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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Like all proper young ladies of the time -- especially those who wanted to work as teachers or governesses -- Charlotte practiced drawing and painting by copying from books. The painting above was done in sepia (I had never known that the color is named for the cuttlefish whose brownish ink was used for writing and painting from Roman times until the nineteenth century.)

But I really love the doodles on the left. This is what Charlotte Bronte drew to amuse herself -- fashionable young ladies and potential dress designs.


One of Charlotte's dresses.

You can't tell the scale from this photo, but she was only 4'9" tall, so to modern eyes it appeared to be made for a very large doll. Even a skinny ten year old might have trouble fastening that tiny waist.

The Pillar Portrait

A not-great phone photograph of a not terribly well-executed and very badly maintained oil painting.

But as it's the only recorded likeness of the three Bronte sisters -- that's Anne on the left, Emily in the middle, and Charlotte, by herself, on the right -- it's of great historical importance. It was painted by their wastrel brother Branwell, who was originally part of the group, sitting between Emily and Charlotte. He painted a pillar over his likeness, but because he didn't mix his paints properly they faded and you can now see the ghostly outlines of the figure that was once there.

I saw this painting many years ago at the National Portrait Gallery in London, but it was wonderful to encounter it again at a Charlotte Bronte exhibition at the Morgan Library that I went to a couple of days before I left for Iceland. 

It was the frontispiece in my first copy of Jane Eyre, an abridged version our neighbor Fran Owens bought me at the Green Apple bookstore in San Francisco when I was ten or eleven. (I had originally picked out a copy of The Odyssey -- yeah, I was a weird kid -- but Fran refused to buy it, telling me I'd get quite enough of that in high school.) I read that book at least half a dozen times before graduating to an unabridged paperback, and I loved the long introduction with the stories of the famous siblings -- the chilly parsonage, the tragic early deaths, Angria and Gondal -- as much as I loved the actual novel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Astronomy Tuesday

NGC 4414 is what's known as a flocculent spiral galaxy -- an unattractive adjective for such a lovely object. It means that the spiral arms aren't well-defined; galaxies with clear spiral arms are called grand design galaxies.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, W. Freedman (U. Chicago) et al., and the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI), SDSS; Processing: Judy Schmidt

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Just for fun

These are actually from last week: primary colors on one block of West 44th Street. I saw the red (okay, mostly orange but there is some red there), then noticed the yellow signs across the street. I thought, Now all I need is some blue, and I looked up and saw sky reflected in the windows of the Intercontinental right across the street.

Bonus bird blogging

Another Melbourne bird -- the hyphenated because we can't make up our minds what to call it -- magpie-lark.

I saw a lot of these, but none of them wanted to be photographed, so this is the best picture I have.

Sunday bird blogging

Australia, obviously. North American birds aren't usually quite this eccentric.

This is a spotted dove, in the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. I'm still laying low, so spending time binge-watching Netflix and sorting through this year's pictures.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday reflections

I'm still feeling like a somewhat abstracted version of my normal self, so here's an appropriate picture: an acrylic chair in one of my many recent hotels, reflecting the lights and shadows of the curtained room.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Astronomy Tuesday

I love that I immediately recognized this as Pluto when it turned up as today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. It never stops feeling miraculous to me that the icy not-quite-a-planet that was shown as nothing more than a dim star in my college astronomy textbooks can now be seen in so much detail.

Proof that we idiot humans do manage to get many things right, despite all the recent evidence to the contrary. (This picture shows the Sputnik Planum; click over to the link to read more about it.)

Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins U./APL, Southwest Research Inst.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday bird blogging

Because I never get tired of cardinals, even in imperfect pictures with twiggy shadows across their eyes.

And because I know everyone is dying to know the latest gossip from my digestive tract, I am as expected getting better, but slowly. Yesterday I thought I might like some fruit salad with my yogurt. There's a market a few blocks away that sells beautiful fruit already cut up, so I went there.

And although I'd been thinking earlier that maybe I could have gone on vacation after all -- really, the actual trip is mostly just sitting, and I could lie down when I got there -- the trip to the market cured me of that illusion. It's only six blocks but it felt like six miles. I had to sit down and rest when I got there, and I had to sit down again after walking back before tackling the steps to my apartment. The idea that I could lift a suitcase or stand in line or deal with crowds was clearly ludicrous.

Obviously I needed more calories if I was going to get my strength back any time before 2017 and fruit wasn't going to cut it. So I also bought peanut butter, some nice squishy bread and fancy French preserves and I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with tea. It tasted delicious and I ate the entire thing.

Then I felt sick and couldn't eat anything else the rest of the day, but hey, it's progress.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday reflections

A row of wheelchairs lined up to take in the view from La Guardia.

Both airports and wheelchairs are appropriate today -- the wheelchairs because of the previously mentioned stomach bug, which has lingered long past its overdue date, and has left me weak enough to make a wheelchair sound like a really good idea; and the airport, because I was supposed to be flying out this morning to spend Thanksgiving with friends.

