Thursday/ hot, but bearable

As the dry days of July come to an end, we are having warmer weather through Saturday.
The highs are around 89 °F (32 °C).

The hybrid yew tree (Taxus x media ‘Maureen’) at the back of my house is producing a few round red berries with square-ish openings. The leaves look like needles from a distance, but a closer inspection reveals they are just long and narrow leaves. 

Wednesday/ comeback of the year

WA state will follow current CDC guidance and I am asking Washingtonians statewide to consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. This is a recommendation, not a requirement.
– Governor Jay Inslee @GovInslee on Twitter, today


I guess I’m putting my mask back on when I go into stores. (I confess that I was not wearing one tonight for our Wednesday night beers. The Chieftain pub was virtually empty, though).

The experts agree that we’re in for a rough few months here in the US, as the Delta variant of Covid-19 spreads among the unvaccinated (and also infects some vaccinated people as well).

I’m watching an interview that Bill Kristol is having with Dr. Ashish Jha (Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health). Dr. Jha explains that there is 1,000x more of the virus in the nose & throat of Delta variant patients vs. others. An infected person with the Delta variant infects on average 6-8 others (it used to be 3-4 others with the Alpha variant).

GET VACCINATED. You are in for trouble if you are not vaccinated, and you encounter the Delta variant. Vaccinated people have an army of antibodies (and long-term T cells and B cells) that stop the virus from getting a foothold.  In some cases for vaccinated people, the viral load encountered is very high, though, and a breakthrough infection happens. Masks work by reducing the amount of virus that is inhaled from an infected person. [Cartoon by Dave Whamond on caglecartoons.com]

Tuesday/ the harmfulness of excessive hype

‘By withdrawing from two Olympic events, Biles joined a growing group of elite athletes who have rejected a long tradition of stoicism’.
– The New York Times @nytimes on Twitter


This afternoon, NBC showed the fateful vault jump of superstar* gymnast Simone Biles (24) again. She did not complete her somersaults and stumbled badly on the landing. This prompted her to withdraw from participating with her team, citing her mental well-being/ bad state of mind. She still watched and supported them. (Biles later explained that she experienced ‘the twisties’:  a loss of one’s sense of space and orientation while in the air. It could make for a very bad landing and serious injuries).

I say: give her a break.
Kudos to her teammates that came close to claim the gold for Team USA, but had to settle for silver.

*Here’s reader Lecteur from France, commenting on the NYT article: ‘Obviously Americans have freedom of speech, but perhaps it would be salutary for them to recognize the harmfulness of excessive hype, including applying the Greatest of All Time label, to athletes still performing‘.

Composite picture of the vault done by Simone Biles, and all that went wrong with it. Biles had planned to do an Amanar, a difficult vault with two-and-a-half twists. But, she said, she lost her bearings in the air. She completed only one-and-a-half twists, then stumbled out of her landing. [Text by New York Times; Photographs by Emily Rhyne; Composite image by Jon Huang]

Monday/ new mural on 17th Ave

I stumbled onto this mural that wraps around the brick building at 1633 17th Ave on my walk tonight. It features the young poet Amanda Gorman, that read her poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ during President Biden’s inauguration. The artist is Gretchen Leggitt. Sadly, there is already some vandal’s graffiti on the artwork. Zero respect.

From Gretchen Leggitt @g2legit on Instagram:
“FOR THERE IS ALWAYS LIGHT, IF ONLY WE’RE BRAVE ENOUGH TO SEE IT.”
– Amanda Gorman

This is my latest mural in Seattle, WA located just blocks away from the #CHAZ. In 2020, protesters claimed this as an autonomy zone to fight for human rights through art, words, peace and unfortunately some with violence. I do not care to make any comments about this autonomy zone, but I do want to comment on the respect I have for the brave people who have passionately sparked and fought for the 21st century civil rights awaking. @blklivesmatter

I do not endorse violence or destruction. Instead I endorse voices of reason and peace. @amandascgorman was that voice for me when she shared her poem The Hill We Climb with the world. Her words spoke of perseverance, resilience and hope for ALL humans, which inspired this mural.

Sunday/ a hollyhock

The city of Seattle had 83 °F (28 °C) today.
It’s been steady as it goes temperature-wise, with no rain. (A smidge of rain fell early Tuesday morning).
We might see 90 °F (32 °C) on Friday, say the forecasters.

These beautiful hollyhock flowers are from 18th Avenue here on Capitol Hill.

