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

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Saturday reflections

Here's a flashback: an inlet on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis last summer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

This image from the Webb Telescope shows a portion of the dwarf galaxy Wolf–Lundmark–Melotte, with other galaxies photobombing in the background.

This galaxy is approximately three million light years away, and yet the Webb is powerful enough to resolve individual stars.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Kristen McQuinn (RU)
Image processing: Zolt G. Levay (STScI)

Saturday, December 24, 2022

The midnight clear

We didn't get the worst of the winter storm that roared through the country yesterday, but it was bad enough. The temperature plunged almost fifty degrees over the course of the day and the winds were keening like a banshee.

Not that I'm going anywhere. I've yet to test negative, and though my cough and congestion are mostly gone, so is my energy. I'm definitely better—I keep reminding myself that a week ago I was in the emergency room listening to my fellow patients check in and doing my own version of snarky mental triage. (“Surgery yesterday, popped stitches, bleeding profusely? Oh, all right, you can go ahead of me.”)

I know I'm better because when I'm lounging on my bed reading or watching TV I'm no longer thinking about how crappy and tired I feel; I just don't feel up to doing anything else. (Yet.) My sense of taste is slowly coming back. Coffee unfortunately still just tastes bitter, and the only thing I can taste in the matzoh soup I had delivered yesterday is celery. But I can taste orange juice and the potato pierogies I ordered with the soup and most importantly, chocolate, so I will have a Christmas dinner of sorts tomorrow. And I do feel celebratory despite it all, with much to be grateful for: surviving two and a half years of grad school and ten days of Covid, all of my friends and colleagues, my wonderful, wonderful students, Instacart, Fresh Direct, Netflix and the Kindle, vaccines and antivirals.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Dispatch from Plague Central

When I ended the last post with a comment that crowds still make me uncomfortable, I didn't yet realize that in those particular crowds on that day, I was the threat. I started to feel sick the following afternoon, and tested positive that night.

I probably fall within the range of what medical professionals consider a “mild” illness since I wasn't hospitalized (though I did have to go to the emergency room), but what I've had does not fit any reasonable person's definition of mild. Or mine. I've had:

  1. Non-stop vomiting
  2. Non-stop coughing
  3. 1 and 2 at the same time
  4. Five days of fever
  5. Headache, bodyaches, chills
  6. Excessive upper respiratory gunk in all the usual varieties and possibly a few new ones

I started on antivirals on Thursday and they quickly made a noticeable difference in the cough and gunk symptoms. I still had to have an IV on Saturday because I was severely dehydrated and couldn't really eat or drink. Sunday I finally felt up to eating and heated up a bowl of soup only to discover symptom 7. Loss of sense of smell and taste.

I hadn't noticed because I was eating so little and honestly had other things on my mind. But that did explain why the Gatorade tasted so awful, apart from the fact that it's, you know, Gatorade. But it did make me laugh, and that's a good thing.

I picked the first pretty picture I saw in the blog folder—this was taken by the windmill in Golden Gate Park last spring. That was a perfect day and it cheers me up to remember it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

I'm sorry, where was I?

Almost done. But not quite.

Saturday, after teaching my two classes, I gave my Capstone presentation, which was my last big assignment. I left school later than usual and ended up walking all the way home because there were no cabs and traffic was ridiculous anyway.

I was too tired to eat, and ended up having my celebratory piece of cake for breakfast on Sunday. And that's about all I did. My biggest accomplishment of the day was changing from my pajamas into my sweats (when bedtime rolled around again, I couldn't be bothered changing back and slept in the sweats.)

I finally made myself put on real clothes and go outside yesterday—my brother in Minnesota had asked for pictures of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, and the sun was actually out so I walked over there.

It was the first time I'd been there at Christmas since the world blew up, and though I'm still uncomfortable in crowds, it made me emotional to see all the familiar decorations again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

We would not be able to see Venus like this with our limited human eyes, but the infrared camera on board Japan's Atatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter has different limitations.

This false color image shows the higher-altitude clouds as dark; it's the brighter mid-altitude clouds that scientists are excited by at the moment after finding that they may contain phospine. Phosphine is hard to make, and on rocky planets like Earth or Venus has to be either the result of metabolic processes—i.e., life— or some new, previously unknown, chemical process. (In fact, looking for phosphine is one of the ways scientists are considering searching for life on the distant planets around other stars that they are now discovering.)

I'm old enough to remember my grade school science books calling Venus Earth's “twin” and stating that it was the only other planet in the solar system likely to be habitable. We know better now. Venus is no Perelandra; it's a boiling hot pressure cooker, and any kind of life that managed to exist there would indeed be quite alien.

