Today, I saw an American Redstart. It’s another tiny little warbler. First I noticed the male, and then a few minutes later a little gray bird caught my attention. I didn’t know what it was, so I snapped a picture. I believe it’s the female.

Redstart-Male

Redstart-Female

At the edge of the lake, I saw a sizable bird that resembled a heron but was not one of the herons I know. Looking it up, I found out it was a Black-crowned Night Heron.

Black-crowned-Night-HeronWhen he turned his head, you could see the long plumes.

Black-crowned-Night-Heron-GroomingBy some bushes, I heard some loud cries. I watched and an adult American Robin hopped along the ground followed by two fledglings. The adult continued to hop forward and the babies followed making quite a noise. The adult appeared to be showing the young ones how to forage for themselves. It was very cute.

Robin-FamilyFinally, I saw the irises have started to bloom.

Iris-by-Lake

For my readers outside of the United States, the Pew Research Center is an organization that conducts data-driven social science research on issues and attitudes shaping both the United States and the world. They are “nonprofit, nonpartisan and nonadvocacy” and their research is widely cited and is generally considered reliable. They focus very heavily on polling and demographics. They have regularly published research on the United States’ religious attitudes and demographics.

The U.S. Census does not ask questions about religion.

The Religious Landscape Studies were designed to fill the gap. Comparing two virtually identical surveys, conducted seven years apart, can bring important trends into sharp relief. In addition, the very large samples in both 2007 and 2014 included hundreds of interviews with people from small religious groups that account for just 1% or 2% of the U.S. population, such as Mormons, Episcopalians and Seventh-day Adventists. This makes it possible to paint demographic and religious profiles of numerous denominations that cannot be described by smaller surveys.

A few key items that might interest people:

  • There has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of people identifying as “unaffiliated,” a group that includes agnostics and atheists. They are the second largest group after Evangelicals.
  • All major Christian groups, Evangelicals, Mainline Protestant and Catholics, have declined as a percentage of the population. Mainline Protestants and Catholics have declined dramatically. Evangelical Christians have grown in absolute numbers, but declined slightly as a percentage.
  • Non-Christian faiths have grown, with the main growth occurring among Hindus and Muslims.
  • Switching religions is a common occurrence in the U.S.
    • “If all Protestants were treated as a single religious group, then fully 34% of American adults currently have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised.”
    • “If switching among the three Protestant traditions… is added to the total, then the share of Americans who currently have a different religion than they did in childhood rises to 42%.”
  • Religious switching has mainly resulted in gains among the unaffiliated. “But for every person who has joined a religion after having been raised unaffiliated, there are more than four people who have become religious “nones” after having been raised in some religion. This 1:4 ratio is an important factor in the growth of the unaffiliated population.”
  • The percentage of the unaffiliated who describe themselves as atheists or agnostic has grown.

You can read the report on the Pew website.

I don’t have any thoughts on the report yet myself, but I’d love to hear yours if you have any.

I took so many pictures yesterday, including flowers and landscapes, I’ve decided to just concentrate on some of my “birding” pictures. Right now, on the East Coast of the U.S., in the mid-Atlantic states, we are having what is known as “the warbler migration.” The wood-warblers, family Parulidae, are small song birds many of whom winter in the Caribbean, southern Florida and eastern Mexico. Central Park, as it happens, is a great place to look for birds. There is a lake in the park, and immediately to the north of the lake is a wooded area known as “the Ramble.” This is the prime place to go to look for warblers. I’m new to this, and I only saw a few species, and got photos of fewer.

I went to the park again. Under a tree, eating some seeds were two ducks. One was the oddly colored duck that I saw a few weeks ago.

Dark-Duck

A typical male Mallard was with her.

Two-DucksI may be jumping to conclusions, but in my mind the other duck is the same male I saw before and the dark duck is a female.

I also got some nice pictures of a pair of geese, one on a nest and another standing at a distance.

As people who stop by here regularly may have figured out, although I frequently agree with criticisms from the left about what is wrong with society, I tend to not agree about the solutions. For example, capitalism results in economic injustice, but we won’t bring about a more just society through a planned economy.

The extreme left seems to want to justify and romanticize the actions of the rioters in Baltimore last night. Baltimore is a poor city. It is bleak. There is great economic disparities and great injustices. However, the riots will only serve to exacerbate that injustice. Not only will no good come of it, but bad will come. Many areas of the city already lack basic things like drugstores and grocery stores. Businesses don’t want to open there. There’s a high unemployment rate. When businesses are robbed and set on fire, it makes it even less likely that the new businesses will want to open. That means fewer services and fewer jobs, and the cycle worsens.

