Monday/ the fiasco in Helsinki

First of all, Trump should have canceled the meeting with Putin (after the FBI’s indictment on Friday, of 12 Russian agents, for hacking the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee’s computers).  That was too much to hope for, of course. So there he was: perfectly happy to stand next to Putin – the former KGB agent and a lying thug – and take his side, and throw the United States under the bus. (Tweeted this morning: Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!).

It really is hard to wrap one’s mind around: a President of the United States that grovels to Vladimir Putin.

Sunday/ South Lake Union walkabout

The mercury hit 90°F (32°C) here in the city today, and I waited for the fireball in the sky to sit a little lower, before I ventured out on my usual South Lake Union walkabout.  Here are some pictures.

Amazon’s third downtown tower on 7th Ave & Lenora, is now built up almost to its top. That top floor (in the core by the yellow crane) is floor 38, and the plan posted on seattleinprogress.com says there will be 39 floors.
I caught the South Lake Union streetcar a little further down on Westlake Avenue. I’m sure The Hulk says ‘Puny humans make Hulk mad!’.
Moxy* is Marriott International’s new millennial-focused boutique hotel chain. I see this new one in SLU goes for $381 a night, right now in high season.  It is shockingly more expensive than the one I almost stayed at, at Frankfurt Airport last year, at $87 a night (in the dead of winter, though).  *A play on the word moxie? Moxie: a force of character, determination, or nerve.
Cute entrance sign at The Fox & The Finch apartments nearby. The building has 24 small one-bedroom apartments (600 sq ft). These will run the renter about $2,000 a month.  Yes, it’s new, great location, but it’s twice as much what one would pay in many other cities in the United States.
Here’s the nicely outfitted ATM at Umpqua Bank on Westlake Avenue. The first Umpqua Bank opened in Canyonville, Oregon, a timber town on the South Umpqua River, in 1953. There are also several distinct groups of Native Americans in Oregon named Umpqua.

Saturday/ townhouse triple

My ‘Townhouse Triple’ used up the last of my windows and white brick stock.
This illustrates the LEGO builder’s dilemma: which creations should one keep on permanent display, and which should one break down (to free the bricks for something else)?

A simple LEGO Townhouse. It’s a MOC*.   *LEGO parlance for ‘My Own Creation’ .. not built from a LEGO set, nor from someone else’s build instructions.

Friday/ a very titanic tennis match

Brian ‘Babe’ Norton in 1920. [Source: WIkipedia]. He lost against ‘Big Bill’ Tilden in the 1921 Wimbledon Final.
Wow! Kevin Anderson is the first South African in almost 100 years to make it to the Wimbledon Men’s Final (Brian Norton made it in 1921).

The match ran for 6 hrs and 36 minutes, Anderson finally prevailing over American John Isner, with a monster score of 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4 and 26-24. There is no ‘tiebreaker’ (played at 6-6) in the final set. To win, a player have to lead by two games (called an advantage set).

So far, the US Open is the only major tournament that dictates that a tiebreaker be played even in the final set .. but I bet other tournament committees are now going to look into doing it as well. Long matches such as these wreak havoc on the tournament schedule, and on the eventual winner’s ability to be ready for the next match.   The other semi-final between Djokovic and Nadal had to be suspended, and will only be completed on Saturday.

Kevin Anderson on the front page of ‘Die Burger’ in South Africa. Thriller King! says the headline.

Thursday/ the ego has landed

‘The ego has landed’ says Friday’s Daily Mirror of Trump’s visit to the UK (and the Trump baby blimp is ready for take-off).

Can the visit from the United States President-That-Is-A-Traveling-International-Embarrassment, be anything more than an exercise in damage control? (No). Trump’s visit coincides with turmoil in the UK around the proposed details of Brexit .. which (of course?) Trump criticized. President Stable Genius always knows best.

Trump wanted a ‘hard’ Brexit. (Does not care about NATO & European unity. Putin must be very happy). The deal that The Sun refers to is a new trade deal that would be needed post-Brexit between the US and the UK. Those other bullets on the bottom of the page are all Trump: make Boris Johnson PM (Johnson resigned as May’s Foreign Minister just on Monday, over May’s Brexit proposal); no immigration (does Trump know the word asylum?); all UK terrorism is London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s fault. Meanwhile, the USA has what I would call domestic terrorism – mass shootings – every other week: in high schools, in newsrooms, at concerts, in shopping malls.

