Thursday/ cosmic & crisp

Let me buy a pair of these Cosmic Crisp apples, I thought, to see what the hullabaloo is about. These apples are a new variety, 20 years in the making, by the University of Washington. The first harvest hit the shelves in grocery stores just recently.

Well, the apples are heavy: they feel like little bowling balls in one’s hand.  The flesh is very firm and at the same time, quite juicy. The taste is crisp, a little tart, and a little sweet.

My first impression was that they are not as sweet as the popular Honeycrisp from Minnesota (1960), and not nearly as sweet as Washington State’s Red Delicious (originally recognized in Iowa in 1880).  The verdict: I am still deciding which one I like most, between the Honeycrisp and the Cosmic Crisp.

The skin of the Cosmic Crisp has little starburst-like lenticels (hence the ‘Cosmic’), and one of its parents is Honeycrisp, which is where the ‘Crisp’ comes from.
The flesh of the apple is a light color, very firm in texture, and at the same time very juicy.
One more picture to show the texture. The Cosmic Crisps at my local Safeway store went for $3.50/ lb, which is $0.50 more than for the Honeycrisp. It worked out to about $2.60 per apple.

Wednesday/ choosing my weapon

My Wilson tennis racquets are more than 10 years old, so I am getting new ones.
I tested out a few ‘demo’ racquets that I had loaned from the pro shop at the Sand Point Tennis Center. The Wilson Clash 98* felt really nice and I am going to buy one. (They all have dramatic names. There is also the Wilson Burn, Envy and Blade).

The Wilsons still have graphite in, a long-standing material used in frames. There is a new Head racquet called the Head Graphene.  Graphene is an allotrope of carbon: a sheet of a single layer of atoms in a two-dimensional hexagonal lattice. It is impossibly light and incredibly strong .. but it’s not cheap, and just much of this stuff had made it into the Head racquet frame, and how much is just marketing hype, is hard to say.

*Graphite frame that is heavier than most, but the balance is head light; 16 mains and 19 cross strings allow for more spin, but not quite as much control.

Choose your weapon! Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic is on all the Head racquets, and there is also Wilson brand (on the left) and Yonex (right). The Yonex brand from Japan used to be called Yoneyama, and one of the first manufacturers in the ’70s to make metal Yoneyama racquets (aluminum, green color).
Moi .. putting the Head Graphene Speed Pro racquet to the test against the wall on Saturday, just as the sun was setting. (Still frame from out-of-focus iPhone video). 

Tuesday/ the Trump Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report

The House Intelligence Committee’s Impeachment Inquiry Report was published today, and handed to the Judiciary Committee.  President-That-Never-Should-Have-Been-President Trump is surely on his way to impeachment by the House of Representatives.

The only remaining guessing games towards that state of affairs are:
1.  How many articles of impeachment will be put forth by the Judiciary Committee, and
2.  When the House will vote on those articles (the plan is to do that before the year is out).

Here is the index of the Impeachment Inquiry Report.  It’s high crimes and misdemeanors, every step of the way.

1. The President’s Misconduct: The President Conditioned a White House Meeting and Military Aid to Ukraine on a Public Announcement of Investigations Beneficial to his Reelection Campaign
• The President’s Request for a Political Favor
• The President Removed Anti-Corruption Champion Ambassador Yovanovitch
• The President’s Hand-picked Agents Begin the Scheme
• President Trump Froze Vital Military Assistance
• The President Conditioned a White House Meeting on Investigations
• The President’s Agents Pursued a “Drug Deal”
• President Trump Pressed President Zelensky to Do a Political Favor
• The President’s Representatives Ratcheted up Pressure on the Ukrainian President
• Ukrainians Inquired about the President’s Hold on Security Assistance
• The President’s Security Assistance Hold Became Public
• The President’s Scheme Unraveled
• The President’s Chief of Staff Confirmed Aid was Conditioned on Investigations

2. The President’s Obstruction of the House of Representatives’ Impeachment Inquiry: The President Obstructed the Impeachment Inquiry by Instructing Witnesses and Agencies to Ignore Subpoenas for Documents and Testimony
• An Unprecedented Effort to Obstruct an Impeachment Inquiry
• Constitutional Authority for Congressional Oversight and Impeachment
• The President’s Categorical Refusal to Comply
• The President’s Refusal to Produce Any and All Subpoenaed Documents
• The President’s Refusal to Allow Top Aides to Testify
• The President’s Unsuccessful Attempts to Block Other Key Witnesses
• The President’s Intimidation of Witnesses

Monday/ we will see if WeWork works out

The transformation of the Kelly-Springfield building on 11th Ave in Capitol Hill into a modern office block is complete. Will WeWork move in, though — as advertised on the windows and doors?

