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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year-end housekeeping, continued -- New York

Two more pictures of the TWA terminal at JFK: an exterior shot where it looks ready for takeoff, and a detail of the perfect curves of the jetway.

Year-end housekeeping, continued -- Edinburgh

It figures that a country with a talent for engineering would build excellent castles, and the Scots do not disappoint. Edinburgh Castle looks even fiercer from the front than it does when you're staring up at it from the bottom of a sheer wall of rock.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year-end housekeeping, continued -- Iran

Watermelon rinds left out for the birds, after someone's picnic in the Shazdeh Gardens.

Below, a  Qajar-era painting from the Niyavaran Palace complex in Tehran.

Year-end housekeeping, continued -- Southend

The modern version of the English seaside resort, in the harsh light of early morning. I like the contrast between the sharp detail of the amusement park in the foreground and the misty ships in the distance, which turned out to be more obvious in black and white.

This was from an overlook just down the road from the B&B where I stayed  -- the famous pier is just out of frame to the left.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Year-end housekeeping, continued -- Istanbul

The New Mosque at twilight.

To call this a wealth of detail is such an understatement, but I love the way the fading light softens and smooths it into a dream.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My goodness how the time has flewn!

How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

If Dr Seuss doesn't know, I certainly don't. As the last of the year trickles away, I'm going to post a few pictures that I never got around to using, and start 2016 fresh, with an empty Blog Ready folder.

Speaking of things having flewn, here's a landscape somewhere between London and Edinburgh in September. At the time I was wondering if the frequent purply-brown patches like the ones on the right were heather and if I'd really see whole mountainsides of it. (Spoiler alert: they were and I did.)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday reflections

I'm not a big fan of Instagram. Most people seem to use it as a vehicle for inflicting more selfies and food pictures on a world that isn't suffering from a shortage of either, and I won't use my phone to take a picture if I have a camera available.

There are some photographers who are creating interesting work within those limitations, of course, but it's mostly not the kind of picture I want to take. With one exception -- I've become fascinated by the square photo, especially for photographing cars and reflections. Or cars and reflections, as in these two pictures. The smaller scope seems to make the shapes more abstract somehow and I love the effect.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

Christmas on Mars, anyone?

This image, of an area close to the (how seasonally appropriate) North Pole, was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2008. Sadly, those aren't Christmas trees -- what I could swear are stands of barely rooted tundra-like forest are just streaks of darker dirt on those astonishing pink sand dunes.

If there's a sequel to The Martian, may I respectfully request that it include at least one scene of astronauts skiing down these pink hills?

Image Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saturday reflections

I like the juxtaposition of the crane and the tree in this car window on West 57th Street. The moodiness suits the season, which somehow doesn't feel so festive because it's still too damn warm. It's gloomy in the morning, gloomy in the afternoon, and the sun sets at 4:30, so the temperatures in the 50's and even the 60's every day just feel wrong.

(I'll remind myself of this in February, when I'll probably be complaining that the cold is never going to end....)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Urban poetry

Scaffolding on West 57th Street.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

It's all a matter of perspective.

Even a face as famous as Jupiter's can be unrecognizable when looked at from a different angle -- in this case, hovering over the planet's north pole and looking down at the northern hemisphere. This is a composite put together from images taken by Cassini in 2000, and even if Jupiter wouldn't look exactly like this from above (I know, I know, there's really no above in space, but shut up) it's surprising to me how un-planetlike it suddenly looks. Turn those familiar bands of color around the equator into these concentric circles and you go from majesty and immensity to what appears to be a large ceramic platter produced by a talented if not terribly original artist.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday bird blogging

Like so many of us these days, this gull appears to be saying, Are you *%$*&^ kidding me?

Sadly, no.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Saturday reflections

Undulations of steel reflect the more traditional buildings across 57th Street. This is One57, one of a new series of tall super-thin luxury condo buildings that will be casting shadows half a mile long into Central Park during the already dark months of winter when they lie almost directly between the low winter sun and the park. That the city belongs more and more to the billionaires isn't news, but that doesn't make it any less depressing.

