It was a rough week for British Prime Minister Theresa May. She finally has a Brexit deal with the EU27 (European Union minus the UK), but now the hard-line Brexiteers in her own Conservative Party are revolting. The deal has the UK stay in the European Union Customs Union, and parts of the single market. This way an international border and customs would not be needed between Ireland (Europe) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK).
The UK Parliament still has to approve the deal. Instead, the hard-liners are pushing for a no-deal Brexit. This ‘jumping over the cliff’ type of exit will have all kinds of economic and other repercussions. Consumers, businesses and public bodies would have to respond immediately to changes as result of leaving the EU, and it’s unsure what controls will be put in place a the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.
What if Parliament does not approve the deal? Some say there may be a second referendum, then, already called the People’s Vote. (Pollsters say the Remain vote has shifted from 48% to 54% over the last 18 months).
The No 48 bus makes for an easy run up to the University (of Washington) District for me, and I did that today. (The main draw there for me is the big university bookstore, and the smaller second-hand bookstores, as well).
In another two years or so, the new Light Rail train station right there will be completed, and then I can take the train instead. That would be great!
The kilogram is currently defined as the mass of a chunk of platinum-iridium alloy created in 1889, that is housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France. (Le Grand kilogram, or Big K, as it is affectionately known).
But what if Big K gets stolen, or damaged? And it has already (mysteriously) lost some 50 micrograms since 1889. So this state of affairs will not do for the 21st century.
This Friday in Versailles, a gathering of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, is expected to vote to redefine the kilogram by its existence as a unit in the Planck constant. This new definition is very complicated to explain (see here). For it to work, the Planck constant also had to be precisely defined and fixed to 9 significant digits, with the aid of a Kibble balance.
I guess Seattle has many gleaming glass and steel towers nowadays, but the Seattle Tower is one of the city’s original art deco gems.
Its construction was completed in 1929, and at the time it was called the Northern Life Building.
Word had leaked out by Monday night (before an official announcement from Amazon), that the two sites of the much anticipated Amazon HQ2 (second headquarters) will be Long Island City (in New York City) and Crystal City (in northern Virginia, just south of Washington DC downtown).
I think – I’m not sure – that it’s good news for Seattle that HQ2 will be split in two. Seattleites were fretting that HQ2 might eventually become bigger than Seattle, and this seems to make that less of a possibility.
It’s a very special Veterans Day: we can celebrate the 100 year mark since the end of World War I.
Says the New York Times, though: After more than four years of fighting, 8.5 million soldiers had been killed, including more than 100,000 Americans, and 7 million civilians were dead. In that time, modern warfare was born, and the trenches of Western Europe became a charnel house*. Just 20 years later World War II would start, bringing vastly greater destruction, and numbers of casualties.
*A building or vault in which corpses or bones are piled.
These little birds like to hop around in my backyard sometimes, looking for fallen seeds.
This morning, one was finally ready to pose for his close-up. (It’s time to get a 500 mm telephoto lens, if I’m going to be serious about shooting pictures of little birdies like these!).
It took a little searching to find it online, but now I know: it’s a dark-eyed junco.
At least 12 people were killed in a shooting late Wednesday at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Borderline Bar and Grill was holding its weekly event for college students. The gunman (28) was a troubled Marine Corps veteran that turned his gun on himself.
Here is Roxane Gay writing under a heading ‘Please Be Shocked at the Thousand Oaks Shooting’ in the New York Times:
According to statistics from the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 307 mass shootings in the 312 days of 2018. They are a commonplace occurrence. This is a horrifying thing to say, but it is the truth. We need to say this truth over and over. We need to face this horror without looking away. We live in a country where there are relatively few restrictions on gun ownership and where our cultural tolerance for mass murder appears to be infinite. … It is a peculiarly American affliction that this epidemic of gun violence doesn’t move us to take any real steps toward curbing gun violence and access to guns. … It is painfully obvious that there is no shooting appalling enough to make American politicians stand up to the National Rifle Association and gunmakers. A congressman was shot and critically wounded. Children at Sandy Hook Elementary were murdered. Revelers at the Pulse nightclub were murdered. Concertgoers in Las Vegas were murdered.
It was sunny today, but we only got up to 52°F/ 11°C.
The sunlight we got, was gone by 4.41 pm – the time the sun now sets in the Pacific Northwest. Yikes. (On Saturday night, across the United States, we set our clocks back from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time*).
*California voters approved Prop. 7 on Tuesday, a proposal to permanently stay on Daylight Saving Time. The measure still requires a two-thirds vote from the California legislature and a change in federal law before it can take effect, though.
The Democrats have taken back the House! Yes!
This is of monumental importance. The Speaker and the House Committee chairs are going to be Democrats. There will be a real check on Trump’s excesses and the appalling Republican legislation that have come out of Congress. For the first time, there will be more than 100 women among the 435 House of Representatives.
