Tuesday/ first attempt: acorn squash

The acorn squash that I had pressure-cooked tonight, came out O.K.⁠— but not great.
Even though I cooked it for a minute longer than my recipe called for (6 instead of 5 mins), it still came out a little tough.
Some recipes say to add butter and cinnamon (or nutmeg) onto the squash as it goes into the cooker, but I elected not to do that.

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Monday/ the blue jays say hello

A pair of Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) came to visit this morning.
We sometimes call these ‘blue jay’ in the Pacific Northwest, but the species is distinct from the blue jay (C. cristata) of eastern North America.

Sunday/ no such thing as a lone wolf

We had multiple mass murders here in the States this weekend, after multiple ones last week. (There is basically a mass murder every day: 198 so far this year). The killer (18 years old, white, male —of course) responsible for yesterday’s slaughter of 10 at the supermarket in Buffalo was clearly a domestic terrorist.
Was he a lone wolf?
Rolling Stone magazine opines that there is no such thing .. and that the shooter is pretty much a main-stream Republican.

From Rolling Stone: There’s no such thing as a lone wolf — an appellation often given, in error, to terrorists who act alone, particularly those of the white supremacist variety. There are only those people who, fed a steady diet of violent propaganda and stochastic terror, take annihilatory rhetoric to its logical conclusion.

Such was the case on Saturday, when a teenaged white supremacist named Payton Gendron opened fire in a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people, while livestreaming the carnage on the live-video site Twitch. Prior to the shooting, he had posted a 180-page manifesto in which he laid out his rationale clearly: He was an adherent of what is called Great Replacement Theory, the idea that white people, in the United States and white-majority countries around the world, are being systematically, deliberately outbred and “replaced” by immigrants and ethnic minorities, in a deliberate attempt to rid the world of whiteness ..

..the gnawing fear of a minority-white America has utterly consumed conservative politics for the past half-decade, creating a Republican party whose dual obsessions with nativism and white fertility have engendered a suite of policies engineered to change the nature of the body politic. What unites murderers like Gendron, and the long list of white supremacist attackers he cited with admiration, with the mainstream of the Republican party is the dream of a white nation.

The Rolling Stone article points to the constellation of rightwing media, with Fox News at the front, and Tucker Carlson’s prime-time show that is obsessed with replacement theory and the grievances of white people. Make that ‘grievances’, the delusion that it is.

Saturday/ the baby formula crisis

I know absolutely nothing about babies, but I know a little bit more after reading a report in the NYT about the baby formula shortage in the US.
Babies basically need breast milk or formula until they can start to eat solid food (at 6 months).
Do not dilute formula.
Do not try to make your own formula.
If you are out of options, give your baby pasteurized whole cow’s milk for a brief period of time.
Get advice from a pediatrician if your baby needs a special formula that has become unavailable.

I checked out the shelf at Amazon Fresh at 23rd and Jackson on Friday. So at least for this brand they still have stock. I like the gentle colors of the packaging :).
One can will last 6-7 days for a newborn, and maybe as little as 2-3 days for a 6-month old baby.

Wednesday/ at its peak?

Year-over-year inflation for April was 8.3%, a slight dip from the March figure of 8.5%. The stock market is not happy🤬, of course— and Bitcoin is now below $29k, down more than 50% from its Nov. ’21 high.

At the recent Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Warren Buffet reiterated his disdain for cryptocurrencies, saying he would not buy all the cryptocurrency in the world for $25. (I would 😊).  I suspect he picked $25 because he then said if someone offered him a 1% stake in all the farmland in the country, he’d immediately write the check for $25 billion. (Got me. I cannot do that even if I wanted to).

His point was that cryptocurrency has no intrinsic, underlying value, and cannot be used as a real-world asset to produce income.

Here’s the a graph that shows both inflation numbers: inflation aka the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in dark blue, and also core inflation (a little less volatile since it excludes food and energy), in light blue.

Tuesday/ the GOAT slayer 🐐

Carlos Alcaraz finds himself at No 6 on the ATP rankings after his spectacular run in last week’s Madrid Open. He took out Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev to win the championship.

He is not playing this week in Rome, though⁠— he is resting up a sprained ankle for the French Open that starts in less than two weeks.

