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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Urban poetry

Cooling off in the heat wave on one of the bridges spanning the Willamette River in Portland.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

This is the Crab Nebula, in Taurus.

It may not look that exciting -- there are much bigger, cooler nebulae out there -- but it's been far more important to the history of astronomy than, say, the Horsehead Nebula, which gets all the Hubble glamour shots.

The most interesting is that it's the first astronomical object that was recognized as being the result of a supernova. In the early 20th century, astronomers looked at photographs of the nebula taken years apart and realized that it was expanding; by calculating the rate of expansion, they were able to confirm it was the remnants of a "guest star" bright enough to be seen during the day that was recorded in the same location by Chinese astronomers in 1054.

  Image Credit: NASA, Chandra X-ray Observatory, SAO, DSS

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday bird blogging

A season ago, in Central Park: a pine warbler.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday reflections

The ceiling at "the Schnitz" -- the Arlene Schnitzer hall where the World Domination Summit is held. It's the only remaining theatre on Portland's Broadway, originally a vaudeville house, then a movie theatre, then a concert hall.

How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world? Simple question, some simple answers: be brave. Take risks. Do something, even if it's not perfect.

"Jump and the net will appear." That was the advice of Sake Mafundikwa, who worked as a graphic designer in New York for many years before returning to his native Zimbabwe to open a design school. Even though at my age a net doesn't sound like enough -- I also want a helmet, knee pads, shin guards and possibly a parachute -- I also know that big leaps actually consist of thousands of small decisions and little actions.

I met a woman, Franci Claudon, on the river cruise. She worked in HR for many years and now paints full time. She not only gave me excellent advice about my work situation, she also inspired me to admit that the plan I thought I had for the rest of my life was probably no longer an option. And that might be a very good thing.

I took the first steps this week. Little steps, baby steps, but brave ones. I had forgotten how brave I can be.

Check out Franci's beautiful paintings here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Urban poetry

Okay, not particularly poetic, but oh so Portland: a bacon maple bar from Voodoo Doughnuts. They are famous for making donuts with toppings like Tang and Oreos and Cap'n Crunch cereal, and lines that are even longer than a certain Avis I could mention.

They will also perform weddings, but I'm guessing you have to make arrangements in advance. You probably still have to wait in line.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

Still catching up on Oregon postings, but I should resume regular blog posts this week anyway. Starting with this, our sun coughing up a filament in the most show-offy manner possible.

Image Credit: NASA's GSFC, SDO AIA Team

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday bird blogging

A white crowned sparrow in Nehalem State Park, near Manzanita.

This isn't a great picture, but these birds were everywhere in Manzanita, mostly heard as they sang in the thick greenery. This one was at least willing to sing in public.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday geometries

I'm back in New York, and still have many draft blog entries from the past week to publish, but I will try to catch up this weekend.

In the meantime, here's a very cool skylight from SFO yesterday. Wait, you may be asking, weren't you in Portland? How did San Francisco get into the itinerary?

We were booked on a 6 am flight from Portland to Newark yesterday, so we turned in the car at the airport Thursday night, and spent the night at the Radisson. We took the hotel shuttle back to the airport at 4:30 am, and found that our flight had been cancelled, and we had been booked on a 5:50 am flight to San Francisco instead, with a connecting flight to Newark.

There were a few problems with this. First, we only had a 15 minute window to make the connection in San Francisco, which isn't the largest airport, but manages to have gates sprawled over several counties.  Worse, the San Francisco to Newark leg was full, and we were in middle seats in coach. I could have managed the flight in Economy Plus with a little more legroom, but now that they've squeezed every possible inch of space out of regular coach, I can't handle a long flight unless I'm on the aisle. My legs simply don't fit, and my muscles cramp up. And since we were supposed to be in first class on our original, cancelled flight (I had used up miles to book the flights and hotels for this trip) and we had such a lousy experience on the flight out to Portland, I was annoyed enough to do something about it.

And, surprise! It actually worked. I've always heard that you should call the airline 800 numbers instead of dealing with the agents on the ground, so I called United from the gate in Portland, and got a very helpful representative, who found us first class seats on a slightly later flight from San Francisco to JFK. The only remaining problem was that Jayne had already checked a bag through to Newark, but another extremely helpful agent called down to the luggage crew and managed to get the bag rerouted to JFK as well.

So what had started out with the potential for another travel complaint story, with an ominous text from the airline at 4 am telling me to see a representative when I got to the airport, turned into an opportunity to have a breakfast sandwich on Boudin sourdough. Which is worth a little hassle, if you ask me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Being John Malkovich

Considering that we didn’t have a map or a GPS, the fact that we only drove past the Japanese Garden once showed some fairly impressive navigational skills on my part, if I do say so myself. Well, that and the abundant and useful signs, plus more than usual good luck.

