Wednesday/ tennis in Astana 🎾

This week’s ATP 500 tennis tournament is hosted by the city called Astana. And where in the world is Astana, would you say? It’s in Kazakhstan 🇰🇿, and called ‘the world’s weirdest capital city’ by CNN in a 2012 story.

Tennis only became a significant sport in Kazakhstan due to the crusade and a labor of love by billionaire Bulat Utemuratov, in a campaign that had started 15 years ago in 2007.

Matthew Futterman writes in the New York Times:
Using almost entirely Utemuratov’s money, the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation went on a building spree, investing roughly $200 million — nearly a tenth of his estimated fortune — to construct 38 tennis centers in all 17 regions of the country. It trained hundreds of coaches and instructors and imported some from Europe. It subsidized lessons for young children and adolescents who can train six days a week for $40-$120 per month. The best juniors receive as much as $50,000 to pay for training and travel.

Inside the Beeline Arena, the home of Kazakhstan National Tennis Center in the heart of the capital Astana. The lime green part of the court is a little unusual —maybe by design? Here is David Goffin (Belgium, 31) serving against the newly minted World No 1, Carlos Alcaraz (Spain, 19) in a first round-match yesterday. Alcaraz lost 3-6, 5-7 — a disappointment for me, and certainly for the tournament organizers. Ticket sales have reportedly been brisk, though.
[Still from Tennis TV streaming service]
A bird’s eye-view of Astana. CNN says ‘little surrounds the city for 1,200 kilometers, save a handful of provincial towns dotted across the world’s largest steppe, a flat, empty expanse of grassland. Shooting up from this void is a mass of strangely futuristic structures’.
[Picture: Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press]
The Presidential Palace in the foreground was designed to resemble the White House in Washington D.C. (I’d say it’s a passing resemblance, at best). The translucent tent-like structure in the distance is the Norman Foster-designed Khan Shatyra shopping mall, and said to be the world’s largest tent (but it is really a tent?).
[Picture Credit: AFP/ Getty Images]

Monday/ flu season is here 🌡

I got my flu shot today, and checked the CDC website for numbers for the last few years.
These are graphs I pulled together from the CDC website, just for myself.
Bottom line, and just speaking rough numbers: flu can make 40 million people in the USA sick in a bad season— 1 out of 10 in the population!— and result in 40,000 deaths.

Sunday/ a little sunflower 🌻

It was a hazy, sunny Sunday (81°F / 27 °C), warm for this late in the year.
Our 10-day forecast still does not show any rain.

Sometimes called the ‘little sunflower’, genus Helianthella, catches the last rays of the day at the T.T. Minor Playground off Union Street today. Helianthella is a genus of North American plants in the family Asteraceae.

Saturday/ the ‘deep river’ 🌫

Here’s my house’s front door (that used to be brown) with its new paint— a color called ‘Deep River’.
‘Reminiscent of vast jungle rivers, this saturated gray has a hint of green in its undertone’, says the Benjamin Moore brochure.

Colors are complicated. The green undertone of the door’s paint stands out strikingly in the direct sunlight. In the shadows, the eye sees more gray than green. In the dim winter light in a month or two, it might look like a dark gray, almost black.

Friday/ wash those wheels 💦🚗

One of crew of two painters fell ill yesterday, and so I was down to a crew of one today. My car needed a wash badly, and I was off to the car wash after the painter had left for the day.

Uncle Ike’s Car Wash on 23rd Avenue. I’m drying my car after washing & rinsing it in the bay behind it. Just after I had taken this picture, a red Tesla Model 3—and then a gray one—rolled in as well. I gave the owner of one a smile and a thumbs-up as I left (meaning ‘I like your car’).

Thursday/ a new coat, just in time for winter 🧥

My house is getting a new coat of paint.
Luckily we still have stretches of warm and sunny days this year in the early days of autumn.
The painters tell me they paint outside until Oct. 15 every year, weather permitting, and then they call it quits and paint inside only.

