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

Monday, December 31, 2018


By every standard -- personal, professional, political -- this has been one long freaking year. It's hard to find anything good to say about being as unwell as I was for so much of it, but the fact that I spent months unable to follow current events with my usual passion was definitely a blessing.

Of course I couldn't muster much passion for anything beyond my bed for most of that time either. Being sick was a huge, tedious black hole in the history of this year, but I am bloody grateful for every second all the same. I still managed to see penguins and icebergs, medieval masterpieces, and mountain gorillas, even while spending far more time learning about all the varieties of cardiac dysfunction than I'd ever dreamed possible.

Here are the preparations in progress in Times Square earlier today. I might wish that 2019 will be a little less dramatic than its predecessor, but at least I feel ready to take it on, whatever adventures it brings.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

Here's a red-breasted nuthatch, a nice change from the more common white-breasted variety I usually see. I also like the black bandit mask across the eyes.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday reflections

The lights of the Secretariat Building at the UN, reflected in a puddle on a wet night.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Urban poetry

The UN at night, seen from First Avenue.

This is the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Secretariat Building, the iconic tower on the East River which is what everyone thinks of when you refer to the United Nations Building. Although the General Assembly, designed by Le Corbusier, is interesting seen from the street, it doesn't catch the eye like its tall neighbor.

I've just signed up to take the tour next week -- one of the many things I've always meant to do in New York but somehow never got around to.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas

A different kind of twinkle for this Tuesday's posting: Christmastime in the city.

Hoping that however you're spending the day, wherever you are, your travels may be happy ones.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

One of the famous red-tailed hawks of Central Park. (Not as famous as Mandy the Duck maybe, but much loved by New Yorkers, except when they decide to build their nests on snooty Fifth Avenue apartment buildings.)

While I was admiring and photographing the beautiful hawk, this poor squirrel -- who'd also clearly noticed the hawk -- was literally frozen on this tree next to me.

It didn't move so much as a whisker, but kept making the most heart-rending squeaking noises. After a few minutes the hawk flew away, and once it was safely out of sight, the squirrel scampered safely away.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Saturday reflections

Since I'm cleaning house, here's a picture I never posted from Denver last summer: reflections in the glass windows of the Carr Courthouse, surrounded by appropriately judicial columns and some modern statuary.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Urban poetry

Posting late this week -- I'm taking advantage of feeling better, and trying to sort through the mountains of stuff in my apartment so I can buy new bookshelves and storage units and have some hope of being able to organize my stuff without having all my closets crammed to overflowing with junk I can't fit anywhere else.

This is an older picture, from Frankfurt in August. Bad as I have often felt during the past several months, I fortunately never had to resort to using steel mesh to keep my face from falling off.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

Those blues looks alluringly tropical on an (almost) winter morning, even though I know it's much colder there than it is here. There were some deceptively tropical blues in Antarctica as well.

This is the Cave Nebula, which lies about 2400 light years away, but I will now always think of it as the Iceberg Nebula.

Image Credit and Copyright: Chuck Ayoub

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

There were several great blue herons sharing the Pond in Central Park with Mandy the Duck and his friends, giving the frostbitten photographers something to focus on while we waited for the damn duck. (I kid, of course. I love that duck.)

Speaking of Mandy, he made The New Yorker this week, showing up in the daily cartoon as the front-runner for a White House job. “He's an unorthodox choice for chief of staff, but his approval ratings are through the roof.”

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Saturday reflections

The city at night, reflected in the glass wall of a hotel (plus a peek inside one of the windows.)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Urban poetry

A thin film of ice on the lake in Central Park. It's been so consistently cold that I'm surprised the lake isn't frozen solid by now

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Celebrity bird blogging

This is Mandarin Patinkin, Mandy for short, a Mandarin duck who has taken up residence in Central Park. Mandarins are native to East Asia, and though they are occasionally seen in North America, those birds are always escapees from zoos or private aviaries. (Mandy has bands on his legs, so he's been in human captivity at some point.)

He first showed up in October, and has been mostly living in the pond across from the Plaza Hotel. He's been quite the media sensation, with crowds turning up every day and New York Magazine naming him New York's Most Eligible Bachelor. I missed all the news stories -- not surprising since I was not taking much notice of the outside world during October -- until this past weekend when I saw a clip on CNN, featuring a reporter attempting to lure him closer with a recording of Barry Manilow singing Mandy. (Mandy the duck quite sensibly swam away as fast as his little feet could paddle him.)

