Tuesday/ Trump, at his ugliest (so far)

I like this tweet ..  (Hurry up with that investigation into the collusion with Russia, Mr Mueller. There are so many reasons to impeach this President, but Russia is at the top of the list).

.. and this one. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela

It was really extraordinary today, to see the President of the United States shouting ‘Excuse me, excuse me!’ repeatedly, every time as the press corps erupted with questions, while he went on and on with outrageous statements, challenges and insults (‘i like to have the facts’, ‘fake news’, ‘dishonest’).

He reiterated what he said on Saturday, blaming ‘both sides’ for the violence in Charlottesville (after he cleaned up some of it on Monday).

From today’s on-line edition of the New York Times.

Monday/ another successful SpaceX launch

A robotic arm on the ISS will grab the payload as it inches closer to the Station. Those panels on the payload are the deployed solar panels, used to fire its boosters. (Diagram from the SpaceX webcast).

Of the things that came to my attention on Monday – for real, on TV and on-line – I was thrilled most by the webcast of the SpaceX launch.  The mission is dubbed Commercial Resupply Services mission number 12 (CRS-12), and the launch went without a hitch.

Reportedly, there are 30 small cups of real ice-cream for the ISS astronauts* in the 6,400 pound payload of cargo, that also has live mice and science experiments.   The first stage booster rocket made a perfect landing back to the launch pad, a nice bonus.

(The moment of lift-off, streamed live on YouTube).   From YouTube: On August 14, 2017, SpaceX successfully launched its twelfth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-12) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Liftoff occurred at 12:31 p.m. EDT, or 16:31 UTC and was followed approximately two and a half minutes later by separation of the first and second stages. The first stage of Falcon 9 then successfully landed back at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Sunday/ what’s that flower?

What’s this pretty little flower’s name? It’s an aster, the genus is Kalimeris, from the sunflower family. It was first described in 1825 by the French botanist Alexandre Henri Gabriel de Cassini.

Some of the new additions to my garden are finally blooming: my reward for keeping them watered during the dry spell we had this summer.

I used a picture of one of the pretty new flowers, to test one of the visual recognition smart phone apps that helps identify plants by their flowers. This one is called myGardenAnswers, but there are several others such as Plantnet, LeafSnap, NatureGate and iPflanzen.

This app’s name is myGardenAnswers. From left to right – 1. I selected the photo option. 2. The picture top right is from my garden. Yes! The image matching engine found a match. 3. More information about the aster (kalimeris). Hmm, yes. Better keep the soil watered, it’s needs moisture in the ground!


Saturday/ a bad day for the United States

A procession of young white men carrying tiki torches, staged a demonstration on Friday night in Charlottesville, Virginia (117 miles south west of Washington, DC).  They were protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in a park.  (Robert E. Lee was a Confederate General in the Civil War).  There were more demonstrations and counter-demonstrations on Saturday, and skirmishes between the two groups got out of hand quickly.  A 20-yr old white nationalist rammed his Dodge Charger into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing a woman and hurting 19 people. Not much later, a police helicopter crashed in the area, killing two state police helicopter pilots.

President Trump was remarkably bland in his comments about the events that he read from a script (‘we condemn the violence and bigotry on many sides, on many sides’). This from a president that never seems to hesitate to attack, and call out, anyone from Kim Jong-un, politicians and cabinet members, including Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and his own Attorney General Jeff Sessions – hey, anyone that offends him.  Conclusion: he is not offended by white nationalists.

No, it’s not Nazi Germany in the 1930s. White nationalist demonstrators with their tiki torches, reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan, with its long and infamous history of violence,  on Friday night in Charlottesville, Va.


Friday/ the AWPAG is thirsty

We are all ready for cool weather, and a little rain, to take away the heat and the haze here in the Puget Sound.  And yes! – there is rain in the forecast for Saturday night! (The expected 56 days of dry weather by Saturday will be a new record on the books).

Seattle-Tacoma airport has a state-of-the-art AWPAG* rain gauge (a far cry from the graduated cone we once had in our backyard when I was young!).  The gauge is surrounded by two shields to improve readings under windy conditions, and will melt snow so that it can measure the liquid equivalent accumulation.  Fancy.

*All Weather Precipitation Accumulation Gauge (AWPAG)

Update Sun 10 am: 0.02 inch of rain at SeaTac late Saturday evening ended the record streak of 55 days (June 18-August 11) without measurable rain.

The AWPAG at Seattle-Tacoma airport (installed in 2006). The gauge has a so-called Tretyakov shield around it, as well as an 8-ft diameter Alter windshield.

