Tuesday/ tonight’s ‘debate’

Don’t be fooled by the nice-looking formal debate stage. It was ugly, made so by Trump. Debate moderator Chris Wallace (middle) lost control of the debate three minutes in, and never regained it. ‘No more men for president‘,  said some women on Twitter. ‘No more debates‘, said many others (there’s TWO MORE – unbelievable). Can we just vote and get it over with?

I was spared from watching Trump and Biden ‘debate’ tonight (I play socially distanced tennis on Tuesday nights). Lucky me. The highlights (lowlights, really) were available, and discussed afterwards, of course.

Once again, Trump would not disavow white supremacist groups, specifically the Proud Boys: a far-right and neo-fascist organization.
‘Stand back and stand by‘, said Trump. The Proud Boys celebrated their mention at the debate afterwards.

Here is the New York Times’s six takeaways from the debate:
—Trump trampled over everything.
—Biden, at his strongest, pivoted to the camera — and away from Trump.
—Trump still wants to wear the outsider mantle.
—Trump would not condemn white supremacy, or urge his supporters to stay calm.
—Trump did little to address the gender gap (women support Biden far more than they do Trump).
—Biden rebuffed the leftist label that Trump tried to pin on him.

Sunday/ confirmed: Trump, the tax cheat

The New York Times has finally gotten its hands on more than two decades of Trump’s tax returns, up to 2017 (even Congress, with a lawsuit, has so far not been able to get it).

The bottom line: for many years, Trump has gotten away with paying zero federal income taxes. He paid a paltry $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he won the presidency. In 2017 he paid another $750. (Presidents Bush and Obama regularly paid more than $100,000 year each, in federal income taxes).

Tax avoidance is legal, but tax evasion is not. So is a super-complicated scheme of shell companies, and offshore accounts avoidance – or evasion? I don’t know the answer to that, but $750! That’s less in taxes than that paid by the 18-year old cash register attendant at Walmart.

The presidency has helped Trump’s businesses, says the NYT, but has not resolved his core financial problem: many of his businesses continue to lose money.

The NYT reports that Trump appears to be responsible for loans totaling $421 million, most of which is coming due within four years.

Saturday/ “We’re going to have to see what happens”

From the Washington Post Editorial Board:

IT WOULD have been unthinkable, not long ago, for a White House to have to issue such a clarification. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany averred Thursday that President Trump “will accept the results of a free and fair election.” Ms. McEnany was not rebutting some kind of fevered left-wing conspiracy theory but the president’s own words. “We’re going to have to see what happens,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday when asked whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power. “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” he said.

Sadly, there’s a limit to how much reassurance Ms. McEnany can provide. Mr. Trump will reserve to himself the right to determine whether the election is “free and fair,” and he has already said the only way he could lose is through fraud. Mr. Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr have pre-spun the results by fanning conspiracy theories about mail-in ballots. “Get rid of the ballots” means curbing the mail-in voting that large numbers of Democrats say they will use this year.

There’s a touch, but only a touch, more reassurance to be had from the mild condemnations that Republicans issued following the president’s antidemocratic statement. There is some comfort in the fact that they said anything at all; such things are not guaranteed these days. But it is easy for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to say that “the winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th.” It may take more gumption for them to do the right thing after their president has spun a narrative of massive electoral fraud.

The most distinct danger, in other words, is not that Mr. Trump will refuse to cede power after unambiguously losing. It is plausible he will lead in key states on the evening of Nov. 3, based on an advantage in in-person voting — and that his lead will then diminish or disappear as mailed ballots are counted. If he falsely portrays the shift or the delay as scandalous, will Republicans stand up for democracy and the truth? Or will they support him as he seeks to do what he has openly said he intends — to “get rid of the ballots”?

A president with a modicum of decency would seek to reduce national tensions and assure Americans that the government is working to ensure that every American has a fair opportunity to vote. During a pandemic, that would mean acknowledging that many more Americans will want to vote by mail, which was not controversial until Mr. Trump decided it might hurt his chances. It would mean explaining that the shift toward mail-in voting might make things feel different — full results will not be available on election night, for example — but assuring people that this is not evidence of fraud.

That is not the president we have. So it falls to others — Democrats and, we hope, Republicans — to explain and explain again. Mail-in and early voting are safe and appropriate. The winner may not be known on election night. It is more important that every vote be counted. Vote, be patient, and do not be swayed by the president’s lies.