WeWork is an international shared workspace & real estate company, and it is turmoil. It recently canceled its IPO, and is laying off thousands of employees (20% of its workforce). Bankruptcy loomed in October, and the start-up was rescued by a huge bail-out/ investment from Japanese company Softbank.

THEN: The warehouse-style building was constructed in 1917 for the Kelly-Springfield Truck Company. This 1937 picture shows its then-tenant Dewey’s Auto Service. Outdoor goods company Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) was a tenant from 1963-1996, and lastly it housed the thrift store Value Village.
NOW: The updated Kelly-Springfield building with its facade newly renovated, and with a 5-story office building added. WeWork has leased all of the space, and last everyone heard, they will move in come January.

Sunday/ it’s December ..

.. and so here’s a nice picture of the Christmas tree at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle, being lit up on Friday night.

There’s somewhat of a shortage of Christmas tree this year (the real ones). Millennials prefer to buy real trees, and in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008, tree farms cut back on the planting of trees that take 6 to 10 years to mature.

5 pm on Friday: The crowd cheers as the Christmas tree is lit up, with fireworks to go with it. Behind the tree, Macy’s department store and star is visible. The store is closing down in February, and it was unsure if the iconic star will even be there this year. Then Amazon announced it would pay $250,000 to have the star repaired for this holiday season. The star is 161 ft tall and has 3,600 light bulbs, but 250k still sounds like a lot of money to repair it. Whoah.  [Picture by the Seattle Times]

Saturday/ Steller’s jay

The neighborhood’s pair of Steller’s jays visited my backyard this afternoon.

The Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is a jay native to western North America, closely related to the blue jay found in the rest of the continent, but with a black head and upper body. [Source: Wikipedia]
It’s sunny, but cold. The down feathers on the bird’s chest and belly are plumped up to keep it warm (birds are warm-blooded, same as mammals). 

Black Friday/ dead?

No, not dead, but it’s bleeding all over Thanksgiving week and into Sunday. Some retailers already offered Black Friday sales last week.

There is Black Friday backlash as well. Seattle-based outdoor goods store REI closed its doors today. The company encouraged people to go outside, instead of going to the mall or shopping online. (Yes, I agree outside is better! It was sunny today, but too cold to spend the whole day outside, though).

An eye-catching (at least for me) Black Friday print ad from a newspaper. Oh! I thought at first. It’s a puzzle I have to solve, some sort of code. But no, it’s for a furniture and rug seller.

Wednesday/ clear and cold

The Pacific Northwest is not plagued by any of the large storm systems that are sweeping over the continent*, but it is chilly outside.  We are at that point where one opens the front door and go: Whoah! Feels colder than my refrigerator! The high was 42°F / 5°C today.

*Making trouble for Thanksgiving travelers and Black Friday shoppers, alike.

Here’s a streetcar at the Broadway & Denny stop today, the end of the First Hill line. Sunset is only 35 minutes away here (now at 4.22 pm), the shadows already creeping up on the new apartment buildings across the street. There was news today that the outcome of Initiative 976 — the ‘Yes’ for the $30 car tab measure (a disaster for public transport funding)— has been put on hold while a legal challenge moves forward. A King County Superior Court judge ruled that opponents had adequately argued that the measure’s ballot title was misleading, and he issued an injunction. [Source:].

Tuesday/ a train car with a snarl

I made my weekly jaunt up to the University District today, using the the light rail train to get there, and the No 48 bus to get back home.

