Wednesday/ Trump gets a scolding

The House overwhelmingly (354-60) approved a resolution, that formally rebukes Trump, over his sudden and disastrous pull-out of American troops from northern Syria. (The damage to America’s reputation, to the Kurds that had fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans against ISIS, and to the stability in the region, have been done, of course).

‘All roads with you, lead to Putin!’ is reportedly what Nancy Pelosi told Trump at a meeting in the White House, when this picture was taken.


Tuesday/ the euagarics are here

The gilled mushrooms (fancy name: euagarics) that usually pop out of the ground this time of year, have appeared again in my backyard.

The ones I have gotten so far, are not as red, nor as big, as years before. It could be because the soil has dried out these last two weeks. (That is about to change, though. The weatherman says we will get up to 2 inches of rain the next few days).

Gilled mushrooms are called euagarics by fungus aficionados. I believe these are fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria), even though they are smaller and not quite as big and red as ones I had last year.

Monday/ First Light’s art installation

Here is another picture from Sunday, of the art installation on the corner of 3rd Ave. and Virginia St. at the sales office of the future First Light condominium tower.

The artwork is a demonstration of the ‘curtain’ of cords and discs that will be installed around the lower floors of the First Light condominium building. The condo tower is only slated to open in the summer of 2022, though. A sign nearby says 60% of the units have been sold to date.

Sunday/ Alaskan Way viaduct: almost gone

I went down to the railing at the top of Pike Place Market today, to go check on the Alaskan Way viaduct demolition. Only some support beams for the now-demolished double-decker viaduct, are still there.

A few blocks away more of the new Amazon buildings are nearing completion, gleaming glass and steel on the outside.

Here’s the view looking south: no sign of the viaduct! Yay! (P.S. A pity that railway tunnel and line is still there, though. Just as I was leaving, a noisy coal train came chugging through, probably headed up north to the coal export terminal in British Columbia. We don’t like coal trains in Seattle. As the freight cars cross the roadways, motorists are backed up for blocks. And in a Nov. 2016 trial against rail company BNSF, scientists testified that a million or more coal particles per second come off of each rail car, dumping mercury, arsenic, and hundreds of other pollutants into rivers, lakes and oceans along BNSF rail lines. And then of course, somewhere all the coal will get burned, become CO and contribute to the climate change crisis).
Here are some of the remaining support beams that will be demolished, looking north from the same spot.
Here is what the corner of Blanchard St & 7th Ave looks like now. The two shiny buildings are Amazon Block 21. The oval one is McKenzie luxury apartments (1 bed, 1 bath: $3,000 pm). To the left rises Amazon Block 18, a 17-story office building. Quite a transformation .. not that many years ago, I would bring my Toyota Camry to the Toyota service station that used to be right here, in Block 21.
New bike lane, watch for bicycles as you cross, pedestrians! I wonder if the bicycle picture will eventually have to be updated to include say, electric scooters.
This is the nearby Amazon Block 20 tower that has been completed for a few months now. Amazon employees must have started to move into it.

Saturday/ why the truth is so hard to find

‘We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are’.
– from Seduction of the Minotaur, by Anais Nin (1961)

The entire Sept. issue of Scientific American is dedicated to the topic on the front page in bold letters: Truth, Lies & Uncertainty: Searching for Reality in Unreal Times. The articles are heavy on science and general philosophies about what is real and what is virtual. For example: to this day, philosophers cannot agree on whether mathematical objects (say, the number ‘7’) exist, or are pure fictions.

A summary of the article by Prof. Anil K. Seth that goes with the picture below, goes like this:
‘The reality we perceive is not a direct reflection of the external objective world. Instead it is the product of the brain’s predictions about the causes of incoming sensory signals. The property of realness that accompanies our perceptions may serve to guide our behavior so that we respond appropriately to the sources of sensory signals’.

So throw in Presidents that lie every day, greedy corporations with profit incentives, and worldwide social media networks ⁠— and holy cow: it’s more important than ever before to try to verify if something uncertain or new that we come across, is ‘true’.

Our realities are constructed by our brains, and no two brains are exactly alike.

Friday/ a tunnel of yellow frames

Here’s a tunnel of yellow frames along Broadway, as I made my way back to the Capitol Hill train station today.  I guess the scaffolding protects pedestrians from falling tools and other accidental debris, from the construction of the three new apartment buildings right there.

The figure in the distance is a woman with scarlet-red hair, clad in black with matching 6- inch platform shoes.