Friday/ the periodic table is now full

My current digital picture project is to add slides to my set of pictures for the elements. The pictures I have are scanned from the 1965 book ‘The Elements’, published by TIME-LIFE magazine.

At that time (1965), the elements up to Lawrencium (atomic number 103) were known. By 2002, scientists had created and identified all the ones up to Oganesson (atomic number 118).  The periodic table of elements is now ‘full’ (see picture below).

I hope the nuclear physicists are not just playing with their particle accelerators, but are contributing to the quest for the world’s first fusion reactor (that can produce gigawatts of energy). We need to save the planet.

Bombarding a very heavy element with atoms from a smaller one such as calcium, make its nucleus unstable, and then it decays into several other elements. Some of these are very, very fleeting: the new daughter elements are still unstable, and then decay further. [Graphics from Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad].
Here are some scans from the 1965 book (Oxygen, Iron, Copper and Radon).
I had text blocks (from the book) for Einsteinium, Fermium, Mendelevium, Nobelium and Lawrencium), but wanted to add in pictures for them.
For the rest up to Organesson, I will have to make brand new up text blocks, as well as pictures.



Thursday/ Tintin, in Welsh

I have Welsh ancestors, and so a Welsh translation to add to my collection of translations of Tintin adventure called ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’ was definitely required.

Quick Quiz (answers below): In which country is Welsh is spoken? Which city is the country’s capital?
Welsh is the only language that is de jure* official in any part of the United Kingdom, with English being de facto official.
*de jure- by law; de facto- in fact/ the reality

Welsh has been spoken continuously in Wales throughout recorded history, but by 1911 it had already become a minority language. Today Welsh is spoken by some 850,000 people in Wales. The Welsh government plan to have one million Welsh language speakers by 2050. [Information from Wikipedia]

(Answers to the Quiz: Wales, in the southwest of Great Britain, capital Cardiff).

King Ottokar’s Sceptre, translated into Welsh by publisher Dalen (2019). ‘Braint y brenin’ translates as ‘The King’s Privilege’ in Google translate. Welsh is a Celtic language, and does not come out of the Germanic branch of the world’s language tree.
Here is the panel that I have looked at in other languages, this time in Welsh. (It’s weird that some words have no vowels at all, and the phrases are hard to translate, even with translation engines such as Google Translate).
The panel seems to be a play on the word ‘fur’ (referring to Tintin’s white pooch Snowy, called Milyn in Welsh):
Detective Parry-Williams: We are holding tight, to fur with you!
Detective Williams-Parry: In fact, we’re holding the fur, tight with you!
Tintin: All right!
Here’s the English translation, just for reference.

Wednesday/ inside, with outside ventilation

It rained all day and into the evening, which meant the five amigos (my friends and I) could not sit outside on my uncovered deck, for our regular pizza and beers (socially-distanced, of course).

Luckily, my garage is big enough for socially-distanced seating, with good ventilation.

We opened the big garage door and a side door, to keep the ventilation going through the garage. (My garage is not usually this tidy and clean! .. and I’m hiding a few unsightly items under a brown tarp at the back).

Tuesday/ an American failure

As we enter the fall season here in the United States, the country has now crossed the 200,000 mark for Covid-19 deaths.

Says TIME magazine Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal in his closing remarks, writing about this:  ‘There is some good news. The data suggest that we are reducing the death rate in America among people who contract the virus.  .. and it’s possible that at least one vaccine may be available by the time 2020 comes to an end, although distribution will create many new questions and challenges. In the meantime, it is not too late to do better’.

An American Failure. Time magazine replaced its red frame for the cover, with a black one – only for the second time, ever. The first time was for 9/11.

Monday/ so long, summer

It’s the last day of summer here in the North.
Summer will swing by again next year, of course .. but for now we need the rain and cooler temperatures, so that the fires that still char up the West coast can be put out.

These flowers are from my walk yesterday.
From top to bottom: garden cosmos, English marigold, African daisy and dahlia.

Sunday/ South Lake Union construction

It’s been awhile since I went down to South Lake Union to check out the construction there, and off I went today.