Image credit: JAXA, ISAS, DARTS, Damia Bouic

Sunday, December 4, 2022


Wait, it's Sunday? How did that happen?

I'm exporting video files of me attempting to teach, which takes hours. So here's a random picture from the archives, taken in Istanbul in 2015.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

Another image from the Webb Telescope. NGC 3132, the Southern Ring Nebula. There are two stars at the center of this nebula. One is dying, and shedding layers of gas and dust, which the other stars stirs into patterns with its gravity.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

One of the American woodcocks that stopped over in Bryant Park last spring.

I've been working on slides and lesson plans and observation writeups all day. I'm hoping it will all look better in the morning.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Saturday reflections

A car turned an Upper East Side street into a desaturated abstract.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

I took this picture through a taxi window: people eating in one of the sidewalk sheds that have become a permanent fixture on the streets of New York since the first lockdown ended. (Indoor dining was still not allowed so all of the restaurants built outdoor spaces.) And almost three years later, they're still here.

As is Covid, though we all seem to be trying our best to forget that. In my chat group of grad students/teachers there are still people posting every week: “Hey everyone who was in Oral Skills on Thursday night, I just tested positive.”) And when I first processed this picture, I thought that the woman in the center was wearing a mask, and I laughed when I realized it was just one of the reflections.

I am thankful for many things this year. I got to leave the country again and see a little of Costa Rica. I got to go to Minneapolis and reconnect with my brother. I kept plowing through the Master's program and now, in just a few weeks, I will be done.

And I just had a chocolate cupcake for breakfast because I'm an adult and no one can tell me not to.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

Now that's a starry night! This double star cluster in Perseus was first recorded in 130 B.C. by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus.

Hipparchus spent his last years on Rhodes, which is the only Greek island I've actually visited, and the pleasant memories of that trip make me inclined to forgive him for having invented trigonometry. 

Image Credit and Copyright: Tommy Lease

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

I haven't shared one of these in a long time: a house finch in Central Park.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Saturday reflections

Another night shot, from Third Avenue this summer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

NGC 7380 is called the Wizard Nebula and, as usual, I don't see a wizard anywhere. But it is gorgeous.

Image Credit and Copyright: Ioan Popa

Monday, November 14, 2022

Urban poetry

I thought I must have posted this picture already, but apparently not.

I loved the way this van, in the Guadalupe district of San José, coordinates so perfectly with the startling green on that building. Does the driver park there on purpose?

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

This cardinal appears to have gotten up on the wrong side of the nest this morning.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Saturday reflections

Another of the night reflections I took this past summer. This was on East 23rd Street.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Tree studies

Dealing with photography has felt like just another chore recently, something I kind of like but don't have time for. But this past week was stressful, and playing with filters and effects on some of my photos of trees from Monteverde was soothing and distracting. And fun!

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

I slept through the lunar eclipse last night, but fortunately many talented photographers did not. This image is from Andrew McCarthy, who posts stunning images regularly on Twitter (@AJamesMcCarthy), and sells prints at his website.

Image credit: Andrew McCarthy/Twitter

Monday, November 7, 2022

Urban poetry

Random photos from a cab ride home a few weeks ago: an upper level store window on 57th Street, and cars on Ninth Avenue.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

Starlings having a pool party in the Loch in Central Park.

Saturday reflections

Okay, a little late. COVID and all the usual winter viruses are running rampant through the Saturday English program; my classes were canceled and I slept for eighteen hours.

This is Foshay Street in Minneapolis last summer.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

The gases in the dark nebula LDN 43 are dense enough to block not only the light from background stars, but also the extensive star nursery it contains.

Image Credit and Copyright: Mark Hanson and Mike Selby; Text: Michelle Thaller (NASA's GSFC)

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

I assumed I'd eventually figure out what kind of hummingbird this is, but I haven't, and it seems a shame to let such a beautiful bird go unseen just because I don't have a name for it.

From Monteverde.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Saturday reflections

I took this picture on Lexington Avenue today, during my very short lunch break between classes.

I haven't had the time or energy to write much about the teaching experience this semester. Prepping the classes is a ridiculous amount of work, and teaching them is exhausting. Sometimes I realize halfway through an activity that it's too hard or too easy or too confusing and I have to rethink everything on the fly. But the students are a joy. I am loving spending my Saturdays with them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

This picture of Earth was taken a few weeks ago by the Lucy probe, which is on a twelve year mission to the Trojan asteroids.

What I love about this picture is what you can barely see: the moon, on the far left of the picture. I'm always astonished by the distance between the Earth and our moon; it feels as though the moon should be larger, and not so far away, and makes the fact that multiple missions have crossed that terrifying distance even more astonishing.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/SwRI

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

If I had to pick a favorite water bird, I think it would be the hooded merganser. They are so adorable.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Saturday reflections

Reflections on the side of a bus on 42nd Street, taken from an Uber with my phone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

Some nondescript sandy rocks. On Mars.

