Thursday/ hello summer!

Tonight, the sun set at 9.10 pm here in Seattle. It will rise at 5.11 am.
I see our pitch black night length here at the summer solstice point is only 1 hr 43 mins, if one takes out all the kinds of twilight.

[Graph from] I added the Sun of May from the Uruguay national flag to brighten the graph up. (Go Uruguay! They notched up World Cup victories against Egypt and Saudi Arabia & will play Russia on Monday). The graph below explains the different kinds of twilight. Solar noon is when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky.
[Graphic and explanation from] Astronomical Twilight, Dawn, and Dusk. Astronomical twilight occurs when the Sun is between 12 degrees and 18 degrees below the horizon. Astronomical dawn is the time when the geometric center of the Sun is at 18 degrees below the horizon. Before this time, the sky is absolutely dark.

Wednesday/ LEGO House on the Hill, 2.0

May I present the new and improved version of what I will call ‘LEGO House on the Hill’? The original one was only a shell, with no floors, and not much detail inside.

This house is still very compact, and built with pretty basic bricks. I don’t have custom furniture and kitchen appliance bricks that come with some LEGO house sets – yet.

Front view. I should change out the baseball cap, or the briefcase, on the house resident. The cap & briefcase don’t really go together.
The back of the house. The garage still needs a little work.
Here’s a ‘Google Earth’ view, looking down on the roof.
Top floor, with the roof removed. Stairs from the ground floor lead into the hallway. Bathroom is to the left with blue furnishings. Main bedroom on left with grey bed, guest bedroom on right with orange bed, study at top with a brown desk.
Ground floor. Staircase by the front door. Kitchen on the bottom left with island, with dining room & brown table top left. Top right is the living room with TV and sofa.

Tuesday/ boxed water and new buildings

Boxed water, offered at the little ground-breaking ceremony yesterday. (Capitol Hill is a registered eco-district). A lot better for the environment than plastic bottles – but these still have heavy plastic caps. Why not do away with the caps altogether?

It’s been more than three years since the Capitol Hill light rail train station here in my neighborhood opened (March 2016).

The construction of apartment buildings on the surrounding open plots of land will finally start. There was a little ceremony on Tuesday, with a few farmers’ market vendors on hand, and displays of the proposed construction, as well as the expansion plans for the light rail.

Some future stations were marked ‘service starts in 2036’ and ‘service starts in 2041’. Whoah. Where will the world be, and what will the world look like, then?

The station & entrance on the left, are complete. The apartment building is one of three 7-story buildings that will be constructed. There will be an open plaza, and space for a farmers market as well. [From].

Monday/ the United States: a human rights abuser?

(I added the question mark just before posting. I should have left it as a statement of fact). Former First Lady Laura Bush in a Washington Post op-ed: images of children being detained in a converted Walmart and a tent city are ‘eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history’. (Note: It took decades for the United States government to admit that policy was wrong).

Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had the gall today to play dumb & deny that separation of young kids from their parents amounts to a form of child abuse.

Tue 6/19: And on Tuesday, Nielsen was seen in the back of a Mexican restaurant in Washington D.C. She and her security detail had to leave 10 minutes later, amid shouts of Shame! and End family separation!

A retweet referring to what goes on at the border, that caught my attention today. Is there still hope that BigIndianGyasi’s statement is too strong for 2018 – ‘Destroying brown & black lives is 100% the American way?’.

Sunday/ floating on a pink flamingo

Here’s the scene at Madison Park Beach* late Sunday afternoon.
*Not a true beach. It’s a pebble beach on Lake Washington, northeast of the city of Seattle.

Madison Park Beach. The State Route 520 floating bridge in the background, is now all tidied up after its complete reconstruction ended last year.  The 84 ºF/ 29 ºC highs brought out a good sunbathing crowd. I love the pink flamingo.

Saturday/ LEGO Jurassic Park

Here’s the LEGO set of assorted building plates. (‘I don’t need no education!’, to quote Pink Floyd .. it’s purely for me to play with).
The details on the new Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase set (360 parts, $39.99) are amazing. The LEGO set designers stopped at nothing – created a velociraptor, custom prints for the computer monitors, old-fashioned desk-top phone, and of course the mini-figures of the movie characters Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler.

My Amazon order of LEGO building plates landed on the porch on Saturday morning: nice.

I see there is a new LEGO Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase set out, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the original Jurassic Park movie.  Hmm. I am tempted.


Friday/ lock him up!* .. who’s next?

From the New York Times.

*’Lock her up!’ (Hillary Clinton) was a favorite chant of the Trump supporters in 2016.

Trump campaign manager Manafort had his bail revoked today and is now in jail.

No sooner had that happened, when Trump appeared on the White House lawn.  Hey! and just by coincidence, there was his propaganda network Fox News, at the ready for an interview.  Manafort ‘had worked for me for a very short time’. On and on Trump babbled, spouting nonsense and lies, like only he can.