The painting has not started in earnest yet. Preparing for the painting work actually takes longer than the painting itself. The bad parts of the siding had been scraped last week, and the whole outside of the house was pressure-washed. Then more scraping and filler for any cracks, and a primer (the white on the green) is put on.
The new coat is a slightly different green than the old green (in the picture), and the brown doors and wood window frames will become a dark gray with a green undertone. So the house will look different than before, but not radically so.
Since my mailbox was inaccessible today, I had to improvise :). I needed the mailman to pick up two pieces of outgoing mail, but he did not come by today. There’s always tomorrow. Not too many days go by without some junk mail arriving and getting stuffed into one’s mailbox!

Wednesday/ the storm: an update 🌪

From the New York Times:
Millions of Florida residents faced a harrowing night as wind, rain and storm surge from Hurricane Ian pounded the southwestern coast and moved inland late Wednesday on a path toward Orlando, knocking out power to more than two million customers statewide.
The latest:
Mtsensk A storm surge of up to 12 feet submerged cars, knocked over houses and trapped residents near where the hurricane came ashore west of Fort Myers. Some places remained too dangerous for water rescues, officials said, adding that they were taking down addresses to deploy resources once it was safe.
Ian is among the most powerful storms to strike the United States in decades, and Gov. Ron DeSantis said it would go down as one of the strongest in Florida history. It was just shy of Category 5 status as it made landfall about 3 p.m., but had been downgraded to a Category 1 by Wednesday night.

The storm called Hurricane Ian approached the Florida Gulf Coast with maximum sustained winds of almost 155 miles per hour, and made landfall at Cayo Costa with Category 4 strength.

Here’s 1528 Broadway Circle in Fort Myers, Florida, captured on a sunny day in 2019
[Google Streetview, 2019]
The same place, in the hours after Ian came ashore. During this time, a weather station near Fort Myers, Fla., recorded a water level seven feet higher than the average height of the highest daily tides, according to the National Hurricane Center.
[Photo: Marco Bello/ Reuters]

Tuesday/ the energy crisis in Europe

It certainly looks like the pair of explosions on Monday that damaged the gas pipelines from Russia called Nord Stream 1 & 2 were acts of sabotage.

These tweets are from @FortuneMagazine on Twitter.

An energy crisis the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades is unfolding around the world.

1) Europe’s long-standing gambit on cheap Russian gas could backfire into one of the worst energy crises on the continent since the 1970s.

2) Before the war in Ukraine, EU nations relied on Russia for 40% of their natural gas—the second most common energy source in Europe behind petroleum oil.
Now, the limited supplies have more than doubled the price of natural gas and tripled electricity bills.

3) The situation is so dire that governments that previously renounced fossil fuels and nuclear power are desperately reopening coal plants and nuclear sites, and nationalizing utility companies to save them from going bankrupt.

4) But as bad as it is now, these might still be the good days for Europe.
With winter and higher gas demand on the way, even the slightest uptick in energy demand anywhere in the world could entirely shut down some manufacturing sectors.

5) Expanding natural gas infrastructure is expensive, demands years of investment, and the results likely won’t kick in until the summer of next year,
That’s why many countries focus mainly on saving energy to increase reserves for winter.

6) European governments have already implemented some energy measures:

💡turning of traffic lights at night
💡dimming lighting on historic buildings

During the winter, consumer use might also have to be restricted.

7) So far, most European factories have reduced their capacity.
But the worst-case scenario would be a shutdown of European manufacturing industries most reliant on natural gas—including glassmakers and steel companies.

8) Cutting back on industrial capacity could lead to lower economic activity, higher unemployment rate, and even recession.

9) If rising bills combine with a wave of unemployment and economic downturn, the crisis could spill out onto the streets (which has already begun in some countries like Germany and the Czech Republic).

10) “EU and members will work in solidarity, supporting each other  .. or there is another scenario: everybody is for himself,” said
Fatih Birol, head of the watchdog International Energy Agency.

