Monday/ not a good day for progressive citizens

Trump installed his third Supreme Court justice on the bench today, with the help of Moscow Mitch and his conniving Senate Republicans.

The American people, who have preferred the Democratic nominee for president in six of the last seven presidential elections, are now subordinate to a solid 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

Christine Pelosi is a Democratic strategist & daughter of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The annotations in red are mine. I don’t believe I need to justify why Trump belongs in jail. As for Justice Barrett, she was confirmed by the Republicans without a single vote from the Democrats, WHILE an election is underway with 60 million votes in, AND with Trump the criminal ON HIS WAY GETTING VOTED OUT. (Trusting that I don’t have to eat those last few words).

Sunday/ a new all-time high

Today, the U.S. set a new record for new cases averaged over a 7-day period: 68,954.
The previous high was 66,844, set on July 23.
– The COVID Tracking Project @COVID19Tracking on Twitter

A new record for the 7-day moving average. Yes, hospitals have learned how to increase the survival rate of critically ill patients. Still, more than 800 lives are lost every day in the United States, a number that has been increasing since September.

Saturday/ it’s Marmite – or nothing

I again picked up my groceries that I had ordered online, yesterday.
I forgot to review the substitutes that that the in-store picker had made, beforehand. (They pick a ‘similar’ item if they had ran out of the exact one that you had ordered).

Well: the Marmite that I had ordered was replaced with dry yeast.
Yikes. No! Cannot do that. They are absolutely not equivalent! I told the store this on the feedback form afterwards (without yelling at them).

Yes, they both have ‘yeast’ on the label, but Marmite is a spread used on toast, bread and crackers, and is NEVER used for baking the way that the dry yeast is. The problem is that most grocery stores here in the United States put the Marmite on the baking goods shelf, next to the yeasts, instead of on the condiments shelf next to other spreads that you put on bread and toast.

Friday/ it’s scarf time

It’s time to get out the woolen hats and scarves here in Western Washington. It was 48 °F (9 °C) as I headed out the door, while there was still a little gray daylight left.

I don’t know the name of this tree, but the yellows and oranges of its leaves are striking.
New construction on 15th Avenue. Looks like there are three condominium homes, judging from the three mailboxes on the sidewalk. Interesting rusty metal finish (iron oxide?). They would go for oh, $1 million or so, each. Great general location, BUT 15th Ave is busy and noisy in daytime.
Here’s the Walgreen pharmacy on the corner of 15th & Republican saying ‘COVID-19 VACCINE NOT YET AVAILABLE‘ on the door. (Wow. Can it be that people are beating the doors down, so to speak, inquiring about the vaccine every day?). We do need a vaccine. We’re hitting new daily record high numbers of cases here in the United States.

Thursday/ the final debate

U.S. professional golfer John Daly and musician Kid Rock are seen after being told to wear a face mask ahead of the final presidential debate at Belmont University. (They seem a little befuddled .. have probably never worn masks before. No doubt in my mind that they are both Trump supporters). (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

I missed the final presidential debate (Lucky me. I was playing tennis in the cold. We lucked out with dry courts on Tuesday, and again today).

Here is the Washington Post’s takeaways of the debate:
1. Trump offers no course correction on coronavirus.
2. Biden sharpens his coronavirus closing argument.
“Two-hundred twenty thousand Americans dead,” Biden began. “If you hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this: Anyone who is responsible, for not taking control — in fact, saying I take no responsibility initially — anyone that is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America.”
3. Trump tries to make an issue of Hunter Biden, in fits and starts (unsubstantiated claims of corruption).
4. Biden’s dicey* energy comments ..
Trump then pressed Biden on whether he would “close down the oil industry,” to which Biden responded, “I would transition from the oil industry, yes … because the oil industry pollutes significantly.” Biden added that this should be part of the process of transitioning to renewable energy.

*Says Ezra Klein on Twitter: ‘It is amazing, in the year 2020, that anyone would treat a presidential candidate saying we need to transition away from oil as surprising or scandalous. The reckless, scandalous position — ruinous to both lives and economies — is denying the need to decarbonize’.

5. It was a better debate than the first one.

Fact checker Daniel Dale on Twitter: ‘From a lying perspective, Trump is even worse tonight than in the first debate’.

CNN Poll: Biden wins final presidential debate, 53% to 39%. (I guess 8% said it’s even or could not say who won).

The Guardian newspaper: Biden fends off flailing Trump but most voters have already decided. (And 47 million have already voted).

Wednesday/ where the young voters are

You know you’re old when you didn’t even know about the existence of ‘Among Us’, a massively popular online game on Twitch.