Wednesday/ July is dry

A hummingbird interested in my fir tree. Maybe it mistook the lighter pine needles for flowers?They are known to drink tree sap, and maybe there was a little tree sap on the pine needles.

The weatherman says we’re going to hit 86°F (30°C) on Sunday.

July & August are dry months in Seattle with ¾ in. of rain each, on average. (As much as 5 or 6 in. of rain may fall each month from November through January).

The little patch of lawn in front of my house is already dry and mostly yellow. I only water the beds and potted plants in the backyard; not the lawn.

Tuesday/ clash of the Wimbledon & World Cup titans

The Wimbledon Men’s Final and the World Cup Final are both set for Sunday.  (England plays Croatia on Wednesday for a place in the World Cup Final against France).  So far, Wimbledon’s management has refused to budge, and will not reschedule the traditional 2 pm (1300GMT) start time.  The World Cup does start two hours later, at 4 pm (1500GMT), but there is no way the tennis final will have been completed by that time.

I guess I will have to toggle back and forth – but if Roger Federer plays on Sunday, I will have to miss some of the soccer.

It might be the last Wimbledon hurrah for Federer, one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He turns 37 in August.  Are there any praises still left to sing? asks tennis.com.

Update Wed 7/11: South Africa’s Kevin Anderson beat Federer today in a tough 5-set match (13-11 in the final set). Yay! for Kevin. Aww .. Roger is out after all. And England fell to Croatia, 1-2. So it’s Croatia and France on Sunday.

Soccer legend Sir Bobby Charlton (80) greets Australian tennis legend Rod Laver (79). Charlton is regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time, and was a key member of the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. [Picture from Wimbledon.com].

Monday/ another ‘woonerf’

I spotted a building on Saturday at the street food fair on 8th Ave, that had a striking glass-faced box (picture below). So I looked up the design drawing for it (on seattleinprogress.com). 

I see there is another woonerf in the making, next to it.  (At least one more is planned for 12th Ave). Woonerf (pronounce VONE-erf) is a Dutch word, for a street with park-like surroundings, that is shared by pedestrians, cyclists, and cars (driving slowly). 

The building on the right in the artist rendition, is the one in my photo below. The section of 8th Ave N between the two 6-story office buildings from Vulcan company, will become a ‘woonerf’, a modified street shared by everyone.
This enormous COF FEE sign is right across the street from the new building. Yes. One needs to know immediately where to find coffee when you want it, in Seattle!

Sunday/ birds of a feather II

Birds of a feather flock together*.  – English proverb in use since the mid-16th century.

*People who are similar to each other, or share similar interests, tend to spend time in each other’s company.

Saturday/ street food

On Saturday, we trekked down to South Lake Union to check out the food – and the people – at the 6th Annual Seattle Street Food Festival.

Here is 9th Ave at about 2 pm, with the crowds still manageable. 9th Ave is lined with the brand new construction going on in South Lake Union.
This food truck sells schnitzel. Originally from Austria, breaded schnitzel is now popular in many countries and can be made with almost any meat: veal, mutton, chicken, beef, turkey or pork. 
Frozen pops and icicles, in exotic flavors.
And here is my meal: stir-fried chicken and spices with jasmine rice, a fried egg, and a little cucumber salad on the side. It was very good.

Friday/ squirreling

First thing on summer mornings, I open the kitchen door to let the cool morning air in.
I keep a leery eye on the squirrels that are usually out and about, or on the backyard fence. I doubt they will sneak into the house when I’m not looking .. but you never know.

Mr Squirrel on the fence, all innocent, keeping his eye on me, and contemplating his next move ..
.. which is to hop onto the post, and take a flying leap onto the next section of the fence, and then jump up onto the neighbor’s roof.

Thursday/ fireworks make a lot of smoke

Not to be a party pooper, but it may be time to look for high-tech options* to replace the massive fireworks displays for events such as Fourth of July. Prof. Cliff Mass reports on his weather blog that Puget Sound Clean Air Agency measured a huge spike of the dangerous PM2.5 particle in the aftermath of Thursday night’s show. From levels under 20 µg/m³, the readings increased to over 100 µg/m³, which is in the ‘unhealthy’ air quality index range.

*Using drones, like the ones deployed at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, is a possibility.  But yes, I readily concede that drones do not explode with loud bangs.

Seattle Space Needle panocam views, looking south & slightly east. It shows Mt Rainier on the left of the top frame on the afternoon of July 4. The haze on Friday morning was from the fireworks display in the city on Thursday night – not from forest fires. The mountain is no longer visible.