Here’s the Capitol Hill station platform. I am just stepping onto the northbound train. The northbound & southbound trains do not always arrive at the same time, but today they did. The northbound train (left) runs to the University of Washington. (The line is being extended by three more northbound stations, completion due in 2021). The southbound train runs to Seattle-Tacoma airport and Angle Lake.
Rowr! Here’s a car named the ‘Coug Car’, at the front of the train about to depart the University of Washington station. The cougar is the mascot of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.  Pullman is all the way over on the eastern side of the state, some 300 miles away.

Monday/ here comes Mike Bloomberg


noun (slightly derogatory)
a person whose power derives from their wealth, as in “If only the plutocrats can afford to run for public office, are we still a democracy?”
Similar: rich person, capitalist, tycoon, magnate, nabob, billionaire

So three-time New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg (77, net worth US $58 billion) is joining the Democratic field as a moderate candidate for President 2020. Umm. He’s late, and the race is still crowded. And do Democrats want or need a plutocrat to join the race for the Democratic nominee for President? I think not. In so many ways, America is already a plutocracy (run by rich companies and rich people, that have wa-ay too much power).

There’s another problem. Here is what Matt Yglesias of explain-the-news website Vox says:
‘The key is that in recent years, moderates who’ve successfully fended off the left wing of the Democratic Party have done so with the support of black and Latino voters, who tend to be more moderate on the whole than white Democrats. But Bloomberg’s specific political career gives him little access to this constituency and thus little hope of securing the nomination’.

I will say: Mike Bloomberg’s introductory video on his campaign website is very impressive.

Sunday/ winter tennis: has to be indoors

It’s winter (well, almost) – so the days are short and cold, and it rains a lot. Luckily for me, the Amy Yee Tennis Center has opened its doors after it had been closed for 6 months.

The courts themselves have not changed much, but insulation was added into the roof and walls. (It used to feel like playing inside a giant refrigerator in winter time). A new fire alarm system was installed, and the locker rooms were improved as well.

The new and improved Amy Yee Tennis Center on Martin Luther King Jr Way South. The paintwork outside is new, as are the parking area and entrance plaza accessibility improvements. The court fees are $38 for singles play and $42 for doubles (for 1 h 15 mins). 

Saturday/ I want my marmalade

I was out of marmalade (for my peanut butter-and-marmalade toast), and I found a can of the good stuff at the British Pantry store in Redmond. (Redmond is across Lake Washington from Seattle, and is where the sprawling Microsoft campus is).

Marmalade has a centuries-old culinary history.  The word first appeared in the English language in 1480, borrowed from the French marmelade which, in turn, came from the Galician-Portuguese word marmelada.

The preferred citrus fruit for marmalade production nowadays, is the Spanish Seville or bitter orange, prized for its high pectin content, which sets readily to the thick consistency expected of marmalade. The bitter taste comes from the peel [all this information from Wikipedia].

All Gold means the marmalade is from South Africa. (Yes, I know I should be a locavore -not buy food that was flown or shipped from the other side of the planet! But it was sitting right there on the shelf, so what was I to do?). All Gold also makes a killer ketchup, or ‘tomato sauce’, as it is called in SA.

Friday/ the door is: red

The exterior paintwork for the house on my street block, is done.
Now I can stop wondering what the colors would be!

It turned out that the upper floor would get the same gray as down below, making the white trim color to really pop. The front door is a dramatic red. It’s darker than scarlet – it could be a shade of vermilion.

Thursday/ the sun is out, and the Mountain

On Wednesday and today, it was sunny, with lots of blue sky — a high of only 48°F/ 9°C, though.

The sun is out, and so is the Mountain. (Mt Rainier). In the Seattle city skyline, look for the new Rainier Square Tower, just to the right of the tallest skyscraper in the middle of the picture, the black Columbia Tower (opened 1985). [Picture taken today by Seattle photographer Tim Durkan, presumably from his bird’s eye view on an incoming flight. (Picture posted on Twitter @timdurkan)].
Here is my picture from last Friday of Rainier Square Tower (left), as I was walking towards 4th Ave. on University St. There is just a few more floors to cover up at the top. That’s Rainier Tower on the right (opened 1977).

