Saturday/ the Kingston Fast Ferry

We took the Kingston Fast Ferry out to Kitsap county today to go to Paul’s for a day or two.
It’s a new ferry service, in place since November 2018.

The smaller ‘fast ferries’ go under the umbrella term King County Water Taxi but there are different names for the ferries servicing the different routes. There are ferries from/ to  Kingston, West Seattle and to Vashon Island. The Kingston Fast Ferry takes 40 minutes, and goes at about 30 knots.
We are about to board the 7.55 pm departure from Seattle. This dock is a temporary location close to the main ferry dock called Colman Dock (also called Pier 52). Colman Dock is undergoing a major renovation.
Inside the ferry, with orange life jackets in the upper rack. Washington State had bought the ferry from New York State last year, and then refurbished the inside. The ferry used to provide service between Manhattan and New Jersey, starting in 1996. The name of the ferry is Marine Vessel Finest, a reference to the police men and women of New York City.
Looking back after we had arrived at the dock in Kingston, and disembarked.

Friday/ photo album conversion

I have completed the conversion of the best photos from my (physical) albums from yesteryear, into digital albums for my iPhone and iPad. It was a lot of work, but I am pleased with the results.

I had to scan in photos, adjust their image quality, research and add metadata such as Date Taken and Geotag coordinates.   I also created an ‘infographic’ starter image for each album – not essential, but I liked doing it.

I found out that syncing from a Windows PC to an iPhone or iPad has its limits, especially if more pictures are added later to the album, or if the metadata is changed in Windows.
The sync program does not pick up all metadata changes, and then one has to rename the file (ugh!) to get it to sync everything again to the iPhone or iPad.

Below are some of the albums as they appear on my iPhone.

Thursday/ my new mattress

The iSeries® Hybrid 500 Cushion Firm mattress with one of Serta’s googly-eyed sheep, used in the marketing of their mattresses. I suppose one would do well to fall asleep by counting only to sheep No 29! .. but even though counting sheep to doze off is popular in cartoons and folklore, it is not really used in real life as an aid to fall asleep.

I bought a new mattress on Wednesday, and it was delivered today.
It was high time to get a new one, even factoring in all the nights I did not sleep in my own bed over the years (but in a hotel while traveling for work).

My new sleeping pad is a fancy Serta hybrid mattress: layers of memory foam on a base of coiled springs.  It is a little firmer than medium*, and I did try it out in the store before I bought it.

*My hotel room in Rotterdam during my recent stay there, had a soft mattress, and it felt as if I was trapped in quicksand.

Wednesday/ covering up the cover-up

Are we seeing the disintegration of the Trump Presidency in slow motion?
Is this Trump’s ‘I am not a crook‘ moment à la Nixon? Time will tell.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump abruptly blew up a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday, declaring that he could not work with them until they stopped investigating him and lashing out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi for accusing him of a cover-up.

He then marched out into the Rose Garden, where reporters had been gathered, and delivered a statement bristling with anger as he demanded that Democrats “get these phony investigations over with.” He said they could not legislate and investigate simultaneously. “We’re going to go down one track at a time,” he said.

Trump in the Rose Garden today, shamelessly lying, as he does pretty much every day. One could argue – and present tons of hard evidence – that most of what Trump has done his whole life, is to obfuscate and cover up (his unethical and illegal/ borderline-illegal activities in his public life and private life. The list is long. He covered up his payment to a sex worker (prostitute) right before the 2016 election. He covered up Don Jr’s June 2016 meeting with the Russians. Right now he tries to covers up his tax returns, his real estate deals he is probably making while he is President, and his shady dealings with Deutsche Bank. He covered up his conversations with Putin, with the Saudis. On and on and on.
Personal check from Trump to Michael Cohen, as reimbursement for the hush money Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels. Trump lied when asked about it by a reporter on Air Force One. ‘I know nothing about it, you’d have to ask Michael Cohen’. Lying is one of Trump’s instincts; it’s compulsive and part of who he is. 