I never stop being amazed by all the ways we can now see our own Solar System in such detail.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

I hear that wood ducks have been back at the reservoir in Central Park, but I haven't had time to go there myself. I saw this one last winter.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Saturday reflections

Another puddle picture. I think this one looks like an oil painting.

I have the usual Saturday night exhaustion, but today one of my students told me that I'm her favorite teacher and that may have been the best compliment I ever got.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

I have to admit that I've always found the Hubble images of the famous Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula spooky, even a little creepy. But when seen in infrared, so that all of the previously hidden stars are no longer obscured by space dust, it's awe-inspiring, and now in a good way.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

We can always use another cardinal.

I walked across Central Park on my way home from school yesterday and it was a perfect October day. I'd forgotten how splendid they can be.

Saturday reflections

Yes, I know it's actually Sunday.

I meant to click publish last night and post this, and as usual on Saturday nights, I was simply too tired to think straight.

I was so happy when I found out there was a new season of The Great British Baking Show, with episodes released every Friday, because I thought that would be a great way to unwind from my Saturday classes.

I've yet to make it all the way through an episode; I end up watching it during the week instead.

Friday, October 7, 2022


I got the latest Covid booster and my flu shot on Wednesday and unexpectedly got knocked on my ass. I am somewhat better today, although I seem to have grown a third breast at the injection site, and basically everything still aches. Teaching will be fun tomorrow.

This is one of the trails in Monteverde. If you look at the trees in the background you can see that it wasn't the camera that was tilted. That was me yesterday.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

Hubble captured this closeup of one of the dust pillars in the Eagle Nebula.

Image Credit: Image Credit: NASA, ESA, The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Monday, October 3, 2022

Travel flashback

As an apology for missing Saturday Reflections, here's an example of some fun architectural geometries, and a few reflections, in the Central Business District in Sydney in 2016.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Sunday bird blogging


Not really keeping up with the old blog here, and I'm starting to suspect that backlog of photos is never going to go down.

I think this hummingbird in Fort Tryon Park this week was a female ruby-throated, mostly because that's what most of the hummers people are reporting around here are. Hummingbirds are almost as difficult to identify as they are to photograph (as my many pictures of unidentified hummers from Costa Rica would attest). The colors may only be visible when the light catches them a certain way, so most of them look nothing like the field guides.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Urban poetry

The brutal storm surges flowing through the Florida streets this week reminded me of these gutters in San José. There are steps and ramps—usually— for crossing them, but it's one more thing that made navigating San José challenging.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

Twitter user the moon's wife (@bookishseawife) posted this last week: 
the appalachian mountains are older than saturn’s rings. the appalachian mountains are older than dinosaurs. the appalachian mountains are older than trees. the appalachian mountains are literally older than BONES. the appalachian mountains should be regarded with pure terror.

I am so accustomed to thinking of the universe as unimaginably large and unimaginably old that I sometimes lose sight of the how old and weird our Earth is.

And though when I first read this I thought, “Well, that can't be right,” the Appalachians (which are about 480 million years old) are in fact older than the rings of Saturn. The rings were long thought to be the same age as the planets (about 4.5 billion years old), but the data collected by Cassini showed that they are actually only about 100 million years old.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

It was not a good week, culminating in an extended internet outage Friday when I really needed to be able to upload, download, search and print to prep for my classes yesterday.

So this beautiful female American kestrel hanging out on an antenna across the yard made me smile when I really needed it.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Saturday reflections

Reflections in the window of a cafe on East 23rd Street in June.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

I don't think I've ever seen the Great Lacerta Nebula before. But it is spectacular, and I'm just going to let the image speak for itself.

Image Credit and Copyright: Jarmo Ruuth, Telescope Live

Monday, September 19, 2022

Ruinas de Ujarrás

Another ruined church. This one, dating from the late 17th century, is all that is left of the village of Ujarrás, which was abandoned after a flood in 1833. The land surrounding the ruins is now a park.

Sunday, September 18, 2022


I didn't post a reflection shot yesterday, so here's something appropriate: two chairs in the cafeteria at school.

Teaching yesterday went well, but I was so tired last night I couldn't even read. The overhead projector crapped out in my Level 1 Speaking and Listening class, and I had 50 slides of pictures to use for prompts. (I improvised by turning the computer monitor around and having the students move closer.)

And I sent a text to one of my fellow teachers asking which room she was in. Or I meant to—I dictated the text because I was in a hurry, and somehow What room are you in went through as Wow marihuana.

But the students are lovely and eager to learn.

Blog Archive