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

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Sunday bird blogging


A pretty thrush -- probably a Swainson's -- in Central Park a few weeks ago.

It's unseasonably chilly and rainy this Memorial Day weekend, so I actually wanted to stay inside for the first time in oh, I don't know, fifteen months or so?

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Saturday reflections

The azaleas are gone, but their namesake pond still managed to produce some reflections that would have Monet green with envy.

It's gray and a little chilly, but I'm still basking in the glow of yesterday's outing -- a ferry ride, a walk through the park, lunch with an old friend. So beautifully normal I wanted to cry.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Urban poetry

The 59th Street Bridge, taken from the East River this afternoon. 

And after a ferry ride and a walk around the Upper East Side and lunch at an actual restaurant, I'm definitely feelin' groovy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

Many years ago, I told a mathematician friend of mine that I had never really understood the concept of multiple infinities, and how some infinities could be bigger than others. He told me to think of an infinity as a set of numbers. I knew that every set had at least two subsets, right? -- all the elements in the set, plus the null set. So if the set contained an infinity, there had to be another set that was at least one bigger.

I can't say that I understand that, exactly, but it's easier to comprehend than the certainty that this image -- a string of galaxies known as Markarian's Chain -- actually contains a finite number of stars. 

More than I could ever count, in my finger-snap of a lifetime. But not infinite.

Image Credit and Copyright: Ginge Anvik

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

Okay, it's only a house sparrow, and not a particularly good picture of one, but I do love the way she's peering out of her hidey-hole, warning any interlopers not even to think about it.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Saturday reflections

42nd Street, as reflected in the windows of the Port Authority bus terminal. You don't get much more New York than this.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Urban poetry


Seating outside a bar on the West Side.

Restaurants are one of many things I've missed; going out for breakfast in particular has always felt like such a treat to me. I am of course perfectly capable of preparing my own eggs and toast and orange juice, and do so on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean that I don't love paying someone else to do it for me. Some of my happiest memories after I retired were sitting in a diner or a bistro on a weekday morning, eating French toast or an omelet while doing the Times crossword puzzle.

I'm not ready for indoor dining yet, but I may do an outdoor breakfast someday soon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Harry Potter à l'École des Sorciers

One of my classes this past semester was on teaching reading and writing in a second language. A fellow student shared the video below, of a TED talk by Lýdia Machová on the secrets of learning multiple languages.  She describes getting bored with the book she was using to learn Spanish, and deciding to read the Spanish-language version of Harry Potter instead.

I was inspired to try it myself, and bought a copy of the first Harry Potter book in French. I tried to apply all the techniques I'd learned in class: Skim first for the overall meaning, then read again. Don't stop every time you come to a word you don't know. Try to figure out the meaning from context. 

It was humbling.  I found myself stubbing my linguistic toes multiple times in every sentence. I had no idea there were so many verbs to describe someone speaking - chuchoter (whisper), balbutier (stammer), glapir (yelp), grincer (squeak). Or how few of them I knew. And then there's the whole business of the dreaded passé simple. I'd kind of assumed no one wrote in that tense any more. (I was wrong.) How was I going to presume to tell an English language learner how to read a college textbook when I couldn't even manage a couple of paragraphs in a book ostensibly written for children, that I'd already read at least twice, and had listened to in audiobook format only last spring?

I set myself a goal of reading one page every night, and I did often find it a soothing way to decompress from reading journal articles and trying to write yet another paper. Some nights I only managed one paragraph. Some nights I looked blearily at the page, spiky with acute accents and circumflexes, and didn't try even a single sentence. And yet, gradually, over the course of a few weeks, the one page turned into two, and sometimes even three. 

I'm still not sure you could call what I'm doing here reading. But two nights ago I found myself plowing on to the end of the chapter, just as I might in English, and I'm looking forward to picking it up again tonight. Hagrid has just shown up at the cabin on the rock and Harry has finally read his letter of admission to Poudlard, l'école de sorcellerie!

    Un grand silence s'abattit soudain sur la cabane. On n'entendait plus que le bruit de la mer et le sifflement du vent.

    - Je suis un quoi ? balbutia Harry.

    - Un sorcier, bien sûr, dit Hagrid en s'appuyant contre le dossier du canapé qui craqua et s'écrasa un peu plus sous son poids. Et tu deviendras un sacré bon sorcier dès que tu auras un peu d'entrainement.



Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

So far, only 24 humans have seen this view for themselves: a crescent  Earth hanging in the skies, the entire globe visible.

This photo, from the Apollo 17 mission, was taken on December 17, 1972, on their way back from the moon, and is the last picture of Earth from this perspective taken by human hands.

Image Credit: Apollo 17, NASA; Restoration - Toby Ord

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

My only good picture from Friday -- a most beauteous Northern Flicker.

