Thursday/ far-right a force in Dutch elections

The Dutch provincial elections of Wednesday yielded unexpected, strong results for Thierry Baudet’s far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) party.
The Green Left party did very well too, though, but their support is strongest in the urban areas and among highly educated voters. (A familiar theme in western liberal democracies, not?).

Front page of the NRC Handelsblad newspaper of Thursday. ‘Monster victory for Baudet. In a fractured political landscape, his Forum for Democracy (FvD) party with 12 seats in the House of Representatives is now a force to be reckoned with’. Top Right: Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD-People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, in blue, also have 12 seats. He will have to form a new governing coalition and look to the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA, light green, 6 seats), GreenLeft (GL, purple, 9 seats), and Democrats 66 (D66, green, 6 seats).

Wednesday/ the super worm equinox moon

Spring has arrived here in the North.
We experienced freakishly warm spring temperatures here in the city yesterday and today: 79 °F (26 °C).

A supermoon tonight coincided with the start of spring, the third and final supermoon for the year. (A supermoon is called a perigean full moon by astronomers. It occurs when a full moon reaches its closest point to the Earth in its elliptical orbit, making it appear unusually bright and large).

The ‘worm’ in the moon’s description refers to little creatures like worms that resume squirming out of the ground, along with the leaves and flowers that start budding in spring.

Here’s the early evening’s full moon from my upstairs window tonight.  The full moon occurred only 4 hours after the spring equinox, the shortest time between the two events since March 1981.
Gorgeous picture of the supermoon, as seen from the International Space Station [Source: @NASA on Twitter]

Tuesday/ how will Trump’s presidency end?

There is increasing chatter on cable news here in the US, and among watchers of the Mueller Investigation, that the investigation is wrapping up and that its report is imminent. Several high-profile Mueller team members have departed from the investigation. Trump’s weekend tweet storms seem to become increasingly unhinged.

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has taken a Trump impeachment (with what we know now), off the table. She’s right that it’s no use that the House vote to impeach him, only for impeachment to die in the Senate (2/3 majority needed).

Senate Republicans used to stand for decency, for law and order, and for upholding the Constitution. Now they are all Trumpsters, and they belong to the Trump Party.

I made a pie chart of the results of an informal 100-person poll, conducted by New York magazine on the streets of New York.  (So some 2/3 of those polled, think Trump will lose or not even make it to 2020 to run again. Well. Count me among the 9 that said ‘I have no idea’).

Monday/ books galore

I went out to the annual book sale of the Seattle Public Library on Saturday. Part of the attraction for me to the sale, is just the browsing through all the books – not so much the cheap prices.

There was a long line to get in to the cavernous hall at Seattle Center, and all the while people were leaving with armsful and roller bags full of books. Will there be any left? wondered those of us in line. But once we got in, there were still plenty to choose from.

I (think) I have somewhat unusual preferences when it comes to books: foreign languages, dictionaries, technical/ math books, and children’s books with nice pictures in. Here is what I ended up taking away, all for just $12. (And yes, now I will have to go visit Ireland and Estonia).
‘The Buck Book’ did not make the final cut of books that I bought .. but it shows some very unusual origami projects for a dollar bill. This one is for folding one into an elephant!
Nor did the Goldilocks and the Three Bears children’s book make the final cut .. and now I kind of regret that I did not take the book. Baby bear, Papa bear and Mama bear are all very cutely drawn.

St Patrick’s Day

Sunday was St Patrick’s Day, all over the Western world.
From Wikipedia: Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”), is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland.

I took this picture on St Patrick’s day in Chicago in 2005. The tradition of dyeing the Chicago river green with vegetable dye started in 1962.

Saturday/ pink ice cream truck

A cotton-candy colored hoodie from the RIPNDIP Spring ’19 collection.


We spotted this ‘RIPNDIP’ ice cream truck on Madison Ave & 14th on Saturday night.

The truck was next to a pop-up store space (in the black building next to it), used for selling clothing merchandise.

The RIPNDIP brand is originally from Los Angeles, where their flagship store is.


Friday/ breaking down the Viaduct

I made it down to Belltown and Pike Place Market on Thursday to check out some of the Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition, from up close.
It’s going to be another 6 months before all the demolition work is done.

Here’s what it looked like in Jul 2018, standing at 55 Bell St and looking south. The north end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct runs overhead. Keep the rounded curb and manhole cover on the left in mind as a reference.  [Picture: Google Street View].
Fast forward to Mar 2019/ today: all gone! It’s hard to believe the picture is taken from the same spot, but that’s the same manhole cover on the far left. I’m standing behind a fence and lifted up my phone to get a clear picture. Restoration and filling efforts are underway.
Here’s a look from Pike Place Market, looking south. Another section of the old southbound Viaduct is now gone. What a different picture this is going to be in 6 months’ time!

