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

Friday, February 28, 2014

You look radiant

Apparently there's this thing called "the sun" and today it did this unusual thing called "coming out." It was as though someone had flipped every light switch on the island of Manhattan all at once.

Even the Statue of Liberty had to wear shades.

Of course it was all of 16 degrees when I went out at lunch so I couldn't stand it for long, but the light was like a tonic.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Urban poetry

I guess the garbage truck isn't coming today.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Non-astronomy Tuesday

Sticking with the theme here: Lake Superior has frozen enough to allow access to the ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin. These photos, by Barbara Alwes, are from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources photostream on Flickr. (via Colossal, where there are many more photos.)

Beautiful as they are, somehow I'm not tempted to jump on a plane and go see them in person.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Doorknob update

Yes, I found the doorknob.

It was in my purse. I can't even begin to imagine the reasoning behind that, so I'm just going to pretend the whole thing never happened.

Water babies

Just when we really needed a reason to remember that snow can be magical, this went viral: a microscopic time-lapse film of snowflakes forming, taken by Vyacheslav Ivanov.

I grew up in a place where it never snowed, and so of course I believed that snow always fell out of the sky in the kind of perfect six-sided flakes we so industriously cut from construction paper in grammar school. (I would also never have believed you could get tired of it.)

Sadly, most of what falls from the sky is already clumped together and doesn't look that different from what you scrape off a Stouffer's lasagne that's been in the freezer for far too long. Then it sits on the ground and refuses to melt and convinces otherwise rational people that the month of February is at least one hundred days long. (This is also how Florida is able to fool people into moving there.) But I digress.

Once in a while, just for a moment, you do see them. An individual snowflake lands on your coat, or your glove, tiny and perfect, and dissolves almost as soon as you look at it. This video makes me remember that feeling.

And while I understand why water "wants" to be hexagonal when it freezes, because of the v-shape of water molecules, that doesn't explain why snowflakes are symmetrical, each of the six sides the same, and the explanations I tried to read were completely over my head. I'll try again when I've recovered my full allotment of IQ points.

In the meantime, I prefer to just credit magic.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Let there be light(s)

My cousin, Charlotte Tryforos, has a house, a job, a husband and a toddler, and somehow manages to find the time and energy to write a witty and inspiring blog Living Well on the Cheap. Although I had promised myself that this was the year when I was going to put some money into my apartment rather than take a big trip, I have not made a lot of progress. Charlotte has completely redecorated two rooms of her house while I have managed to replace two light fixtures.

Part of the problem is that I just get paralyzed by all the possibilities. Any other sentient human being who had gazed up at this horrendously huge and ugly ceiling fan every single night when attempting to go to sleep would have replaced it many years before I managed to.

First I needed to paint my bedroom. And I didn't like the first two colors I tried. Then I needed to decide if I wanted another fan or just a light fixture. I looked at hundreds, maybe thousands, of possibilities online. I picked one, I wavered. I picked another one, I wavered. I managed to buy a beautiful Art Deco light fixture that I really loved for my living room, but I didn't have it installed because I hadn't picked out the bedroom light yet.

Finally I decided I was just going to buy the next attractive light in bronze that I saw and be done with it. And Friday the two new lights were installed. Yay! Progress!

Then this morning when I was staggering from bed to the coffeemaker I noticed that the doorknob on my bedroom door was missing. Gone. Disappeared. I don't have a clue how I managed to lose it. It's possible that I somehow pulled it off when I was in the throes of one of my fifteen minute coughing jags, but how would I not notice that I had a doorknob in my hand? And more importantly, wouldn't I have just laid it down on the coffee table or the kitchen counter so I could deal with it when I was feeling better? But I can't find it anywhere.

Just thinking about it makes my brain hurt and I think I need to go back to bed for a while. At least I no longer have to look at that damn fan when I do.

Sunday bird blogging

The swallowtail gull chick on Genovesa in the Galapagos.

My cold slammed into town like yet another nor'easter, and has mostly departed, but I'm still a little shaky, a little shivery, with that odd sense of having skin so tender even the air feels sore.

Rarely do I find a photo that so perfectly expresses how I feel. Except that right now I'm pretty sure the baby bird could kick my ass.

Friday, February 21, 2014


The endless squares and angles of life in cube nation.

I took the day off because I had electricians coming in to swap some light fixtures. I had many plans for the cleaning, organizing and general fixing-up I could get done this afternoon, but I have one of those nasty colds that knocks you flat, and flat is how I spent most of the day.

(Yes, it does seem as though I have had a cold since early November, but until this week I had been spared the cough, which has been making up for its tardiness with intensity. My bones are sore from the rattling.)

It is some consolation that the lights look great.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Urban poetry


Pigeons hanging out in an abandoned -- since razed -- building last summer.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

Detail from a recent shot of the sun in action throwing off some solar wind. The dark area on the top right is what's called a coronal hole, which is the source of the wind.

