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

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

There were two titmice on my fire escape this morning, so here's one of their (slightly blurry) relations from a few years back.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Saturday reflections


More of an abstract than a reflection, maybe, but I'm so in love with that blue I really don't care.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Such stuff as dreams are made on


One of those fortunate mistakes that turns out better than the error-free pictures I was trying for.

This is what happens when you're taking pictures of windows at night and the shutter release jams so you have to yank the cable out of the camera and the last picture it takes is just a blur.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Bonus mid-week bird blogging


I saw this juvenile Cooper's hawk in 2013, but I'm posting it because I didn't manage to get a picture of the adult Cooper's that landed on my fire escape Monday morning.

It only stayed a few seconds -- long enough for my jaw to drop, but not long enough to get even a phone picture. And since it had a small rodent of some kind (probably a rat) clenched in its talons and I was eating, I wasn't that sorry that it didn't stick around for breakfast.

I have been noticing birds I'd never seen before in the backyard, and have been wondering if it's just that I'm spending more time on my bed looking out the window these days, or if they're expanding their usual territory while we humans are in retreat. But I had never seen a hawk outside the park, and definitely not on my fire escape.

Yesterday I saw an email from the Wild Bird Fund reporting that they planned to release a rehabbed Cooper's hawk in the park this past weekend, and I'm guessing that's the bird that turned up here. Maybe she was a little disoriented, or else she just wanted to treat herself to breakfast downtown after getting out of the hospital.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

Well, this isn't ominous at all.

This image of Phobos, the larger of the two Martian moons, was captured by the Mars Express orbiter in 2010, but it is a perfect representation of how we all feel in 2020. Because of its odd appearance and low orbit, Phobos may be a captured asteroid, and on parts of Mars you can see this particular bad moon rising twice a day.

Image Credit: G. Neukum (FU Berlin) et al., Mars Express, DLR, ESA; Acknowledgement: Peter Masek

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sunday bird blogging


Not the best picture I've ever taken of a cardinal, but any cardinal is better than none, I think.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Saturday reflections


West 43rd Street on a beautiful afternoon in late fall.

I wanted to say I'll always know this was taken in 2020 because of the man in the face mask but that assumes, of course, that we will ever reach a point where face masks are no longer required. I know we will, but it won't be in 2020, or early 2021.

But it's another beautiful afternoon here, if a little chilly, and I'm choosing optimism. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Urban poetry


A pile of trash awaiting pickup on Tenth Avenue is a symphony of shadow and light and interesting shapes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

Who couldn't use some dancing galaxies after the week we've all had? I certainly could.

So here is the Hercules Cluster, also known as Abell 2151.

Image Credit and Copyright: Howard Trottier

Monday, November 9, 2020

My tree in autumn

 No wasting time on spectacular crimsons and russets and golds for this tree -- the leaves go from green to brown without pausing for a colorful boast of beauty along the way.

I do love those shadows.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

A raven in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies last summer.

There was (literal) dancing in the streets of New York yesterday when Biden was finally declared the winner of the presidential race. I didn't go to Times Square or Trump Tower or any of the large gatherings; I'm not going to willingly insert myself into a crowd no matter what the occasion. But even in my neighborhood there was music and cars honking and whistles and pots banging and people laughing on every block. A woman leaning from a car window screamed and waved her arms and the answering cheers followed the car like a parade up Tenth Avenue.

New Yorkers have had decades of practice in loathing the Trumps. I never want to have to see any of their sorry asses again after January.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Saturday reflections


A car on West 45th Street, and some beautiful autumnal colors for November.

And how was YOUR week?

I had just set up an arrangement of silk flowers in a corner of my living room a few weeks ago.

Then this happened. It was an accident, obviously, though it was the morning after the election and I was certainly reeling.

At least picking up all the broken glass, and collecting the stones, and vacuuming, and mopping, and vacuuming again, and putting bandaids on all the places I managed to cut myself, was a distraction.

Not a good one. But a distraction nevertheless. 

Update: I changed the picture for a better one. Because of course I took multiple pictures of the carnage before I started cleanup up.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Random cityscape


Here's an older picture of a typical Manhattan architectural jumble. Converting it to black and white gave me something to focus on this morning instead of the rage and blind panic that I'm barely managing to keep under control.

My friend Jayne and I are also talking about a camping getaway in the spring. We're not exactly outdoorsy, and the trip would require my acquiring a car and a place to park it in addition to tents and sleeping bags and all the accessories, but it at least feels both desirable and doable, as opposed to almost everything else in this country at the moment.