Hollyhock flowers (genus: Alcea). The genus of about 60 species of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvaceae, are native to Asia and Europe. The single species of hollyhock from the Americas, the streambank wild hollyhock, belongs to a different genus. [Source: Wikipedia]

Saturday/ it’s a damselfly

Damselflies (Afr. waterjuffer) are similar to dragonflies (Afr. naaldekoker), but they are smaller and have slimmer bodies.
Most species fold the wings along the body when at rest, unlike dragonflies which hold the wings flat and away from the body (for that ‘airplane’ look).

Look! a little dragonfly, I thought, as I watered my flowerbed today. It’s actually a damselfly (1 ½in. long): a female white-legged damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes). They are predators, like dragonflies, and eat other insects. 
Damselflies and dragonflies belong to an ancient insect group called Odonata. Their prototypes are the giant dragonflies from the Carboniferous Period, some 325 million years ago.

Friday/ Team USA

Team USA entering the stadium during the opening ceremony. Sue Bird and Eddy Alvares (basketball players) were the flagbearers for Team USA. There were only some 10,000 people in a stadium designed for 68,000.
[Picture by Doug Mills/The New York Times]
And here comes Team USA!
NBC’s coverage of the opening ceremony here in the US, had a heck of a recorded introduction of the team, by actor and tough guy Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. He said that they are truly ‘the best of us‘. Johnson also remarked: ‘Kindness matters. Always.

I love the ‘Earth’ made up of 1,824 drones up in the sky, while John Lennon’s Imagine played below. The drones were programmed by chipmaker Intel, who first brought drones to the Winter Olympics in 2018.
[Picture by Chang W. Lee/ New York Times]

Friday/ Team South Africa

Hey, Team South Africa! I see you.
Love the vellies*.
*Velskoene (“FEL-skoona”) or colloquially vellies (“FELL-ys”), are Southern African walking shoes, made from vegetable-tanned leather or soft rawhide uppers attached to a leather footbed and rubber sole, without tacks or nails (from Wikipedia).

Team South Africa, at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
[Picture from Team South Africa @TeamSA2020 on Twitter]

Thursday/ the fastest mouse in Mexico

From Wikipedia:
Speedy Gonzales is an animated cartoon character in the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. He is portrayed as “The Fastest Mouse in all Mexico” with his major traits being the ability to run extremely fast, speaking English with an exaggerated Mexican accent, and also speaking Spanish. He usually wears a yellow sombrero, white shirt and trousers (which was a common traditional outfit worn by men and boys of rural Mexican villages), and a red kerchief, similar to that of some traditional Mexican attires.

Cartoons featuring Speedy Gonzales were removed from the Cartoon Network TV channel in 1999— due to concerns that the little mouse’s sombrero and heavy accent insulted Mexicans. Speedy Gonzales fans were mightily upset, though, and successfully petitioned for his return to Cartoon Network three years later.

LEGO’s Speedy Gonzales minifigure, another one of the 12 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes characters in the set from LEGO.  The character first appeared in 1953 in  ‘Cat-Tails for Two’ (as an early version) and officially debuted in ‘Speedy Gonzales’ in 1955.

Wednesday/ blue sky, white clouds

The woodpeckers were back this morning. Only a few of the mahonia’s berries remain.
There was a beautiful blue sky and white clouds overhead at 5 this afternoon.
We’ve been lucky thus far this summer here in Seattle: no smoky air from the wildfires.

The northern flicker (Colaptes auratus).

Tuesday/ the apocalypse is now

Every year that summer that rolls by here in the Northern hemisphere now, I think: just let it be over (summer). When is it over (summer)? Of course: then next summer comes.

There’s the mega- forest fires, burning out of control under an extreme drought here on the west of the United States. Flooding in Germany, Belgium & The Netherlands, and now in China. Videos on Twitter tonight of dozens of cars washing away in Zhengzhou; a subway entrance collapsing; people trapped inside a subway train car, the water chest-high (12 people dead in the subway, reports Aljazeera).

 

Tuesday/ a wily coyote

wil·y
/ˈwīlē/

adjective
skilled at gaining an advantage, especially deceitfully.


[Description taken from Wikipedia] Here’s Wile E. Coyote, the cunning, devious and constantly hungry Coyote that  repeatedly attempts to catch and subsequently eat the Road Runner.

