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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Urban poetry

One of a group of dancers on Fifth Avenue on Sunday, captured in the act of creating that perfect shadow on the sidewalk.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

Another amazing image from Cassini.

That tiny point of light is Earth, seen between two of the rings of Saturn. (If you enlarge the image, you can just make out our moon to the left.)

Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

Oh where oh where can my baby be?

It's unfair that cardinals are so stunning to look at, and also have a beautiful song, full of whistles and trills that dip and swoop; if there were any equality in the animal kingdom, they'd squawk like bluejays.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

More signs of the times

Signs for science

The signs at the march were wonderful -- some of the ones I couldn't get clear pictures of:

   Newton, not Putin

   Got Plague? No? Thank a scientist!

   Unicorn Frappuccinos are magic. Everything else is science

It was a reminder that there are thousands of smart, funny, passionate people out there, and maybe we're not all doomed.

And even if we are, this is definitely the team I want to be on when we go down fighting.

March for Science

I had to work today, so couldn't march, but when I went out to grab some pizza for lunch I walked over to Broadway to take a look. The info online had said the march would go from 62nd Street down Broadway to 52nd Street, but despite the rainy weather the crowd extended in both directions as far as I could see from 51st Street -- at least 20 blocks long and maybe more.

Saturday reflections

Here's the dazzle of a spring afternoon on Fifth Avenue -- and our spring has been mostly lacking in dazzle so far -- with crowds of spring break tourists reflected in the windows of one of the glittery emporiums there.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Urban poetry

Here's a street in the modern part of Jaipur, with one of the ubiquitous tuk-tuks next to an ornamental screen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

Galaxies in triplicate.

This is the Leo Triplet, three galaxies close enough to us to be visible through smaller telescopes and close enough to each other to make an attractive photograph.

Image Credit and Copyright: Ignacio Diaz Bobillo

Monday, April 17, 2017

Welcome to the working week

Another craftsman at the marble shop -- he creates the tiny pieces of stone that are used for the inlay. It's such delicate, demanding work that it can only be done in short shifts of 15-20 minutes before taking a break.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

One of the famous New York hawks circling the towers of Central Park West. If you enlarge the picture you can just see that she's courting, carrying a small branch in her mouth to indicate she's ready to build a nest.

I saw her sitting in a tree a little later, still holding the twig, but unfortunately she was behind the branches and I couldn't get a good picture of her.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

More Via 57

Bonus reflections

This is Via 57, a building by the very interesting Danish architect Bjarke Ingels -- the first project of his I remember hearing about was a clean energy power plant in Copenhagen with a ski slope on the roof.

It's a curving pyramid with an interior plaza, located in the architectural wasteland of the West Side Highway. I took this picture in the winter when the light was already fading, and haven't made it back yet.

Saturday reflections

If that wedge-shaped panel of windows somehow managed to capture a few wandering tourists and a couple of yellow cabs, this would be the perfect New York reflection. But it will do -- I love the contrast between the generic glass tower with the dimly seen offices inside and the reflected brown stone apartments.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Urban poetry

Since we've just passed the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I, here's a tribute to one of the Yanks who went Over There, a statue in Dewitt Clinton Park in Manhattan.

What makes it true urban poetry though is that it gets the poetry part wrong -- the inscription from  In Flanders Fields is incorrect. It should be:

    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields

That poem is one of the millions of random facts rattling around in my brain, taking up neurons that could be more productively used in remembering which server I saved those files on and what I need to pick up on the way home from work. When I was in sixth grade, we each had to pick a poem to memorize and recite for the class, and my friend Lizanne chose In Flanders Fields. (I recited a ghastly lyric called The Bridge Builder, and didn't realize that I was mispronouncing the word “chasm” until many years later. Just a couple of weeks ago on Big Little Lies, Reese Witherspoon's character corrected her ex-husband for pronouncing it exactly the way I used to. He was an unattractive character in general, but for a minute there he had my complete sympathy.)

Yes, I can still recite The Bridge Builder. And no, I won't.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

It's practically like looking into a mirror: this lovely galaxy, NGC 3370, is similar in size and structure to our own Milky Way.

As always with these magical Hubble images, I am captivated by the dozens of obvious galaxies and intriguing unidentifiables in the background, each one unimaginably huge and complex and so far away we'll probably never know more about it than these few bright pixels.

