Friday, August 31, 2018

Pastrami Sandwich!

I bet I haven't had a Pastrami Sandwich in thirty years!  If I go to the deli, I usually get roast beef.  Well the other day I suddenly, out of nowhere, I had this overwhelming desire for a pastrami sandwich!  Where did that come from?  I haven't a clue.  So I went over to the local deli and bought a Pastrami sandwich.  It was pretty large, and look how high the meat is stacked!  So I only ate half the sandwich, and saved the other half for lunch the next day.  It was absolutely delicious, just in case you are thinking of getting one for lunch!

Thursday, August 30, 2018


After we left the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Stan and I went back to his apartment to hang out for a while, before heading down to a restaurant for our dinner with some of the group from the Big Bend National Park trip.  On the way to the apartment, I saw this, and stopped in my tracks.  I love the way the light illuminated the fronts of all the buildings.  These are brownstones, I believe.  Or at least I hope so, because I named this blog "Brownstones."

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Human Statue

I came out of the Met and walked down the steps toward Fifth avenue when I saw this.  It was a statue of a small man on a small column.  I wondered if this was a human statue, but it was way too small to be a human, I thought, and way too perfect.  The statue didn't move at all.  And then it did!  I was stunned.  He was perfect!  I don't know what he is covered with - it looked like plaster of paris, but probably wasn't.  His costume was really unusual as well.  But I can't get over how petite he was.  An amazing performer, though.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Four Hundred Years of Free Labor"

This sculpture is another piece in the exhibit "History Refused to Die" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  To remind you, the works are by self-taught contemporary African American artists.  This one is called "Four Hundred Years of Free Labor" by the artist Joe Mintner of Birmingham, Alabama.  This is the text on the wall which describes this sculpture:  "The tools in this sculpture collectively assume a human presence.  They confront the viewer like ghosts of their former users, evoking multiple and different groups of African Americans subjected to forced labor over time.  Minter’s assembled tools stand as iconic testaments to the lives of the anonymous laborers who once wielded them."  It is a very powerful piece when seen in person.

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Quilt From Gees Bend

There is a current exhibition at the Met called "History Refused to Die."  It is an exhibition of thirty paintings, sculptures, drawings and quilts by self-taught contemporary African American artists to celebrate the 2014 gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art of works of art from the "Souls Grown Deep Foundation." The artists represented by this donation all hail from the American South.  I will be doing two posts on items from this exhibition.  This is a quilt from Gee's Bend, Alabama, by Annie Mae Young who lived from 1928-2012, and who was one of the quilters who have become famous.  They lived in the isolated African-American hamlet of Gee's Bend, along the Alabama River.  The Quilts of Gee's Bend are considered to be unique, and one of the most important African-American visual and cultural contributions to the history of art within the United States. These women were not trained as artists, they just had an astounding natural artistic ability to create amazing works of art!  I first saw these astounding quilts at an exhibition of 70 of them at the Whitney Museum, back in 2002.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Space Odessey

I mentioned that I traveled on the Second Avenue subway to get to the Guggenheim.  It is a brand new extension to the existing Q train which used to stop at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue.  Now it turns north and goes up to 96th Street, which is a great way to get to the Met.  The stations are brand new and beautiful.  This escalator which goes up about three stories is brightly lit, and when I saw all the light as I approached, for some reason I thought of "A Space Odessey."  I guess because of the overwhelming sense of light.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Stan and I went to the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum to see the Giacometti sculpture exhibit.  We were coming from different directions, and he texted me when I was about three blocks away.  "It's closed!"  Oh no!  Turns out that the Guggenheim is open on Mondays when most other New York museums are closed.  We just never checked to see when this museum was open.  The Guggenheim museum is an iconic building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and it opened in 1959.  It was founded as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, and included early modernists such as Rudolf Bauer, Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Fernand L├ęger, Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso.

I have not been here in at least 15 years.  Most of the exhibits I have seen are at the Met, the Whitney, and at MoMA.  So I was looking forward to seeing the exhibit and seeing the inside of the building again.  This is not an easy building to photograph, with a light pole on the corner and so much traffic parks on side streets.  There even were two food trucks, of all things, parked on the sidewalk in front of the museum!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Life in the Subway

I love the New York City Subway!  I love using it to get around, and I love people watching when I am underground.  I got off the new Second Avenue Subway at 86th street.  This one of the new stations for this extension of the Q line.  What we are looking at here is a portrait of a woman done by Chuck Close, done in pieces of colored tile.  I stopped to photograph the portrait and noticed there was a musician on the left side, then these two men stopped to talk, just as the young man on the right started looking at his phone.  Bingo!  Life in the subway.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

What An Amazing Exhibit!