Wednesday/ Sondland: no longer Trump’s amigo

Trump’s ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland (and one of the ‘three amigos’), came clean today in his impeachment testimony. He had to: he is dangerously close to being indicted for perjury, and as a co-conspirator for bribery in the Ukraine scandal.

In the process, he blew up several phony-baloney defenses that Trump & Republicans had tried to peddle to us so far. Yes, there was a quid pro quo (which we knew already). There was no ‘back channel’ for foreign policy – ‘everyone was in the loop’. So cabinet members such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Trump right-hand man Rudy Giuliani, and even Vice President Mike Pence, knew what was going on.
‘We followed the President’s orders’.

Tuesday/ the billionaires under attack

The 2020 presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren & Bernie Sanders are making no secret of their disdain for out-of-control capitalism on the campaign trail. Warren in particular, is feisty about it. A recent tweet: ‘The billionaires can whine all they want. That won’t stop us from fighting for big, structural change to make our economy work for the people’.

So now the Wall Street-cheerleader channel CNBC, seems to invite a billionaire onto the set every week, and ask each what he (it’s always a he) thinks about the proposed Warren wealth tax, and the state of American capitalism, and if Fortune 500 CEOs get paid too much. The answers (in my humble opinion) are very clear and very simple. Yes, the wealthy should pay more taxes (though a wealth tax might not be be best solution). Capitalism in the USA is brutal, and leaves many, many people falling ever further behind, with no hope to ever make ends meet.  And yes, of course CEOs get paid too much (compared to the rank-and-file workers).

Billionaire Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs, on CNBC this morning. When he says he ‘fears for the US political process’ he means that in 2020 a far-left candidate might become president, and put ‘damaging policies’ in place – policies that will damage the American economy. Nary a word about the damaging policies of the Trump Administration. To name a few: 1. Trump cut taxes when the economy did not need it. In fact, the US is now adding $US 1 trillion annually to the national debt.  2. Trump interferes with the Fed Chairman doing his job and pressures him to cut interest rates. 3. Trump started a trade war with China, to which there is no end in sight.


P.S. I just had to look up the famous Rolling Stone magazine article about Goldman Sachs being a ‘vampire squid’ after the interview with Lloyd Blankfein. Here it is.
‘The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates’. – Matt Taibbi, in an essay titled ‘The Great American Bubble Machine’ in Rolling Stone magazine, Apr. 5, 2010.

Monday/ not a lot of rain, so far

November is Seattle’s rainiest month, with an average total of some 6 or 7 in. of rain.
So far this month, though, the rain gauge at Seattle-Tacoma airport had recorded only 0.86 in of rain through Sunday night.

Blobs of rain water, big and small, stick to the waxy leaves of the ‘Ascot Rainbow’ Euphorbia at the back of my house.

Sunday/ lots of ‘knuffels’

knuffel [Dutch] (plural knuffels, diminutive knuffeltje)
1. hug, cuddle
2. stuffed toy, plushie, soft toy (stuffed doll)
3. also (stuffed toy): knuffelbeest, knuffeldier

I found these stuffed animals in the Whole Foods grocery store (it’s Amazon-owned) on Westlake Ave. I liked the stuffed alpaca* best, Peruvian blanket on its back and all. The T-rexes at the back, are nice, as well. I’m just not sure they make the same excellent cuddle material as the alpaca. (Scary teeth).

*Llamas have long, banana-shaped ears, so this is not a llama.

A stuffed alpaca, mama & baby sloth, orangutan, and more.
And here’s the inimitable Captain Haddock, getting himself in trouble with a llama, in the Tintin Adventure called ‘Prisoners of the Sun’.

Saturday/ Venice, battling the rising waters

Here’s a little wry cartoon from German weekly magazine Die Spiegel, about the rising waters engulfing Venice. (The city is experiencing its worst flooding in 50 years).

‘Fantastic! Through climate change and high tides we can now come much easier and closer to Venice! [Cartoon by Klaus Stuttmann of the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel].
Happier days for the famous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). This is circa 1979, where scenes from the coming-of-age movie ‘A Little Romance’ was shot. This is Diane Lane, making her movie debut as Lauren, the girl that falls in love with French boy Daniel (Thelonious Bernard).