Tuesday/ I’ll have an ‘ystervark’

There is aardvark and then there is yster- vark (porcupine). Local craft brewing company Hoogeberg (‘High Mountain’) named one of its lagers Ystervark. (I still have to try it).

The Ystervark is a ‘hybrid lager’, which means it was fermented at the higher temperatures usually used for ales. The time and temperatures used in beer fermentation is not an exact science, and allows brewers to be creative.

Monday/ art from the Baraka gift shop

This artwork was outside a gift shop called Baraka in the little Cape Quarter shopping mall here in Cape Town.

Check out the cool South African themed posters on their website.

‘Halo Spaceboy’, says the ‘King of the Impossible’ with his ‘Aladdin Sane’ make-up (the lightning bolt, from the David Bowie album cover). ‘Make Cape Town Wet Again’ says the text in the background, no doubt a play on Donald Trump’s infamous 2016 campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’.

Sunday/ blue skies at the Waterfront

Here is Table Mountain, basking under blue skies on a beautiful summer day, seen from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.

The submarine on display at the V&A Waterfront (as part of Armed Forces Day 2019), is the SAS Manthatisi. She was built in Kiel, Germany, commissioned in 2005, and is named after the female warrior chief of the Batlokwa tribe. Her home port is the naval base in Simon’s Town.

Saturday/ the ‘Bo-Kaap’

The Bo-Kaap (pronunce ‘boo-uh-carp’) is a former township on the slopes of Signal Hill, above the Cape Town city center. It is the historical center of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town. The Nurul Islam Mosque, established in 1844, is also located in the area. Here are a few pictures that I took today.

This is a scene on Wale Street. I love the Volkswagen Beetle with the blue doors. The backdrop is Table Mountain, of course.
Gorgeous dark green and – Salmon? Coral Pink? houses on Wale Street.
This is the entrance to the Bo-Kaap Museum on Wale Street. I love the wavy cornice on the roof line.
This is Dorp Street.
The minaret of the mosque called Masjid Boorhaanol Islam on Longmarket St, holding its own against a massive development project a few blocks away. Efforts to designate Bo-Kaap as a heritage area have been underway since 2013, and it may finally be approved this year by the Cape Town City Council. Still, the status does not entirely prohibit new construction; it simply stipulates that new construction should be subject to much more scrutiny to ensure it fits in with the existing structures.
A view of the old and the new. This is on Chiappini Street.
Here is the Nurul Islam Mosque, located off Buitengracht Street, and established in 1834.
The Jameah Mosque on Chiappini Street was built in 1850.  It is also known as the Queen Victoria Mosque, as patronage of the British Crown, when the Cape Colony was under British rule.

Lucky Friday

Cape Town highs today: 29 °C/ 84 °F and partly sunny. The days are still long: 13 h 15 mins. [Graphic from ‘Die Burger’].
A peek into my refrigerator here in my AirBnB apartment. The canned fish (Saldanha Pilchards) are from the chilly waters of South Africa’s west coast | Castle lager now has a non-alcoholic version | another favorite are the Windhoek Lights (2%), brewed in the German tradition in Namibia | the Crunchie bar has a crisp honeycomb center covered with chocolate | Ceres makes the world’s best fruit juice blends (this one very romantically named ‘Whispers of Summer’) | Woolworths (‘Woolies’) is the place to go for fine foods and yogurt | The Lindt rabbit comes from Switzerland, of course. I had to get it because the dark chocolate ones are hard to come by in the United States!

The weather was much cooler today.
There were no power outages, and tonight a lucky South African may win the largest local lottery jackpot ever: R 210 million/ US $14 m*.

I have beer in my fridge, and some of my favorite South African snackies, so life is good.

*A fraction of the obscene amounts offered in United States lotteries – but drawing 5% each year of US$ 14 m comes to $700,000. Plenty to live a lavish life, anywhere in the world.

Thursday/ it was a scorcher

It was a scorcher here today in the northern suburbs of Cape Town.
My little rental car’s dashboard gauge hit 39.5°C/ 103°F at one point!

There is no water supply crisis in Cape Town the way there was just a year ago (dam levels at 57% vs 25% a year ago). Even so: I try to use water sparingly. As someone said: the best time to save money, electricity, water, is when you still have plenty.