El asesino de cabras- ‘The GOAT killer’/ ‘The GOAT slayer’.
GOAT = Greatest Of All Time (in men’s tennis).
My apologies for posting a picture depicting gun violence, but I could not resist reposting this meme that did the rounds on Twitter after Carlos had taken out Nadal and Djokovic in the Madrid Open.
PS 1: The usual debate is if Nadal (age 35), Djokovic (34) or Roger Federer (40) is the GOAT. And then there is Rod Laver. Only two men had ever won the Grand Slam (the four major tournaments in one year): Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969).
PS 2: Carlos has not played against Federer, and it’s looking more and more that he never will. Federer had a third operation done on his right knee last year, and will miss the 2022 French Open as well as Wimbledon.

Monday/ tennis in Roma 🎾

The Italian Open tennis tournament in the Eternal City has started, at the beautiful Foro Italico sports complex.
The tournament was first held in Milan in 1930 as the Italian International Championships, and was moved to the Foro Italico a few years later, in 1935.

The Nicola Pietrangeli court is surrounded by green lawns and 18 large statues. It is named after Italy’s greatest tennis champion, Nicola Pietrangeli (age 88). The main stadium with its steel structure is in the distance.
[Undated photo posted on Reddit]

Saturday/ apartments with art 🎨

I frequently drive by the newly completed Midtown apartments on (23rd Ave. in Central District) with its colorful exterior and artwork.
Today I checked it out a little closer, on foot.

The Midtown Square apartment building has 7 floors with 428 apartments, from studio ($1,800 pm) to 2-bed, 2-bath (about $3,200 pm). So expensive, as expected for a new development, I guess ⁠—although a 130 apartments are offered as affordable housing units through Seattle’s MFTE and MHA housing programs.
The images on the panels were created by photographer/ artist Adam Jabari Jefferson.
The entrance to the public square on the inside, from the Union Street sidewalk.
The colorful exterior panels on the corner of Union Street and 23rd Avenue.
The artist is Barry Johnson.
Public art on the Union Street/ 23rd Avenue corner. I couldn’t find the artist’s name.
I would like one of these for my backyard. Beautiful.
Central .. the first of a series of murals facing 23rd Avenue.
Edwin T. Pratt (1930 – 1969) was an American activist during the Civil Rights Movement. He was assassinated at his home in Shoreline, WA in Jan. 1969. At the time of his assassination in 1969, he was Executive Director of the Seattle Urban League. His murder is still unsolved.
DeCharlene Willians (1942-2018) was a legendary owner of a Central Area boutique, who also founded the Seattle neighborhood’s chamber of commerce. 
The artist is Central District native Myron Curry.
District.. the second of a series of murals facing 23rd Avenue.
Langston Hughes (1901-1968) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. (The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute is a cultural, community, and artistic center in the Central District). 
The artist is Central District native Myron Curry.

 

Community .. the third mural facing 23rd Avenue.
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) was a musician, singer, and songwriter and a Seattle native.
Ernestine Anderson (1928-2016) was an American jazz and blues singer. Her family moved to Seattle when she was 16.
The artist is Central District native Myron Curry.
The entrance to the public square from 23rd Avenue. The lamp sconces feature performance and recording artists. The installation was made by Henry Jackson-Spieker in collaboration with KT Hancock studios.
I believe this is Duke Ellington (1899-1974), composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra for most of his life. He gained a national profile through his orchestra’s appearances at the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City. Duke Ellington’s The 1952 Seattle Concert was his first legitimate live performance release.
The public square inside the apartment complex. The picture shows part of a 120-ft mural with historic scenes and lettering that says C E N T R A L  D I S T R I C T.
The artist is Takiyah Ward.

Friday/ pasta: the stovetop is best

My first attempt at cooking pasta in the Instant Pot® pressure cooker was not a success. (It was off-the-shelf Barilla Protein+ spaghetti).

The Instant Pot instructions that I used, called for a high-pressure cooking time of 2 mins plus 5 mins until releasing the pressure, stir well, and leave in the pot for another 5-10 mins.

Even with doing all of that, the pasta came out cooked unevenly. Aargh. I also felt it  had a different texture compared to what I’m used to, by boiling it on the stovetop.

