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

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I haven't revisited this theme in a while.

This new tower in Lower Manhattan is nicknamed the Jenga Tower, for obvious reasons. Officially, it just goes by its address, the much less whimsical 56 Leonard Street.

While I'm inclined to dislike on principal any high rise tower in a low-rise neighborhood -- Tribeca, where this is located, is mostly lofts and brownstones that top out at 6-8 stories -- at least this is more fun than the skinny ultra-tall towers going up in Midtown.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Urban poetry

Pink pajamas hung out to dry on Henry Street.

This is actually my favorite picture from last weekend. I was on my way to the Henry Street Settlement House, one of the original charities providing health care and education for the immigrants on the Lower East Side, but that building, while fascinating as a historical site, wasn't terribly photogenic.

These pajamas on the front stoop, next to the mop, on the other hand, were definitely something I don't see every day.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

NGC 1365 is a beautiful example of a barred spiral galaxy. You can clearly see the star-forming regions showing up as bright blue in the arms and at the ends of the bar. All that work, just to feed the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's core.

Image Credit & Copyright: Dietmar Hager, Eric Benson, Torsten Grossmann

Monday, October 16, 2017

Closeups of the mosaics

The Rolling Bench

Outside the mausoleum is where things get a little strange. There is a public art installation from the 1970's called The Rolling Bench surrounding the building. It's a series of mosaic-covered concrete benches, built with the assistance of the neighborhood children.

It's charming, but maybe more suited to a zoo or a playground than encircling the tomb of a war hero-slash-President of the United States.


Apart from the rotunda, the interior is simple and classical: a lot of marble, a little tinted glass, and the two sarcophagi on a lower level, with some busts of vaguely related historical figures (that's Sherman in the artsy shot between the two tombs.)

I am always a sucker for a good rotunda

Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?

This past weekend was Open House New York, the annual celebration of design and architecture. I missed last year because I was in Iceland, and though most of the places I really wanted to see required winning the reservation lottery, and I didn't, I saw several interesting buildings over the course of the weekend.

These are pictures from Grant's Tomb -- or more formally, the General Grant National Memorial -- which overlooks the Hudson River at 122nd Street. Despite having spent most of my adult life living in Manhattan, the only times I'd ever seen it had been through the windows of a car or a bus on my way to someplace else. But the Book Review had Bill Clinton's review of Ron Chernow's new biography of Grant on the front page this weekend, and I realized that I didn't actually know that much about him. All I remembered from high school history were the scandals and corruption -- none of them involving Grant himself. I didn't remember, or never knew, that he fought to get the Fifteenth Amendment passed, guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race, and created the Justice Department to enforce Federal law in the South and oppose the Ku Klux Klan.

So I hopped on the M5 and went uptown to pay my respects.

(Who's buried in Grant's Tomb? is considered a trick question by the way not because the answer is obviously Grant -- and his wife Julia -- but because they're in sarcophagi and so not technically buried. One more thing I never knew until yesterday.)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

Just because they're common doesn't mean they aren't beautiful: a female house sparrow in Central Park.

I had an interesting experience yesterday; a young woman stopped me on a street corner and asked if she could take my picture. I said yes, of course, after laughing and showing her my camera and explaining that I'm usually the one asking. (I'd just walked through Chinatown, where I'd wanted a picture of one of the women selling lychees, but they all said no.) She said she liked my shirt, a flowery rayon more suitable for a tropical vacation than the Lower East Side of Manhattan on a gray but extremely humid day, as though she felt she had to explain why she picked me out.

It didn't really matter. At this point I certainly owe the random street photographers of the world my willingness to be on the the other side of the camera. So I smiled and she took two pictures, and she thanked me, and we went our separate ways.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday reflections

I am endlessly entertained by the spectacle of generic city office towers reflected in the windows of other generic city office towers, turning them into something Gaudi might have dreamed up.

These two examples are in Rockefeller Center.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Urban poetry

One more picture of the Comic Con gang.

The figures are a little blurry in this one but I love the vibe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

Another image of Pluto, as captured by New Horizons in 2015. The pebbly texture in the center of the image is caused by huge towers of methane ice, as tall as skyscrapers, at high altitudes near Pluto's equator.

Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Institute

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Two more

Comic Con portraits

These are two of my favorites.

More Comic Con

The people who go to the trouble to create these wonderful costumes are, not surprisingly, much more willing than your average pedestrian to pose for a photo if asked.

Comic Con

I was walking over to the Whole Foods on Sixth Avenue yesterday afternoon when I found myself waiting to cross the street next to two men in Spiderman costumes. That's not unusual in my neighborhood, and I assumed they were on their way to work to pose for pictures with tourists in Times Square. Then I passed another Spiderman. And another.

It wasn't until I was walking back and found myself behind two men wearing identical bright blue wigs that I realized it must be Comic Con weekend. So I went back out in the late afternoon just as the sessions were ending for the day, this time with my camera.

Sunday bird blogging

I'm not sure what kind of bird this is...

Just kidding. Obviously it's a Lesser Thick-kneed Babblecatcher, very common in Central Park this time of year.

It's true, and somewhat embarrassing, that until I started paying attention to birds in the early part of this century, I had never seen a cardinal -- this despite years of living on the East Coast by then, and countless excursions to Central Park and other wooded areas (and the fact that they are occasional visitors to the trees and fire escape outside my bedroom window.)

