Tuesday/ the J&J pause

My personal D-Day in the war against the vaccine is here: I will get my first shot at 8 am on Wednesday morning.

I believe it will be the Moderna vaccine that I’m getting.
The Johnson & Johnson it will not be, with the pause that was announced today by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) here in the US. Of the 120 million or so shots administered in the States, less than 7 million were J&J, and White House officials expressed confidence that the roll-out here in the States will not be negatively impacted.

The unwillingness of people to get the vaccine, the so-called ‘vaccine hesitancy’, is the bigger challenge.

Cartoon by ‘J&J jab under observation’ by BRANDAN REYNOLDS, published in Business Day (South Africa), Wed. Apr 14, 2021.

Monday/ an unusual Scrabble ending

This Scrabble game of me against ‘CPU’ (central processing unit) had an unusual ending: the computer had to pass the last 5 turns. It could not find a way to put even one of its 7 remaining tiles on the board.

I figured out which the final letters on CPU’s rack were: A A I I O O V Y. So yes, not a lot to work with. Even so, CPU still managed to beat me by a wide margin, 420-336. It had built two 7-letter words,  GEMLIKE and TERNION, for 50 bonus points each.

Here are the meanings of some of the more unusual words on the board:
GI: a lightweight two-piece white garment worn in judo and other martial arts.
TERNION: the number three; three things together; a ternary or triplet.
JEHADIS: (plural) a person involved in a jihad; an Islamic militant.
TOFT: a site for a dwelling and its outbuildings; an entire holding comprising a homestead and additional land.
QIS: (plural) the circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine.
TREMS: (plural) short form of tremolo (arm) on a guitar, a lever attached to the bridge of an electric guitar and used to vary the pitch of a note.
IGG: (slang) to ignore or snub (someone); a snub or rebuff.
FET: short form (acronym) for field-effect transistor, a transistor in which most current flows in a channel whose effective resistance can be controlled by a transverse electric field.
PERVO: (slang) a sexual pervert.

My final turn: building GI for 3. The machine is stuck with A A I I O O V Y totaling a face value of 13 – so that gets deducted from its score, and added to mine. I still lose by 74 points but hey, there is always a next time.

Sunday/ a sunny week ahead

My Sunday afternoon started off with a nice game of doubles tennis, but on the way back I was involved a car accident (no injuries, thankfully), that resulted in major damage to my car. Ouch. It might be time to replace my 14-year old Camry, anyway.

The weather people are promising us sun all week, 65 °F (18 °C) by Wednesday, and 75 °F (24 °C) by Saturday.

White Hyacinth flowers (genus Hyacinthus) from my quick walk around the block tonight. These used to come in only pale blue or violet, but nowadays there are lilacs, pinks, white, cobalt blue, cream, apricot and even a blood red.
The name “hyacinth” can be traced back to remote antiquity. The flowers were mentioned by Homer, the great epic poet of Greece, in the Iliad. They are named after Hyacinth, the beautiful youth in Greek mythology. He was the mortal lover of Apollo, Greek god of the sun.


It’s Saturday/ Caturday. I like cats, especially the big wild ones.
(The term ‘Caturday’ started with the tradition of posting LOLcats to the message board 4chan on Saturdays).

A cougar with a tracking collar walks through Griffith Park, Los Angeles. Illustrating the problem of animals’ loss of habitat as cities expand, the photo sparked a movement to protect southern California’s last cougars and other wildlife in two large protected areas bisected by the Highway 101 north of LA. Set to be completed by 2022, it will be the world’s largest wildlife overpass. [Picture by Steve Winter/ Prints for Nature]
An artist’s rendering provided by the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains shows a planned wildlife crossing over U.S. Highway 101 in Agoura Hills, Calif. Hoping to fend off the extinction of mountain lions and other species that require room to roam, transportation officials and conservationists will build a mostly privately funded wildlife crossing over the freeway. [Clark Stevens, Architect/Raymond Garcia, Illustration/RCD of the Santa Monica Mountains via AP]

Friday/ the lawn needs a trim

Early afternoon, the doorbell rang.
It was Jesús from the lawn services company, inquiring if it’s OK for them to start mowing the lawn again now that spring is here. ‘Of course‘, I said, ‘I was the lookout for you guys, hoping you would start again, soon‘.

