Monday/ your whole life is a scam

I finally cancelled my TIME magazine subscription, and got the last issue in the mail today.
Just as well, I thought: I do not need to see Trump on any magazine cover even one more time. Besides, I go to the library to read all kinds of newspapers and magazines.

Your whole life is a scam, a lie.

Sunday/ South Lake Union construction update

Some of the construction projects in South Lake Union are nearing their completion: the Nexus condominium tower, the Denny Substation and the Google office buildings. I took these pictures today.

Here is the 41-story Nexus condominium tower at 1200 Howell St, viewed from the south. The ‘cubes’ with their 8° offsets add a little interest to the building.
This is the fancy main gate and its door, of Seattle City Light’s Denny Substation (see the ‘LIGHT’ in big letters?). The walkways on the outer perimeter alongside the building are still closed to the public, though. The $210 million substation will be fully operational by year-end.
Hmm .. and check out the artwork that has now been installed: the 110 ft (33.5 m) tall ‘Frankenstein’ transmission tower (my name for it).  Its official name is Transforest, and it was designed by Lead Pencil Studio.
There are no cranes on the Google building anymore – just scaffolding to complete the outside cladding. I’m looking west, and that’s Mercer Street on the left, onto which the construction crane had crashed on April 28. The cloud logo stands for Google Cloud Platform, a suite of cloud computing services. Google employees will start to move in later this summer.

Saturday/ frying fish in South Carolina

It was South Carolina’s turn on Saturday to host the 2020 Democratic hopefuls in the state’s annual ‘World Famous Fish Fry’, originally started by SC House Rep. Jim Clyburn in 1992.

South Carolina hosts one of the early primary elections in Feb. 2020 (to determine who the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate is). It’s considered a key state in the primaries. Black voters make up 61% of the electorate.

The 2020 Democratic candidates posing on stage before the start of the Fish Fry debate. They each only had a short time, did not attack one another, and I agreed with just about everything they said- but man! there cannot be 24 candidates. There are two nights of televised debates this coming week that may help to thin out the field further. Of course: there is still 499 days to go before the election in November 2020. Crazy.  [Picture: CBS News].

Friday/ summer solstice in the North

It’s the official start of summer here in the North today.
We have had mild temperatures (68°F/ 20°C) and not much rain in June, tracking at about 50% of the month’s average.
Sunset tonight was at its latest for the year, at 9.11 pm here in Seattle.

I walk by these neon pink flowers on their silvery gray stems almost every day, and finally looked it up: they are rose campions (Lychnis coronaria). They bloom in late spring and early summer, and like full sun and drained soil.

Thursday/ about that drone that was shot down

Wow .. that drone shot down by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was not a garden-variety drone.
It was a Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Here are some of its attributes:
Wingspan: 130.9 ft / 39.9 m (wider than that of the Boeing 737)
Range: 14,000 miles / 22 500 km
Speed: 357 mph/ 574 kph
Ceiling: 60,000 ft/ 18 288 m
Endurance: 34 hrs
Cost: $200 million

So what will Trump do now?
He talks tough, but on Thursday called the incident ‘a big mistake’, meaning the Corps made a miscalculation and was not following orders from President Hassan Rouhani.

At this perilous time the United States has no Secretary of Defense (has not had one for more than 6 months, for the first time ever).
And now Trump seems to be the one that has to push back against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Both seem to be itching to start a war with Iran.

Not a good situation at all.

The RQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk is the most advanced known High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system in the world.

Wednesday/ beer night

Only two of the five amigos could make it to the Elysian for beer night tonight.
Our beer of choice was an Elysian Space Dust, a hoppy Imperial Pale Ale with a whopping 8.2% alcohol by volume.

A sticker display on one of the doors inside the Elysian Brewing Company’s Capitol Hill pub. Look for Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch) from the Pacific Northwest, sneaking by the Church of Saint Andrew in Aying, Germany. Aying is near Munich in the southeast corner of Germany, and is famous for its Ayinger Brewery.

