I am at Ueno Station, on my way to Narita airport to catch the Cathay Pacific flight to Perth. I had planned to take the local subway (the Ginza line), to get here, only to find that my station of departure at the hotel, was closed until 5.40 am. (Then how come the train schedule showed its first train departs at 5.18 am? Oh well). So I just took a taxi here.
The Tokyo Skytree is the tallest freestanding broadcasting tower in the world. The lines for its public observation decks were short today, and so, up I went. The view of Mt Fuji in the distance, blanketed in snow, and floating above the clouds and the Tokyo skyline, was wonderful to see.
It was finally time for me to try one of the other express trains (besides the Narita Express that I had taken several times to and from the airport). I picked the Nozomi (のぞみ, meaning ‘wish’ or ‘hope’) Super Express – the fastest of the fast bullet trains – running on the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen lines.
The ride to Shin-Yokohama station towards the south of Tokyo Bay takes only 20 minutes. We started out in Tokyo, made a quick stop at Shinagawa station a few minutes later, and then the Super Express could express itself and pick up speed.
I went out to Shinjuku Station today to Tokyo’s skyscraper district, west of the station. I took a little break after lunch and went back early in the evening, to take a few pictures of the billboards and neon signs.
Man! There is a lot of people out and about on a Saturday night – what a surprise, right?
First on my agenda today, was to buy a train ticket to get me back to Narita airport in a few days. Since the first Narita Express will not get me there early enough, I have to take the Skyliner Express, which runs out of Ueno Station on the Keisei Line.
Then I ran out to the Yodobashi Camera store in Akiba. I love that place! LOL. Just beware: the store’s theme song will stay in your head, long after you had left. Its words are set to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and sung in an animated voice:
Marui midori no Yamanotesen (‘The round green Yamanote Line’)
Mannaka tooru no wa Chu-ousen (‘What goes through the middle of it is the Chuo Line’)
Shinjuku nishiguchi eki no mae (‘In front of the west exit of Shinjuku Station’)
Kamera wa Yodobashi ka me ra! (‘[For] cameras it’s Yodobashi Ca me ra!)’
Finally, I walked around the Ginza shopping district a bit, to watch the streetlights come on, and storefronts get lit up, as the sun was setting.
Whew – I made it into the Marriott Courtyard here at Tokyo Station. The flight on All Nippon Airlines was uneventful*, as was the express train ride into the city.
After that, I had to work a little to make my way to the hotel with all my luggage. The express train platform is five floors down from street level, deep under the sprawling Tokyo Station complex.
*I forgot to take my large camera out of my big bag as I checked it in. So I fretted that the camera might get damaged by the baggage handling process, or frozen while in the cargo hold .. but it seems to have survived just fine.
I made it to the airport. We will board in 30 mins or so.
It’s great to get to this point! Just to get packed up and the house taken care of before a long trip, leaves me frazzled. But now I can relax a little.
.. well, almost. I’m heading out to Tokyo in the morning, as part of my itinerary to get me to Perth, Australia, in a few days.
From The Washington Post today: ‘The Fact Checker’ has evaluated false statements President Trump has made repeatedly and analyzed how often he reiterates them. The claims included here – which we’re calling “Bottomless Pinocchios” – are limited to ones that he has repeated 20 times and were rated as Three or Four Pinocchios by the Fact Checker.
- The Trump tax cut was the biggest in history – Trump repeated some version of this claim 123 times
- Overstating the size of U.S. trade deficits – Trump repeated some version of this claim 117 times
- The U.S. economy has never been stronger – Trump repeated some version of this claim 99 times
- Inflating our NATO spending – Trump repeated some version of this claim 87 times
- The U.S. has started building the wall -Trump repeated some version of this claim 86 times
- The U.S. has the loosest immigration laws in the world — thanks to Democrats – Trump repeated some version of this claim 52 times
- Democrats colluded with Russia during the campaign – Trump repeated some version of this claim 42 times
- The border wall will stop drug trafficking – Trump repeated some version of this claim 40 times
- U.S. Steel is building many new plants – Trump repeated some version of this claim 37 times
- The U.S. has spent $6 trillion (or more) on Middle East wars – Trump repeated some version of this claim 36 times
- Thousands of MS-13 members have been removed from the country – Trump repeated some version of this claim 33 times
- McCain’s vote was the only thing that blocked repeal of the Affordable Care Act – Trump repeated some version of this claim 30 times
- Robert S. Mueller III is biased because of conflicts of interest – Trump repeated some version of this claim 30 times
- Inflating gains from a 2017 trip to Saudi Arabia – Trump repeated some version of this claim 23 times
The rain is back after a dry week, and we did not see the sun all day.
It’s not all bad, though: the cloud cover and rain keep the day temperatures well above freezing. Today it was 46°F (8°C) here in the city.
A someone on Twitter says, this summary of Trump & his presidency heading into 2019, from the Washington Post (by Robert Costa and Philip Rucker), reads like a Star Wars opening crawl:
‘Facing the dawn of his third year in office and his bid for reelection, Trump is stepping into a political hailstorm. Democrats are preparing to seize control of the House in January with subpoena power to investigate corruption. Global markets are reeling from his trade war. The United States is isolated from its traditional partners. The investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference is intensifying. And court filings Friday in a separate federal case implicated Trump in a felony’.