P.S. Check out the cool safari animals that I found today on Eversdal Road in Durbanville. They advertise artificial turf. I think the rhinoceros will make quite a statement, if I were to install one in my front yard in Seattle!

Wednesday/ the new ‘Public Enemy No 1’

It used to be, many years ago, that we would call South Africa’s national telephone company, Telkom, ‘Public Enemy No 1’. (They were a monopoly, and their services were mediocre at best).  Well,  these days that title belongs to South Africa’s electrical utility company, Eskom.

On Sunday, unexpectedly, the utility announced that it had to resort to Stage 3 Load Shedding mode, with widespread power outages. There were more on Monday, on Tuesday, and today. For Stage 3, Eskom implements rolling blackouts per published time periods and areas around the country, that forces a cut in the national power consumption by 3,000 MW.  (About 10%. The country’s power consumption needs at this time of year is around 30, 000 MW).

It now appears that there are major problems with the start-ups of the two brand-new power stations called Medupi (dry-cooled, coal-fired, 6x 800 MW) and Kusile (coal-fired, 6x 800 MW) , and that the utility was not forthcoming about it.

A team of Italian engineers (power supply & power grid experts) has been called upon to come and help devise strategies to get Eskom’s operations to a better place.  They cannot come soon enough .. even though I am sure we have South African engineers that are completely up to the task, if only they were given the opportunity by Eskom’s senior management.

Front page of Die Burger (‘The Citizen’) newspaper from Tuesday: ‘What the Hell, Eskom!’ .. and ‘Steenbras Dam cannot help until April’ (to generate hydroelectric power) | ‘Even Cyril (Ramaphosa, President), is shocked’ | ‘Could cost the country up to R5 billion (US$ 357 million) per day’ (per the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse).
Here’s an online notice of the outage that happened tonight in my area. These power outages hit large and small businesses particularly hard, of course.

Tuesday/ arrival in Cape Town

I made it in to Cape Town.
The flight out of Schiphol airport was 10 ½ hrs, on a Boeing 777 from KLM.
It was midnight by the time I had checked in to the airport hotel with my rental car.

Life-size LEGO figures of  Dutch colonialists at Schiphol airport, outside the airport’s mini-Rijksmuseum.
Over the Namib desert, with 2 hrs to go.
Our Boeing 777, at the gate at Cape Town International Airport. A lot of Dutch people were on board, looking to catch the back end of the summer weather in Cape Town.

Monday/ in Amsterdam

My flight made it into Schiphol airport at 12 noon local time, after the connection I had made in Reykjavik.

From Schiphol, I took the train to Amsterdam Central station.
The OV chipkaart that I had bought there, does the same as the Orca card that we have in Seattle, and more. The passenger uses it to tap on readers at train stations and on trains and buses, to pay the fare. The cards can be used anywhere in the Netherlands on local trains, trams and buses, and even on regional trains. Just not on ferries, yet.

The Boeing 757 that got us from Seattle to Keflavik airport. It is 6 am, and we are stepping into the terminal shuttle bus. It was 5 °C (40 °F), but man! it felt 10 degrees colder, with the icy windchill that whipped across the tarmac.
This is Amsterdam Central station, and I had just stepped off the train called the Sprinter. It’s just a 17 min run from Schiphol to Amsterdam Central.
The main facade for the Amsterdam Central Station building. Built from 1881 to 1889, it was designed by famous Dutch architect Petrus J.H. Cuypers. I cheated a little by just aiming at the top: there is construction and remodeling going on at the bottom, behind a fence.
I just had a few hours until sunset, and so I took the No 2 tram line from Central Station down to Nieuw Sloten and back. It is a great way to check out the scenery and the city.  The No 2 runs by several canals and town squares (Koningsplein, Keisersgracht, Prinsengracht, Leidseplein), as well as by the grounds of the Rijksmuseum.
Outside of central Amsterdam, and looking out from the tram, one finds plenty of 60’s and 70’s apartment buildings. These are built in a much simpler, modern style (than the traditional Dutch style). I like this one a lot: all straight lines, rectangles and squares.