Tuesday/ Facebook’s cryptocurrency

Facebook revealed the details of its cryptocurrency, called Libra (symbol ≋), today. Its planned launch is in early 2020. The digital wallet will reside in Messenger, in WhatsApp or in a stand-alone app.

Libra currency will let people buy things or send money anywhere in the world, with nearly zero fees.
Facebook will not have full control – they are recruiting founding members for the Libra Foundation and have signed up the likes of MasterCard, Visa, EBay, Uber and Vodafone.

Facebook’s subsidiary company called Calibra will handle its crypto transactions, and they promise to not combine payment data with Facebook social media data (so that transactions cannot be used for ad targeting). Hahaha. Tell you what, Facebook. Twenty bucks at a time is all I will ever use of your Libra. MAYBE. To buy beer and burgers with on Wednesday nights. 

From this article on techcrunch.com:
A Libra is a unit of the Libra cryptocurrency that’s represented by a three wavy horizontal line unicode character ≋ like the dollar is represented by $. The value of a Libra is meant to stay largely stable, so it’s a good medium of exchange, as merchants can be confident they won’t be paid a Libra today that’s then worth less tomorrow.

The Libra’s value is tied to a basket of bank deposits and short-term government securities for a slew of historically stable international currencies, including the dollar, pound, euro, Swiss franc and yen. The Libra Association maintains this basket of assets and can change the balance of its composition if necessary to offset major price fluctuations in any one foreign currency so that the value of a Libra stays consistent.

Monday/ the anger in Hong Kong

An incredible two million people flooded the streets in Hong Kong this weekend, to continue to protest their government’s proposed extradition law (that will allow extradition of Hong Kongers to mainland China and other countries).

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was essentially selected by Beijing, and Hong Kong residents do not trust her. She has ‘postponed’ the legislation, but it has not been cancelled.

Reporting from today’s Washington Post.

Sunday/ Happy Father’s Day!

I am fondly remembering my dad today.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

This picture is a still frame from a film reel sequence, shot with an 8mm film camera, circa 1960.  The location is the beach flats at Hermanus in the Western Cape, in South Africa. The magnificent driving machine is a 1959 Ford Fairlane (V8 engine). My dad had just used it for doing several ‘doughnuts’ on the beach.  The ‘TV’ on the licence plate stands for Transvaal (province), Vereeniging (town).

Saturday/ weed or not a weed?

Whoah .. is this a giant weed? It looks like one, I thought, as I walked by it tonight.
I looked it up and it’s the great mullein or common mullein. Mullein itself derives from the French word for soft, and yes, it’s a weed – kind of.

The Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has giant, soft, hairy leaves and can grow to 6 ft tall.  It’s not so aggressive that it’s a problem in agriculture, but it can crowd out native grasses and herbs. It hosts a number of insects, some beneficial – but it can also host some fungal diseases. [Source: Wikipedia]
This one I know: it’s foxglove (genus: digitalis). Pretty, but don’t mess around with it, or chew on it! since the entire plant is poisonous from the roots up.

Friday/ Timothy hay, for the chinchilla

Hey, it’s Timothy hay! .. for pet rabbits, guinea pigs or chinchillas. $16 for 6 pounds of hay.

The stock market here in the States does not seem too freaked out yet by the Trump Administration’s tariff wars and threats of starting a real war in Iran, but we will have to see where we end up at the end of 2019.

Today an online pet food purveyor called Chewy, had its IPO, and ended the day 60% higher.

Just for fun, I wondered if chewy.com would have food for say, a pet chinchilla that I might have. Well, it turns out 1. that they do, and 2. that chinchillas love Timothy hay. I did not know that! Washington State is known worldwide for the quality of its Timothy hay.

Here’s CNBC’s reporting of trading for the Chewy.com stock. The stock ended the day at $34.99, 59% above the initial offering price.