Monday/ here comes Hurricane Ian 🌪

There’s trouble brewing in the Gulf of Mexico: a monster storm system that’s 500 miles wide and at this point just about certain to make landfall in Florida. The trouble with the  large natural harbor and shallow estuary that is called Tampa Bay, is that water being pushed into it, has nowhere to go. So the storm surge level could reach up to 10 feet in some places.

Hurricane Ian was over Western Cuba on Monday night and gaining strength. It is a Cat. 2 hurricane right now (max. sustained winds of 105 mph). It might strengthen into a Cat. 4 and make landfall directly over Tampa Bay.
Pinellas County in the Tampa area is under an evacuation order for mobile homes and Zone A (the red areas) as of Monday night.
[Map from Pinellas County Emergency Management at]

Sunday/ at the bookstore 📖


a distinctive feature or dominant idea in an artistic or literary composition.
“The great search for a little happiness, is this novel’s delicate motif”

It was a beautiful day outside, and I walked down to the Capitol Hill light rail station for a run up to the bookstores in U District.

This book has a beautiful cover, but I ended up not buying it. I took a look inside; thought I might attempt to read it (it’s German). The text seemed intimidating, though, printed in a small and dense font. I learned at home that it’s a 1965 print, and that Hans Fallada is the pseudonym of German writer Rudolf Ditzen (1893-1947)— derived from characters in Grimm’s Fairy tales.
A translation of the flap text: ” .. the great search for a little happiness, a delicate Fallada motif, which is also echoed in this novel, and lures its hero, the adventurous young master von Strammin, on a journey into the unknown”.

Saturday/ views from Myrtle Edwards Park 🌅

These views are from the Myrtle Edwards Park and the trail that runs along Puget Sound’s Elliott Bay.

The Space Needle is still wearing its orange coat (to celebrate its 60th birthday this year).
Through my telephoto lens I could see a lot of visitors at the top, enjoying clear views of Elliott Bay, Mt Ranier and the city.
The globe and eagle on the building of the former Seattle Post-Intelligencer print newspaper (now online), is still there. ‘It’s in the P-I’ says the lettering.
Yes, the mountain is out (Mt Rainier). I am looking south towards the container terminals on the Port of Seattle’s Harbor Island.
The public artwork called Adjacent, Against, Upon (1976) by Michael Heizer. Look for the three sets of granite slabs from right to left: two slabs adjacent, one slab against another, one slab upon another.
Looking south after reaching the Terminal 86 grain facility with its elevator. This little pier in the foreground with its sheltered posts is closed to the public.
The phalanx of grain silos across from the grain elevator. ‘The Terminal 86 Grain Facility Is Hideous. It Must Be Painted’ wrote Gregory Scruggs in The Stranger newspaper in 2019.
It is just about 7.00 pm, as the sun sets behind the Olympic mountains, due west (it only does this twice a year, at the spring and fall equinoxes). The sun will set a little further to the south every day until the winter solstice in December. Right now the daylight hours are just about equal to the night time’s (12 hours), and shrinking.
Second Avenue & Pike Avenue. Look for Smith Tower with its pyramid top in the distance. My car’s console map is saying to head down Second Ave and turn left on Sout Jackson (to use my $10 coupon at Amazon Fresh to pick up a prepared dinner). After this red light turned green, I had green lights all the way down to South Jackson. Sweet.

Friday/ Roger Federer retires

I watched all of the Laver Cup* doubles match today, Roger Federer’s last official match on the ATP tour.
Age catches up with all of us, and Federer turned 41 in August.
He will still be around to play in exhibition matches and to be an ambassador for the sport that he had graced for so long.

*Somewhat similar to golf’s Ryder Cup: Team Europe plays against Team World (which includes the USA). This is the 5th Laver Cup. Team Europe has won all four of the previous ties.