My 8″ pot holds only 4 quarts. The problem with cooking boxed spaghetti in the Instant Pot— and a smaller pot like this one— is that the dry pasta does not fit in the pot! (Breaking it into smaller lengths is a not an option).
Yeah-yeah, just use a bigger pot, I know. What I do instead is to boil water in my electric kettle, and pour it over the dry pasta in the pot to soften it, so that I can bend it to fit into the bottom of the pot. Then I put the gas on HIGH for 10- 11 mins. As one does with pasta, keep an eye on it, and stir it a little now and then, but it’s still easy-peasy compared to the Instant Pot.

Thursday/ a roller-coaster ride 🎢

‘Without price stability, the economy does not work for anybody, really’
– Fed Chair Jerome Powell at the Federal Reserve’s news conference yesterday


Wow. We ride the rollercoaster. Up yesterday, the stock market sold off in a big way again today (Dow -3.1%, S&P 500 -4.6%, Nasdaq -5.0%).

Inflation is still very high, and the Fed is finally raising interest rates.
(The Fed funds rate is now 0.75-1.00% after yesterday’s 0.5% raise).
A range of 2-3% is considered neutral, and time will tell if the Fed will have to go above that to bring inflation down to 2%.

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Jerome Powell, addressing reporters face-to-face for the first time since the pandemic began. The Fed has the tools to control inflation (1. interest rates, 2. the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and 3. their communication, usually called ‘forward guidance’), but the tools are blunt, and affect the broad economy as a whole.
[Still from Wall Street Journal video recoding]
Inflation is very high, and not showing signs of moderating yet. This graph shows the famous Consumer Price Index (CPI), a basket of goods and services that includes prices from the food & energy sector. The annual Core Inflation rate excludes food & energy prices, but was also very high for March 2022: 6.5%.
[Graphic from Yahoo Finance]
The Fed Funds rate was more or less in its ‘neutral’ range of 2-3% (not stimulating nor restricting economic activity) before the pandemic hit, but was then cut to 0-0.25% when the economy went into free fall in Mar. 2020. Dark gray bands show recessions. The tricky thing for the Fed to do is to raise interest rates (to tame inflation), without triggering a recession in the economy.
[Graphic from Yahoo Finance]

Wednesday/ the Sounders make history

Seattle Sounders FC made history tonight by becoming the first Major League Soccer team (team from the United States or Canada, that is) to win a Concacaf* Champions League title.

*The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, founded in 1961, one of FIFA’s six continental governing bodies for association football (soccer).

The Sounders beat the Pumas UNAM (based in Mexico City) by 3-0 in front of a record home-crowd of 67,000 at Lumen Field.  The weather played along, as well:  a high of 65 °F/  18 °C today before it starts raining on and off for the next several days.

Seattle Sounders players celebrate after winning the CONCACAF Champions League title over the Pumas UNAM from Mexico City.
[Picture Credit: Getty Images]

Tuesday/ ‘the Supreme Court might never recover’

From news website Axios: an assessment of the ideological scores of the nine Supreme Court justices. (Note: Justice Stephen Breyer will retire soon, and the Court will at long last get its first Black female justice, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson).
SO. If you lean liberal or progressive (you want to make progress with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in your country), you want at least 5 justices on the left. We are short by two.

The current U.S. Supreme court is already considered by many (and by me), as unrepresentative of the majority of Americans.  (An immoral, criminal con man —that had become President with an assist from Russian bots on Facebook⁠— had appointed three of the current nine Supreme Court justices).

And now it’s clearer than ever that the six conservatives on the Court plan to overturn Roe vs. Wade (the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, with a 7-2 majority, in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.)

Here is what the Washington Post’s Editorial Board wrote today.

The Supreme Court might never recover from overturning Roe v. Wade

By the Washington Post Editorial Board

On Monday, Politico published a draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling declaring that the Constitution guarantees Americans the right to end their pregnancies. The court later confirmed that the document, written in February, is genuine, but emphasized that it is not the court’s final word. We hope not. If the justices embrace the sweeping document, they will deal a grievous blow to freedom in the United States — and to the legitimacy of the court itself.

