Friday/ the door is: red

The exterior paintwork for the house on my street block, is done.
Now I can stop wondering what the colors would be!

It turned out that the upper floor would get the same gray as down below, making the white trim color to really pop. The front door is a dramatic red. It’s darker than scarlet – it could be a shade of vermilion.

Thursday/ the sun is out, and the Mountain

On Wednesday and today, it was sunny, with lots of blue sky — a high of only 48°F/ 9°C, though.

The sun is out, and so is the Mountain. (Mt Rainier). In the Seattle city skyline, look for the new Rainier Square Tower, just to the right of the tallest skyscraper in the middle of the picture, the black Columbia Tower (opened 1985). [Picture taken today by Seattle photographer Tim Durkan, presumably from his bird’s eye view on an incoming flight. (Picture posted on Twitter @timdurkan)].
Here is my picture from last Friday of Rainier Square Tower (left), as I was walking towards 4th Ave. on University St. There is just a few more floors to cover up at the top. That’s Rainier Tower on the right (opened 1977).

Wednesday/ Sondland: no longer Trump’s amigo

Trump’s ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland (and one of the ‘three amigos’), came clean today in his impeachment testimony. He had to: he is dangerously close to being indicted for perjury, and as a co-conspirator for bribery in the Ukraine scandal.

In the process, he blew up several phony-baloney defenses that Trump & Republicans had tried to peddle to us so far. Yes, there was a quid pro quo (which we knew already). There was no ‘back channel’ for foreign policy – ‘everyone was in the loop’. So cabinet members such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Trump right-hand man Rudy Giuliani, and even Vice President Mike Pence, knew what was going on.
‘We followed the President’s orders’.

Tuesday/ the billionaires under attack

The 2020 presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren & Bernie Sanders are making no secret of their disdain for out-of-control capitalism on the campaign trail. Warren in particular, is feisty about it. A recent tweet: ‘The billionaires can whine all they want. That won’t stop us from fighting for big, structural change to make our economy work for the people’.

So now the Wall Street-cheerleader channel CNBC, seems to invite a billionaire onto the set every week, and ask each what he (it’s always a he) thinks about the proposed Warren wealth tax, and the state of American capitalism, and if Fortune 500 CEOs get paid too much. The answers (in my humble opinion) are very clear and very simple. Yes, the wealthy should pay more taxes (though a wealth tax might not be be best solution). Capitalism in the USA is brutal, and leaves many, many people falling ever further behind, with no hope to ever make ends meet.  And yes, of course CEOs get paid too much (compared to the rank-and-file workers).

Billionaire Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs, on CNBC this morning. When he says he ‘fears for the US political process’ he means that in 2020 a far-left candidate might become president, and put ‘damaging policies’ in place – policies that will damage the American economy. Nary a word about the damaging policies of the Trump Administration. To name a few: 1. Trump cut taxes when the economy did not need it. In fact, the US is now adding $US 1 trillion annually to the national debt.  2. Trump interferes with the Fed Chairman doing his job and pressures him to cut interest rates. 3. Trump started a trade war with China, to which there is no end in sight.

 

P.S. I just had to look up the famous Rolling Stone magazine article about Goldman Sachs being a ‘vampire squid’ after the interview with Lloyd Blankfein. Here it is.
‘The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates’. – Matt Taibbi, in an essay titled ‘The Great American Bubble Machine’ in Rolling Stone magazine, Apr. 5, 2010.

Monday/ not a lot of rain, so far

November is Seattle’s rainiest month, with an average total of some 6 or 7 in. of rain.
So far this month, though, the rain gauge at Seattle-Tacoma airport had recorded only 0.86 in of rain through Sunday night.

Blobs of rain water, big and small, stick to the waxy leaves of the ‘Ascot Rainbow’ Euphorbia at the back of my house.

Sunday/ lots of ‘knuffels’

knuffel [Dutch] (plural knuffels, diminutive knuffeltje)
1. hug, cuddle
2. stuffed toy, plushie, soft toy (stuffed doll)
3. also (stuffed toy): knuffelbeest, knuffeldier


I found these stuffed animals in the Whole Foods grocery store (it’s Amazon-owned) on Westlake Ave. I liked the stuffed alpaca* best, Peruvian blanket on its back and all. The T-rexes at the back, are nice, as well. I’m just not sure they make the same excellent cuddle material as the alpaca. (Scary teeth).

