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

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 indominatable 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

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sunday bird blogging


I heard a blue jay squawking in the trees this morning, but couldn't see it, so here's one that was a little more cooperative, posing on a path in Central Park.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Saturday reflections


I had three -- three! -- written assignments due today, so I am posting even later than usual. Homework does at least keep me from brooding over the wildfires rampaging in the West, the pandemic raging everywhere else, and the anxiety and nail-biting that even the briefest exposure to the news creates.

This car reflection seems quite appropriate to the topsy-turviness that is my brain.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Urban poetry

I was in too much of a hurry here, afraid the subject would get away, so it's a little overexposed. But I do love a fountain, especially when it's occupied by someone who's very wet and very happy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

This magnificent Hubble image shows two nebulae, NGC 2020 and NGC 2014, in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to our Milky Way. It's a major star-forming region, as you can tell by all those bright blue baby stars.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

I think we'd all agree that 2020 has been a nonstop roller coaster and not the fun kind, where you scream and clutch the safety bar and immediately get in line again as soon as the ride is over. No, this year has been more like puking cotton candy and lemonade all over your best shirt then getting stuck on the tracks for an hour while a couple of Stephen King carnival clowns with pointed teeth wait for you down below.

So here's an appropriately strange creature for the times we're in -- a juvenile frigatebird on Genovesa, in the Galapagos, from 2013.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Saturday reflections

Here's some end-of-summer sizzle for your retinas -- a windshield reflection in a parking lot on West 43rd Street, solarized into bright abstraction.

It's a beautiful day here and I'm tempted to duck outside for a quick walk, but I have two short papers due at 6 pm and they're nowhere near finished.

Why oh why did I think that adding “homework” to a life that already has so many stupid restrictions was a good idea?

I jest of course. Mostly.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Urban poetry

The New Victory Theater on 42nd Street.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

This odd abstract is a detailed look at a small piece of Mars from 250 kilometers up. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of sand dunes in 2014, when the sun was low on the horizon and lit up only the peaks of the dunes. The white is frost, creating what look like giant fingerprints on the red sands.

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

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

A year ago, in Newfoundland, here's a cloud of birds in the Witless Bay reserve near St. John's.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday reflections

A puddle on 42nd Street, capturing a face from an ad on a building across the street.

I am heartily sick of my own face now after months of Zoom, especially now that I'm in online classes. When I'm sitting in an actual classroom, I don't have a mirror in front of me, displaying every expression on my face (and every place my self-inflicted Covid haircut is clumping together and sticking straight up.) I can actually focus on the instructor.

In a Zoom class, my face is always there and it's hard to stop noticing it. Sit up straighter! Turn the laptop so no one is looking into your closet! Can't you tuck that piece of hair behind your ear?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Urban poetry

This is the kind of detail that can always make me smile. I love the way the bright colors on this pipe are framed by those little squiggles of wrought iron.

I am back in school, after a decades-long absence, in the first week of a master's program. My life -- and the world -- have been so upended that the reasons I had originally for pursuing this degree may no longer exist, but I'm hoping I'll find new inspiration.

In the meantime, I'm a little overwhelmed by the amount of reading I have to do, and a lot overwhelmed by trying to navigate the multiple websites, portals and email addresses online classes require.

Blog posting will probably be less frequent while I sort all of this out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

I always love these Hubble deep space images, but this one is especially cool because of what you can't see.

Galaxy cluster Cl 0024+17 is in the center of this image. Around it you can see background galaxies that appear distorted because of the strong gravitational field, something that you often see in similar images. By mapping the distortion of the light, astronomers were able to spot a ring of dark matter around the cluster. We can't see dark matter, of course (and don't really know what it is) but here its effect on the visible universe lets us know it's there.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M.J. Jee and H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University)

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

Not the best picture of a tufted titmouse, but after this rather crappy week, a dose of cute is highly appreciated.

This was Central Park last fall. I hope that this fall I will actually be able to go there again.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday reflections

I like the way there are just small pieces of city and sky reflected on this car -- a jangle like the world we're living in these days.

I'm trying to hang on to the unexpected uplift from the Democratic convention, which made me believe that things can get better, that we will come through this. But I'm grieving for my beautiful home state, where the fires are raging and control is elusive. And we're still stuck at home while a pandemic remains equally out of control.

But look -- there, on the left. There's a little triangle of blue sky. I've got to hang on to that.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Urban poetry

Those GrubHub meals aren't going to deliver themselves!

