Monday/ refuse, reuse, recycle: single-use plastics

NBC news reporter Gadi Schwartz making eyes at San Francisco for the mountains of plastic bottle waste that come out of the city every day.

Happy Earth Day, every one!
Humans are assaulting Mother Earth in many ways, and single-use plastics is a killer. It can take up to one thousand years to decompose in landfills. Or it ends up in the environment or the ocean, killing animals and fish.

So please: say no to plastic. If you absolutely must use a plastic bag or bottle, be sure to do your best to reuse and then recycle it.

Sunday/ the bombings in Sri Lanka

What a terrible Easter Sunday for Sri Lanka (pop. 21 million) – a relatively small, poor country, with tropical rainforests and tropical savannah, and mountain slopes that produce the cleanest tea in the world.

From the New York Times: ‘Sri Lanka endured a decades-long civil war that killed tens of thousands of civilians before it ended in 2009. Five years earlier, some 30,000 Sri Lankans had died in the Indian Ocean tsunami’.

The government shut down Facebook and WhatsApp afterwards (to prevent the spread of misinformation). So far no one has publicly claimed responsibility. It seems the attackers were mostly locals, but an international terrorist organization was probably behind all of it.

Source: New York Times. By ALLISON MCCANN, JULIE SHAVER, JIN WU and K.K. REBECCA LAI APRIL 21, 2019. Note: death toll was based on reported figures from local hospitals as of Monday 5:20 a.m. local time. Later on Monday the toll stood at 290 dead.

Saturday/ that’s Pukaki, on the coin

Wow! A shiny quarter, I thought, spotting a coin on the floor in the grocery store.
Oh! It’s not a quarter, I realized when I picked it up.
It was 20 cent coin, all the way across the globe from New Zealand.

This 20c New Zealand coin was first issued in 2006, and this is a Māori carving of Pukaki, an 18th-century chief of the Ngati Whakaue iwi (tribe). Those patterns are traditional koru kowhaiwhai patterns. (They remind me a little of Celtic patterns).
The Queen is on the back of the coin (New Zealand is one of the 53 Commonwealth nations). The coin is made of nickel-plated steel.  P.S. And the tiny letters IRB stands for Ian Rank-Broadley. In 1998 he redesigned the picture of Queen Elizabeth and many coins since have featured his work, and thus his signature initials.
An unusual edge to these coins: Spanish flower milling. It has evenly spaced indents splitting it into seven sections.

Friday/ Easter

Easter is late this year, but here it is. (It is also Passover).
In Western Christianity, Easter Sunday must always follow the first full moon after the spring equinox.
Here in Seattle there has been a drizzle all day.
We call it motreën in Afrikaans: a ‘moth rain’.

Thursday/ the Mu███r Rep█rt is out██

The redacted Mueller report is out, and .. it confirms what we already know, with more details. Trump stonewalled and ultimately refused to be interviewed by Mueller. Trump lied to the public. His campaign staff lied to Mueller.  Mueller could not get to all the key evidence to prove obstruction of justice, and a conspiracy with the Russians. It was unavailable, encrypted or probably deleted or shredded (so much for the Presidential Records Act).

It’s now clear that Attorney-General Barr from the Dept of Justice is acting as Trump’s personal lawyer (he is not, and he should not).

It also looks as if the calculus of the Democrats to not call for impeachment until they know they will succeed in the Senate, is unchanged. Trump should be impeached, let’s just be clear about that – but maybe the Trumpkins (that used to be Republicans) deserve him as an albatross around their neck, all the way to the 2020 elections.

Here is a page from the Mueller Report (the blue highlight is mine) where it is explicitly pointed out that Congress can criminalize unacceptable conduct by the President (that would be Trump), because the US Constitution actually says so.
And here is a page with lots of redactions. ‘Harm to Ongoing Matter’ is one type of redaction. The others are ‘Personal Privacy’, ‘Investigative Technique’ and ‘Grand Jury’ (ongoing grand jury investigations into related matters). It looks like Congress is going to have to subpoena the Dept of Justice to get the full report. Is AG William Barr committing obstruction of justice by not giving Congress the full report? The law is an ass and this is a mess.

Wednesday/ upgrade the bitrate, or not?