There’s the neat white truck of the lawn services company. I suppose now that I no longer travel for work, I could mow the lawn myself — but for the life of me, I never mastered the art of using a string trimmer, to trim the edges by the flower beds & walkways in a perfectly straight line. So I leave that to the professionals.
The blossoms are out on the trees, and the leaves are slowly appearing. It seems the Joe Biden for President sign on my neighbors’ picket fence has become a permanent installation (which I am completely OK with).

Thursday/ the tub of Marmite

It was time to open my tub of Marmite today. Whoah!

I did not expect the inside of the lid to be coated with Marmite, but that’s no matter – I will eventually consume every last bit of it. I have until June 2022 (the expiration date), and it will be gone long before then :).
There’s my fried egg & toast, part of my lunch for today. A little Marmite goes onto the toast, and then some avocado. Yum. (Cheese and marmite go together very nicely as well).

Wednesday/ a temperature shock

Lljubeljana, Slovenia, had its hottest March day (+25.3 °C/ 77.5 °F) on record, and now its coldest April night on record (-20.6 °C/ -5 °F).

There is going to be harsh frost damage to crops. Plants and insects (also fauna that thrive on both) would be hit incredibly hard, notes Scottish meteorologist Scott Duncan on Twitter.

This flaming orange tulip is from yesterday, when it was sunny.
It was ‘cold’ again today, 46 °F (8 °C), some 10 °F (5.5 °C) under the mean temperature for this time of year.

Tuesday/ a stroll to Pike & Pine

We had 59°F (15°C) here in the city today, and I took a stroll down to Pike and Pine.
The little green space called Williams Park, by Safeway on 15th Ave, still have a few homeless campers. The little bit of grassiness there has taken a beating, but overall it is tidier and cleaner than it has been in months. The City of Seattle should find housing for these campers, though, and force them to move, if they have to. The city’s parks and green spaces cannot be used for homeless encampments.
That’s the Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Campus on the left (medical center).
‘BE PREPARED TO STOP’ says the street sign: not something America is willing to do anymore, regarding the pandemic. Last night 38,000 baseball fans crowded into a stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the season-opener game there. Easter Weekend traveler numbers at many airports were up 3- or 4- or 5-fold from this time last year. Meanwhile, hospitals & clinics still report 65,000 new cases every day, and 700+ deaths.
I like the lightning bolt by the entrance at Sunset Electric Apartments, and the ‘Healthcare Worker The Superhero’ artwork (I made up the title).
On the left edge of the picture is the cement block barricade & fencing around the East Precinct police station. It is supposed to come down soon, but I suspect they are going to wait for a verdict in the George Floyd case. All hell is going to break loose (by way of street protests) here in Seattle again, if a ‘not guilty’ on all counts is found for the defendant Derek Chauvin.
Towards the street corner the windows  are still boarded up, but hopefully those will come down in the months to come, as well.
The Black Lives Matter paintwork on East Pine Street made it through the winter months and still looks decent.

Monday/ the Bulldogs lost

The Gonzaga Bulldogs lost in their bid to win the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball title, 70-86. Congrats to the Baylor Bears.

I could not watch the end of the game and went for a quick walk. This is 8.00 pm on 15th Ave & Mercer St (sunset is now at 7.45 pm). The Canterbury Ale House sports bar on my right is still closed, which is surprising. (Bars can be open, with restrictions). The Olympia Pizza House with its outside seating (behind me, not shown in the picture), was noisy and had a good attendance.

Sunday/ building a nest

Here’s a busy Mr Robin (or would that be Mrs Robin?), pausing for a moment on my garage roof this morning. There must be a nest under construction, nearby.

American robins (Turdus migratorius) are among the first birds in North America to begin laying eggs each spring. They normally have two or three sets of young (broods) in each breeding season.

