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

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

Neither of these pictures are great examples of the art of bird photography, but I did want to stay in Barcelona, and these pictures are what I've got.

The seabirds were floating in the harbor. The gaggle of geese was for some reason hanging around a cathedral in the older part of the city. 

The star of that first picture is not actually the birds, which I believe are the very common yellow-legged gulls, but the amazing reflections created by the rigging on all the small boats nearby. It's a beautiful abstract.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Saturday reflections

I don't think I had a single stress dream about school last semester, when I was actually in school and occasionally stressed out about it. Usually in my dreams I have finals coming up, and I haven't done any of the work, and the classes are things like Chemistry and Classical Greek that you can't just cram at the last minute.

My stress dreams at the moment are all about masks -- I'm on a bus and I realize I'm not wearing a mask and I dig through my pockets and my purse and I can't find one, or I'm in a store and I realize there's a big hole in my mask. Last night I dreamed that I was seeing friends and none of them were wearing masks and I didn't want to get too close to them even though I was happy to see them.

I would be very happy to go back to fretting over imaginary Chemistry exams, but I suspect that I will be having Covid-related dreams for the rest of my life.

Update: Neglected to say that these reflections are courtesy of the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, the next stop on our 2009 Grand Tour.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Where I went instead of the Parthenon

This is the temple of Olympian Zeus, not far from the Acropolis. It's not as old as the Parthenon, mostly because it took the Greeks more than 600 years to finish building it, but as a stop on my lightning tour of Athens it had several advantages. First, it was on my way back to Syntagma Square, where I planned to get a taxi back to the cruise ship. Second, I didn't have to climb up a very steep hill to see it. And finally, I was one of maybe three tourists there, and for most of my visit it was just me and the ruins.

That doesn't happen very often.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Flashback: Athens 2009

Jumping ahead 2000 years or so on the Timeline of Famous Monuments, these lovely gardens at the Greek Ministry of Culture have an excellent view of the Acropolis and the Parthenon.

I only had a day in Athens and didn't make it to the top of the Acropolis, but it's beautiful even from a distance.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Another Memphis, another sphinx


Memphis was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, and we stopped there on the road between Giza and Saqqara.

There are several temples there, but we didn't see them, visiting only the museum. It has a colossus of Rameses II that's displayed lying on its back because its feet were broken off, but my pictures of it aren't very good. 

I like this sphinx though. It's much smaller than the one at Giza -- weighing in at a mere 90 tons -- and not as old, but you can get much closer to it.

And that's the end of Egypt, unless the travel gods allow me to return one day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

This star cluster in the Tarantula Nebula (in the Large Magellanic Cloud) contains some of the hottest and most massive stars we've seen.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and F. Paresce (INAF-IASF), R. O'Connell (U. Virginia) et al.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The other side of the pyramids

You don't see the worst of the crowds in these two pictures, but these are much more typical of the way I remember Giza. The chairs in front of the Sphinx are for the nightly sound and light show; the picture on the right is a closeup of the Great Pyramid.

Flashback: Giza 2009

See the pyramids along the Nile....

I made a point of not posting photos of the pyramids when I first wrote about this trip; everyone knows what they look like, right? But I like this picture because from this angle they seem to rise out of empty desert and the cacophonous city of Cairo is reduced to a hazy background. 

What you don't see in this picture: below the two pyramids on the left are approximately a thousand tour buses, the fifty thousand tourists they disgorged, countless pushy vendors hawking cheap souvenirs, and one Sphinx. I took this picture either before or after my camel ride, so there was another mob of tourists and camels and camel wranglers right behind me.

But you can't see any of that here. Just for this one picture, you can actually look at the pyramids towering over the desert minus all the distractions.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

I have found some decent pictures digging through the old folders. (And a lot of junk, which it gave me great satisfaction to trash. During the early years of my decade of serious travel, I would apparently take a picture of almost anything.)

This pretty creature is a bush stone curlew in Sydney.

Street scene, Alexandria

I thought that harbor picture would look better in black and white because the color was so bad, but the quality wasn't worth the effort.

This picture, on the other hand, does work in black and white. I got very few pictures in Alexandria because my camera battery died, and I never even bothered to process this one.

But I like it.  

