Monday, 16 February 2009

Visitor to my bird feeder

I put up a bird feeder outside of my study window because that is where I spend most of my time so it is the best place for me to see the birds. I was studying today when I heard a rhythmic noise through the wall. I sneaked up to take a look and look who was visiting me!This is a Blåmes or Parus caeruleus a very common bird here. It is mainly found in deciduous forests and in gardens. They are easily recognised by thier blue scalp (which unfortunately I didn't manage to capture with my camera (I didn't want to scare him or her off) ) and the markings around the eyes. Appart from this they look very similar to Talgoxen.

They stay in Sweden year round (as you can see we have A LOT of snow).

They eat a variety of foods both insects and seeds. They are very fond of the type of seed and tallow balls that I have as my birdfeeder.I was really impressed by how many pictures of this bird I managed to get. Most of them have gotten away from me before I have managed to take their picture but this one stuck around for quite some time.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Book Review: The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne investigates the human condition in a very compelling way.

Set in Puritan Boston it explores what happens to the very souls of primarily three individuals when as sin is committed and discovered. It also criticises early Americans for their views on sin and who has committed it.

The three individuals at the centre of the story are Hester Prynne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth. At the beginning of the novel it is revealed that married Hester Prynne has committed adultery and as an adulteress she is forced to wear the Scarlet Letter "A" at her bussom. The story then goes on to show how she uses her sin to do good. As the story progresses we find out that her partner in crime is the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale who does not confess to his part in the crime. He is then eaten up from the inside by his guilt. Roger Chillingworth is Hester Prynns estranged much older husband who does not addmit to this to the population in Boston but passes himself off as a doctor who treats Reverened Dimmesdale as he becomes physically ill from his guilt.

Hawthorne makes use of extensive symbols and metaphores in the telling of his story. Perhaps the most important of these symbols is the Scarlet letter itself which becomes and outward symbol of Hester's sin but also comes to symbolise her making of herself. As the novel progresses it is remarked that the "A" has now come to symbolise Able as Hester helps around the society in a way other women cannot. In the end the symbol becomes so much a part of her that her own daughter will not come to her if she wears it.

I thuroughly enjoyed this book. I found it had a lot to say about how we make ourselves into who we are. I suppose it is the American in me that feels that it is far more important what the sum total of us is rather than one or two outward symbols. It is what we do with those symbols that matters.

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Evening Star

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning
of the bar
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seem
s asleep
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the

~~Alfred, Lord Tenn

This has always been one of my favourite poems and today when I looked up to my study window and saw the evening star shining brightly down at me the first line popped into my head and I felt I had to share.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Audiobook Review: 1776 by David McCullough

This month I have been listening to 1776 by David McCullough. When I first discovered I was a bit sceptical. I enjoy listening to audiobooks in the car but I don't drive so much now and I couldn't think of a time when I had time to sit down and listen, but I had a free trial so I thought I would give it a whirl. The first book I listened to was Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Mongomery and I found that it was perfect for when I was having breakfast and lunch (on my own) during the week. So this month I listened to 1776.

The American Revolution is not a time period with which I am familiar. I grew up in Sweden and we just did not study it. I have studied American history after the Civil War when I was in the states but the period before...nothing. All the names and places are familiar but to me the American Revolution was summarised like this in my brain: "Washington was the general. The other dudes sat in Philadelphia. The Americans won. Bye bye British! Yeah Declaration of Independence. The End". Yeah, I needed more. Someone suggested that David McCulloughs books were perfect and I have to say they were right.

He finds a good balance between the military history (NOT my thing) and a narrative around the important characters in the war. They are all presented in a sympathetic manner, even King George III. I found the geography easy to follow along in. He to time to explain the distances and the difficulties involved in getting to the different battlefields. I liked how he vowe in personal recollections of those that where there, down to the lowliest soldier. It made it feel like a history of people not just jerking from battlefield to battlefield.

The book was read by the author and for me this added a more personal touch to the readings. You could tell that he knew the material well and was invested in telling it well. I felt like he was reading it to me. Not some far off mass of people who knew about the material already.

I will want to listen to it again because there are bits that I have missed because something happened and I didn't hear it properly or it just didn't make sense. But that is no hardship at all.

It is available from
1776 by David McCullough

Or as a regular book

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge #44: Hare

These pictures have all been taken in our back yard. The show tracks from hares. In Sweden we have two different types of hares, the Forrest hare (Lepus Timdius) and the Field hare (Lepus Europaeus). They are mainly distinguished by the length of their ears. The Forrest hare has shorter ears than the Field hare. In addition the Forrest hares fur becomes lighter in the winter in order to blend with the snow, the Field hare stays the same brown colour. We rarely see the hare around here during the day, but as you can see they most certainly visit us. I am resonably certain that what we have around here is the Forrest hare but the Field hare is making inroads into the whole country which is sad.

The hare's tracks are easy to recongnise because of their distinctive long back tracks and the smaller two front tracks usually one infront of the other.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Book Review: Don Quixote

So the first of my 12 books in 12 months was Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. It was unmitigated disaster for me. The book is recommended in The Well-Educated Mind and I have started reading it before and taking notes on it. I started again in January and got about 200 pages into it and gave up. It just was not my cup of tea at all.

I am highly empathic and I find it difficult to read or see things were others make fun of those who are less fortunate and I just found it to painful to read this story. Add to that the fact that slapstick is just NOT my kind of humour and it just was not for me.

One incident that I did find interesting in the book was the obvious critique of the Petrarchan sonnet that occurs at one point. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza come across a rich man who has died from the unrequited love of a woman. The woman arrives at the funeral and points out that it is the man's own fault that he dies since she made it perfectly clear that she was in no way interested in him and that he therefore must take responsibility for his own actions. This was one of the few points in the story where I felt that I got really into the story. I thought she made a very valid point. I am currently studying Renaissance literature and it is interesting to see the prostrating that the male writers are doing in order to show their love for these ethereal beauties that have no interest. This is also interesting in light of today's debate about realistic love stories, you know the kind I mean, where they live happily ever after. It would seem that there has never been a realistic portrayal of love in literature. Or at least not the every day love that most people have.

So I suppose in conclusion the book did have something to tell me even though I didn't get very far in it :D