Sunday/ Amsterdam bound

I made it to the airport, and it looks like my flight is on time.
I had to negotiate two blocks of bumpy, snowy sidewalk to the bus stop with my roller bags, but it was not too bad. It was easy from there: bus to the Capitol Hill train station, and train to the airport.

Now it’s 7½ hours to Reykjavik on Iceland Air, and another 3 to Amsterdam, where I will overnight on the way to Cape Town, South Africa.

I found this snowman in the little Spring Street park on Saturday afternoon.
Here’s the view at Othello station as my Link Light Rail train passed another on the way to the airport today.  I don’t think the Transit Authority had to take special measures to clear snow from the train tracks on Saturday. The Light Rail operated its normal Saturday schedule – unlike the metro buses, which had to switch to limited snow routes (routes that steer clear of the steeper inclines made slippery by snow and ice),

Saturday/ snowed in

15 cm = 6 inches.
Whoah .. lots of white when I opened my front door this morning! I can still make out the walkway to my front door, though .. so I know where to shovel the snow away.
Here’s an American robin (Turdus migratorius) with its striking orange breast. I found a whole bunch of them, feasting on the red berries on a bush by the sidewalk, here on 15th Ave. These robins are often among the first songbirds singing as dawn rises (or hours before), and last as evening sets in.

Well, we are at 6 inches here in the city, says my unofficial snow meter (the railing alongside the deck at the back of the house).

It is great to be in a warm and cosy house, and to be able to just watch the local TV station’s coverage of the conditions outside, and of the streets. I did venture out on foot mid-morning, to take the obligatory few pictures of the snowy street corners in my neighborhood.

 

Friday/ here comes a lot more snow

We had another round of snow this afternoon (almost 3 inches), with more expected overnight.
Then there will be a break on Sunday, before the snowfalls resume on Sunday night. That’s good news for my travel plans, since I have a flight to South Africa* scheduled for Sunday!  I hope I will get to the airport and get out OK.
*With a stop and an overnight stay in Amsterdam.

A fresh white blanket on the ground and on the trees and rooftops: about 3 inches of snow by nightfall. I know it’s not much by East Coast & Midwest standards, but 6 inches of snow in one go is a lot for Seattle. So let’s say there is 6 inches by Sunday. Weather models show there might very well be another 6 in. coming down on Mon & Tue, for a total of 12 inches in the city. Yikes. That’s why there were reports of stampedes for foodstuffs (milk & bread) at grocery stores, and for rock salt at hardware stores, on Friday morning.

Thursday/ a red onion’s layers

Here’s a beautiful red onion that I put into a roasting pan tonight, with sweet potato wedges,  butternut squash and Brussels sprouts.
It’s a little tricky to get everything to roast evenly, without some pieces getting burnt – but I’m learning!

Wednesday/ friends at Old Stove Brewing Company

This picture is from Saturday, taken at Old Stove Brewing Company in Pike Place market. It was at an event celebrating the new SR-99 tunnel and the up- and-coming new Seattle Waterfront Park.

From left to right: Bryan, Gary, Steve, Willem & Ken. The picture was taken by Hello There You. They arranged us in front of a green screen, and the background was added in digitally. The accoutrements (red goggles, crown, crab claws, salmon) were on a table, and we each grabbed one. I grabbed the cute sea otter plush toy.

Tuesday/ sunny and chilly

The sun was out, with clear blue skies on Tuesday. We got above freezing by a few degrees: enough to start melting the snow.
There is another system on the way that will bring more snow on Friday, though!

The view out my front door this morning. Yes, the walkway does not clear itself: I had to get in there and shovel the snow out of the way. (Not that I receive a parade of visitors every day, but hey, at least now the mailman can make it to the mailbox by the front door).

Tuesday/ it’s the Year of the Pig!

Tuesday marked the start of the Chinese lunar year.
2019 is the Year of the Pig (Boar).

This Year of the Pig (Boar) display was in the foyer of the Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza, Tokyo, when I was there in December. The boar depicts what the Japanese call ‘chototsumoushin’ (ちょとつもうしん): to run and push forward (to the future) powerfully and headlong. P.S. Check out the little piggies down below on the table. Maybe they are little hedgehogs :).
Here is another piggie. I found this display of a Year of the Pig stamp in the window of the Hong Kong Post Office when I was there in December.

