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

Monday, September 30, 2013


One of the break dancers from a few weeks ago, catching his breath while he waits for his cue.

Below, two little girls in the audience who clearly didn't quite know what to make of the performance.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Marble dove

Bonus bird blogging.

Pigeons are also called rock doves, so the black and white coloring of this striking bird inspired the pun in the title of this post.

And I love that red eye!

Sunday bird blogging

But the light of day was on them
They could see the thrashers coming....

A brown thrasher, to be precise. Finally, a bird that cannot possibly be anything else. Lots of birds have spots or stripes on the breast, but not many of them are as big as a robin, and none of them have long tails and yellow eyes.

I assume they're called thrashers because of the noise they make -- they like to root around in the undergrowth, tossing leaves and twigs aside while they look for food. It reminds me of someone digging frantically through a pile of dirty clothes looking for missing keys. I half expect them to shout "Aha!"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday reflections

I actually took this picture from the window of a cab that was stopped in traffic. I was charmed by the way this squat industrial lowrise building seemed to be launching itself into space when reflected in the side panel of a parked car.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Urban poetry

Sunday at a business district cafe, empty chairs stacked outside awaiting Monday's crowds.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Astronomy

Returning to our regularly scheduled solar system.

Here's a last look at Neptune, and its largest moon Triton, above, in their indie, arthouse days, as captured by Voyager 2 in 1989. And to the left, a closeup of Triton captured at the same time. Triton's surface has the coldest recorded temperature in the solar system -- Neptune, of course, like the other gas giants, doesn't have an actual surface. It's just a big slushie of ammonia and methane that gets steadily denser as it approaches the core.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Tourists looking intently at a map near Grand Central. I love their color coordination!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fly like an eagle

Bonus bird blogging.

I just came across this video (via Colossal) and had to share it, though I'm feeling that I ought to disapprove of using a bird this way:  footage from a camera strapped to the back of an eagle. That's Chamonix, in the French Alps, that the eagle is soaring over and around.

This is a little of what it's like to be a bird. (Or maybe, since the eagle's head is clearly right there, what it would be like to be Harry Potter riding Buckbeak.)

Cool. Really, really cool.

Sunday bird blogging

Well, this is a thrush. It could be a Swainson's thrush, or it could be a hermit thrush. Hermit thrushes have reddish tails but I only saw the bird from the front, so I'm just not sure.

Which has been happening a lot the past few weeks. Maybe it's just that I've learned all the common birds, so that I've forgotten how hard I used to find identifying anything less obvious than a cardinal or a robin. There was a time when I would have been thrilled just knowing that this was a thrush, without worrying too much about which particular thrush it might be. And it is awfully cute, whatever it's called.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

East side, west side, all around the town

A few more from the observation deck: on top, the East River, and the western end of Long Island, in the form of Brooklyn and Queens. Just above, the Hudson and Jersey.

Saturday reflections

I always love these wavy reflections in the Hyatt next to Grand Central.

(Updated to include another view of the buildings below.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Two Chryslers

The Chrysler Building seen from the Empire State Building, one beautiful tower shouldering its way in amid the crowd, doesn't seem as impressive as when you see it from below, that spire seeming to stab the sky.

Also the smokestacks in Queens in the background aren't exactly ethereal.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Urban poetry

The ornate old-fashioned light fixtures overseeing the very 21st century hustle and bustle at Grand Central Station.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Astronomy Tuesday

With the announcement last week that Voyager I had officially passed from the solar system into interstellar space, we'll jump out into the galaxy as well this week.

This is a Hubbell photograph of the core of the Milky Way. I could explain why those bright blue stars are called "blue stragglers" but that involves explanations of stellar lifecycles and the Hertsprung-Russell diagram that aren't nearly as much fun as just looking at the sheer glory of it all.

The next time someone claims that his Deity is extremely concerned about the details of how He (or She) is worshipped, and will punish anyone who fails to conform to the rule book, send them this picture. Any God who could make this -- multiplied by billions across the universe -- clearly has much better things to do than referee petty squabbles here on the pale blue dot.

Click to enlarge. And marvel.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Two different looks of the Naked City: deep in dusk and solarized into unlikely color.


There were break dancers in front of the library on Fifth Avenue yesterday, and we stopped to watch on our way to the Empire State Building.

Here's Grandmaster Sam with one of the dancers.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

View from the top

Of the Empire State Building, that is.

After a long lunch spent discussing college applications, my lovely niece Samantha and I played tourist and stood in the long lines to ride up to the Observation Deck. It was a beautiful clear, breezy day, and the late afternoon light was spectacular.