Thursday/ under every rock, a spider

As someone said on TV today: this impeachment inquiry all feels like Watergate in reverse. We have the-crook-that-says-he’s-not-a-crook (Trump), and the smoking gun (the transcript of his phone call). Now, every day, new details and new accomplices are uncovered, and reported by news organizations.

On Thursday two Giuliani associates were nabbed at Dulles International Airport. They made illegal campaign contributions to Trump’s campaign, and were also carrying out Trump’s scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate his domestic rivals.

Tuesday/ the ‘Most Beautiful House’ in Germany

A new brick house in Münster, Germany, won the 2019 architectural award from 200 submissions, for the ‘Most Beautiful House’ in Germany.

I saw the report in a newspaper while I was in Germany, and looked up these pictures from the website of Die Welt newspaper.

The brick house with the asymmetrical, stepped facade and copper garage door in the Buddenturm neighborhood in Münster, Germany. [Source: Die Welt newspaper/ hehnpohl architektur bda]
Lots of exposed concrete and wood on the inside. [Source: Die Welt newspaper/ hehnpohl architektur bda]
Is it old? Is it new? Is it quite finished, with that concrete ceiling and all? I love those black lamp shades and hey, if had I lived there I am very sure I would get used to it!  Those floor-to-ceiling doors/ windows are great, too. [Source: Die Welt newspaper/ hehnpohl architektur bda]

Monday/ ‘President Z’ and the quid pro quo

To start with, there is the $391 million in security aid for Ukraine that Trump tried to withhold and leverage for his personal gain (Ukraine to ‘investigate’ Joe Biden).
Trump and his accomplices knew it was wrong, because they tried to hide the transcript of the phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. It also appears that Trump fired Marie Yovanovitch, US ambassador to Ukraine, after Rudy Giuliani complained that she was blocking his efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden.
Then the first whistleblower came forward.  The White House published the transcript of the call, and said ‘Look! We did nothing wrong, and there was no quid pro quo‘. (Favor or advantage expected, in return for something). There clearly was a quid pro quo, stated in encrypted text messages from Kurt Volker, Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine).
So this is a textbook case for impeachment.

There is now a second whistleblower, reportedly with first-hand information of what happened.
There are also serious questions of possible corruption related to the Ukraine gas company Naftogaz, that involves Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and the US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland.

The start of an opinion piece by the New York Times Editorial Board.

Sunday/ fall colors start to appear

It’s autumn – fall, as we say in the US – and the leaves are starting to change color. It was a nice sunny day (64° F/ 18° C), but the daylight shortens by 3 minutes every day now.

The blue leadwood (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) on my back porch still has some of its delicate flowers, and the green leaves have now turned red.

Saturday/ unpacking my bags

As usual, my luggage was filled with books, and with little nothings and souvenirs. Here are some of the items.

From left to right: ‘Carnaval of the Animals’ (Afr. Karnaval van die Diere), satirical sketches & rhymes | Tintin postcard pictures and Tintin double book ‘Tintin and the Moon’ (Dutch. Kuifje en de Maan)’ | Norwegian Fairy Tales | from South Africa: Fritz Deelman, Agaton Sax & Vonk de Jongh books.
From left to right: Polar bear from the Museum of Natural History in Oslo | Unusual new LEGO bricks from the LEGO store in Hamburg  | The Groke mug (a Moomin character from the comic strip by Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson) | vintage LEGO doors from a second-hand store in Hamburg | a little piece of polished obsidian, a naturally occurring type of molten volcanic glass that has become solidified rock | Okapi & snow leopard from a toy store | Five Roses tea from South Africa. ‘Nobody makes better tea than you and Five Roses’, was what the print ads would say many years ago.
‘Norwegian stamps – Norway in miniature’, says the lettering on the envelope they gave me to put the stamps in. The 26 kr stamp has Harald Oskar Sohlberg, a Norwegian neo-romantic painter, below it the 38 kr stamp has Norwegian lumberjack Hans Borli who was also a poet and writer. The little bird at the bottom left corner, is Norway’s national bird, the white-throated dipper. There are no penguins in Norway, though – that chinstrap penguin on the other 38 kr stamp is from Antarctica.
And here is some Norwegian krone banknotes and coins. On the 50 kr is Utvær Lighthouse, the westernmost coastal lighthouse in Norway, on the 100 kr is the Gokstad Viking ship, a 9th-century ship currently on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo (I did not make it out there), on the 200 kr a codfish, and on the 500 kr a lifeboat (rescue vessel) called RS 14 Stavanger.

