Sunday/ ‘red’ irises are not red

Just as efforts to create a blue rose have stymied growers and plant geneticists, so have efforts to create a red iris. The flower has almost no red pigment naturally.
– Barbara Whitaker in a report called ‘The Hunt Continues for the Holy Grail: A Red Iris’ in the NYT, in 2006

Irises come in every color of the rainbow, but not in a true red. I found these ‘red’ ones here in my neighborhood.
It felt like summer today (76 °F/ 24 °C), but we will drop back to cooler weather tomorrow.

Beautiful bearded irises here on 17th Avenue. What color are these? My phone camera makes them look a little redder than they do in real life. ‘Red’ irises are invariably shades of wine, brick or reddish brown.

Saturday/ the war between Israel & Palestine

Today the President spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, and condemned these indiscriminate attacks against Israel.
– Statement from the White House @WhiteHouse on Twitter

It just seems to me that this statement hides many, many of the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself. What about the rights of Palestinians, who have been forced with an iron fist, to live like third-rate citizens in the confines of the Gaza strip and territories in the West Bank?

The stills below are from a video posted in the New York Times, of the destruction of the Gaza Tower.

Friday/ tennis and beer

It’s been a dry and mild weather week here in the city (72° F/ 22 °C today).
Four of us played a little doubles tennis at the Jefferson Park courts south of the city.

One of the guys brought a six-pack of beer —’Porch Glow’ amber ale, brewed in Spokane all the way across Washington State on its border with Idaho. We sat on the tennis court and socialized for a bit afterwards. It felt good. Not long ago we had to play with masks, stay the hell away from each other by 6 feet, and then just scurry off and go home right after the tennis was done.

Thursday/ guidance for me, myself & I

For me, the updated CDC guidance about not wearing a mask for vaccinated people, feels like a stunning reversal of their guidance issued just two weeks ago.

There are lots of green ‘Fully vaccinated’ maskless smiley faces on this guidance diagram from the Washington Post (compiled from the CDC guidance). I added my own ‘guidance’ in there, for now.  I’m just not ready to go everywhere without a mask (esp. indoors), and pretend that the pandemic has ended.

Let’s not forget that the failure of the CDC to contain this pandemic, is at a level I would call ‘Epic’. As the NYT noted in a June 2020 article: ‘The technology was old, the data poor, the bureaucracy slow, the guidance confusing, the administration not in agreement’.

I’m still leery to embrace the labels ‘Safest’ and ‘Prevention Measures Not Needed’ for most indoor places. There are too many people out and about that are still unvaccinated (for whatever crazy reason).

Wednesday/ a flower named for the physician of the gods

The shrubby peony plant has long been cultivated for its large showy flowers, and it’s easy to see why. This one comes out of my friends’ garden.

The peony (or paeony) is a flowering plant in the genus Paeonia. The word peony comes from the Old English peonie, and originally from the Greek paiōnia, referring to Paiōn, the physician of the gods in Greek mythology.

Tuesday/ pipeline trouble

HOUSTON — Panicked drivers scrambled to fuel their vehicles across the Southeast on Tuesday, leaving thousands of stations without gasoline as a vital fuel pipeline remained largely shut down after a ransomware attack.

The disruption to the Colonial Pipeline, which stretches 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey, also left airlines vulnerable, with several saying they would send jet fuel to the region by air to ensure that service would not be disrupted.
-Clifford Krauss, Niraj Chokshi and David E. Sanger writing in the New York Times about panic buying of gasoline in the Southeast

If you are in the market for a new car, buy one that runs on electricity.

Monday/ around South Lake Union

Here are pictures from Sunday, from my walk around South Lake Union.