Manafort is in serious, serious, legal trouble (read: decades of jail time, for his well-documented crimes of conspiracy and money laundering). Trump cannot pardon him for state crimes (only federal ones). I cannot see how Manafort can continue to refuse to cooperate with the Russia investigation. It’s possible that he has nothing substantial to offer (as a witness against Trump). If that’s the case, his goose is cooked.

Thursday/ the 2018 World Cup starts

The 2018 World Cup is underway! The mascot is a wolf called Zabivaka, ‘the one who scores’.  The wolf character beat out a tiger and a cat character by garnering 53% of an on-line vote for Russians.

The collage of World Cup winners through the decades, comes from FIFA’s web site. I bet the Germans would love to win again – and that everyone would love to beat them!


Wednesday/ a little rain

We had cool weather the last week or so. The high was 66°F/ 18 °C today, with a little bit of welcome rain here in the city. I see there is warm summer weather on the way for next week: low 90s/ 33 °C.

The rosebush in my front garden has started to produce its spectacular scarlet red roses. Long ago in South Africa, I had a whole rose garden in the front of my house in Pretoria (the roses were there when I bought the house). Just out of curiosity, I looked up the house on Google Street View. The rose garden is no more.

Tuesday/ gone: the head tax

Wow. The Seattle City Council voted today to completely reverse the controversial ‘head tax’ that it had approved just on May 14.  There had been considerable opposition to it, and a grassroots effort garnered enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.  Word is that the City Council feared the head tax, as well as an education levy (already on the November ballot), would be overturned in November by the citizenry, so they cut their losses and voted to reverse the head tax.

The homelessness problem is very complicated. No question that housing is too expensive. (So – find money and build more public housing?). Yes, many corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes, by using complicated offshore tax avoidance strategies. But it’s not just about affordability, either.  Many people are on the streets because they are mentally ill, or drug abusers, and the services available to them are too thin and underfunded.

People making their cases today before the Seattle City Council. This woman has been a teacher all her life in Seattle (holding pictures of her class), said she could never afford to buy a home, and now housing is more expensive than ever. There were other colorful characters stepping up to the mike, some swearing at the City Council, others running way over their allotted time, refusing to stop speaking, and getting escorted out by security. (Also: there is a Native American guy with a hand-woven hat, on the far right).

Monday/ what will the world get in return?

So there they were, actually meeting – Kim and Trump. (A little jarring to see the American flags side by side with the North Korean flags).

I certainly don’t care for Trump’s thumbs-up enthusiasm .. but I’m sure the South Koreans & Japanese are way, way more nervous about the consequences of this meeting. Kim already won big by ‘legitimizing’ himself. What will the world get in return?

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Sunday/ the Space Needle & the Pink Elephant

I went down to the Space Needle this afternoon, to check how the removal of the scaffolding is progressing.

By the looks of it, the scaffolding for the Space Needle project should be gone by next weekend. Visitors to the observation deck are allowed (the golden elevator cage in the picture is moving up, and about to disappear into the black hole).  The renovated restaurant is not yet open, though.
The Pink Elephant Car Wash and its sign (established in 1951), is another ‘landmark’ nearby the Space Needle. For now, The Pink Elephant is holding its ground against the development construction boom around it.

Friday/ how about a G6 next year?

The G7 Twitter page header. Charlevoix is on the north shores of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada. Who knows: next year the G7 might be the G6.

It’s Friday, and Trump is out of the country .. yay!
Our President-That-Alienates-Our-Allies suggested out of the blue, on the way to the G7 meeting, that Russia should be allowed back into the G7. (Haha. I think they will decline). Relations are so frayed, that the G7 may actually become the G6 – by throwing the United States out. (Hopefully not). Does Trump’s staff even tell him that? Does he even know that Russia was kicked out of the G8 in 2014 because Putin invaded Ukraine (and his army shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17)?

P.S. The indictments are piling up for Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. An additional indictment today lumps Manafort and suspected Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik together, charging them both with obstruction of justice. (Manafort made numerous phone calls to Kilimnik while out on bail, while already indicted for a long list of serious crimes). Manafort needs to take his toothbrush with when he goes to court next Friday. Word is that his bail is going to be revoked – that he is going to sit in jail to await the start of his trial in July.  

Update Sat Jun 9: At the conference ..

Trump’s body language speaking a thousand words (as the new leader of the Western world is addressing him?). Photo is by Jesco Denzel, official photographer of Germany’s federal government.

Thursday night beers

The Ace IPA from Wingman Brewers in Tacoma is a ‘hoppy’ beer, 6.5% alcohol by volume. We liked it. The hops say Bzzt! Howzat! when it hits the taste buds (bitterness is the most sensitive of the five tastes), but then you get used to it – and you want another sip.