Saturday/ March madness, in April

UCLA had come too far, defied too many odds in surviving March to reach April, to give in now, no matter the probabilities or the season-long perfection of its nemesis.
– Ben Bolch writing in the Los Angeles Times

Tonight, Gonzaga* played UCLA** in the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basket Ball tournament (known as ‘March Madness’).
Gonzaga had everything to lose, as it is aiming to become the first undefeated national champion in men’s basketball since Indiana in 1976.

UCLA went toe-to-toe with them, all through the game tonight, and was only a point behind at halftime, 44 to 45.
At the end of regular time, it was 81 to 81.

So now came overtime. As the clock wound down, the plays were down to the wire.
With less than a minute left, Andrew Nembhard scored a 3-pointer, putting Gonzaga up 90-85.
At 48 secs left, Jaime Jaquez Jr. knocked in a 3-pointer from the wing for UCLA. Gonzaga 90-88.
At 3.3 secs left, the Bruins (UCLA) had gotten the ball back, and Johnny Juzang followed his miss with a putback jumper. Tied 90-90.
At 0.8 secs left, Jalen Suggs stopped from 30-some feet away, took aim and shot at the hoop on the far side.
As the buzzer sounded, flashing **0:00**, the ball dropped through the net, for the win.

Gonzaga 93-90. Mayhem.
(Gonzaga to play Baylor for the NCAA title on Monday night).

At the buzzer. The ball hits the target, clears the hoop.

*The Gonzaga Bulldogs are an intercollegiate men’s basketball program representing Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA). The school competes in the West Coast Conference in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

**The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball program represents the University of California, Los Angeles in the sport of men’s basketball as a member of the Pac-12 Conference. Established in 1919, the program has won a record 11 NCAA titles.

Thursday/ magnolia blossoms

It was a treacherous day to scroll through Twitter, with all the April Fool’s Day tweets. Google introduced a ‘self-driving’ bicycle, King County Metro was launching an ‘Infinity Bus*’, the Tracks Suit from Sound Transit, and Prince Charles would soon announce that he would ‘pass’ on becoming King (deferring to Prince William instead).
*It offers arrivals and departures at all times, 24/7/365.

Alright .. enough of this, and time to go for a walk, I thought.

These white blossoms are from a Magnolia stellata, a Japanese species of magnolia. I found it by the entrance of the Thomas Street Gardens here on Capitol Hill.

Wednesday/ fair weather & a ferry

We got to 61 °F (16 °C) here in the city today.
Late afternoon I braved the rush-hour traffic on I-5, to get to West Seattle for a little doubles tennis.

It’s now optional to play with a mask — outside or indoors (at Amy Yee Tennis Center). I decided to keep mine on until I get vaccinated.
The governor announced today, that here in Washington State, from April 15th on, everyone 16 & older will qualify for the vaccine.

I had a little time on my hands before the tennis, and stopped at the Fauntleroy ferry terminal to check out the action there. Here is the 5.15 pm ferry (the Issaquah), just departing for Vashon Island.

Tuesday/ a pivotal moment for law enforcement in the United States

The State of Minnesota vs. Derek Michael Chauvin case, related to George Floyd’s death while in custody of Chauvin, started on Monday. It will go on for several weeks.

Ex-police officer Chauvin (he was fired) faces three very serious charges:
Second Degree Murder, Unintentional (up to 40 years in prison if found guilty),
Third Degree Murder (up to 25 years), and
-Second Degree Manslaughter (up to 10 years).

The city of Minneapolis has already settled a wrongful death civil suit with the family of George Floyd for US$27m, the largest such settlement in the state’s history.

Given that, is it still possible that Chauvin can be found ‘Not Guilty’ on all three counts? Well: even under very unfavorable circumstances, police officers have not been indicted, let alone convicted of murder, in the past (see the case of Breonna Taylor).

This could be the landmark case that changes that, though.

Here are the jurors (their names are not known), selected from a pool of some 400 people. As always, every juror must agree to a guilty verdict on a charge, to find the defendant guilty on that charge — a high bar. 

Monday/ spring cleaning on SR20 to start

The spring cleaning of the snow on State Route 20 in the North Cascades will start next week. So it’s still going to be a number of weeks before SR20 can be opened to the public.

