It’s Friday 4/20

Today marked the annual, unofficial international pot smoking day. (April 20 is written as 4/20 here in the States. 420 in all its forms, is code for smoking pot).

And where did the use of 420 (say ‘four-twenty’) come from? The term was coined in 1971 by a group of five San Rafael High School friends known as the Waldos, by virtue of their meeting time of 4:20 pm to smoke pot.  Not long after that, 420 became a general code word for smoking pot.

Recreational pot is legal on the West Coast and a handful of other states (9 total).  In 30 more states, it is only legal for medical use, and in 16 more states only the marijuana-derived compound cannabidiol (CBD) is legal. CBD appears to be helpful for many health conditions, including epilepsy, anxiety, chronic pain, and more. [Source: CNN Money]
This is the Uncle Ike’s (cannabis store) here on Capitol Hill, just two blocks from my house. ‘Score at the front door’ says the sign at the top left. They do a good job of keeping it tidy around the store, nice bike racks and all. (No, I have not been in there to sample their products!).

 

Thursday/ there is a terrible lizard in my backyard

I did not buy the big T-Rex I saw at Toys-R-Us (my post a few days ago), but this red one at Walmart was on sale for just $1.97.  Besides, the dinosaur – the terrible lizard * – goes nicely with the garage that I added to my Lego house.  It’s all just for fun. I will eventually box up these toys and donate all of it to Goodwill.

*Dinosaur comes from ancient Greek δεινός (deinos), meaning ‘terrible, potent or fearfully great’, and σαῦρος (sauros), meaning ‘lizard or reptile’.

Wednesday/ Devil’s Tower

The restaurant where my friends and I had our Wednesday beers & a bite, has old car licence plates for the covers of the menus. I was not sure what the rock image on the Wyoming plate was called, and had to look it up.
It’s Devil’s Tower, located in the north-eastern corner of Wyoming.  Geologists still debate exactly how the structure was formed, described as a laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock.  In plain English: an isolated hill with steep sides and a small, relatively flat top, formed by magma pressed into sedimentary layers and then pushed upwards.

Tuesday/ blue sky and .. ‘U SUCK’

An electronic signboard here on highway I-5 showed displayed a cheeky (rude?) ‘U SUCK’ message for some time today. Was it real? Yes, because Washington State DOT later tweeted ‘This was an inappropriate message and we apologize if anyone was offended. This was due to a training error and clearly a mistake. We are taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again’.

People did not seem too offended. Here are some snarky comments posted on Reddit –

  • It’s part of WSDOT’s new initiative to reduce traffic. The idea is to insult people who drive so they are more likely to take other forms of transportation.
  • It’s kind of like congestion pricing, but with emotions instead of money.
  • No, you are right WSDOT, I do suck and I am sorry for that.
  • Amateur hour. You have to try harder to insult me .. no really, try harder. Please.
A Reddit user called BruceInc posted this dashcam picture of the electronic signboard by the Sea-Tac Airport exit today. (And yes: there was that much blue sky today, after many days of clouds and rain).

Monday/ my house, in Lego bricks

What would my actual house look like in Lego* bricks? I wondered.  Well, only one way to find out, I thought: build it – and so I did.  I’m pleased with the result.  I had to scavenge bricks and roof tiles from my 2004 Lego Designer House kit, destroying it in the process – but that’s OK.  The roof was a lot of fun to build.

*Lego is short for leg godt, Danish words that translate to ‘play well’.

That’s the Lego ‘me’ on the porch, with the blue shirt and cap (Front). My real house is green with a grey roof! but hey, the white walls and red roof will have to do instead. If I were really determined, I could special-order green wall bricks and grey roof tiles, on   bricklink.com. It’s an online catalog that lists thousands of sellers and thousands of types of bricks. Lego has produced 400 billion bricks since 1958, in almost any square, round and triangular shape, and color, imaginable.

Sunday/ this mall is not dead

It was the last day of spring break for public schools here, and the Westfield Southcenter mall here in the Seattle area was packed with visitors today.  It’s a great mall, and I’m sure it will survive the mall armageddon that all the experts predict, with Amazon and all.
I bought some clothes, and while I was there I checked in on the Toys-R-Us store, to see if their Lego blocks were on sale.  Not really: the stock was still only marked down 5%. So they are trying hard to get as much as they can from liquidating the inventory.

Look! I made a friend at the Toys-R-Us store. (Watch out for those teeth, though. He goes by T. Rex and his live ancestors roamed on Earth some 80 million – 66 million years ago).