Fourth of July

I had sad eyes and angry eyes in my LEGO box for my minimalist Statue of Liberty model – and I chose angry.

It’s Fourth of July here in the United States, the country’s 242nd birthday .. but in my book, not a happy one.

It’s time for a reboot – by booting the immoral and corrupt Trump Administration and all their Trump Republicans in the House and Senate (that’s pretty much all of them), out of office.

..  at least there is this, on a positive note.

Is it the mid-term elections yet? No, but November is coming.

Tuesday/ England in the last eight

I love the Three Lions shirt badge of the England team.

England went through to the final eight in the World Cup, but they made their fans bite their nails through a penalty shoot-out against Columbia.

One has to feel sorry for the team that loses in a penalty shoot-out. It’s like the tie-breaker in tennis. A stray shot, a lucky break, a bare miss, makes the world of difference between winning and losing.

From the online edition of the Daily Express. (‘Southgate’s Lions’: Gareth Southgate is the head coach of the Lions, the nickname of the England team).  Check the green box for the four match-ups in the final eight.

Monday/ snow in South Africa

There is widespread snow in South Africa – always a novelty in a country with a sunny climate, sunny even in winter.

I never saw snow up close while growing up in South Africa. Yes, one would see it far away on the mountains some winters, and my mom told would tell me that when I was 5 years old, there was snow at my grandparents’ home in Johannesburg.

The coldest town in South Africa (and in Africa) is Sutherland*. It is situated in the south of the semi-desert area called the Great Karoo, and some 250 mi (400 km) northeast of Cape Town.  *Average annual high/ low temp 52/ 37 ºF (11/ 2.8 ºC). Not very cold! one could say, but keep in mind South Africans generally consider 50ºF (10 ºC) weather to be already ‘very cold’.
The landscape around the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) near Sutherland looks like dunes of salt (pun intended).  The SALT has a hexagonal primary mirror array 36 ft (11 m) across, made of 91 individual 3 ft (1m) hexagonal mirrors. It is the largest optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, and started operating in 2011.

Sunday/ it’s hydrangea time

My hydrangea is still going strong, and its beautiful summer flowers are coloring up.

My hydrangea’s flowers are mostly pink. Hydrangea flower color changes based on the pH in soil. Acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 or lower will sprout blue hydrangeas; soil in between 5.5 and 6.5 will have purple hydrangeas, and a ph of 6.5 or higher will produce pink hydrangeas. White hydrangeas can not be manipulated by soil pH -they will always be white because they do not contain pigment for color.

Saturday/ yay! for Uruguay

I had to Google Uruguay after their win over Portugal in the World Cup. Officially the ‘Oriental Republic of Uruguay’ (Spanish: República Oriental del Uruguay) –  it is a remarkable country, slightly smaller than the state of Washington, with some 3.3 million people.

More than half the population live in the capital of Montevideo. Uruguay gets high marks for its ‘liberal social laws, and well-developed social security, health, and educational systems. It is one of the few countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where the entire population has access to clean water’ (from the CIA World Factbook).

The country gets 95% of its energy from renewable resources. (Washington State is at about 85% electricity generation from renewable resources, with 8% of electricity from burning natural gas, and 7% from burning coal).

Uruguay’s team at the start of their match against Portugal. The screen changed to the May Sun from the national flag just as I snapped it. Uruguay has by far the smallest population of any country that has won a World Cup Final (although very long ago: in 1930 & in 1950).

Friday/ a scene from Texas

Here’s a simple Texas-themed construction. I was inspired by pictures that I found online for a 1977 set called ‘Texas Rangers’.

The original Texas Rangers set had horses and cowboys in. I did not have bricks to build those, but added a cow that I had on hand. (That cow is about to walk over, and chomp that yellow flower in the corner).

Thursday/ one to become six ‘net zeros’

Here’s another house nearby mine, that is now gone, gone, gone. The stately 1905 construction was completely demolished, and in its place will come two 3-story buildings with three net-zero condominium homes each. (A net-zero home has zero net energy consumption).

I am sure there will be stretches of winter months when the new homes will not achieve net zero energy consumption (cold weather, short days of sun for the solar panels) – but they will then make up for it in the summer months.

The 1905 home on the left is now gone (it’s 122 17th Ave), and will be replaced by two buildings (one front, one back) that look like the one in the black frame. The net zero energy use of the new buildings is mostly achieved by complete solar panel roofs. I wonder if some developers are starting to install Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall batteries.