Emergency bike repair on Tenth Avenue. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Yeah, that's the ticket!

Way back in what feels like another lifetime -- eleven whole months ago -- I got invited to the New Hampshire Democratic convention as a supporter of Elizabeth Warren. There were approximately 900 Democrats running for president then, and I saw almost all of them.

I honestly would never have predicted that it would come down to these two. Nobody thought Biden had a chance then, and some people were angry that he was even running, sucking money and attention away from the eventual nominee. He was the first candidate to speak at the convention, when people were still filing into the arena and he didn't generate much of a response. Harris was good, but I'd expected to be wowed by her and wasn't.

Now I am one of the millions who would enthusiastically crawl over broken glass to vote for these intelligent, empathetic, decent human beings and take our country back. Biden-Harris 2020!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

Last week, Saturn; this week, Jupiter.

Juno took this picture in April, showing the beautiful complexity of Jupiter's cloud patterns.

Image Credit and License: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS; Processing: Kevin M. Gill

Monday, August 17, 2020

Life in the time of coronavirus

The pétanque court in Bryant Park is open; I don't think I'd ever realized that the court was even there, but watching a game, any game, played live has to count as a luxury these days.

Pétanque lends itself well to social distancing. (Yes, I read the rules--you think I had something better to do?) The players take turns standing at the end of the court to throw, and they only handle their own balls. And apparently a mask doesn't get in the way.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

A pair of house sparrows, female on the left and male on the right. There was too much glare to get good pictures but since these are the only birds I've been able to get close to since the winter, I'm happy to have them.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Saturday reflections

Posting late, but it's still Saturday, isn't it?

The shiny façade of a hotel on West 43rd Street.

Friday, August 14, 2020

The last of India

So I might as well end with something really iconic.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Remember squinches?

Here's a fun abstract design -- the squinch over the Great Gate at the Taj Mahal. I love the way those lines curve and interlace.

Urban poetry

I'm not sure what this is -- an elaborate gate acting as the entrance to a park?

In Jaipur, coming to end of the India pictures.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

A new image from Cassini -- well, new to me -- is just what I needed this morning. This shows Saturn in crescent, something that we'd never be able to see from Earth, with the shadows from the rings on the planet's surface, and the shadow of the planet across the rings.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, SSI, Cassini Imaging Team

Monday, August 10, 2020

Quarantine Alley

The lineup in my hallway, where packages, mail, and non-perishable groceries sit, usually for a day or two, until I feel comfortable dealing with them.

Scientists now say this virus is transmitted through the air rather than on surfaces, but I got in the habit of disinfecting and then putting aside everything that comes into the apartment during the early days of lockdown, and like all habits, it's hard to break.

It might be overkill, but since the last mystery virus I encountered landed me in the cardiac unit, I'm inclined to be extra cautious.

Life in the time of coronavirus

When you've only got room for two tables outside.

Here's another excerpt from A Journal of the Plague Year, in which Mr. Defoe demonstrates that even in 1665 people knew you could spread a disease before showing any symptoms.
…it was not the sick people only from whom the plague was immediately received by others that were sound, but the well. To explain myself: by the sick people I mean those who were known to be sick…these everybody could beware of; they were either in their beds or in such condition as could not be concealed. 
By the well I mean such as had received the contagion, and had it really upon them, and in their blood, yet did not show the consequences of it in their countenances: nay, even were not sensible of it themselves, as many were not for several days. These breathed death in every place, and upon everybody who came near them.
Then from today's Guardian:
Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, says testing should be available if schools are to reopen: 
I’m not an expert in testing, but I would say that regular means weekly. It needs to be as regular as it needs to be to ensure the infection is caught and identified as soon as possible, and then the tracking system can move on from that. 
Schools minister Nick Gibb rejected that call, saying there would not be “routine testing without symptoms. The advice that we have is that it’s better to test when people actually show symptoms.”
Because why bother to prevent four or five days of asymptomatic transmission if you can just pretend it doesn't happen? The only consolation -- if you can call it that -- in this nightmare is that while the U.S. may have had, no question, the worst possible response to this pandemic, the U.K. is doing its best to show us that criminal stupidity is not uniquely American.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

A white-breasted nuthatch in Central Park, pausing from the usual acrobatics to pose for the camera.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Saturday reflections

Another restaurant temporarily closed, on Ninth Avenue.

I'm happy to report that this one has reopened, for takeout only.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Agra Fort garden

Not nearly as impressive as the gardens in the Amber Fort, but here's photographic evidence that I actually walked through this one.