The Republicans will retain the Senate. A bitter disappointment for Democrats in the Senate races, was that Texas star and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke’s inspiring campaign against incumbent Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz, came up short.
Alright. If 2016 was the Year of the Angry Older White Male in American politics, maybe 2018 is the Year of the Female College Graduate, says Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report. These suburban and younger women take a very dim view of our 45th president. (As do I).
The Democrats really need to win the House. Hopefully they will not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, like they did in 2016.
It is unlikely they will win the Senate.
There are also some very interesting gubernatorial (state governors) races. For my fellow citizens in red states (Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin): some free advice. DO NOT vote for a Republican governor. Republicans DO NOT CARE FOR PEOPLE, not even for you.
Update Wed 11/7: The Dems got the house, but not the Senate. Michigan, Pennsylvania & Wisconsin voted in Democratic governors.
We ran out to the movie theater today to go see the just-released Freddie Mercury/ Queen biopic called ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. It had gotten mixed reviews from the critics – but as it turned out: what do they know? I thought it was very, very well done.
American actor Rami Malek worked hard to undergo a stunning transformation to portray Freddie Mercury’s flamboyance and human side. The filmmakers collaborated with Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor (71) and lead guitarist Brian May (69). (Bass guitarist John Deacon (67) retired from the band’s activities a few years after Freddie Mercury passed away in 1991).
The movie ends with an amazing recreation of Bob Geldof’s Live Aid concert that was held in 1985 at Wembley Stadium in London (worldwide rock concert organized to raise money for the relief of famine-stricken Africans).
This is the time of year for some mushrooms to sprout in urban gardens here in the Pacific Northwest, and I discovered a new type under my laurel fence this year. Maybe they’ve been coming out every year, and I just haven’t noticed before!
I am still adding to my old South African bank note collection. My latest addition is the R2 note issued in 1966. It arrived in the mail today, sent by an Ebay seller – from Istanbul, Turkey, no less.
The Gariep Dam on the back of the note is South Africa’s largest, by far (cap. 5.7 cubic km /1.4 cubic mi)* . Its turbines can contribute some 360 MW of electricity to the national grid.
*By comparison, the Hoover Dam in Nevada can hold a vast amount of water, some 32.2 cubic km (7.7 cubic mi). It has not been filled to capacity since 1983, though. Then there is the Three Gorges Dam in China that is bigger still (the world’s largest), with a capacity of 39.3 cubic km (9.4 cubic mi).
Five days to go before November 6, and Trump’s lies and propaganda are reaching a fever pitch.
1. Migrant caravans with Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans in Mexico, walking to the US border, are going to ‘invade’ the country. The Pentagon was told to ready as many as 15,000 troops to go to the Mexican border. Fact: The threat is very small. Only a small percentage of the migrants will make it to the border, is the Pentagon’s assessment.
2. The Republican Party will protect our healthcare. Fact: Twenty Republican governors are suing the Federal Government right now, seeking end to Obamacare. Trump supported the wholesale repeal of Obamacare.
3. Trump will reduce middle-income taxes by 10% before the midterm elections. Fact: Congress is not even in session. A pipedream and laughable lie.
4. Trump will end birthright citizenship, presumably by executive order. Fact: Pfft. Not going to happen. He will have to get Congress to overturn the 14th Amendment.
5. Trump warns of widespread voter fraud. Fact: The only widespread voter fraud is that which is committed by Republican governors and legislators. They are working flat-out to prevent voters from minority groups and others that support Democrats, to vote. This is in addition to a long tradition of gerrymandering districts in many states.
I just watched the two episodes on the public television channel called ‘The Facebook Dilemma*’ – and did not find it reassuring. Facebook has a long history of being too late to address disastrous uses of their platform: for hate speech, for spreading lies, for sowing distrust and division. Should anyone trust them again, ever?
*Facebook should be reinvented (run with different functionality & algorithms) or even be shut down, but it has become too big and powerful.
Congress – and the citizenry – have a responsibility as well. Do we care enough? Here’s former Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos: “We’ve had two years since the main part of the Russian attack against the 2016 election, and very little has been done as a country, as a government, to protect ourselves,” Stamos told FRONTLINE. “We have signaled to the rest of the world that interfering in our elections is something that we won’t really punish or react to.”
I don’t have a Halloween pumpkin on my porch – but found a crow sitting there today (on the post by steps to my front door).
I like Mr Crow’s sharp, inquisitive look, checking me out, as I was snapping his picture.
The official list of the victims killed in the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday:
Joyce Feinberg (75)
Richard Gottfried (65)
Rose Mallinger (97)
Jerry Rabinowitz (66)
Cecil Rosenthal (59)
David Rosenthal (54)
Bernice Simon (84)
Sylvan Simon (86)
Daniel Stein (71)
Melvin Wax (88)
Irving Younger (69)
Six people were injured, four of which were police.