Here is the $1.8 bn expansion to the Washington State Convention Center, in a deep hole in the soil, and now in a financial hole as well. It seems as if construction is proceeding, but in May it was reported that the project was seeking a $300 million federal funds bailout to make up for lost tax revenue, due to the pandemic. Critics still say the city’s money for the project should have been used to built homes, schools and parks.
The Re-bar Seattle (bar, indie theatre & night club) is temporarily closed. It’s become an institution of sorts, so I’m rooting for it. ‘Stay Weird Seattle’ is similar to ‘Keep Austin Weird’ (Austin, Texas).
Now let’s talk about that sleek machine parked in front: a 1976 Cadillac Coup de Ville painted in a color called Calumet Cream, and with fur on the steering wheel and all. It’s 19 ft (5.8m) long. I am very sure she will refuse to be squeezed into a single parking bay anywhere in the city!
This is by the Hilton Garden Inn around the corner from the Re-bar. The shiny panels, reflecting window panes & lighting will brighten up the gray winter days that are approaching.
Yeah – that’s not going to happen, enough people deleting Facebook (market cap $719bn), or Twitter (market cap $31bn). Are Facebook and Twitter doing enough to fight lies and propaganda that may help Trump win again? Of course not. But Twitter is trying a little harder than Facebook, it seems .. now marking up Trump’s tweets that are outright lies or misleading about voting by mail, for example.
Here’s the 1200 Stewart St construction along Denny Way across from the Seattle City Light substation. These are two base buildings with 3 stories that will each get 45-story apartment towers built on top of them. In the middle is the 40-story Nexus condominium tower (completed 2019).
This 2014 Fairview Ave, another apartment tower further down Denny Way, that will have 42 stories. Check out the slight S-curve that the rounded corners of the floor slabs are making.
A little further down Fairview Avenue is the El Grito Taqueria (El Grito = The Scream). I love the turquoise-ish color that complements the red bricks.
Yes, open the windows, let some fresh air in! The Cascade apartments on Minor Avenue.

Saturday/ rain, and clean air

There was rain this morning, and more tonight, and the weather system that swept in from the Pacific, brought in fresh air as well.
Man! it’s great to be able to go outside and breathe clean air.

Mr Spider from my garden – European garden spider (Araneus diadematus). There are still plenty of spiders active outside, but I’m sure they will curtail their web-spinning activities soon. It’s a myth that outside spiders come into the house when it gets colder in fall. They stay outside, slow down and search for hiding places to survive the cold of winter. Some species go into hibernation, but not all.

Friday/ Ruth Bader Ginsberg (1933-2020)

The children’s book ‘Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality’ by Jonah Winter, Stacy Innerst (Illustrator).
Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s and ’40s, Ginsburg was discouraged from working by her father, who thought a woman’s place was in the home. Regardless, she went to Cornell University, where men outnumbered women four to one. There, she met her husband, Martin Ginsburg, and found her calling as a lawyer. Despite discrimination against Jews, females, and working mothers, Ginsburg went on to become Columbia Law School’s first tenured female professor, a judge for the US Court of Appeals, and finally, a Supreme Court Justice. [Description of the book from barnesandnoble.com]
Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (87) passed away today (pancreatic cancer).
She was a trailblazer and a champion of gender equality. Now that she is gone, there may be profound consequences for the Court, and for the country.
Only 3 of the remaining 8 justices are now considered progressive or liberal, with 5 conservative.

A growing crowd gathered on Friday night at the grounds at the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. for an impromptu vigil for Justice Ginsberg. [Picture posted by Kelsey Reichmann @KelseyReichmann on Twitter]

Thursday/ cleaner skies

The air quality around Seattle had improved enough by this afternoon for us to at least venture out for a walk around the block.

I watered my plants at the back and front of the house, and then went back inside. We have really had no rain in the city for September– 0.06 in (1.5 mm) at the National Weather Service’s gauge at the airport.

The delicate little flowers on my blue leadwood (Ceratostigma) are the last splotches of color that I have on my back deck, before fall sets in. The color of the leaves are already turning.

Wednesday/ still hiding away

Mr. Blue Sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?
– lyrics from Mr Blue Sky, by Electric Light Orchestra (1977)

Here’s a flock of pigeons – and yes, I’m looking directly at the sun – at 6.00 pm today.
The air quality here in Seattle has improved from ‘Hazardous’ to ‘Unhealthy’. There is a weather system moving in on Friday that should finally bring back blue skies.