Such a leak from the court’s typically tight inner sanctum is itself astonishing. The court works on trust among justices and staff, so that the justices can deliberate frankly. Whether the document leaked from a conservative justice’s chambers, in an effort to lock in the support of others on the right for its far-reaching language, or from a liberal’s, in an effort to mobilize outside pressure against such a ruling, the leak represents a dire breakdown in norms and another dramatic sign of the court’s political drift.

But the draft ruling’s dreadful reasoning and extreme potential consequences are far more concerning than what the leak says about the court’s internal dynamics. Written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the document would declare Roe “egregiously wrong,” obliterate its guarantees of reproductive choice and empower lawmakers to abridge at will this long-held right.

The court’s legitimacy rests on the notion that it follows the law, not the personal or ideological preferences of the justices who happen to serve on it at any given time. Americans rely on the court to exercise care and restraint against making sharp turns that might suddenly declare their everyday choices and activities unprotected or illegal. Over the course of nearly half a century, the court not only issued Roe but upheld its bedrock principles against later challenges. Throughout, the original 1973 decision enjoyed broad and unwavering public support. What brought the court to its current precipice was not a fundamental shift in American values regarding abortion. It was the shameless legislative maneuvering of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who jammed two Trump-nominated justices onto the court.

In his draft, Justice Alito points out that the court has overturned many cases in the past, including the atrocious Plessy v. Ferguson, which permitted racial segregation. But the court has never revoked a fundamental constitutional right. Overturning Plessy expanded liberty. Overturning Roe would constrict liberty — and be a repugnant repudiation of the American tradition in which freedom extends to an ever-wider circle of people. By betraying this legacy and siding with the minority of Americans who want to see Roe overturned, the justices would appear to be not fair-minded jurists but reckless ideologues who are dangerously out of touch and hostile to a core American ethic.

Justice Alito complained in his draft that Roe failed to produce a “national settlement of the abortion issue” but only “enflamed debate and deepened division.” That exaggerates the extent to which the obstreperous minority of Americans who oppose Roe reflect the nation as a whole. A Post poll found just last week that Americans support upholding Roe by a 2-to-1 margin. For most people, Roe is a workable standard on a fraught issue; absent a clear understanding about when life begins, and with the moral implications surrounding that question far from settled, the Constitution’s guarantees of personal autonomy demand that pregnant people be able to make the difficult decision about whether to end their pregnancy according to the dictates of their own conscience.

It is Justice Alito’s proposed decision that would further divide the country, starting in nearly every statehouse. Yet the greatest casualties would not be the court as an institution or the nation’s already toxic politics. It would be pregnant individuals suddenly stripped of a right they had been guaranteed for almost half a century. Wealthy people would be able to cross state lines to end their pregnancies. (Although some states are already trying to outlaw that practice, as well.) Poor people would be forced either to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, with all the health consequences and risks that entails, or to seek illegal abortions that could endanger their lives.

Justice Alito’s draft claims that the court’s ruling would not imply that other constitutional rights, such as same-sex marriage or access to contraception, are in jeopardy. But given the brazen abandon with which he would discard abortion rights, his assurances ring hollow. He would inaugurate a terrifying new era in which Americans would lose faith in the court, distrust its members and suspect that what is the law today will not be tomorrow. They would justifiably fear that rights will be swept away because a heedless conservative fringe now controls the judiciary.

“The republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith,” Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes said as the cornerstone was laid for the Supreme Court Building in 1932. The court’s conservative majority appears to be on the verge of abandoning justices’ sacred charge to stand firm for individual rights.

Monday/ tennis, in La Caja Mágica

The Magic Box (“La Caja Mágica”) was designed by French architect Dominique Perrault. (Also design by him: the François Mitterrand National Library in Paris).
The Magic Box opened in May 2009 at a cost of some US $300 million. The main moving roof is 101m x 72m x 4m (surface area of 7250 sq m/ 78,100 sq ft). The architect used very slender steel columns and trusses in the design. Horizontal trusses in the roof sections help to resist wind forces.

The 2022 Madrid Open tennis tournament is under way, in the multipurpose stadium complex called La Caja Mágica.
During the Madrid Open, it is the only facility in the world with three tennis courts under a retractable roof.