This is astounding!  I have never seen an exhibit like this before.  Ever.  That's Stan, staring in wonder and taking it all in.  What is he wondering about?  He is wondering how come there are no paintings on the wall!  Fortunately you came to the right place to get the answer.  It seems that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is doing some huge reconstruction work in a number of galleries, and so the paintings have been removed until the work is completed.  But they did paint the walls to look nice.  So when we saw the blank walls, I thought I would be funny, and asked Stan to go pretend he was looking at something.  I'm hysterical, aren't I?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Pile Driver

Do you remember that abandoned doctor's office that I photographed from time to time?  The deal was that one doctor was holding out, trying to get the best deal from the City of Glen Cove before selling.  They wanted to buy the building and tear it down, and it took forever to reach a deal with the holdout.  Well, they finally demolished the building - they started while was I away, but I got some photos when I got back.  Anyhow, there has been a lot of activity on the site - they demolished EVERYTHING, and ground up all the concrete foundations!  Now they have started to construct the foundations for the new buildings.  They are scheduled to be buildings that are something like five stories high.  So today I went to see the pile driver at work.  They are pounding really long "telephone poles" down into the ground in groups, which will support the new foundations.  By the way, pile drivers make really LOUD noises each time the hammer pounds the pole!

As a reminder, this is what was on part of this location before demolition.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Master Quilter

This is my friend Sara, and she and her husband have been friends since I joined the Antique Telescope Society years ago.  Here is the interesting thing - she is a PhD who is in charge of antique science instruments at Harvard University!  Sara reads my blog and about a year or so she wrote and asked if she could have permission to use a photo of Stellafane that I had done, as the basis of a quilt.  I said "Yes" of course.  Well, this year at Stellafane, Sara brought two of her quilts and displayed them on the telescope field, and she even won a prize!

So this is the Stellafane quilt that she made.  Please click on it to see it in better detail.  This is such a magnificent work of art, and she is such a talented artist.  The other quilt she displayed was about the recent solar eclipse, showing the partial phases, and then totality, in the center.

Monday, August 20, 2018

People Who Care

This was a very sobering experience.  After parking the car, we walked out on to the bridge over Quechee Gorge, and I spotted something taped to the top of the railing.  When I got close, I saw this.  What was impressive was that in addition to the very professional looking label, there were hand written labels under plastic fastened to the railing with plastic ties.

It was the hand written messages that touched me so.  The minute I saw the first note, I realized why they were there - one look over the side, and you can imagine that someone who wanted to commit suicide would find this an attractive place, given that the drop to the rocks and water below was 167 feet.  The notes on the railing were perhaps every 4 or 6 feet along the railing, on both sides of the bridge.  And there were two telephones, one at each end of the bridge, so that someone could call a suicide hotline.  It is so clear that people are trying everything in their power to keep people from going over the side.  It was very sobering experience.

And this is a view of the river, directly under the bridge.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Quechee George

This is Quechee Gorge, a mile long gorge cut through the hills of Vermont at the end of the last ice age.  It is a spectacular thing to see and it draws a lot of visitors.  It is 165 feet deep, and it is crossed by a wonderful steel arch bridge constructed in 1911.  Originally it was a railroad bridge.  Later it was converted to a vehicle and pedestrian bridge which now carries Route 4 over the gorge. This view is from the walkway of the bridge.  I am reading a book about the construction of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and this bridge and the Verrazano Narrows bridge were both built by the American Bridge Company!  How's that for a coincidence!

This is a view from under the bridge.  There is a walkway that leads to a trail that runs under  the bridge and then along one side of the gorge and you can follow the trail down for a mile to a flat area, and a place where you can go swimming.


Here are bathers and hikers on the rocks at the end of the trail.  You can see the water where people swim at the right side of the photo.

And this is a view from the swimming hole up toward the bridge in the distance.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Covered Bridge

Vermont is a state known for its wooden covered bridges.  This is the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge which spans the Connecticut River, between, believe it or not, the towns of Windsor, Vermont and Cornish, New Hampshire.  It was built in 1866 and is the longest wooden bridge in the United States, at 460 feet long.

It was built by two different contractors, each from a different town, using a lattice truss patented by architect Ithiel Towne in 1820.  It was built as a toll bridge by a private corporation, and then purchased by the state of New Hampshire in 1936, and made toll-free in 1943. It is quite beautiful, both from the outside and from the inside.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Trouble Ahead...

Trouble ahead.  So you think?  I was coming down Route 91 and as I got near Hartford, Connecticut, the sky started to look threatening.  So I got out my iPhone and took a quick look at Radar, and sure enough there was a thunderstorm cell to the west of me a few miles away.  This is what it looked like as I approached the storm.  The sky opened up within a mile or two and the rain came down in a deluge.  Fortunately it didn't last very long, and after a short period of time, I was driving on dry pavement.