*Llamas have long, banana-shaped ears, so this is not a llama.

A stuffed alpaca, mama & baby sloth, orangutan, and more.
And here’s the inimitable Captain Haddock, getting himself in trouble with a llama, in the Tintin Adventure called ‘Prisoners of the Sun’.

Saturday/ Venice, battling the rising waters

Here’s a little wry cartoon from German weekly magazine Die Spiegel, about the rising waters engulfing Venice. (The city is experiencing its worst flooding in 50 years).

‘Fantastic! Through climate change and high tides we can now come much easier and closer to Venice! [Cartoon by Klaus Stuttmann of the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel].
Happier days for the famous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). This is circa 1979, where scenes from the coming-of-age movie ‘A Little Romance’ was shot. This is Diane Lane, making her movie debut as Lauren, the girl that falls in love with French boy Daniel (Thelonious Bernard).

Friday/ the Qualtrics Tower

I went downtown today to check on the new $392 million Qualtrics Tower (formerly known as 2+U and 2&U) on 2nd Ave. that is now nearing completion.

The 527-ft/ 161 m tall, 38-story tower has as its largest tenant Qualtrics. Qualtrics offers a software platform with which companies can measure and improve the way their customers experience their services and products.

For example, an airline would want to improve the way its passengers experience the booking of their air fares, how they board their flights, as well as how they experience being on board and arriving at their destination. That way they will come back and fly on the airline again, especially when they have a choice between airlines!

The view from 1st Ave and Seneca St. It’s really two towers: a base with 18 floors, with a 20-floor tower stacked on top of it.  (The downtown zoning height allowance changes in the middle of the street block!). The enormous V-shaped columns provide 85 ft (26 m) of open space from the ground. They were manufactured across the border in Canada, and are steel tubes in a rebar cage, all encased in precast concrete.
A closer look at the columns shows all the open space below the building, and also the public passageways. The passageways are a replacement for the alley that existed between the old buildings that had been demolished for the new one.
Hey! The early 1900’s Diller Hotel building survived the construction around it (as planned). One of downtown’s few remaining buildings from the 1890s, it was built after the Great Fire of 1889 as a luxury hotel. Today, the lobby of the erstwhile hotel is a bar with vintage decor, called the Diller Room.
This is up at 2nd Ave, where the pillars are some 20ft shorter, due to the steep grade up from 1st Avenue. The public will have access to what is called an ‘urban village’ of shops and outdoor spaces, below and around the new building.
Plenty of wood inlays to be seen here. The slanted roof on the right goes all the way to the back, and provides a little architectural flair.

Wednesday/ Impeachment Hearings, Day 1

‘If this is not impeachable conduct — what is?’
– Representative Adam B. Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee


Well, I watched the start of the public impeachment hearings of Donald J. Trump this morning, and then retired upstairs to the study with the TV left on low volume. Every time when there were some muted shouting or aggressive questioning, I knew that those were Republicans, trying to portray the testimony as unreliable hearsay.

Testifying today were:
William B. Taylor Jr., top United States diplomat in Ukraine.
George P. Kent, senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine.

The facts of the impeachment case are not in dispute. Trump’s infamous July phone call to Ukraine President Zelensky was part of a wider campaign by Trump, his administration, and Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens, which may have included Trump’s cancelling a scheduled trip to Ukraine by Vice President Mike Pence, and Trump withholding $400 million in military aid from Ukraine [Wikipedia: Trump–Ukraine scandal ].

It is such an enormous and grotesque abuse of power — given that Ukraine is a vulnerable ally, that has to defend itself against Russia. So it’s hard to see how the House will not impeach Trump. What will then happen in the Senate with Moscow Mitch in charge there, is anyone’s guess.

Schematic from the New York Times from a few weeks ago. We’re on our way to that first red box. From Wikipedia: in the Senate trial, each side has the right to call witnesses and perform cross-examinations. The House members, who are given the collective title of managers during the course of the trial, present the prosecution case, and the impeached official has the right to mount a defense with his or her own attorneys as well. Senators must also take an oath or affirmation that they will perform their duties honestly and with due diligence. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (John Roberts) resides over the proceedings.