Here’s a close-up of the guage. If it catches snow, the snow will be melted.  I’m not sure of the inside of this specific gauge, but some gauges will mix precipitation (rain, ice or snow) with glycol to melt any ice or snow; the oil reduces evaporation loss – and then the reading is calculated every few minutes and transmitted to a control center by a radio signal.

Thursday/ would I qualify for immigration?

I took the quiz that shows the Trump administration’s proposed new points system for legal immigration.  I wound back the clock to the time when I had first arrived in the USA, in 1995.   It would have been tough: I had no money to invest, no Nobel Prize, and no Olympic Medal. Zero points for all those!

Aw .. I would have needed a boost of 3 points to qualify.  Those last three categories are killers (Nobel Prize/ Olympic Medal/ serious money to invest); I scored 0 on all of them.  HOWEVER – I may have been a little tough on myself in the Job Offer category.  If those dollars for the salary brackets are 2017 dollars (not 1995 dollars), I would have scored 5 points for my 1995 job offer, and would have make it to a score of 32.

Wednesday/ Google: you’re fired

Bloomberg’s Emily Change interviewing James Damore after he had been fired from Google.

I am fascinated by the Google engineer that published a ‘manifesto’ stating that biological differences between men and women ‘explain’ the gender imbalance in Google’s workforce (70% of Google coders are male).  Now fired, he says he feels betrayed by Google, and that they seemingly do not support diversity of opinions.  Well. So let’s say he has a point (re: diversity of opinions).  But why risk your (dream) job by circulating a memo going against your company’s stated diversity culture, with debatable scientific evidence, with trigger words that automatically link baggage to your statements, that you have no control over?  Why step into that minefield at this time – when the US Dept of Labor is challenging Google in court for not being fair to women?  Why invite infamy for your company’s reputation and brand, and as for one’s personal brand, risk being seen as so selfish and so arrogant, that no manager will ever put you onto his or her team?  Did he not see that coming?    

Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s e-mail memo to the staff about James Damore’s inflammatory memo.

Tuesday/ ‘fire and fury’

Yes, this is a real picture: of a French nuclear test in 1970 in French Polynesia in the Pacific. It really does look like the end of the world.

Stamps issued by North Korea to celebrate their missile launches. All propaganda, of course, but makes me wonder if they are hard to get a hold of (and if it would be wrong to buy them for my collection!).

Well .. forget “shock and awe”. (That ill-conceived war in Iraq really did not end well – and has it really ended?)  Today we were told we may have “fire and fury, like the world has never seen” by the President of the United States.  The scary thing is that of the nine nuclear powers (mentioned in Monday’s post), the US is the only country without a system of checks and balances at the top of its launch process. The President of the United States is the only person in the world with the sole authority to launch a nuclear strike.  Seems to me it’s time that the generals, leaders in Congress and every sane person in power redouble their efforts to ratchet things down.

Monday/ still a long way from ‘no more nukes’

I went out to Seattle’s Green Lake on Sunday night to catch a little bit of the annual ‘From Hiroshima to Hope‘ gathering there.  It’s been 72 years since the world’s first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  A banner at Green Lake pointed out that barely 20 miles west of Seattle, at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base, one finds the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States.  Last month, the United Nations reached its first agreement to ban nuclear weapons.  But it’s complicated : Japan, alongside the nine nuclear-armed nations*, including the United States, refused to take part in the negotiations and the vote.

*United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea (!).  The entire Southern Hemisphere is free of nuclear weapons.

The scene at the ‘From Hiroshima to Hope’ gathering at Green Lake on Sunday night.

Sunday marked 72 years since the U.S. dropped one of two atomic bombs on Japan. On the eve of the anniversary, organizers of a peace event lit up torches on floats on the Motoyasu River next to the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. Picture : Mari Yamaguchi/AP

Friday/ Trumpwatch update

Newsweek: “Donald Trump is bored and tired,” the cover reads. “Imagine how bad he’d feel if he did any work.”

Another week packed with political news. Monday saw the firing of White House Director of Communications Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci (after his savage expletive-filled rant to a journalist became public). Scaramucci was fired by new Chief of Staff John Kelly that replaced Reince Priebus.  For now, Trump stopped disparaging Attorney General Jeff Sessions (for recusing himself from the Russia investigation).  Trump reluctantly signed into law new sanctions against Russia.  He had no choice: Congress approved the law by veto-proof majorities.

