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

Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Year's Eve


If your mind runs to the metaphorical, you might think -- as I do -- that this is a most appropriate image to usher out this awful year.

It's not a tunnel, exactly, but a typical New York scaffolding with steam and dirty snow is a good substitute. And I don't know if we'll reach that distant square of light in 2021, or if I'll still be writing about a hoped-for return to normalcy a year from now.

For now, I'm just happy to have made it this far. By far the best view of 2020 will be in the rearview mirror.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I know it wasn't really ten years ago that I went to Quebec for Christmas; the bizarre wormhole that 2020 sucked us all into has made time move both faster and slower, often at the same time. Ah, 2019! How innocent we all were then!

And though I know my first night in Montreal was rather miserable because my luggage was missing and I had to sleep in my underwear, the emergency pajamas (with penguins!) I bought at Hudson's Bay the following day have been making me smile ever since the weather got cold. 

This was Montreal seen from my hotel room.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

NGC 1055, seen edge-on, is one of our galactic neighbors, a mere 60 million light years away. Those large stars photobombing the image are in our own galaxy, and just wanted to get in the photo.

Image Credit and Copyright: Martin Pugh

Monday, December 28, 2020

Random interiors

And I do mean random -- going through pictures and finding some I'd never processed, much less posted.

On the left, a curve of ramp and staircase and the deep blue sky of a winter's afternoon, at the Musée national des beaux-arts in Quebec. On the right, a nondescript hallway in an office building in Chelsea. I just liked those strange winged light fixtures.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

They're all flashbacks these days, though I hope to get to Central Park while I'm on break.

This osprey was in Hilton Head.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Saturday reflections


Traffic on the West Side Highway, reflected in a showroom window. It's been a long time since I've seen so many cars!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas


I couldn't resist this picture of garbage bags left uncollected after the blizzard surrounding this naked tree. Christmas, 2020.

I'm going to spend the afternoon treating myself to cinnamon toast with tea while reading through a semester's worth of The New Yorker.

Wherever you are, however you spend this day, I hope you're safe and healthy and warm. Virtual hugs.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Life in the time of coronavirus

An empty storefront near the Port Authority.

I'd say it's starting again, except that it never really went away, not completely -- it just got  a little better. We don't have the sirens yowling all through the night, not yet, but the stories are back. Somebody's sister. Somebody's dad. Positive, but no symptoms, quarantining at home. Sick for a couple of weeks, but starting to feel better. In the hospital. In the ICU. Daryl. Angela. Susan.

Yesterday a friend called to wish me a merry Christmas, and we talked for a long time, catching up on all the silly things you share with old friends. An hour later, she called again, sobbing. Angela had died.

I'm not sure anyone writing a history of this time a hundred years from now will really understand what this year has been like. I know, I write for the hundredth or thousandth time, that I'm one of the lucky ones. (So far.) I'm not sick. I have enough money. Even so, I suspect that I will never really get past this now, that I will be jumping at this virus's shadow for the rest of my life. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's a Hubble image of a portion of NGC 2525, a galaxy in the constellation Puppis in the Southern Hemisphere.  That bright, Christmassy star makes this the perfect image for this week.

Except that bright, Christmassy star is actually a supernova, a star in its death throes, so maybe that makes it the perfect image for 2020. 

Image credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA, A. Riess and the SH0ES team
Acknowledgment: Mahdi Zamani

Monday, December 21, 2020

Welcome to the working week


Sanitation workers clearing snow from the gutters on Tenth Avenue last week.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sunday bird blogging


I've been surprised by how many of the common birds I see in the park actually turn up in my back yard if I just pay attention -- blue jays, woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees, cardinals, robins, mourning doves, and that one hawk -- but I've yet to see a nuthatch.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Saturday reflections


Here's a photo from yesterday: a slushy gray street in Hell's Kitchen, reflected in an empty storefront.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Whose woods these are I think I know

Actually a view I know very well now -- my neighbor's yard as seen from my living room window.

We got ten inches of snow Wednesday night, and though I was tempted to go out and revel in the purity of the fresh snowfall yesterday, the cold temperatures and strong winds discouraged me. I did go for a walk today, carefully -- the sidewalks haven't all been cleared and I would very much prefer that my bones remain unbroken -- but wading through knee-high drifts is never as much fun as I think it's going to be.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Le jour de gloire est arrivé!


