Saturday/ Oaxaca, Grumpy Cat & helium

I’m about to hop onto the No 10 bus. The Mexican flag & Oaxaca sign at the Coastal Kitchen restaurant entrance indicate that a few Oaxaca dishes are on the menu right now. Oaxaca is famous for its moles (sauces).

Here’s the No 10 bus stop closest to my house, that I frequently take to go to downtown.

One of my favorite Grumpy Cat memes. Grumpy Cat is an American internet celebrity cat.

Oaxaca (say ‘wa-HAH-ka’) is in southwestern Mexico and best known for its Zapotec and Mixtec indigenous peoples and cultures.

Look for a Grumpy Cat helium balloon carried by the child in the bottom middle of the picture.

As it happens, helium was discovered 150 years ago to the day, on August 18, 1868, by the French astronomer, Jules Janssen, during a total solar eclipse. There is a strong case to be made that helium balloons be banned.

We have a limited helium supply in Earth’s crust; we cannot manufacture it, and we need it for superconductors and MRI scanners. So putting helium in balloons is a frivolous waste.  Once helium ends up in the atmosphere, it is lost forever into space – it is too light to be contained in the atmosphere by gravity.

Friday/ the jury is still out ..

.. in the Manafort* case. They have been deliberating for two days, and will resume on Monday. Court-watchers say that if the deliberations drag on into Wednesday, there would be cause for concern.

‘If Trump pardons Manafort (after maybe having promised a pardon to get him not to cooperate) and gets away with it, then we’re in a banana republic. We just are’. – Senator Chris Murphy (Connecticut)

*Paul Manafort (69), Trump’s ex-campaign manager.  The jury is deciding his guilt or innocence on 18 tax and bank fraud charges, related to his consulting work for pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine.

The evidence presented against Manafort is very strong. His defence lawyers really did not have much to work with. So why did Manafort not make a plea deal with Special Investigator Robert Mueller? is the question. He very well might spend the rest of his life in jail.

President Trump could offer him a pardon (which would be pretty outrageous, to be sure).
Asked about it, Trump said ‘I don’t talk about that. I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort’.

Thursday/ LEGO’s Castles

Here’s a 2012 set called ‘Kingdoms Joust’. A joust is a horseback fight with lances, as shown. The king and the queen are looking on, with some peasants going about their business.

Below is the used LEGO Castle #6075 set from 1981 that I had bought from a Craigslist seller in Tacoma.

I had to fill in quite a few yellow brick pieces of my own. I bought it knowing there were no knight or horse minifigures. (Aw). The red drawbridge is also missing its pulley and rope, used to draw it close.

Fun as it was, to build this set, it’s really outdated. The modern medieval sets from LEGO use gray bricks and not yellow, roof tiles, and add in a lot more detail to the castle walls and roofs, and to the minifigure characters (see the picture of ‘Kingdom’s Joust’).

The LEGOLAND Castle #6075 set from 1981. My set has no knights or horses. They are hard to find on the used market, given that the set is so old. I should just get a new set such as Kingdoms Joust, with knights and horses to use when displaying this one.

Wednesday/ a student protest in 1969

The 6th floor in Seattle Central Library houses large collections of bound magazines, some more than 100 years old.

Oops! I realized today, my library books are overdue, better take them back. I hopped on the bus to the Seattle Central Library downtown. Mission accomplished as far as returning the books, I meandered through the treasure trove of magazine racks on the 6th floor. Hmm, here’s Weyerhaeuser World magazine. I worked there for four years, when I first came to the Seattle area, so let’s see what happened in 1969.

Check it out below: a report of a student protest at the University of Washington here in Seattle. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) protested against American imperialism – in the time of the Vietnam war and all that, after all. This protest was specifically against  Weyerhaeuser’s ‘exploitation of 12 million black South Africans’.  I’m not sure if the workers deemed not to be paid fair wages, or if it was about their working conditions. It could have been both. For a long time in those years, wage earners in South Africa, especially in the mining industry, were treated very unfairly.

Anyway: the SDS splintered up and disbanded at the end of 1969, but was an important influence on student activist groups in the decades that followed. A new incarnation of SDS was founded in 2006. My advice to young people: protesting is fine and well, but the nature of the beast is : you really have to vote.  Only 40% of eligible voters typically vote in midterm elections. For young people, it could be as low as half that again: 20%.


Tuesday/ no end to Trump’s insults

Trump’s ex-senior advisor Omarosa*  must have struck a nerve, the way he viciously lashed out at her, in a tweet this morning. Who talks like this? Is this the way a President should talk? asked journalists of Press Secretary Huckabee-Sanders. Her answer was basically that Trump is an equal-opportunity insulter.

