Monday/ better late than never

Two items in the ‘Better Late Than Never’ category, in the fight against the pandemic, were in the news today.
1.  Dr. Scott Atlas, Trump’s coronavirus adviser resigned.  (His ‘expert advice’ appalled public health experts).
2.  Washingtonians can finally activate or download the Coronavirus Exposure Notification app.  (In Western Washington, the number of new daily cases jumped six-fold just from September to November). The diagram below shows how this works.

Here’s how the Exposure Notification smartphone app, developed by Apple & Google, works. (Technical question: Bluetooth signals work up to 30 ft/ 10 m away. Does that mean I will get a notification if I had been as much as 30 ft away from a person that had tested positive for COVID-19 the last 14 days? I guess so! The fourth panel does say it needs to be ‘a significant amount of time’ – 15 mins, I would guess – that the phones had been in close proximity). [Graphic from the Washington State Dept. of Health website]

Sunday/ it all worked out, in the end

Here’s how my Sunday afternoon went.
1.30 pm Are you free for tennis? texted Harris. Yes, sure, I said. It was a sunny day (but not warm! 49 °F /9.5 °C), and now we had three; still needed a fourth.
Ardee was at Costco. Jesse was a no, as was Chuck. Jackson might be available .. checking. No, his girlfriend says no, he texted. What?! How dare she? was our reaction :-).
2.00 pm Still no luck finding someone. Alright. Let me go and scout out the courts, I offered. We were not even sure if the courts were, in fact, dry.
2.15 pm I arrive at Amy Yee Tennis Center. (Inside is closed, of course). The six outside courts are dry, kind of (big damp spots) – but already filled with players. We had no reservation. The courts can be reserved the day before with non-refundable deposits, but nobody really does that this time of year. The weather is too unpredictable.
2.30 pm Just come on out to the courts, I texted Harris & Cam: Worst case, the three of us can hit a few balls on a semi-dry court.
3.00 pm I’m still camping out by Court 5 & 6, waiting for one to open up. Alan from my social tennis club happens to play on 5. Maybe he will stay on and play with us, I thought.
3.05 pm Harris & Cam arrives.
3.10 pm Court 5 opens up. Yay! We can go on, and Alan agrees to be our fourth.
3.40 pm The thin sunlight disappears for good, behind swirling low-land fog that’s rolling in. We keep on playing.
4.20 pm Yikes. It’s becoming difficult to see the ball in the twilight and fog! Almost done, though. It’s 6-6 in the second set and we’re into a 7-point tiebreaker. Alan and I lose it 5-7.
No matter, it was just great to be able to play!

Getting into my car to leave the courts at Amy Yee Tennis Center. This is 4.40 pm, with the sun long gone behind the fog, and now below the horizon as well.

Black Friday/ shopping at the mall? count me out

The official Black Friday is here .. but it’s been ‘Black Friday’ online, every day since at least last week!
One has to wonder how busy the malls were, given their decline even with no pandemic. These days, I don’t even go into the grocery store as a rule. I buy the groceries online and go pick it up. So shopping at the mall was absolutely not going to happen.

Wednesday/ Mousse was on the loose

Here’s a picture that New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson had posted on Twitter on Monday, after being reunited with his cat Mousse.
Mousse had escaped from an apartment in Williamsburg (the neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York), but was found a few hours later.

Tuesday/ wow: Dow 30,000

The venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average stock market index closed above 30,000 for the first time today. (Trump can eat his words now— the ones where he had said the stock market would crash if Biden won).

These slides are from the online Wall Street Journal. The annotations are mine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average debuted on May 26, 1896, the brainchild of Charles Dow and his statistics-minded business partner Edward Jones. Back then its components were 12 smoke-stack companies: American Cotton Oil, American Sugar, American Tobacco, Chicago Gas, Distilling & Cattle Feeding, General Electric, Laclede Gas, National Lead, North American, Tennessee Coal and Iron, U.S. Leather, and U.S. Rubber.
In 1928, the Dow was expanded to include 30 companies. Companies from older industries are replaced from time to time by newer ones. (This slide is old, actually. ExxonMobil & United Technologies are out of the Dow). The current 30 components are: 3M, American Express, Amgen, Apple, Boeing, Caterpillar, Chevron, Cisco Systems, Coca-Cola, Disney, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, Honeywell, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, McDonald’s, Merck, Microsoft, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Salesforce, Travelers, UnitedHealth, Visa, Walgreens, and Walmart.
Check out this steep drop in Feb & March when the reality of the pandemic set in .. but then the Federal Reserve’s massive, multi-trillion-dollar economic stimulus, and optimism due to the Covid-19 vaccine announcements overcame all of that, in just 9 months. Make no mistake, though. This optimistic stock market index does not reflect the general state of the national economy. There is still a loonng road ahead to repair the widespread damage the pandemic had done.
This slide shows how the spectacular growth of the tech giants offset the poor performance of the industrial companies. (Not sure why GE & XOM are shown. GE was removed from the DJIA in 2018, after which none of the original components of the DJIA remained. Exxon Mobil was removed in August this year).