Out of the big hole that there once had been, a big building is rising. I was snapping the Washington State Convention Center’s expansion, seen here from the corner of Howell St and 9th Ave, when this Tesla Model 3 drove into my picture.
Walking by Spruce Street School‘s brick building on Virgina Avenue, on the way to South Lake Union. The private school educates kids from kindergarten, through fifth grade ($28,650 per year per student).
Here’s the Cornish College of the Arts (brown building), getting squeezed by new 44-storey glass-and-steel apartment towers on two sides, but still holding its own. The building was designed by architect Sonke Englehart Sonnichsen in the traditional Norwegian style. Constructed in 1915, it was used for Seattle’s Norwegian cultural and fraternal organizations until 1948. It hosted the City Beat disco club from 1974, which became Boren Street Disco. In the late 80’s it became the home of The Timberline: a country western & mainly gay dance club, renowned for its 25c beers, free peanuts (with shells thrown on the floor), Wednesday lube wrestling tournaments, country line dancing, and its Sunday Tea Dance. Sadly, the Timberline closed in 2003. (Information from
A sign at the corner of Denny Way and Fairview Avenue. There is construction all around, and it will go on for at least two more years.
Here is the 2014 Fairview Avenue apartment tower, a 42-story structure with its languid ‘S’ corner line, offering 437 apartment units and retail space at ground level. It’s a far cry from the little Denny Square strip mall and dry-cleaning joint that had been demolished to make room for it.
I spliced together two pictures to catch all of the S E A T T L E   T I M E S lettering. This used to be a 3-story building, occupied by the Seattle Times newspaper from 1931 to 2011. All that remains is the façade. Two office towers (16-story and 18-story) are to be constructed here, but the work has not yet started in earnest.
A cluster of parking instructions. You have to pay, and the assumption is that you have a smartphone to do it with. There are no parking meters! Better to just catch public transport, or your Uber or Lyft ride right here.
Here’s another brick building with a long history. Now called Amazon Van Vorst (it’s at 426 Terry Ave N), it was built in 1909 for the Club Stables, and had room for 250 horses. The building was then a furniture outlet, a transfer & storage facility, and from 1941-74, it housed the C. B. Van Vorst mattress factory. Then it sat empty for two decades, before it was declared a City of Seattle Landmark. (Information from HistoryLink).
Here’s the minimalist lobby of the Moxy Seattle Downtown budget hotel. ‘Nice to See You’ says the floormat, and ‘There is Nowhere to Go but Everywhere’, proclaims the artwork on the wall. (Well. Maybe in 2023, but not just yet).
All right. Finally I arrive at my intended destination, the new-ish building called Google Valley, the tech giant’s new Seattle offices, on the shore of Lake Union.
The view from Terry Avenue. Look for a reflection of the Space Needle in one of the window panes, and for a white image of The Bugdroid, also called Andy, the mascot of the Google Android smartphone operating system.
The entire lobby wall of the Helm apartment complex in the same building is decked out with traffic mirrors.
And another one, put to real use to see oncoming traffic on Mercer Ave, at a construction site. (And put to use by me for a selfie picture).
Making my way back now to where I parked my car, and walking by the Tesla dealership on Westlake Avenue. This all-black Model Y is getting a trickle charge from a regular 110 V wall outlet. It’s only getting 3 or 4 miles per hour added to its battery, but that’s OK. It might be all it needs for the test drives it is used for by potential buyers.
Once upon a time some 15 years ago, I had Firestone tires put on my Toyota Camry in this old Firestone Auto Supply and Service Building from 1929. The 2-story building’s outer walls, with their distinctive Art Deco style, are kept, but not much else. A 15-story office building will be constructed on the inside.
Here’s the courtyard between the Amazon Houdini North and Houdini South buildings. There’s an Amazon Go store tucked into the corner (the store where you check in with your Amazon app, walk around and put what you want in your basket, and walk out the door. You still pay 🙂 – the store knows what you had taken.
Looking up, in the courtyard.
The Houdini buildings are located on the site of the 1929 Troy Laundry Building. The brick façade of the old building is still there, showcasing a few items in the entrance lobby off Fairview Ave North.
A peek into a ground floor meeting room from the lobby. I guess those chairs around the table are waiting patiently for squabbling, animated humans to come back. A Zoom meeting is a poor substitute for a rowdy in-the-flesh conference room meeting, no?
Nice turquoise colors on the outdoor seating area for El Grito Taqueria. Hopefully the restaurants and eateries can hang on for just a little longer.
And here are the two apartment towers at 1120 Denny Way (41 stories each) that are now nearing completion. It is the city’s largest-ever apartment building, with a total of 1,179 apartments.