On a happier note, I went to brunch with a group of World Domination Summit veterans, and then to a Christmas concert at the Norwegian Seamen's Church, where a friend of a friend was singing. I hadn't realized that a lot of the songs and almost all of the introductions would be in Norwegian, but it's similar enough to Swedish that I could catch a phrase here and there (easier since it was a Christmas concert and so heaven and angels and stars and trees and Jule came up a lot.) And after polishing off a healthy serving of the very good glogg offered at the door, I was standing and singing in Norwegian along with everyone else.

Dra krakken bortått glaset, så sett vi øss og ser,
og prøve finne leia der julestjerna er,
den blankeste ta alle, hu er så klar og stor

(This may be about sitting by the window and looking for the Christmas star, which is big and clear. Or not.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

This beauty is called the Pelican Nebula, a hotbed (so to speak) of new star formation.

I don't really see a pelican here, but I do see brilliant light and pattern that makes me wish I were a painter so I could try to copy those wispy tendrils of color.

Image Credit and Copyright: Roberto Colombari

Monday, December 7, 2015

Welcome to the working week

New York harbor at sunset. That's the Staten Island ferry (Staten Island itself is at the top right of the picture, on the western side of the Verrazano Bridge) pulling in to carry weary commuters home.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday bird blogging

In the middle of flocks of bigger, pushier gulls, a lone starling stakes out a position in Battery Park.

It's not a very detailed shot of the bird, but in this case the surroundings make the picture.

Friday, December 4, 2015


I was offline for the holiday last week, but I did want to share this wonderful quote from Oliver Sacks:

My predominant feeling is one of gratitude.
I have loved and been loved.
I have been given much and I have given something in return.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and pleasure.

A belated happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and here's one more piece of wisdom I was happy to discover still holds true: Baste the turkey with butter. You can never go wrong with butter.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

That fireball slicing through this photograph is a meteor. The photographer was trying to capture the Orion nebula, seen in the upper left, and the long exposure happened to capture this meteor as well. The orangey zigzag is what's known as a persistent train -- atoms in the Earth's atmosphere reacting to having electrons knocked away by the meteor. It's shaped that way because the wind actually blew it around during the long exposure. (You can see a gif of it here.)

The large star on the right is Rigel, the blue giant on the hunter's knee.

Image Credit and Copyright: Ivo Scheggia

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday bird blogging

Okay, the bird isn't exactly the focus of this picture, taken at Stinson Beach on Friday. Blue sky and blue waves going on forever, some rocky headland and a bird.

It's too small to identify, but I'm thinking some kind of sandpiper

Why I flew home yesterday

The terminal at SFO, shortly before noon yesterday.

I really enjoyed my week offline; I was supremely lazy and spent a lot of time sitting around in sweats, drinking coffee and talking to old friends. I was sorry to have to come back so soon, but I have to go to work tomorrow and I suspected that yesterday would be a better day for flying. Which it was -- the flight was full, but the airport was pretty empty.

Now I just have to convince my body clock to turn itself ahead three hours....

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Speaking of flying

Here's a flashback, a photo I never got around to posting: forest and tundra in Denali National Park, as seen from the sightseeing plane. Looking at this picture it's amazing to me that we got up so high in such an itty-bitty plane.

Saturday reflections

If mermaids built a city, it might look like this -- the towers on Central Park West, reflected in the lake in the Park.

I'm flying today, on my way to spend a quiet Thanksgiving with friends, and fortunately I seem to be traveling early enough to beat the worst airport crowds. It's crowded and just this side of chaotic, but I managed to go through checkin and security without damaging my karma with too many uncharitable thoughts about my fellow human beings.

(You can tell this was taken a couple of months ago, before the trees started to turn.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Urban poetry

These chairs are lined up behind a restaurant in Battery Park. They're kind of battered so they may be on their way to the trash, but they look oddly expectant, as though there's going to be an exclusive after-hours party once the restaurant closes.

