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

Friday, December 31, 2021

Shorakkopoch Rock

I only learned of the existence of this marker a few years ago, despite having lived in New York City for the past forty years, and saw it for the first time today.

It marks the place where Peter Minuit allegedly purchased Manhattan Island in 1626, though there's not really any evidence that this happened, or that if it did, it happened here. But it is certain that there was a giant tulip tree here that was hundreds of years old when it was felled by a storm in the 1930's. 

It's in Inwood Hill Park, at the very northern tip of Manhattan Island, one more place that I would probably never have visited if I hadn't bought a car. I will definitely be back.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Life in the time of coronavirus

Three Covid testing booths in a row on 42nd Street this afternoon. (There was actually a fourth, farther up the block, but I couldn't get it into the picture.)

I was walking back from my own test appointment, a prerequisite for the colonoscopy I was supposed to be having next week. It turned out that I couldn't get the test, because although I had been told to make the appointment one week before the procedure, the allowable window was actually three to five days and getting a test today wouldn't have cleared me. And since it is almost impossible to get testing appointments right now, that meant I had to cancel everything.

Which was a relief, honestly, and something I might have ended up doing anyway. Our test positivity rate in Manhattan, which had been around 1% for so long, suddenly tripled. And then tripled again. And was at a terrifying 19.4% yesterday. It may no longer be possible to avoid getting infected with this damn variant, but I'm going to do my best.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Bonus midweek bird blogging

Not a closeup, but I love how the winter light brings out the reds in this robin singing on West 43rd Street.

Sunday night I was watching one of the Great British Baking Show's holiday specials and reveling in the blessed inactivity of it all when my smoke detector suddenly went off.

Well, that was strange, but I wasn't actually worried until I walked out into my living room and heard that the smoke detectors in the other two apartments on my floor were also going off. I opened the front door and didn't see or smell anything, but heard additional alarms going off, an entire infernal chorus of them. Maybe it wasn't smoke, it was carbon monoxide? Okay, now I was a little worried, and I opened the windows all the way. None of my neighbors were home, and I was looking for the super's number on my phone when I happened to glance back towards the kitchen and saw smoke coming in under my apartment door.

Obviously, I survived, as did the building. There was no serious damage done—it turned out there wasn't actually a fire—but the twenty minutes I spent sitting on the fire escape waiting for the all clear seemed to sum up so much about this second pandemic year: I was alone, in the dark, listening to the sirens converging on my block but unable to see anything because my apartment faces the back, having no idea how much I should be panicking. And it all ended with an extra large large dollop of sheer stupidity with a dash of malice when the “fire” turned out to be the result of having our lobby fire extinguisher emptied by a gang of teenagers who rang all the doorbells until some idiot buzzed them in.

I am of course hugely grateful that it wasn't worse, but I hope that's the end of the drama for this year; I'd love a few weeks of utter boredom.

Astronomy Tuesday

Every time I see one of the images from the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite (this one is from 2016), I am astounded all over again. I'm mostly accustomed—though still awed—by pictures of Earth from space, but for some reason having the moon in these pictures makes them almost surreal.

Maybe it's just knowing that we have a satellite that is going about its business from so far out in space that it can observe the Earth and the moon at the same time. Maybe because this is the side of the moon we never see, and so it doesn't have all the familiar shadows and craters we're used to. And so it doesn't look quite real; it looks like a bad special effect in a low-budget movie.

Image credit: NASA/NOAA/DSCOVR

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

These house sparrows hanging out in front of the Cloisters deserve another look, if only because those red berries are so Christmasy.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Saturday reflections

Yet another car reflection, but (I think for the first time) this is actually my car, in Fort Tryon Park.

That's a big change in my life as a direct result of the pandemic; last winter when I was already desperately tired of never being able to go anywhere I started fantasizing about having what I thought would be like a second apartment, but on wheels. And I actually did it. 

It's expensive. It's occasionally an annoyance. But it's given me a freedom I have greatly enjoyed and it's one more thing for which I am enormously grateful.