(Twitch is a platform for streaming online games to viewers that follow the players. The players can talk live, but viewers usually participate via text chat.  Amazon owns it; bought it in 2014).

In the game Among Us, up to 10 players work together to complete tasks located around a map or a series of rooms. One player is secretly designated as an Imposter. When a body is found or an emergency meeting is called, the players all must vote for who they think the Imposter might be.

Anyway: on Monday, progressive politician with star power, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (elected to represent New York’s 14th congressional district in Congress at 29 yrs old), also known by her initials AOC, tweeted that she will participate in a game of Among Us.
Even before the game started, some 300,000 viewers were signed on, and later on the count reached 430,000, making it one of the most popular streams ever.

Why would AOC play in an online game? That’s where the young people are, and she told them how important it is to vote, and how to check how voting works in their State.  (I suspect it is a little late to register, if you have not yet done so,  though).

Here’s the lobby of the spaceship in which the game of Among Us was played. That’s congresswoman AOC bottom center. Her avatar for the game is above her (‘aoc’ character in pink with the sprout hat).
Here’s a very funny scene from the game. It went as follows.
AOC goes to the electrical room. Poki follows her (that’s Poki in the picture).
Poki:  Ma’am, are you OK?
AOC:  (Talking to viewers of the game, but muted and unbeknownst to the Among Us players) I can’t kill Poki – she’s so nice .. (AOC is the designated Imposter in this game).
AOC:  OK, I think I’m gonna have to do it. STABB! (Poki is ‘killed’).
Poki:  (Mortified, shocked) Shrieks .. Aargh! (Laughs, knows it was AOC that ‘killed’ her) .. It was an honor!
Poki:  It was an HONOR. (Bends forward on her desk, arms raised, laughs). 

Monday/ vote him out

My ballot has been counted.
The man they call ‘President’ (of the United States) attacked Dr. Fauci today, and called Joe Biden a criminal – and all journalists criminals, as well.
Those are not good arguments to make, with 15 days to go, and given that you are the criminal and the liar!

Sunday/ no sun today

The sun did not come out today, but the soft rain had cleared up by the afternoon so that I could go for a walk.
The high was 60 °F/ 15 °C.

The letter balloon display by this house was a little deflated — but it is still getting its message out.
And here is a new sign by the Biden campaign. Get it? Bi-den = Bye Don(ald Trump). It’s not a done deal, of course. The Washington Post reports of a Democratic voter that says ‘I am feeling anxious and trapped between a sense of unbridled optimism and sheer dread’. How can we not, remembering 2016?

Saturday/ Tintin, in Spanish

And here is the Spanish translation of King Ottokar’s Sceptre (see my recent posts about its translations into Scots, Irish and Welsh).

Below is the panel from the book again that I use to compare the translations with (Tintin and detectives on the motorcycle). The two bungling detectives with similar-sounding names (in Spanish: Hernández & Fernández) say the same thing as usual, but just in different words.

This Spanish language edition of King Ottokar’s Sceptre, El Cetro de Ottokar, is from 2017, by publisher Editorial Juventud. The original colored comic strip book (French) was published in 1947, and the first Spanish translation came in 1958.
Detective Hernández: ¡Andando! Let’s go! Estamos listos. We are ready.
Detective Fernández: Yo aún diría más. I would even say more. ¡Estamos listas! We are ready.
Tintin: All right!  (curious that the English ‘All right!’ is used. Could ¡Está bien! have been used? I’m not sure.
Tintin’s white pooch Snowy is named Milú in the Spanish translation.

Friday/ my vote is in

18 days until Nov 3.
I walked down to the ballot drop box on Broadway this afternoon to drop in my ballot.

There it goes! Yay! There was a lot more than just Joe Biden for president, to vote for on the ballot. We vote for Washington State governor (Jay Inslee), for our House of Representatives member (Pramila Jayapal is mine), and for a number of local ballot initiatives as well. The two US senators for Washington State are not on the ballot. US senators serve 6 years, and Patty Murray was re-elected in 2016, and Maria Cantwell in 2018.
Here comes the Seattle streetcar. This is on Broadway, right where the ballot box is. The new apartment buildings across the street are coming together nicely. They might take a little longer to fill up with renters, with the pandemic hit that the economy has taken under the Trump Disaster Administration.
A little further down is the Broadway Performance Hall, part of Seattle Central College. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1911 and renovated in 1979. The performers (singers, speakers, poets, musicians, dancers) will be back, but not any time soon.

Thursday/ 17 million, plus mine

17 million people have voted in the election already, a number vastly outpacing the early vote numbers from 2016.

My mail-in ballot arrived in the mail today, and I will get it in the mail ASAP. Psst! Donald Trump, I’ll let you in on a secret. You’re not getting my vote.