Unlike most woodpeckers, they mostly forage on the ground, rather than in the trees -- or at least, so the guide books tell me. I'd only ever seen them way up in the trees before this, and so never got a decent picture. But this guy was rummaging around on the ground exactly the way a flicker is supposed to, and he posed most obligingly.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Saturday reflections

Another water reflection shot, of the stream in the Ramble in Central Park yesterday.

I celebrated turning in the last long paper by going back to the park and trying out a lens I bought during lockdown, and had only tested from my living room window. I didn't get many usable shots but I do love this picture.

Now I'm going to curl up with my Linguistics final -- it's open book, but it's also nine pages of very tricksy questions and a few essays, so it will easily take me all weekend. (If you know offhand whether If I had studied harder in Linguistics, I would have received a better grade is the zero, first, second, or third conditional, please advise.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

These are two of the many star clusters that hang out around our Milky Way, M35 (on the lower left)  and NGC 2158 (upper right).

As you can tell from all the bright blue stars, M35 is much younger; blue stars like these are always young, at least in galactic terms, because they just don't last very long.  The hot blue giants that may have once existed in NGC 2158 have long since died, leaving only the older, smaller yellow stars.

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

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

There are plenty of blue jays in the backyards outside my windows, but I hear them more than I see them; they seem to prefer to squawk their endless complaints about the state of the world while out of my line of sight.

So it was a pleasure to see them in person again in the park last weekend. They may be noisy scolds, but they are beautiful noisy scolds.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Saturday reflections

Not a serious reflection photograph, but still a lovely look at the lake in Central Park in the lush greens of spring, when it's hard to tell where the trees end and the water begins.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

The merry month of May

One of the reasons I love the Ramble in Central Park -- apart from the birds -- is that much of it is left wild and somewhat unmanicured, so you really can forget you're in the middle of a city.

I love New York. But I also love leaving it from time to time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

I picked this image of Polaris, the North Star, because I loved the spooky gray gases of the Integrated Flux Nebula. And I'm now too tired to try to explain what exactly the Integrated Flux Nebula is. I'm sure there will be more opportunities.

Image Credit and Copyright: Bray Falls

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

Apologies for the quality of this picture, but this evening grosbeak was the highlight of my park visit yeaterday, and has to be shared.

The camaraderie of the birders is one of the things I had missed about going to the park (despite the crazy crowd in the previous picture). And the fact that I saw this magnificent bird at all is thanks to that. I was walking out of the Ramble when a man coming out of a side path asked if I'd seen the grosbeaks. I said no, and he directed me down the path, where I met another woman, who pointed out the pair of evenings high up in one of the trees. So I saw them (my first!) and got a few somewhat blurry pictures, and the certainty that panicking in the Uber and feeling phobic about the crowds had all been very much worth it.


This is the sight that met me when I walked into the park yesterday. Social distancing be damned -- there's a chestnut-sided warbler in that tree!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Bonus Saturday reflections

Because I've been posting so sporadically over the past several weeks, and will probably disappear again while I crank out a few more big papers before the end of the semester, here's a bonus: a more abstract closeup of those lovely pink azaleas, reflected in their namesake pond.

Saturday reflections

 The Azalea Pond in Central Park this morning would definitely have caught Monsieur Monet's eye.

Yes, this morning. I ended up having to get an extension on my curriculum paper, but I finally turned it in yesterday, and so this morning I took my vaccinated self back to the Ramble for the first time since last February.

It was strange. Wonderful, but a little scary and terribly, terribly strange. I took an Uber up to the park; I was masked, the driver was masked, and yet after only a few blocks I wanted to yell Stop the car! and flee back to the safety of my apartment. I felt a little better once I was actually in the park, though I was unnerved by all the people. It was hardly surprising that the park would be crowded on a gorgeous spring day when we've all spent far too much time inside over the past year, but it's going to be a long time before I feel comfortable around a mass of people again. 

Fortunately it's always much less crowded in the Ramble. I sat on a bench at one point and pulled down my mask; the CDC says I'm allowed to do that now and there was no one else around, but it still felt vaguely transgressive. I closed my eyes and savored the moment, suddenly wanting to cry because the feel of the sun warming my skin, the breeze on my bare face -- such small, lovely things -- made me realize how desperately I have missed, well, everything. I haven't let myself think about all the things, big and little, major and minor,  that the pandemic took away. I can't think about them and remain sane. But I got a little bit back today. Just for a little while. Then I pulled up my mask and headed back into the crowds.

I did see many birds, took a hundred bad pictures and a few decent ones, and then took a cab home, which was possibly the best part of the outing.  Flying down Ninth Avenue with the windows open, talking to the cabbie about India and Brazil and the street repairs on the West Side -- it was so normal, so beautifully normal. 

And yet, it was like a memory of a place I used to live, a language I used to speak, half-forgotten now. It was strange. Wonderful and a little scary, and terribly, terribly strange.

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