I imagine falling asleep to the sound of a stream that isn't an app on my phone, and for a few minutes at least, I can smile.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

And here we have an accurate depiction of the state of my frazzled nerves today.

Or, more accurately, an image of NGC 6357, the Lobster Nebula. I posted a different, somewhat less colorful, picture of it last year, and it goes without saying that in neither of them do I see anything resembling a lobster.

Image Credit and Copyright: Steven Mohr;

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

This isn't as sharp as it could be, but a warbler is always worth sharing, especially if it's a black and white so I can identify it without resorting to the field guide.

I've had more in-person, face to face conversations in the past few weeks than I'd had in the previous six months. Unfortunately, they've almost all been with doctors or other medical personnel, but we take what we can get in these pandemic days -- seeing human faces in three dimensions, even with a mask, is something I'll never take for granted again.

I had such an interesting chat about British police procedurals with the woman who was doing my mammogram yesterday that I almost didn't mind that I was having my breasts methodically squished in a vise while we discussed Inspector Lynley and Hinterland and Scott & Bailey.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Bonus flashback

Because the week got away from me -- I've been in a crunch of tests and projects and papers while trying to get all my postponed medical appointments done -- here's an extra post. These otherwise ordinary buildings in bright colors made me smile; I hope they'll do the same for you.

Newfoundland, of course, near the harbor in St. Anthony.

Saturday reflections

A rather ordinary building on Eighth Avenue reflects its surroundings back at the city around it. I love that the windows on the right look almost real, but are actually reflections from the building across the street.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

This beautiful star cluster, 47 Tucanae, can be seen with the naked eye near the Small Magellanic Cloud, unfortunately only in the Southern Hemisphere.

Maybe someday.

Image Credit and Copyright: Jose Mtanous

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Sunday bird blogging


A female house sparrow in Central Park.

I'm trying to get in all of my doctor's appointments over the next couple of weeks in case the entire country has to shut down again this winter, and I have several big school assignments coming due, so I don't expect to have anything intelligent to post about until mid-November. 

At least the pictures are pretty!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Saturday reflections


Windows and brick.

I'm too tired to say anything interesting about them. I had a doctor's appointment downtown this afternoon, and thought I might vote on the way home. 

The line was three blocks long, so no.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Urban poetry


Spirits and Tacos! What else do you need?

I don't drink anything stronger than a beer anymore, but I can verify that the tacos are very good indeed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

I'm in the mood for a galaxy, so here's NGC 5643 as seen by the Hubble.

I always love the way the blue stars show up so beautifully in a galaxy image like this, but magnificent as they are, it's the small, common yellow stars like our sun that provide an environment where life can flourish. They won't show up in an image like this, their light overwhelmed by that of the supergiants, but they're there, millions of them, each chugging along for the billions of years necessary to form planets capable of creating and sustaining life. Meanwhile the blue giants burn hot and die fast, their only legacy to the universe the heavy elements they create when they explode in a supernova.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA, A. Riess et al.; Acknowledgement: Mahdi Zamani

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

Early this morning, my backyard tree was full of mourning doves. There were at least ten of them hanging out and munching on the dying leaves, and I had to get out the binoculars and watch them for a while. I kept thinking Partridges in a pear tree which, except for the partridges and the pears, was totally apropos.

Then a tiny bird on the building behind the tree caught my eye -- there was a woodpecker pecking at the wood window frame. I couldn't tell if it was a downy or a hairy woodpecker -- too far away -- but if it managed to find anything edible in that window, my neighbors are in a lot of trouble.

Here's a downy woodpecker in Central Park, almost certainly having better luck snack-wise than the one I saw this morning.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Saturday reflections

The New York I've seen so little of these many months: brick and stone and concrete, billboards and water towers, all reflected in a wall of glass.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Urban poetry


This is Patience, one of the two lions guarding the New York Public Library building on Fifth Avenue. (His good pal Fortitude, not pictured, is just to his left.)

The lions, like most New Yorkers, have been wearing masks since the spring, but now they're promoting civic engagement along with good pandemic hygiene.

Plus a pigeon.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Life in the time of coronavirus

 I'm trying to cram in all of my doctor's appointments during this lull of nice weather and not-yet-fully-resurgent virus. And because I don't want to get on a bus or even into an Uber unless I absolutely have to, I had two very long walks yesterday, to the East Side and back.

