t) — and instead, they installed it and made it impossible to get out of it — after which I spent a week trying to get the old one back.

They have set it up so you CAN get the old one back, but ONLY if you pay them much more money — which is to say, their business rate.


I am not a business.


Nor do I have that kind of money to spend on a blog that’s supposed to be fun. Apparently, it is, as always, entirely about money.

Seriously, not merely how things are done is different, but the same headings don’t mean what they used to. Go to your dashboard and try to set up things like your “primary menu” and “comments.”

That they keep fixing things that aren’t broken, but after they change them are indeed broken. These changes make organizing your posts enormously more complicated. My frustration level is over the top.

I don’t have time or energy for this. I pay them money, they give me what they feel like giving me and change what they want without consulting me or anyone else. I’m still simmering about their changing the “fonts” to “Large, Normal, Small, and Unreadable” as opposed to using the same point system in use everywhere else on the web.

I want to be informed about changes WordPress is making and I want a choice about whether or not I use it.


I AM A CUSTOMER.
I WANT TO BE TREATED LIKE A CUSTOMER.


AND SUDDENLY, IT’S ALL GREEN – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – BREATHTAKING

It’s gray, rainy, cold and the world is made of mud. No hope of flowers because it still feels like the end of winter.

Then, suddenly, the sun appears and you get a couple of warm day and the world explodes in color. Breathtaking barely describes it. It’s like a new world, a new planet. The sky is blue, the birds are singing. Of course, the squirrels are still eating all the seeds, but the lawn got mowed, the dead bushes are gone, there’s a tall fence to keep Duke in the yard where he belongs … for today, at least, the world is just perfect.

Garry went out and took pictures yesterday. Me too. I got serious about birds. He got serious about Uxbridge. There are so many pictures, I have barely had time to scrape along the edges of the more than 200 pictures from just yesterday. Call this “Breathtaking Sample 1” with more to follow!

From Garry Armstrong, the village and neighborhood:
Photo: Garry Armstrong – This picture is my favorite.
Photo: Garry Armstrong – The brand new crossing sign in the middle of town.
Photo: Garry Armstrong – At home in the woods
Photo: Garry Armstrong – The crossroads of Uxbridge
Photo: Garry Armstrong – The perils of not having a newspaper or even a radio station — we didn’t know there was a vote — or for what!

From Marilyn Armstrong, more birds and a squirrel.
The determined squirrel
Cowbird with Hairy Woodpecker – sharing!