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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Urban poetry

They don't let you even bring cameras into the court buildings in downtown Manhattan (except for those attached to cell phones and iPads) so I didn't carry a camera around with me while I was on jury duty last week.

But I did get this picture the first day -- filming a music video in one of the many downtown alleys near the courts.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

This is Arp 188, called the Tadpole Galaxy because of that spectacular tail.

Astronomers theorize that a smaller galaxy got a little too close, and gravity and tidal forces snagged a long tail of stars and gas from the intruder, creating an impressive accessory. Arp 188 is about 420 light years away from us, but that tail is 280,000 light years long.

Like all tadpoles, this galaxy will eventually lose the tail. Gravity will continue to do its job, and those bright blue star clusters will eventually coalesce into satellites of the main galaxy.

Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing - Bill Snyder (Heavens Mirror Observatory)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Neighborhood watch

Bonus bird blogging.

Today was a perfect day to be in the park -- balmy and  breezy spring, leaves just starting to come out, and winter birds and new arrivals singing their whole-hearted approval of the situation. I had jury duty Thursday and Friday and had to work most of yesterday to catch up on things, so I needed the sanity break in the park more than I needed to tackle the backlog of chores.

Just inside the Ramble, there was a rumble. Two birds were flying at each other, tumbling through the air together, screeching and squawking. One was this red-bellied woodpecker, which broke away and climbed into this hole. The other was a starling, which was obviously trying to sublet this cozy little studio apartment in the trees.

There was a gang of three more starlings on a nearby branch, but after a few more angry exchanges the starlings left. The woodpecker continued to keep watch; it was a lot of work digging that hole and he's not about to give it up without a fight.

The pictures below aren't very clear. This female robin is building a nest; she was way back in the trees and I didn't want to try to get closer. Birds nesting: must be spring.

Sunday bird blogging

The peculiar profile of an African goose, at Fireman's Park in Graham.

Like most geese I've encountered, this bird was neither quiet nor well-behaved. Not satisfied with terrorizing the other birds in the vicinity, he came after me, squawking threats at high volume. I've been bitten by geese before -- those big beaks bite hard -- so I retreated. Quickly. 

Very quickly.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday reflections

A cityscape, reflected in the back of a car on Tenth Avenue.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Urban poetry

I realize that, by some standards, Jacksboro, Texas (population 4511, as of 2010) does not qualify as "urban."

But I pulled over here to take this picture, before turning on to Texas 199 and continuing on my merry way to Fort Worth and DFW and home, because I was charmed by the idea of a drugstore that advertises both a soda fountain and a fax machine -- artifacts of two very different eras.

Also, by the way, Texas Department of Transportation? That road sign there? Great idea. Very handy. You could use a lot more of them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

Saturn is just so photogenic.

This is an image from 2006, taken by Cassini. The rings are viewed from the side, so only the thin line of their edge is visible (with one of Saturn's many moons visible as a dot) but their shadows loom across most of the planet's northern hemisphere.

Image credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday bird blogging

I remember when all my bird pictures looked like this (and honestly a lot of them still do). I took this through the windshield of Judy's car, and I didn't have the right lens and the bird refused to look in my direction, but I thought it was a sparrow I'd never seen before so I took the picture anyway.

Fortunately the markings are so distinctive it was easy to identify even without a good closeup. This is a lark sparrow, which is common in Texas year-round but never visits the East Coast at all, so I'm glad I have the picture.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Urban poetry

I've taken a lot of pictures of a new hotel being built on 50th Street, but these feet -- apparently unaffiliated -- are my favorite.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

The moon as photographed by the Zond 8 Russian satellite. I didn't see the lunar eclipse last night, though there was a spectacular almost-full moon in the Texas sky Sunday night.

I'm still going through Texas pictures, and will post them when I can. I was going to experiment with putting everything on Facebook and making it public, but I still just don't get the point of Facebook. (I'd say this is because I'm not a teenager, but most of the teenagers I know wouldn't be caught dead on Facebook anymore.) I've looked at the pages of people I know who post a lot, and still -- just don't get it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Square

I like these pictures in an old-style black and white. The square in Graham -- America's largest! -- keeps the old buildings and the original facades and turns them into new businesses.

A slight detour

After driving around the ranch and taking pictures, we were heading back to Graham so I could see the town square (there had been an antique car show around the square the day before, the reason I ended up staying out at the ranch when I couldn't get a hotel room in town until Sunday night.) But we got a little bit lost -- all those dirt roads do look very much alike -- and we ended up taking a long way around to get back to where we'd started.

Which is how I got to take a picture of the very cool shadows on these tanks on one of the ranches we drove by.

More Texas sky


The Brazos, shallow and muddy after a long terrible drought. The ranch usually offers canoeing, but the river isn't deep enough, so the canoes sit unused on the banks.

We watched the egret on the left wade out into the water without ever getting in much deeper than it is here. I wouldn't think that there's much for it to eat in the river right now.

The place where the road and the sky collide

The road down to the Brazos River from the back gate of the ranch.