Friday/ home

It’s been a long day, with a 2-hr delay starting out of Amsterdam to Seattle, but I made it home early evening Seattle time on Friday. East, west, home best.

Here’s a Ukraine International Airlines plane (this is a Boeing 737) at Schiphol airport. UIA does fly into the United States: Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego & San Francisco.
Here is the view as I was stepping into the Delta Airlines Boeing 767 at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

Thursday night/ in Amsterdam

I’m in Amsterdam, ready to go home tomorrow.

This is Oslo’s Gardemoen airport, and those of us in the back rows, got to step in at the back door of KLM’s The Flying Dutchman (it’s a Boeing 737-800).
Here’s Damrak street, as I walked back to Amsterdam Centraal station to get back to my hotel by Schiphol Airport. Watch out for those fietsers (bicyclists), and especially for the street cars!

Wednesday/ last day in Oslo

Today was my last day in Oslo.
I will return to Amsterdam tomorrow, and then go home on Friday.
I made it to the Munch Museet (museum) today, and hey! I found the Tintin book I was looking for in a great bookstore called Tronsmo.

This colorful passageway is on the way to the platform of the Stortinget T-bane station.
Man! A sight for sore eyes: just about every Tintin book on display in Tronsmo bookstore, and yes, all in Norwegian. When I find Tintin books in a foreign language, I try to buy ‘King Ottokar’s Scepter’, and they had one. Norwegian is a Germanic language, and a Germanic language speaker can definitely recognize some of the titles.
Eeeee! Here’s The Scream (or one of them*), the famous work from Expressionist artist and Norwegian, Edvard Munch, a pastel done in 1893. The original Norwegian title: Skrik. It seems The Shriek or The Fright is a better translation than The Scream. The painting was dimly lit, and I did not retouch the iPhone picture. *There are two pastels (1893 and 1895) and two paintings of The Scream (1893 and 1910).
I like this one from Munch, called Erotikk i sommekveld Eng. ‘Eroticism on a Summer Evening’ (1893).
One more: Høysommer Eng. Midsummer (1915). Munch was a prolific painter, and bequeathed a large collection of his paintings to the Norwegian government upon his death.
This is one of many large sculptures from Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland in Vigeland Park.
Norwegians need their milk and bread like all the rest of us.

Tuesday/ central Oslo & Aker Brygge

I spent the day running down the interesting architecture sights around central station, and the Aker Brygge (Aker docks), a little further along the waterfront.
I also checked into some stores and some bookstores.
I have so far come up empty handed, as far as finding Tintin books in Norwegian, to add to my collection.

Brunost cheese on display at breakfast here in the hotel. It’s a cheese made with whey, milk, and/or cream .. and it is very tasty.
Here’s the type of tram that gets one around central Oslo. Lots of buses available as well.
A selfie with the help of a food truck’s polished surface . I’m on my way the Astrup Fearnley Museum, the structure in the distance.
Find the mechanical reindeer in the picture! Polished marble and glass in the modern office and apartments around Aker Brygge.
Here’s the Astrup Fearnley Museet, a museum of  modern art. It’s been here awhile (since 1993), and was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.
Melkesjokolade .. hmm, yes, a very large slab of milk chocolate, and spelled almost identically to the way it is in Afrikaans: melksjokolade.
And a stuffed reindeer.
The Stortingsbygningen (Storting building) in central Oslo. It is the seat of the Storting, the parliament of Norway. It was designed by the Swedish architect Emil Victor Langlet and taken into use in 1866.
Here’s the regional train called the T-bane (so no U-bahn in Oslo!), coming into Carl Berners Plass station (Carl Berner plaza station).
I’m standing on the Akrobaten pedestrian bridge close to Central Station, and watching the trains come in. That’s the Nordenga road bridge in the distance. It opened in 2011.
To my left is the Akrobaten pedestrian bridge that I am standing on. The buildings on the other side of the tracks are called the Barcode buildings: twelve narrow high-rise buildings of different heights and widths.
Just a closer view of the glass, brick and steel of another one of the Barcode buildings.
Here is the new building for the (Edvard) Munch Museum, scheduled to open in spring 2020. The Munch museum collection, that includes the famous ‘The Scream’, is currently located in Toyen. (Is the building craning its neck to take a closer look at the water?).
The Oslo Opera House, at the head of the Oslofjord (but just a stone’s throw from Central Station, actually). It opened in 2008, and is the home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway.