It was ‘beers & a bite’ night for me and my compadres, at our usual Irish pub (The Chieftain) on 12th Avenue.
We usually try not to make the conversation all about politics and the Trump Administration Circus .. but it’s really hard not to!

Here are the official definitions of wingman, just for fun. It makes one wonder what the female word for ‘wingman’ would be.

Wednesday/ rescue on Mt Baker

Below is a still frame of a successful mountain rescue mission on Monday.  Four hikers got in trouble high up on Mt Baker, and had to shelter in a cave on Sunday night.

The rescue helicopter only had a 30 minute window of clear weather conditions.  Landing in the snow created tricky white-out conditions (churned- up snow powder), and the four hikers were the maximum load that could be accommodated by the helicopter.

This is near the summit of Mt Baker (elev. 10,781 ft/ 3,286 m), a frame from video taken by a border control aircraft circling above. The rescue helicopter is blowing up snow as it comes in for the landing. The hikers are the specks a little further to the left and down.

Tuesday/ uglier than Charlottesville

Picture and headline from the New York Times. Does it matter if it is legal or not? Taking children from migrant parents as punishment, is immoral. How can the United States possibly call itself a civilized country with this going on?

Trump’s support of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August last year was a particularly low point (‘very fine people’).

But what is going on now at the border is even uglier. The New York Times: ‘United States authorities had separated several hundred children, including toddlers, from their parents or others claiming to be their family members, under a policy of criminally prosecuting undocumented people crossing the border’.

And so what does Trump do today? Does he own it? Does he defend it? Does he explain it? Of course not. He peddles FOUR BRAZEN LIES in a single short tweet.

Here is’s analysis: 1. There is no legislation requiring the Trump administration to separate children from their parents; 2. The Trump administration is fully responsible for the family separation policy; 3. Republicans are the lawmakers standing in the way of immigration reform; 4. Trump has not started building the wall.

Monday/ I need my Café Francais

The good stuff. I discovered that I have four different tin designs in my kitchen drawers. (The tins are handy for coins and screws and bolts).

My attachment to Café Francais goes back to the very first time I set foot in the United States in 1990.  My older brother and I were visiting my younger brother in Palm Desert, California. He had some in his kitchen cabinet.

The stuff has been my favorite additive for hot milk, ever since. (Just one teaspoon).

I completely ran out of it last week, and horrors! it seemed to have disappeared, or was sold out, everywhere.  But just tonight, I checked one more time here at the local Safeway (grocery store), and there it was, on the shelf.

Sunday night/ a chubby penguin

I think this is a (chubby) young king penguin. I am sure he is smelling the fish in the bowl, and about to gobble all of it up, just as soon as his handler allows it! [I don’t have the publisher of the picture, or the name of the photographer].
Here is the latest picture I have added to my ‘2018 Animals’ folder for my iPad.

Animals that qualify, have to be ‘cute’ or otherwise ‘interesting’. (Yes, I know: not very scientific, my criteria).

Saturday/ here comes the Norwegian Bliss

The 7-day itinerary for the Norwegian Bliss’s Alaska cruise.

The Norwegian Bliss is brand new, and the biggest cruise ship to visit Seattle yet. (Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is slightly bigger).

The Bliss’s passenger capacity is 4,004, crew of 1,716, cruise speed 23.2 knots from diesel electric engines, length is 1,094 ft (333.5 m) and maximum beam 136 ft (41.5 m).

She was constructed at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany.

Picture posted in February by Helmut Weithauer on Google Maps, of the Norwegian Bliss at the facility at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany. Looks like the supertube on the top deck still needs a little work, and the lifeboats still need to be installed into their slots on the lower deck.  Could this vessel squeeze through the Panama Canal? Yes. On May 14, she became the largest passenger ship to date, to transit the Canal on the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Instagram picture of the Norwegian Bliss’s arrival in Seattle on Wednesday for her christening ceremony. (Lifeboats with orange tops are now in place).
This was the ship today, from the top of a staircase at Pier 66. The ship has a total of 16 decks (9 with staterooms). There was a high school prom scheduled for the space in front of me, and I could not get closer. The entertainment at the top deck includes a go-kart track, two water slider supertubes and a giant TV screen for movies.
We could get a front view of the ship from the by leaning out from the bar balcony at the Edgewater Hotel. We had to be patient – the scheduled departure of 4.30 pm was delayed by about an hour. A contingent of 48 passengers from Asia had arrived late into Seattle-Tacoma airport.
Here she comes! The humans on the nose deck waving at us, are little ants. The artwork on the hull is by Robert Wyland (56), an American artist known for his large outdoor murals featuring images of life-size whales.  These are humpback whales, found in oceans and seas around the world, and also off the coast of Alaska.
The view from Pier 70. Norwegian Bliss is going to make her way out of Elliott Bay, out of Puget Sound, through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and then sail due north, for a Monday morning arrival into Ketchikan, Alaska.