This year, the top Men’s Singles seeds are ‘No Vax’ Djokovic, Sacha Zverev, Rafael Nadal (the ‘King of Clay’), Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Norwegian Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev— but no Medvedev (he had hernia surgery), Carlos Alcaraz and Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime.

The entrance lobby to the center court named for Manolo Santana, Madrid native and world No 1 as an amateur in 1965. He had passed away last December at age 83. 
[Still from Tennis TV]
It was a rainy day, so the roof was closed today. This is a first-round match between two Grand Slam champions Andy Murray (Scotland, 34) and Dominic Thiem (Austria, 28). Thiem is recently back from an injury to a ligament in his wrist. (He did not need surgery). Murray won 6-3, 6-4.
[Still from Tennis TV]

Sunday/ here’s May

We’re coming out of the coldest Aprils in many years here in Seattle.
It should start to warm up, though. We are halfway from the start of spring to the summer solstice.

These flowers are from all over Capitol Hill: back alley poppies, rhododendron, florist’s cineraria or common ragwort (genus Pericallis), and a lovely pink tulip, of course.

Saturday/ it’s not orange; it’s galaxy gold 💫

My mission for the afternoon was to get a few pictures of the Space Needle. It is again painted in galaxy gold for its 60th anniversary⁠— the way it had been for its debut at the Seattle World’s Fair in April 1962.
I even drove up Queen Anne Hill to Kerry Park, to get the classic skyline-with-Space Needle picture.

The Davenport Apartments building is posted here as a ‘Find the Space Needle’ puzzle. (Part of the Space Needle appears in the picture). The Davenport was designed by architect Herbert Bittman in 1925, and has an unusual courtyard entrance to its 14-car garage.

Friday/ you look nice today

These pictures are from my walk back home from the Bartell pharmacy on First Hill.

This is Hofius House at 1104 Spring Street, First Hill. Designed by German-born architects Spalding and Umbrecht and constructed in 1902. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese began housing the Seattle Archbishop in this residence in 1920.
The Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church at Harvard and Howell held a last service in June 2018, and then closed its doors for good, it seems. The church was built just about 100 years ago, in 1923.
Hey! The tourists are back, even if just a handful. I waved at them. (Maybe I shouldn’t have. I could the city’s reputation for stand-offishness to neighbors and visitors alike, called ‘The Seattle Freeze’).
Spring leaves on the trees by Seattle Central College on Broadway.
I hate graffiti, but hey⁠— if the graffiti complements me, it makes it a little better. Maybe.

Thursday/ cooking with pressure is a pleasure

I have had my Instant Pot pressure cooker for a week now, and I’m still learning to use it —but I like it a lot.

So far I have cooked regular oats, steel-cut oats, rice, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and sweet potato in it. Asparagus is ready in an instant with an official cooking time of 0 minutes. You put them in, and they’re done. Howzat! 😂
Let me explain. The laws of physics still apply. Even if you put the water and asparagus in the cooker and tell it to cook for 0 minutes, it will still take 5-10 mins to get to the operating temperature and pressure inside. During that time it already cooks the food inside. Something as delicate as asparagus is then cooked already. Voila.

I put this sweet potato in for 20 minutes and it came out perfectly cooked. (I let the pressure go down by itself for another 10 mins or so). I used to bake these root vegetables in the oven: a 45-minute endeavor with tin foil, and then the sugar sometimes oozes out of the venting holes I made into the skin with a fork, and bake into black, as well.
Water, the versatile substance of life, comes in three phases, depending on its temperature⁠— and the pressure it is under. Liquid water under a higher pressure cooks (turns into steam) at a higher temperature. A pressure cooker operates at roughly 2 atmospheres of pressure —12 to 15 pounds per square inch (psi) above atmospheric pressure (which is roughly 15 psi). At 12 psi above sea level pressure, pressure water boils at 117 °C (243 °F). Yes, that sounds like a modest temperature elevation compared to an oven, but the steam sealed in the cooker has an enormous capacity for carrying and transmitting heat to the food to cook it. 
Just as an interesting aside: the triple point of water occurs at 0.01 °C in a near-vacuum. That point at the upper right called the critical point is where water vapor (steam) is warm enough so that no amount of pressure brought to bear on it, will liquefy it.