Saturday/ Bruce

Here is Candice Bergen (74) and her dog Bruce — the picture from a recent article about her in the New York Times.

Candice Bergen with her rescue dog Bruce, who is half-Saint Bernard and half-poodle. [Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times]

Saturday/ the roof tiles have arrived

A package for me arrived yesterday, from Norway, and another today, from Germany: the LEGO bricks I had ordered for my Doon Drive house.

It’s great to know that the transatlantic supply chain for LEGO bricks is intact!
It did take about five weeks for the packages to arrive (normally one week to 10 days).

Hmm .. here are the ‘Slope 33’ 3×2, 3×3 and 3×4 tiles that will go into building the roof of my Doon Drive house. The red is the go-to color, but I ordered a few magenta, dark red and reddish brown bricks as well, to add touches of these colors into the roofs.

Thursday/ bricks, to add to the Doon Drive House

I’m still waiting for my LEGO bricks from overseas to complete my Doon Drive House, but that did not stop me from ordering one more batch of bricks.

This batch was from Wisconsin (a seller on the bricklink store), and arrived at my door today.

These are bricks for a swimming pool and a tennis court for the Doon Drive house, as well as paving for the driveway. I spent some time laying out the tennis court on gridded paper, so that I can order exactly what I need.  (Search through the enormous database on bricklink.com, and pick the brick type, the color and the quantity. A lot of work, but not really: it’s part of the fun that goes into building a custom LEGO model).

Thursday/ the puzzle that is Pure White Hell

Puzzles are reportedly selling better across the world than they do at Christmas time.
They are made by pasting images onto cardboard (images that evoke a sense of ‘coziness’ are always popular).
An elaborate cookie-cutter machine then applies 1,000 metric tonnes of pressure to cut the pieces.
The cutting tool for a 1,000-piece puzzle uses up to 230 feet of steel.
The edges of the tool dull eventually, and can be sharpened once before it has to be discarded.
[Information obtained from the New York Times].

Check out the amazing one-color puzzle below, though – from Japan.
The Japanese name for it translates to Pure White Hell Daio.

Wednesday/ deciphering cryptic crossword clues

I have decided to improve my cryptic crossword skills, and so I printed out a few that I had found in online issues of The Irish Times.

I am not allowed to use Google too directly. (Shockingly, many of the clue phrases and their solutions can be found online).
I do use Google to look up synonyms, or the odd word or phrases that I do not understand.
Example: I think you need to be an Irishman or a Brit, to know that C of E stands for Church of England.

Check these clues out I that I have deciphered: Check these clues out I that I have deciphered:
Across 11: Very cold water in precipice, going to and fro. Answer: ICE. i-c-e appears forwards and backwards (to and fro) in ‘precipice‘.  
Across 12: Roots in ground, twisting. Answer: TURNIPS. It’s a root vegetable, and turn= twisting.
Across 15: Two companies with one hot drink. Answer: No, not Nestlé or hot chocolate, but COCOA. There are two ‘Co’s for Company in there.

Saturday/ once upon a time on Doon Drive

Here’s a sneak peek at my current LEGO project.
I call it ‘The Doon Drive House’. It’s a replica of the house that I grew up in, in South Africa — in a town called Vereeniging, and on Doon Drive, of course.

I had photos of the outside of the house to help me with the dimensions. As for the inside: I still recall every nook and cranny, down to the furniture and appliances that were installed.

So it’s quite a trip down memory lane for me, with the little bricks from Denmark. I used to play with them in that very house, all of 6 years old.

It’s all still very rough, but getting there. I’m using old-fashioned little red doors and windows, to keep the scale of the house down to a reasonable size (about 1:100). LEGO stopped making those doors & windows way back in 1976. The roof bricks have a 33° slope; the 45° ones would make the roof way too tall. I ordered more roof bricks from a seller in Norway & other bricks from Germany (from BrickLink). Yes: nothing is going to stop me now from completing the house!
Here are the door sizes that a LEGO house builder can choose from (dimensions in LEGO studs): the 1d x 2w x 3h, the 1x3x4 or the 1x4x6. The yellow one is FOUR times the size of the red one, and as a consequence a house built with it will be roughly four times as large, as well. Maybe I will try using the middle one for a next iteration of the Doon Drive House.