Mr President: your term will end, or you will be impeached – and then many of us (most of us) will celebrate in the streets, all over America. And then these tweets will remain as a monument to the classless and ugly President you have been, every single day.

*Her full name is Omarose Manigault-Newman. She became famous on Trump’s Apprentice reality TV show. She was fired from the White House in December 2017.  It turned out she has a recording of the firing, done by Chief of Staff John Kelly in the Situation Room. She says she has other recorded conversations, as well. She has also just published a book called ‘Unhinged’ .. a reference to Trump, of course.

Monday/ pleased to eat you

The popcorn movie ‘The Meg*’ is out on the circuit. Even though I have not seen it yet, it’s fun to check the movie’s trailer online, and the posters for it. The movie is a co-production with China, and features actress Li Bingbing alongside Jason Statham.

*Short for Carcharodon megalodon, a really, really big shark (60 ft/ 20m) that roamed the oceans until about 2.6 million years ago.

Carcharodon megalodon was bigger than a school bus, and could swim twice as fast as today’s great white sharks [Infographic from]
Fossilized teeth of Carcharodon megalodon are still found, but not much else (the shark had a cartilage skeleton). We also do not know why they went extinct .. probably because they ran out of food to eat!  [Infographic from]

Movie posters in different languages. Let’s see: Opening Wide is a movie reference (the movie opens in a large number of theaters) | Spanish ‘Te dejará con la boca abierta‘ – It will leave you with your mouth open | German ‘Biss bald‘ – ‘Bite’ you soon; a word play on ‘Bis bald’ – See you soon | Russian КуШАТь ПОДАНО! – Dinner is served!
An alternative movie poster with the tagline ‘Pleased To Eat You’ and two beautiful beach Homo sapienses as shark food, complete with an American food label. I am very sure the megashark will not peruse the food label beforehand !

Sunday/ the saga of the stolen plane

Here is the plane that was stolen. The amateur ‘pilot’ could start up the plane, and showed considerable skill piloting it. It seems he acquired piloting skills through playing a flight simulator video game. He is not known to have had any formal pilot training. [Graphic from The Seattle Times]
By Saturday morning the fire of Friday night’s plane crash on Ketron Island had been put out. It was hard to get to the wreckage and the fire, but a little rain fell on Friday and the fire did not spread.

By Sunday evening the remains of the young man (Richard Russell, 29 years old), as well as the flight recorder, had been retrieved from the crash site.

The early take is that depression over financial troubles, was a major factor in the tragedy.

Here is the airport layout, and the location of Ketron Island.  One of the F15 jet pilots tried to persuade Russell to land at McChord Air Force Base, but to no avail. [Source: The Seattle Times]

Saturday/ the Volunteer Park Conservatory

Here is one more picture from Volunteer Park on Friday, of the Conservatory building.  The Victorian-style structure is said to be modeled loosely on The Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park. It was one of the first buildings to be erected on the young City of Seattle’s Volunteer Park grounds, and completed in 1912.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory was nicely lit up on Friday night. There was a function with a live band and a bar inside.  I cheated a little bit with my picture, by boosting the pastel colors with a digital filter.

Friday/ the Space Needle is ready

The Space Needle’s five year, $100 million project is complete.  The original structure is still very sound, and not a lot of structural work was needed.

Instead, new floor-to-ceiling glass panels were installed, staircases were widened, and on the observation deck, floor-to-sky structural glass was added. The erstwhile solid steel floor is now ten layers of glass, designed so that the top layer can be replaced, once it gets a little worn out and scratched.

P.S. A bizarre event started to unfold at 7.32 pm tonight at Sea-Tac airport. A suicidal 29-year old man (ground service agent) took off in an empty Bombardier Q-400 from Horizon Air (a turboprop plane that can carry 76 passengers). It scared the daylights out of everyone; two F-15 jets were scrambled from Oregon, and tried to get him to land. He died when he crashed the airplane on Ketron island in south Puget Sound, some 30 miles from the airport. Miraculously, no buildings were damaged, and no one else was hurt.

I took this picture of the Needle and a whirlybird tonight from Volunteer Park. The Needle is 1.7 miles (2.7 km) away as the crow flies. The flag on top says Pearl Jam -Seattle’s rock band formed in 1990. Pearl Jam put on a big charity concert tonight in the city’s baseball park, part of an initiative to fight homelessness in the city.

Thursday/ Trump’s Space Force

Vice President & Trump Pleaser Mike Pence talked about Trump’s proposed Space Force today.  Trump wants the new proposed branch of the military (the 6th, after Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard) in operation by 2020. Um. It’s a moon shot alright.
1. The new Space Force would have to be authorized by Congress.
2. How about a Cyber Force first, to shore up our cybersecurity?
3. Where will the money come from? The United States is 20 big Apples (trillions) in debt, and will now add another every year (Trump tax cuts).
4. Impeachment proceedings may very well start in 2019.

