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

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Saturday reflections

Happy Leap Day!

You can see me standing in the middle of this car reflection. Sunny days have seemed unusually rare this winter, but I suspect I always think that at this point. I try to appreciate each season for its pleasures, but I am always glad to see the end of February.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Urban poetry

A row of trailers on 57th Street, where a film crew was working. The trailers are a common sight on Manhattan streets, but I can't remember the last time I actually saw filming taking place.

This is a good thing. When I lived in the Village, I encountered film crews on a regular basis, and they inevitably parked themselves between me and a place where I really, really needed to g0, and the snotty production assistants always acted as though we had no business wanting to walk down the streets where, you know, we lived

I once came home early from work, sick as a dog with the flu, and wasn't allowed into my apartment building because George Clooney needed to walk in front of it for a scene from a movie. I had to stand on the corner behind a barrier, shaking with fever, with snot running down my face, until the director gave the all clear and peons were allowed to use the street again. Since I assume that this experience used up my lifetime quota of Encounters With George Clooney, I have held a grudge against film crews ever since.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

In the beginning, there was hydrogen....

Every atom in your body -- the carbon in your cells, the calcium in your bones, the oxygen in your lungs -- was cooked inside a star. Stars shine because their enormous mass forces hydrogen atoms to combine into helium. Eventually the pressure at the core of the star causes those helium atoms to fuse into carbon while the outer layers continue to burn hydrogen. The cycle continues, creating heavier and heavier elements at the star's center until, in very large stars, silicon begins to fuse into iron. And the star dies.

Fusing two iron atoms together eats energy instead of producing it. The star quickly becomes unstable, and the outer layers collapse onto the core, rebounding back in an enormous burst of energy. All of the elements nuclear fusion had created during the star's lifetime -- helium, oxygen, carbon -- are spewed out into space to mix with the gases there and eventually form new stars. All of the elements heavier than iron -- gold, copper, zinc, lead, iodine -- everywhere in the universe are created by the explosion itself. We really are stardust.

This spectacular supernova in galaxy NGC 4526 was captured by the Hubble in 1994.

Image Credit: High-Z Supernova Search Team, HST, NASA

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

The spring migrants won't be turning up for a few months yet, but here's a black and white warbler from last year.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Saturday reflections

I haven't been having much luck with the birds recently, but the reflections in the cars on the West Side streets near the park have definitely made up for it. Here are two from earlier this week.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Urban poetry

Another look at what I now think of as my tree, from last summer.

I love that rectangle of leafy green inside my neighbor's kitchen (it could be a window, but I'm pretty certain there's another room between that wall and the street, so I think it must be a mirror hanging over the sink) framed through another window.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Non-industrial light and magic

Two of the huge trees outside my bedroom window were cut down last year. I didn't know it was going to happen; I was sitting on my bed drinking coffee and suddenly branches started falling.

I was in mourning for months. I loved catching glimpses of birds through the leaves, and the foliage acted as a curtain for my bedroom window. But there is certainly a lot more light now, and I like being able to see the buildings on the other side of the block, and there's nothing I can do to bring those trees back anyway, so I've resigned myself.

One wonderful consolation has been watching the light on this tree, which I could never see clearly before. Most of the time the tree is just an interesting brown shape against the white brick and square windows. But in winter, in the early morning sun, it explodes into this glory of gold.

It only lasts for a few minutes. The sun slides behind some other building and the tree's in shade again. Later, when the sun is higher, the entire yard is brightly lit, and the tree is pretty, but still, just another tree.

But those few minutes are magical -- proof being that I actually got dressed and crawled out on my fire escape at 7:30 on a freezing morning so I could take pictures of it. Who wants curtains when this is what you see from your bed?

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's a lovely closeup of a spiral galaxy, courtesy of the Hubble.

NGC 7331 is similar to our Milky Way, so this is probably what the denizens of any of the billions of planets there see when they look in our direction. Wave to them!

Image Credit and License: ESA/Hubble and NASA/D. Milisavljevic (Purdue University)

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

He's not quite in the frame, but this grackle is too beautiful not to post.

I love those yellow eyes.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saturday reflections

A fire escape on Columbus Avenue, reflected in a store window across the street.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Urban poetry

An underpass near the West Side Highway in New York -- one thing we never have a shortage of here is traffic.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

This is 3C 273, an object much more interesting than this Hubble image suggests.

Quasars (the name was originally derived from quasi-stellar radio source) were originally discovered in the 1950's when astronomers were using radio emissions as a new tool for investigating the universe. They found hundreds of objects that were emitting large amounts of radiation but either were invisible optically, or appeared as a very faint star.

When I was taking astronomy classes in college, quasars were still a mystery. The large redshift in the radiation they emitted suggested that they were very far away and moving very fast, maybe proto-galaxies at the very edge of the expanding universe.

Now more than 200,000 quasars have been identified, and we know that they consist of supermassive black holes surrounded by a disc of gas. As the gas falls into the black hole, enormous amounts of energy are released; the largest quasars are thousands of times more luminous than a galaxy like the Milky Way.

Finally, I have to admit that I am also old enough that I can't see the word quasar without thinking of the line of Motorola TV's by that name.

Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA

Monday, February 10, 2020

Welcome to the working week

New Year's morning in Times Square and all that pesky confetti to clean up.

I don't really have working weeks any more (hurray!) but I'm taking care of so much paperwork at the moment, plus planning upcoming trips, that it feels like a job. Though fortunately I don't have to write a report on my progress or sit through a meeting explaining what I'm doing instead of doing it.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

I did much better in my visit to the park this week -- two usable pictures instead of one. But this female house finch is so pretty, I don't mind that she had so little company.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Saturday reflections

Walking on the Upper West Side on a sunny day this week, I caught these architectural reflections in a parked car.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Urban poetry

I loved these crooked tree trunks in St. John's.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

Layers of sedimentary rock in the Danielson Crater on Mars, as captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The bluish color is sand on the rocks.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

These chipping sparrows came through last spring, but for some reason never graduated to the Ready to Post folders. I love when I manage to capture these glam shots, as though the birds were movie stars in the age of Technicolor posing for publicity shots.

I've acquired a new hair stylist, quite by accident. For years I had my hair cut by a woman down the street from my apartment; her haircuts are mediocre at best but she's very nice and I can pop in without an appointment while I'm out running errands. Then a few months ago, my friend Jayne was early for a lunch date and went for a haircut across the street from the restaurant where we were meeting. She loved the salon and the stylist, and after lunch I got my hair cut there as well.

I thought maybe it was a one-time fling, but I went back this week, and I'm afraid I belong to James now. I'm putting this story in bird blogging because I think of birds while he's cutting my hair -- his tiny scissors zip around my head and snip so delicately I feel like songbirds are flying through my hair. I'm always surprised to see the piles of hair on the floor because it feels as though he's barely touched me.

Of course, I'm going to have to move because I feel so guilty about abandoning my old stylist, and I can no longer walk past her salon. But that's a small price to pay for a good haircut.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Saturday reflections

Here's some more of that golden January light on the brick buildings reflected in the picture above.

I really wanted to post the image on the right. It's from the same building (on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea I think) but there's not really much of a reflection. So I just did both.

But I do love that bored security guard just pacing back and forth, back and forth.

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