One can generate beautiful rainbow colors by reflecting sunlight off a CD’s silver surface. This CD in my collection has such awful scratches on, that some songs could not be read properly by my PC’s optical disk drive anymore. Man! WHAT did you do with it, to scratch it like this?, I wondered.

I remembered another unresolved issue with my iTunes music collection: the bitrate of the .mp3 version of the songs I had originally transferred into iTunes from CD, was as low as 160 kbps. This was oh, some ten years ago.

Nowadays, there is an ‘Apple Lossless’ option which will replicate the original CD in iTunes (bit rates of 900 kbps or more). The enormous storage capacity available on smartphones these days makes it possible to transfer and carry all of one’s CDs as-is in iTunes .. but is it worth it? The files would be up to 6 times larger than the original 160 kbps ones.

So my strategy is to upgrade only my very favorite CDs, say up to 30 out of the 300, that I now have in iTunes.

Tuesday/ those unread books: ‘tsundoku’

I make full use of the Seattle public libraries at my disposal, but I don’t always get to all the books that I had taken out, before they are due back.

There is a Japanese word for buying or acquiring books that go unread: tsundoku (Japanese: 積ん読). The word is composed from tsunde (to stack things), oku (to leave it for a while), and doku (to read).

I went to the University branch of the Seattle Public Library today, on Roosevelt Avenue. It is actually one of the smaller branches, but one of the oldest. It opened its doors in 1910.
And I had to snap the Seattle Fire Department Station No 17 across the street as well, 1. since it is a Seattle City landmark building (same as the University branch library), and 2. thinking of yesterday’s terrible fire in Paris. The fire station was constructed in 1930 (hence the Art Deco touches), but renovated extensively in 1987.

Monday

Heartbreaking to see Notre Dame cathedral stand in flames. This must be what the end of the world will look like.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame, was built in French Gothic Style and completed in 1345. One of the most iconic symbols of beauty and history in Paris – and the world –  it was engulfed in flames on Monday, leading to the collapse of part of its spire. Credit: Francois Guillot/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The damage to Notre Dame cathedral. [Source: Google Maps, Tim Meko, Aaron Steckelberg & Monica Ulmanu, The Washington Post]

Sunday/ meet Pete

Well, it’s official: Pete Buttigieg (say ‘Boot-Edge-Edge’) kicked off his 2020 Presidential campaign today, in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana.

As the New York Times notes: ‘If elected, Mr. Buttigieg, a 37-year-old Rhodes scholar and veteran of the war in Afghanistan, would represent a series of historic firsts: the youngest president ever and the first who is openly gay’.

Not to mention that there will be a First Husband in the White House for the first time. (Of course: that will also be the case if one of the women candidates is elected as President).

It’s a very crowded race for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020. We don’t know where the stock market will end up in 2020, and we certainly do not know at this point who will oppose Donald Trump and run him out of office. Here they are, the 18 Democrats that have officially announced that they are running for President for 2020. Notably missing, still: Joe Biden, VP under President Obama. It does not matter to me who wins the nomination: you sir, or you madam, you have my vote already. And I think my front lawn will look spectacular with each and every one of these campaign signs on it. [Pictures of candidates from a report in the New York TImes; lawn signs from a report on nbcnews.com]

Saturday/ removing the Viaduct piece by piece

It was blustery and rainy today, but I went down to Pike Place Market to check on the demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
The railroad tracks below, and the steep slope complicate this area, and the crews use a slower method of removal: sawcutting and removal of the sections with a crane.

Here’s the crew preparing a surface section that was cut out of the Viaduct, for removal by a very tall crane. This is across from Victor Steinbrueck Park just north of Pike Place Market.

Friday/ Julian Assange’s cat

Here’s an internet meme to celebrate National Pet Day (even though it was yesterday).
The feline is Julian Assange*’s cat Michi, pictured in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2016. After Assange’s arrest on Thursday, Ecuador threatened to put Michi in an animal shelter – but the kitty kat is now reportedly with Assange’s family.

*Assange is an Australian journalist, computer programmer and the founder and director of WikiLeaks [Source: Wikipedia].

Thursday/ Brexit .. will we ever see it?