The Washington Post’s concept of a cheesy new gold Space Force One for Trump (note the ‘100% coal powered’, and ‘Make Space Great Again’ lettering).

Wednesday/ will the ‘blue wave’ come?

Perhaps the art world’s most iconic blue wave: ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’, Katsushika Hokusai’s most famous print (early 1830s); the first in the series ’36 Views of Mount Fuji’.

So .. 90 days now, until the 2018 midterm elections. Political pundits point to all kinds of special elections the past 18 months, as evidence that a lot of Republicans will be run out of office (enough to make the Democrats the majority in the House of Representatives). In many cases where Republicans had a 10 or 15% advantage before Trump’s election, that is now all gone. In places that used to be a toss-up – well, those will go blue (Democratic).

Time is running out for Special Investigator Mueller to make some radical moves ahead of the election. If he had not issued a report or more indictments by Labor Day (Sept. 3), he will have to wait until the election is over (Nov. 6).

In the meantime, the Trump Administration scandals never stop. Today: early Trump 2016 endorser, New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins.  He was indicted for brazen insider trading crimes. (Got confidential news of a failed drug trial, developed by a company he had shares in, and was a board member of*. Frantically dialed up his family and told them to sell their shares).

*Just an aside: why are members of Congress allowed to sit on boards of publicly traded companies?

The Ohio 12th District is a closely watched special election that was held on Tue Aug 7. Republican Troy Balderson is barely in the lead against his Democratic opponent. No matter: Trump tweeted that Balderson had won, and that his (Trump’s) uninvited visit there to stump for Balderson, made a huge difference (it did not). This is a special election for a vacated seat, and these two contenders, Balderson and O’Conner, will be running against each other again in November.  [Graphic from the New York Times].

Tuesday/ I spy a spider

I catch the spiders in my house and throw them into the garden .. but this one was out of reach, sitting UNDER the transparent cover of the LCD on my big air conditioner in the bedroom. It was gone in the morning.

One can get a fly in one’s ointment (or soup) .. or apparently, a spider in one’s liquid crystal display screen.

Monday/ the dog days of summer

I wanted to know where the phrase ‘the dog days of summer’ comes from – and if there is a date range associated with it. Well, it is a reference to the star system Sirius, and yes, there is a date range related to it.

Explanation from So we’re in the ‘Dog Days of Summer’ right now here in the Northern Hemisphere. Hopefully, the warm weather will start to wane after this week. We’re going to get to 89°F/ 32°C this week in Seattle. The average high for August is 75°F/ 24°C.
I found this beautiful pink sword lily (Gladiolus) here on 17th Avenue on my walk tonight.

Sunday/ the Monorail is fun

Bryan and I hopped on the monorail today, at the Space Needle. It’s all of a two minute, one mile ride (for $2.50) .. but it’s a fun ride, floating above the street traffic in mid-air!

The sign at the entrance of the monorail. What does Alweg refer to? I wondered. This from Wikipedia: Alweg-Forschung, GmbH (Alweg Research Corporation) was founded by Swedish industrial magnate Dr. Axel Lennart Wenner-Gren in January 1953, based in Cologne, Germany. Alweg built the original Disneyland Monorail System of Disneyland (opened 1959), and the Seattle Center Monorail (opened 1962 for the Century 21 Expo). In 1963, Alweg put forward a proposal to the city of Los Angeles for a monorail system to be designed, built, operated and maintained by Alweg – but it was rejected.
We’re about to board the Alweg train, at the Space Needle station. We got those red seats right at the big fly-eye window in the front (so at the rear as we departed).
Taking a turn through the kooky Frank Gehry-designed structures of the MoPOP, the Museum of Pop Culture, at the base of the Space Needle ..
.. running along 5th Ave North, with the Ride the Duck operator on the right, and the Gates Foundation buildings behind it ..
.. finally, arriving at Westlake Center. The Space Needle is a mile away in the distance. The round buildings is the Westin Hotel, with an Amazon Tower to its right, and an orange speck in the low right corner that is the South Lake Union streetcar on Westlake Avenue.

Saturday/ a little bit of Mexican

We had great Mexican food at Poquito’s here on Pike Street on Capitol Hill. The restaurant opened in 2011. The neon sign outside is much older and from the 1980’s. It was salvaged in South Seattle and given a second life after it had been taken down from a restaurant in Seattle’s Greenwood district.  

