Thursday/ flashbacks to 1991

I was not yet settled in the USA in 1991, but I knew about the testimony of Anita Hill in the hearings for then-nominee for Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas. Well, it’s happening again.  Christine Blasey Ford is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her as a teenager.

There is a difference, though: this time around the President of the United States is a known harasser (or worse) of women .. and since late 2017, the #MeToo movement has forced many powerful men to face up to the consequences of their abuse of women.

So we’ll see what happens. Like most Democrats I am an Absolutely Not-No Way-No HowNO‘ on Kavanaugh*- but I don’t get to vote on it.

*He’s been caught lying to the Senate even before all of the latest allegations, and he’s a hard-line conservative. He also is of the opinion that a sitting President cannot be subpoenaed, nor indicted. No wonder Trump wants him to join the Supreme Court.

Wednesday/ Building Cure’s progress

Here’s what the completed building will look like. [Source: Aedas, Flad & Associates]
I walked by the construction site of the ‘Building Cure’ today.

It’s here in downtown Seattle near Denny Way. It is the new building for Seattle Children’s Research Institute to expand into. The Institute’s scientists develop cures and therapies for childhood diseases such as cancers, sickle cell anemia and type 1 diabetes.

The Institute has grown from just 40 employees in 2006 to more than 1,500 today.

The 13 floors are done, and now the glass and steel cladding (aluminum?) goes on.  Those round pillars stand at angles to each other to form the facets of the building’s sides. I hope the construction was not too much of a nightmare.

Tuesday/ the 2 hour marathon: almost there

Kipchoge took off a whopping 1 min 18 s from compatriot Dennis Kimetto’s 2014 record. [Graph: NRC Handelsblad]
The Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (33) set a new world record in the Berlin marathon on Sunday. Roger Robinson writes in Runner’s World that he is now, without question, the greatest marathoner of all time. He won every one of the last nine marathons that he had competed in.

‘How long will this time stand?’ asks the headline. Eliud Kipchoge shortly after winning the Berlin marathon in a world record time of 2:01:39. [Picture: NRC Handelsblad]

Monday/ Cape Town has water – for now

Cape Town’s dam levels hit the 70% mark on Monday for the first time since 2015. The severe water restrictions that had been in place, have been relaxed, albeit just by a little*.   The rainy season is coming to an end in September, and a long dry summer lies ahead.

*The City is asking residents to use no more than 70 liters (18.5 US gal) per person per day, up from a 50-liter (13 US gal) limit.

Cape Town metro area dam levels the last 5 years, in September. The picture is of the Theewaterskloof Dam, gloriously at full capacity in Sept. 2014. It is currently 52% full, up from barely 12% before the 2018 winter rains had come. [Picture credit: Twitter post from Cirrus@OrionnebulaAE].

Sunday/ Florence’s soaking continues

The areas south of New Bern and Wilmington have recorded 30 inches of rain, and the rain is still pouring down. Not surprisingly, many roads and streets are flooded, and there are widespread power outages as well.

Map and report from the Sunday edition of the Washington Post.

Saturday/ South Africa’s protein cereal

Ahh .. a shipment of ProNutro cereal from South Africa landed on my porch this week, sent by my friend Jose. I have fond memories of the stuff and still like it very much.

Back in high school, it was the only breakfast that would sustain me all the way through the long mornings in class. The cereal is also famous in South Africa for feeding baby animals and birds (that one might have rescued).

It’s been 55 years since ProNutro made its debut in South Africa (a somewhat odd anniversary to celebrate, but hey, they are free to do that). The product is made from maize (corn) and soy. It is an instant cereal, prepared with hot milk. It takes a little experience to know j-u-s-t how much milk to add! It soaks up the milk over 5 or 10 minutes. If you did not add enough, it gets really solid and feels ‘dry’ to the tongue. I prefer it porridge-style, so with lots of milk.

Friday/ Manafort the conspirator, to cooperate

It’s really too much to keep track of, all the crimes and guilty pleas of Trump’s associates, but this is a big one.

Today, Paul Manafort (Trump’s 2016 campaign manager), already found guilty of tax evasion and money laundering, plead guilty to additional charges of ‘conspiracy against the United States’ and ‘conspiracy to obstruct justice (witness tampering)’.
And: Manafort will cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigators.

Manafort was present at the June 2016 meeting with the Russians (with Donald Trump Jr and Son-in-law Jared Kushner also in attendance). He knows if Trump Senior knew about the meeting. 

What will Trump do, now that even more chickens have come home to roost*?
It really does not look like his nightmare of a presidency will make it to 2020.

*An expression that is 500 years old. The older fuller form was ‘curses are like young chickens; they always come home to roost’. Your offensive words or actions are likely at some point to rebound and hurt you.

Thursday/ pummeling the coast

Thu 11.00 pm EDT: Florence has not made landfall yet (50 miles from the coast) .. now a Category 2, so the storm’s wind speeds have come down, but there will still be a lot of water to deal with*.  Up to a third of the people in some communities have elected to stay put, in spite of the evacuation order. Time will tell if that was wise. (Some people had no place to go, or no means to evacuate, though).