Thursday 3.14 (159265359 ..)

It’s Thursday March 14 !
Happy Pi Day!

From Wikipedia: The number π (/paɪ/) is a mathematical constant.
Originally defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, it now has various equivalent definitions and appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics. It is approximately equal to 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, though it is also sometimes spelled out as “pi”. It is also called Archimedes’ constant.

Check it out: PIE is 3.14 in the mirror (is that another universe?) .. yes, I cheated a little with the period in there and all, but it’s still fun to do.

Wednesday/ getting warmer

We finally have some warmer weather on the way, and the weatherman says we should get to 65°F /18°C by Monday.

These little snow crocuses (Crocus chrysanthus) are seen around my neighborhood this time of year. Only 3 to 6 inches tall, they can pop up even when there is still snow on the ground, and are native to the Balkans and Turkey.

Tuesday/ squirrel on the line

Squirrels can wreak havoc on power lines, and frequently do so. A squirrel was responsible for an outage on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York in 1987, in 1994 and again in 2014. [Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson, from a 2013 article in the New York Times].
I was sitting at my desk this morning, when I heard a very loud pop outside my house – BOOF!!
Wow, I thought – maybe a pole-mounted transformer had exploded.
But no, my neighbor just saw a big flash on the power line, and we found a dead squirrel on the ground right there, with its fur scorched.

Squirrels that scamper onto utility poles and power lines, sometimes touch an energized component (the transformer) and a grounded piece of equipment simultaneously, thereby completing the circuit. This does not end well for the poor squirrel – but the short-circuit does not necessarily cause an outage. As soon as the dead squirrel drops to the ground, the interference is eliminated, and the regular flow of electricity should resume.

Monday/ on Boeing 737 Max 8 watch

A second Boeing 737 Max 8 was involved in an Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday by Addis Ababa, killing all 157 on board. And the causes of the Oct 2018 Indonesian crash are still under investigation .. but that tragedy revealed that Boeing and the FAA had not felt it necessary to tell pilots about updates to the 737 Max 8’s flight control system.

So I wondered today, what I would have done, if I had a flight scheduled on a Boeing 737 Max 8.  I would probably have tried not to think about it too much, and fly anyway. I did the same shortly after 9/11, since I needed to fly for work. And is that not what we do every time we fly, anyway?

Tue 3/12: On Tuesday, news came that the European Union’s aviation regulator had grounded all MAXes in the EU, and prohibited them from even entering the airspace of 28 nations. This airspace stretches from the Azores Islands in the Atlantic, to the Russian border. At this point I would definitely have changed my travel plans, if I were to board a Boeing 737 Max 8.

Wed 3/13: Even Canada grounded its Max 8 planes. The FAA finally issued an emergency order that grounded all Boeing 737 Max 8’s, worldwide. Who knows what exactly, transpired behind the scenes, yesterday & today between the Boeing CEO, Trump, and the acting FAA administrator. They don’t inspire confidence.

Graphic from the New York Times. Max 8 planes flew more than 8,500 flights worldwide in the week beginning Feb. 25, according to Flightradar24, a flight tracking service.  In the USA, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have the most Max 8 airplanes. They have not grounded any of their Max 8’s, but many airlines around the world have.

Sunday/ the Nexus tower tops out

I walked by the Nexus condominium tower today, to check on its progress from November.
The tower’s construction is about to be officially topped off,  with occupancy expected by late 2019.  Some 28 (of the 389) units are still available.

The Nexus condominium tower at 1200 Howell St now has its four stacked ‘cubes’ with their 8° offsets in place. The building has 41 storeys.
The view from the north side. The building’s appearance seems more mundane than the gleaming depictions of it on the Nexus website! .. but maybe I should reserve judgement until its construction has been completed.

Saturday/ shocking, but true: Earth is round

We watched ‘Behind the Curve’ tonight: a Netflix documentary about Flat Earthers. For these people, no ‘conspiracy’ is too big to discount. They say that NASA lies and has conspired for decades to portray Earth as round. They find each other on Facebook groups and Youtube videos, and at conferences, prominent Flat Earthers are treated as celebrities that advocate for ‘the truth’. (The conferences are more about commiserating with each other for being outcasts, than they are about explaining the logical basis for saying that Earth is flat).

One of the main protagonists in the movie is from Whidbey Island, a stone’s throw from Seattle. (Dude. We don’t know you, but stop embarrassing us!). The documentary makes the case that Flat Earthers should not be dismissed & shamed outright, since that will entrench their kooky views even further, and completely marginalize them. The problem is that one cannot use reason to argue with a cultist.

