I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's an appropriate image for a new year: a composite photo from NASA of the Earth at night.

Each one of those points of light is shared by thousands, if not millions, of people. And those in the darker portions of the planet at least have the advantage of still being able to see the night sky in all its wonder.

I'd like to think that a perspective like this helps us realize that we're all we've got, and we need to show more kindness and generosity towards one another. I can hope, anyway. Even after a year in which I had to learn yet again that the politics of your average workplace make the goings-on in Washington seem like a model of civility and cooperation, I'm even more grateful for everything I have, and more determined not to let the bastards get me down.

May 2014 be a little calmer. I for one could use some downtime. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday bird blogging

A yellow-rumped warbler.

The trees in Louisiana are very tall, and I didn't bring a long lens with me, so this was the closest I could get. But even from this distance, I'm pretty sure that he was thinking, "Thirty degrees? Why didn't I just stay in New York for the winter?"

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday reflections

Trees and moss reflected in a bayou in Slidell.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Good Eats

Holidays sadly over, I flew back to New York this afternoon. But we had one last Louisiana feast this morning, a late breakfast at S&H Good Eats Cafe in Slidell, the kind of small restaurant with a few tables and amazing food that only the locals know about. I had scrumptious, very peppery, home fries cooked up with eggs and cheese in what was called a mess and tasted anything but.

If you're ever in Slidell, worth a visit. If you're ever in Louisiana, worth a detour.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How to fry a turkey

The process began two nights ago, when a super-secret blend of spices was cooked into a marinade. After it cooled, a very scary looking syringe was used to inject the turkeys. (Hint: move the syringe around under the skin to get the marinade in several locations -- you want to limit how many times the skin is pierced.)

Let the turkeys marinate for two days. On the big day, set up a big pot of oil in the driveway and heat to 325 degrees.

Give the turkey a rubdown with more spice and very, very, VERY carefully lower it into the oil.

Drink Bloody Marys while the turkey cooks (3 minutes per pound.) Repeat until you run out of turkeys, or out of Bloody Marys, whichever comes first.

Merry Christmas, y'all

This is the centerpiece of tonight's Christmas feast, a turkey marinated and rubbed in Cajun spices and then deep-fried in peanut oil.

Monday, December 23, 2013


I love the trees down here: the tall, tall pines with their fuzzy bristles, live oaks, beards of moss over bare branches.

Bayou country

The sun finally came out for a while this afternoon. This is the bayou that winds behind the house across the road.


My lovely cousin Judy, in the bear hat that keeps her ears warm when she goes out on the porch to have a cigarette.

It was warmer in New York yesterday than it was down here, and the rain came down so long and so steadily that we were joking that there'd be a new bayou in the back yard by morning. The rain has stopped finally but it's gray and very very muddy, so the nature hike we thought we'd do today is postponed until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Sam blogging

Rain all day here in Slidell, and we lost power for a while.

But nothing can keep Sammy from celebrating the season. (The hat and the beard lasted about thirty seconds after this picture was taken, but I did capture the moment.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Son of a gun we'll have big fun on the bayou

The band at Mulate's, the Cajun restaurant where we had dinner. 

Sadly, most Cajun cuisine is heavy on the crustaceans, and it breaks my heart to know that I can never eat barbecued shrimp again.  But it was still good food, good music, and the fun of watching the dancers: little kids dancing with a parent, couples who marched through their paces with grim expressions and only smiled when the music stopped, one older couple who cuddled like teenagers through the slower songs.


Spooky and a little sad in the midst of all the holiday lights, the huge Riverwalk mall now closed up and empty.

The mighty Mississippi

An unexpected treat: after my cousins picked me up at the airport, we headed into New Orleans for the evening instead of heading straight back to Slidell. Here's a cargo ship sailing down the Mississippi behind the bright red of one of the paddlewheel riverboats.

We drove through the Garden District, where many of the big old houses were festooned with Christmas lights, and had a drink on Fulton Street, where there was a band playing Christmas songs, New Orleans-style, and a snow machine spraying flurries into the wind. I've already seen more snow than I care to this year, but it was fun to watch the little kids in their parents' arms laughing and grabbing for snowflakes.