Tuesday/ where the signal meets the muscle

I played a little social tennis tonight on the Woodland Park tennis courts. We rained out on both Tuesday and Thursday of last week, so it was great to finally get out and play.

And hey! the muscle memory from many years of playing tennis is still there, sending signals to the old muscles and creaky bones— to run down that incoming shot, and strike it, so it goes back over the net.

Muscles need electrolytes (salty water) to function. A neuromuscular junction (or myoneural junction) is a chemical synapse (connection that allows a signal to pass), formed by the contact between a motor neuron and a muscle fiber. It is at the neuromuscular junction that a motor neuron is able to transmit a signal to the muscle fiber, causing muscle contraction. Here is what happens, all of it in a millisecond or so! (1) The electric signal’s action potential reaches the axon terminal. (2) Voltage-dependent calcium gates open, allowing calcium to enter the axon terminal. (3) Neurotransmitter vesicles fuse with the presynaptic membrane and acetylcholine (ACh), a small neurotransmitter, is released into the synaptic cleft via exocytosis. (4) ACh binds to postsynaptic receptors on the sarcolemma (membrane on the muscle fiber). (5) This binding causes ion channels to open and allows sodium and other cations to flow across the membrane into the muscle cell. [Source: Wikipedia]

Monday/ the case to impeach: stronger than ever

Well, here is the first Republican congressman calling out Attorney General Barr’s foul play in misrepresenting the Mueller report, and calling for Trump’s impeachment. (See Justin Amash’s tweets below).

What Trump has done – documented in the Mueller report, with hard evidence – cannot stand in the United States of America’s democracy,  without consequences to him.

In addition, Trump and the White House staff is technically committing obstruction of justice every day now. They refuse to comply to subpoenas from Congress for Trump’s tax returns, and other records. They refuse to let former White House lawyer Don McGahn testify in Congress (Don McGahn’s testimony about Trump’s obstruction is written up in the Mueller report). Trump has even sued his own tax preparer and Deutsche Bank, to prevent them from supplying any financial records to Congress.

Time to start the impeachment proceedings.  It’s overdue.

Sunday walkabout

It was very pleasant this weekend in Seattle (69°F/  21°C). We had none of the turbulent, stormy weather that swept through the Midwest and elsewhere.
Here are two pictures from my downtown walkabout this afternoon.

Construction on these newest Amazon buildings, on the corner of Blanchard and 7th Avenue, have both topped out. There are 24 stories on the left tower, and 8 stories on the right. I trust that those crane bases and moorings have been double & triple-checked after the bad accident at the Google construction site. (The little red car is a Tesla Model 3).
And nearby on 5th Avenue, as always, was the monorail train doing its short run from the Space Needle to Westlake Center downtown. I think it’s pulling off quite a feat: it manages to look both retro AND futuristic at the same time!

Saturday/ we have to stop burning coal

The Keeling Curve from the website of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at It sure looks as if the Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1830) has been – and still is – a global catastrophe.

When I was a kid, we would build a cozy wood fire in the living room fireplace in winter time. On top would go a layer of anthracite (hard black coal, with a metallic luster on its surface), to make the fire glow a long, long time.
But then I would go to school the next morning, and the neighborhood’s chilly winter air would be blanketed by a layer of thick smoke. Man! I thought .. this is not good.

Now here we are, 50 years later, and I read about the Australian elections, and the saga of the contentious Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. The mine will be ‘hugely beneficial’ to Australia and ‘global climate change’, says Adani CEO Jeyakumar Janakraj. Really? Yes, your $16.5 billion project will create a few thousand jobs, but pump up to 12 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River. It will gouge out 60 million tonnes of low-grade coal every year from the Galilee basin right across the Great Barrier Reef. The coal will get burned in India and push up the 415 parts per million CO2 concentration we already have in the atmosphere.

