Bald Eagle | Stock Image Gallery

Bald Eagle 09

Bald Eagle image 09

For those of you from the U.S., where it’s difficult to escape from the symbol of your national bird and animal, the bald eagle needs little introduction. Majestic and exuding serene confidence, it’s among the most beautiful members of the eagle family.

Found in most of Canada, Alaska, the lower 48 states and northern Mexico, Haliaeetus leucocephalus is usually seen near large bodies of water and nests in old-growth trees. Among North American birds, its dwellings are the largest; Wikipedia reports that one was measured at 2.5m (8.2ft) wide, 4m (13ft) deep, weighing one metric ton while National Geographic mentions a next that tipped the scales at more than two tons. They tend to mate for life so I guess a larger more permanent dwelling makes sense.

They’re not really bald; that name comes from the white plumage on its head, which is identical in males in females. The latter is usually 25 percent larger.

It’s body size ranges from 86 to 109cm (34 to 43in); wingspan, 1.8 to 2.4m 6 to8ft), and 3 to 6.5kg (6.5 to 14lbs) in weight.

On the brink of extinction in the continental U.S., it’s made a strong comeback, thanks largely to restrictions on DDT use. From National Geographic:

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Palm Sunday Mass, La Merced Church, Quito

Worshipers praying during Palm Sunday mass at La Merced Church in Quito, Ecuador

Worshipers pray at a small chapel during a Palm Sunday Mass at the 18th century La Merced Church, or the Iglesia de la Merced, in Quito, Ecuador.

A half dozen shots taken before, during and after today’s Palm Sunday mass at the Iglesia de la Merced, an early 18th century church located in the historical center of Quito, Ecuador. More than ninety percent of Ecuadoreans consider themselves Roman Catholics.
29 March 2015.

A boy selling Palm Sunday fronds in front of the La Merced Church, or the Iglesia de la Merced, in the historical center of Quito, Ecuador.

A boy selling Palm Sunday fronds in front of the La Merced Church, or the Iglesia de la Merced, in the historical center of Quito, Ecuador.

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Excerpts from Galeano’s Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History

Excerpts from Galeano’s Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History

Over the weekend Tom Engelhardt / TomDispatch published eight excerpts from Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, the most recent work by Eduardo Galeano, whose mesmerizing ability to bring voice to history’s voiceless —along with an uncanny talent to make every sentence count— lands him squarely on the short list of my favorite writers and journalists on the planet. And among its finest.

As Englehardt writes:

He was, early in his professional life, a cartoonist and never lost the lightness of spirit that went with that role. Still, the world he observed and experienced in prison, in exile, year after year, decade after decade, especially through the eyes of the poor and those denied their voice, was anything but light.  Yet he approached the underworld of history with an empathy and understanding which is almost indescribable.  His friends died in struggles across Latin America and yet, in an act of wizardry, he was capable of bringing them back to life on the page. He heard voices no one else could hear and similarly brought them to life and so to our attention.

Of the book, Engelhardt says:

Think of it as a secular prayer book for any year.

The passages he includes are from the section, On Women Who Refused to Live in Silence and Be Consigned to Oblivion. Here’s one:

The Mother of Female Journalists
(November 14)

On this morning in 1889, Nellie Bly set off.

Jules Verne did not believe that this pretty little woman could circle the globe by herself in less than eighty days.

But Nellie put her arms around the world in seventy-two, all the while publishing article after article about what she heard and observed.

This was not the young reporter’s first exploit, nor would it be the last.

To write about Mexico, she became so Mexican that the startled government of Mexico deported her.

To write about factories, she worked the assembly line.

To write about prisons, she got herself arrested for robbery.

To write about mental asylums, she feigned insanity so well that the doctors declared her certifiable. Then she went on to denounce the psychiatric treatments she endured, as reason enough for anyone to go crazy.

In Pittsburgh when Nellie was twenty, journalism was a man’s thing.

That was when she committed the insolence of publishing her first articles.

Thirty years later, she published her last, dodging bullets on the front lines of World War I.

Now out in paperback, it’s available via Amazon — this is TomDispatch’s affiliate link. Check out the rest of the excerpts here.


Mannequin Monday #44

Bald mannequin, Otavalo, Ecuador

Have you ever felt like your head is about to explode? This week’s inductee to the planet’s largest repository of blighted mannequins, seen in the renowned Ecuadorean market town of Otavalo, is illustrating what the recovery process looks like.

You’re welcome.

New to this weekly series? You can and should catch up here. It’ll help you have a much better Monday. Promise. Enjoy and do spread the word.

By the way, this image also serves as today’s Pic du Jour, the 441st (!!) straight. When you’ve got a few minutes to spare, you can browse some of those here.

Spectacled Owl | Stock Image Gallery

Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata), close up

Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata), close up

I was introduced to a sensational variety of birds yesterday at the Parque Cóndor, a rescue and release bird park and sanctuary near Otavalo, Ecuador. More on the park itself coming soon; first a bit more over the next several days on some of the birds found at the center, many of which are natives to specific tropical areas of the Americas. Beginning with this sleepy gentle giant, the Spectacled Owl.

With its dark round face, lack of ear-tufts and contrasting spectacles formed by white streaks between and around the eyes and cheeks, the Spectacled Owl is one that stands out. If you manage to come across the somewhat unsociable bird in the first place, that is.