Friday/ ten-pin bowling is fun

I went bowling with my family on Friday night.
The bowling alley looks and feels much the same — almost identical! — as the old Imperial Lanes bowling alley off Rainier Ave in Seattle. (Sadly, it closed down in 2015).

Check out my form in the ‘action sequence’ below. Not bad, but I have work to do: not a single strike in the ten frames*.  I did clean up the spares that had remained after the first ball, on several frames.
*It’s a strike when all ten pins are knocked down with the first ball rolled.

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’.

Friday/ dogs & cats, on Tik Tok

Young people are now flocking to the social media app called Tik Tok. (It is used to create video clips set to snappy music: clowning for the camera, falling down on your skateboard, shooting hoops, driving golf carts, stuff like that).

Trouble is, the servers are based in China, and regulators fear that the app could pose a national security risk (used to spy on American citizens, used in political influence campaigns, or even used by ISIS terrorists for propaganda).

Anyway – let’s see what the fuss is about, I thought.  My initial take: yes, as easy as YouTube to waste a lot of time on it. I stumbled onto a few cute animal videos (stills below), and I like those the best.

Cutie pie doggos. They evidently have a HUGE following, with 375,000 likes (the little heart icon on the right).
Stryker The Cat is a serval (Afr. tierboskat), a wild cat native to sub-Saharan Africa. In the video, Stryker appeared in the doorway, and spotted the chicken on the carpet (carpet with leopard spots, and on the balloon! LOL). It hissed loudly, and pounced on the chicken, growling as it sank its fangs into it. I trust Stryker is more than 50% domesticated!
Here’s one more. If looks could kill: Puma the mountain lion, facing off with the poor Sphynx cat, that does not even have a coat to protect itself from scratches and bites. 
Hiss-ss! Fang-gss for you! And then the Puma turned and walked away around the sofa.

 

Friday/ another Grimm for my book shelf

I saw this Grimm’s Fairy Tales book in Hamburg and loved the pictures in it .. but it was so heavy, and a little pricey.
Luckily, Amazon had a used one for me that I could order (from a book dealer in England; shipping only $4), and earlier this week, it landed on my porch.

Childrens’ and Household Tales, from the Brothers Grimm. The book has been around a long time (gold medal award from 1965 on the cover). The stories inside, much longer. The Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859), were scholars best known for their lifelong dedication to collecting and publishing ancient German folk tales. Their groundbreaking books with these tales were published in seven different editions, between 1812 and 1857, and immortalized such unforgettable characters as Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel, and Snow White.
Some of the Grimm’s tales start with beautiful double page color prints (that tell the whole story). The illustrator is Werner Klemke. I love the dark forest with the little bird, and the wily wolf, in Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood).
The Two Brothers. Once upon a time there were two brothers, one rich and one poor. The rich one was a goldsmith and black of heart, the poor subsisted by binding brooms, and was good and honest. The poor brother had two children, two twin brothers that looked as similar as two drops of water. The two boys would go to the rich brother’s house now and then, and sometimes got something to eat from the garbage.  ..
.. and much later in the story, there is a bear and a lion. I still have to get to this page! and besides, I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone.

Saturday/ book store treasure hunt

My friend and I went on a second-hand bookstore treasure hunt on Saturday.
I am looking for a few out-of-print Afrikaans books from my childhood.
It looks like I will have better luck scouring the offerings of  local online booksellers – but it is still fun to browse through the shelf inventory of second-hand booksellers!

Here’s the inside of Bikini Beach Books in Gordon’s Bay. It has an unusual, somewhat unorganized, selection of local and international books and publications.
Here’s a prize book that my friend had bought online for me. I just love the artwork on the cover, as well. ‘Fritz Deelman and the Space Ships from Mars‘ by Leon Rousseau. The protagonist is a James Bond of sorts, an international agent working for the South African Special Forces. The book was published in 1957, so even before man first set foot on the moon.

Friday/ Julian Assange’s cat

Here’s an internet meme to celebrate National Pet Day (even though it was yesterday).
The feline is Julian Assange*’s cat Michi, pictured in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2016. After Assange’s arrest on Thursday, Ecuador threatened to put Michi in an animal shelter – but the kitty kat is now reportedly with Assange’s family.