P.S. Check out the appeal to voters from the New York Times editorial board, in the black frames below.

Not even 2 out of 3 eligible voters (US citizens older than 18) vote. 138 million, which is 58.1%, voted in 2016. Those 80% numbers from the 19th century are the most accurate available, but exclude large swaths of voters that were still disenfranchised. Women only got to vote in 1920. And it was really only in 1965 when the majority of African Americans in the South were able/ allowed to vote. Voter suppression efforts by the Republican Party continue to this day. Every election, voters from some states still report that they had to stand in line for 8, 9, 10 hours to vote. That is not democracy. That is voter suppression.



Wednesday/ the last of the superheavies .. for now

Below is the last batch of superheavy element slides that I had made for my collection.

Oganesson, atomic number 118, is the element with the heaviest atoms. Can even heavier elements be made, with atomic numbers 119 and 120?
Here’s what Samanth Subramanian wrote for Bloomberg Businessweek in an article from Sept. 2019:
‘The periodic table was never expected to furl out endlessly. In these extreme reaches of the table, cramming proton after proton into a nucleus renders it more and more precarious. The positive charges repel one another until the nucleus decays near-instantly—before electrons have had a chance to settle into orbit to provide an atomic structure and before the passage of a hundred-trillionth of a second, the time an atom must exist to count as a new element.

Were you to reach element 173, scientists theorize, matters could get even stickier. The effects of Einsteinian relativity would kick in, and electrons would behave in peculiar ways. Those atoms may not even be atoms as we know them—their electron clouds dissolving and the regular periodicity of their properties swerving wildly off course.

But physics presents difficulties long before 173. Even for 119, waiting just offstage, scientists aren’t sure which two elements they might fuse. Oganesson, No. 118, was the product of an especially stable isotope of calcium slamming into californium. But that calcium can’t just be directed toward einsteinium, the next element after californium; a handful of nuclear reactors around the world generate only a milligram or so of einsteinium for research every year.

Seven years ago at GSI, Christoph Düllmann and his team tried a combination of titanium (22 protons) and berkelium (97 protons), without results. In Japan, Haba has been working with vanadium (23 protons) and curium (96 protons). In a $60 million Superheavy Element Factory in Dubna, inaugurated in March, scientists are pelting berkelium with an extra-stable titanium isotope, its nucleus fat with six neutrons more than standard titanium. But at the moment, Düllmann says, 118 “is the end of the story. We now need one more idea. Maybe we’ll get enough einsteinium at some point. But we have no idea what combination of elements is best for 119 and 120. The number of theories is the same as the number of theorists you talk to.’


Tuesday/ got my flu shot

Sign at Bartell Drugs, where I got my flu shot. (Not a very compelling tagline there – ‘Don’t Let Flu Stop You’. Maybe say ‘Flu Can Kill You’? .. or is that too harsh, seeing that we are in a deadly pandemic already?

I waited a little this year to get my flu shot, but got it today.

I got it too early last year – in August! – and then I learned that the protection from it wanes a little too early as well (when flu is still going around, at the end of the season).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in the 2018–2019 season, some 35.5 million Americans came down with the flu and that about 34,000 of them died from it. Flu shots prevented another 4.4 million cases and about 3,500 deaths. [Source: Scientific American].

Monday/ Indigenous Peoples’ Day

It was Indigenous Peoples’ Day today here in the United States, and I wondered how long ago the first humans had reached the North American continent.

The answer: We don’t know for sure! Some 10,000 to 25,000 yrs ago. Indigenous Americans, who include Alaska Natives, Canadian First Nations, and Native Americans, descend from humans who crossed an ancient land bridge called Beringia, connecting Siberia in Russia to Alaska.

P.S. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens evolved by at least 130,000 years ago from ancestors who had remained in Africa. As far back as 2.5 million years ago, our ancestors – apelike creatures in Africa that began to walk habitually on two legs – were flaking crude stone tools.

Different groups have mixed and migrated throughout Siberia in Russia and into North America over the past 40,000 years. [Map by MARTIN SIKORA, from an article at]

Sunday/ Rafa makes it 20

There was French Open tennis very early this morning on TV: the final between Rafael Nadal (Spain, 34) and Novak Djokovic (Serbia, 33).

Nadal played like the champ that he is, against a Djokovic that could not find his footing, and won in straight sets, 6-0 ( a rare bagel for Djokovic), 6-2, 7-5.