The picture on the left is how I've always thought of Texas energy -- oil, oil, and more oil. But if you click on the picture to the right to enlarge it (this is the view from the restaurant terrace at the ranch) you can see wind turbines on the top of the hill.

I can vouch for the fact that there is an abundance of wind around here. I gave up trying to keep my hair combed two days ago.


There's a riding ring by the stables, but I prefer the horses like this, no saddles, no bridles, strolling through the pasture, munching on some delicious grass. It's almost ridiculously idyllic.

Scaredy cat

This sweet little cat, barely past kittenhood, posed so nicely by the Texas bluebonnets when Judy and I were taking pictures after having brunch at the Wildcatter's restaurant.

It then proceeded to scare the living crap out of us, landing out of nowhere on the hood of the car when we were leaving to take a drive around the ranch. It tried to get into the back seat through the open passenger window, and scratched my neck when I opened the car door to put it outside.

They grow some pretty fierce kitties in Texas.

Sunday bird blogging

There are lots of hawks circling these Texas skies, but that's where they stay, up high, out of camera range.

So here are some more cooperative Texans: three pretty Pekin ducks at Fireman's Park in Graham yesterday.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

More roots

Graham is also where Judy's parents met. My grandfather worked for an oil company, and the family lived in Graham for a while before being transferred up to the Panhandle. Kenneth and Loraine were 14 and 13, and their first date, in 1939, was at the movie theatre above.

A few years later, when they married, they lived in the apartment on the right.


Although my cousin Judy grew up in the Panhandle, in the same town where my grandmother lived when I was growing up, her father's family has a long history in Graham. This boot and saddle repair store on the main street was once her great-grandfather's paint and wallpaper store.

More longhorns

Texas Longhorns

Every morning at 9 am, the guests at the Wildcatter Ranch have the option of feeding the longhorns. Their pasture is down by the road, so I'd already passed them several times going back and forth to Graham, and I was glad for an opportunity to get a closer look.

As is so often the case when food is involved, these magnificent, stern animals made absolute fools of themselves slobbering all over us and did everything but lick our faces to get more molasses pellets.

Also, they're not very bright and you have to be careful not to get whacked in the head by those horns, as they tend to be a little reckless about waving their heads around when they're begging for more treats.


Here's a shrine to the internal combustion engine -- the rental car terminal at Dallas-Fort Worth airport, gleaming and glamorous like a high-end shopping mall, with a separate counter for each of a dozen or so car rental companies.

Texas wouldn't be possible without the automobile; Graham, where I'm visiting with my cousin, is a hundred miles of small towns and empty spaces away from the bustle and congestion of the Fort Worth loop. This is north Texas hill country, longhorns and bluebonnets and big sky, and two-lane highways where the speed limit is 75 miles per hour.

More pictures to follow.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Faces from the past

This is one of the old pictures I bought at the flea market last weekend.

They're so overpriced there I always tell myself to just walk by -- don't even look! -- but some long-gone face always catches my eye and in the end I consider myself lucky if I manage to get away without buying everything. It's the faces of course, but also the clothes, and the poses, and the look back at a time when being photographed was an event, something you wore your best clothes for. Even when I was a kid, when almost every household had a camera to capture the big occasions, birthdays and reunions and vacations, people still went to department store photo studios to have a "nice" portrait done, two 8 by 10's to frame and a dozen wallet sized pictures to hand out to all the relatives.

I picked this girl from the pile because of her pose -- I'm guessing she hadn't sat for many photographs before. I like the way she's turned to the side, with her left hand dangling, but she just doesn't know what to do with her right hand. If you look closely you can see that her knuckles are dark, bruised maybe, or stained, or perhaps just red from scrubbing floors or doing laundry, so she could buy that pretty dress and admittedly unfortunate hat and have her picture taken.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Urban poetry

A bike rack shaped like a bike wheel.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

The aptly named Butterfly Nebula in Scorpio. The dying star throwing off these beautiful gases is one of the hottest stars ever found, suggesting that it was once massive. Now it's a white dwarf, smaller than our sun.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

Monday, April 7, 2014

Flea market

I had a long list of chores to get done yesterday, but it was so beautiful, sweet sunny spring, I took a very very long way around to the produce store and spent more time than I probably should have wandering around the weekly Hell's Kitchen flea market. I probably didn't need that wooden cigar box and those antique keys, but I did manage to resist the stuffed deer and the merry-go-round horse. Even the Marilyn Monroe alarm clocks!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday bird blogging

This has been the unofficial first weekend of spring -- sunny, balmy. The trees are still bare, probably still a little demoralized after our awful winter, but the rest of us are more than ready.

I always love watching the birds switching to their courtship clothes. The goldfinches are the most obvious, as they turn from a dull gold to bright yellow, but almost every species gets brighter, with sharper markings.

Compare this white-throated sparrow I saw yesterday with one from just a couple of weeks ago. He is ready to party!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturday reflections

Celebrating the season, here's the West Side, looking soft and dreamy reflected. I like the way that plant seems to be shouldering the blinds out of the way as if determined to get to the window, and how the leaves seem to be climbing up the church spire.

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