Tuesday/ tornado!

Big, destructive tornadoes are a rare sight in South Africa, but one touched down near the town of New Hanover in KwaZulu-Natal province on Tuesday at 4 pm local time.

No fatalities have been reported so far, but some 30 houses and an electrical substation were damaged.

Update Thu 11/14: Two fatalities have been reported, from homes in the Mpolweni settlement that were struck by the tornado. More people are still reported as missing.

Tornado spotted near New Hanover in KwaZulu-Natal. This is some 40 miles from the port city of Durban, as the crow flies. The outlines of the Mersey electrical substation is visible in the picture. I could not find a report of its strength, but it could have been F-1 (73-112 mph winds). [Picture Credit: The still frame is from a clip posted on Twitter @StormReportSA1]

Monday/ fixing it up

Here’s a cute house on my block that is getting a little bit of a makeover. So many beautiful old houses get torn down, so it’s nice to see this one getting fixed up.

The house was built in 1906. I love the bay window. It has already gotten new roof tiles and new gutters, and a nice coat of dark gray and white highlight paint down below. I wonder if the gray paint color was picked to so closely match the roof tiles. It will be interesting to see what color is chosen for the door, for the porch stairs and for the second floor. I will post another picture when those are done.

Sunday/ Seattle Sounders: top of the heap

The Sounders MLS Cup tifo. (Tifo: a choreographed display in which fans in a sports stadium raise a large banner together or simultaneously hold up signs that together form a large images). [Picture Credit: Charles Boehm/ mlssoccer.com]
The Seattle Sounders beat out Toronto today, for the 2019 Major League Soccer Cup in front of their home crowd, 3-1. CenturyLink Field Stadium was packed with more than 69,000 spectators, the most ever for any event there.

Here is how the goals came about, as the game unfolded:
57′ Kelvin Leerdam (SEA)
76′ Víctor Rodríguez (SEA)
90′ Raúl Ruidíaz (SEA)
93′ Jozy Altidore (TOR)
Final Score: SEA 3- TOR 1

Seattle Sounders captain and midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro lifts the MLS Cup after their win today. Lodeiro is from Uruguay, and it is his third full season with the Sounders. On the right, that’s goal scorer Raúl (nickname ‘The Flea’) Ruidíaz with the red & white flag from Peru over his shoulders. To his right is Kelvin Leerdam from Suriname. Yes, it’s the ‘United Nations’ on the team, but at least there is also Jordan Morris – from Mercer Island, a stone’s throw from Seattle.  [Picture Credit: Seattle Sounders on Twitter@SoundersFC]

Saturday/ the fall of the Berlin Wall +30 yrs

Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Construction of the Wall was started by the then-German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) on 13 Aug. 1961.  It came to symbolize — metaphorically and physically — the ‘Iron Curtain’ that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.

Print ad in the Tagesspiegel newspaper on Saturday, showing the scene at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin shortly after Nov. 9, 1989*. Germany was officially unified again in Oct. 1990. (Even so, many observe that the true unification of West and East Germany is an ongoing process to this day).   *The Gate was soon hereafter refurbished at a cost of €6 million (from private donations), and reopened in 2002.

Friday/ light rail to U-district

I took the light rail up north to University District today, to go check in at the second-hand bookstore there. I have so many books that I have yet to read, though, that I allowed myself to buy only one book!

Shades of teal on one of the three new apartment buildings by the Capitol Hill train station. The first renters should be able to move in early in the new year.
Here’s the corner of University Way and NE 43rd Street. An entrance to the future University District light rail station can be seen, in the distance, in the middle of the picture. I will have to be patient: the station is only scheduled for opening in Sept. 2021.
The Varsity movie theater in the Meister building on University Way. The building was constructed in 1921, and designed by architect William White.
Here is the brand-new building for the storied Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. The Burke Museum was founded in 1885 by the Young Naturalists, a group of curious teenagers inspired by seeing the young city of Seattle transform before their eyes. This building opened just last month, and I need to go and check it out.