Adani Australia, throwing in an image of black-throated finches into their Twitter propaganda campaign .. but ultimately it is not about the finches or the endangered yakka skink in Queensland. Climate change is real and humans are accelerating it by burning fossil fuels.


Friday/ congratulations to Taiwan!

Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. Thousands of gay rights supporters had gathered in the rain outside the parliament building in the capital, Taipei, to await the landmark ruling.

The Pew Research Center wrote up a report of gay marriage around the world, that has this nice map to show what progress has been made so far.

Germany and Australia were some high-profile additions to the roster of countries that have joined the list, both in 2017.
The map shows that there is clearly a lot of work still to be done in Asia and in Africa, though.

About two-thirds of the countries (18 of 28) in the world that has marriage equality are in Europe, but even there, there are notable exceptions: Italy and Switzerland. And no country in Central Europe has legalized gay marriage. Let’s also just note, that in some countries gay people are still actively persecuted, and former Soviet republic Chechnya, might be at the top of this list.

Thursday/ Times Square, then and now

I had a picture from twenty years ago, of a New York City street corner somewhere in Times Square, and I stubbornly used Google Street View until I finally found the place that I had taken the 1999 picture from.  It looks very different today!

P.S. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he is running for President in 2020 today. The count of Democratic candidates is now at 23.

Here’s the April 1999 picture that I had taken. It turned out that the Subway neon sign (middle left) is still there today. And I could use the tall white building on the far right to verify this is the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue. P.S. Disney’s Lion King animated movie was released in 1994. Lion King as a musical debuted on stage in October of 1997, and has since become a monstrous success. By 2017 it had grossed some $8.1 billion.
Here is as close as I could get to the spot that I had stood on, for that picture of April 1999, in the latest Google Street View (Oct. 2018) images.  The Subway sign is still there, and a sliver of the white building in the 1999 picture can be made out down the street.

Wednesday/ an earthworm, for dinner

I took my big camera with the zoom lens tonight with me on my neighborhood walk, and was rewarded with catching this American robin (Turdus migratorius), catching an earthworm. The bird saw the worm wriggle into the grass sod, and ran up and pulled it out.


Tuesday/ rain, for the rhododendrons

It finally rained a little here in Seattle today – not much, but it was welcome.
It is May, and so the rhododendrons are out in full bloom: in whites and pinks and even yellows, oranges and reds.

Rhododendrons (from Ancient Greek ῥόδον rhódon ‘rose’ and δένδρον déndron ‘tree’) is a genus of 1,024 species of woody plants and found mainly in Asia. It is found widespread in the highlands of the Appalachian Mountains of North America. We also have plenty of them here in the city of Seattle – probably because it is the state flower of Washington State! [Some of the information obtained from Wikipedia].

Monday/ Rainier Square Tower taking shape

Here are two pictures that I took today, of the Rainier Square Tower. Construction workers have started to install the glass panels on the swooping side of the tower. Boy, I hope it will not be too tricky for window cleaners to scale down that side of the building to clean those slanted surfaces!

The construction of the Rainier Square Tower is at about 35 floors by my count. It will eventually be an 850-ft tall skyscraper (260 m), with 58 stories.
The new Rainier Square Tower is located at Union Street between 4th and 5th Avenues, adjacent to the existing Rainier Tower (the 41-story building on the pedestal, on the left).

Saturday/ the gnomon sundial at the UW

What you seek is but a shadow.
– the motto on the University of Washington sundial.

With all the sunshine we had this week, I thought it was high time for me to understand how the sundial on the Physics building at the University of Washington works!

In the picture below, the shadow of the gnomon (ball) moves from left to right as the day progresses. The sun crosses lower in the sky in winter time, and then the path on the wall is higher. The sun crosses higher in summer time, and then the path on the wall is lower. The equinox was in March, so we have already crossed to below the line marked EQUINOX on the sundial.

The only other thing that seemed out of whack, was that the dial seemed a little off: it showed 12.30 pm PDT on the nose, when it was already 12.39 pm when I took the picture. Should the gnomon ball shadow not have moved at least a little bit off the 12.30 pm line, towards the 1.00 pm line?