The journey not the arrival matters

That's the title of one volume of Leonard Woolf's autobiography, and though the quote is sometimes attributed to Eliot and sometimes to Montaigne, no one seems to know who actually said it first.

I've always loved the quote, and found it valuable when considering journeys both physical and metaphorical, even when applied to air travel, which the airlines are doing their best to squeeze every last drop of romance and excitement from. I'm at the airport now, on my way to Slidell, Louisiana for Christmas, and this morning's adventures have been one long tedious reminder of why I try not to fly during the holidays. I understand that airports are crowded and it's a very stressful time for everyone in the travel industry as well as for the passengers, but my God, do they all have to be so surly?

From the shuttle driver who arrived half an hour late, to the United personnel at checkin who seemed to think it was my fault that my luggage check hadn't printed on their side of the barricade and so they didn't realize I'd finished checking in and felt free to ignore me, to the kid who left the baggage collection area unattended so I couldn't drop off my suitcase, every single one of them gave me snarls instead of a simple "I'm sorry." The fact that they didn't tell me my flight was in a different terminal until after I'd checked in and surrendered my suitcase was just the icing on the cake. I might still see that bag again. Someday.

On the other hand, for some reason I had a TSA pre-screening, and I got to speed through a security checkpoint with no lines, wearing my shoes and coat and leaving my laptop packed away. That felt like Christmas, and went a long way to restoring my holiday spirits.

At least until I actually get on the plane…..

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Astronomy Tuesday

This is today's NASA astronomy picture of the day, a time-lapse photo of this week's Geminid meteor shower, taken by Juan Carlos Casado. That's the Teide volcano in the Canary Islands in the foreground.

We had yet another snow day in New York today, and the streaks of these meteors remind me of the snow coming down outside the windows all afternoon.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

More snowy stuff

I've been waiting for an excuse to post this picture -- the second snowstorm in a week before winter has even officially started will definitely do.

This looks like an abstract photo collage, but it's actually a satellite picture from the European Space Agency of snow sweeping into Scandinavia. The dark tree-like silhouettes at the top are the fjords of Norway; that's Denmark in the lower righthand corner.

The ESA's Observing the Earth photo archive, here, is worth bookmarking. It's a nice reminder that there are Hubble-worthy wonders much closer to home.

Sunday bird blogging

One more juvenile frigatebird for the road, and we'll look for some American birds next week.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday reflections

I decided to post some windows anyway, dark wavery slightly spooky windows that match the dark weather.

Snow day

A change of pace for this Saturday -- for the second time this week I woke up to a sky full of snow. The air darkens and blurs and we skid into the holidays.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Urban poetry

I wouldn't want to have to rely on this fire escape in an emergency (and the boarded up windows are a sign that, fortunately, no one will) but I am curious about just how it got so damaged, wondering what could twist and distort metal that's sitting a couple of stories above the street.

I took this picture in the summer and the building's a parking lot now.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Astronomy Tuesday

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

This galaxy is Messier 77, as it appeared forty-seven years ago, when the light that recently found its way to a lens on the Hubble first left home. It's about 100 light years across, slightly larger than our galaxy.

There is a supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy; in the visible spectrum, which is what this photo shows, it's just your run of the mill spiral galaxy. But if you had x-ray vision, you'd see an enormous brightness at the core from the black hole slurping up all those delicious stars.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday bird blogging

Some more finchiness: three species on Santa Cruz island.

You can't see the cactus finch to the right as clearly, but in the two pictures above it's easy to see how closely these birds are related; the feathers and the eyes are almost identical. It really is just those very prominent beaks that distinguish them.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday reflections

Some warm brick and wavy gold in the colors of the season.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Urban poetry

After eight months, the renovations are finally done and we've moved into our new offices.

So here's a last shot of the ceiling in the basement, a little spooky, a little abstract.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Astronomy Tuesday

This is something most of us haven't seen, or probably, wondered about: Mercury, photographed by the Messenger probe. That cratered surface, similar to our moon, means that it's been geologically dead for billions of years.