Thursday/ to run, or not to run

Word is that Michael Bloomberg is (again) mulling a run for the Presidency in 2020 (as a Democrat). Several Democratic candidates have dropped out already, but the field is still historically large.

This updated chart from the New York Times came in very handy for me today.  It’s easy to forget that there are actually four Republican candidates. Will the one that is (probably) getting impeached by year-end, still run in 2020? Time will tell.

P.S. Here’s an opinion from Scott Galloway that writes under No Mercy/ No Malice:  ‘.. up until yesterday, it was looking as if 46 would be 45, Trump. The soft facism of Trump, wrapped in a good economy, would decimate the soft socialism of Elizabeth Warren. We Democrats are too polite to acknowledge the truth, as it’s politically incorrect: In 2020 America, a 78-year-old man who just had a heart attack will not be president, and, worse, neither will a woman’.

Wednesday/ still no rain

Wednesday marked the 12th day with no rain here in the Pacific Northwest, unusual for this time of year. There is a stubborn stationary high pressure system to the north, that keeps the rain away.

Picture & text from NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle on Twitter): Moonrise over Lake Washington, last light on Mount Rainier and Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds over Seattle at sunset late this afternoon. Sunset is now at 4.43 pm.

Tuesday/ election results start to come in

Today was election day in many cities and states in the United States. Here in Seattle, the early count tally has Egan Orion leading Kshama Sawant (in the contentious city council race for District 3).

It seems the measure to cut car tab fees back to $30 will pass. Boo! Boo-oo! This spells a lot of trouble for the funding of public transportation systems such as light rail & buses, and also for the Washington State ferries, and even for snow plows.

Far, far away, in the state of Kentucky, the Republican governor lost his race against his Democratic challenger. This is an almost impossible feat by the Republican: the state voted for Trump by a margin of 30% in 2016. Trump even held a rally for him in Lexington KY last night to drum up support. But that did not undo the damage done by the governor that had pushed to cut teachers off from their pensions, and threatened to kick 400,000 Kentuckians off their healthcare.

Kshama Sawant poster on a lamp post. The local elections here are officially non-partisan, but I seriously doubt we have closet Republicans on the Seattle city council.  But yes, for sure: rich Republicans use their money to support candidates. It’s legal to donate limited sums of money to political action committees, or PACs, as we call them. Then there are super PACs, that the US Supreme Court (in their infinite wisdom) allowed to collect unlimited amounts of money, with the only caveat that they are ‘not permitted to contribute to, or coordinate directly, with parties or candidates’.

Monday/ The Silvian, then and now

I walk by The Silvian apartment building on 10th Ave & Harrison every now and then. I love the lettering and the trim on the bricks at the top. Let’s see if there is an earlier photo of the building online, I thought.

It turned out that the original form of the building was much grander, right after its completion in 1912.

NOW: Here is the simple but elegant building name and trim at the top brick line, today.
THEN: The Silvian Apartments, circa 1911. (Photo Courtesy: Bill Burden). The bay windows on the front, and the overhangs at the top are no longer there. And look at the beautiful trim at the top of the brickwork. The original building had 2,3,4 & 5-room apartments, at $40/ month for a 2-room in 1929. Then the Great Depression struck, and a decade later a 2-room aptmt could be had for $22/ month. Here’s more at Seattle Now & Then by Paul Dorpat.

Sunday/ the giant red ones are here

They did come up: the giant red fly agaric mushrooms, in my backyard. Those other paler, smaller ones from earlier in October might be a different species or subspecies of mushroom. I made sure I took a few pictures before the squirrels took large bites out of it, the way they do sometimes.

Here’s a very large fly agaric (Scientific name: Amanita muscaria), the iconic ‘toadstool mushroom’, with its bright red cap and its white spots. This one is about 9 in. (23 cm) across.
A peek from below, revealing the fine white gills. Spores for propagating the mushroom are produced by specialized cells called basidia on the flat surfaces of the gills.
There he is: Mr Squirrel*, eyeing me from his perch in the Douglas fir above the mushroom. ‘Please don’t fall on me – we will both squeal like squirrels’, I thought. *Western Gray Squirrel (Scientific name: Sciurus griseus).