The rich, the supposed oppressors, felt not one ounce of pain last night. Who was scared last night? Was it someone on an estate far away or someone in a small rowhouse? The cars that were torched probably didn’t belong to the wealthy, and if they did insurance would replace it. Here is an image from The Baltimore Sun of a woman who had to abandon her car at an intersection. There were images of cars at that very same intersection that were set on fire last night. Last night I saw a video of a family that had to flee their burning home. They were, in all likelihood, no wealthier than their neighbors.

Ta-Nehisi Coate’s article for The Atlantic criticizing non-violence is slightly less ridiculous than an article by Shawn Gude in The Jacobin, but they share the same image, one of young man on a bicycle, seen from behind, fist in the air, apparently defying a line of riot police. The concluding lines of The Jacobin article read:

If the future is uncertain, one thing is clear: it is only through resistance and struggle that a new, more just Baltimore will be born.

Another image shows the same young man from the front. It is a credit to the photographer, Algerina Perna, that it is such a compelling image. It is nearly monochromatic. The gray, smoke-filled background. The uniforms of the police officers creates a dark gray horizontal line. With the police slightly out of focus, the viewer’s eye is brought to the young man in sharp focus in the foreground. His red shirt pops out against the grays. Visually, his arm breaks the line of the police officers. His dark fist is prominent against the pale gray of the smoke. It is a strong image of defiance and rebellion. Yet, how much substance is behind that image?

Because in the second image we can see him from the front, we see that he is wearing a gas mask. This allows us to identify him as the person in this video. In the video, while the newscaster interviews someone who appears in multiple videos, we see a fire hose hooked up to a fire hydrant in the background. Someone punctures the fire hose. With the camera now focused on the hose, we see a thin young man wearing the same red and gray jersey, wearing the same gas mask, puncture the fire hose. He flees on a bicycle. There is something especially despicable about someone who hampers the efforts of firemen. Last night, in Baltimore, there were reports of rioters throwing rocks and bottles at firemen.

Later, elsewhere in the city, there was a building under construction that entirely burned to the ground. It was one of the most widely shown images because the fire was so dramatic and the news crews had good footage of it. The building was intending to be a center to provide community services and housing for seniors. A local church had been working on it for eight years. Eight years of work destroyed in one night. Eight years of work by local people for local people. Meanwhile, where were the rich of the area this past weekend? Attending the Maryland Hunt Cup. Frown at the privilege if you like, but recognize that the riots did not have any affect on the people who attended that.

It is simply a fantasy that riots and “rebellion” has even the remotest possibility of overturning the established order. However dramatic and compelling the image is, it is just that, an image, and it is a shame that people are seduced by it.

I’ve been meaning to draw more, but I never know what to draw. Sometimes, I just let my hand go and my mind follows. Most frequently, I draw faces. I don’t think that’s unusual.

Twinkie BanditSo, I’m calling this, “The Twinkie Bandit.” Long ago, I had a boyfriend that used to use that phrase all the time. I guess it’s sort of nasty, but he was aware that it described himself as a pre-adolescent. I don’t know if they have them outside of the U.S., but Twinkies are mass-produced vanilla cakes that you can buy in convenience stores and drugstores. They come as two small oblong cakes to a package and they’re inexpensive. When my sister and I were young, we’d ask our mother or grandmother for a few quarters and go to a nearby candy store. It was just about as far as we were allowed to go without supervision. It had a soda fountain, comic books, candy, popular paperback books and newspapers. We’d buy a package and split it. As it happens, I preferred Devil Dogs or Yodels because they were chocolate.

My doodle doesn’t really resemble my former boyfriend when he as a kid, but it does a little bit. Next year, he’ll discover girls and cut down on the Twinkies.

20150418_145839

Some Virginia bluebells

Last weekend I went to my sister’s place down in Baltimore to do a little work in the yard. Here are some pictures I took.

This is some sort of Trillium.  I won't be able to know what type it is until it blooms.

This is some sort of Trillium. I won’t be able to know what type it is until it blooms.

ICNA irregularly shaped flower about 3 inches high with lacy leaves

Here are some Dutchman’s Breeches. There were more however some animal ate the others.

This is a squirrel I call Spot. She recognized me from last year.

This is a squirrel I call Spot. She recognized me from last year.

A chipmunk.

A chipmunk.

Some Primroses.

Some Primroses.

