Thursday/ another day of the Trump trial

I have not been watching the Trump impeachment trial that has been on TV since Tuesday. I have heard it all before: Trump and his co-conspirators used taxpayer money to the tune of $400 million, to pressure the Ukraine president to smear Joe Biden, so that Trump can win in November.

So Trump — now impeached — really should to be found guilty of the two articles of impeachment, and be removed from office. So say 51% of Americans. That is not going to happen, though.  The Constitution requires that two-thirds of all Senators (67 of 100), find Trump guilty and convict him on at least one article of impeachment.  The U.S. Senate has 53 Republicans.

The best one can hope for is that the Republicans pay a price for voting to keep Trump in office, in November 2020, and long after that.

Wednesday/ gangsters in downtown Seattle

A gangster-style shooting altercation in downtown Seattle, just at the close of the working day, left one dead and 7 people wounded — and the perpetrators are still on the loose. Terrible.

My friends and I did not let that deter us from venturing out for our Wednesday night beer and bite, though.

My friends and I were about to walk down to 12th Ave to our Wednesday night watering hole for a beer and a bite when news of the shooting broke. We watched the TV reporting for 15 minutes or so, and decided it was safe to go. The Irish pub ‘The Chieftain’ had beer for us, but no food! The kitchen’s cook had not made it in for some reason. So after a beer, we went to a wood-fired pizza parlor called Southpaw, nearby.

Tuesday/ the Twin Towers in 1999

Here is a digital scan of the 35mm film negative, of a picture of the Twin Towers, that I had taken in 1999 from the Hudson River.  I was on a Circle Line boat tour around Manhattan island.

The World Trade Center’s twin towers, seen from the Hudson River, in March 1999. The building in the distance — between the Towers — is the Woolworth Building, an early American skyscraper, located at 233 Broadway. Designed by architect Cass Gilbert, it was the tallest building in the world from 1913 to 1930, with 55 floors and a height of 792 ft (241 m).

Monday/ Martin Luther King Jr. Day

It was the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday here in the States today, and it felt like a Sunday to me.

Martin Luther King: (my paraphrasing) all people should have equal political rights and social freedoms, and we should speak up, and act, when we see someone’s civil rights violated.

Leaders of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom marching w. signs (R-L) Rabbi Joachim Prinz, unident., Eugene Carson Blake, Martin Luther King, Floyd McKissick, Matthew Ahmann & John Lewis. (Photo by Robert W. Kelley/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
I liked the Google ‘doodle’ artwork that was on the Google homepage for MLK Day.

Sunday/ more Convention Center space

Here’s a peek over the fence at the construction site for the Washington State Convention Center expansion, on the edge of Seattle downtown.

The steel columns and rafters that will create the cavernous spaces for the $1.8 billion Washington State Convention Center addition are starting to rise. The extension will be called ‘The Summit’ and open in 2022 for business. It is expected to bring in some $200 million a year from out of state, and is said to already have bookings for events as far out as 2026.
Here is what the completed city block on Olive Way will look like. The structure will be 6 stories tall, with retail on the ground floor, a ball room, and an exhibition hall of 150,000 sq ft. The structure was designed by LMN Architects. They did the design of the University of Washington light rail station, as well as the Museum of History and Industry in South Lake Union. [Image: Courtesy of LMN Architects].

Saturday/ the downtown Barnes & Noble bookstore closes

I went down to the Barnes & Noble bookstore in downtown Seattle today one more time, before it closed its doors for good today. This leaves downtown without a big bookstore*, a somewhat shocking state of affairs. People just don’t buy new books like they used to, or: they buy them on Amazon at a  discount, of course.

*There is still a Barnes & Noble at Northgate, the Elliott Bay Book Company on Capitol Hill, and the University Bookstore in U-District, as well as a smattering of second hand bookstores.

Paintwork inside the Barnes & Noble. Left to right: Mary Shelley, English novelist who wrote the Gothic novel Frankenstein; Walt Whitman, influential American poet; Herman Melville, novelist, short-story writer and poet perhaps most famous for writing Moby-Dick.
Aw. No more storytelling for the kids with Winnie-the-Pooh bear’s Hundred Acre Wood as a backdrop. The bear sits on a branch in the tree on the right. Says Winnie-the-Pooh: ‘The only reason for being a bee is to make honey. And the only reason for making honey, is so I can eat it’.
The Barnes and Noble was in the basement of the 4-storey Pacific Place mall, and there is no official word yet about the use of that space now. The entire mall is getting a makeover of sorts.

Friday/ checking the snowpacks

Wow .. the snowpack levels in the mountains and higher elevations have improved dramatically. Snoqualmie Pass (at 3,000 ft on Interstate 90) had 6.7 feet/ 2.04 m of snow in 6 days.

There should still be more accumulation to come, though.
April 1 of every year is (on average) when the snowpack depths peak, and the snow starts to melt in spring.