Instead of his animal instincts, the Coyote uses absurdly complex contraptions (sometimes in the manner of Rube Goldberg) to try to catch his prey, which comically backfire, with the Coyote often getting injured in slapstick fashion. Many of the items for these contrivances are mail-ordered from a variety of companies that are all named Acme Corporation.

One running gag involves the Coyote trying (in vain) to shield himself with a little parasol against a great falling boulder that is about to crush him. Another running gag involves the Coyote falling from a high cliff. After he goes over the edge, the rest of the scene, shot from a bird’s-eye view, shows him falling into a canyon so deep, that his figure is eventually lost to sight. This is followed, a second or two later, by the rising of a dust cloud from the canyon floor as the Coyote hits.

The LEGO minifigure depiction of the Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote. He made his first appearance in 1949 with Road Runner. As his contraptions go (to take out Road Runner), this anvil is a pretty simple one.
P.S. Seattle residents report real coyote spottings from time to time, right here in the city.

Monday/ the state of the virus

Cartoon by Steve Breen @sdutBreen on Twitter. Breen lives in Los Angeles and is a nationally syndicated cartoonist. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning twice, in 1998 and 2009.

Here’s the ‘state of the virus’ in the US, summarized by the New York Times:
Case numbers are climbing across most of the country as the Delta variant spreads among unvaccinated people. Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Nevada are experiencing full-fledged outbreaks.

The country remains in far better shape than at almost all previous points of the pandemic. Deaths remain near their lowest levels since spring 2020, and hospitalizations are a fraction of their winter peak.

The vaccination campaign has largely stalled. About 550,000 shots are being administered each day, down from more than 3.3 million at the peak.

The change over the last 14 days: 7-day average of cases is up 3-fold, daily deaths up 75%.
Of these deaths, 99% of the sick were unvaccinated.
[Graphic by the New York Times]

Sunday/ the year’s first rose

It has been a tough summer for gardens here in the city, with that heat wave at the end of June.
The leaves on the long shoots of my little rose bush got scorched, but a beautiful red rose has bloomed on the lower one, in the shade.

Saturday/ the woodpeckers are here

The pair of northern flickers (Colaptes auratus) that I sometimes see here around my house, came by late this afternoon.

The woodpeckers were looking for insects in the bark of the Douglas fir for a while ..
.. and then settled for some of the bluish-black berries on the mahonia at the base of the tree. Humans can eat these berries as well, but I will leave them for the birds.

Friday/ a trip to Ellensburg

It was time for the Will-o-Watt Wagon (my car’s name on the Tesla app) to get out of the city and take the long road for a trip to Ellensburg today.

I used my car’s standard Autopilot functions extensively for the first time, on today’s drive. Standard Autopilot means letting the car steer, accelerate, and brake within its lane. It was a good learning experience —and definitely a little hair-raising at times, such as trusting the car to stay in the lane on a curve in the road, with vehicles in the lanes next to you, and oncoming traffic as well.

The primary skill to master with standard Autopilot is to allow the car to steer itself, while still having one’s hands on the wheel. If the driver holds the wheel too firmly, the car interprets it as an override, and cancels the Autopilot steering. If, on the other hand, the car cannot detect that the driver is holding the wheel, it issues a message— a series of messages, actually, ending with an alarm and a screen with red hands on the wheel that says ‘Autosteer Unavailable For The Rest Of This Drive’.
I managed to avoid ending up in that dog box and state! Success! 

P.S. News broke today that Tesla has officially launched its Full Self-Driving subscription package for $199 per month. Full Self-Driving is really ‘Almost Full Self-Driving’, since the driver really still needs to hold the wheel. However, it is a really big step up from standard Autopilot, in that the car will stop, start and navigate by itself. So it will stop at intersections and traffic lights, wait for traffic or the green light, and go by itself, and turn on the turn signal for turns and lane changes where needed.