It was probably the longest I've been outside since the lockdown began in March and it was wonderful to be just walking the streets of New York again. I was amused to see that the ever-enterprising street vendors are now selling masks with designer names along with the cheap sunglasses and knockoff handbags.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

Something a little closer to home: our moon.

Mare Frigoris, the Sea of Cold, is not, as you might expect, one of the frozen-looking gray patches in this image of the moon's far north, but rather the dark brown swath running from the left to the center. 

The dark brown crater below the mare is Plato, which for some reason I always read as Pluto. It's not quite that cold there.

Image Credit and Copyright: Matt Smith

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

House finches are common in Central Park, so -- at least in the Olden Times when I could go there whenever I damn well felt like it -- I used to see them on a regular basis. 

Now I marvel at this little stripey red creature, which looks as exotic and unlikely as a blue-footed booby. They don't seem to venture south to this neighborhood and it will probably be many weeks before schoolwork leaves me the time and energy to make the trek to the park again.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Saturday reflections

I had two short papers due today, and turned them in with a whopping 18 minutes to spare before the deadline. So late posting, as is becoming the usual state of affairs.

Anyway, here's a city bus reflecting its own version of 42nd Street back to us. 

(And when I wrote that last sentence, I was immediately reminded that “city bus” was the example I gave in Linguistics class this week for a noun modified by another noun. I've got school on the brain, but honestly these days being able to ignore current events is a blessing.)

Friday, October 9, 2020

Urban poetry


Since Newfoundland feels like such a lovely respite these days, here's a tangle of wire, shadows and light in downtown St. John's.

My classes go until almost 10 pm on Wednesday nights, so when we take our break at 8:45 or so, I've started changing into my pajamas, brushing my teeth and crawling into bed for the second half of class. 

I took a photo of my living room and use that as my Zoom background, so it's not obvious that I've moved to the bedroom. (I don't think I'll be able to get away with the penguin pajamas when the weather gets colder, though.) I mentioned this ruse to another student in a breakout session, and she disabled her own background temporarily to show me that she was actually in bed with her dog.

Zoomworld definitely has its advantages.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Newfoundland flashback

Those lovely stained glass windows in St. John's have been sitting in a folder for more than a year, and were never posted because they just didn't fit any category -- not really reflections, not really urban poetry. But the shape reminded me of the caves in Dungeon Provincial Park, and so here's a double helping of Canadian beauty.

I'm glad to have something to focus on other than the fact that my latest self-haircut revealed that I have two previously unsuspected bald spots on the back of my head. (Fortunately they're invisible on Zoom.)

Or that when I came back from running a couple of errands on Tuesday I left my keys in my apartment door, and didn't discover it until this morning. Ordinarily one of my neighbors would have noticed and knocked on my door, but none of us go anywhere these days. Fortunately, thieves and axe murderers are also apparently in lockdown so no harm done, but I hope I'm not going to make a habit of this.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

This magnificent view of the Orion Nebula was processed to show only the colors emitted by oxygen, hydrogen and sulfur.

This country, and this world, do not appear to be getting any saner this week -- quite the contrary -- and this picture makes me remember that in the rest of the universe, things not only still make sense, they can be jaw-droppingly beautiful at the same time.

Image Credit and Copyright: César Blanco González

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

I love the way this house sparrow was almost hidden in the grass -- the better to have all that deliciousness for himself.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Saturday reflections


A shop window in Soho, reflecting some wonderful fire escapes.

I took this picture in 2018, and though I posted it on Instagram for some reason it never made it to the blog.

Urban poetry

Even in a year of non-stop batshit crazy news, this has been an exhausting week.

So here are a few signs from Manhattan Mini Storage that have amused me through the years.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Life in the time of coronavirus

 A woman sleeping in front of a closed restaurant on West 44th Street.

We're a long way from having this damn virus under control; partly because it's extremely contagious and partly because few governments are willing or able to take the draconian measures necessary. (Also, people are really, really stupid.) 

China is currently reporting a dozen or so new cases daily, an impressive accomplishment and one that may only be possible if you're okay with literally sealing infected people in their apartments. But as the scientists fret about colder weather and flu season leading to a new surge in cases, one of many things that has me losing sleep is the economic impact.

So many jobs lost. So many businesses closed for good. And so many people convinced that you can somehow save the world economy without getting the virus under control first. (Have I mentioned that people are really, really stupid?)