The latest snow telemetry (SNOTEL) report shows values that are now near normal for this time of year.

Thursday/ making like an otter

Here’s a scanned 35mm photo negative, from my newest Google Photos album called ‘1990 Otter Hiking Trail’. (Yes, that’s me in 1990, striking an ‘otter’ pose for the camera. The water from the mountain stream is perfectly fine for drinking. The brown color comes from tannins leaching into the water from tree roots and decaying vegetation).

The Otter Hiking Trail is a five-day hiking trail along the Garden Route coast of South Africa and is named for the Cape clawless otter which occurs in this region.

Wednesday/ another debate .. yawn

A panel of opinion writers at the Times gave Elizabeth Warren the nod as the winner of the debate. Is anybody paying any attention anymore? Debate host CNN caught some flak for setting up a Sanders-Warren feud and fanning the flames, about the electability of a woman as president. (Sanders denied he said that explicitly, Warren insists that he did).

There was another Democratic debate on TV on Tuesday night. There have been too many.
If we are to believe the polls, these are the top contenders, in no particular order –
Joe Biden
Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren
Pete Buttigieg
Tom Steyer
Amy Klobuchar

Joe Biden is not a good debater, but he’s still most likely to be the Democrats’ nominee to face Trump in the 2020 election. (Yes, it really does not look as if Moscow Mitch and his jellyfish caucus of Republican Senators will allow witnesses & a fair hearing to oust the criminal and immoral President of the United States in the upcoming impeachment trial in the US Senate).

Tuesday/ more snow coming

My crude snow gauge (a ruler stuck into the snow on my deck railing), shows 59 mm (2.3 in) at my house the last 48 hrs.

It was nice to see the clouds clear a little this afternoon, with a little sun and blue sky.

There is a lot more snow coming tonight, moving in from over the Pacific.

Most of it will be to the north of Seattle, and on the mountains to the east and the west of the city.

Monday/ Anna’s hummingbird

A hummingbird visited my backyard today, attracted by my cold-hardy mahonia’s bright yellow flowers.
(There was a little more snow on the ground on Monday morning, but not enough to make too much trouble on the city’s streets).

An Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna), sitting in the light snow on a tree branch in my backyard. These are medium-sized hummingbirds, native to the west coast of North America. The bird was named after Anna Masséna, Duchess of Rivoli (from France) in 1829.
I hope the hummingbird found a little nectar in the mahonia flowers. Those amazing little ‘motorized’ wings are powered by special muscle fibers — called fast glycolytic fibers —that respond rapidly to nerve impulses, and are fatigue-resistant.

Sunday/ light snow

A system with rain met arctic air from the Fraser Valley in Canada tonight here in the Pacific Northwest, and made for light snow on the ground here in the city.

I took this picture of my street is at 11 pm on Sunday night. There might be an inch or two more snow on the ground by Monday morning, say the meteorologists. Monday’s high will hover just below freezing (30°F/ -1 °C). Brrr!

Saturday/ South Africa’s diamonds and animals

My bundle of mail held by the post office arrived on Saturday.
One of them was a package of books & magazines I had shipped to myself from South Africa in October. The package was plastered with stamps of fabulous diamonds and ‘big five’ animals.

Famous diamonds from South Africa: The Star of South Africa (1869), The Eureka (1866), The Centenary (1986), The De Beers (1988) and the newest one of fame, the Blue Moon of Josephine (2014), a flawless 12-carat blue diamond, sold at auction in 2015 for a record $48.4 million.   The Big Five: African buffalo, Black Rhinoceros*, Leopard, Lion and African Elephant. *My usual disclaimer: the Big Five are for conservation and NOT FOR HUNTING. Only 5,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, a number that is double the 1995 number, though. The White Rhinoceros should really be a big fiver too, with some 20,000 still in the wild. Giraffes and hippos could certainly qualify, as well.

Friday/ unpacking my bags

My bags are unpacked.
As usual,  I dug out several items between the layers of clothes in my suitcases that I had ‘acquired’ during my visit to Tokyo and Perth.

I admit I may have gone a little overboard this time with my animal figures, but they are all great additions to my collection. Clockwise from top left: Giant Sable Antelope, Black Wildebeest, Eland, Three-toed Sloth, American Bison, Bald Eagle, Raccoon, baby Polar Bear, Scarlet Macaw.
And I added three small cones (aluminum, brass, copper), and three spheres to complete my collection of geometric shapes. These are from the Tokyo Hands craft store.

Thursday morning/ arrival in Seattle

Flying east from the Far East, and across the international dateline, makes one end up in the Far West. And hey, if your day was off to a bad start, you get to start it ‘again’!
Here’s the bird that flew all the way to Seattle from Tokyo, at the gate after its arrival at Seattle-Tacoma airport. It’s a twin-jet Boeing 787-8.

My flight on Japan Airlines was off to a late start (an hour delay), but after that everything went without a hitch.

