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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Urban poetry

Lounging by the water on the first hot day of the year, in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago. (Taken from the Manhattan Bridge.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's a gavotte of galaxies to start the working week. Galaxy cluster Abell S0740 is 450 light years away and appears to contain every possible size and shape of galaxy you could possibly want.

Image Credit and Copyright: Data - Hubble Legacy Archive, Processing - Domingo Pestana

Monday, May 28, 2018

On the avenue, Fifth Avenue

I wasn't going to put anything up today but this picture from last week came out so unexpectedly well I have to share immediately -- I love the Art Deco vibe.

This is another window at Cartier on Fifth Avenue. I think I see the beginning of a series here.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

A big puffball of white-throated sparrow singing about the fun of hanging out in a crunchy pile of dead leaves.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday reflections

Lunchtime on Fifth Avenue, and reflections at Cartier and Harry Winston.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Random things I saw in New York

I bought a new camera to replace my old point and shoot. The professional photographers I've seen in action always carry multiple cameras rather than just multiple lenses -- that way they don't have to stop and swap lenses; they just swap cameras.

My version of this has always been to carry a good point and shoot along with the DSLR for travel photography. DSLR's are expensive and they're heavy and I'm not trying to sell my images to National Geographic, so having a small camera that takes decent pictures is a good compromise.

I bought an Olympus E-M10 Mark III, which for the curious is a micro four-thirds camera -- small and portable but with swappable lenses. I've been carrying it around all week taking pictures on my way to work and back, and here are some samples: Sixth Avenue in the evening, a manhole cover in the rain, graduates on Seventh Avenue, and the armed guards at Trump Tower.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Urban poetry

A pawnshop on Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn.

It's worth enlarging the picture to take a good look at the amazing variety of services provided -- Sneakers! Tattoos! Gold teeth! Buy one pair of eyeglasses get two free! Watch repairs! Nose piercing! If they threw in dry cleaning and an espresso machine you'd never have to go anywhere else.

They also buy used phones. I should have sold them my old iPhone when I had the chance.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

This is the Boomerang Nebula, which is about 5000 light years away, in the direction of Centaurus.

It's interesting because it's so cold  -- the rapidly expanding gases of the nebula are only one degree above absolute zero, making it the coldest region we've found in the distant universe. But what caught my attention is the size -- it is one light year from end to end, a perfectly ridiculous size and a reminder of just how much space there is in space.

And it's also ridiculously beautiful. Those colors make me want to dance.

Credit: Hubble Heritage Team, J. Biretta (STScI) et al., (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA

Monday, May 21, 2018

In Loving Memory

This one works better in black and white: William Baybut, who died at sea in 1927 aged 37 years.

Framing a life

I loved these niches, each one a little window into a life. There were the usual saints and flowers and photos, but also toys, medals, souvenirs and a surprising number of Santa Clauses.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Familia Sharp

The names of this family are their own story, with Jorge Sharp Corona, Miss Florence Mildred Sharp Call, Raquel Mildred Sharp Corona, and Florence M. Call Voa de Sharp.

More names

About that cemetery

It really is worth the visit, if you happen to be in Punta Arenas anyway.

I've mentioned before that this trip to Chile made me aware of just how little I know about South American history and culture. For example, we think of it as Latin America, because most of South America is Spanish-speaking, just as most of North America is English-speaking. And though I knew that Argentina in particular had many immigrants from non-Spanish speaking countries, I was still struck by the names in this cemetery, where Familia Matheson-Villan is next to Familia Nicholls Sanfuentes and Familia Douglas-Tolentino.

Chile actually had fewer immigrants from non-Spanish speaking countries** because it was on the other side of the Andes and hard to reach, but Punta Arenas was a port. And as noted below, it's a long way from the rest of Chile.

**But the George Washington of Chilean history, the great Libertador, was named Bernardo O'Higgins. So at least one Irish immigrant made it over the mountains.

You could be anywhere

In the Plaza de Armas in downtown Punta Arenas, there's a park with a statue of Magellan, surrounded by large trees and vendors selling handicrafts (not surprisingly, there were a lot more warm hats for sale than you usually find in the summer.) The old mansions around the square are now mostly private clubs or museums.