Merry Christmas

 I know that for many people it's not going to be the celebration they wanted, almost two years into this damn pandemic, but for me personally, to be here and be well still seems like the best gift I could ask for.

And to be done with school for a few weeks so that today can be spent doing anything I feel like is even better.

Friday, December 24, 2021

The Palisades

Those cliffs on the west bank of the Hudson—seen here from Fort Tryon Park—are called the New Jersey Palisades. They don't look that high from the other side of the river, but if you're down in the water they do loom most impressively.

You can't see them that clearly in this picture, but they do resemble a row of columns, or a palisade fence. According to Wikipedia, “The Lenape called the cliffs ‘rocks that look like rows of trees,’ a phrase that became Weehawken, the name of a town in New Jersey that sits at the top of the cliffs across from Midtown Manhattan.”

That's not Weehawken (best known as the site of the duel that killed Alexander Hamilton) atop the cliffs in this picture; it's downriver, across from my neighborhood and it not nearly as nice a view as this.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

On a break

Last class attended, last paper turned in, and I'm on break until the end of January. Yesterday I caught up on chores; today I took advantage of brilliantly clear, cold weather and went up to Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan.

It's only a fifteen minute drive up the Henry Hudson Parkway if there isn't much traffic, and there's free parking, so it's become one of my favorite quick getaways during the week when the car and I both need some exercise. The Cloisters, the medieval art collection of the Metropolitan Museum, is there, but I'm not going inside any museums while omicron is running rampant through the city. (Our positivity rate has gone from a steady 1-1.5% for months to almost 10%, and given that vaccinated people who get this variant may not even realize they have it, the true numbers are probably much higher.)

But it's a pretty park apart from the museum and fairly empty on weekdays, with tree-lined paths on ramparts overlooking the river. I actually prefer how it looks in winter, those warm browns against the gray stone, although the wind off the river can take your breath away even on a nice day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

I don't usually look for videos for astronomy topics, as the still images are bountiful and amazing.

But a couldn't resist this one: a view of Comet Leonard from the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter. That's Mercury and Venus passing by in the top right of the video.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Saturday reflections

I finally finished my big research project and turned in the paper Tuesday. I only have one paper left for the semester, a ten-pager due Monday, and though it's (relatively) short I'm having a hard time with the topic I chose for reasons I won't bore you with.

Here's another car reflection because it's what I was able to find quickly; my internet was down all morning and I don't trust it to stay up.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday, um, Wednesday

Another image that may not be terribly striking to look at, but which is jawdropping all the same.

The two bright spots indicated by the arrows are planets, orbiting a star called TYC 8998-760-1. These infrared images are the first ever taken of planets orbiting another star, taken by the ESO Very Large Telescope in Chile. These planets are much larger and farther away from the sun than our own giant planets but the fact that we now have the technology to discover and see such things is an amazement.

Image Credit: ESO, A. Bohn et al.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Saturday reflections

Here's something different—still life with poinsettia, in Maryland this week.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

I'm still here

It's been a crazy week—in addition to the end of the semester crunch, with a research study to complete, three papers to write, and a technology project that remains annoyingly almost, but not quite finished, I drove down to Maryland on Tuesday to celebrate the 90th birthday of my friend Jayne's father, and to help her move into an apartment here for a month's stay while her brother is out of the country.

I was going to drive back to New York yesterday, but the forecast said snow, and I had a presentation to write for last night's class, so I stayed and did it all from here.

I'm heading home today; I can't promise much more in the way of blogging until winter break. In the meantime, here's the street where I was staying in Silver Spring. It's part of the Washington metro area, and there are some beautiful old houses on tree-lined streets not far from here, but unfortunately there was no time for taking walks or pictures.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Saturday reflections, belatedly

Yes, I'm still here. More or less—just overwhelmed by school at the moment.

Here's a nicely abstract car reflection.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

That striking flowerlike spiral in the upper left of this image is called LL Pegasi. Astronomers are not sure what created those strange spirals, but it seems to be yet another strange planetary nebula within a binary star system. Each time the stars circle each other, it creates another loop in the spiral.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble, HLA; Processing and Copyright: Jonathan Lodge

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

An oystercatcher at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways.