Thursday, August 16, 2018


We were stunned this afternoon, to see this "thing" in our Lilac tree next to the house.  We have no idea how long it has been there, but our guess is that it hasn't been here for more than a day.  So the guess is that these are tent caterpillars.  So I think I know how to get rid of them.

I cut the two branches with the nests off of the tree, to begin my disposal procedure.

This is a view inside the tent.  You can see the eggs that have been laid - they are the tiny black specs inside the tent.  You can also see the caterpillars crawling around.   So I laid the branches with tents on the patio, and grabbed my Bernzomatic torch with the blowtorch tip.  I used the torch on all the tents and leaves, and then all the caterpillars fell out on the ground, and I torched them as well.  Maybe there was an easier way, but I was reluctant to use pesticide.  You should click on the pictures to see everything in more detail.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Harbor Sunset

I was on the way to my astronomy meeting tonight when I drove by the water in Cold Spring Harbor.  The skies were hazy and perfect for turning the sun into an orange ball as it set.  So I turned around, went back, and looked for an interesting subject.  I saw these two fishing boats tied to the dock, and as I watched, someone on the dock was walking to one of the boats!  Bingo!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Hartness Turret Telescope

This is an astounding telescope.  Yes, it is a telescope.  It was designed and built in 1912 by James Hartness who owned a precision machine company in Springfield, Vermont, called Jones & Lamson.  Hartness was governor of Vermont at one time, and a pilot who bought and flew a Wright Flyer aircraft.  This is a concrete structure with the other half of it underground.  And the cool thing is that he built a heated underground tunnel from his home to the telescope!  That means in a typical Vermont winter, when it was cold and snow was on the ground, he could still observe the stars in comfort.  The telescope itself is a 10" refractor, with the lens at the end of that stainless steel tube pointing up toward the sky.

The inside of the telescope gives you the feeling that you are in a submarine.  You walk up the step that you can see here and stand at the eyepiece, as Jim is doing in the photograph below.  The eyepiece is close to his arm, on the right in the photo below.

These are some of the gears that are connected to the motor that runs the telescope.  So here is the slightly scary thing - when you are standing at the eyepiece, which is where I am standing to take this picture, the gears are slowly going around!  So you have to be very careful in the dark!

And this is the eyepiece of the telescope.  And notice more gears going around!  Of course they turn very slowly.  What is amazing about this telescope, is that it is a really heavy duty piece of industrial machinery, which is what they were really good at building in Vermont at the time.

Monday, August 13, 2018

History on a Wall

We went to visit The American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vermont.  Parking is around the back of the museum, and this is what we saw getting out of the car!  This factory served a number of purposes over the years since it was built in 1846 as the Robbins & Laurence armory.  It was used for a number of purposes, including power generation, after the armory closed 10 years after building the factory.  What I found fascinating was the archeology of the wall on the back of the factory.  A number of windows and doors have been bricked up, and you can see where perhaps other floors may have been connected to this wall - perhaps there was an addition at one time that was since demolished.  I love that this is a kind of archaeology - fascinating to look at and study.

Here are two more photographs of the building.  This museum is popular with school children because of some of the hands on activities.  This is called the "Precision Museum" because it preserves the heritage of the mechanical arts, and celebrates the ingenuity of our mechanical forbears. It now holds the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the nation.  The tools and the methods which make mass production possible were pioneered at the Robbins & Lawrence Armory.  Using precision metal cutting machines and high standards of accuracy, the armory proved the effectiveness of a new type of manufacturing that would soon be known as the American System, where parts were produced to be interchangeable.  Across America, a powerful machine tool industry grew up, flourishing especially in New England and the northern Midwest.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Shattuck Observatory

Today some members of the Antique Telescope Society traveled to the Shattuck Observatory at Dartmouth College.  It is a classical observatory built in 1854.  It is a beautiful building and houses three telescopes, one in the dome at the center, and two in the building at the right.

This is the largest telescope in the observatory, a 9.5" refractor in the dome.  Recently this beautiful observatory was threatened with destruction because the college wanted to build a huge dormitory on the property.  Fortunately, for the time being, those plans were cancelled because of the cost and difficulties of building a large dormitory on a stone ledge.  But will it be postponed forever?  It would be a shame to loose this historical building.

I climbed up the ladder in the observatory and took this photograph of the telescope, and what interested me was the color and pattern of the inside of the dome, painted gray-blue.  I am looking at the front end of the telescope, where the objective is located, but because of the lighting you can't see the glass.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


So this is Stellafane.  "Stellafane" means "Shrine to the Stars" and it has a rich history.  This pink clubhouse was built in 1923 by the Springfield Amateur Telescope Makers, and the legend is they went to the local hardware store and asked if the proprietor could donate any paint for the clubhouse, and the owner said sure, as long as he could pick the color!  This building is a national historic landmark.  This is my 30th year here at Stellafane, and by now I have so many friends that I see here once a year.  There is such a rich tradition here because of all the history over the years.