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Flashback: Alexandria 2009

After looking through the Saqqara photos, I started going through the rest of the pictures from that trip. Not surprisingly, I don't remember even seeing some of some of the sights I photographed -- the harbor in Alexandria, for example. I remember the highway along the coast, and the library, but not the fort or the harbor.

This isn't a very good picture, but I like that cluster of boats and the solid wall of old buildings in the background. 

Saturday reflections

The mask hanging from the rear view mirror is a nice pandemic marker, in case I ever wonder when I took this picture.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Urban poetry

West 44th Street, in the early days of the pandemic. 

Before everything was shut down. Before we all had to stay home. 


Thursday, January 21, 2021

You can't judge a book by its cover 2


On second thought, the cover for The Return of the King is just as bad.

Not only does Aragorn exude all the nobility and passion of a tax preparer finding a really good deduction, but Gandalf looks like the aging ranch hand in a really bad western.

I don't even know who those other people are supposed to be.

You really can't judge a book by its cover


At least where The Lord of the Rings is concerned.

This is part of a boxed set, including The Hobbit, that I've had for decades. (I'm assuming that the 50th Anniversary celebrated here is the publication of The Hobbit, which was in 1937. So I probably bought this in the late Eighties-early Nineties.)

The cover art on all of the books is truly terrible, but I think the depiction of Legolas here is by far the worst. What is with that hair? Were all the Elven barbers watching too much MTV?

If Peter Jackson had made Legolas look like that in his movies, no one would ever have hired Orlando Bloom for any project, ever again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Inauguration Day


These are the candles I lit last night for the Covid memorial -- the first national acknowledgement of this ongoing tragedy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

These thoroughly creepy sand dunes on Mars were photographed by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Martian sand dunes are unevenly covered with carbon dioxide frost, creating patterns of light and dark, but why these particular dunes, in the Kunowsky crater, have stripes is a mystery.

Image Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA; Processing: Włodek Głażewski

Monday, January 18, 2021

Another pyramid


I took this picture through the bus window as we passed through Cairo on our way back to Alexandria.

I like the crappiness of it, the ancient shape behind the cars and modern building, and that eerie light.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Flashback: Egypt 2009

I am currently in the middle of five different books (not including the textbook I'm supposed to be reading but have yet to open), at least half a dozen TV shows, and a couple of movies. I am having a hard time paying attention to anything for more than five minutes.

But I did read this article from The Guardian about the trove of fifty sarcophagi recently discovered in Saqqara, Egypt, after more than a hundred had been found just a few months ago. You wouldn't think there could possibly be that much undiscovered treasure left in Egypt after all these centuries, and although these sarcophagi are from the so-called New Kingdom and so a mere 3000-3500 years old, they're almost unimaginably old compared to, well, almost anything else. And they just keep finding them!

That inspired me to look for my own pictures from Saqqara. I only posted a few of them at the time, still being new at this whole blogging thing, so here's a picture of the Step Pyramid, the most famous landmark there. It's even older than the pyramids at Giza, and more than a thousand years older than those sarcophagi everyone's so excited about.

I only had a point-and-shoot camera in those days, and a limited number of software tools, and I spent a couple of happy hours this afternoon cleaning up and cropping this image and making the lighting more dramatic. Now maybe I can settle down to re-reading The Two Towers for the tenth or so time feeling as though I've accomplished something today.

Sunday bird blogging


Since I posted a picture of the Eurasian blackbird last week, it's only fair to give one of the North American varieties their turn. 

Here's a red-winged blackbird in Jackson Hole a few years ago. No orange beak, no eye ring.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Saturday reflections

My big project this week was moving bookcases around to make room for a new desk. 

And my big project for today is vacuuming and dusting the resulting mess, but here are some fun reflections from glass shelves stacked against the brick wall.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Life in the time of coronavirus

I've been trying meditation as a salve for anxiety, and have been surprised by how well it works.

It's a habit I tried to develop many times, with little success and no real benefit that I ever noticed, but I've learned that even five minutes of conscious relaxation, focusing only on the in and out of my breath, settles my stomach and calms my nerves.

Just a little. But usually, fortunately, that's enough.

Urban poetry

I love the bright green of these doors in Chelsea, but I admit to being confused by the positioning.