American Airlines just offered me a bonus of 2000 extra miles if I booked a flight now. I wouldn't even get on a crosstown bus, and they think I'm going to get on a plane for a measly incentive like 2000 miles? And where, exactly, would I go? Americans are currently unwelcome in almost every country of the world, and cases are on the rise in 31 states. 

I'm worried there's going to be a global depression, and it's going to be a long one. And that by the time we can finally leave home again, there won't be anywhere left to go.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

I would put this image in the category of Things that don't seem like they could be real

It looks like a CGI creation, some artist's attempt to portray a newly-discovered space phenomenon the Starship Enterprise has sailed past while boldly going where no one has gone before, rather than something actually recorded by the Hubble.

But it is real, a closeup of a supernova remnant in the Cygnus Loop. The star in question died about 20,000 years ago, and this is part of the blast wave, still moving at 170 kilometers per second. 

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA, W. Blair; Acknowledgement: Leo Shatz

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

You can see dinosaur ancestry in the scaly, clawed feet of birds -- close up they're quite terrifying.

But when I see a fledgling like this robin, whose neck feathers haven't all come in yet, I marvel yet again at what skinny necks they have, and the absurdity of the plump bodies supported on those spindly little legs.

Life is so fragile, and yet we persist.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Saturday reflections


An old image, from the days when I was recovering from my African virus and short walks around the neighborhood were all I could manage.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Urban poetry

 A kayaker enjoying the last days of summer by the USS Intrepid at Pier 86 on the Hudson.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


The weather had mercifully cooled down even before the welcome arrival of the equinox, but now it is officially Fall. Which, to be honest, is a lot like summer in that I'm mostly appreciating it from my apartment, but at least I can have the windows open and the air conditioning off.

I may not have seen many birds in my short visit to Central Park last weekend, but I did get to watch this squirrel rooting around in the tall grass under a tree, presumably to bury this fine nut he'd acquired.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

I've posted similar images in the past -- a Hubble deep space image being photo-bombed by nearby asteroids (well, a lot nearer to us than those galaxies) making joyful arcs in the skies.

So much universe.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and B. Sunnquist and J. Mack (STScI)
Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz (STScI) and the HFF Team

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sunday bird blogging


A downy woodpecker at the feeders in the Ramble last year.

I took advantage of the fall-like weather and walked up to Central Park this morning. I didn't get anywhere near the Ramble, and the only birds I saw were robins and sparrows, but it did my soul good to walk those familiar and much-loved paths.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday reflections

 A scratched-up, curvy car chassis turns a typical New York side street into an abstract.

I was lucky that I had so much homework to get through last night and today, so I couldn't let myself react to Justice Ginsburg's death and the unhappy implications. I'd rather remember that I was lucky enough to see her in action in 2014.  She seemed so frail to me then -- that she lived and continued to serve for another six years is proof of how very indomitable she was.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Life in the time of coronavirus

A sign from a building on 42nd Street -- I like the optimism describing the elevator etiquette as “Post Covid-19 Guidance.”

Because of course, we're not post anything. Things may not be as apocalyptic as they seemed in those dark days last spring, but nothing is even close to normal. None of my friends who still work in the corporate world will be returning to the office until sometime next year. Restaurants in New York City will soon allow indoor seating, but I won't be going. I can usually find decent toilet paper and paper towels in the supermarket, but I can't count on it, so when I see it, I buy it.

With the weather cooling off, walking around in a mask is much more comfortable, but so much of what I think of as the New Yorkness of my life here is gone. It's not just movies and museums and restaurants, though I miss them all desperately sometimes. It's hopping on a bus to go up to Central Park and look at birds, and grabbing a salad in the Whole Foods in Time Warner Center on the way home. It's spending an afternoon just wandering and taking pictures of people on the street, and stopping in a cafe for coffee and a brownie. It's finding a fun shop I'd never noticed before, or browsing in a bookstore, or noticing what had changed since the last time I walked down a particular block. And if you needed a bathroom, you could always duck into a hotel or a department store, or hail a cab and go home.

I can go out more now, but I've got an invisible tether keeping me close to home. And though I remind myself for the millionth time how lucky I am -- I'm not sick, I'm not being evicted, I'm not flooded out by a hurricane or choking on smoke under orange skies -- it does chafe.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

This spectacular image of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades, shows not just the hot bright blue stars but the spooky gas filaments weaving around and through the cluster.

M. Messier logged this as number 45 in his catalog of Things That Are Not Comets, but he may have included it just to boost the number of items on his list, since even with the naked eye it's obvious that this is not a comet.

Image Credit and Copyright: Raul Villaverde Fraile

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