Monday/ snow day .. brrr!

The snow kept sifting down through Sunday night, and by noon today, there was 4 inches of snow on the ground at my house.
North of the city, some places recorded 12 or 13 inches of snow.
It was cold today! Even the day temperatures only got to 29 °F/ -2°C.

As usual, I felt compelled to run out early in this morning to take a few pictures of the snow.  This is 6 am, looking north, while standing on the corner of Roy and 16th Avenue.
Here’s the early morning scene on 15th Avenue, with the snowflakes showing in the halo of the street light.

Sunday/ a not-so-super Superbowl

Well, the Superbowl was a bust.
The one and only touchdown of the game finally came in the 4th quarter.
The New England Patriots won over the Los Angeles Rams, as expected – congrats to them.

We did get a little snow on the ground here in Seattle, with more expected overnight. I was adventurous in the kitchen and tried my hand at a red lentil soup. It turned out really nice.

The final step in making the soup is adding in lemon juice and chopped cilantro and stirring it in. I didn’t even know before seeing the recipe, that there was such a thing as red lentils!

Saturday/ the new SR-99 tunnel

Washington’s new State Route 99 tunnel was officially opened by Governor Jay Inslee today at 11 am. Shortly after that, the public was allowed to walk through it. (Earlier in the morning there was a fun run through the tunnel).

The public was also allowed to bid a final farewell to the Alaskan Way Viaduct. After this weekend, its demolition will start in earnest.

Drone video from WA Dept. of Transportation, shot at about 8 am this morning when the fun run started. The entrance to the southbound deck where the runners are assembling is on top, and to its left and lower down, is the northbound deck. (Inside the tunnel the decks are stacked on top of each other).
The north entrance to the southbound deck. A Space Needle glimpse is visible at the top left, and the building with the yellow chimneys house the tunnel ventilation equipment.
Just getting started, so two miles (3.2 km) to go! The top of the tunnel is still flat here (the top part of the picture) – so this ‘cut and cover’ section was done without the tunnel boring machine’s excavation. A little further in, the rounded ceiling shows the tunnel boring machine was at work.
Every 600 ft (200m) or so, there are emergency exit doors that lead into an escape tunnel, that will allow people trapped in the main tunnel, to escape from hazardous conditions.
Here is a peek of the emergency escape tunnel that runs along the main tunnel. (I stuck my phone camera into a ventilation grill opening). Those cement rings with the round and triangular recesses for bolts, were laid down as the boring machine chewed its way through the earth to create the tunnel.
There is a gentle slope down, and then a slope up again to get out of the tunnel. The tunnel had to be deep enough in places to clear existing sewage tunnels and the light rail train tunnel. Here at its lowest elevation, the tunnel crown is at 95 ft (29 m) below sea level. A little further north, it is 215 ft (65 m) deep at its greatest depth below ground.
Alright! Ahead is the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. We’re about to exit on the south end by the sport stadiums. Those giant tubular fans are for creating a draft along the main tunnel when traffic is stuck inside (in a traffic jam). The fans are not needed when traffic is flowing and thereby creating a draft in the tunnel.
Looking back at downtown Seattle after we had walked underneath it. This is the exit of the southbound part of the tunnel.
Today a final opportunity was offered for the public to walk around on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Its demolition will start in the next week or so. This is the view looking south from Pike Place market.
Goodbye Viaduct! ‘Hello Waterfront’, said a similar banner on the other side.
Here’s a final view of the Alaskan Viaduct structure from the Seneca Street exit.

Friday/ a lot of fluff

It’s February of 2019, and the cold in the Midwest is easing.
We’re about to get a spell of cold weather on Sunday and into Monday here in Seattle. We might even see snow on the ground in the city. It’s a good time of year to be a creature with a floofy, fluffy coat!

I found this cute picture on Twitter but did not make a note of the original source. The pups are Samoyeds: is a breed of large herding dog, from the spitz group, with a thick, white, double-layer coat. It takes its name from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. [From Wikipedia]. P.S. Was the fluffy cat supposed to be in the picture, or is it photobombing the picture? 🙂 And I don’t know what breed of cat it is.