So Brexit is now delayed until Oct 31 this year (yes, Halloween).
Will it be a trick or a treat?
The UK must participate in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament (if it fails to do that, the UK will leave the EU on June 1). The European Council also reiterated that there can be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement negotiations.

I propose, that we call it Brexit’, says this German ‘astrophysicist’ of the long-awaited, elusive image of a black hole. [Cartoon from German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, by cartoonist Schwalme].

Wednesday/ there it is: a black hole

Google made a great doodle of the first-ever image of a black hole ●. This black hole is in Messier 87 (abbreviated as M87), a giant galaxy in the constellation Virgo. The black hole is several billion times more massive than our Sun. Lucky for us, it is about 53 million light years from Earth.

What will happen to a human falling into a black hole? Based on the mathematics in Einstein’s general theory of relativity of 1915, you would fall through the event horizon unscathed, then the force of gravity would pull you into a very long noodle and ultimately cram you into singularity, the black hole’s infinitely dense core. Ouch?

Images of the M87 black hole. [Source: New York Times]. The line and the 50 μas shown in the picture is 50 millionths of an arc-second, an angle unit of measure. That is a vanishingly small sliver of an angle that the radio telescopes had to pin down. For comparison, the angular diameter of the Sun comes in at 32′ (minutes) and that of Venus at about 1′ (one minute). One degree equals 60 minutes, one minute equals 60 seconds.
The elements of a black hole. Black holes were predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity that was published in 1916. [Diagrams and article: The Guardian newspaper].
 

Tuesday/ the beer is here

Here’s a Rainier beer truck on 15th Ave, delivering supplies to the local restaurants and watering holes, no doubt.

Rainier-branded beer was launched 1878, 11 years before Washington became the 42nd state in the Union (on November 11, 1889). The ‘pale mountain ale’ shown on the truck was introduced in 2016, brewed with Yakima valley hops. I see on the website it was a limited-time offering, though – so it might not be available anymore.

Monday/ another candidate for 2020 .. go Democrats!

Wow, the Democratic candidates for President of the United States for the 2020 campaign have been jumping into the fray by the dozen and more. Tonight there was another, on Stephen Colbert’s Late Night Show. His name is Eric Swalwell and he is represents California’s 15th congressional district.  He is only 38 yrs old (got to be 35 to run for President), but he’s been a Congressman for 6 yrs, so that will help. I like him a lot. He’s been a regular guest on the cable news programs that I watch.

P.S. Psst! And for the first time ever, there will be a gay candidate running for President of the United States as well. I will write about him later. He is expected to announce his candidacy on Sunday April 14.

Congressman Eric Swalwell is on the left, with late night talk show host Stephen Colbert on the right. Swalwell will try to distinguish himself from the other Democratic Party candidates (and there may be as many as 20!), by making gun reform in the United States the primary issue that he will run on. (Background checks with no exceptions, ban assault rifles and start buying them back, start programs to try to prevent gang violence).

Sunday/ Cougar Mountain Zoo

I ran out to Cougar Mountain Zoo today. It’s a smallish (11 acres) zoological park located on the north slope of Cougar Mountain about 15 miles east of Seattle. These are my pictures.