Then consider that our universe may just be one of many, an infinity of universes full of infinity-plus galaxies and stars and planets. It makes my brain hurt. And wonder why I spent so much time worrying about which bed to buy when there's all this majesty to contemplate.

Of course, now that my brain hurts, it is nice to be able to go and lie down on the new bed which may not mean much on a cosmic scale, but does make this tiny corner of the universe more pleasant to sleep in.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgement: A. Reiss et al. (JHU)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Welcome to the working week

A craftsman creating the inlay on a marble table top in Jaipur. The orange color is henna; they paint the marble with it before cutting out the pattern to make it easier to see. Then tiny bits of semiprecious stones are laid into the cut stone and the henna comes off in the final polishing.

I resisted all entreaties to have a lovely table of my very own shipped to me in New York -- I'm trying to have less stuff in my apartment, not more -- but I did break down and buy a tiny marble box with blue lapis elephants on it.

I am a sucker for elephants.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

The bird is basically unrecognizable in this shot -- if I tell you that it's a jungle babbler from Keoladeo, you're just going to have to take my word for it. The Indians call these birds Seven Sisters, because they hang out in large, noisy groups, but somehow this is the only picture I got that isn't blurry.

And the messiness of the picture very much reflects my life -- or at least, my apartment -- at the moment. After months of dithering and indecision, I finally took the plunge and bought a new bed frame and mattress last week. They were delivered Tuesday, so I took a day off, and spent most of the day hauling pieces of bed frame up the four flights of stairs to my apartment. The mattress was carried upstairs by a kindly (and well-tipped) delivery man, but the bed was deposited in my lobby and I had to deal with it myself. I could barely lift the cartons, much less carry them up stairs, so I unpacked everything in the lobby and carried the bed upstairs in stages -- first the headboard, then one side rail, then the other side rail, and so on. (O Suzo Where Art Thou?) It took me a total of six trips, and muscles I was barely aware that I possessed have been complaining ever since.

Yesterday I took the old bed apart and assembled the new one. The instructions warned that it required two people, but I managed pretty well on my own, though it took me most of the afternoon. The unexpected bit of comedy involved the mattress. This is one of those newfangled memory foam versions that's shipped in a plastic-wrapped coil with all the air squeezed out. When you're ready to install, you lay the coil on the bed, cut the plastic and then unroll the mattress as it starts to inflate.

You can probably guess where this is going. I was carrying some of the metal rods for the bed into the bedroom and must have grazed the plastic on the mattress. I heard a suspicious crinkling sound from the living room and walked back in time to see the mattress burst out of its encasings and start slowly, inexorably, to expand. It was like something from I Love Lucy -- I flung myself on top of the mattress and tried to persuade it to roll up again but found myself a few minutes later sprawled across an entirely inflated mattress which had draped itself across my coffee table and armchair.

Eventually the bed was assembled, the mattress persuaded with some difficulty and a few swear words to move to the bedroom and atop the bed frame, and the wonderful guys from 1-800-GOT-JUNK? have already come and taken away the old bed and mattress along with other miscellaneous clutter for a cost just slightly under what I paid for the new bed frame. (And worth every cent, I should add. This isn't the first time I've used them and they're wonderful. You can get next day appointments, they take away almost anything, and charge only by how much room it takes up in their truck.)

So I've accomplished enough for one weekend, I think. The good news is that I do love the new bed (you can see it here -- I'm too lazy to take pictures.) It's much better for a small bedroom than the wrought iron monstrosity it replaced, and the mattress is so comfortable I may just spend the rest of the day lying on it.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday reflections

Trees and sky reflected in the windows of an empty showroom on the West Side Highway.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Urban poetry

The pedestrian passageway outside a construction site in Chelsea.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

Dusty nebulae and adolescent stars in Taurus. The dark dust in this image is a little creepy.

 Image Credit and Copyright: Lloyd L. Smith, Deep Sky West

Monday, April 3, 2017

Welcome to the working week

I meant to post this picture this morning -- the proprietor at the shop in the Amber Fort in Jaipur hard at work -- but forgot to click on Publish.

Which was lucky because now I get to include this item from today's cafeteria menu at my firm:

     Beer, Battered tilapia

Which made me laugh, imagining plates of bruised but brave whitefish accompanied by bracing mugs of beer. Needless to say it was ordinary fried fish, no beer in sight. I had a salad.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

Yellow-footed green pigeons, in Keoladeo National Park.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday reflections

Early evening, from my living room window.