This is a view of the telescope field in front of the clubhouse.  The white "house" with the dome is actually a concrete telescope designed so that the astronomers in the old days could observe from within the structure in the Vermont winter without having to come out in the cold.  There are telescopes all over this field on display for judging.

And here is a cool story.  This is Tim and his wife Julia with their newly finished telescope awaiting judging.  The amazing thing is that I met Tim when I took the drone course at Syracuse University!  It's a small world!  The great news is that Tim and his wife won three prizes for their telescope, both for the optics, the mechanical design, and for the craftsmanship!  And this was their first telescope!

Friday, August 10, 2018

I Stole These Photos!

I cannot tell a lie.  I stole these photos!  I was sitting with Roger and Nha during a break in the conference, and Nha was showing some photos she did with her nice little point-and-shoot camera and I saw a photo of these stairways at the Hartness House, a hotel where many of the Stellafane people stay.  I have been here a whole bunch of times for conferences.  I said "WHERE DID YOU FIND THAT SHOT?"  She said: "I went up the stairs three levels from the lobby."  I was stunned - I had never had a reason to go upstairs!  So I grabbed my camera and climbed the stairs and was amazed when looking down.  Boy oh boy, Nha is a curious photographer with a really good eye!

When we had a break for dinner, the three of us were standing around in the lobby waiting for the cocktail hour and dinner, and she said, did you shoot the stairs looking up?  Then she showed me her photograph of this scene.  Man, she is KILLING it!  So I crouched down on the floor and shot this photo looking up.  I am beginning to think I am losing my touch!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Sky Magic

Under the dark skies of Vermont I finally got to test a trick that Chirag told me about.  It is how to make the stars that make up constellations more visible.  He was using this technique when we were at Big Bend National Park.  But the skies need to be dark to make it work, and the skies in my back yard certainly are not dark.  But they sure are here in Vermont.  The trick is to use a mild diffusion filter during either all or part of an exposure of the sky.  So here are two exposures.  This one, above has the diffusion filter in place for the whole exposure.  Perhaps I need to try it with only half the exposure.  The constellation is Cygnus the swan, and it appears as a kite or Christian cross on its side.  You can clearly see the main stars of Cygnus in the photo above.   Notice also that the color differences of the stars are so obvious.  Did you know that there are differences in color among the stars?  There are red ones and blue ones, and variations in between.  Below is the photograph without the filter, and for the life of me, I cannot find Cygnus.  So the trick works, but I need to experiment to get perhaps a bit more subtlety.  But so far, I am thrilled with the results.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


So Roger and Nha and I headed for Vermont this morning, for the Antique Telescope Society Meeting, and for Stellafane.  I always stop at the Vermont Welcome Center, and you have seen photos from there almost every year.  When we got out of the car, the sky was threatening, and shortly after going into the building the sky opened up!  This view of the downpour and the trees and clouds, and the piece of farm machinery in the distance just seems lovely.  Welcome to Vermont!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Lesson From the Chef

Kathy was preparing dinner, and needed some help with chopping.  So Roger stepped up - many years ago he worked as a Sous Chef, which was news to me.  He and I have had numerous conversations over the years, but being a chef never came up!  So he demonstrated some cool chopping techniques which I had never seen before.  Our dinner, which Kathy prepared was stunning - risotto with shrimp!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Guitar Testing

I picked up my friends Roger and Nha from JFK today after their 20 hours of flying from Sydney, Australia.  We had a lovely dinner and sat around in our back room visiting.  When they went upstairs, Roger spied Amy's guitar case in the upstairs hall.  He immediately took the guitar out and started tuning it.  the first thing he said was that the guitar strings were old.  "How can you tell?" I asked.  Roger said that guitar strings rust, and then your fingers don't slide on them easily.  He got it a bit more in tune and began playing.  It was really wonderful to hear beautiful music coming from Amy's old guitar.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Loving Tribute to a Colleague

I went to a memorial service and a celebration today, for one of the great investigative reporters of our time.  His name was Brian Donovan, and he recently passed away.  So it was a gathering of family, friends, colleagues, and warm memories and admiration for an amazing, gentle man.  He won two Pulitzer prizes and yet always had time to help younger reporters with their craft.  So many speakers spoke of him as a life well lived.  Brian and I both started working at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle back in 1964, and along with other reporters, all made our way to Newsday.  It was a heart warming experience to be there today.  On the way home, I saw this scene flash by my window, so I turned around and drove back to photograph it.  It was only when looking at the photograph on my computer that I made the connection with the fact that life is a journey, and somehow this photograph suggests that.