Away from the center of town though, the streets look like this -- you could be almost anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. Tourists pass through Punta Arenas on their way to the Patagonian parks, or Tierra del Fuego, or Antarctica, but there's no reason to linger. As one of my shipmates put it, “When the number one attraction on Trip Advisor is the cemetery, you know there's not much to see there.”

It does feel very far away from the rest of Chile. I went to the supermarket looking for cough drops -- I had a cold -- and fruit. I found cough drops, but the limited selection of fruit was a shock after the lush produce for sale everywhere in Santiago and Valparaiso -- tiny shriveled apples and brown bananas. Even at the hotel, the fruit on the breakfast buffet was all canned. Chile sends so much produce to North America during our winters, but somehow can't manage to supply its own south coast.

Punta Arenas

I posted a few pictures of Punta Arenas while I was there, four months ago now, and I'm finally getting back to it.

Here's a look at the Strait of Magellan in the evening, as the sun prepared to sink behind the islands of Tierra del Fuego. I had walked -- briefly -- along the beach that afternoon, but it was too windy to be enjoyable.

And when I say it was windy in Punta Arenas, I mean the sort of wind that accompanies a really bad nor'easter or mild hurricane in New York, or a sail through the Lemaire Channel in Antarctica, not wind so much as a full body punch that can literally knock you over if you're not careful. I read somewhere that in the winter there are ropes along the city streets so people have something to hold on to against the winds.

I can testify that they'd be useful in the summer as well.

Sunday bird blogging

An early pine warbler in Central Park from the end of March.

Due to work schedules and a series of dismal wet weekends, this is probably the only warbler I'm going to see this year. (It's almost certainly the only one I'll manage to get a photo of.)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday reflections

In honor of the royal wedding today, here are some appropriately jubilant reflections in Oxford Street, London, last November.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Urban poetry

A detailed look at the Brooklyn Bridge, this time in black and white.

I love this picture.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

This beauty is called the Robin's Egg Nebula, in the southern constellation Fornax.

It's a planetary nebula; those brilliant blue gases are being cast off by the dying star in the center. This is clearly an old-folks neighborhood in the sky; many of the other stars you can see in the background are red, meaning they're very old stars.

Image Credit and Copyright: Josep Drudis, Don Goldman

Monday, May 14, 2018

Welcome to the working week

A woman preparing fruit to sell in downtown Brooklyn. It was (a very little bit) like being back in Santiago.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

A goldfinch, looking rather glamorous as he poses for potential mates in Central Park.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Saturday reflections

A school bus captured by the side mirror in a taxi.

It's supposed to rain all weekend, and I'm actually glad for the excuse to stay in and do as little as possible. Last weekend was a series of hectic First World problems, starting with losing my phone.

I'm not nearly as attached to my phone as many people I know; I work in IT, where having the latest, shiniest, newest everything is practically a religion, and I'd taken to making fun of my old beat-up phone in meetings by quoting the guy with the old flip phone in the GEICO commercial, “Why would I replace this? It's not broken.”

It was very slow -- I'd missed some of the slides I tried to take pictures of at the conference because the camera took so long to focus -- so when I realized it was gone, it was more of an annoyance than anything else. Okay, damn, but I needed a new phone anyway.

That took most of Saturday. It's not that simple to activate a new phone if you haven't got the old one and haven't memorized the billing PIN from your carrier, and I had to go from the Apple store to the Verizon store and then back to the Apple store. But by Saturday night I had a new working phone,  and when I used it to check my office voicemail I had a message from the Marriott in Brooklyn -- they'd found my old phone.

And there went Sunday.

Friday, May 11, 2018

More urban poetry

Here's the other bridge view -- the Manhattan Bridge as seen from the on-ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge. That's the Empire State Building in the distance.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Urban poetry

Here's another picture from the Battle of the Bridges: the Statue of Liberty through the crosshatched steel of the Brooklyn Bridge, taken from the Manhattan Bridge.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

My first reaction on seeing this image was What the hell is that?

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this picture of Phobos, the larger of Mars's two moons, in 2008. Kepler predicted that Mars would have two moons back in 1610, but they're so tiny -- similar to asteroids -- that they weren't discovered until 1877.