Friday/ another week

Well, it’s August. The warmest part of summer is probably behind us here in Seattle. It’s been a bad week for Paul Manafort, ex-Trump campaign manager. His trial started and the prosecutor showed his lavish taste in clothing and decorating, and today, that he cheated with his tax returns to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Trump defended Manafort in tweets, and still tries to rally his base supporters with claims of the ‘Russian Hoax’. This week, the press was called ‘the enemy of the people’ by the President of the United States. Jim Acosta from CNN engaged White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders about it, wanting her to disavow what Trump said; gave her a second chance. Nope. She could not do it.

Someone noted that the media should simply stop covering Trump’s rallies, and not even show clips on television. Send a pool reporter and report the idiotic things and lies spouted by Trump in print. Done.

Thursday/ Apple at $1 trillion .. yay?

Apple Inc. has a market cap of $1 trillion .. wow. Once, there was Exxon, General Electric, IBM and Microsoft, at the top of the heap, but Apple made it to $1 trillion first. (PetroChina briefly hit $1 trillion in 2007 on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, only to plummet to less than $260 billion by the end of 2008. According to Bloomberg, this represents the largest destruction of shareholder wealth in world history).

So we will see what happens. China is a huge market for iPhones, but a risky one. And will Americans be willing to shell out ever more for a new iPhone? Another thought: Maybe – 30 years from now – a company that builds fusion reactors (that produce 100% clean & cheap energy), will be the world’s most valuable.

Wednesday/ a little bit of old Tacoma

A vintage-LEGO-set-for-cash deal went down in a Tacoma parking lot today. (I made a run down there to buy a LEGO set advertised on Craigslist. Will show what I got, later).

On the way back, I stopped on Pacific Avenue in the old downtown of the city of Tacoma, and took a few pictures.

The Old City Hall with its 10-story clocktower and Italian Villa style is on Pacific Avenue and South 7th Street. Construction was completed in 1893, and it was used as city hall until 1957.  The city paid $4 million for it in 2015, and is again looking for a developer to buy and renovate it – possibly into offices and conference rooms.
I like the look of the Rialto Apartments building (1918). I’m sure the rent is 20-50% less than in Seattle. The Art Deco styled building behind it is the Tacoma Municipal Building, completed in 1931.
The Pantages Theater on Broadway was built as a vaudeville theater (variety entertainment) in 1915, and now hosts musicals, live music & comedy.
The Rialto Theatre right across the street from the Pantages is a movie theater built in 1918 to showcase movies. (It still shows movies).
This artwork must be very new, calling out and criticizing the Trump Administration’s policy of separating kids from their parents at the border, and deporting ‘our neighbors’.
This is the Thea Foss Waterway, a dead-end canal with marinas and waterfronts, coming out of Puget Sound.
The Murray Morgan Bridge is a vertical-lift drawbridge over the waterway. Constructed in 1911 ( ! ), it was closed for repairs in 2007 – and finally reopened in 2013. (Psst! Look for Mt Rainier in the background).
This Wells Fargo Bank window display on Pacific Ave of old Tacoma features a stylish passenger, and Mt Rainier in the background. The building with the green dome is that of Union Station, which opened in 1911.
And here comes a streetcar. I think it’s the exact same model that we have in Seattle.

Tuesday/ the Carr Fire is a monster

This picture from the Sacramento Bee looks like an Apocalypse Now poster (the 1979 Vietnam War movie).

2017 was a bad wildfire year in California, and 2018 is probably going to be worse. One of the state’s worst wildfires ever, rage near Redding, home to 92,000 people. More than 1,000 homes have now been burnt to the ground, and 6 people (including two firefighters) have lost their lives.

The Carr Fire has scorched 176 square miles (455 sq km), and burned down more than 1,000 homes as of Tuesday. It is only 30% contained. Sparks from a misfiring vehicle ignited the blaze in the absolutely tinder-dry vegetation eight days ago. It was 113 °F (45 °C) there last Thursday, and above 100°F (38 °C) on most days.

Monday/ how to beat FOBO and FODA

Yoda from Star Wars was a legendary Jedi Master and stronger than most in his connection with the Force. (I needed a picture for my post, and Yoda rhymes with FODA. Be Yoda when fighting your FODA?).

FOBO is Fear of Better Options. FODA is Fear of Doing Anything. Both are quandaries a decision-maker may find himself or herself in, when faced with lots of options. These states of mind definitely apply to me sometimes!

Here is advice from Patrick McGinnis in a New York Times article :

1. For everyday things, I do what I call “Ask the Watch.” I whittle something down to two options and then assign each item to a side of my watch. Then I look down and see where the second hand is at that moment. Decision made. It sounds silly, but if you try it — asking the universe — you will thank me.

2. For the big things, I try to think like a venture capitalist. I write everything down on the topic — pros, cons, and so on — and I read it out loud. That process is basically like writing an investment memo for a V.C. investment, but in this case the investment is of your time, your money, your energy.