There’s a tram from the parking lot to the garden entrance, and while we were waiting for everyone to board, Jayne said to me, “Don’t you think that guy over there looks like John Malkovich?” He did, indeed, probably because it was John Malkovich – he said something to one of his companions as he was getting on the tram, and the voice was unmistakable. We both thought it was funny because, while we might have passed him on the street without even noticing in Manhattan, we weren’t expecting celebrity sightings at parks in Portland.

We went off in different directions soon after we arrived at the gardens, and I didn’t see him again, but I heard about him until we left. “Did you see John Malkovich?” “Yeah, that was John Malkovich.” “I talked to his assistant and…” “He’s probably here because…” “John Malkovich—“ “John Malkovich!” “JOHN MALKOVICH!”

Honestly, it made being John Malkovich – being anyone recognizable by a majority of the people you encounter – seem almost unbearable, even for someone a lot less self-conscious than I am. Anyone whose skin crawls at the thought of being scrutinized is not likely to think of acting as an attractive career choice, especially in the theatre. (I've been lucky enough to see Mr. Malkovich on stage several times; I still laugh every time I remember his delivery of the line, "Do you have any orange pekoe?" in Burn This.) But even so, to have people watching and pointing and photographing every time you go out to buy milk or go to the movies must be difficult to live with. Maybe you get used to it. Maybe you just have to learn to ignore it.

I do see the irony that I'm violating some tiny bit of his privacy as well by writing about it, even on an obscure blog he'll never see or know about, even though I'm not writing about anything more scandalous than a visit to a park.


I couldn't pick between these two pictures of this beautiful fish.

More pictures of the gardens

Japanese Garden

We drove back to Portland this afternoon. We had a few hours before meeting friends for dinner, and spent them in the Japanese Garden in the hills above the city.

The very tall Pacific Northwest trees towering over everything don't feel that Japanese, but they provided welcome shade on another blistering day. The gardens themselves, as you can see in the picture, are idyllic, another perfect spot for daydreaming and mulling things over.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Horse parking

Nehalem Bay State Park, just down the highway from Manzanita, offers horseback riding on the beach. Sadly, the stress fracture in my foot meant that I couldn't ride, but I hung out by the beach and under the  trees, watching the sparrows and the crows, while Jayne rode.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cool reflections

Jayne on the beach.

More driftwood shots

Evening beach

Driftwood and a sand castle on the beach in the golden light before sunset.

Beach walks, a long lunch, lattes and peach smoothies. Life is tough in Manzanita.

Morning in Manzanita

There was never any doubt in my mind that if I came back to the World Domination Summit, I would also come back to Manzanita afterwards. Oregon abounds with beautiful places to visit, most of which I've never seen, but there's no better place for me to sit and let my thoughts wander than on a beach. Preferably a west coast beach, where the fog sometimes doesn't burn off until afternoon, only the very brave even think about swimming, and no one is trying to get a suntan.

Manzanita has all those things: miles of sand that's never crowded, dogs, babies, gulls, and an excellent selection of hot beverages available only a few steps away.

It's the perfect place to plop down in the sand with a large coffee, close your eyes, and let your imagination run.

Sometimes I thought I imagined how much I loved it here. Nope.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Life's good. It's all worth it.

After breakfast, we checked out of our hotel, and I left Jayne there with the luggage while I walked over to the Avis outlet a few blocks away to pick up our rental car. I told her I'd be back in 15, 20  minutes tops, and she said, "Well, there might be a line."

Which there was. There was also only one man at the desk, and after doing the paperwork for each rental, he left the desk, took the elevator up to an upper level of the garage and drove each car down to street level. (I  rented a car at the same place last year and had to drive it down a ten-story ramp myself.) I ended up standing in line for three hours. Apparently the other rental companies in Portland were all out of cars and were sending people to Avis, but everyone in line around me -- we all got to know each other quite well -- had a reservation, for all the good it did us. Also, apparently, in the year since I was there, this Avis has become notorious for long waits and bad service. Most of us just felt sorry for the poor man who was working his ass off trying to get us our cars, and except for one shrieking woman, everyone was very relaxed and remarkably patient.

So it wasn't the relaxing drive out to the coast we had planned. I was tired. My broken foot ached from standing on it for so long. I was on the verge of being grumpy. Then we made the turn south onto 101 and pulled into this overlook.

My beautiful Pacific coast. It definitely feels like coming home.

It's not all kale chips and microbrews

Other cuisine options on SW Third Avenue.

Outdoor Portland

This morning we met a friend of Jayne's brother for breakfast on SW Third and took a walk around afterwards.

This wasn't far from our downtown hotel, but definitely a different, funkier, side of Portland. If you find yourself in need of a new saddle while in Oregon, this is apparently a place to go.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


The final group: Barry and Angela Belford, from Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Deirdre Saoirse Moen from Menlo Park, California. A big thank you to all of my models -- I am very grateful for the chance to take pictures of your beautiful faces!

Almost done

The last few portraits. These are Michael Casanova of Dallas and Yvonne Whitelaw from Baltimore.

I handled all of these pictures more or less the same way as I'm still not sure how I want to take portraits, how I want them to look, what I want to show that I see in these faces. Not there yet.