I'm at training this week – if the phrases “recursive common table expressions" or “scalar functions" make you clap your hands with delight, this is the course for you – so I need a long walk at lunch to clear my brain.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Welcome to the working week

A cityscape from Central Park. It's fortunate that I don't have this view from work, or I'd never get anything done.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday reflections

A softer, dreamier (yeah, Photoshopped into submission) autumn view, as reflected in the lake in Central Park.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Blaze of glory

A few more pictures from the park.

It's hard to capture how brilliant the light is in the fall, how it shimmers like glass, but these two shots come close.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday bird blogging

A house sparrow in the park this morning.

It's been unusually warm so far this autumn and many of the trees are still greener than they should be, but walking through leaf-strewn paths in the Ramble in the fall is still one of the great pleasures of living in New York.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


This is the ceiling of the elevator in the Center for Italian Modern Art in SoHo. It was on the Open House New York schedule a few weeks ago, but this photo, taken on impulse as I was leaving, is the only one I really like. The light and the shape are very cool.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Urban poetry

The high street in Southend.

I like the juxtaposition -- you can stop in at Mr Simms for something to bite down on before heading off to get your tattoo at Low Tide (Walk-ins Welcome).

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

Galaxy M94 is notable for that bright shiny bluish ring around the circumference, like a gaudy sequined tiara worn by a Halloween princess.

Those are all baby stars, bright and hot and blue, only a few million years old, which in galactic terms means they're barely old enough to cross the street by themselves. Galaxies with this type of intense star formation are called, appropriately enough, starburst galaxies, and no one really knows why some galaxies do this while others reproduce with more decorum.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday non-bird blogging

It's not a bird, but those spires do suggest something flexing, getting ready to take off.

A detail from the WTC Transportation Hub.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Urban poetry

This is the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, scheduled to open in December.

It's stunningly beautiful, and I can't wait to see the inside. In the meantime, I love that orange crane poking into the side. I want to say that it looks like a baby dinosaur trying to nurse, except of course that dinosaurs didn't nurse and (probably) weren't orange, and seldom frequent Lower Manhattan these days.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's something close to home: New York (or Manhattan anyway, along with portions of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and a large chunk of Jersey) photographed from the International Space Station.

It's surprising to me how bright Midtown is, compared to the rest of Manhattan, but I do love that you can easily pick out Broadway in the middle of the bright section. (It's the thick, slightly slanted line to the left -- Broadway runs at a diagonal on the grid of Manhattan.)

They say the neon lights are bright, on Broadway. Just how bright, even the Drifters may not have realized.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday bird blogging

A chaffinch in the garden at Cawdor Castle. He wasn't turned at the best angle but it's the best shot I could get.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


A sidewalk on Broome Street in SoHo. 

The glass circles are vault lights; they allow light into the basements, which extend under the sidewalks and were used for factories and living space.

Just one more way canny New Yorkers have squeezed every last usable inch out of a crowded city.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Two more

The light wasn't great for photographers in a hurry -- the building was only open for another fifteen minutes when I got there -- but you can at least see those luxurious Art Deco shapes.

What an entrance

The curve over the doorway, accented in ironwork and gold relief.

Jumping back several decades

This is 570 Lexington, an ordinary office building in Midtown East.

It also happens to be a fine example of Art Deco, like so many buildings in this part of Manhattan. I'd never seen it before, though, never known that there was any reason to go inside. But the lobby was on the  Open House tour and it was a short, if unexpectedly chilly, walk up from Grand Central, where the bus from the airport had dropped me off.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Curving into the abstract


I've always thought that jetway was one of those words that sounds as though it ought to mean something much better than the reality. It should be exciting -- a portal, a journey, a swish to something or somewhere magical. Instead it's prosaic verging on depressing -- a plastic-coated accordion tunnel full of grumpy people.

The photo reminds me of an old tv show from the Sixties, Time Tunnel, and you definitely have the sense in this jetway that the journey you're on may be slightly supernatural.

Staircases and a skylight

Please wait here

Everything in the terminal curves. It's simple and elegant.

I know you could never get away with a seating area like this anymore -- it's way too inefficient. Look at all that empty space! We could fit a couple dozen more seats in there easily!

It's interesting though how the oval departure sign looks so much more modern than the rectangular displays we have now. 

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