I think I find images of the surface of the sun fascinating because it's visible to us (well, not recently maybe); unlike the exotic images of distant stellar clouds or the rings of Neptune we can easily see the sun without a space probe or a telescope. We can see it, but we can't actually look at it without losing our vision forever.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday bird blogging

Indulging my dreams of warmer weather: blue sky, blue water, and shearwaters flying low in the Galapagos.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


The rotunda at the National Gallery.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Just to prove (maybe to myself as well) that I am not so far gone down the road to Grumpyville that I'll never find my way back, the snow on the branches this morning was quite beautiful, still that pure white which the slush on the streets and in the gutters had already lost, glowing in the sunlight.

The day after

We've had worse storms. We've had worse storms just this winter. But for sheer messiness, it's hard to beat nine inches of snow followed by an afternoon of rain, turning back into snow as the temperatures fell.

There was a thick layer of slick gray ice everywhere this morning. I'm actually glad it's going to snow again tomorrow so there'll be a little traction out there.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Yeah, this again.

Can I just say that "Pax" is possibly the stupidest name for a storm ever?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Urban poetry

Winter weather sailing harmlessly past the window in the salt-stained back seat of a New York taxi.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

                 Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
                It calls me on and on, across the universe
This is our next door neighbor, Alpha Centauri, looming huge in a night sky full of stars, nebulae, star clusters and even remnants of a supernova (the red gas above the star.) Eventually the gases from the supernova will condense into new stars, the heavier elements perhaps into new planets, and maybe even new life. And the cycle begins again.

But I have to admit that when I hear "Alpha Centauri," the first thing I think of, always, is that that's where the Robinson family was heading, in Lost in Space, when the evil Dr Zachary Smith snuck aboard the Jupiter II and sabotaged the mission.

(This wonderful image is copyright Marco Lorenzi, one of those astonishing -- well you can't really say "amateur" except in the sense of doing what he obviously loves -- photographers who manage to take stunning pictures of the universe without a government or a billion dollar space telescope at their disposal. In Signor Lorenzi's case, since he lives in light-polluted Shanghai, this involves remote control of a small observatory he built in Australia. Yes, really. Many more beautiful photos at his website.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday bird blogging

We could all use some color in these gray days.

So here's a house finch from last year, with the greens of spring a blur behind him.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saturday reflections

I've posted a picture of this building before, but I don't mind repeating myself: the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington.

Friday, February 7, 2014

This cracked me up

Is there anything more romantic than a bicycle built for two? I think of sunny days and picnics in the park, old-fashioned dresses and straw boaters.

I think the idea of them is more romantic than the reality -- my only experience riding one wasn't that much fun. But this poor bike still deserves a kinder reality than being buried up to the handlebars in dirty city snow.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Urban poetry

Nesting arches at Union Station in Washington.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Meanwhile, back on Earth...

The aftermath of the storm this morning. Another arriving later tonight….

Astronomy Tuesday

This is a detail from a 360-degree panorama stitched together from photos taken by the Spirit Rover on Mars in 2005.

I'm always fascinated by pictures of the Martian landscape just because there's so little that's unlikely or unfamiliar about them -- this could be any desert on Earth. But I picked this particular section of the view because of what is strange to me -- the two small areas, one red and one green, in the upper right hand corner of the image.

Those are dust devils, and the colors aren't true to life; they're a result of the color filters that had to be applied to the photos to correct the general color of the landscape. But it's fun to imagine that on this rocky red-brown monochrome of a planet, at least the storms come in bright colors.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Welcome to the working week

We had unseasonably balmy temperatures for Super Bowl Sunday. When I went out to do some errands in the early afternoon, I noticed that the last snow was finally almost gone from the sidewalks and gutters, and the huge slush puddles at the corners had finally disappeared.

This morning I woke up, made coffee and curled up in bed with a pile of magazines. I didn't even glance out the window until it was time to get ready for work.


Somehow between the last time I checked the forecast -- probably yesterday morning -- and today, "chance of rain" had morphed into "certainty of five to eight inches of snow." Snow is so sneaky, so stealthy, unlike the obvious tap-tap-tap of rain, that you don't realize it's there until you look.

This is my window view. Grumpy as it makes me, I still love the soft blue light of a snowy morning.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sunday bird blogging

One of the pleasures of winter in New York -- tufted titmice being adorable in Central Park.

And after today the Super Bowl will be history and I won't have helicopters buzzing overhead 24 hours a day. That's a very good thing.

And speaking of adorable, today is also Puppy Bowl Sunday. It's more of a free-for-all -- those darn puppies just refuse to follow the rules -- but much more low-key, and the cuteness quotient is just off the charts.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Saturday reflections

Also on New Jersey Avenue, this odd building. It's like Modernism run amok, with lots of visible pipes, glass windows and ceiling, all jumbled together in a jangly mess.

But I do like the way that tree shape of brown pipe inside mirrors the bare tree outside and its reflection in the windows.

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