Monday/ here comes the Colosseum

The completed LEGO® Creator Colosseum set. The structure is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir, Titus. It could hold some 60,000 spectators.

Move over 2017’s LEGO Millennium Falcon (7,541 pieces) and LEGO Taj Mahal (5,923 pieces)!
The up-and-coming LEGO Colosseum (on sale this Friday) clocks in at a colossal 9,036 pieces, making it far-and-away the largest official Lego set ever.
And yes, it comes at a high price for that many bricks:  US$ 550.

Am I tempted to go for it? Well, I would rather spend that kind of money to buy bricks like I did for my Doon Drive House creation.
Maybe I can design and build a LEGO Castle of Good Hope  – the one in Cape Town, with its brick walls and five-pointed footprint. Now that would be a challenge.

The Colosseum appearing in the 1975 movie Mahogany, as seen by Diana Ross’s character Tracy Chambers, fashion designer in Rome ..
.. and here is my own encounter with the Colosseum. It was in the summer of 1981, during my very first overseas trip. I’m on the left; my mom & dad in the middle.

Sunday/ President Obama’s memoir

I see President Obama’s memoir ‘A Promised Land’ is available at the Red Balloon toy store here on 15th Ave.  Even though it runs 800 pages, it is only the first volume. The second volume is in the works, apparently.

Obama had aides that assisted him with research, but he wrote the manuscript himself, by hand, so that ‘half-baked thoughts’ could be exposed and highlighted in a first draft. (That’s certainly his prerogative — but surely phrases and sections can be very efficiently highlighted and annotated in digital text?).

Obama’s book in a store window on 15th Ave here on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Jennifer Szalai writing for the New York Times, says: ‘The most audacious thing about Barack Obama’s new memoir, “A Promised Land,” is the beaming portrait on its cover: There he is, the 44th president, looking so serenely confident that it’s as if the book weren’t arriving on the heels of a bitter election, amid a cratering economy and a raging pandemic’.

Saturday/ bittersweet, the way life is

I like my confections bittersweet (marmalade, dark chocolate).
My kitchen cupboard had been out of marmalade for a while, and it was time to order some online.

The marmalade has landed. This is the good stuff: Seville oranges and cane sugar (not high-fructose corn syrup). I love it plain with butter on toast, or with peanut butter, or with a hard cheese, such as cheddar.
Crosse & Blackwell is a British brand, but this jar was made under license in Wisconsin, USA.

Friday/ grays and yellows

Looking south from Galer St & 19th Ave, tonight at 4.17 pm. Sunset was at 4.26 pm.

P.S. In the town of Utqiaġvik (UUT-kee-AH-vik, formerly known as Barrow) north of the Arctic circle, and near the northernmost point of Alaska, the sun came up on Thursday at 12.54 pm, and disappeared 34 mins later. The sun will not appear again for two months; the polar night has started there. There will still be a number of hours of so-called civil twilight, every day, though.

Thursday/ looking at 2021

We now know most of the answers to the questions we had pondered in March, about the pandemic.

Looking back, some of them are really shocking. We had to forego most of the public celebrations of summer. Kids could not go to school. Even so, the country is now in worse shape than in March. We have to give up this year’s traditional Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year celebrations as well.

The patchwork of approaches to mitigate the pandemic, and the communications failures from the White House down, did little to stop the virus.
We have now crossed 250,000 fatalities here in the States, and logged some 170,000 new infections just today.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. The milestones that I look forward to are –
1. The Pfizer-Biontech/ Moderna vaccine gets its Emergency Use Authorization (by Dec. 31);
2. President-elect Biden takes office (Jan 20).

Wednesday/ the Tillerman, reimagined

tillerman (plural tillermen)

noun
(US) A person who steers the rear wheels of a fire truck (a tiller truck) or controls its ladder


I first heard ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ by British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens from a vinyl record in 1980. A friend of mine in Stellenbosch, South Africa, played it for us in his dorm room. The record was made in 1970, and the artist changed his name to Yusuf Islam in 1977.

Fast forward 50 years from 1970, and now there is a ‘reimagined’ Tea for the Tillerman, issued on CD. There is a clarinet to accompany the piano in ‘Wild World’. In the ‘Father And Son’ remake, the young Yusuf’s voice for the son’s lyrics was left intact, but the today-Yusuf (72) sings the lines of the father. It’s very touching.

The original Tea for the Tillerman, issued in Nov. 1970, with its whimsical vinyl record cover.
And here is the 2020 Tea for the Tillerman 2. Rumor has it that Yusuf’s son convinced him to do the remake, and it was arranged and done in a farmhouse-turned-studio in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France. I see on YouTube that the new interpretation is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea – but I like it.

Tuesday/ a late rose

The beautiful little rose on the bush in my front yard must be the last of the season.
I expected it to be red, but no – let’s call the color salmon (a nod to the Pacific Northwest).
I don’t believe this bush has grafted shoots on, so this could just be the red from spring & summer, that has faded into salmon & pink.