Special investigator Robert Mueller impaneled a grand jury, the next step in his investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia connections.  Trump and his defenders continue to say it’s a witch hunt; his lawyer even saying ‘we have no reason to believe he (Trump) is under investigation’.  Well, time will tell.  Mueller has assembled an all-star team of 16 lawyers with extensive experience in financial fraud and money laundering.  He has issued subpoenas to the White House for documentation on disgraced ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  (Flynn was on the Turkish government’s payroll, and failed to disclose he was a foreign agent).  What else? Oh, transcripts of the embarrassing phone calls Trump had with the Mexican President and Australia’s Prime Minister were published.  (Telling the Mexican President that New Hampshire is ‘a drug-infested den’. But yes, the calls should not have been leaked). Then in public, Trump called the White House ‘a dump’ – only to flatly deny that he said any such thing, later in a tweet.   The President of the United States.

Thursday/ flying like a Boeing

Who says one cannot have fun, planning an 18 hour test flight? Boeing mapped out a giant 787 route across 22 states for an overnight test flight.

Flight tracking site FlightAware tracked the round-trip test flight for a new 787 from Boeing field that landed there on Thursday morning. The nose of the airplane points to Washington State, and the tail to South Carolina, where Boeing also has a manufacturing plant.

Thursday/ hot and hazy

Source: King5 news. The haziness is smoke!

Well, we got up to 94°F (34°C) today, a new same-day record high.

There is lot of smoke is drifting down from wildfires in Canada, and the air is noticeably hazy, even at short distances.

With the haze, it’s possible to see sunspots on the sun as it rises and sets, using a telescope. (Sunspots are regions of reduced surface temperature caused by concentrations of magnetic field flux. They may last a few days or a few weeks or months, but eventually decay).

Wednesday/ König Pilsener

König Pilsner, in a 500 ml can. It comes in bottles as well. Some connoisseurs say beer in cans taste different than beer in glass bottles. (Or is it one’s imagination? Time for a blindfold test!).

The König brewery is located in the west of Germany, in Duisburg.

Thursday’s projected highs : 95 °F (35°C) in Seattle and 103 °F (39°C) around other places in Puget Sound.

We ducked into the cool inside of a restaurant called ‘Smiths’ here on 15th Avenue tonight, for our regular Wednesday-night-beer-and-bite.

My favorite beer is a pilsener, and so I had a König Pilsener – brewed in Duisburg, Germany.

I thought the beer’s name might mean ‘the king’s beer’, but no, it’s named after brewmaster Theodor König who started brewing the beer in 1858.

Today the brewery belongs to Bitburger Braugruppe GmbH.
Their tagline is ‘Bitte ein Bit’.




Tuesday/ it’s getting hot!

It’s high summer here in Seattle, and the meteorologists say we will hit 98°F (37°C) by Thursday, before it cools down a bit.  Still no rain in sight.  So after a record 44″ of rain this past winter (average is 30″), we’re now headed for a record number of dry days of no rain (measured at Seattle-Tacoma airport; there was just a smidge of rain in the city last Thursday).

A no-nonsense warning from the Suquamish Police Dept on the Kitsap Peninsula: Do NOT leave children or pets unattended in cars!  I love the eye-catching badge with all the Native American elements in it.

Monday/ custom Toyota truck

I took my Toyota Camry in for an oil change today, in Seattle’s SODO district.  It’s always fun to check out the new cars at the Toyota garage, even though I’m not in the market for one.

Can you make out the silver artwork on the truck? (It’s an angry Seattle Seahawk, of course – mascot of the city’s NFL team). The truck is a Toyota Tacoma TRD 4×4 Off-Road truck, with a 5.7l V8 engine (prices start at $32,000). For every Toyota truck, though, Ford and Chevrolet each sells 5 or 6, though.

Sunday/ biosphere progress

Hopefully the giant ficus tree from California is settling into its new home! [Picture from ‘mabahamo’s Flickr stream].

The outer construction on Amazon’s three biospheres in downtown Seattle looked complete, as I walked by there on Sunday.

There is an artificial turf lawn on the outside. I could also see misters and lights on the inside of the sphere, but there is still work to be done to bring furnishing for humans into the spheres!


Here is part of the artificial lawn outside the spheres. I thought I’d find an on-line version of the picture on the fence, but was not successful. (Picture that super-imposes the spheres on an old Seattle picture with Denny Hill still intact). I will take a picture of it next time!


Saturday/ the weather’s fine but there may be a meteor shower

The Leonids made for a prolific meteor shower. Here is a famous depiction of the 1833 meteor storm [Source: Wikipedia].