I usually avoid posting pictures of myself here but I'm enjoying the memory of being outside, somewhere that's not my apartment or the immediate neighborhood, which is all I've seen for many months now. (Today I went to the cleaners and the pharmacy and the bank! Very exciting!)

That long mop of hair looks almost as strange to me. I've been putting the clippers to good use and every couple of weeks my hair gets shorter. I'll be Sigourney-Weaver-in-Alien-3 by the time we're out of quarantine.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Backyard, Jaipur style

Two pictures of the same backyard, because I liked both of them, and the idea of having a backyard is more attractive than ever these days.

Okay, it probably has snakes. I'd still take it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


I can't post anything about the virus right now, because I'm vacillating between fear and rage and do not want to Go There today.

Fortunately, this truck barreling through a foggy morning on a highway in India makes me smile. Usually I spend a lot of effort getting rid of vignetting -- those shadows in the corners -- but I think it works here, adding to the otherworldly effect.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

If it’s true that there are billions of universes stacked alongside one another, the thickness of a thought apart, then there must be people elsewhere.  
But wherever they are, no matter how mightily they try, no matter how magnificent the effort, they surely can’t manage to be as godawfully stupid as us. I mean, we work at it. We were given a spark of it to start with, but over hundreds of thousands of years we’ve really improved on it.
That's the great Terry Pratchett, stating the sadly obvious in his inimitable fashion. And this is emission nebula NGC 6188 in the southern constellation Ara. The image was taken over ten hours from a backyard telescope in Argentina, reminding me that humans, despite our manifest failings, do manage to find and memorialize the beauty and wonder in the only universe we've got.

Image Credit and Copyright: Ariel L. Cappelletti

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. -- Mary Oliver
I seldom disagree with the thoughtful wisdom of Mary Oliver, but I would argue that this common quail caught mid-step in Keoladeo National Park counts as exactly one crumb of joy. And that's fine. Not a great picture, but I don't think I've ever posted one of this particular bird, and the fact that I had to go all the way to India to do so does make me smile.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Saturday reflections

Still in India -- another image from the road, but the reflections are more pronounced this time and add a dreamlike quality.

Friday, July 31, 2020

More on the road, Indian style

There are annoying reflections from the car windows but I still like this glimpse of village life seen from the highway: getting water.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Color or black and white?

¿Por qué no los dos?

Some pictures just work better in black and white, even in India, like the roadside stand in Jaipur on the right. Black and white makes the detail pop in a way it didn't in the color version.

But most of India can only be captured in color, like the picture on the left, which I took from the car on the way back from Keoladeo National Park. I love those lavender and turquoise bricks.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Life in the time of coronavirus

Restaurants are still limited to outdoor dining, so even places that were always indoor only are setting up areas like this so they can open up again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

The Butterfly Nebula, NGC 6302, is one of my favorites -- because it's beautiful, but also because it actually looks like a butterfly!

I've posted Hubble images of it before, but I think this one, released last month, is my favorite so far: a filmy blue creature in a garden of stars.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Kastner (RIT)

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday elephant blogging

And here is Sampa, the beautiful rescue elephant I got to spend an afternoon with in Jaipur.

She looks a lot smaller when she's in a picture by herself, but standing next to her, I only came up to the top of her trunk. I hope she's still enjoying her retirement, and grabbing all the extra alfalfa she can get.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

I posted a similar picture of these painted storks in Keoladeo National Park back in 2017, but can't resist another one. They somehow manage to look both vaguely sinister and hysterically funny at the same time, and that's a hard combination to pull off.

I will never get used to those knees.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday reflections

I played around with the saturation and added lens effects, and this extremely ordinary reflection of a building in Hell's Kitchen on a summer afternoon turned into something I rather like. A lot.

You know it's July when emptying the dishwasher at ten o'clock in the morning makes you break a sweat.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Random Amber Fort

Two last pictures from the Amber Fort -- I like the symmetry of the stairs and the domes in the picture on the left, and I am always a sucker for scaffolding.

You see bamboo scaffolding all over Asia, and though it looks dangerously flimsy, it's apparently quite strong -- I was once startled by window washers taking a cigarette break outside my 13th floor office window in Hong Kong, completely oblivious to the fact that only a few spindly stalks of bamboo lay between them and a grisly death on the sidewalk far below.

I couldn't do it, but then I can't think of any scaffolding I'd be willing to climb, no matter how strong it looked.

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