*4.9 million people live in areas that will get more than 10 inches of rain over the next 5 days.

Fri 11.00 pm EDT:  Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 AM EDT on Friday.  By late afternoon, several hundred people had been rescued, and 5 deaths directly related to the storm, had been reported.  Many of the streams and rivers in the storm’s footprint are expected to crest at record levels downstream.

Here’s Gadi Schwartz from NBC enduring the rain and wind. Does it make a mockery of telling everyone to bail out, and then the storm-chasers and news crews go right into the storm? Well, Gadi explains in a ‘safety explanation for mom’ video on Twitter that they do a lot of preparation when picking locations to report from. The crew watches for flying objects, and in this case they have a concrete building with 5 floors, right behind them, to retreat into, for when push comes to shove. [Screenshot from MSNBC].

Wednesday/ here comes Florence

‘Let us withdraw, ’twill be a storm’. – William Shakespeare tweet this morning (from King Lear, Act 2, Scene 4)

We’re all on Florence watch here, even the West coasters. (Hurricanes do not hit the West Coast, due to the direction of global winds, and the Pacific Ocean’s water temperature).   Hurricane Florence is bearing down on North Carolina. The latest models show that it might rake the coastline after coming close to the mainland, resulting in a 9-13 ft storm surge from the ocean.  This, combined with upwards of 30 inches of rain in some areas will make for wide-spread flooding of low-lying areas.  Some of the long narrow barrier islands off the coast will be run over completely with seawater. About 1 million people along the coast are under mandatory evacuation orders.

The monster is approaching. At this point, there is very little chance that the storm will turn and not make landfall (late Thursday night or early Friday morning).
Florence was a Category 4, but has been downgraded to Category 3. 

Monday/ 10 years after 2008 (it is still the end of the world as we knew it)

The filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by financial services firm Lehman Brothers – ten years ago this week (Sept. 15, 2008) – remains the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. Lehman held over US$600 billion in assets. The fall-out from the 2008 crisis reverberates to this day through global politics. It gave us Donald Trump, Brexit, extreme nationalism, the blaming of immigrants for economic misfortunes.

Here is Philip Stephens in a column in the Financial Times newspaper (headquartered in London):
‘Historians will look back on the crisis of 2008 as the moment the world’s most powerful nations surrendered international leadership, and globalisation went into reverse. The rest of the world has understandably concluded it has little to learn from the West. Many thought at the time that the collapse of communism would presage the hegemony of open, liberal democracies. Instead, what really will puzzle the historians is why the ancien régime was so lazily complacent – complicit, rather – in its own demise’.


Sunday/ we’re getting a Shake Shack

I only learned of the East Coast’s cult burger chain ‘Shake Shack’ when it was reported that Special Investigator Mueller’s team had a lunch bag from Shake Shack during Paul Manafort’s trial. (The lawyers would not say what they had for lunch; they had strict orders not to talk to the press).

Anyway: Seattle is getting a Shake Shack, close to Amazon’s headquarters.

Here’s the fancy Shake Shack storefront coming in to view (it’s still surrounded by construction fencing). The burgers are high-end: ‘100% all-natural Angus beef, served on a non-GMO Martin’s Potato Roll’, says the website.  Behind it, off Westlake Avenue, is the newest Amazon tower starting to get its walls and windows installed.

Saturday/ a bad ending at the US Open Tennis

Oh man! What an unfortunate ending unfolded at the 2018 US Open Women’s Final today. Down by one set, in the second set, Serena’s coach gestured to her to ‘move up’ (not allowed). Chair umpire Carlos Ramos gave Serena a warning, which she took very badly – as an insult, and ‘unfair’ – saying that in men’s tennis they get away with coaching all the time, and much more. (She’s right about that, but this was not the time, nor the place, to argue that). She would not stop berating the chair umpire, and at the next change of sides, called him a thief, and demanded an apology. Then she also broke a racquet on the court. When she again launched into a tirade, it was the third violation, and she was given a penalty of a whole game.

As ESPN notes, at least everyone can agree that the winner, Naomi Osaka (20) from Japan, was cheated out of an uncontroversial win.

The final point of the match. Osaka (serving from the far side) would close it out 6-2, 6-4 right here. Osaka played great tennis throughout, and displayed remarkable composure through Serena’s meltdown and the drama with the chair umpire.

Friday/ Sasquatch on Smith Tower

I made my way to the Seattle Central Library again today, as I do several times a week. I used to walk down to a smaller branch seven blocks from my house to get my book and newspaper fix for the day, but the Central Library has so much more material. I feel like Alice in Wonderland there.

Old and new all in one picture, seen as I left the library. From left to right: 901 Fifth Avenue (constr. 1973, 42 floors), the F5 Tower (2017, 44 floors), Rainier Clubhouse (1904, Tudor Revival style, 4 floors), Columbia Center (1985, 76 floors, still the tallest building in the city).
This just for fun, from an old 70s Seattle magazine: Sasquatch* on Smith Tower, fending off the pestering airplanes (a play on King Kong on the Empire State Building in New York, of course).  *Sasquatch, also called Bigfoot, (from Salish se’sxac: “wild men”) a large, hairy, humanlike creature believed by some people to exist in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada.