‘Here is the news 
Coming to you every hour on the hour 
Here is the news 
The weather’s fine but there may be a meteor shower’
Songwriter: Jeff Lynne
Artist: Electric Light Orchestra, Album: Time (1981)
One of the downsides of living in the city is that the night sky is not dark enough to see faint stars and meteors.   Saturday and Sunday nights were good ones for the Delta Aquarid meteor shower, and one viewer here sent in a nice ‘shooting star’ video clip to the local TV news station.  The Perseids are starting to appear as well, and should peak August 11, 12 and 13.  These are known as the best summer meteor shower, with 50 or more meteors per hour.

Graphic from the USA Today (via web site skyandtelescope.com), indicating where to look for Delta Aquarid meteors.

Friday/ ‘minimal use of finger’

A new distracted driving law is now in force in Washington State, and it’s all a little complicated, with a distinction between primary and secondary offenses.  Basically, manual cell phone use is banned, but eating or drinking (water, not beer!) in a safe manner is still OK.  I found this set of Q&A’s from the Seattle Times helpful.

Q. What is banned?
The law forbids handheld uses of devices. Not just phone calls, but composing or reading any kind of message, social media post, photograph or data.
Drivers may not use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal.
All video watching is illegal, even in a dashboard or dash-mounted device.

Q. What’s legal?
Common built-in electronics, including hands-free phones, satellite music and maps, are legal.
Drivers may even turn on a smartphone that’s mounted in a dashboard cradle, for limited purposes such as navigation apps, a voice-activated call, or music streaming. The new law allows the “minimal use of a finger.”
Handheld phone calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal, as are urgent calls between transit employees and dispatchers. Amateur radio equipment and citizens-band radio remain legal.
To legally use a handheld device for non-emergencies, the driver must pull away from traffic lanes, to where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”

Q. What does “minimal use of a finger” mean?
Police will use their judgment. State Patrol Trooper Rick Johnson, a spokesman based in Bellevue, sees it this way: “The idea is for you to activate your phone with one touch, so you don’t have to look away from your windshield to dial 10 numbers, to make a phone call.” Typing a map address while in traffic, now common behavior, will be treated by many troopers as a violation, he said.

Q. Is driving under the influence of electronics (DUI-E) a primary offense?
Yes. A police officer can pull someone over, merely based on seeing a motorist use a handheld device, type, or watch video.

Q. How much does a ticket cost?
The fine is $136 for the first offense. For additional violations within five years, the fine increases to $234 per citation.

Q. Will a ticket raise my insurance rates?
Probably, if you‘ve been found guilty of other traffic violations.
Distracted-driving citations will be reported in state driving records, unlike the previous law. Insurance companies will track them.

Q. What about other distractions?
Miscellaneous distractions such as grooming or eating are a secondary offense, meaning a ticket may be issued if a law-enforcement officer pulls you over for some other offense, such as speeding or a dangerous lane change.
The standard fine is $99 — which is more than the $30 mentioned in the legislation, and past news reports. The higher total, like the electronic-distraction penalty, includes fees for state government and trauma care.
“Embracing another while driving” has been illegal since 1927. If a cop sees your arm around someone so both hands can’t reach the wheel, that’s a reckless-driving offense.

Q. I raise my cellphone near my hearing aid. Is that OK?
This was legal under an exemption in the 2007 distraction law — which the new law has eliminated. Bluetooth devices have been developed for hearing-impaired people, while the Washington Traffic Safety Commission sought fewer exceptions, so police can effectively apply DUI-E rules. “There is no right to use a phone while driving,” said Shelly Baldwin, WTSC government liaison.

Q. Is the law really enforceable?
Washington state is home to 5.7 million licensed drivers and 165 million miles of travel miles daily. Roadway observations find 10 percent of drivers on the road are handling a phone. There’s no way for police to watch everyone.
Early this year, as few as a half-dozen State Patrol troopers covered some shifts in the entire Eastside detachment, from the floating bridges to Snoqualmie Pass. Statewide there were 89 vacancies of 671 trooper positions, though that should improve with two academy classes and pay raises this year.
Seattle’s traffic division of 58 officers already can’t meet public demand to clear gridlocked intersections and bus lanes, or enforce 20-mph school zones, or maintain bikeways or sidewalks.
So cultural change is required, plus technology to replaceor block hazardous behavior. Sponsors point to Washington’s 95 percent seat-belt use rate as hope smartphone laws can take root.