Thursday, December 31, 2015

NYC 4Q2015 Miscellany

A few small highlights from the fourth quarter of 2015 in NYC:

  • December 19 - Oh, What Fun! A Philharmonic Holiday at Lincoln Center, with Amanda, Kat, Carolyn, Pat, and Helen.
    • "I'll Be Home for Christmas" - with ASL coming in as a round / harmony / counterpoint.  The phrase "only in my dreams" is punctuated with fingers opening above the head
    • "Sleigh Ride" - nice horsey touches! A neigh at the end, and a metal puppet horse head appears from the back of the orchestra.
    • Supposedly Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is you is the THE most requested Christmas song?!
    • Wonderful arrangement of "Happy Holiday" (Berlin, 1942) and "Happy" (Pharrell Williams, 2013) by O. Eldor
    • Conductor Courtney Lewis's introduction to an excerpt from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel: "While their mom and dad are off to accept their 'Parent of the Year' award..."
    • Eric Owens, bass-baritone, performing "You're a Mean One, Mr Grinch" with relish!
    • NYCGMC came back in, filling the aisles as well as the stage, for the Christmas Carol Sing-Along
  • November 20 - An evening in honor of CJ Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) - featuring three Chief Judges (SCOTUS - John Roberts; CTA2 - Katzmann; COA - Lippman)
    • Lots of references to Hughes's trademark facial hair  by three clean-shaven chief judges.
    • All white men.  Hmm.
    • CJ Roberts was the most impressive of the lot, very funny.  And he shone in the interview skirmish with CJ Katzmann (who seemed to try to trip him up a few times; Roberts deftly dodged the traps and teased him a bit, e.g. by using the commonplace term "lower courts" followed by a quick "no offense intended" and then a suggestion that the term "lower" court was actually a gentle euphemism for the term "inferior courts" found in the U.S. Constitution)
    • Roberts claimed that the famous "switch in time that saved nine" was not, in fact, the reason the court-packing scheme came to naught.  His take was that the savvy CJ Hughes played his cards well against a popular President, by attacking the fig leaves of rationale Roosevelt had offered to conceal his naked power grab.  So, before the legislature, Hughes noted that if the concern was that the 9 old men of SCOTUS had a backlog or weren't getting through things quickly enough, adding more justices actually wouldn't help - since they operate by deliberating together, getting more judges would only add more views and more debate would only slow things down.  (I think he also tried to show why the so-called backlog was not, in fact, a backlog, but I don't remember the details on that.)
    • Roberts focused on how politically connected the Supreme Court Justices were, back in the day.  Indeed, early on the justices might have past and future government posts; SCOTUS was not necessarily the capstone to a career.  Hughes could pass up an initial shot at the Supreme Court to be Governor of New York, in order to wait for an appointment where he could be CJ rather than a mere associate.  (It was in this context - and talking about the diplomatic skills needed for CJ - that Katzmann asked "innocently" whether background as US Secretary of State would be helpful  for a Chief Justice; no one mentioned Hillary Clinton by name, but the audience could appreciate the game here.)
    • Roberts also talked about how clerking for Rehnquist exposed him to a particular Swedish-Russian war that Rehnquist was really keen on (Rehnquist and the Russian CJ apparently loved talking about it)... And so when Roberts met his Russian counterpart, he was able to dazzle him by casually offering an opinion about some particular strategic errors in an "obscure" battle.
  • Anna Bolena - October 5 at Lincoln Center.  I splurged on this, tickets right up front in the Orchestra.  I was very excited about it, but the Opera Curse struck me toward the end and my eyelids became very heavy until the finale.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Elementary school:
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.
-- Tennyson, "Charge of the Light Brigade"
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
-- Shakespeare, "Henry V" act III scene 1 
Hyġe sceal þȳ heardra,    heorte þȳ cēnre,
mōd sceal þȳ māre     þȳ ūre mæġen lȳtlaþ.
-- "Battle of Maldon"

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Study Break

As far as I'm concerned, studying Anglo-Saxon has not exactly been a walk in the park.  But I took a break from cramming for the final exam to enjoy a few signs warning me of thin ice.  

Ice so thin it is not even discernible...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hudson River & the Cornish Estate

Hike with CLN, 6.61 miles: Washburn (w) > Notch (b) > Brook (r) > Cornish

So the usual hike - but we tried a new restaurant afterward.  It was not as good as Le Bouchon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Autumnal Scenes - Hudson Valley

I did 6.32 miles: Undercliff (y) > Brook (r) > Cornish (b)

I hadn't brought any food, but Bruce was kind enough to give me a granola bar and banana.  The problem with sitting down to eat was that it gave me a chance to realize I had no energy or enthusiasm for the rest of the contemplated "figure 8" hike.  So we split up at the bridge; I took the easy exit just before the hard slog began.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

High Line

Probably the biggest highlight of the Faith & Work conference, for me, was its proximity to an entrance to the High Line.  So I was able to wander there before the program and during breaks.  It was surprisingly crowded with tourists - or maybe not so surprising for a clement autumn Saturday.

Graffiti in the Sky

Virgin Wall with Metal "Graffiti" Sculpture

Running Fountain - for those hot autumn days?

