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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Data processing, Inca style

This lovely object is a quipu, the Inca record-keeping system. 

The pattern of the knots on the various strings -- 586 in this quipu -- probably represented demographic data.

But I want to wear it as a necklace.

More arte precolombino

These striking statues are chemamulls, created by the Mapuche, one of the indigenous peoples of Chile.

They were placed over tombs to assist the dead in their journey to the afterlife. Which in Mapuche culture meant a trip to the Blue Land in the east for chiefs and warriors, while everyone else went to the west to eat bitter potatoes beyond the sea.

I love the faces, but they do look as though they've already had all the bitter potatoes a chemamull could stand.

Saturday reflections

I posted a version of this already: the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino. I took the first one with my phone, which often works better in low light. You don't get the detail but you also don't get all the noise.

But the fancy camera version came out better than expected, so here it is.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Urban poetry

I love the pointed roof in the middle of all those horizontals.

Santiago doesn't have much in the way of dazzling modern architecture, but I did find the mix of Old Colonial-Sleek Modern-Scuzzy Generic Urban kind of charming. And this made me smile.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

I'm endlessly fascinated by deep space images; I love to find a tiny galaxy in a corner and hurt my brain imagining the billions of stars and trillions of worlds there and wondering if any of them contain creatures as simultaneously kind and destructive as we humans.

In this image, of the Coma Cluster, almost everything you see is a galaxy -- the cluster contains more than 1000 galaxies. It's more than 300 million light years away, so the fact that we even know it exists, that we can see actual photographs of it, are definitely points in humanity's favor. We're not all idiots -- they're just a lot louder.

Image Credit: Russ Carroll, Robert Gendler, & Bob Franke; Dan Zowada Memorial Observatory

Sunday, March 25, 2018

More ghost town

Ghost town

On the way back to Santiago from El Yeso we stopped here -- an abandoned military base beneath the San Francisco glacier.

It was last used during the Pinochet regime, when relations with Argentina were rocky and both sides were apparently considering invasion. (There are still tens of thousands of land mines left in the Andes along the Chilean border.)

Now like most empty buildings there's just litter, graffiti, and the smell of urine, but the doorways and empty windows made for some interesting photos.

Sunday bird blogging

One more sadly not very clear picture from the Andes -- a gray-hooded Sierra finch feasting on one of the cherries from our picnic.

Since we rely on Chilean produce so much during the North American winters, I wasn't surprised that fruits and vegetables in Chile were so abundant and so beautiful. But they definitely keep the best stuff for themselves -- every market was full of enormous, glossy specimens, and I ate bowlsful of delicious fruit every day for breakfast. 

I'll have some pictures from the markets in Valparaiso one of these days.

One more sign

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March for our Lives signs

Show us what democracy looks like

This is what democracy looks like: the New York March for our Lives heading down Sixth Avenue from Central Park.

I must admit, the march wasn't my first priority today -- going to Central Park for a last chance to catch the winter birds at their feeders was. I haven't been there since October; I had to work almost every weekend between Thanksgiving and New Year's and then I went to Antarctica. And since I've been back, the weather has been mostly too gray for bird photography.

But today was beautiful. Sunny, not too cold, great light. I woke up early, eager to take brilliant photos of what I was sure would be unusually cooperative birds. The rally/march started on Central Park West, and I could easily go there once I was done with the birds.

And then I got an email, followed by a text from my manager. You know those server issues we're having? That we were going to fix in two weeks? Turns out we did it last night and we need you to test this morning!

So instead of titmice and goldfinches, here's a photo taken from our company cafeteria of a very different source of comfort and inspiration.

Saturday reflections

I always love modern glass reflecting older buildings; here's a Santiago version, taken near the Plaza de Armas. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Urban poetry

One good thing about a late season snowfall is that the snow doesn't stick around. We got more than 8 inches yesterday, but today it's mostly a slushy memory.

Still it's pleasant to remember a warm summer day in Santiago not so long ago. These chess players are in the Plaza de Armas.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Spring to bring you another blizzard

The weather regresses and so do I, interrupting pictures of Chile with a more appropriate image of Antarctica. This is King George Island from the ship the day we were snowbound and couldn't fly out.

We're getting our fourth nor'easter in a month today, and celebrating spring with 6 to 8 inches of snow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

A Hubble closeup of the Tarantula Nebula, one of the most active star-forming regions in our galactic neighborhood.

It's in the Large Magellanic Cloud, so only visible from the Southern Hemisphere, and is so luminous that if it were as close as the Orion nebula, it would actually cast shadows. I've seen the LMC from the Australian outback and with the naked eye, it looks a lot like -- a cloud.

Credit: NASA, ESA

Sunday, March 18, 2018

And still more El Yeso

Here's a picture with some of the group walking along the road and down by the water to give a sense of the scale of this beautiful place. Plus flowers.

More of El Yeso

El Yeso

The sun came and went all day, and the color of the water in El Yeso reservoir shifted with every change in the light, going from steely blue to deep emerald and every shade in between.

After stopping for photos at this lookout, we drove along the very bumpy dirt road you can see on the right to a rocky beach on the far end, where we had a picnic.

El condor pasa

Bonus bird blogging.

Wait, where's the bird? you ask. If you look carefully just above the mountain peak to the right, you will see a small black dash that is in fact a bird in flight.

