astronomersA few weeks ago, telescopes all over the southwestern United States were turned toward Pluto to observe the occultation of a star in the constellation Sagittarius. It took about six minutes, that is, about three times longer than a typical Pluto occultation. Astronomers were keen to view the star’s light as it filtered through Pluto’s atmosphere in order to monitor both pressure and composition.

Yesterday, going down the Rozengracht on tram no.14, I was surprised to see high up on the tower of the Westerkerk a new sight. At the level of the clock face, the four ornamental urns that perch at each corner of the structure have been painted a bright blue. The tower has had extensive maintenance work done on it for over a year now. I had already on another occasion admired the painting of the crown at the very top of the tower. It is 90 meters high by the way and was built in 1638.

In rapid succession I thought:- “how beautiful” – “it’s garish” – “I like it” – “but it’s garish” – “I wonder if it’s been restored to the original colour” – “or if that’s some new playful departure” – “many ancient statues and stone buildings were originally painted” – “am I allowed to like it” – “I don’t know” – “I am disturbed”.

It must have been a very few seconds that passed before I came out of this reverie, but I was able to capture it all. And so I was able to monitor my “atmosphere”. Apparently, certainly in the first instance, at least, I don’t trust my own taste.

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