Bryan, Gary and I are ready to go. I punched in the destination address (Bryan’s dad’s in Ellensburg) and up pops the navigation map with the superchargers highlighted in red. It’s only 110 miles to Ellensburg, so we did not need to stop to charge the car on the way there. The screen says there is 248 miles on the battery, and that there will still be 28% of charge left by the time we arrive at our destination.
Here’s the rest stop at Snoqualmie Pass (elev. 2,726 ft) off of I-90. The low clouds we had in the city are really low here! Those slopes in the background, on the left, are the ski slopes of The Summit at Snoqualmie ski resort, and would be covered in snow come winter time.
Stepping into The Tav in Ellensburg for lunch. A ‘down-home watering hole offering American pub grub, tap brews, simple cocktails, pool & pinball’, says the restaurant’s online description.
Frontier Tavern with its Wild West style lettering and red-white-and-blues is right next door to The Tav.
Downtown Ellensburg is full of charming old red brick buildings. This one on West 3rd Avenue is dated 1889 and down below is the Brix Wine Bar & Restaurant.
So now we’re on our way back, and we took State Route 10 into Cle Elum where a Tesla supercharger was located, to add miles to my car’s battery. The charging screen shows that the charger is working at 137 kW, and adding miles at a rate of 625 mi/hr. So it can add more than a 100 miles of range with just 10 minutes of charging (wow). We stayed for 15 minutes and that was more than enough to get us back to Seattle.
I had to pose for a classic Tesla charger picture at the Cle Elum supercharger, of course. There are 8 charging stations. That first charger (on the left in the picture) is positioned so that a car that is towing something, can just pull straight into the bay, instead of backing into the bay the way I had to.
Making our way back over the mountain pass. This is the animal crossing over I-90 that was completed in 2018.

Thursday/ ‘I tawt I taw a puddy tat!’

The LEGO packet I opened this morning had yet another Road Runner in – ugh.
Got to open another one, I thought. The next one had a Tweety bird in.
So 4 unique mini-figures out of 6 opened so far.

I actually have one more packet to open, but I already know I will ‘have to’* buy another handful of packets. I want a Bugs Bunny and a Wile E. Coyote.
*LEGO has landed me exactly where they wanted me: a collector with an incomplete collection.

From Wikipedia:
Tweety is a yellow canary in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of animated cartoons. The character first appeared in The Cagey Canary (early version; 1941) and A Tale of Two Kitties (official version; 1942).
“Tweety” is a play on words, as it originally meant “sweetie”, along with “tweet” being an English onomatopoeia for the sounds of birds.
Despite the perceptions that people may hold, owing to the long eyelashes and high-pitched voice (which Mel Blanc provided), Tweety is male— although his ambiguity was played with on occasion.

 ‘I tawt I taw a puddy tat!’ is one of Tweety’s signature lines. Sylvester the ‘puddy tat’ had better watch out. I don’t think his baseball bat is a match for this giant mallet hammer.

Wednesday/ ‘That’s all Folks!’

Porky Pig was one of the first of the animated characters in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. He first appeared in I Haven’t Got a Hat in 1935.

‘That’s all Folks!’ is Porky Pig’s signature line at the end of many shorts.

Tuesday/ Sylvester the Cat

I opened the second of my 6 LEGO Looney Tunes minifigure packets this morning and .. rats! it was another Road Runner. So I opened the third one, and inside was Sylvester the Cat.

Sylvester the Cat is another character from the golden age of American animation— full name Sylvester James Pussycat, Sr. His name “Sylvester” is a play on Felis silvestris, the scientific name for the European wildcat.

Sylvester the Cat, with his characteristic tuxedo black-and-white coat, baseball bat in hand. He first appeared in a 1945 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies animated short film directed by Friz Freleng. Most of his appearances have him chasing Tweety bird, Speedy Gonzales (‘fastest mouse in Mexico’), or Hippety Hopper (a young kangaroo).

Monday/ a Road Runner in my lucky packet

LEGO’s little articulated figurines (‘minifigures’) have been around a long, long time – since 1978. Sets of ‘collectible’ ones were introduced starting in 2010; they usually come as sets of 16 in blind bags, so the collector may very well end up with duplicates before having a complete set.

I had resisted the sets of monsters, masqueraded characters, Harry Potter figures, Star Wars figures and all that, thus far.  There is a new Looney Tunes™ series out, though, that has Bugs Bunny, Lola Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Sylvester, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Porky Pig, Petunia Pig, Speedy Gonzales, Tasmanian Devil and Marvin the Martian.  And so the other day, I caved in and bought 6 blind bags, each with one of the characters in.
Back in the day in South Africa, these would be called ‘lucky packets’. (Bags with a piece of candy and a surprise toy inside).

I opened the first of my 6 packets, and it was Road Runner. Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner are a duo of cartoon characters that were created for Warner Bros. in 1948 by animation director Chuck Jones and writer Michael Maltese [Source: Wikipedia].
I will open a bag every day this week, and post a picture of what I found inside. There are 12 characters in the set, so I have a shot at not getting any duplicates. (My knowledge of statistics is too rusty to work out what my odds are for no duplicates).