Ivy Halls with TV Dish

I really liked two of the speakers at the conference - both on Friday night's program, as it turned out.  And one of the people I met Saturday had an interesting gig - he had apparently transformed his career based on a prior CFW conference, when he decided to stop focusing on his own advancement and look for ways to try to meet the world's needs through his work.  (He works for the biggest grocery company in Canada, and apparently came up with an innovative approach to bring more fresh produce to the masses conveniently and economically. This ended up being profitable for the company - new market segment! - and advantageous to his career.  Yay!  Everybody wins!)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Usual Haunts

A spooky stoop 
A rose blooms in October

Isamu Noguchi: "Age"
This was my first visit to the Noguchi installation at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  (I'd previously seen his studio in Queens.)
I caught a bit of the curator's talk; they apparently gave a lot of thought to the placement of the sculptures in the garden.  In some locations, guards were stationed nearby to discourage physical contact.  This was not the case for "Age," which was set back far from the path.  Of course, it was far more difficult to make out any details of the sculpture here, distant in the shadows, than in a well-lit gallery where it would be protected from the elements.  

"Bird Song"

I found "Bird Song" a bit underwhelming and easy to miss from a distance.  Even close up, from some angles, it looks more like fish than birds.  And from other angles, it looks more like a tree without particular ornamentation.

But at the curator's suggestion, I lay down next to it and looked up.  That was pretty cool.

And at just the right distance and angle, you can see a bird shape resting on the trees.

Two praying mantises

egg sac

One of the real highlights of the tour for me was the praying mantises on a bench in the native flora garden.  Apparently this is their usual hang-out spot.

They were not at all alarmed by the paparazzi and various onlookers - we were quite a crowd, pointing and leaning in.  And indeed they were still there after we'd moved on and I doubled back.


Roses & Foliage


Roses & Foliage II

"Magritte Stone"



crab apple

Leia Organa & Co.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Weekend Getaway

The gang had just returned from a three-day tour of some local theme parks when they picked me up from the airport, and the girls were bubbling over with enthusiasm.  It was fun to hear all the details, to see what had really caught their fancy.  

In addition to the usual complement of pelicans et al., we were treated to some visiting dignitaries.

A single woodpecker with a brilliant red crest took up residence on a palm tree, and we were able to take a few photos before it got a bit spooked.

But its courage soon returned on the wings of a friend, so to speak.  Safety in numbers, or some such.

A pair of woodpeckers flanked by pelicans

Moon over the Bailey Tract - once again, we did not see any bobcats
A rare sign of life on Wildlife Drive 

The other new visitor - or rather, visitors - of an evening were dragonflies.  Not the cute little Tinkerbell type, either, mind you, but built more along the lines of Chinooks for ruggedness.  They filled the air.

Huge dragonflies swarmed like a battalion of helicopters

All those specks in the sky? Dragonflies.
We mostly took it easy over the course of the weekend - went swimming, played Ticket to Ride, read "Hound of the Baskervilles," practiced playing bridge, and feasted on wonderful homemade meals.

The waters are very high now, even at low tide, and we'd seen practically nothing but ibises (and few enough of those) during our earlier drive through the refuge, but on the morning of my last day I thought we should go back once more to visit the Indigo Trail.

There was not much to see, initially.  There were some strange tracks across the path right by the entrance, and we tried to convince ourselves they were the marks of an alligator's tail, rather than lines drawn by kids with sticks.  We saw a few ibises flapping around near the observatory.  Then we crossed the bridge, and down to the right was - an alligator!  A fair sized one, not too hidden in the brush!

So that was cool.  Even though the gator was moderately close, we took turns with the binoculars to see the details close up.  It stayed quite still, except for the occasional eyelid blink, and the opening and closing of its nostrils into straight lines.
We watched it blink its eyes - an inner and outer eyelid - and examined its pearly whites

Down this waterway, as usual,
we saw two anhingas
We retraced our steps and turned the corner to head back to the start and saw - another alligator!  This one was even closer (maybe 3 or 4 yards away), in shallow water, with no fence between us.  It was seemingly smaller and younger than the first; my dad estimated it at about five feet.  Its head was out of the water, and it was watching us.

We took quite a few photographs here, staying respectfully and warily on the path.  We were a little nervous at how close it was.  Apparently, the gator was also nervous, for it suddenly lunged a few inches toward us with a fierce growl, then retreated to the reeds.  (I hadn't known alligators could growl - it was a little intimidating.)

A much safer location.  No one can see you there!!!
We walked back up onto the bridge for better viewing in its new location, and (while we were there) also checked out the first gator again.  It had moved almost 90 degrees from its original position and was now pointing away from us.

So we relished these views from the safety of the bridge and went back to the path, feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

And then something small, dark and furry darted across the path!

A river otter dashed down to the water on the left, but then came out again and cavorted on the bank amid the shrubbery as we watched from the trail.  The girls were thrilled!!!  (As we were all - this was only my third time seeing river otters in the wild.)

This otter was much darker than the others I'd seen, and perhaps a bit larger as well. It looked almost cat-like when it stood and hunched its back.

So this was a truly phenomenal way to end a lovely celebratory weekend with family.  (Oh, and we managed to reach the conclusion of the Holmes story as well - though we had to circle once around the airport to do it.  Luckily we still arrived in plenty of time.)