Sunday/ Mother’s Day

Wishing all the moms a happy Mother’s Day, belatedly.
It’s been an especially hard year for working moms that had to work from home while taking care of the kids.

The last of the tulips here in my neighborhood, a beautiful pink one.

Saturday Night Live/ a win for Musk, SNL

”I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars on a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
– Elon Musk during his monologue on Saturday Night Live, tonight

Ever since it was announced (some weeks ago) that billionaire engineer and business magnate Elon Musk would host tonight’s Saturday Night Live episode, the haters chimed in with criticism of him, and the show for inviting him as host.

Well, he was “pretty good at running ‘human’ in emulation mode” (his words). His mom Maye (73) made a cameo appearance during his monologue, and he revealed that he has Asperger’s syndrome (I don’t believe this was public knowledge before today).

He played in almost every skit: a socially awkward guest at a post-quarantine party; a guilty priest in a parody of HBO’s latest crime drama; director of a silly Icelandic TV show; the Mario universe character Wario; a financial adviser that could not explain what (the crypto-currency) Dogecoin is, and a convincing version of himself, as head of SpaceX dealing with an emergency on a Martian colony.

Elon Musk (49) projecting his ‘geek’ prowess, in a still picture from on Saturday Night Live [Picture from Saturday Night Live Show, NBC]

Friday/ State Route 20 now open

SR 20 is the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington State.


State Route 20, commonly referred to as the North Cascades Highway, opened for traffic on Wednesday.

Crews removing the last stretches of remaining snow on the road surface. [Pictures tweeted on Tuesday by WSDOT East @WSDOT_East on Twitter]. 

Thursday/ the Xanadu 2.0 palace

(‘House, Palace, Cottage, Pigsty’).
– Afrikaans children’s rhyme, used to determine the ‘elegance’ of the house that your family lived in. Point to the top button of your shirt, and say ‘House’; the next button down is ‘Palace’; the next one down is ‘Cottage’, and so on, until you reach the bottom button. (Start again with ‘House’ if your shirt has more than four buttons). The bottom button says what your house is.

Now that the Gateses are divorcing, commentators are wondering what will happen to their sprawling $130 million estate on the shore of Lake Washington.  Back in the mid-90’s when construction started, it was dubbed Xanadu 2.0.  Xanadu is a reference to the lavish property that belongs to the tycoon character in the 1941 film ‘Citizen Kane’. The 2.0 refers to a next version iteration, such as Windows 3.0.

An intern was allowed to blog about the property in 2007, here. (Quote: ‘Going down Bill’s driveway is like arriving at Jurassic Park’).

Melinda Gates has reportedly bought a property of $1.2 million here in Capitol Hill, just three weeks ago. The reporter called it a ‘cottage’.

The Gates family home, on the banks of Seattle’s Lake Washington, in a photo from 2001. The floorspace comes to 66,000 sq ft and nowadays, racks up a yearly property tax bill of more than US$1 million. [Credit: Dan Callister/Newsmakers, via Getty Images]
I did a Google Earth flyover of the Lake Washington shoreline, and here is what an aerial view looks like today (middle of the picture). The trees and shrubs have gotten much bigger — obscuring the property from curious eyes, peering at it from Lake Washington, even more.

Wednesday/ two of two

It’s in my arm, my second shot of Pfizer-made COVID-19 vaccine.

To the COVID-19 deniers and conspiracy theorists:
YES, COVID-19 is real.
NO, the COVID-19 death rate numbers are not inflated.
NO, there is no microchip in the vaccines.
NO, the vaccine will not change my DNA.
NO, the vaccine is not a plot by Bill Gates, by the US Government, or by any other entity, to take over the world.

‘I support the COVID-19 vaccine’ says the button that I got at the clinic today. Yeah, OK, of course I support it— but COVID-19 is not a political party, for Pete’s sake. How about a blunt message, such as ‘Vaccines save lives’ or ‘Get your Covid-19 vaccine’?

