Archive for February, 2008

Total eclipse

Posted in Journal, Nice at 05:46


Photo of today’s lunar eclipse when it was total, as seen from my balcony. More of my eclipse photos, though this one is my personal favorite. All were taken with my Nikon D40 body and Imado 135mm f/2.8 prime lens; this one is a 13-second exposure.

Update, 18:40: this photo shows Regulus and Saturn better. Regulus came through as a beautiful blue. This is the sharpest of them when viewed full size due to the shorter exposure time (others show movement due to the Earth’s rotation — from an Earth-bound vantage point, the Moon travels its own diameter every 2 minutes).

Women of the shogun

Posted in Journal at 13:26

An incredible article by Lesley Downer was published in the Times today: The caged concubines. Those who know the flower and willow world have certainly recognized Downer’s name, as she is one of the foremost non-Japanese experts on geisha (I have loads of books on Japanese culture, kimono and geisha, but her book Women of the Pleasure Quarters: The Secret History of the Geisha is still on my wish list — must get it soon). Another expert is Liza Dalby, who lived as a geisha for a year in Kyoto and published her anthropological study Geisha.

The Times article is a veritable treasure trove of shogunal history from the standpoint of the women at Edo Castle. I especially enjoyed this bit, which is surprising new knowledge for me:

With no male guards, the women had to be responsible for protecting the shogun. There were units of women guards skilled with the naginata – the long-handled spear, akin to a halberd. Consisting of a long curved blade as sharp as a razor, fitted to the end of a staff considerably longer than a sword, it gave a woman the chance to get in a good swipe at a man’s legs before he could reach her. Most women of the warrior class were adept with the halberd, but the women of the inner palace were particularly formidable. They studied the art from childhood and prided themselves on their fearlessness and their skill at striking, thrusting, slashing, parrying and blocking. Every woman had a uniform – a thick black broadcloth jacket, stiff black pleated trousers and a black silk cap bound with a white band – and there was a training hall in the palace where they practised.

The black pleated trousers are hakama. The most concise and informative description I could find of naginata is also from Wikipedia, whereas the website has a neat painting of a woman with a naginata and photos of practitioners.

Perpetrator Cat

Posted in Journal at 15:10

Perpetrator Cat

This is the vicious feline attacker who pounced on me after an intercom buzz, causing a scratched eyelid, throbbing headache, a visit to my opthalmologist and untold emotional scarring. It is clear from his beady, calculating eyes, threatening ears and bushy tail that indeed, the loud buzz was merely a pretext for his villainy. J’accuse !

(How to Manipulate a Photo Subject: I set up Malo. Outside of the frame is my finger, making tantalizing scratching sounds on the printer. He swatted at my finger several times but never hurt me. He fell asleep about thirty seconds after I took this photo. Also: about Emile Zola’s J’accuse.)

Cateye and heterochromia

Posted in Biographical at 14:47


This is my eye. My left eye with a reflection through my balcony French doors, to be precise, and bloodshot because this morning my cat pulled a stunt somewhat like this cartoon. Instead of a baseball bat, it was one of his hind legs that punched me. I’m thankful to still have my eye; he came very close to hitting it directly.

My eyes have a coloring that’s known as central heterochromia, meaning my iris has a circle of a different color around the pupil. In addition to having heterochromial eyes, I also have hair with sectoral heterochromia (I was born with a blonde streak, the rest is dark brown):
   Age 4
I have the Internet to thank for finally being able to put a name to my blonde streak and eyes.

Rue Villermont

Posted in La France, Nice at 12:13

Rue Villermont, facade

The same building as photographed last week, again while on my way to the post office, because I’m still at home with the flu, ugh. The yellow tree is mimosa, which bloom this time of year. This photo was taken in the late morning, giving better light on the façade than last week’s afternoon sun. It’s worth clicking through to view larger sizes in order to see the ornate sculpted detailing and wrought iron balustrades on this building.


Posted in La France, Nice at 16:09


This is the apartment building I live in — those who pay close attention to photos of my balcony may recognize the pattern on the iron bars.

I’ve had the flu since Friday and needed to mail my arrêt maladie. On the way to the post office I photographed this building on rue Villermont, with beautiful wrought iron:

On Rue Villermont

Spiraling flower

Posted in Meta at 14:19

Cyclamen flower profile

Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.

– Excerpt from Hamatreya, Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a flower from one of my cyclamens. I’ve had four cyclamen plants for three years now, managing to hibernate them successfully in summer. It’s always a pleasure to see them return to life in winter and enjoy their blossoms throughout the cold months.

My Larousse etymology book and the American Heritage Dictionary entry for cyclamen note that cyclamen, Latin, comes from the Greek kuklaminos, from kuklos, circle. The dictionary theorizes it may be due to the bulbous roots. Methinks it’s a bit more obvious than that (and to be very pedantic, a cyclamen bulb is spherical, not circular).