Friday, March 31, 2017


A day early, just because I'm enjoying looking at New York pictures right now.

The Empire State Building and friends, in a real Manhattan cityscape.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Urban poetry

Maybe because no one does urban like New York, the best urban poetry shots are always the ones I take here. And while I do have more pictures from my trip that I'll post from time to time, I've been home for weeks now and I'm ready to get back to steady-state New York blogging.

The leopardskin print on the chair is the winning detail here, outside a garage on Tenth Avenue.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

The gray sky is the giveaway -- this is the real Mars, not the Jordanian impostor.

From our old friend the Curiosity Rover, a panorama from within Gale Crater, looking across a dune field at the slopes of Mount Sharp.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

A last look at Wadi Rum

Sunday bird blogging

Unfortunately I couldn't get closer to this gorgeous bird -- a glossy ibis in Keoladeo National Park.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bubble tents

These Space Age tents are designed for stargazing, so I'm glad I didn't waste money on an upgrade -- I loved my little pointed tent with the rugs and draperies, and there weren't any stars to be seen anyway.

But they do look very cool against the mountains in the morning fog.

Morning in the desert

I'd really wanted to see the stars in Wadi Rum, but it started to get overcast as soon as it was dark, and they were only bright glimpses behind the clouds.

The next morning it was drizzly and gray, and the rain on the stone made bright colors under the dim sky.

Evening view from my tent


This is my tent in the  camp in Wadi Rum where I spent the night.

The toilets were a five-minute walk away, which was fun at 4 o'clock in the morning when it was pitch black dark and way below freezing.

Fortunately the tents had heaters, and fur throws to pile on the bed and thick Bedouin robes to wear. And the beds had carved headboards and embroidered pillows and silky draperies. So I wasn't exactly roughing it.

In fact it was so warm and comfortable that I fell asleep and missed dinner.

Not the Lawrence Train

This train is actually parked at the train station just outside Wadi Rum, but since I was writing about Lawrence of Arabia, it's on topic. 

I don't think they do it anymore, but this is a replica of the old trains that used to travel through the desert here (complete with a red Turkish flag, which you can just see at the back of the picture on the right) used for re-enactments of the famous train battle scene in the movie. Just in case you've ever fantasized about being attacked by Bedouins while you were minding your own business on a train. 

Now if I got to be one of the Bedouins doing the attacking, that might be fun.

Lawrence House

Not exactly a house -- actually ruins around an old Nabataean cistern -- but T.E. Lawrence probably stayed here at some point during the Arab revolt and so it is now and forever named for him. Along with a large puddle known as Lawrence's Spring, and a rock formation near Wadi Rum Village called the Seven Pillars of Wisdom after Lawrence's famous book (I counted only four and a half pillars myself.)

Supposedly the movie Lawrence of Arabia was the reason tourists started visiting Jordan in large numbers, but it's odd that in such a beautiful place, in a region not lacking in history, so much fuss is still made over a random Englishman who did not actually look much like Peter O'Toole.

Saturday reflections

I've been sidelined by a cold that hung around, off and on, for weeks, before taking up happy long-term residence in my lungs. I'm much better, though still in that awful state where I dread the bouts of coughing just because every muscle in my body is already sore from it.

But I do intend to finish up Jordan this weekend if I can. This picture was taken in the side mirror on the highway between Wadi Rum and Amman, where the off ramps led to Saudi Arabia and Iraq to the right, and Syria lay straight ahead. Jordan is a beautiful, peaceful country, but the neighbors suck.

And now the new travel restrictions are going to strangle tourism there even more. Amman is one of the cities where you now have to check laptops and cameras if you're flying to the U.S. (Since Britain is going to apply the same restrictions, I'm going to give our government the benefit of the doubt and assume there is some good reason for this -- the reasoning they gave, of insufficient security in these airports, is laughable.)

I'm not going to put my camera and lenses and laptops into checked luggage; they're far too expensive and fragile. You can get around the restrictions for now simply by doing what I did -- changing planes in Paris or some other European city that's not London on the way home. But for people who won't or can't do that, it will be just one more reason not to visit one of my favorite destinations ever.

And that's a shame.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

As I'm coming to the end of the Jordan postings, here's a return to the standard blogging schedule: a lovely picture of a storm on Jupiter, courtesy of the Juno probe.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Life on Mars, part 2

This is probably my favorite panorama (after this one.)

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