A tearful Federer waves at the crowd inside London’s O2 arena. He and Rafael Nadel had just lost their match against Americans Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock— but in the end that was not what mattered today.
[Photo: James Hill for The New York Times]

Thursday/ a very dry summer ☀️

So that’s it: astronomical summer here in the North is over.
It turned out to be the driest one ever recorded at the Sea-Tac rain gauge.
Only 0.5 in. of rain fell for all of summer (usually more than 3 inches).
Rainfall is still well above normal for the calendar year, though.

Ah yes .. chilling on the fence, and catching a little of the dwindling afternoon sun.
There was a lot of activity around my house earlier in the day: it was pressure-washed all around, to prepare it for a new coat of paint next week.

Wednesday/ interest rates: shooting up ⬆️

Fed officials voted unanimously to lift their benchmark federal-funds rate to a range between 3% and 3.25%, a level last seen in early 2008. Nearly all of them expect to raise rates to between 4% and 4.5% by the end of this year, according to new projections released Wednesday, which would call for sizable rate increases at policy meetings in November and December.
– The Wall Street Journal

Inflation sits at 8%, out of sight on this graph. So that interest rate number of 3.00-3.25 (the little circle) still needs to go up, and go up rapidly. Eventually, after all the crises in the world have subsided enough, we want a real interest rate of oh, 2%, 3% (nominal interest rate minus inflation). How in earth will we ever get there? (Brutal answer: By the Fed raising rates until they have killed the strong demand for goods and services and probably by putting people out of work in the process).

Monday/ O’zapft is! 🍻

‘O’ for Oktoberfest. The new Oktoberfest motif has a traditional Bavarian look.


Hey! Oktoberfest is back.
The festivities kick off officially on the second to last Saturday in September at noon when the mayor of Munich taps the first barrel at the Schottenhamel Tent, crying O’zapft is!*

*Bavarian dialect for “Es ist angezapft” – literally meaning ‘It has been tapped’.

Mayor Dirk Reiter needed three strikes with the mallet to open the barrel on Saturday, which is considered ‘normal’.
In 1950, then-mayor Thomas Wimmer needed 19 strikes, ‘a sad record to this day’, reports Stern magazine. 
Picture by Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images]

Saturday/ the bridge is open

Yay! The West Seattle bridge is open.

From the Seattle Times:
SDOT closed the span March 23, 2020 because cracks discovered seven years earlier were beginning to accelerate at a dangerous pace, in four areas within the 150-foot-high central main span.
Stabilization and strengthening work, at a cost of up to $78 million, is expected to keep the concrete structure aloft until about 2060. And drivers will no longer need to make a six-mile detour that sometimes lasted 30 to 60 minutes, through the Duwamish River valley highways or streets.

Workers put final touches on the West Seattle Bridge on Tuesday, in preparation for the opening late Saturday.
[Picture by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times]

Friday/ a king-sized rebranding is underway

The Wall Street Journal reports that the wheels have been set in motion in the United Kingdom for a vast effort to (eventually) replace the 29 billion coins and 4.7 billion bank notes in circulation that are carrying the likeness of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The same will be true for stamps. The current definitive series first class mail stamps for the Royal Mail in the United Kingdom all feature the queen.
The Royal Mail has been around forever— well, almost. It was founded 506 years ago in 1516.
Stamps are a more recent invention: the first ones were printed in 1840.

A young Queen Elizabeth II features on the definitive stamps used in the United Kingdom. By 31 January 2023, all definitive stamps will require the barcode strip that it was sold with as well, to be valid. It’s an anti-counterfeiting measure, and the barcode will connect a piece of mail with features on the Royal Mail app (such as indicating to the sender if the mail had been delivered).
[Image from]
A little history: here is the famous Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued in the United Kingdom on May 1, 1840, and featured Queen Victoria. The letters in the bottom corners indicate the stamp’s row and column in a printed sheet of stamps. The sheets had 20 rows of 12 columns. One full sheet cost 240 pence (one pound); one row of 12 stamps cost a shilling.