I finished my portion of our group paper and submitted my last final, so I have now officially survived my first semester of grad school.

One of the many things I learned from my fellow students, most of whom weren't even born the last time I had to study for a midterm, is that bitmojis make classroom presentations more engaging. Mine doesn't really look that much like me -- there's no hair color available that resembles the "reddish blonde with silver and steel roots" that I've got at the moment -- but it's close enough to the little Zoom face that is all any of these people have ever seen of me to be recognizable. And it's fun. 

I had to do a presentation on modal verbs that included a news article about the Pfizer vaccine, and I loved dressing my bitmoji in scrubs for the occasion, with a clipboard and a syringe. I'm sure that when I again have a life outside this apartment, I won't be spending a lot of time changing my virtual outfits, but at the moment I'm just loving those boots.

Astronomy Tuesday

Now that's a shockwave!

Simeis 147 is the remnant of a 40,000 year-old supernova. It's also known as the Spaghetti Nebula, with a dusting of stars instead of parmesan cheese.

Image Credit and Copyright: Georges Attard

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunday bird logging


This is another old picture that I don't think I ever posted.

It's a little blurry, but as I've been saying, Any cardinal is better than none.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Saturday reflections

It's still Saturday for another 54 minutes, and I've been trying to write a final paper for most of the day with very little to show for it, and sorry, this is all you're going to get.

Thursday, December 10, 2020


It actually snowed yesterday, not long and not hard, but proof that winter is icumen in.

Here's a picture from Antarctica (Pleneau Island, I believe -- I'm too lazy to verify) a place so fond of winter they have it all year round.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

M63 is also known as the Sunflower Galaxy.

That's it. That's all I've got. One more week of school and then I'll possibly have something intelligent to say.

About anything.

Image Credit and Copyright: Fabian Neyer, Rainer Spani

Collaboration Credit: I.D. Karachentsev, F. Neyer, R. Spani, T. Zilch

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Another look at that rainy night

 I played around with filters here, and the trees now look like something out of an old tapestry. All that's missing is the unicorn.

Sunday bird blogging

I've had titmice, a chickadee, and a blue jay visit my fire escape this past week, none of them lingering for more than a second, but all of them giving me the gift of a flash of beauty and an excuse to smile during this horror of a year.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Saturday reflections


A gray view for a gray day, with wind lashing the trees  outside and a steady rain coming down.

It's a (small) comfort to think that I wouldn't want to go anywhere today, even if I could.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Rainy night in Manhattan

A  nor'easter is rattling the windows, reminding me of this view of the back yard on a rainy night a few weeks ago, before all the leaves fell.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday


Barnard's Galaxy (NGC 6822) is one of our neighbors in the so-called Local Group of galaxies. It's classified as a dwarf irregular galaxy, but as it spans 7000 light years it could be only be considered a dwarf if your scale is the rest of the universe. 

It may be small, but it still manages to create an impressive number of new stars, as you can tell by all those points of brilliant blue.

Image Credit and Copyright: Data - Martin Pugh, Processing - Mark Hanson

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sunday bird blogging


I'm in the mood for some bright colors today and the bill and eye ring of this oystercatcher on San Cristobal in the Galapagos from 2013 makes me smile.

If travel ever becomes a possibility, if getting on a plane or a ship is ever reasonably safe again, the Galapagos would be top of the list of places I'd love to revisit.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Saturday reflections


End of the semester crunch and everything is running late, but here are some very cool reflections from the Javits Center.

Thursday, November 26, 2020


A picture from Iceberg Alley in Antarctica, for no particular reason except that I find this strange beauty appealing today. 

I'm tempted to say that it's a reminder that I once had another life, where I went places and did things, but that both is and isn't true. I've certainly had other lives -- when I was a child, when I was a student, when I worked in kitchens and storefronts and offices -- and some of them seem distant enough to feel as though they belong to someone else, like a story I once read and have half-forgotten now.

But this weird time we're all living through is just another chapter, even if the plot twists are getting more and more unlikely. It's still my life, in the only world I've got. 

And I'm thankful to be here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

The last time I posted a picture of the Helix Nebula, I said that it looked like an eye. 

But this is more like a giant blossom, though maybe reminiscent of the kind of tissue paper flowers we used to make to decorate the gym in high school.

Image Credit and Copyright: CFHT, Coelum, MegaCam, J.-C. Cuillandre (CFHT) and G. A. Anselmi (Coelum)

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.

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