Monday night/ arrival in Oslo

My Norwegian Air flight had an hour delay out of Hamburg. There was a baggage mix-up in the airplane cargo hold that had to be resolved, but we made it into Oslo with no incident, after that.

The express train from Oslo Gardermoen airport to Oslo Sentralstasjon (central station) took only 21 minutes. The central station is so modern and sleek inside, that it has the same feel as an airport.

Here’s the view from the train coming into Oslo central station, some modern buildings lined up in the background.
Here’s our sleek express train called Flytoget at Oslo Central Station. It’s a GMB Class 71 electric train, capable of 130 mph (210 km/h). It is the only high-speed rail service in Norway, though.
I took a quick walk around the central station before the sun set completely. This is the town square right by the central station. Look for a big bronze tiger at the bottom right.

Monday morning/ last stop: Oslo

The flight to Oslo on Norwegian Airlines is almost due north, and 1 hr 25 mins.
The S-bahn (regional) train at Jungfernstieg station. It pays to read the overhead sign: it says the first three cars go to the airport, and the others to Poppenbuttel.
Der Spiegel cover at the newsstand: ‘One Deal Too Many: Why The Ukraine Affair Could Cost Trump The Presidency’.

I am at Hamburg airport, on my way to Oslo for a few days. It will be my final stop before going home.


Sunday/ the Deichtorhallen

There was a persistent rain today, that made walking around without an umbrella, and not getting really wet, impossible. So I checked into the Deichtorhallen (“the levee gate halls”) art & photography museum.
These halls were built from 1911 to 1914 as market halls, on the grounds of the former Berliner Bahnhof railway station (Hamburg’s counterpart to Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof). Wikipedia says they ‘constitute one of the few surviving examples of industrial architecture from the transitional period between Art Nouveau and 20th century styles’.

This is a side view of the Deichtorhalle (‘levee gate hall’) that houses the art collection ..
.. and a view of the Deichtorhalle that houses the photography collection.
The ceiling of the art collection hall is in itself a work of art (as it should be, right?).
‘Freundinnen (Friends)’ (1965/1966) by Sigmar Polke, large oil on canvas made with raster scan dots. The artist used a paint pistol and a template to create the overlapping dots in different colors. This results in moiré patterns: large-scale interference patterns produced when an opaque ruled pattern with transparent gaps is overlaid on another similar pattern.
This giant work of mixed media on paper covers an entire wall in a small room. It is also by Sigmar Polke (1968-1971) with the strange title ‘Die Fahrt Auf Die Undendlichkeits-acht (Der Motorfahrrader)’ Eng. The Ride On the Eight of Infinity (The Motorcyclist)‘.
I thought the photography hall’s pictures were weird. (Should they be?). It had a lot of interesting/ ugly human face photos, and new-born babies, and other strange, strange pictures. I liked this scary hare staring down the camera, though. The artist was not noted, only that it is a gelatin print on paper, of a hare, made in 2000.

Saturday/ the Elbbrücken station

Well, I did run out to the Elbbrücken station on the U4 line today.
It opened in Dec 2018.
I also went up to the viewing platform of the St. Nikolai Memorial.
The city’s 1968 Heinrich Hertz Tower (280 m/ 918 ft) has long been closed to visitors, but it might reopen in a few years.

Here’s the new end of the U4 line: the Elbbrücken station. It’s right by two steel truss bridges that go over the Elbe river: one for road traffic and one for rail.
There’s the U4 station in the distance on the left, then the steel bridge for cars*, and on the right edge, the train bridge.  These are the Freihafenelbbrücke, constructed in 1926. (The Elbe river has a north and a south branch, with at least a dozen bridges). *And what are these go-carts doing on the road? Best I could tell, is that it is a group that did a jolly ride circuit around Hafencity. Shortly afterwards, all of them headed back from where they came from.
Here is a collage of images taken at different intervals, of the LED light boxes at the HafenCity Universität U-bahn station one stop down from the Elbbrücken station.
Here is the neo-Gothic St. Nikolai Memorial. At its completion in 1874 as St. Nikolai Kirche with a 147 m/ 482 ft spire, it was the tallest building in the world. Central Hamburg and its surroundings suffered terrible damage during WWII, though. In 1943 the church building was destroyed during Operation Gomorrah, but the spire escaped relatively unscathed. Today there is a plaza where the church building used to be, and a museum in the basement of the tower.
A gargoyle from St Nikolai looking over the Rathaus (city hall) from the spire’s viewing platform at 76 m/ 250 ft ..
.. and another view, revealing the rooftop of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.