On Monday, I finally went to pay my respects and found that he was not in the mood for photo opportunities and was hiding in the rocks. Or so the half dozen photographers and various interested passersby waiting eagerly by the water told me. I waited for 15 minutes or so, then went to have lunch and thaw out in the food court at the Plaza.

I had better luck after lunch; someone was feeding the mallards and Mandy came out to see what was going on and get his fair share of the goodies. He was even more handsome in person, unlike many celebrities, and posed agreeably for his many fans. So now I can cross Go See Famous Duck off my life list and go back to sorting through my books.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

When this beautiful Hubble image turned up as today's choice on NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site, I was very glad I hadn't already picked one to run this week. I am always fascinated by the deep space images with their galaxies stretching back into infinity, and this is an especially good one.

The subject galaxy, Arp 188, the Tadpole Galaxy, is spectacular as well. That long tail is probably the result of a long-ago quarrel with another galaxy.

Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing: Faus Márquez (AAE)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

A song fox sparrow rooting through the leaves looking for a treat.

They're allegedly quite a common bird, but I seldom see them -- this guy was surrounded by house sparrows and white-throated sparrows so maybe I just don't always notice them.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saturday reflections

I wasn't sure if I liked this one better in color or black and white, but I've decided to go with black and white because the yellow of that taxi is too much of a distraction otherwise.

Those buildings are reflected in the windshield and hood of a car parked on Lexington Avenue (you can see the top of the Chrysler Building peeking out at the bottom.) The cab is nicely framed in the driver's side window. 

Winter seems to have settled in early this year, but as long as it isn't too windy I don't mind temperatures in the 30's. I've been putting my Antarctica gear to good use, although sleeping in my wool long johns generates so much static electricity that I can see bright blue sparks when I turn over in bed at night. So they provide entertainment as well as warmth!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Urban poetry

I have no idea what the cables dangling from this apartment building are for, but they add some interesting detail to this wintry twilight.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

That little speck in the upper right is Jupiter's moon Io rising above the vast horizon of its parent planet. The Juno probe took this picture in October.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstad/Justin Cowart

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

I love the patterns of shadow and light on the path, and the fat bluejay in the middle of them.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Saturday reflections

Another in the car series, a headlight plus some lovely reflections around the corner on West 44th Street.

I've been dealing with the early winter weather by crawling into bed early every night with a book and a cup of hot chocolate. Until I am up to traveling the world again, there are far worse ways to spend my time.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Headlights, as promised

I love the way these two came out in black and white.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Urban poetry

Leaves, actual and reflected, in a car windshield around the corner from my apartment.

I went weeks without taking pictures with an actual camera when I came back to New York in September, and then when I was finally well enough to be glad of the distraction photography provided, I still wasn't well enough to venture very far from home.

So I took many pictures of cars and windshields and headlights and taillights on the streets of Hell's Kitchen. I used to be obsessed with headlights and taillights, and I'd forgotten how much fun they can be. Anyway, I think so -- I'm not sure anyone else has ever enjoyed them as much as I do, but I'll post some of the new pictures in the next few days and you can decide for yourselves.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

The Red Spider nebula is located 3000 light years away in Sagittarius. It's a planetary nebula, meaning all of that gaseous beauty is the product of the stellar winds from one extremely hot star.

Image credit: ESA/Garrelt Mellema (Leiden University, the Netherlands)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

Well, this is an improvement: a titmouse with some detail and a better background, taken with my Canon and a telephoto lens on Friday.

I won't be in any rush to drag that lens back to Central Park any time soon -- I spent most of yesterday recuperating -- but it was so beautiful in the park, crisp and cold and full of sparrows and squirrels rooting through huge piles of fallen leaves, that I think I felt really myself, really home, for the first time since I left for Africa in August.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The missing season

I feel as though I missed autumn this year. It's always the best season in New York -- fall colors, new movies and cultural events, and weather that makes walking anywhere a pleasure.

But maybe it wasn't just that I spent most of the past couple of months too sick to walk very far, much less get any pleasure out of it. I don't think we actually got much of an autumn this year. It was hot and humid until, abruptly, it wasn't, and the unseasonable blizzard killed all the leaves before they had a chance to turn.

The picture on the left is the Azalea Pond in Central Park a little more than three weeks ago, at the end of October. I took the picture on the right yesterday.

Saturday reflections

One last picture from the parade: an elf reflected in the glass of an office building on Sixth Avenue.