I've always been someone who walked around with my head in the clouds and I've written before about how taking up photography forced me to pay more attention to the world around me, but seriously -- not to notice these very conspicuous creatures? That is some heavy-duty mindlessness.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Saturday reflections

Summer as reflected in the window of a house in Sunriver.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Urban poetry

The side of a dumpster parked on West 52nd Street makes a beautiful piece of abstract art.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

These wisps of color, like a silk scarf blowing in the breeze, are called the Veil Nebula.

It's the remnants of a supernova that would have been easily visible from Earth 7000 years ago, almost as bright as a waxing moon before fading back into invisibility after a few weeks. I wonder what the humans of the time, for whom the wheel was the cool new technology, made of the spectacle.

Credit & Copyright: Mikael Svalgaard

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

Now that the weather is finally catching up to the calendar, here's a look back at summer, with a pretty duck in Sunriver.

I have a meeting with a contractor this afternoon about renovating my kitchen, and my stomach is already in knots remembering the drawn-out painful bathroom debacle of 2016. I just keep whispering to myself, It's worth it in the end. It's worth it in the end.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saturday reflections

Scaffolding, and its reflection across the street, with some of that wonderful dappled light you get in Manhattan when the glass towers throw their light onto less reflective neighbors.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Urban poetry

I'm ready for the end of summer weather, but I will miss the dancers in Times Square -- though not threading my way through the crowds of tourists surrounding them.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

Our beautiful sun in a bad mood on September 10.

This image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows an intense solar flare, which was followed by what astronomers whimsically refer to as a coronal mass ejection. It's the sun's version of blowing off steam, except instead of steam it's magnetic plasma. This is the stuff that can cause electrical havoc on Earth when it slams into our magnetosphere, causing blackouts (in 1989 power surges from solar flares melted power transformers in New Jersey) as well as knocking out satellite and GPS communications.

Image Credit: NASA, SDO, and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

It may officially be autumn now, but it was still warm and muggy in the park yesterday.

The birds didn't seem to mind -- I saw the first white-throated sparrows and juncos of the season, and a few warblers hiding in the foliage. And this winter wren, with that adorably stubby spotted tail at full salute. The light wasn't great so the picture isn't that sharp, but I so rarely see wrens that I'm thrilled with it anyway. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday reflections

A truck on Tenth Avenue -- at first I tried to get the same effect without that annoying Mercedes symbol in the middle of the shot, but now I like the way the buildings curve around it.

Also I couldn't get the shot without it. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Urban poetry

I already posted this on Instagram, but I like it enough to cross-post here: another look at Taxi Land in the West Forties.

What makes this true urban poetry is that you now expect anyone captured in this pose to have a phone in hand, but what this man is staring at so intently is -- paper.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

One last look at the eclipse from the moon's point of view, courtesy of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The smudge at the top of the picture is its shadow across North America.

Image Credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State Univ. / Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Monday, September 18, 2017

Domestic archaeology

I spent most of the weekend cleaning out closets -- or technically, distributing the contents of closets all over my living room in preparation for the tedious business of sorting, discarding, and re-closeting -- and buried in the bottom of a box of family papers and miscellaneous letters, I found a collection of t-shirts that I was apparently saving for the Apocalypse.

I moved into this apartment in 1999, and I'm assuming I packed them then, and immediately forgot about their existence. So if you see someone walking around New York in a practically pristine Clinton-Gore inauguration t-shirt from 1993, that would be me.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

This isn't a great picture -- the sun was behind the bird -- but this is the first time I've ever seen a warbler (a pine warbler, btw) sitting in plain sight on a path, instead of flitting around behind thick foliage where they can barely be seen and rarely photographed.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday reflections

Here's some psychedelia Manhattan-style.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Urban poetry

Continuing with the theme of interesting sidewalk seating, here are a couple of chairs (plus motorcycles) outside a walled garden in Jaipur last January. This was an access road, separated by a line of trees from a very busy street. So it was noisy there, but also cool and shady, which may be why the residents would choose to sit there instead of in the very pretty -- and sunny and hot -- garden.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's one of the last looks at Saturn and its rings from a distance, captured by Cassini with a wide-angle lens last October, but released by NASA and JPL yesterday.

We'll probably get more pictures, as it takes time for NASA to process and release them, but the Cassini probe itself will die on Friday, when it ends its mission with a plunge beneath Saturn's clouds and into whatever lies beneath.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Monday, September 11, 2017

Welcome to the working week

West 44th Street in Hell's Kitchen is full of taxi companies -- garages, repair shops, auto supplies. I loved this row of chairs forming a temporary waiting room outside a taxi repair service.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

The gritty city.

I took this picture earlier this summer, and since you don't get much more New York than this, it's an appropriate image for a week in which I sometimes floundered at finding myself back in a place that's the complete opposite of my mostly peaceful, mostly non-eventful vacation.

But I did spend the morning in Central Park, and that always reminds me that there are oases of tranquillity even in this mad city.

Sunday deer blogging

I forgot about this until I was going through pictures yesterday. 

The night before the eclipse, there was a wedding party at Sunriver having cocktails on a lawn by the river. This mama deer (the fawn was hiding in the tall grass behind her) stood watching them through the grasses for a few minutes before running away along the riverbank.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

And in black and white

More arboreal poetry

Some of the lovely trees in Ken Mercer park in Pleasanton. On the days when it isn't 112 degrees it's a lovely place to take a walk.

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