Phobos is closer to Mars than any other known planetary moon, and orbits much faster than Mars rotates, so if you're watching it from the planet surface, you would see it rise and set twice every day.

Image Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

Monday, May 7, 2018

Welcome to the working week

The evening commute on the Manhattan Bridge. This is the second of the four toll-free East River crossings -- Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg (or the easy to remember BMW) which all go to Brooklyn, and farther north, the Queensboro aka 59th Street Bridge, which as its name implies goes to Queens. (The Queensboro Bridge gets left out of the mnemonic, but it got the Simon and Garfunkel song, so take that, Williamsburg!)

The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges both go to downtown Brooklyn, and this is the one I prefer. The pedestrian walkway has all the charm of the exercise yard in a maximum-security prison, and subway trains rattle by on the other side of the fence so it's noisy besides.

So it's loud, it's ugly, and despite the the hundreds of millions that have been spent on repairs during the decades I've been living in New York, no one would be shocked to hear that it needed to be torn down tomorrow. But it leaves you off at Canal Street on the Manhattan side, which is a lot more convenient, and it's much less chaotic.

And most importantly, the walkway is beautiful, opaque pavement all the way to Brooklyn.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

This one is for my friend Sally -- a male cardinal in Central Park a few weeks ago.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Why I HATE crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

First of all, you never have it to yourself. Although the car traffic is on a lower level on either side of the pedestrian path so you have unimpeded views on both sides, the walkway itself is narrow and it's full of walkers, bikers, and lots and lots of tourists.

Then there's this.

The walkway is a little longer than a mile, but once you're actually on the bridge, the pavement gives way to wooden slats. And you can see the East River, far below, between the slats. The bridge underwent a complete renovation just a few years ago, so I suppose it's safe.

But it doesn't feel safe. It had probably been at least ten years since I'd crossed, and though I remembered that I didn't like it, I'd forgotten exactly how much. I really wanted to take pictures, so I gritted my teeth and tried not to look down, but my knees were literally wobbling until I was safely back on Manhattan asphalt.

Why I love crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

Because it looks like this.

One of the photo groups I belong to on Flickr is called Engineering as Art, and that's a perfect capsule description of this bridge. It's a landmark in engineering -- it was the first steel cable suspension bridge, and for many years was the longest suspension bridge in the world. And at 135 years, it's one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States, so well built that it's still in heavy use at an age when most bridges would have been long retired.

None of which would matter much if it weren't so beautiful, whether you're seeing it from a distance spanning the river, or from below on one of the Circle Line boats. But this is the best view, from the walkway in the middle of the bridge, with the granite towers above you and the steel webbing on every side.

Saturday reflections

A furniture showroom on East 25th Street. Very New York.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Urban poetry

You can't get much more poetic than this; you definitely can't get more urban: the skyline of Lower Manhattan, as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge this afternoon.

I spent two days at a conference in downtown Brooklyn and because I'm too claustrophobic to take subways unless I absolutely have to, I took advantage of the warm weather and walked over the East River.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Battle of Iquique

I have a few more pictures from Valparaiso, but this monument in Plaza Sotomayor makes a nice segue to Punta Arenas.

It commemorates the Battle of Iquique in 1879, a turning point in the War of the Pacific, which Chile fought against Peru and Bolivia.

You've never heard of the War of the Pacific? Neither had I. Like, I suspect, most norteamericanos, I am woefully ignorant of Latin American history. In school we covered the Incas and the Aztecs, and maybe Simon Bolivar, and that was it. I knew very little about Chilean history before this trip; about Chile's history prior to Allende and Pinochet, I knew, well, nada.

Chile lost this battle, by the way, but ultimately won the war. The date of the battle, May 21st, is a national holiday, Dia de las Glorias Navales. And Arturo Prat, who lost both his ship and his life, is a national hero -- he's the figure at the top of the monument.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

I posted an infrared version of the Blue Horsehead Nebula last week, noting that it looked neither blue nor anything like a horse.

Here's a visible light version for comparison. Blue? Check. Horse? Surprisingly, check.

Credit and Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo

Blog Archive