Thursday/ beers at Fadó Irish Pub

The entrance to Fado has great Art Deco framing. The pub has been there since 2000; I suspect the Art Deco much longer.

We had beers and a bite at Fadó (say f’doe*) Irish Pub tonight. It is located in the historic Colman Building on 1st Avenue.  Since it is First Thursday of the month, we could also stop in and admire art at a few of the galleries nearby, afterwards.

*An Irish term meaning ‘long ago’. It is used in Ireland to start a story -the equivalent of ‘once upon a time’.

I love this circa 1909 picture of the Colman Building. Check out the horse-drawn buggies lined up in front of it. Automobiles were only just starting to make it onto the streets. [Picture obtained from].

Wednesday/ uncharted waters

Fear: which one?- Trump’s fear of the Special Investigator? Fear of what Trump might do? The angst of the White House staff? Of the white people that got Trump elected in the first place?

Some say the constitutional crisis for the United States has been here for awhile, already. (Cannot get rid of a manifestly unfit-for-office President, because his party protects him). Others say it is still in the making.

But something must be seriously, seriously screwed up when senior administration officials write alarming, anonymous op-eds in the New York Times.

And when, almost every week, a book comes out that describe utter dysfunction & mayhem in the White House.  The latest book is by none other than investigative journalist Bob Woodward, famous for his work on Watergate, and with The Washington Post since 1971. There is no denying his reporting.

Democracy as we know it, teetering on the edge? Picture from the Op-Ed in the New York Times. Treason! tweeted Trump. And: the NYT must reveal to him who the source is. (Ha ha. Yes, I’m sure they will, King Trump).

Tuesday/ Vienna is tops (says The Economist)

Hmm .. I see The Economist has given Vienna the nod as the world’s ‘best city’ to live in. (Melbourne had been at the top of the list for seven straight years). No American city made the top 10 .. but of course: Seattleites scoff at the notion that Vancouver is better than Seattle. That number 6 pointer on the map should move south to just below the Canadian border!

[Graphic from Die Burger newspaper] ‘Everyone wants to live in Vienna’. The grading of the cities were determined by Stability (25%), Education (10%), Health (20%), Infrastructure (20%), Culture and Environment (25%).
Ah, Vienna: the City of Music. Here’s a picture I took in December 2008, of the majestic Vienna Rathaus (City Hall), all decorated for the Christmas market. (My colleagues and I were working in on a project Bratislava, Slovakia – just across the Danube river – at the time). We milled around with the crowds, and had some great glühwein!

Monday/ a little walk in the woods

We did another little walk in the woods today – just through a woodsy area near Paul’s house here in the Hansville area.

The trail is dry this time of year, but can get squishy and muddy in some places, in the rainy season. So the planks covered with chicken wire are a nice addition.
This is a parasitic bracket fungus. It grows on fir tree bark. The genus is probably Fomitopsis (I found similar pictures online). Ötzi the Iceman (5,000 yr-old mummy found in the Alps in 1991), had similar kinds of fungi with him. The fungus could be used for food, but also as tinder (to start a fire with).
I don’t know what kind of spider this is, but I love the geometry of its web, and the rainbow tints that some strands get as the sunlight strikes it.
Here is a belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyonis) with its jaunty head feathers. I was not quite close enough to the little bird for a sharp picture, but the camera’s 135 mm zoom helped a lot.
I had better luck with this osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sitting closer to me in a tree on the high bank. I had to wait for it to take off to get a clear shot at it, though.
Here’s the Agate Pass Bridge (constructed 1950) on our way back to the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal.
And here comes Seattle downtown, as we approach it from Bainbridge Island. That’s the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship on the left, in from Vancouver, and setting sail on Tuesday morning for Astoria, Oregon (final destination San Diego). The ship was launched in 2001, and can accommodate 2,500 passengers.

Sunday/ the Point No Point lighthouse

We went for a little hike along the beach to the lighthouse at Point No Point today.

Here’s the little lighthouse at Point No Point. First operated in 1879 with a kerosene lamp, it got its classic Fresnel lens in 1898 (the black cylinder), but when the bulb inside went out many years ago, a smaller rotating light with an electric motor was installed (the little device to the right of the glass windows in the lighthouse tower.
Here’s a nuclear submarine from nearby Naval Base Kitsap and its escorts going out to sea. There are three sailors on the deck of the sub. The Olympic Mountains in the background are still shrouded in a little smokey air.
This ‘brown squirrel’ – a Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) – checked us out along the path to the beach at Point No Point.

Saturday/ ferry to Kitsap peninsula

A few of us went out to Paul’s on the Kitsap Peninsula on Saturday night, to stay over for a quick visit.

Here’s the ever-changing Seattle skyline, as we are waiting at the ferry terminal to head out to Bainbridge Island. This is 8.10 pm, just as the sun was setting. It’s not long now, a few months, when the demolition of the brown double-decker Alaskan Way viaduct running all along the waterfront, will start. (Its replacement tunnel is complete and undergoing final testing).