I'll post more pictures later in the week, but in the meantime, here's Lower Manhattan, with the new Liberty Tower standing tall, and Sam taking a selfie.

Bonus bird blogging

Audubon would never have attached his name to anything like this, but if Dali had been a birder, he might have approved.

These cedar waxwings in Strawberry Fields were high up on a branch with no unobstructed view. The blur of all the leaves and branches in the way make it look more like a painting than a photograph.

Sunday bird blogging

And this would be a warbler, a Cape May warbler to be precise. Not a great picture, but I was so pleased to finally catch one of the little suckers mid-migration that I'm happy to show it off anyway. (And also grateful that there were several other birders in the vicinity to provide identification -- warblers are all tiny, constantly in motion and basically some variation of yellow. I'm in awe of the way the serious birders can tell a Wilson's from a chat with only the briefest of glances.)

I'm so much better at bird photography than I was, but still taking fifty bad shots for every halfway decent one. This picture of the Cape May's ass on the right is all too typical, but I like the abstract featheriness of it, the way it isn't immediately obvious that it's a bird.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday reflections

Roll up for the Mystery Tour!

Ninth Avenue, looking quite jolly and more than a little psychedelic when reflected in the back panels of a van sitting in traffic.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Urban poetry

A fence behind a fence behind a fence. And then that crumpled pile of orange webbing in the corner, no longer necessary when the big boy cyclone fences are on the job!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's Neptune again, this time in closeup, as seen by Voyager 2 in 1989. The probe passed within 3000 miles of Neptune's north pole, and so provided much more detailed photographs than the distant Hubbell telescope is able to take.

That dark spot so similar to the one on Jupiter has disappeared since this picture was taken -- it's thought that the "spot" was actually just a gap in the clouds.

Monday, September 9, 2013


A cheat: street photography. This woman was waiting for a bus near Lincoln Center. But I had to capture that expression on her face!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


The beauty of perfect design: a mallard's feathers sweeping through the water.

Sunday bird blogging

The air may be cooler and more fall-like, but it's still lush late summer in the park: thick greens, ripe berries, butterflies and dragon flies swooping over the lawns. And this flycatcher, sitting on a fence.

I hadn't been there in weeks. Meant to go, thought I'd go, planned to go, just never actually went. I've been feeling a little beaten up by the world lately, and it's just too easy to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep and pretend that I never have to get up and deal with all the crap.

But it's fall migration now, so this morning I made myself grab the camera and go, and I'm so glad I did. Although I continued to have my usual luck with spotting warblers (bad), just being in that idyllic little patch of green, away from the traffic, away from the noise, away, just away, is so healing. I let my griefs go, even if just for a little while.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Moods for moderns

Not the usual Saturday geometries, but I love these windows near Union Square: the chic modern furniture in the much older building.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Urban poetry

I like the jaunty angle of the pipe on the right, as though it's craning for a better view of the building across the street.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Astronomy Tuesday

This is Neptune, photographed by the Hubbell telescope in 2005.

This photo shows what the ice giants look like in natural light, without the color filters used in the photo of Uranus I posted last week. Now that Pluto has been demoted, Neptune is officially the planet farthest from the sun -- more than 30 times farther than Earth. It's so far away that it can never be seen with the naked eye, and can barely be seen from Earth even with a powerful telescope. Because of this, it was the first planet discovered by physics rather than by observation, when Alexis Bouvard hypothesized that an unseen, very large planet was affecting the orbit of Uranus.

Neptune does have a ring system, though not as substantial or stable as that of Uranus and Saturn, and even the mighty Hubbell can't see them. And although it has 14 moons, only one, Triton, is large enough to have the gravity to form a spherical shape. The others are basically just big lumps of rock.

Monday, September 2, 2013


This man had a table of maps and old prints for sale, near Union Square, which didn't interest me. But he also had brand new road atlases for $2 and I bought one immediately.

I love that the Internet lets me get directions to anywhere, to see satellite views and street views of anywhere on Earth, but I still love paper maps. I like to be able to pull a book off the shelf and see, for example, just how far it is from Detroit to Toledo if I go to the birding festival in Ohio next year, or just where exactly Tyler, Texas is. I think I left the old Rand-McNally road atlas I had for years under the seat in a rental car somewhere, so I'm ridiculously excited to finally have a replacement, for something I didn't even realize I wanted.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday bird blogging

A mallard, enjoying the summer from the Azalea Pond in Central Park.

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