birdseye view

Posted by Ellen

Is there some kind of bullseye painted across the rooftops of Philadelphia? We are told that this Hurricane Sandy storm-creature is aiming straight at us and will not rest till it rakes us with its cold, cold eye. 

Until further notice then: to find my house, start from the bridge closest to the lefthand edge of the picture and trace about six blocks along the streets that angle downard and toward the right. Amongst all the rowhouses of the neighborhood, you may be able to make out a larger orange building with a dark roof; that's a church known as Apostolic Square, just a block and a half from our house.

Although both the rivers seen here are technically tidal–at least as far upstream as the dam near the art museum in the parkland above the center of the photo–the city is far inland and is not likely to get much storm surge. And it appears we won't be eligible for any of the snow this time. But school and garbage pickup have already been canceled, and there's rain on the roof.

Posted by Ellen

A peregrine falcon takes in a February sunrise from the railing of an apartment balcony in Chicago.

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"Somewhere in Transylvania," according to the photographer, who offers up only two facts about himself by way of identification: he lives in the city of Arad in western Romania, and he likes Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra.

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Southern Namibia, as seen from the Landsat 7 satellite orbiting 700 kilometers above the earth's surface.

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Above the ships at sea and Lisbon's red tile roofs and satellite dishes.

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London at night.

Posted by Ellen

The desert of northern Saudi Arabia is among the most barren places on earth. But beginning in 1986, when water wells were drilled into deep aquifers, vast stretches of desert land have been irrigated for agricultural use. So much of Saudi Arabia is now farmland that the fields are visible from space, as shown here in this photo taken last week by astronauts on the International Space Station. The circular fields are each about one kilometer in diameter.

This is energy-intensive agriculture; it takes a lot of fossil fuel to pump water from so deep underground and to operate the center-pivot irrigation systems that keep the wheat fields and vegetable patches green despite bone-dry desert air. But Saudi Arabia has a lot of fossil fuel, and its desert agriculture is expanding rapidly.

(The water in the aquifers is itself fossilized, left over from the Ice Age, before this part of the world became so hot and arid.)

Posted by Ellen

This was Amersfoort, Netherlands, back in the day. The city has since grown to 24 square miles, with a population of almost 150,000, but its medieval center is said to be well preserved and legally protected. Known as Boulder City, Amersfoort is now 753 years old.

The Netherlands doesn't have very many boulders, but there used to be a big one, weighing more than nine tons, out on the moors south of town. In 1661, however, a couple of Amersfoort's leading citizens got to drinking and wagering, and then wouldn't you know it, one of them rounded up 400 neighbors to push the rock into the center of town.

The rock-pushers were rewarded with beer and pretzels, but Amersfoortians soon discovered that they really didn't much like being known far and wide as boulder draggers. They didn't like that their city's reputation was all about the stupid rock in the main square.  In 1672, they buried the boulder.

More than two centuries later, in 1903, the buried rock was rediscovered and again put on display. Pranksters have moved it again from time to time, presumably with heavy equipment, but the city has now mounted its nine-ton token high on a pedestal for all the world to see.

Posted by Ellen

The sun sank in the west, and then it was dark in Yosemite Valley.

Posted by Ellen

At the world's tallest office building, they had fireworks for New Year's.