Monday/ the Corona Winter of 2020

These screenshots are from a German TV commercial that has an older man from the future reminisce and talk of the ‘Corona Winter of 2020’, as if it had been a war. (Germany reverted to stricter stay-at-home measures on Monday Nov 2).

The commercial is nicely done, but has had a lukewarm reception in Germany. Someone on Twitter said that Germans like to complain about Germany.

I think it was the winter of 2020 when all the eyes of the country were upon us. I had just turned 22, studied engineering in Chemnitz, when the second wave arrived.
22, at this age you want to party, to get to know new people and all that. Going for drinks with friends.
Yet fate had different plans for us. An invisible danger threatened everything we believed in. Suddenly the fate of the country was in our hands.
We mustered all of our courage and did what was expected of us. The only right thing. We did ..
.. Absolutely nothing. Being lazy as raccoons. Day and night we kept our a**** at home and fought the spread of the virus. Our sofas were the front and our patience our weapon. You know, sometimes I have to smile at myself when thinking back to this time. This was our fate. This is how we became heroes. Back then, during that Corona Winter of 2020.
Become a hero too and stay at home. Together against Corona.

Sunday/ back to where we were in March

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee was on TV this morning, announcing that indoor social gatherings are prohibited. (No, the sheriff or policemen are not going to knock on the door and arrest people, but everyone is asked to take responsibility and comply).

Indoor dining is prohibited.  In-store retail is limited to 25% indoor occupancy. No wedding and funeral receptions, and so on. The restrictions are statewide and will remain in effect until Monday, Dec. 14.

– It’s still safest to stay home.
– If you go out, stay six feet apart, wear a face covering and wash your hands.
– Stay local.
– Fewer, safer interactions are crucial.

Numbers for Washington State, from the New York Times. While we are still in better shape than many other states in the US, the number of daily cases in WA state has doubled in just 14 days, an alarming trend.

Saturday/ ready for the ATP Finals

I lost what little tennis the ESPN channel offered on TV when I cancelled my cable TV subscription. So with the year-end Nitto ATP* Finals looming (it starts in London on Sunday), I had to make a plan.

I subscribed to ATP Tennis TV – very reasonable at $8 a month for streaming of year-round tournaments with no commercials. Looks like it excludes coverage of the four Grand Slam tournaments, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

*Association of Tennis Professionals. (Nitto is the main sponsor, manufacturer of high-quality car & truck tires).

The Nitto ATP Finals is invitation only, for the top 8 singles players, and top 8 doubles teams. The event is again in the O2 Arena in London. There will be no crowds; the players and their teams will live in a closed hotel & tennis court ‘bubble’.
From left to right: Diego Schwartzman (28 yrs old, from Argentina), Andrey Rublev (23, Russia), Rafael “Rafa” Nadal (34, Spain), Alexander “Sascha” Zverev (23, Germany), Stefanos Tsitsipas (22, Greece), Novak Djokovic (33, Serbia), Dominic Thiem (27, Austria), Daniil Medvedev (24, Russia). Sadly, no Roger Federer and no Americans made it to the Finals this year.

Friday/ after all, a solid win for Biden

With very few votes still being counted, the New York Times and other news organizations now report that Biden has won Arizona and Georgia, and Trump has won North Carolina. Biden 306 electoral college votes, Trump 232.

Biden for the win: 306-232 electoral college votes. [Graphic from the New York Times].
The results from the States. Not going to lie: definitely disappointing that the margins in the red states, and esp. in Florida, Ohio and Texas, were as large as they were, favoring Trump. So these voters saw what Trump did in office for four years, and said: Yes, please! We want FOUR MORE YEARS. Unbelievable.
Here’s Biden’s win in the context of the popular (national) vote: on par with Obama 2012.  George W. Bush got his 2000 win despite losing the popular vote. Then there’s Trump 2016: became a one-term IMPEACHED President, that LOST THE NATIONAL VOTE TWICE. Might as well call it quits and move out of the White House right now, no?

Thursday/ lots of rainy weather

There’s going to be rain every day the next week. It is November, our wettest month, after all. Rainy, breezy, showers. Low 43/ high 50 °F on Friday.. that’s 6 °C/ 10 °C! Not very warm, but not freezing. [Graphic from King5 Weather].

The pictures below are from Wednesday when it was still dry.
I walked down to the Capitol Hill public library — looking like a bank robber with my mask and woolen skull cap.
Only the lobby of the library is open right now, but that’s OK. It’s a hot spot for downloading electronic newspapers with the Pressreader app onto my iPad.

Wednesday/ Veterans Day

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill Biden, attended a Veterans Day observance at the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

I took this picture in Mar. 2012 at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul, South Korea. The memorial complex opened in 1994 on the former site of the army headquarters there. The Korean Conflict, 1950-1953, the United States’ only undeclared war, claimed more than 36,000 American lives. Some 7,600 service personnel remain unaccounted for. Hostilities ceased in 1953, but there has been no formal end to the war (with North Korea).