Amazing satellite photo tweeted by Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (@pscleanair) on Wed. morning. All of Washington State is covered. I believe the white ridges are clouds and the flat gray lower down must be smoke.

Tuesday/ Luby’s may be going out of business

I dined at Luby’s a few times while I lived in Houston in 1999.
The restaurant chain is now headed for liquidation.

Writes Jill Smits in Texas Highways Magazine:
‘If you grew up in Texas, you’ve probably eaten at Luby’s. And if you’ve eaten at Luby’s, your feelings about the restaurant may run surprisingly deep. While it’s been decades since I stepped inside one, my nostalgia for square fish, church clothes, and green Jell-O has been in overdrive since hearing the 73-year-old Houston-based cafeteria chain is closing multiple locations and heading toward liquidation’.

Luby’s circa 1955. Check out the cool cars. [Picture from Texas Highway Magazine; photograph by Dewey G. Mears; courtesy the Austin History Center, Austin Public Library].

Monday/ the smoke blanket stays

There was no good news in the weather forecast tonight.
A low-pressure system in the Pacific will continue to bring in smoke from the south, and the little bit of rain tonight is not going to clear the the foul air that is blanketing the city, either.
It’s going to be a few more days, at least.

Mr Squirrel, chewing on a little pine cone that had dropped from a Douglas fir in my yard. He didn’t seem to be bothered by the smoky air.

Sunday/ team Thiem has it

There were lots of sports on TV today, but I stuck it out for the 4 hours of the 2020 US Open Men’s Final.
Dominic Thiem (27, Austria) prevailed over Alexander Zverev (23, Germany) in a thrilling match: 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6).
It was Thiem’s first win in a Grand Slam tournament final.

Look at the score: tie-breaker in the 5th set! Thiem is about to hit a backhand on his 3rd match point (which is also championship point). The next shot from Zverev would sail over the sideline on the left, giving Thiem the 5th set tie-breaker at 8-6, and the match, and the 2020 US Open championship. [Video still from usopen.org].
This is a heartfelt Instagram post from Zverev’s older brother Mischa (on the right) after the match.  (Alexander’s nickname is Sacha). Their parents emigrated from Russia to Germany to give their kids a better shot at becoming professional tennis players. Sacha was born in Germany.
Sacha was very emotional at the trophy ceremony, thanking his team, and his family. I think he dearly wanted his family to attend in person, but for this tournament-in-a-bubble each player was only allowed a limited number of people in their entourage.

Saturday/ the air is orange – and poison

It’s 1.15 pm here in Seattle, and there is an eerie orange haze outside.
The sun has yet to break through the combination of marine layer fog and thick smoke from the west coast’s man-made fires. (Calling them wildfires seems like a cop-out, as if humans had no part in it).

Don’t go outside, they tell us – it’s hazardous for your health. Large swaths of Oregon have an air quality index reading of 500+ .. off the charts and beyond what is called ‘Hazardous’. [Map from airnow.gov].
Whoa .. hopefully some of this is marine layer fog. Picture from Saturday morning, I believe. [Picture Credit: Reuters/ Karen Ducey]

Friday/ 19 years since 9.11

2,974 victims were confirmed to have died in the initial attacks. It has been reported that over 1,400 9/11 rescue workers who responded to the scene in the days and months after the attacks have since died. (Figures from Wikipedia).

Here is a list of dates and events that followed the 9/11 attacks ..

2001Tue–Sept11The 9/11 attacks
2001Sun–Oct07Taliban driven from power/
War in Afghanistan starts
2003Thu–Mar20War in Iraq starts
2006Thu–Apr27One World Tower construction starts
2011Mon–May02Osama bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan
2011Sun–Dec18War in Iraq ends
2015Fri–May29One World Tower observation deck opens
2020Sat–Feb29Conditional peace deal signed with Taliban in Doha, Qatar
.. and here is 1 World Trade Center shortly after its completion in 2015. The building and spire stand 1,776 ft / 514 m tall, and has some of the heaviest I-beams in the world, manufactured in Luxembourg. At its busiest, the construction site had 10,000 workers.

Thursday/ canola fields forever

Here’s a beautiful bird’s eye* view of the canola fields just outside Durbanville, South Africa. Look for Table Mountain and Lion’s Head to its right, in the distance.
*Picture was taken with a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone.
[Photo from ‘Die Burger’ newspaper, submitted by Dirkie Heydenrych]