It will probably be January before I can go to the beach again—a lovely time of year for it—but I can close my eyes and pretend I'm there.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Saturday reflections

A car doing that curvy thing to a Manhattan apartment building.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

This recent image of Jupiter was taken by the Hubble. That is certainly one good-looking planet.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team

Monday, November 22, 2021

Sunday, oops, Monday bird blogging

I am in the thick of my research study, alienating friends and acquaintances with a series of memory tests, and so of course my own memory is crap for anything not immediately related to school.

So here's a belated bird, a lovely blue jay in Central Park.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Saturday reflections

Something a little different—the reflection on the partition behind the driver in a taxi as we drove up what I seem to remember was 42nd Street. It's a fair representation of how my brain looks, as the end of semester crunch has arrived.

Last night I had the first school dream where I was the teacher rather than a student. I wanted to take roll but I couldn't find the list of students and they were all watching me silently while I looked frantically through a huge pile of papers on the desk.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

I don't usually include images taken from down here on Earth in this series, but I couldn't resist this one: a composite image of the Geminid meteor shower on December 14 of last year.

The meteors appear to be coming from the constellation Gemini (those two stars in the center of the meteor burst); you can also see Orion in the top left corner. But mostly it's the meteors, and this picture makes me smile.

Image Credit and Copyright: Wang Jin

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

Some house sparrows hanging out by the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan a few weeks ago.

Since the museum—the medieval art collection of the Metropolitan Museum—is at the northern tip of Manhattan and the bus ride to get there is easily two hours, this is one time when driving somewhere within Manhattan is worth it. 

Even if you miss the exit for the Henry Hudson Parkway and end up driving across the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey. Don't ask me how I know.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Saturday reflections

A car parked outside the Mexican restaurant in Dobb's Ferry.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Urban poetry

The pigeons called a meeting to go over a few things.


When the foliage colors finally start coordinating with the rust on the old tank.

Another picture from Dobbs Ferry on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Mental Health break

It's been unusually warm this autumn, so the trees have been slow to turn, and I don't think we'll ever get Peak Foliage. But after having survived teaching my first in-person lesson Monday night, I played hooky on Tuesday and took a drive out of the city and got to see a little fall color.

This is a trail over the Old Croton Aqueduct in Dobb's Ferry, a charming little town on the Hudson about an hour north of Manhattan. I got to take a walk under these magnificent trees, crunch some leaves, and have unexpectedly excellent Mexican food for lunch.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

The Cat's Eye planetary nebula in the constellation Draco was discovered by the great astronomer William Herschel in 1786. This exquisite image combines x-ray light captured by the Chandra Observatory with visible spectrum light from the Hubble.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Legacy Archive; Chandra X-ray Obs.; Processing and Copyright: Rudy Pohl

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

Here's another look at the lovely yellow-breasted chat, which seems to have now moved on to warmer weather, lucky bird.

I keep meaning to post the last pictures from upstate and the Jersey Shore, but I am running a research study on second language acquisition this semester and it takes every single neuron I've got. I've spent most of the weekend writing critiques of similar studies for the literature review, and so got to parse delightful paragraphs like this: 

“In order to further examine specific patterns in the data, an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was carried out on all variables. This analysis revealed three principal factors based on the Jolliffe criterion (Jolliffe, 1972) (Eigenvalues ≥ 1): Factor 1 consisted of the three memory related tests (NWR, paired associates aptitude subtest and SR, loadings of 0.91, 0.73, and 0.56); Factor 2 consisted of the L2 reading and vocabulary proficiency subtests (loadings of 0.91 and 0.80); and Factor 3 included the two remaining aptitude subtests (Words in Sentences and Spelling Clues, loadings of 0.84 and 0.80). In contrast to results from the 2009 study, the L2 proficiency grammar subtest did not clearly fit with Factor 2 (L2 proficiency) or Factor 3 (aptitude)."