Tuesday/ tennis at Woodland Park

The Tuesday & Thursday social tennis sessions for spring / summer at the lower Woodland Park tennis courts, has started.
I was the only one of the 12 in our group playing that wore a mask on the court, and it did not bother me one bit.
It’s impossible to consistently stay 6 feet away from your doubles partner, and we brush by the others as we change sides, or courts. Why be careless, now that I am so close to get my second shot of the vaccine?

There was blue skies and a high of 61 °F (16 °C) this afternoon. This is lower Woodland Park by Green Lake in its namesake neighborhood, with the soccer field on the left, with a dirt track around it, and several little league baseball diamonds to the right. The tennis courts are behind me. The shadows are getting longer, but this is only 6.18 pm. Sunset is still more than two hours away, at 8.26 pm.

Monday/ contemplating personal plates

Washington State, as most other states, allow vehicle owners to personalize their license plates — for an extra license renewal fee, of course. I think it’s $80 per year.

I’ve been there, and had done that, with my two Toyota Camrys:  just the letters for my name or a slight variation of that (not very imaginative, but definitely personalized).
The last number of years I had just gone with the randomly assigned plate number issued to me by the licensing agent for Washington State DOT.

Now with my super high-tech and exciting electric car on the way, I’m tempted to go for it again.

Here’s a rundown of some possibilities.

The plates in the leftmost column are all taken, per the licensing website, so those are not available! Those in the 2nd and 3rd columns still are.

BLIKSEM Let me help with the decoding here. BLIKSEM (say ‘blɪksəm’) is the evergreen favorite of personalized car plates for South Africans. It’s Afrikaans for ‘lightning’. It is also an expression of surprise, or shock, or disgust, and slang for ‘rogue’ or ‘devilish-but-maybe-still-likeable person’, as in  Man! Did you do that? You are a BLIKSEM!  BLITS (say ‘blitz’) means ‘lightning’ or ‘very fast thing’.

WATTSUP, NOWWATT WATT is the SI unit of power/ electric power. I thought of AMPERE3 and VOLT3 as well. VOLT is the name of Chevrolet’s 2011–2019 electric car, and not ideal to use, though.

3SACHRM Short for ‘Three’s a charm’ (third time is a charm). Three for Model 3, with the SA in there for South Africa, let’s say. And —very obscure, I will admit — a charm quark is a sub-atomic particle, found in protons and neutrons (but not in electrons).

VUVUZLA Vuvuzela, a long horn blown by fans at soccer matches in South Africa. Made famous during the World Cup of 2010 in South Africa.

10SNE1 Tennis anyone?

JENESQA Je ne sais quoi, the French expression for ‘that certain something’ (such as an appealing quality), that cannot be adequately described or expressed with any other words. Unfortunately, some people might think there is also a QANon conspiracy theory in there.

Sunday/ flowers of the heath

an area of open uncultivated land, especially in Britain, with characteristic vegetation of heather, gorse, and coarse grasses.

It’s the month of May, so the rhododendron flowers are blooming here on Capitol Hill. These plants belong to Ericaceae, a family of flowering plants, commonly known as the heath or heather family.

Saturday/ another rental car

I found a great deal on a rental car for four weeks, and went down to Hertz on 8th Ave to go pick it up.  I hope to get my new car early in June. These pictures are from my walk down to Hertz on Friday.

NOT my rental car! .. an all-black Tesla Model 3 parked on the street. Looks like a 2020 model, with the chrome door handles and trim. The 2021 model has ‘chrome delete’ trim (black door handles, black trim). This car has no front license plate, possibly because the owner feels it would spoil the car’s sleek look. Washington State law DOES REQUIRE a front plate, so the driver risks getting ticketed.
The beautiful orange daisies are out, catching the little bit of rain that fell on the last day of April. This April turned out to be one of the driest ones on record:  only 1.03 in (26 mm) whereas the average is 2.7 in (68 mm).
Here comes the powder blue Seattle street car, plying the tracks along Broadway.
Lots of green frames in the Pine Building at 400 East Pine. It was built in 1914 and renovated in 1985.
The rain washed away the dirt on the crosswalk on  the corner of Melrose & Pine St. The new construction on the right, at 1208 Pine St, is an 8-story, 71-unit apartment building with office and retail.
Construction continues on the Washington State Convention Center expansion. The Seattle Tattoo Emporium is conveniently nearby, so attendees can swing by for a mountain lion tattoo, or any other that they might want!