Friday/ targeted strikes in Syria

Finally, at 9 pm Eastern Time on Friday, President Trump announced that targeted strikes will be made against Syria by the United States, joined by Britain and France. Yes, the use of chemical weapons is evil, and a red line. (Dozens of people died in a suburb of Damascus in the latest such attack). But surely we can all agree that war is evil, too. The last comprehensive number of casualties, widely accepted internationally — 470,000 dead — was issued by the Syrian Center for Policy Research in 2016.

This map is from the New York Times. Defense Secretary James Mattis said at a press conference the military will do their utmost to limit the risk of civilian casualties in the strikes. It was not immediately clear specifically what was targeted, though.

Thursday/ what action in Syria? nobody knows

The New York Times today: ‘Defense Secretary Jim Mattis took pains on Thursday to walk back President Trump’s threats of an imminent strike on Syria’.  And: ‘President Trump’s fusillade of tweets about Syria, Russia and China this week set a new standard for contradictory and inconsistent positions in Mr. Trump’s approach to war, trade and relations with adversaries’.

Map by the WSJ of the US military assets in and around Syria. After 7 years of war, one wonders if anything but rubble, is found in those cities marked in red. (The country between Syria and the Mediterranean Sea is Lebanon).

Wednesday/ robot in the parking lot

I spotted a Knightscope security robot today, in a shopping mall parking lot in Bellevue. These are autonomous 6-ft high, 400-lb machines, filled with sensors.  The robot scans the environment around it to create 3D images, and to check for unusual situations. I am sure they can already capture car registration numbers. Hmm .. and eventually, recognize the ‘FBI’s Most Wanted’ humans through face recognition?

It appeared to me this Knightscope robot in a Bellevue parking lot was doing a test run. They can upload their data to the cloud, but this one was tethered to the car behind it (thin blue cable). The Microsoft campus nearby is said to have a few of these roaming around already. 

Tuesday/ promises from Facebook, again

Wall Street cheerleader CNBC put the FB ticker up for a long time while Zuckerberg testified. FB stock ended up 4% for the day, so I guess that means the stock market thought he did well. At least he wore a suit this time, and not a hoodie, the way he did for the Facebook IPO in May 2012!

‘We will deploy AI, we now have 20,000 content reviewers, we now ban fake accounts by the thousand, we support the Honest Ads Act’, testified Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today.  (I’m paraphrasing).  Well – let’s just say the road to another Facebook-assisted election catastrophe (such as the one we had in 2016), is paved with good intentions.

There were some sharp questions from Senators today, but Zuckerberg did a mea culpa in his opening statement, and could generally stick to his talking points (we messed up, we’re working on it, it’s complicated). He did leave the door open for supporting legislation from Congress, and admitted that the Europeans are doing some things right, when it comes to privacy protections.

Whether Congress can come up with legislation that will make a dent in better protecting data privacy, and rooting out fake news and hate speech – that also remains to be seen.

Monday/ Trump’s lawyer raided by the FBI

There President Trump was today, in the Cabinet Room with the press and TV cameras, flanked by his top military brass, and new National Security Advisor John Bolton. The media was invited to the start of discussions about what to do about the atrocities of the chemical attack on civilians in Syria over the weekend.

From today’s online New York Times. That’s VP Mike Pence on the left of Trump and new National Security Advisor John Bolton on the right. Bolton will probably advise Trump to bomb Syria. Bolton was a very controversial pick for NSA, with his role in promoting the Iraq War and a bluntness that makes him an extremely undiplomatic diplomat.

Instead, Trump launched into a four-minute rant about the news of the day: that his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, had his office, his home, and his Manhattan hotel room raided by the FBI.  ‘They broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys .. ‘ (um – the FBI had a search warrant); ‘It’s a disgraceful situation’ (disgraceful, yes); ‘it’s an attack against the country, really’ (you are not a king, President Trump, you are not ‘the country’, and you are not above the law).

On and on it went, as he took swipes at Special Investigator Robert S. Mueller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and denounced the investigation again as a witch hunt by the Democrats. Is it November yet? – so we can vote all the Republicans out of the House and the Senate, and impeach Trump? For me it does not even matter anymore, what Mueller’s investigation finds.

Sunday/ cherry blossoms

Spring is in full bloom here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the cherry blossoms are all out – here in the United States, and also in Japan and China.

Here is the University of Washington campus today, with some of its cherry trees and their blossoms ..
.. and I picked up this Camellia flower (I think it’s a Camellia) with its pink tints and flecks, on the sidewalk today. It still amazes me, the detail that smartphone cameras can capture these days.