Thursday/ gold made early Seattle prosper

Johannesburg in South Africa is sometimes said to be the real ‘El Dorado’: the city that was built on the discovery of gold*. Seattle, for its part, was a pioneer outpost in the late 1800s, and was lifted out of an economic slump and prospered by 1900, due to the discovery of gold.

Here is a brief timeline of Seattle at the end of the 1800s:
1889 Seattle’s Great Fire reduces 50 blocks of downtown to rubble.
1893 The financial Panic of 1893 causes a national recession.
1897 On July 17, the Portland Steamer docks in Seattle, carrying half a ton of gold from the Klondike region in Canada.
Some 10,000 men and boys leave for the Alaskan and Canadian goldfields.
1898 Canada creates the Yukon territory.
1900 By the time the decade and the century ended, Seattle’s population had doubled to 81,000.

*The Witwatersrand Gold Rush was a gold rush in 1886 that led to the establishment of Johannesburg, South Africa. There was once a massive inland lake, and its silt and gold deposits from alluvial gold that had settled there, formed the gold-rich deposits that South Africa is famous for.

A retrospective (printed in 1996) of Seattle Times articles from the late 1800s, that I found in the Seattle Public Library.

Wednesday/ hello, Steller’s jay

Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri). This must be a juvenile bird, with the fluffy feathers on its chest.

Here is a Steller’s jay that sat for a few minutes on the fence here at my house.

My camera’s 200 mm-equivalent zoom lens is not quite up to the task to get a tack sharp picture, but that’s OK.  I’m not ready to splurge on a 500mm lens just yet.

Tuesday/ new rainbow paint

It’s nice to see that the City of Seattle has applied new paint on some of the rainbow pedestrian crossings here on Capitol Hill.
I guess it’s too bad we cannot stop pedestrians and traffic from dirtying them up all over again, right?

Here’s the corner of 11th Avenue and Pine Street on Capitol Hill with its freshly painted pedestrian crossing. The real rainbow has seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. On rainbow flags and gay symbols the indigo is left out. The green in this paintwork looks like teal to me, but hey, it’s all fine. I love the colors.

Monday/ warm weather on the way

We have warm weather on the way for the city: we will touch 90 (32 °C) on Wednesday.
Time to let cool air in at night and in the morning, and keep the shades on the windows down in the day! (I don’t have central air-conditioning in the house).

These beautiful red poppies are on the north end of 18th Ave here on Capitol Hill. They made me look up Monet’s famous painting with the poppies! See the next picture.
Claude Monet (1840-1926) | Poppies | 1873 | Oil on canvas
From the Musée d’Orsay website: When he returned from England in 1871, Monet settled in Argenteuil and lived there until 1878. These years were a time of fulfilment for him. Supported by his dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, Monet found in the region around his home, the bright landscapes which enabled him to explore the potential of plein-air painting. He showed Poppy Field to the public at the first Impressionist exhibition held in the photographer Nadar’s disused studio in 1874. Now one of the world’s most famous paintings, it conjures up the vibrant atmosphere of a stroll through the fields on a summer’s day. Monet diluted the contours and constructed a colourful rhythm with blobs of paint starting from a sprinkling of poppies; the disproportionately large patches in the foreground indicate the primacy he put on visual impression. A step towards abstraction had been taken. In the landscape, a mother and child pair in the foreground and another in the background are merely a pretext for drawing the diagonal line that structures the painting. Two separate colour zones are established, one dominated by red, the other by a bluish green. The young woman with the sunshade and the child in the foreground are probably the artist’s wife, Camille, and their son Jean.

Sunday/ 2020 Democrats swamp Iowa

There was a carnival of politics in the state of Iowa today, with 19 of the Democratic 2020 presidential candidates taking the stage at the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2019 Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids.