If the larger door is used for deliveries, you could back a truck up against it and just step into the building, but how does the smaller door function for anything without any steps leading up to it?

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

I know I posted that amazing panorama of the southern sky last week, but I think this image of the Small Magellanic Cloud is still a lovely tonic to the stresses of the past week. 

The small star cluster on the right is 47 Tucanae.

Image Credit and Copyright: José Mtanous

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

As is the case with many bird species, what we call a blackbird in North America is not related to the Eurasian blackbirds seen in Europe. (This handsome fellow was in Padova, Italy.)

If that eye ring and orange beak remind you of an American Robin, that's because this is also a member of the thrush family.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Saturday reflections


The windows on the new Target store on Tenth Avenue, reflecting the snowy street a few weeks ago.

Friday, January 8, 2021

A little respite

The bad news is this picture is blurry. The good news is it's a baby kangaroo, and her face -- and those little paws -- are still adorable.

Also, this joke made me laugh. 
Q: What is the difference between the US Capitol and Mordor?

A: One does not simply walk into Mordor.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Life in the time of coronavirus

(I was going to post this yesterday -- copying something I'd put on Facebook --  but instead spent too much of the day staring at the television in horror and frantically refreshing news sites and blogs. There were almost 4000 new deaths from Covid in the United States yesterday, and it wasn't even big news.)

After 9/11, the New York Times ran a series called Portraits of Grief, a photo and a few paragraphs for each of the 2900 people who died that day. It took two or three months to get to everyone, and though it was almost unbearably sad, it was also a wonderful tribute. They were full of little details -- funny stories, favorite bands, the teams they followed, how they met their spouses -- that made each person more than a name. I read every single one of them.

Now we're losing that many people every day and they're mostly just faceless. How can we begin to memorialize them all? Every year at the remembrance at Ground Zero they read the names of all of the victims, and it takes more than three hours. Imagine doing that every day. There are 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. We lost 65,000 Americans in December alone.

Sometimes I think the scope of this tragedy is just making us all a little numb. (And that maybe we have to be a little numb just to get through this.) But I found this Twitter feed that is doing something similar to the Times Portraits -- pictures and stories of some of the people we've lost. And it reminds me of all the tears and heartbreak we've endured and will continue to endure until we come out the other side, but also helps me to remember that these aren't just statistics, they're mothers and fathers and daughters and sons, and teachers and doctors and coaches and bus drivers.

Every one of them had a story. Every one of them had a name.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

This is a magnificent panorama of the southern sky, including the Southern Cross at the top, and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds at the bottom.

I've been lucky enough to see some of this myself, even if the naked eye can never capture all the light a camera can. There's still something to be said for seeing things yourself. That's a gift -- and sometimes a curse -- that no one can ever take from you.

Image Credit and Copyright: Petr Horalek, Josef Kujal

Monday, January 4, 2021

Palate cleanser

I spent too much time today reading about politics and pandemics, so I really needed something to lighten my mood.

This wallaby, also at the Featherdale Wildlife Park, did the job nicely. Wallabies are like the Fun Size version of kangaroos -- just as cute, and a lot more portable.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

I promised color, and here you are.

This picture, of a golden pheasant at the Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney in 2016, isn't as sharp as I'd like. But that bird looks like a crayon box come to life and on a gray, sleety day when it feels like the sun decided that crawling above the horizon was just too much trouble, it's a treat for my eyes and my temperament.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Saturday reflections

Really, there will be some color in this world and on this blog at some point, but today I like this composition -- a snow-bedecked car reflecting the small fence around a tree pit.

I hadn't realized how proud I was of managing to keep track of what day it was during these long, long months of lockdown until two Friday holidays in a row completely screwed up my sense of time even more than it was already screwed up. Thursday felt like a Friday. Friday felt like Saturday. I know today's not Sunday but it doesn't feel like Saturday, either.

Considering everything that's happened -- and continues to happen -- in this world, this is oddly unsettling.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year

I went through old folders hoping to find something cheerful and inspiring to lead us into what we all hope -- desperately -- will be a better year.

For some reason, this is what caught my eye -- knobbly stalks and a few leaves on a drizzly day in South London a few years ago. Bare honesty instead of bright promises, but still somehow beautiful.

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