Tweet from WSDOT East: ‘The great SR 20/North Cascades spring clearing begins April 5! Our crew will clear the highway of snow, then make any necessary repairs prior to reopening, which usually takes 4 to 6 weeks’. (My note: there is some 8 feet of snow on the road surface here!). 
[Picture from WSDOT East @WSDOT_East on Twitter]
Top: I found the GPS coordinates of the snowy picture at the summit of Washington pass, elev. 5, 477 ft. Then I looked up the summer version of the scene on Google Streetview.
Bottom: The yellow pin on the Google Earth picture marks the spot. Driving north, one would have just left a hairpin bend on State Route 20. The town of Winthrop WA would be about 30 miles back on SR20, to the southeast.

Monday morning/ it’s free

‘The effort to move the giant ship was assisted by forces more powerful than any machine rushed to the scene: the moon and the tides’
– the New York Times

Word came on Monday morning that the Ever Given has been freed.  It was towed to the Great Bitter Lake for a final inspection. The last thing authorities would want to happen, is for the ship to break down on the way to Port Said at the northern end of the Canal.

What a sight: the Ever Given in the middle of the Canal, getting towed to the Great Bitter Lake.
[Still from a video by Associated Press, posted on the online New York Times]

Sunday/ update: still stuck

“This is a very big ship. This is a very big problem.”
– Richard Meade, the editor in chief of Lloyd’s List, a maritime intelligence publication based in London.

So! that whale of a container ship is still stuck in the Canal.
The dozen or so tugboats and the dredgers have managed to move it by some 100ft, though.
The water level will raise by another 18 inches on Monday, and that might be all that is needed.

Here’s a depiction of what the Ever Given would look like from above, if it would ever make it to the Seattle Waterfront. (It’s hard to say what exact class of Washington State ferry is shown on the image, but let’s assume it’s a Jumbo class ferry such as the Walla Walla. The ferry would be of length 440′ & beam 87′. The Ever Given has a length of 1,312 ft and a beam of 193′. So if it’s 3x as long, 2x as wide, and 2x as high as the ferry, it’s a vessel that is 12 times larger than the ferry!) 
[Thanks to Garrett Dash Nelson @en_dash on Twitter for providing a tool to put the Ever Given anywhere on Earth]

Saturday/ spring blossoms

It was a lovely day (56 °F/ 13 °C), and I chased myself out of the house this afternoon, to go look at the tree blossoms & spring flowers outside.
Tomorrow will be stormy and rainy.

Top to bottom: cherry tree blossoms, wild primrose, asters, magnolia tree blossoms.  I hope I have it right! I’m not a flower expert.

Friday/ ‘a prisoner, released back into society’

Dottie from San Francisco, commenting on a New York Times article that mentions a few countries in Europe that Americans may be able to travel to, this summer:

‘After over a year of lockdown, I thought I’d be itching to travel but actually I feel the opposite. I’ve been working from home in practically solitary confinement, only broken up by daily walks in the park and weekly grocery trips, and it has made me anxious and stressed to be in crowds. I doubt I’d want to go anywhere after getting vaccinated.

Often I feel like a prisoner who’s been released back into society taking baby steps to do things that were once normal, routine. I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant in over a year. I can’t imagine getting on a plane and being surrounded by people. Let’s all hold off and wait until 2022, when most of the population at our destinations are vaccinated and we ourselves have acclimated back to normal daily living’.

My sentiments exactly, I’m afraid.

Here’s my December 2019 picture of the old Harajuku train station building, on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo. I went there to take a last look at it. It was the oldest wooden train station building in Tokyo, and was scheduled for demolition just a few months later.
Even with no pandemic, four of the 27 people in the picture are wearing masks.
Here’s the new Harajuku station building, all glass and steel, of course. It opened on March 21, 2020, amidst the chaos of a worldwide pandemic. When will I get to ride on the Yamanote Line again, and hop off at this station to check it out? Only time will tell.
Everyone is wearing a mask, except the dude in the middle with his Michael Kors tracksuit.
[Picture from Wikipedia]