*Assange is an Australian journalist, computer programmer and the founder and director of WikiLeaks [Source: Wikipedia].

Wednesday/ there is an end to everything

‘There is an end to everything, to good things as well’.
Proverb that dates back to about 1374 (Geoffrey Chaucer, poet).


We learned yesterday that the reason the Rolling Stones had to postpone their upcoming concert in May in Seattle, was for Mick Jagger (75) to undergo heart surgery (a heart valve replacement). Yikes. Apparently surgeons can work new wonders these days with a much less invasive procedure, but even so.
Is this not a sign for Mick and the Stones to finally, just pack it up, and call it quits?

Posters on Pike Street here in Capitol Hill, for the Rolling Stones ‘No Filter’ concert that had been planned for May here in Seattle, but that is now postponed. (That red tongue logo debuted in 1971). I saw the Rolling Stones in St Louis in 1996 – their ‘Bridges to Babylon’ tour. With the internet brand new at the time, there was a projected computer screen on stage. Fans could e-mail in requests for songs – from their hard-wired desktop or notebook computers at home, I suppose. There was no Blackberry, no smartphone, no wifi, nothing mobile like that.

Sunday/ iTunes tune-up: completed

Alright .. I’m done for now with my iTunes tune-up. It was a lot of fun. In some cases I broke the ‘rules’: uploaded a singles album cover from online,  if I had only imported the hit song from a full CD, and I did not like the CD cover much. In other cases where I had multiple CDs for one artist or group (ABBA), I could upload several cool old vinyl covers or CD covers.

Check it out! All the little squares are filled now .. (top left) the first two pics are from the original ABBA’s Greatest Hits. That was on vinyl and I had the record for many years. On the right, Bennie is kissing Anni-frid on the park bench, and on the left Agnetha is hoping (I think!) that Björn will notice her. (They were in fact married at the time. Bennie and Anni-frid would marry each other many years later). Further to the right are two vintage ABBA covers, one for People Need Love and one for I do, I do, I do, I do, I do. In the second row, I like the two Albert Hammond covers that I found online, and uploaded. And I especially like the Barry Ryan cover for Eloise, far right on the third row! 

Here comes 2019.. Happy New Year!

It’s just about 2019 here in Hong Kong.
Cheers! Happy New Year!

By 9 pm, the Hong Kong Police Dept. were out in full force in the small square of streets called Lan Kwai Fong in the Central District (party central for expats and locals alike). The surrounding streets were closed for traffic.

Also: the Yung Kee Restaurant nearby had posted a sign by the entrance ‘Our Signature Charcoal Cooked Goose Has Been Sold Out’. (Aw. Out of goose on New Year’s Eve. And I guess wait staff could no longer announce ‘Your goose is cooked, sir!’, as they put the goose on the table).

The scene in Lan Kwai Fong at about 9 pm. (No, I was not going to hang out there until midnight! Leaving that to the younger ones). HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019, says the letters on the pub named Ciao Chow.
Giant paintings of Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Catherine Hepburn, and Charlie Chaplin on the Hotel Madera nearby are festive for any night, and especially for New Year’s Eve.
This is a Mad Hatter’s party a few blocks away. (I see some people have cheated: they have no hats!).

Wednesday/ Christmas light enchantments

The Seattle Mariners baseball field – south of downtown – is set up as a Christmas light maze (the Seattle ‘Enchant’ Christmas market and festival). So that’s where we went after beers & dinner tonight. There were forests of light trees, a scavenger hunt for Santa’s reindeer in the maze, and a little ice rink as well.

In a forest of light trees ..
A giant snowflake ..
.. and here’s Rudolph (the Red-nosed Reindeer), one of nine of Santa’s reindeer, hidden in the maze. Some of them are lying down, and it took us a little while to find the last one, called Cupid.

These skaters look very comfortable on the ice of the little ice rink. We did not set foot on there! [Photo credit: thanks to Bryan for the picture].
And here’s a selfie of the friends – from left to right Ken, Steve, Willem, Bryan & Gary. Yes, it was a little chilly! 43 °F/ 6 °C. [Photo credit: thanks to Gary for the picture]. 