We in Seattle, and all others in the Pacific Standard Time zone, keep a clock time based on the solar time at the arbitrary longitude of 120° W (which happens to pass through the town of Chelan). However, in Seattle we are located some 2° 19′ to the west of this longitude, and the sundial in Seattle indicates a time 9.2 minutes earlier than the sun would in Chelan. Here is the full explanation from the UW Dept. of Physics.

P.S.  Look for the slender figure-eight-shaped curve in the sundial’s center by the 12, called the analemma. It is a plot of the location on each day at noon, throughout the year, of the gnomon ball’s shadow.

The UW sundial at 12.39 pm PDT on Thu May 9, 2019. (I marked up the shadow of the arm and the gnomon ball in black, so that it shows clearly). The dial is on the side of the University of Washington’s Physics/Astronomy Auditorium at 3800 15th Ave NE. It was installed in 1994 under the supervision of Prof. Woody Sullivan, then-Professor of Astronomy.

Friday/ the vote count in South Africa

I’m watching the vote count in South Africa, here.

With some 95% of the votes counted, the African National Congress (ANC) of the incumbent President of South Africa, has 57.7% (so towards the high end of expectations, but the worst result for them since 1994), and the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, has 20.7%.  Hopefully this is good enough for President Cyril Ramaphosa to clean house in the ANC (corruption), and to get the economy going.

The DA has carried its stronghold, the Western Cape Province, with 55.5% of the vote (down 4% from 2014), but elsewhere in other provinces, the strident and far-left Economic Freedom Front (EFF) party has made substantial gains.

This results dashboard is at
Picture with no caption posted on the Facebook page of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). Let’s say the caption is ‘Pizza makes the world go round, and gets the results out!’.

Thursday/ shirt by Banana Republic

This beautiful orange polo shirt that I had ordered online from Banana Republic, arrived on my doorstep today. I love it – and it was only $24 (that’s a 40% discounted sale price).

Wednesday/ geotagging photos – it’s fun!

Geotagging* a (digital) photograph is the recording of its geographical location, by assigning at least a latitude and longitude to the image. Sometimes other fields such as altitude and compass bearing could also be included.
The old film pictures I had scanned in for my iPhone and iPad photo albums have no geotag information, and so I geotagged them manually.

I have been very fortunate to be able to travel to many places in the world.
Check out some of the more unusual geotags that I had added to my pictures, below.

*Geotagging is done automatically by today’s smartphones, and by GPS-enabled digital cameras. The method I am using for scanned pictures, is to use an obsolete picture editor from Google called Picasa. Inside Picasa, one can call up a desktop version of Google Earth, that allows searches for places all over the globe, and the geotagging of their coordinates onto the picture.

This sandstone rock formation near Asab in Namibia was called Mukurob (‘The Finger of God’). That’s my dad’s truck, and the year is 1987 as we stopped there for a picture or two. Barely a year later, in 1988, the rock fell over (reasons unknown). So it is there no more.
Another picture from that 1987 trip shows my brother and I and mom and dad on the pier at Swakopmund in Namibia. So great to see the pier on Google Earth and go ding! tagged it! .. that’s where this picture is from!
Here’s a picture taken on a ferry in New York harbor, with the Twin Towers at the back. The year is 1995, shortly after my arrival in the United States. The company I had started to work for, had offices in Port Washington on the north shores of Long Island.
Here’s a very, very special place in Africa: a tiny island called Coetzer’s Island in Botswana. It is part of a game reserve, and named after my grandfather. The island is at the confluence of the Limpopo river (below) and Shasi river (sandy river bed at the top). That’s also where South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe meet. I have been there a dozen times, but not recently. The picture is from 1997.
Finally, of course – the one and only Space Needle in Seattle. The souvenir picture shows me and my older brother, visiting in 2004, and had no geotag before I tagged it in Google Earth.