Nadal and Roger Federer each holds 20 Gram Slam tennis titles now, the largest number amassed by any player in the history of the game.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action during his second round match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno-Busta in the recent Italian Open at Foro Italico, Rome, Italy, Sept. 16, 2020 [Photo by REUTERS/Clive Brunskill]
Nadal serving against Djokovic in the final today. The sparse, socially-distanced crowd got their tickets by lottery. It did make a difference to have onlookers in the stands, cheering the players on. This French Open final was the first to be played under a roof with lights. [Picture Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images]

Here’s a look at the new retractable roof over Philippe Chatrier stadium.
Earlier this week, the officials let a little too much rain come down before they closed the roof. So in came a few wheelbarrows of clay (wheelbarrow in the distance), that they swept onto the court to clear up muddied patches. Yes, that’s Djokovic himself in the red shorts, pitching in and clearing some clay dust from the baseline!
The top layer of clay is very thin, followed by crushed limestone, clinker, and crushed gravel. That red clay dust gets into EVERYTHING: the tennis balls, the racquet strings, the players’ shoes and socks, and even their clothes (when you fall down because you did not slide properly into a deadly drop shot or wide shot!).

Saturday/ ‘your mesh connection is great’

‘A mesh network is a group of devices that act as a single Wi-Fi network; so there are multiple sources of Wi-Fi around your house, instead of just a single router. These additional Wi-Fi sources are called points or nodes’.
– definition from

My Wi-Fi signal downstairs was too weak for my new smart TV, so I opted for a mesh network to get a better signal downstairs — instead of adding a Wi-Fi extender to my existing network. Per my limited understanding, Wi-Fi extenders repeat the signal and thereby slows down its speed. Many times extenders broadcast a new network name, which could be a hassle for a user moving around a lot in the space.

I went with Google Nest Wi-Fi. For a small apartment, one node will do, but for a bigger space two nodes or more can be used.

Once I had the issues with my old Wi-Fi-enabled modem-router resolved (aka throwing it out and replacing it altogether with just a simple cable modem!), the set-up of the Google Nest Wifi mesh network was straightforward.

These little orbs (officially ‘Google Nest Wifi routers’) are the nodes in the mesh network. One of them is connected to the modem via an Ethernet cable (connector plugs are hidden on the bottom). All the other identical nodes are simply plugged in to a power outlet (not further apart than two rooms or so from any other). My node by the modem is upstairs in the study, with one more node downstairs in the living room.
Here’s what the walkthrough on the Google Home app looks like.
‘Your mesh connection is great’ .. music to the ears after the slog I had to replace the modem (50 mins on the phone with the ISP’s tech support only to conclude the old modem was not cutting it, and that I needed a new one!).

Friday/ the White House: a superspreader

Trump and at least 34 White House staff members & other contacts have tested positive for the virus. If anything, it’s a surprise that it took so long for this spate of White House infections to happen. All of them from Trump & Pence down, regularly flaunted standard safety measures.

Just recently 200 people were packed into the Rose Garden for the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Was it a super spreader event? Yes, it probably was, says Dr. Tony Fauci.

The cover of the latest TIME magazine: the White House as coronavirus superspreader.

Thursday/ the fattest of them all

It’s Fat Bear week in Katmai National Park in Alaska, and the winner has been announced: Bear 747, nicknamed ‘Jumbo Jet’. Rangers post pictures of the bears online (just a handful of the more than 2,000 in the park), and fans get to cast a vote for Fattest Bear.

These last few weeks bears could gorge themselves one last time before winter sets in, on the salmon swimming upstream to spawn in the Brooks River, in Katmai National Park. Bears can lose up to 40% of their weight while hibernating through winter.

Here’s Bear 747 aka ‘Jumbo Jet’, a 16 yr old male, photographed in June. Already looking good, but there was still a lot of summer left in June. [Photo: U.S. National Park Service]
And this picture is from September. Bear 747 is said to be a very efficient salmon catcher. (They can eat up to 30 salmon in a single day). 747’s voluminous visage is estimated to tip the scales at some 1,400 lbs (640 kg).  [Photo: U.S. National Park Service]

Wednesday/ Lord of the Fly

Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author William Golding. The book focuses on a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempt to govern themselves.

The vice presidential debate between candidates Kamala Harris (Democrat) and Mike Pence (Republican) took place in Salt Lake City, Utah tonight.

There was a fly that made itself comfortable in Mike Pence’s hair for a good 4 minutes, and screenshots made the rounds on Twitter  (naturally).

The fly in Pence’s hair. Pence has been in charge of the White House Coronavirus Task Force that was established on Jan 29, 2020. The Task Force’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, have been undermined at every turn by Trump. My impression is that Pence has been no help at all, either. 
And the debate was barely done, when the Joe Biden campaign tweeted out this cheeky picture. ‘Pitch in $5 to help this campaign fly’ said the caption to the tweet.