I'm very disappointed (for some reason everyone I know is in serious need of huddling with loved ones these days) but honestly the thought of facing an airport -- frankly the thought of packing a suitcase -- was so overwhelming that I'm a little relieved as well. I know I'll be back to normal in a couple of days but that feels like forever from now.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Urban poetry

I missed the supermoon but here's a preview from a few weeks ago.

I woke up yesterday with the worst intestinal bug I have had in many years (I'm thinking, not at all fondly, of a norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship in St Petersburg). I'm better, in that I'm no longer puking every fifteen minutes but I still have no appetite and have to force myself to eat soup or a few spoonfuls of yogurt. It's difficult to imagine that I will ever desire food again. 

The fact that TV stations are full of commercials featuring big fat raw turkeys doesn't help.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Astronomy Tuesday

This very cool image of last month's supermoon -- the first of three in a row -- was stitched together from ten images. The pictures were timed with the passing of the International Space Station, so you can see a series of mini silhouettes against the moonscape.

Image Credit and Copyright: Kris Smith

Monday, November 14, 2016

And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black

Anyone who is inspired by Frost to tread all of these tempting crunchy leaves into black mulch will be in for an unpleasant surprise when they find themselves splashing around hip-deep in the Azalea Pond. The leaves were so thick on the surface of the water yesterday I honestly wouldn't have guessed there was a pond under there if I hadn't been taking pictures there for years.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

And balm for the soul

A feast for the eyes

Sunday bird blogging

I really needed a long healing walk in the park this morning and I was lucky to get a perfect autumn day, with blue skies, crisp air, and crunchy leaves to stroll through. Migration's over, so the only birds were the common inhabitants -- cardinals, robins, titmice, sparrows, nuthatches, chickadees and woodpeckers -- but they were out in abundance.

This is the only blue jay I saw but it was both beautiful and cooperative, so here you are.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

New York, New York, it's a wonderful town

I took this picture with my phone on my way to work yesterday. It made me smile, in a week in which I desperately needed all the smiles I could get.

It's a reminder that some things never change -- the Bronx is still up and the Battery down, and sailors still want to see Times Square.

Saturday reflections

The last in the series of reflection shots from West 51st Street, including a look at the photographer herself.

I try not to get into the photos, but they are reflections and sometimes I can't get the shot I want without getting in it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Urban poetry

Shadows and light under the scaffolding on a sidewalk in Montreal.

I'm tempted to try to say something witty about how millions of American eyes are now turning longingly towards Canada, but I'm too heartsick and there's nothing funny about it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Astronomy Tuesday

On the off chance that anyone browsing the Interwebs tonight would rather see a soothing picture instead of nail-biting electoral returns.

This is the Tarantula nebula, in the Large Magellanic Cloud. You're welcome.

Image Credit and Copyright: Josep Drudis

Monday, November 7, 2016

Welcome to the working week

Another view from Hotel Life: office windows at night. I've always been fascinated by the glimpses of empty office buildings at night (of course now that we've flipped the clocks back, darkness comes long before most of us go home.)

Here are some city reflections framing brightly lit but vacant workplaces.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday in the office

Dim and deserted -- the office on Sunday. I had to go in for the second week in a row, one more disruption in what has been a chaotic month.

But the good news is I'm going home tomorrow. Even better news is that the election will (we all hope and pray) be decisively over Tuesday. I'm looking forward to a life turned down several notches on the crazy dial.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saturday reflections

More of the end of the beginning.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Urban poetry

This is fun -- and with only four days to go in this interminable election (and possibly only three days to go until I can move back into my apartment -- yay!) -- who couldn't use a little fun?

This is an art installation called The Beginning of the End by Rachel Vald├ęs Camejo in Times Square. It's a short walkway of faceted mirrors that turn the lights into a crazy confetti.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hotel life

Broadway, early in the morning, from my hotel room on the 57th floor.

My firm has offices around the world, and back when I did more hands-on software migrations I worked in all of them occasionally. Living in hotels for two or three weeks at a time while going to the office every day -- usually for very long days -- never felt like much fun, and there's a part of me that still feels like staying in hotels on vacation is playing serious hooky.

But I've never stayed in hotels in New York before this. Let me start by stipulating: they're incredibly expensive, and not remotely worth the cost. I've used discounts and miles and points whenever possible, of course, but still -- the idea that anyone pays the going rate who isn't an investment banker or an emir boggles the mind. This room over Broadway, for example, where I stayed the first week, was nicely furnished, but had reading lights I couldn't figure out how to turn on and a vague smell of rancid potpourri. And yes, all that can be yours for just over $500 a night, morning coffee not included.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Astronomy Tuesday

I need simplicity right now. And this is perfect.

A composite image, of a side of Saturn we never see from Earth -- the North Pole, and the edge of night -- from Cassini.

Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Space Science Institute

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