I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Saturday reflections

Sidewalk scaffolding, seen through the window of a drugstore on 57th Street, with a reflected overlay of some quite utilitarian lighting.

I took this picture when I went for my second Covid vaccination in April; I got my booster today so it seems appropriate.

I don't need any convincing that we have the stupidest possible health care system in this country, but it took me almost an hour to check in for my free shot because my insurance card kept getting rejected. (Because although the shot is free to the recipient, someone still has to pay.) The pharmacist kept saying that he didn't understand because my insurance was fine when I got the first shots, and I kept explaining that I have since turned 65 and am now on Medicare and so the fact that my old insurance had worked previously was both unsurprising and irrelevant. I wanted to say, “Can't you just pretend I don't have insurance and give me the shot?” Eventually it was resolved and I am now boosted, but I have a headache and I don't think it's from the vaccine.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

I'm late for Halloween (late for everything these days, but that's another story). 

But here's the Bat Nebula for your viewing pleasure. It's a small section of the Veil Nebula in Cygnus

Image Credit and Copyright: Howard Trottier

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

One of the few good things I can say about Twitter is that literally every possible interest on the planet is represented. And so if you happen to be interested in birds that are passing through or hanging out in New York, there are several Twitter feeds that will keep you up to date.

Which is how I became aware that a yellow-breasted chat was frequenting Verizon Plaza, a nondescript corporate park not far from my apartment. Every day I was sure it would be gone, heading south for the winter, and every day there were more pictures on Twitter. I was sure that nothing would inspire the bird to leave town faster than my attempting to see it, but I walked over there yesterday between errands and found a small crowd with long lenses and binoculars surrounding a tree. And there, preening for its adoring audience, was a tiny yellow bird.

Since I was in the middle of shopping I didn't carry a big lens, so the picture isn't great, but it's still an unexpected treat in the middle of Midtown Manhattan.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Saturday reflections

Here's some typical New York architecture dancing across the smooth shiny surfaces of a car.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Urban poetry

There are far too many of these around the city. It's a long road back.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

NGC 7822 is not known as the Question Mark Nebula, probably because it actually looks like a question mark (or maybe a very fat exclamation point) and that would make too much sense. It's a large star-forming region in the constellation Cepheus.

Image Credit and Copyright: Yizhou Zhang

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Saturday reflections


A restaurant on Ninth Avenue last year, during the lockdown.

It has since reopened, unlike so many others.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Urban poetry

A car wash that is clearly not “open 24 hours”—on the Westside Highway in Manhattan.

Thursday, October 21, 2021


You know you're a photographer when....your reaction to being unable to sleep is grabbing your phone to take pictures of the shadows on the ceiling.

But that abstract was irresistible!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

This image isn't as jaw-dropping as some of those big, flashy nebulae that I post, but it's actually quite interesting.

This is known as Einstein's Cross; it is a galaxy, or at least the effect caused by one. I've posted a few pictures of the Abell 370 gravitational lens, where the cumulative gravity of the galaxy cluster acts as a giant lens magnifying and distorting the light that passes through it. This invisible galaxy is doing something similar. It sits between us and a distant quasar, and its gravity distort's the quasar's light into that cloverleaf shape.

Image Credit and License: J. Rhoads (Arizona State U.) et al., WIYN, AURA, NOIRLab, NSF

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

A tufted titmouse ponders the change of seasons.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Saturday reflections

The reflections are minimal in this one, but I like it anyway: the last store window in Asbury Park.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Urban poetry

Street signs in Asbury Park. The past few years have been hard on all of us.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

NGC 6559 is a nebula cluster in Sagittarius, about 5000 light years from Earth.

The stars in this image are so dazzling; I keep thinking I'm actually looking at a painting, a woman by Klimt maybe, draped in a cloak of stars.

Image Credit and Copyright: Roberto Sartori

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Bonus bird blogging

The beach at Point Pleasant, full of black-backed gulls.

Sunday bird blogging

This downy woodpecker in Central Park Friday had obviously found an avian buffet in that tree. He was digging away when I arrived, and was still going at it when I passed by again on my way out.

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