Rainy Saturday

It rained steadily this morning, but cleared up enough later so that I could make my way down to the Capitol Hill public library.  At the corner of Broadway and Thomas, I spotted this guy: big 3-0 balloons in one hand, and a cake box in the other. He was surely on his way to the party for the birthday boy or gal that was turning 30.  I remember how I had thought my life was over, when I turned 30. Well, live and learn. I now say: it’s not over until it is over.  

Friday/ do not trust Facebook

Recent cover of German magazine Der Spiegel: ‘Die Falle Facebook’ – the Trap that is Facebook. Be careful. Do not be this guileless user, that just divulges everything/ clicks on everything/ believes everything, on Facebook.

I am not deleting my Facebook account, but they have lost my trust. Facebook will do almost anything for money. A sample: they enabled Russians to buy fake news ads (and pay in rubles) for the 2016 US Presidential election scandal, they enabled hate speechers to find target audiences on Facebook; allowed third parties to extract personal data, and then failed to follow up to make sure the data is deleted (the Cambridge Analytica scandal); scanned  images and links sent from Messenger.

So now I go in every other day into my Facebook settings, and I am systematically deleting anything that they can use to sell me stuff.  No more favorite movies or books, deleting my interests, do not enable just anyone to view my profile, do not enable face recognition in my photos, delete all connections to other apps. Sending money with Facebook? (yes, it can be done). Never.

Thursday/ at the Masters

The Masters started in Augusta, Georgia, today. Gary Player (age 82) and Jack Niklaus (78) were on hand to perform tee shots for the ceremonial opening of the tournament.

Tiger Woods (42) is attempting a comeback, but had a rough start, finishing 7 shots behind Jordan Spieth, the talented 24-yr old Texan.

Check out South African Louis Oosthuizen’s putt on the 16th. He sank a 30-footer by standing with his back to the hole, and judging the sharp break on the putting green perfectly. Big smile and a little shrug of the shoulders afterwards.

Wednesday/ chieftains and Kings

It was Wednesday, and so my friends and I went for a beer and a bite at one of our regular watering holes, The Chieftain.
Also: today marked the 50th anniversary of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Irish pub ‘The Chieftain’ on 12th Avenue. A chieftain is the leader of a people or a clan.
Dr Martin Luther King mural near 15th Ave and Madison. In 2005 King County (home to Seattle), was named after Dr King. From way back in 1852 up to 2005, King County was named for a different King: Alabama resident William Rufus King that was subsequently elected Vice President in 1853. Only 6 weeks after later, though, he passed away.

Tuesday/ point and line puzzles

I scan through the Wall Street Journal almost every day, at the public library here in my neighborhood. The weekend edition has puzzles in, and the two puzzles below are from this last weekend.  (This is the link to the WSJ puzzle blog).

I think I know the solution to the ‘Maximizing Links’ problem .. but the Seven Points problem has me stumped .. but I’m working on it!

Update Fri 4/6: Well, the solutions have been published. I got the first one right: 9 links can be drawn. Trying to solve the ‘Seven Points’ problem was a humbling experience, and I got close, but no cigar.  I knew the solution had to involve equilateral several connected triangles, but I should have applied more rigor, and maybe used a compass to arrive at the solution (as shown in the figure with the circles, from Math Stack Exchange).  So depending on the way one looks at it, the solution is a regular pentagon, with two points carefully added to it, equidistant to three other points on the pentagon .. OR two diamonds pinned at a shared vertice (bottom left on the first diagram), and the other vertices a unit length apart.

Monday/ all clear after the storm

It was a brisk 44°F/ 6 °C in the University District this morning at 10 am, where I was this morning.  The storm we had on Sunday night was gone. It brought down a little hail at my house, and a thunderbolt so loud, and so close, that it rattled the windows and the glasses up in my kitchen cabinet.

Here’s the colorful facade of the University of Washington’s new 6-storey ‘Comotion’ building at 4545 Roosevelt Way. It is a ‘startup incubation space’, one that enables collaboration with UW’s partners in industry. UW also invites in companies, even if they don’t yet have an explicit connection to the university.

Saturday/ spring weather

March ended with a lovely, sunny spring day (60 °F/ 15 °C) here in the city of Seattle.

Daffodils (genus: Narcissus) on the sidewalk just around the corner of my house, late this afternoon. Daffodils have been cultivated from the earliest times, and are mentioned in ancient Greek literature.