Addendum: I originally tried to post this from my phone, which is why I suppose the format looks a little strange. Also, the size of the photo files are a little large. Normally, when I post from my desktop, I try to make the file size smaller. I do have to say, however, that the phone takes surprisingly good pictures.

I’m a creaky old lady. Cranky, sometimes too. My age shows in attitudes that appear to be becoming quaint. For instance, I love technology, but I’m not oriented towards consumerism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude and am perfectly happy to have a new toy, but I don’t quite get the attitude that you have to have the latest even if it isn’t the greatest. The evident pride some people have in showing-off their new consumer devices is something I don’t quite feel. I’m happy enough to have an item myself, but I don’t really care if the whole world knows about it, or if they already have it.

Back when new technology came in a large, unsexy, beige box that sat at home and no one even knew you had, I was pretty much in tune with the attitudes of other people who were technophiles. Starting with the iPod, however, technology became something you took out of the house and was therefore easy to show off. Then the melding of a love of technology and consumerism created a new animal, technophile 2.0.

Which is a long-winded way of saying, “What’s up with that watch?”

Since I’m technophile 1.0, I’m more likely to read Tom’s Hardware than Gizmodo, which means I only have a vague awareness of what the new items are and what they do. Back when the new technology still sat inside, or at least was plugged into, that big, beige box, I had a tendency to buy technology that was not the newest. Right after the price dropped seemed to get you the biggest bang for your buck, then I’d use it until it was dead as a doornail. Back then, by the way, geeks were notoriously cheap. In recent years, that technique hasn’t been as functional because many of our new computer related items become less functional quite quickly. My cell phone, which was considered a “smart phone” when I got it, did about what an average “dumb phone” does today. However, despite not being able to access all sorts of applications, I was still using it until about a week ago when it became the worlds smallest doorstop. I just can’t bring myself to throw out something that’s still remotely functional. It feels unnatural. (And my apologies for any unreturned phone calls. It’s not you. For a change, it’s not even me. It’s my phone. As soon as I get a new one, I’ll return your call.)

Which brings me to the watch.

When I first hit that age when girls start pretending that they’re women and carrying purses, I learned a lesson. In fact, I learned the lesson many times. The lesson is this: Most people are really nice and very honest. You see, I had a bad habit of leaving my purse all over the place. Inevitably, it was returned. As a result, I’m absurdly trusting. Once, on a date, I lost my wallet. The man with me asked if I needed to cancel my credit cards. I said, “No, my wallet will be returned.” He thought I was being reckless. Perhaps, but I was right. (Thanks, Pia!) Still, over the years, I learned to not carry a purse. I adopted smaller men’s wallets rather than the strangely large things women carry. I seek out clothes with pockets. I go to the grocery store looking like I’m ready for a safari or a month in the Australian outback. Generally, however, I travel light. The rise of the cell phone has caused me to start carrying a purse again. How strange to have a whole bag just for one item. I’ve tried clipping it to my belt. I assure you that the old Blackberry could survive flying about ten feet and landing on hard pavement as you jog across an intersection. Despite the proven durability of the phone, I was less sure of the durability of my body and I felt that one day I might get hit by a car running back to retrieve my wayward phone. I gave up the belt clip.

So, my phone is now dead and, the other day, I roused myself to take a look at what was on the market to replace it. “OMG! A watch!” Ah, I had such fantasies of dashing around Manhattan, as free and bagless as I was in my twenties, phone strapped conveniently to my wrist. So what if the screen is a little small. I didn’t surf the web on my phone much anyway. I could feel like James Bond talking into my sleeve.

Alas, it seems that that unicorn was just a goat viewed from the wrong angle. On closer inspection, it seems that you still need a phone, and need to carry it with you. The watch apparently just syncs to the phone. It doesn’t appear to be particularly useful, just one more encumbrance, which leads me to wonder why anybody wants it.

I went for a walk in the park today with my camera. The weather was beautiful and I’d been meaning to get out. Over the next few weeks, we should be having the warbler migration. In fact, I saw a Yellow-rumped warbler today. Hopefully, within a few days I’ll be able to put up some of the pictures. I got lots of them. Mainly birds, but some turtles and squirrels as well. I saw a flicker, which always makes me happy for some reason.

For now, however, I wanted to put up a picture of a bird I can’t identify.

strange-duckObviously, it’s a duck of some sort, but what type of duck. It just so happens he or she was swimming alongside a male Mallard.

two-ducksTheir profiles look very similar. I couldn’t help wondering if this could possibly be a melanistic Mallard. Has anyone heard of such a thing?

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