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.

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