While I'd love to say that it's a condor, it probably isn't. It's much too far away to see clearly, but condors have a very distinctive shape to their wings and I think this is just an eagle or some other raptor. Still it's obviously a very large bird, since it's visible from such a distance. So if you want to pretend it's a condor, I won't argue.


Really, it was Papa-mania

The TV in the cafe, like every other TV I saw that week, was tuned to non-stop coverage of the Pope's visit.

(The chyron, in case you can't see it, asks Why isn't the Pope going to Argentina?)

Breakfast in the Andes

The restaurant -- maybe cafe is the better word -- at the rest stop. A cheese empanada was included in the tour, and it was hot off the grill and delicious.

I didn't even mind that the coffee was instant Nescafe as it was the first cup I'd had, and after a two hour drive it was manna to my jet-lagged brain. I've mentioned before that this tour had originally been scheduled for the following day, but Papa-mania had forced the tour operator to reschedule. Because Chile is inexplicably two hours ahead of New York, I'd reasoned that a tour leaving at 7:15 am would probably be more enjoyable after I'd been in the country for at least 24 hours and had time to adjust to the change.

But the Pope decided to come to town, and since the only other option was the day I was going to Valparaiso I agreed to go a day earlier.

And not surprisingly, I overslept. The front desk woke me with a phone call at 7:25, telling me that my tour guide was waiting, and I had to throw on some clothes, grab my camera and run downstairs without getting anything to eat.

So I will always remember that empanada and instant coffee as one of the best breakfasts I've ever had. I'd never had a freshly made empanada before and like most variations on the theme of stuffed dough, it was so much better that way. Plus, I was starving.

There's always a line for las mujeres

It didn't really cost five hundred dollars to pee at this rest stop near Cajon del Maipo in the high desert outside Santiago. Chile uses the dollar symbol for its currency, which takes some getting used to since the conversion rate was about 600 pesos to the dollar, making the prices look alarmingly high to an American brain. So the cost was actually 500 pesos, or a little less than one American dollar, which they also accepted.

And neither of which I had, unfortunately -- all of my dollars were back at the hotel, and the smallest bill I had was 20,000 pesos. I'd just flown in the day before, and all I'd bought was a coffee, which I had to pay for with a credit card because the cafe couldn't change 20,000 pesos either.

Fortunately the restaurant at this rest stop could, or it would have been an extremely uncomfortable trip to the cajon.

Sunday bird blogging

Apologies for the crappy photo -- noisy and not very sharp -- but it's a lovely bird who deserves to be posted anyway.

The Google tells me this is probably a rufous-collared sparrow. I saw it back in January, in the yard of the ranch where we took a rest stop on the way to Cajon del Maipo my first full day in Chile.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday reflections

A late evening summer sky in Santiago, taken from my hotel room.

This was on my first pass through the city; I was staying in the more modern section to the east, nicknamed Sanhattan for the (comparatively) large number of glassy towers. It actually reminded me more of California than Manhattan, and while I liked the older section of the city I stayed in on my return much more, if you want reflections, modern towers with hundreds of windows definitely provide them.

I like the way the reflected clouds in the building create the illusion that you're looking right through it to the sky beyond.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Bonus urban poetry

A closer look at the intriguing blues in the top of the last picture -- the swimming pool at the Manhattan Plaza Health Club. The windows somehow create an illusion that the pool bends in impossible ways, so that the piece at the top is actually vertical.

Unlike the similarly inviting turquoise water we saw in Antarctica, you might actually want to swim in this. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Urban poetry

Since I actually have been back in New York for more than a month, we're overdue for some urban poetry.

Here's 42nd Street at night, as seen from one of the hotel rooms I lived in while my kitchen renovation made my apartment unlivable.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's a jolt of color to wake you up.

This is the north pole of Jupiter, taken by the Juno probe. It's currently tilted away from the sun, but the infrared image is able to look through the shadow and see the eight baby cyclones surrounding a massive mama cyclone 4000 kilometers in diameter.

Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, SwRI, ASI, INAF, JIRAM

Monday, March 12, 2018

End of Lemaire

Here are two more icy landscapes from the Lemaire Channel. I'm going to take a break from Antarctica -- yes, believe it or not I do still have more pictures -- and loop back to Chile. I've yet to look at a single photo from Valparaiso, or the very interesting cemetery in Punta Arenas.

There will be more penguins. I promise.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

A petrel, probably a Southern giant, stark against white skies in the Drake Passage.

They're not lovely birds, with the prominent tubular nostrils on their beaks, but they are apparently perfectly adapted to life as seabirds; once a petrel starts flying it never sets down again on land until it's old enough to breed.

That's up to seven years in the air, and they have to provide their own snacks.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday reflections

My living room window reflected in the glossy surfaces of my new kitchen cabinets on a winter morning in New York.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

This is a Hubble image of the Bubble Nebula, also known as NGC7635, in Cassiopeia.

Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Growlers and brash ice

At times we sailed right through the sea of ice. (Later, in Cierva Cove, we sailed through similar ice in zodiacs.)

Sea ice

There's a lexicon to describe icebergs -- small ones are called “bergy bits,” and even smaller ones -- floating three feet above the water -- are called “growlers.” This blue carpet in the Lemaire Channel consisted of even smaller pieces, so-called brash ice, and maybe a few million Slushies.

That's a seal lounging on the floe in the foreground.

Into the mystic

Mountains in the sun

Not that the mountains glistening in the sun weren't beautiful. They were.

As you can clearly see.

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