Native to the neotropics, and primarily found in dense, old-growth tropical rain forests, its a the medium-sized to large owl found throughout Mexico, Central America, some Caribbean islands, northern parts of South America and south to Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina.

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Espumilla Vendors, Quito

Espumilla vendors chatting, Plaza Grande, Quito, 19-Mar-2015

Espumilla vendors chatting, Plaza Grande, Quito, 19-Mar-2015

Espumilla is a popular Ecuadorean street food, a tragically over-sweetened foamy meringue cream concoction made of fruit pulp, egg whites and sugar. It’s served in ice cream cones, which can lead to confusion among the uninitiated. At least it did with me.

I thought it was ice cream that’s somehow kept from melting. After I bought a scoop from the woman on the left, who was selling the dessert in Quito’s Plaza Grande, I told that her that her ice cream was warm. My blissful ignorance brightened her day with a five-minute smile.

Price? One scoop is typically 30 cents, two for 50.

For the record, today’s Pic du Jour, the 439th straight, was snapped on 19-Mar-2015 in Quito, Ecuador.

ISO 400


Pack of Dogs, Quito

Pack of dogs, Calle Haiti, Quito

This wasn’t really the apocalypse. It only looks like one.

This block of Calle Haiti, just a few blocks up the hill from my apartment, is usually a hive of activity at midday. But not last Monday.

The relative quiet was fleeting; during a period that lasted no more than 45 or 50 seconds, not a car passed by, not a soul strolled on either sidewalk, when this pack of dogs appeared from around a corner.

It was garbage day, and they were nonchalantly scoping out what lied ahead and what was left behind. A few seemed a little confused about the streets suddenly belonging to them, but that confusion too was brief, as they continued on confidently, crossing back and forth curb to curb. Until a car roared by. And then another. A few trailed off in a different direction. The apocalypse was over.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 438th straight, was snapped during an ephemeral early afternoon moment on 23-Mar-2015 in Quito, Ecuador.

Oh by the way, you can now also follow Piran Café with Bloglovin.


Polivalente de Arte, Ushuaia: Arts High School at The End of The World

Mural at Polivalente de Arte, Ushuaia 1


By any measure, Ushuaia, the city at the end of the world, is a fabulous place to land. As you descend between the rugged Andes’ Martial range, which walls off the city to the north, and the Beagle Channel, which forms its perimeter to the south, you also get a very clear sense of just how isolated the capital of Tierra del Fuego actually is.

As a sprawling, steadily growing home to more than 70,000, it’s also a considerably larger municipality than I expected to find 2,352km (1,461mi) south of Buenos Aires and just 1,309km (814mi) north of the Antarctic Circle.

That size, coupled with a rapidly expanding tourism industry that attracts several thousand visitors from dozens of countries each year –more than 71,000 people have visited thus far during the current cruise season, from September through February– lends itself nicely to the worldly and urban sensibility that belies its isolation, and which manifests itself quite appropriately on the exterior walls of the Polivalente de Arte, by default, the planet’s southernmost high school for the arts. I really liked the muscled tango dancers above.

Founded in 1987 as a high school specializing in fine art, music and ceramics, it was expanded in the early part of last decaded to include studies in multimedia communication, graphic arts and design. I met a few of the school’s recent graduates during my visit and found them to be exceptionally well-rounded academically, very well-spoken, insatiably creative and very eager to learn more. By most accounts, that’s a good measure for any school.

Twenty-two photo follow, all taken in January 2013.

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Shawl Vendors, Quito

Shawl vendors knitting, Plaza de San Francisco, Quito

At the Plaza de San Francisco in Quito’s centro historico, just two of the dozens of vendors who hawk shawls, scarves, fruit, drinks, gum, cigarettes, meals and sweets there each day, and among the multitudes who fan out across the city.

This was taken during the tail end of an anti-government demonstration as protesters gathered and milled about the square. These three weren’t paying much attention, enjoying instead each others’ company, gossiping, laughing and sharing tea as they knitted.


Today’s Pic du Jour, the 437th straight, was taken on 19 March 2015, and is this week’s contribution to Lost in Translation, a new-to-me blog, and host Paula’s Thursday challenge, ‘multitudes‘.


In Quito – Arte en Orbita: an Exhibit Examining the Democratization of Space Exploration

Arte en Orbita, Quito 01

What does documentation of UFO sightings in Ecuador, a proposal to merge Cuba and Quebec into a new political entity and Bolivia’s Tupac Katari telecommunications satellite have in common?

A collective space and voice for starters, at Arte en Orbita, an exhibit at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Quito which despite its outward whimsical flair, raises some important questions about the democratization of space exploration, its commercialization and its great north-south / rich-poor divide.

Arte en Órbita
Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, Quito
March 7 – June 6, 2015
admission free

Since man first stared into the night sky, the exhibit’s introduction reminds us, outer space has provided the brain food for humankind’s collective imagination, helped create its mythologies and fostered its scientific research and discovery. With more than 1,100 active satellites orbiting the planet at any given time –along with some 2,500 that no longer function– that relationship remains as true and vital now as ever.

Well before the dawn of colonization, the Ecuadorean capital was already serving as a center of astronomical observation. With the recent launching of Pegaso and Krysaor, the country’s first commercial satellites, the city provides a timely setting from which to attempt to generate a link between the ancient tools used to help understand the cosmos to modern technologies whose proliferation, wide availability and relative low cost can reconnect humankind to space in a more participatory and democratic way.

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