Friday/ charging, with 240 V

Here’s the 240-volt adapter for charging my Tesla’s car battery. (I had to buy it separately; it does not come with the car. Now all I need is the actual car with its battery, right?).

I will need a new electrical outlet, connected to a 240 V circuit, in my garage, similar to the one that I have in my basement for the clothes dryer. The standard 120 V outlet will actually do the job, charging the car. It will just charge a lot slower, up to 8 miles (of battery range) per hour vs. about 30 miles per hour for the 240 V outlet.

Think of electricity current (electrons) as water in a pipe, and voltage as the pressure that is applied to push the water through the pipeline. High voltage pushes more electric charge per second through the charging cable, and gets the battery charged quicker.

Just for fun, here’s a table with examples of electricity flow, current and voltage.
One ampere of current is one coulomb of charge moving past a given point per second. One coulomb is exactly 1/(1.602176634×10−19) elementary* charges.

*the charge on an electron

Electricity FlowCurrentVoltage
Current across human cell membranea few µA70 mV
iPhone consuming battery power0.1- 0.5 A3.7 V
LED light bulb (12W)0.1 A120 V
Incandescent light bulb (60W) 0.5 A120 V
Electric eel, delivering a shock1 A600 V
Household clothes dryer11 A240 V
Tesla car battery, charging12- 48 A 240 V
Long-distance power transmission line700 A350 kV
Lightning bolt (run for cover)30 kA300 MV

Thursday/ it’s Day 15 for me

I have been counting the days after Wednesday, April 14 when I got my first Covid-19 vaccine shot.

The graph below has been doing the rounds on Twitter, and has been featured in articles about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
It was compiled in 2020 by Pfizer with data from the vaccine trials.
New coronavirus cases quickly tapered off in the vaccinated group of volunteers about 10 days after the first dose*. In the placebo group, cases kept steadily increasing.
The second dose boosts and extends the protection (for at least 6 months, possibly for much longer).

*If someone in the vaccinated group did get infected, the symptoms were milder, and there were no fatalities, either.

Comparison of Covid-19 incidences in placebo group, and a vaccinated group, from Pfizer’s clinical trials in 2020.
I’m in the vaccinated group and at the ‘2’ on the graph’s timeline, and heading for the ‘3’ next Wednesday when I will get my second shot.

Wednesday/ President Biden addresses Congress

Tomorrow marks President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office.
Tonight, he addressed a joint session of Congress, with two women on the dais behind him for the first time in the country’s history (Madam VP Kamala Harris and Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi).
The president noted that 220 million vaccine shots had been given since he had taken office, and talked about his $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

Biden’s plans are big and bold. All told, there is a total of $6 trillion in the spending plans he has rolled out.
He says he will move ahead with these plans, even if he does not receive a single Republican vote of support in Congress:
The American Rescue Plan (the coronavirus relief bill), passed by Congress in March, $1.9 trillion.
The American Jobs Plan (infrastructure plan), unveiled Mar. 31, $2.3 trillion (paid for in part by raising the corporate tax rate).
The American Families Plan, unveiled this week, $1.8 trillion (paid for by increases in tax collection and high-earner income & capital gains taxes).

Illustration by Ben Kirchner for The New Yorker magazine, for an article titled ‘Biden’s Pandemic Plan Might Just Work’, by Dhruv Khullar, Jan 27, 2021.

Tuesday/ closed and blacked out

Here’s the QFC grocery store on 15th Ave, that had closed its doors for the last time on Saturday.
The store’s owners, the Kroger Co. based in Cincinnati, Ohio, says it was not profitable enough. The $4-per-hour hazard pay to grocery workers, mandated by the City of Seattle, ‘had forced their hand to close it’.

I like that little solar panel for the surveillance system in the parking lot. I should put four or five of those on my garage roof — to charge the battery of my up-and-coming electric car with.