There wasn’t an empty seat on the plane.

Thursday night/ at Narita airport

I’m at Narita airport, ready to board for my flight to Seattle.
It was 52 °F/ 11 °C and sunny in Tokyo today, so it was great to be outside and enjoy the sun.
I did get to see the inside of the new scarlet red Marunouchi Line train cars. It is really not much different, or more luxurious, than the older cars.

Lots of Japan Airlines tail fins. This is from the observation deck at Narita Airport’s Terminal 2.
Here comes the green train from the Yamanote Line, as it approaches the Akihabara station.
This is the platform at the Kanda station on the Yamamote Line. Classic old train station ironwork for the pillars and roof trusses.
The stairs down from the Kanda platform with the stepped rail, makes a nice abstract art picture.

Wednesday night/ around Tokyo station

I had a nice nap on Wednesday morning to make up for the sleep I had lost on the red-eye flight from Perth to Tokyo, and then I went out for a bit.

I ran out to Yodobashi camera store in Akiba to have my Seiko watch’s battery replaced (20 mins wait, and only ¥1,020/ US $9.34, a bargain).
Hey! And here is one of the brand new Marunouchi Line 2000 series trains. I was tempted to lean over the railing to get a better picture with the train at a stop, but that would definitely have gotten me in trouble. I should have gotten on it for a little ride though, even though it went the other way. I will go look for one again on Thursday. These trains have ‘glowing scarlet’ exterior paintwork, as the Marunouchi carriages return to their trademark red color for the first time in 30 years.
Lots of red taxi cab tail lights, near Tokyo station. The city’s fleet of gleaming black Tokyo 2020 taxi cabs are ready to ferry the foreigners coming to the Olympic Games this summer, around the city.
A luxury bus pulling up at Tokyo station. These go to cities like Osaka and Yohohama, a slower but cheap alternative to the expensive shinkansen (bullet trains).

Wednesday morning/ arrival in Tokyo

It was rainy and  4 °C ( 39 °F) at my arrival at Tokyo’s Narita airport, and much the same when the Narita Express pulled into the 5th floor below Tokyo station.  I made it to the hotel OK, without getting too wet.

Hmm .. a little bit of my favorite Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavor (Belgian chocolate), served frozen brick solid on the airplane. Luckily for me, the Second Law of Thermodynamics apply 30,000 ft up in the air as well: systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium, and so the ice cream melted and softened in due time.
Welcome to Japan! .. on the way downstairs to pick up my luggage and go catch the Narita Express train.
Here comes the beast ⁠—the 9.15 am Narita Express to Tokyo Station ⁠— albeit 20 minutes LATE. We were only told that there was an ‘accident’. I read online that sometimes (most times?) an ‘accident’ means someone was attempting suicide by jumping in front of the train.
Once on the train, the world flies by for an hour: fields and tress, buildings, houses, bridges, level crossings.

Tuesday night/ Tokyo bound

My time in Perth has come to an end, and so I am heading north, the way I came.

It’s 9½ hours to Tokyo, and I will stay over on Wednesday night.

These friendly ‘air personnel’ Kinder candy characters are from the duty free store at Perth airport.

Tuesday morning/ ATP Cup tennis

The 2020 ATP Cup is a new annual 24-country tennis team competition, hosted by Tennis Australia in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney. So we jumped at it when we got complimentary tickets to watch some of the action here in Perth.

The sparse crowd inside of Perth’s RAC Arena (constructed in 2012). We watched the two singles matches (there is also one doubles match) in the Russia vs. Norway match-up in Group D. This is the little opening ceremony with Norway’s flag on the left and Russia’s on the right. We all stood while they played the national anthems. Let me just note:  Russia has one of the world’s great national anthems (composer Alexander Alexandrov; Stalin commissioned him and lyrist Sergey Mikhalkovto create a national anthem and it was adopted in 1944).
This is the Russia team’s No 2 player, 23-year old Karen Khachanov, 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) tall. He was born in Moscow, and is of Armenian descent.
Here is Viktor Durasovic, Norway’s No 2, serving against Khachanov as his team mates and captain look on. In team tennis, the team mates and coaches can offer advice and support from the court side .. which is not allowed on the ATP professional tennis circuit tournaments.
The Durasovic double-handed backhand. Good form, meeting the ball down low and in front, but not good enough for a win against Khachanov. He lost 1-6, 2-6.
The next singles match between the No 1’s on the teams, had Russia’s Daniil Medvedev take on Norway’s Casper Ruud. Here he is hitting a powerful forehand on a short ball. Medvedev had compiled a very good  record in 2019, pushing him up all the way to No 5 in the ATP world rankings.
And here is Norway’s Casper Ruud, playing against Medvedev.  The match was fairly close: Ruud losing 3-6, 6-7 (6-8), in the end. By then Norway was down 0-2 matches, and Russia had effectively won the tie.