Tuesday/ South Africa’s national elections

South Africa has a parliamentary system of government.
On Wednesday May 8, South Africans will elect a new National Assembly, and representatives for each of the 9 provincial legislatures.
The National Assembly consists of 400 members, elected by closed-list proportional representation.
Of these members, 200 are elected from national party lists.
The other 200 are elected from provincial party lists in each of the nine provinces.
The President of South Africa is elected by the National Assembly after the general election (held every 5 years).

What to watch for after Wednesday:
There is little doubt that the African National Congress will remain in power.
They got 62% of the vote in 2014, with their main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, a distant 22%.
For President Cyril Ramaphosa to continue his efforts to root out corruption in his own party, and get the South African economy going again, pundits say the ANC needs to get at least 55% of the vote, though (49% to 60% is projected).
The Democratic Alliance is hoping to hold on to its share of representatives (15% to 23% is projected), but that may be a challenge. They have the populist Freedom Front Plus party on their right that will draw away votes, and in the Western Cape province an ugly spat with the Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, had her break away from the DA in 2018 to form her own party, the Good Party.

Cyril Ramaphosa has been President only since 18 December 2017 (his ANC party ousted the corrupt & incompetent Jacob Zuma). Mmusi Maimane has led the DA since 2015, and will almost certainly not win, but hopes to gain ground for the DA in the National Assembly. [Graphic: Bloomberg News]
The ANC has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa since the election of Nelson Mandela in the 1994 election, and its logo boasts the classic African colors of black, green and gold. Have they fulfilled their potential to elevate the life and well-being of left-behind South Africans in these 25 years, though? Short answer: No, they really have NOT. The DA does not have the storied history of the ANC, being branded only in 2000 – but it has its roots in the anti-apartheid Progressive Party which was founded in 1959. In some ways, they face the same challenges as the Democratic Party in the United States. Citizens should unite and feel they belong to one country; it’s not ‘us’ and ‘them’ first. The outcome should be a better life for everyone, and not just for rich and privileged people at the expense of others.  [Graphic: Bloomberg News. Information about the DA from Wikipedia]
The campaign issues of the South African election 2019. For the incumbent party, the ANC, it’s not so much defections to other parties that will hurt them. Their voters will simply stay away and not go and vote. [Graphic: Bloomberg News]
The South African economy has come out of its recession, but that 1.4% growth is not nearly enough. It needs to be 5% or 6% to start to make a dent in the unemployment numbers. [Graphic: Bloomberg Terminal]
Here’s a run-down of what will happen on election day at election locations. 1. Identity document check for voter registration. 2. ID document scanned & paper slip given to voter. 3. Hand paper slip to election official. 4. Election official marks voter’s left thumb with indelible ink. 5. Voter receives a national ballot, and a provincial ballot. 6. Time to VOTE! Yay! Put an X against one of the whopping number of national parties (48!). I suspect the major ones are going to be listed at the top of the ballot. Also vote for a provincial representative on the other ballot. 7. Put your provincial ballot in the provincial box. 8. Put your national ballot in the national box. [Source: Die Burger]

Monday/ walking up Pike street

When I go downtown with the No 10 bus, I usually take the same No 10 bus back, from its stop a the Washington State Convention Center on Pike. Today at 5 pm, though, that spot was flooded with Microsoft nerds just leaving the first day of the 2019 Microsoft Build conference. And another 15 minutes for the next bus, said my app, and I thought: well, it’s such a nice day, let’s just walk walk walk, which is what I did, all the way home (took about 20 minutes).

I love this dinosaur sign at Saint John’s Bar & Eatery on Pike. It might be a Sinclair Gas Station dinosaur; these were used in Sinclair’s marketing as far back as 1930. And I thought the flag behind it was the national flag for Jordan or Lebanon, but no: it’s an arboreal flag that is popular in Portland, Oregon – sometimes called the ‘Doug flag’ for the Douglas fir tree that is depicted on it.