Friday, November 23, 2018

At least it's not Godzilla

Two snowmen (one of them for some reason in a spacesuit) make an appearance through the towers of Sixth Avenue.

More balloons

The only one of these I recognize is the Grinch; I think the others are characters in some holiday cartoon I haven't seen.

But if I were a child I think that enormous grumpy cat-elf would scare the bejeezus out of me.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Here's a giant elf somersaulting down Sixth Avenue this morning, part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I've occasionally seen some of the balloons from a distance but I'd never actually gone to the parade before. I'm not crazy about parades for one thing, or crowds, and after standing in the rain for four hours in Ath, Belgium, watching their annual Giants Parade a few months ago, I would have said I've had enough of parades for the rest of this century.

But I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, even if things haven't exactly gone the way I'd planned, that I decided I should maybe go to the parade once, just so I could say I had. And because I could!

I didn't stay long; it was 20 degrees and despite wearing a layer of my Antarctica fleece under my down coat, I couldn't stand in one place for very long. And it was very crowded, and the balloons, seen up close rather than on television, are a little creepy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

These sand dunes on Mars were photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The mound in Juventae Chasma on the left-hand side of the picture is a mile tall.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Monday, November 19, 2018


The day after the surprise storm last week: flowers in the snow and fallen trees everywhere.

We ended up getting eight inches, breaking a 130 year-old record for November snowfalls. There's a reason trees usually shed their leaves before winter starts; otherwise they hold too much heavy snow and their branches break.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

Here's a robin, another easy bird to find and photograph even on shaky legs with a point and shoot camera.

He may be common but he is certainly beautiful.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Saturday reflections

Earlier that same rainy evening, while waiting for the uptown bus.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Urban poetry

All of my doctors are on the East Side, and I live on the West Side, so I've been spending a lot of time on crosstown buses. I miss being able to walk more, but I love taking the bus in New York. It's much slower than the subway, but if you have the luxury of time, it's more entertaining than most TV shows, watching the daily lives in this ever-changing city slide past your window.

And I see neighborhoods I haven't frequented in years. These stairs are on First Avenue, across the street from the United Nations, and there's a small park at the top where I used to occasionally eat lunch when I worked on 42nd Street. That's a quote from Isaiah on the wall:
They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Speaking of wintry weather...

The view from my living room this afternoon as the first snowstorm of the season barreled through.

It's only November 15th!


Bins of embroidery floss in one of the few remaining fabric and notion stores in the Garment District. It's been unremittingly gray in New York this week, and though we're weeks away from the solstice and the official start of winter, the high temperatures haven't been much above the freezing mark.

I'd planned to take up felting again when the weather got cold, but that takes more physical strength than I have at the moment -- you really have to knead and pound and slap the wet wool around to get it to turn into felt. So I've been doing embroidery instead, appropriate for the sickly Victorian heroine I sometimes feel like, and the perfect occupation with tea and shortbread on a wintry afternoon.

I could buy supplies online of course, but I love wandering the aisles of these stores and getting a dose of sparkle and color to brighten these gloomy days. And it feels like an achievement that I am actually able to walk all the way to West 38th Street, even if I have to stop and rest and have a hot chocolate before I'm up to tackling the walk back. A couple weeks ago I would have taken a cab.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

For everyone in my home state, here is the California nebula, located in the Orion arm of the Milky Way, not far (at least from our point of view) from the Pleiades.

I'm supposed to be in the Bay Area now, but had to reschedule my visit for January, when I will presumably be fit to travel again. My friends reassured me it's for the best, as the air is full of smoke from the Chico fire  and my beleaguered body probably wouldn't like it. 

My heart does ache for those affected by the fires though -- I can't imagine the horror of being stuck in a car as the fire closed in -- or rather, I can imagine it all too well.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

I was well enough to go to Central Park last week, but not strong enough to tote my good camera there.

Still, this tufted titmouse was photogenic enough to come out all right with the point and shoot. And they always make me smile.


This plaque is just off the Grand Place in Mons. It reads:
Mons was recaptured by the Canadian Corps on 11th November 1918: After fifty months of German occupation, freedom was restored to the city: Here was fired the last shot of the Great War.
One hundred years ago this morning.

Inside the belfry

The clockworks and the bells. 

In The Nine Tailors, one of Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, a man is murdered by being locked up in a church tower while the bells are being rung -- the noise kills him.

I was glad these bells were silent.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Les toits de Mons

Views from the belfry in Mons. The tower, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built in the 17th century and is only 87 meters tall, but  when these are the views you don't have to be that high up.

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