Saturday Night Live/ the ‘cold open’

‘President Trump’ was again featured in this Saturday’s SNL cold open, portraying him and other world leaders at the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires. Hmm. Is this really funny? I thought. In this case, Putin and Mohammed Bin Salman are – by all credible accounts in the real world – savages, directly responsible for murdering their political enemies. They should be persona non grata at the G20 (and maybe they are). So is it cool to ‘celebrate’ and poke fun at them?

I guess I’m too serious. This is simply an offer to the audience to escape the horrors of the real universe, and jump into a parallel one of parody, for a little while.  Another problem could be that I only have one beer on a Saturday night, and not three or four, as I’m sure most in the studio audience must have had!

‘Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night Live!’ yells the cold open* cast of characters, from left to right: ‘Michael Cohen’ (Ben Stiller), ‘Rudy Giuliani’ (Kate McKinnon), ‘Melania Trump’ (Cecily Strong), ‘Donald Trump’ (Alec Baldwin), ‘Vladimir Putin’ (Beck Bennett), ‘Mohammed Bin Salman’ (Fred Armisen). *In television production parlance, the ‘cold opening’ or ‘cold open’ is a one to five minute mini-act at the beginning of the show, even before the opening credits, that is used to set up the episode and catch the audience’s attention.

Sunday/ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ rocks

We ran out to the movie theater today to go see the just-released Freddie Mercury/ Queen biopic called ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. It had gotten mixed reviews from the critics – but as it turned out: what do they know? I thought it was very, very well done.

American actor Rami Malek worked hard to undergo a stunning transformation to portray Freddie Mercury’s flamboyance and human side. The filmmakers collaborated with Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor (71) and lead guitarist Brian May (69).  (Bass guitarist John Deacon (67) retired from the band’s activities a few years after Freddie Mercury passed away in 1991).

The movie ends with an amazing recreation of Bob Geldof’s Live Aid concert that was held in 1985 at Wembley Stadium in London (worldwide rock concert organized to raise money for the relief of famine-stricken Africans).

Great picture of Freddie Mercury and partner Jim Hutton. They had been together for 6 years when Mercury passed away in 1991.  [Picture from Hutton’s memoir ‘Mercury and Me’, published in 1994].

Wednesday/ Oktoberfest is over

Oktoberfest 2018 in Munich is over, but here is a cute little cartoon from German cartoonists Greser & Lenz.

Precarious situation at the Oktoberfest: ‘Take the mass* back, I have ordered one on the internet in the meantime’.   *A ‘mass’ is one liter of beer, going for an average of about €10 (US$ 11.50) at this year’s Oktoberfest.  [Copyright: Greser & Lenz]

Sunday/ the fantasy worlds of LEGO

We went down to the annual ‘BrickCon’ LEGO exhibition, at Seattle Center today. This is where LEGO master builders show off their work, and fans come to admire it.  Here are some of my favorites.

Got to have a LEGO Space Needle, of course. This one was built by Wayne Hussey in 2012, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the real Needle. It took 800 hrs, over 6 months, and has more than 50,000 bricks. (And I love the totem pole in the background).
Elaborate model of the ferry Issaquah, with bridge and deck equipment, minifigures and filled up with all kinds of vehicles, to boot.
Alaska Airlines hangar with landing strip, complete with skid marks. Lots of airplanes, and a wildly colorful flying machine taking off! Seattle waterfront Ferris wheel in the foreground.
This ‘Matt’s Rollercoaster’ model was the pièce de résistance of the exhibition, in a way, featuring a fully functional roller coaster rail and car. It was built from 20,000 standard LEGO pieces after two years of design work. Check out the top right of the coaster: the car is about to plunge down on the rails and into the loop (!), to end up back at the start.
Whoah .. and how about this 15-storey medieval megacastle, with its dragon (on its landing pad), moat, drawbridges & knights. I am sure enemies from the ends of the earth can be spotted by the guards in the turret at the top.
Another castle, styled with terraces and lots of minifigures on the attack. (The still have to deal with the castle walls and the moat, though).
Here is a Halloween house. I love the roof with its reds and pinks, and the other details.
The dinosaurs/ ‘dino wars’ is another LEGO theme, some sets licensed from the Jurassic Park movie franchise.
Finally, a style of LEGO that is called ‘microbuilding’, challenges the builder to create a miniature model of something, such as this Washington State ferry. Nicely done. (The trick is to have a large superset of bricks to tinker with and select from, to put together).