Now that's more like it

Until today, based on my experience, rain in Portland was just a theory. Last year the weather was warm and sunny every day; on this trip it's been hot and humid enough to pass for New York with my eyes closed.

So I quite enjoyed the rain this afternoon. Jayne and I had Mexican food for lunch, then rode around on streetcars for a couple of hours watching the city through the wet windows, until it was time to head back for the final conference sessions.

Almost done

For a crazy few minutes early on, I wanted to get 50 portraits. I quickly scaled that back to 25, and then back to "What I can get."

There simply wasn't time. Between actually talking to the people I photographed, and running around between the various events, I only took about 20 pictures and some of them aren't good enough to post. But it was still many more portraits than I had taken before, and excellent practice for figuring out how I want to do them. And I asked total strangers! 

Admittedly, it's easier to be brave at the World Domination Summit than almost anywhere else where there hasn't been prior consumption of great quantities of alcohol. The people here are all interesting and intelligent and accomplished, but if you approach anyone and say, "Hi," they will say "Hi" back. They will ask you your name and why you're here. If you approach a group, they will unfold and bring you in. 

Sometimes I got so involved in conversation I actually forgot about taking pictures. But this is Renee Harris of Cottonwood, California, on the left, and a lovely woman who let me take her picture but didn't want me to use her name on the right.

And more

Brian Beauchamp, from Havertown, Pennsylvania, and Jody Robinson, from Edmonton.

And more

Too busy here to get these posted as quickly as I'd like. Here are Allison Smith and Marzeta Bodden from the Cayman Islands.

More portraits

Cheri and Larry Horkman, from Seattle.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cooling off

I knew it was going to be unusually hot in Portland, but it's as sultry as August in New York here, the air thick and humid even out on the river, where there was a cruise for the conference attendees tonight.

We saw these kids running through a fountain by the riverbank on the way there. There probably aren't many days in Portland when your parents are willing to let you get sopping, dripping wet until your fingers prune up and your teeth chatter and they were clearly loving every minute. I was sorely tempted to jump right in next to them.

WDS Portraits

I am never going to find myself in a group of people more likely to be accommodating to a stranger walking up and saying, "Hi, can I take your picture?" so I am challenging myself to take advantage of it, and ask.

This is Else Kerkmann from Bend, Oregon, and Sydney Weinzapfel from Jasonville, Indiana, who very kindly said yes. Thank you, Else and Sydney!

Saturday geometries

An older Portland peeks through the wood and steel beams in Director Park, where I was focused on not fainting while standing in line in 90-degree heat to register for the conference.

Much more to follow….

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Great Namaste

This year's world record attempt at the World Domination Summit: the world's longest yoga chain, currently held by a group in India.

We didn't sign up for this because it started at 8:30 and we knew we'd be getting in late the night before (little anticipating how late it would actually turn out to be.) But our hotel overlooks Pioneer Square and I took this picture of the new record holders on my way to a badly needed recaffeinization session in the hotel restaurant.


Portland at last.

I think they need to add a zero or two to that Times Square distance marker. Technically, that may have been the miles traveled, but after a five hour delay due to mechanical problems followed by delays waiting for our replacement plane to arrive, we didn't land in Portland until after 3 am, and it was after 4 before I fell asleep.

There was a beautiful moon, huge, golden, almost full, setting over the Willamette as we drove into the city. Or maybe I was just hallucinating from lack of sleep. Either way, it was spectacular.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The opposite of interesting...

…is sitting in an airport an hour after your flight was supposed to have departed, with ongoing mechanical difficulties having postponed your departure indefinitely.

Jayne and I are waiting in the lounge, where we are slowly eating our way through the assortment of free snacks, so it definitely could be worse, but it will be long after midnight before we get to Portland.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Urban poetry

Tomorrow I'm going to Oregon, for the 2014 World Domination Summit in Portland, followed by a few days at the coast.

So before I start getting too mellow, here's a very New York piece of public art: a closeup of the 1938 Noguchi relief, called News, on the old AP building in Rockefeller Center.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

Orion rising.

And doing a handstand at the same time. This picture of Orion rising above the Earth's horizon is upside down for those of us used to seeing the hunter from the Northern Hemisphere. You can see the three stars in the belt through the Earth's atmosphere, and above them is the sword. The bright star on the upper left is Rigel, the blue-white supergiant (actually a triple star system, only one of which is a blue-white supergiant) sitting on Orion's knee. (The bright star over to the right of Orion in this picture is Sirius.)

For some reason I find an inverted Orion more disorienting than the rotated moon I saw in the Southern Hemisphere a few years ago. I know I saw Orion in Africa as well; we looked at the nebula through binoculars from the deck of our lodge in Zambia. But it was already overhead, and with all of the unfamiliar stars we were seeing for the first time, I never noticed that the constellations were doing cartwheels around the upside-down moon.

Image Credit: NASA, ISS Expedition 40, Reid Wiseman

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