The grey crowned crane (Balearica regulorum) is native to eastern and southern Africa, and is the national bird of Uganda.
Here’s the best I shot I could get of the sarus crane (Grus antigone), found in parts of the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia and Australia. They are the tallest of the flying birds, standing at a height of up to 5 ft 11 in (1.8 m).
The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) from Australia is the second-largest living bird after the ostrich. They weigh about 80 lbs (36 kg).
Another Australian creature at the zoo, a marsupial called the wallaby. There are dozens of species and this one is a swamp wallaby, sometimes called a black wallaby (Wallabia bicolor).
This is a gray wolf or timber wolf (Canis lupis). They come in different color variations in their coats. Washington State’s wolf population has been doing OK in recent years, with the numbers slowly increasing. Most are found in the northeastern quarter of the state. At the end of 2017, there were at least 122 wolves counted in 22 packs, with 14 breeding pairs. (Man – that still does not sound like a very large number to me!).
It’s cold and there is no jungle here! .. so these ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) huddle together. They are an endangered species, native the to island of Madagascar of the east coast of Africa.
Oh dear! Here we have the regular old garden variety of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), a deer indigenous to western North America. It is named for its ears, which are large like those of the mule. [Source: Wikipedia]
On to the exotic birds. Here is the hyacinthine macaw or blue macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus). It is a parrot native to central and eastern South America. It is the largest of the macaws, and can live up to 50 years of age.
This is a blue-and-gold macaw (Ara ararauna), also native in South America. This one’s name is Ejea. These macaws are considered to be one of the most trainable and intelligent birds of all the parrots. [Source: Wikipedia]
‘Hmm. I will just sit here and look spectacular in my red feather get-up’ .. is what this scarlet macaw (Ara macao) named Kiwi, seems to be thinking.
And here is Paco the African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus), eating some food that got stuck on his foot. These parrots are native to equatorial Africa. These guys are great companion parrots, prized for their ability to mimic human speech, and may also live up to 50 years.
From Indonesia, the Moluccan cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis).
And here is a reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), one of a little herd at the zoo. These deer are native to arctic, sub-arctic, tundra, boreal, and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North America. This zoo has the largest herd of Siberian Reindeer in the United States.
Tigers are still found in parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma – but are critically endangered in the wild, and almost certain to become extinct in the next decade. This is a Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), with the white color variation. This is not an albino, or a separate species from the orange and black Bengal tigers.
Here’s the classic orange-black-and-white coated Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). I’m keeping my distance and using my zoom lens through one of the two fences. Even so, I was not of much interest to the big feline. It was getting ready to ..
.. y-a-a-a-wn!
Finally, here is the famous mountain lion or cougar (Puma concolor). I love its heavy tail. Sadly, the Eastern cougar (Puma concolor couguar) is now officially extinct. On the western side of North America, cougars are doing OK for now, in the wild.

Friday/ release the report, Mr Barr

Two weeks later — and still no release of the Mueller report (not to Congress and not to the public). AG William Barr has now issued four statements about the report. So some stonewalling is going on. The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that the Mueller team is grumbling about Barr’s (mis)characterization of the findings. Trump promptly called their reporting ‘fake news’.

Then again, does it really matter what’s in the Mueller report?
Trump’s corruption, cruelty, lies and incompetence are plain to see.  He broadcasts it on Twitter and blabbers non-stop lies to the press, in the Oval Office, or before he flies off, to go play golf. Any given day of the week.

Friday/ showers & camellia flowers

We’re finally getting some rain again here in the city (and 58 °F/ 14 °C).
Here’s a spectacular camellia flower that I found a few blocks from my house. I have a camellia shrub in my front yard as well, but its flowers are not quite as big these!

Thursday/ Marmite peanut butter

I eat Marmite on toast almost every day – the yeasty, vegetable extract concoction that has been around since 1902, similar to Vegemite in Australia.

Now I see  Marmite peanut butter has hit the supermarket shelves in the UK. Some call this move by Marmite ‘more divisive than Brexit’.

So, the equation to verify with a taste test is,
if ❤ Marmite
+ ❤ Peanut Butter
=  ❤❤ Marmite Peanut Butter !

I will have to get my grubby hands on a jar, ‘spread the love’ on my toast (as it says on the cap), and find out!

Wednesday/ there is an end to everything

‘There is an end to everything, to good things as well’.
Proverb that dates back to about 1374 (Geoffrey Chaucer, poet).


We learned yesterday that the reason the Rolling Stones had to postpone their upcoming concert in May in Seattle, was for Mick Jagger (75) to undergo heart surgery (a heart valve replacement). Yikes. Apparently surgeons can work new wonders these days with a much less invasive procedure, but even so.
Is this not a sign for Mick and the Stones to finally, just pack it up, and call it quits?

Posters on Pike Street here in Capitol Hill, for the Rolling Stones ‘No Filter’ concert that had been planned for May here in Seattle, but that is now postponed. (That red tongue logo debuted in 1971). I saw the Rolling Stones in St Louis in 1996 – their ‘Bridges to Babylon’ tour. With the internet brand new at the time, there was a projected computer screen on stage. Fans could e-mail in requests for songs – from their hard-wired desktop or notebook computers at home, I suppose. There was no Blackberry, no smartphone, no wifi, nothing mobile like that.