This conspiracy theory mindset bleeds into all kinds of other areas. We have people in the United States that believe that 9/11 and Sandy Hook were perpetrated by the US government, and that mass shootings are staged with ‘crisis actors’. People don’t vaccinate their children. We had a recent case here in Oregon with an unvaccinated boy that almost died from tetanus. It took 57 days in hospital and $800,000 to treat him.  His parents took him home and still refused to get him vaccinated.

Friday/ shepherd’s pie with green lentils

I read everywhere that we all need to eat more lentils and beans.
So when I saw this recipe (New York Times account needed for link) for a vegetarian shepherd’s pie made with French green lentils, I went for it.
It was a bit of work, but my efforts paid off nicely in the end!

I made sure I had all the ingredients laid out first. When the action starts, the item needs to be available right away! There’s tomato paste, whole milk, French green lentils, peas, sour cream, sliced mushrooms, sliced leek, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, flour, carrot, lemon juice, butter, parmesan cheese, fresh thyme, minced garlic and russet potatoes.
A closer look at the French green lentils*. These were cheap ($2.49/ lb) and I’m sure they were grown in the USA.
*Per Wikipedia: The term ‘Le Puy green lentil’ (say ‘le pwee’) is protected throughout the European Union (EU) under that governing body’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), and in France as an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). In the EU, the term may only be used to designate lentils that come from the prefecture of Le Puy (most notably in the commune of Le Puy-en-Velay) in the Auvergne region of France. These lentils have been grown in the region for over 2,000 years and it is said that they have gastronomic qualities that come from the terroir (in this case attributed to the area’s volcanic soil). They are praised for their unique peppery flavor and the ability to retain their shape after cooking.
Here’s the filling of the ‘pie’ in its final stage. After this, it all went into a Corningware casserole dish, with a layer of the mashed potato on top, and then into the oven for 30 minutes for baking.
The finished product after two hours. Yay! The shepherd’s pie is ‘comfort food’ with a nice texture and is very tasty.

Thursday/ Mandela banknotes

Here is my set of 2018 South African banknotes that I had assembled during my recent visit there. The notes are not new, but they are good enough for my international banknote album.

This is the 7th series of banknotes of the South African Rand, issued on July 18, 2018. They commemorate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Nice African motifs are in the background. Also, by the holographic security strip, each note has small figures of one of South Africa’s big five animals: rhino, elephant, lion, Cape buffalo and leopard.
The back of the notes show a young ‘Madiba’ (his clan name) and key moments in his life: R10 Mandela and his birthplace of Mvezo | R20 Mandela and his home in Soweto | R50 Mandela and the site of his capture near Howick | R100 Mandela and his place of imprisonment at Robben Island | R200 Mandela and his statue at the Union Buildings


Tuesday/ Rainier Square Tower rising .. sans Amazon

Here is what the Rainier Square Tower in downtown Seattle looks like now. (See this post from November).

Amazon was to lease all 722,000 square feet (30 floors) in the new building, but announced last week that it would not do so anymore.  It will look to sub-lease the space to other companies instead.  This announcement came 10 months after Amazon had threatened to pull out of the building if the city were to impose a new business tax (which the city then backed away from).

Looking north, from Fifth Avenue. The shape of the base floors of the new Rainier Square Tower, shows behind the white pedestal of the 1977 Rainier Tower.
Here’s the view from Fifth Ave, looking south. The Rainier Tower (41 floors) and the new Rainier Square Tower (58 floors) are right next to each other. The profile of the tall new tower will keep it from obscuring the older tower.

Monday/ blue skies .. and cold

We had completely blue skies here in Seattle on Sunday and Monday. A superdry air mass is just sitting over the area.
With no cloud blanket, it gets really cold at night. A record low of 16° F (−9°C) for Mar 4 was measured in Olympia this morning.

We had LOTS of snow on the ground in the city in February, but the snowpacks in the mountains are actually still lagging below their normal levels (100% would be where it usually is this time of year). [Graphic: Morgan Palmer and KIRO7 news].

Saturday/ a happy hippopotamus

Check out the hippopotamus that I had bought at the craft market in the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
It is only one animal in a whole catalogue of beautiful ceramic artwork, offered by Porcupine based in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.

Hippopotamuses are among Africa’s most dangerous large animals. Males defend their turfs on river banks, and females with young ones can be very aggressive as well.

Friday night/ home

It was a long day of traveling, but I made it home. I took the Sprinter train from Rotterdam Centraal station to Schiphol airport (24 mins), an Icelandair Boeing 757 from Schiphol to Keflavik (3 hrs), and another Icelandair Boeing 757 from Keflavik to Seattle airport (7 hrs). Oh, and then the Seattle Light Rail & No 10 bus to get home!

Boarding the airplane named the Dyngjufjöll, the Icelandair Boeing 757 that took off from Keflavik airport for Seattle.
Here’s a depiction of Dyngjufjöll by the aircraft door. The Askja caldera is a large volcanic crater, a popular tourist destination in Iceland.