Although Mercury can be seen with the naked eye, and the earliest recorded reports are from the Assyrians in the 14th century BC, its closeness to the sun means that it can only be seen just after sunset or before sunrise when the relative positions of our orbits are favorable, usually just a few days a year. Or during a solar eclipse.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday bird blogging

A warbler finch on Espanola.

There's one species of flycatcher in the Galapagos, and that's what I assumed this was at first -- it looks a little like a least flycatcher -- but that short stubby tail means it's one of Darwin's finches.

Unlike the mockingbirds, where each species is limited to a particular island, the finches occupy particular ecological niches, and the beaks of the various species and subspecies allow them to live side by side without competing for food. A finch with a bigger beak eats the cactus fruit, for example, while a finch with a smaller beak eats the base of the cactus plant. And those small pointed warbler finch beaks are perfect for catching insects, which is what this bird was focused on when I saw it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday reflections

A chilly, jangly view of New York, refracted in a headlight.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Urban poetry

Kind of. I thought this sign was funny and never got around to posting it before this.

I've gone through one round of antibiotics and two bottles of Robitussin since getting sick the last day in Panama, and though I'm definitely better I'm still hacking all night and all day. I stayed home today, giving my co-workers a day off from listening to me cough (and peering nervously through my door to ask if I'm all right in the aftermath. Yes, I'm that loud.)

Anyway, if you happen to be in Guayaquil and in the need of some laser surgery, please tell Dr. Gimenez Vera I sent you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday bird blogging

This is a sanderling, a common shore bird just about anywhere in the world. This particular bird was enjoying the unique ambience of San Cristobal in the Galapagos.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday reflections

The funhouse colors of Times Square reflected in a rather mundane office building's windows.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Urban poetry

Getting back to a routine slowly: I've been sick since Panama, and have too many things going on that I have to handle with half a brain.

So late but better than never, here's a piece of urban poetry in the Bronx. These metal plates represent sandhogs (the construction workers who build the tunnels and caissons underground) who were killed in the line of duty, laid out in a sidewalk with a rippling pattern like water.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Astronomy Tuesday

One last look at the Galapagos -- a radar image from the European Space Agency.

The largest island is Isabela, which is composed of multiple volcanoes that have basically merged their lava into one island. The large island to the right of Isabela is Santiago.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday bird blogging

A lava gull, at Cerro Brujo. They're another vulnerable species; they only exist in the Galapagos and there are only a few hundred of them.

I like the footprints in the sand behind the bird.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday reflections

This must be New York.

I've been sick with a hacking cough since I came back from Panama, and going through countless pictures of birds and sea lions has eaten up all my free time, but I woke up this morning feeling better, finally, and also feeling for the first time I'm home.

Now I guess I can finish unpacking.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Astronomy Tuesday

This photo from September was taken on a day when there were no big storms anywhere on our planet.  After the devastation in the Philippines this past weekend, I thought we could use a glimpse of a time when the planet wasn't yelling at us.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday bird blogging

Here's one of the few good bird photos from Panama. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present -- the violaceous trogon!

And it's just as cool as its name.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday reflections

It will be several days before regular blogging resumes, while I try to catch up with the backlog of Galapagos and Panama entries.

In the meantime, here's a hybrid: Saturday reflections, Galapagos style. I love the way the wet coat of this sea lion at Punta Suarez reflects the sky and the black lava rocks on Espanola.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Local wildlife

I don't actually have to go on supervised walks to see wildlife here. There were howler monkeys jumping through the trees outside my room, and here's a black vulture, a cattle egret, and several capybaras on the lawn of the main lodge.

Monday, November 4, 2013

I guess that's why they call it a "rain" forest

Heavy, steady rain all afternoon, but I didn't mind. I got to spend some quality time scratching the bites I acquired on the hike this morning -- I didn't actually see any insects apart from the leafcutter ants, but they were obviously there. I was wearing insect repellant, but the bugs apparently just thought it was a nice condiment for the delicious filet de Kathleen they were munching on.

I made coffee in my little kitchen (thanks for the free upgrade, Gamboa Resort!) and checked some emails, but mostly I sat on the balcony and watched the mists shifting over the trees through the veils of rain. It was like being inside of a cloud.

Blog Archive