I think I have my new phone set up, finally. I store a lot of stuff on the phone, not in the cloud. (I might be in the cloud/s, or on another continent, wanting to get to my data). So I transferred some 12 Gb of music from iTunes on my desktop computer, a selection of favorite photo folders (animals and friends & family photos), and updated my offline Google maps.
I also fired up all my commonly used apps one by one. For some, I had to enter my username again, and dig up the password (from my Excel cheat sheet), but now I think I have most of the passwords saved on the iCloud keychain.
The Face ID facial recognition system on the phone is impressive, but one has to wonder if it is as secure as Touch ID (fingerprint). My other big gripe with Apple is the removal of the headphone jack, something that really made me hesitate to get the new phone. (There is a headphone jack connector available .. but in time I might spring for a new pair of bluetooth noise-canceling Bose headphones. I just refuse to wear Apple’s wireless Airpods, point blank. I think they look silly, uber-geeky, cheeky. And I will be sure to lose them in no time at all).
I ran out to the Apple store today to upgrade my iPhone 6s camera to an iPhone Xs camera. (It’s a little joke. Of course the iPhone Xs functions as a phone as well! .. and has a bigger, brighter screen; more powerful processor; and more storage).
Here are some first pictures that I took in Volunteer Park here in Seattle. (Note: The last two pictures will take longer than usual to load over slow connections. I did not reduce their pixel count).
The Seattle Mariners baseball field – south of downtown – is set up as a Christmas light maze (the Seattle ‘Enchant’ Christmas market and festival). So that’s where we went after beers & dinner tonight. There were forests of light trees, a scavenger hunt for Santa’s reindeer in the maze, and a little ice rink as well.
Man! I was spending way too much time scrolling through my Twitter feed today. Trump’s ‘I’m a tariff man’ tweet inflicted heavy losses on the stock market. And it’s official: Seattle is getting a new NHL (National Hockey League) franchise team.
But the tweet of the day for me, was of this cute echidna puggle, born in Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. They are very unusual mammals: the young hatch out of a leathery egg in their mother’s pouch, and stay there for 45 to 55 days.
I have finished reading Neil deGrasse Tyson’s quick-read book called Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. In the front is a quotation from Tyson, that I love: ‘The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you’.
Humans have certainly made strides to understand the mysteries of the universe, but we need another Newton, another Einstein, to help us out with understanding what we now call dark matter and dark energy.
Towards the end of the book, Tyson also offers: The cosmic perspective opens our eyes to the universe, not as a benevolent cradle designed to nurture life, but as a cold, lonely, hazardous place, forcing us to reassess the value of all humans to one another’.
We went down to the sales office for an elegant new condominium tower called First Light today, just to see what’s going on there.
The development will be done by Westbank, a Vancouver, B.C.-based firm.
It is still early days, though: the tower’s completion is only scheduled for some time in 2022.
‘President Trump’ was again featured in this Saturday’s SNL cold open, portraying him and other world leaders at the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires. Hmm. Is this really funny? I thought. In this case, Putin and Mohammed Bin Salman are – by all credible accounts in the real world – savages, directly responsible for murdering their political enemies. They should be persona non grata at the G20 (and maybe they are). So is it cool to ‘celebrate’ and poke fun at them?
I guess I’m too serious. This is simply an offer to the audience to escape the horrors of the real universe, and jump into a parallel one of parody, for a little while. Another problem could be that I only have one beer on a Saturday night, and not three or four, as I’m sure most in the studio audience must have had!
Report from the Alaska Earthquake Center:
‘A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just seven miles north of Anchorage at 8:29 am on Friday morning, at a depth of about 27 mi (40 km). The earthquake caused power outages, damage to roads and buildings, and closures of schools, businesses and government offices. The extent of the damage is not yet clear, and we are still waiting for word on whether there were any casualties.
This is the largest earthquake to strike near Anchorage since the 2016 M7.1 Iniskin earthquake. Because this morning’s quake was so much closer, the impacts to Anchorage and Mat-Su are far more severe and widespread’.
The USGS aftershock forecast is as follows:
- Low (4%) probability of another earthquake equal or greater than magnitude 7.0;
- 27% chance of a magnitude 6+ aftershock, and it is most likely that 0-3 of these will occur;
- 78% chance of magnitude 5 or greater aftershocks, but likely no more than around 20 of these;
- Up to 2,200 aftershocks greater than magnitude 3 are possible.
Trump had lied for years about his dealings with the Russians, after his visit there in 2013 at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. (Repeatedly saying ‘No business with the Russians’, ‘I have no connections to the Russians’).
Today, Michael Cohen (ex-Trump Right Hand Man & Fixer) pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s connections to Russia. Cohen had in fact been negotiating with the Russians about the Trump Moscow Tower hotel all the way through June 2016. Trump was already the Republican nominee for President at that time.
Also, from Buzzfeed News: President Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at the proposed Trump Tower Moscow to Vladimir Putin, as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign.
The point is that beside these shady business dealings (sanctioned Russian state bank VTB Bank was to finance Trump Tower), we also know the Russians had hacked the Clinton campaign’s e-mails, and that the Trump campaign & Don Jr met with them to discuss it in June 2016. The Russians exploited Facebook to interfere mightily with the 2016 presidential election. How extensive was Trump’s involvement and knowledge of all this?