Each candidate had only 5 minutes to speak, though. Sigh. I just hope that the Democrats will pull out all the stops, hit up all their rich donors, and deploy social media campaigns and whatever else they can, to get Trump out of the White House.

My breakfast this morning. On the left, on Friday’s TIME magazine cover, is Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders (77) who was also in Iowa. I realized after I had taken the picture that I had quite a worldwide ensemble on the table: melamine tray from China, coffee mug from South Africa, with coffee from Colombia, bone china cereal bowl from Japan, oatmeal from Ireland, with blueberries from Canada, and walnuts from California.

Saturday/ no tariffs on Mexican goods (yay?)

Leave my Mexican avocados alone! I put them on my toast, almost every day.

If we are to believe Trump (I am not), his threat to slap a 5% tariff on all goods from Mexico, unless they do better at stopping migrants trying to reach the US border, had the desired effect.  (Trump tweeted Friday night that tariffs are now off the table, and that a last minute agreement with Mexico was reached).

Well, it turns out that much, or all of the terms of the ‘agreement’, were actually reached months ago between Mexican officials and the White House, says the New York Times (see below).

Friday/ rent control: yes or no

Should a city such as Seattle with really expensive housing costs, adopt rent control* measures? Maybe, but probably not.

It usually turns out that rent control creates a whole new set of problems. Renowned economist Paul Krugman writes that rent control inhibits construction of new housing, creates bitter tenant–landlord relations, and in markets with not all apartments under rent control, causes an increase in rents for uncontrolled units.
A better approach for city councils could be to provide housing subsidies or tax credits to renters.

*Rent control or rent regulation is a system of laws, administered by a court or a public authority, which aim to ensure the affordability of housing and tenancies on the rental market for dwellings. [Source: Wikipedia]

Could I sign her petition for rent control? asked the lady at the grocery store entrance today. ‘Hmm- I don’t know enough about it’, was my honest reply. So she gave me this brochure, but all it said was ‘We need rent control’. Well, in a free market and in order to be fair to everyone, even rich people – those that own entire apartment buildings – it’s just not that straightforward.

Thursday/ 75 years on: we shall never forget their sacrifice

Time marches on, and here we are, 75 years from the day in World War II, on which the Allied Forces had landed on the beaches in Normandy.

After sunset on June 5th, an enormous fleet of some 6,900 Allied vessels made their way to the French coastline. The first Allied soldiers set foot on the five beaches at about 6.30 am.  (The five beach-heads would only be connected by June 12th, much later than planned, though). An estimated 4,400 Allied soldiers died on D-day, and an equal number or more German soldiers.

By the end of June 1944, some one million Allied soldiers were on the ground on French soil. The casualties for both sides during Operation Overlord that lasted until Aug. 30, 1944, would come to some 450,000 dead.

D-Day: This is How the Invasion Went  The boxes at the top are the code names for the landing beaches. The orange shows the areas that the Allied forces occupied on the first day after the D-day landings. (Their goal was to reach the dotted lines). The port city of Caen (lower right), a key target, was only completely liberated by July 21. [Graphic by Theunis Kruger, Grafika24, from Die Burger newspaper].

Wednesday/ ditching the whitening

I read once that Americans have somewhat of an obsession with super white teeth – so that must be why so many toothpastes are ‘whitening’ or ‘extra whitening’.

Well, says my dentist:
1. if you are using toothpaste for sensitive teeth, whitening ingredients detract from the effect of the potassium nitrate (which helps with tooth sensitivity); and
2. the amount of whitening actually achieved with toothpaste is minimal.
So I’m ditching my Sensodyne Extra Whitening toothpaste, and will go with one that only has the potassium nitrate.

I got this toothpaste sample from my dentist, and I like it, but I have not been able to find it in a store yet. I guess I could order it online from You-Know-Who, but I will try another store or two first. The dentist says to smear a little toothpaste over the tooth and gums where the heat & cold sensitivity is, before brushing, to amplify the effect of the potassium nitrate.