More rain here this morning, another good excuse not to work outside --- where I'm lagging. Two neighbors mowed lawn yesterday, although that seems a little excessive. I'd be happy to have the flower beds cleared.
There was a question from farther south about the variety of magnolia now in full bloom around here. They certainly are not southern magnolias, a variety that can't tolerate the upper Midwest's cold.
Instead, they're what we call informally saucer magnolias (magnolia x soulangeana) because of the size and shape of their fully-open blossoms and are a deciduous hybrid apparently developed in France and popular in England as well as here.
This variety is cold-tolerant and flourishes around here, but becomes rarer the father north you go. This photo was taken in the arboretum near the Southgate apartments.
The deaths of two Iowa National Guard soldiers in Afghanistan earlier this week serve as stark reminders that we're still at war, although it's not clear how many Iowans not related to or aquainted with someone serving there are paying attention.
The latest death reported is that of Spc. Donald L. Nichols (left), 21 of Shell Rock, killed by an improvised explosive device on Wednesday, according to a Department of Defense news release. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard 133rd Infantry, headquartered in Waterloo.
The death of Sg. Brent M. Maher, 31, of Council Bluffs (or Honey Creek, as The Register reports), killed Monday by another IED, was reported earlier. He was assitned to 1st Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard 168th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Shenandoah.
About 80 troops with Iowa ties have died since 2003 in Iraq or Afghanistan, less than the toll in many other states, but still far too many.
The religious right has been so busy this year in Iowa demonizing LGBT people and pursuing the holy war against same-sex marriage that abortion apparently has been moved to a back burner.
Perhaps that will change after Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's announcement yesterday, as reported in The Register, that it plans to open 12 new offices in Iowa and Nebraska during the next five years. The closest to Lucas County would be in Ottumwa, although it's not known yet if abortions would be offered there.
Most likely the emphasis won't change, however, since abortion is for the most part a heterosexual issue --- gay people seem actually to value their children, born and unborn --- so the big money's still in scapegoating based on sexual orientation. Sin is relative you know, based upon its fund-raising potential.
House File 657, which would ban abortions at the 20th week of pregnancy, still is alive in the Senate I believe, but its fate is unclear as the legislative session winds down. That bill does contain an exemption for cases where the mother's life is endangered, which is the only reason the huge majority of late-term abortions are performed in the first place, so it's really kind of a pointless piece of legislation.
It occurred to me the other day that reinstating the death penaty in Iowa, usually a Republican favorite, hasn't come up this year (or if it did, I missed it). Perhaps authorizing huting seasons for mourning doves satisfied the GOP lust for blood.
Finally, on a somewhat lighter note, Register columnist Kyle Munson has paid visits to Iowa's two smallest incorporated cities --- Le Roy, over northwest of Humeston in Decatur County; and Beaconsfield, out north of Kellerton in Ringgold County --- both in southern Iowa. Each has 15 residents according to census figures.
Here's a link to the story (temporary), which incorporates brief videos shot in both communities --- although you see far more of Munson than the little towns themselves.
I pass through Le Roy fairly often, but think I was last in Beaconsfield some years ago when HyVee, celebrating an anniversary, restored the small brick building there that was its first store. That building is now the community center.
Lucas County doesn't have any contenders, since its smallest places are unincorporated. Among those, I think a good case could be made for Purdy, in English Township, or if a single house doesn't count, for Norwood out in the northwestern part of the county.