Wednesday/ Amazon’s one click: too easy

Here’s an article in The Atlantic that confirms that I was on to something, when I resisted turning on Amazon’s one-click option.  (Needing only one click to make a purchase; so no final confirmation, no entering of an address or credit card – it’s all stored on Amazon and ready to go).

I browse, and first put stuff I want in my Amazon cart, and most of the time, I let it stay there overnight. And then I still make myself walk through a few clicks to buy it. There are a lot of things in my cart, that I end up not buying .. and that’s a good thing.

Amazon is on its way to join Apple as a company with a trillion dollar market cap. There is just so many things to buy! Yay! And it is so easy .. too easy.  Amazon started its Prime program in 2005, and now more than 100 million people have signed on to pay $119 a year for “free” two-day shipping. 

Sunday/ my birthday date is a palindrome

The way we write dates in America – Month/ Day/ Year – made all the dates this week palindromes (sort of). So one can write 8/19/18 as 81918 by dropping the slash characters.

Yes, it’s a giant slice of chocolate cake ((fancy, ‘artisanal’, says the label), that I had bought at the store and dressed up a little, with the numbers and the tea candle.

Saturday/ Oaxaca, Grumpy Cat & helium

I’m about to hop onto the No 10 bus. The Mexican flag & Oaxaca sign at the Coastal Kitchen restaurant entrance indicate that a few Oaxaca dishes are on the menu right now. Oaxaca is famous for its moles (sauces).

Here’s the No 10 bus stop closest to my house, that I frequently take to go to downtown.

One of my favorite Grumpy Cat memes. Grumpy Cat is an American internet celebrity cat.

Oaxaca (say ‘wa-HAH-ka’) is in southwestern Mexico and best known for its Zapotec and Mixtec indigenous peoples and cultures.

Look for a Grumpy Cat helium balloon carried by the child in the bottom middle of the picture.

As it happens, helium was discovered 150 years ago to the day, on August 18, 1868, by the French astronomer, Jules Janssen, during a total solar eclipse. There is a strong case to be made that helium balloons be banned.

We have a limited helium supply in Earth’s crust; we cannot manufacture it, and we need it for superconductors and MRI scanners. So putting helium in balloons is a frivolous waste.  Once helium ends up in the atmosphere, it is lost forever into space – it is too light to be contained in the atmosphere by gravity.

Tuesday/ I spy a spider

I catch the spiders in my house and throw them into the garden .. but this one was out of reach, sitting UNDER the transparent cover of the LCD on my big air conditioner in the bedroom. It was gone in the morning.

One can get a fly in one’s ointment (or soup) .. or apparently, a spider in one’s liquid crystal display screen.

Monday/ how to beat FOBO and FODA

Yoda from Star Wars was a legendary Jedi Master and stronger than most in his connection with the Force. (I needed a picture for my post, and Yoda rhymes with FODA. Be Yoda when fighting your FODA?).

FOBO is Fear of Better Options. FODA is Fear of Doing Anything. Both are quandaries a decision-maker may find himself or herself in, when faced with lots of options. These states of mind definitely apply to me sometimes!

Here is advice from Patrick McGinnis in a New York Times article :

1. For everyday things, I do what I call “Ask the Watch.” I whittle something down to two options and then assign each item to a side of my watch. Then I look down and see where the second hand is at that moment. Decision made. It sounds silly, but if you try it — asking the universe — you will thank me.

2. For the big things, I try to think like a venture capitalist. I write everything down on the topic — pros, cons, and so on — and I read it out loud. That process is basically like writing an investment memo for a V.C. investment, but in this case the investment is of your time, your money, your energy.

Saturday/ two out of three LEGO classics

Hey – I could complete two of three little LEGO classic models with my bricks from Germany: the 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Windmill and the Limited Edition House.  The Truck will have to wait a little while!

Little kits for each of these three models went for about $20 at Walmart (pricey), and are now sold out.

This little windmill and a little house celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first kits sold by the LEGO company. Collectors and opportunists alike, buy sets like these up and hoard them, and then try to sell them for a profit some years later.

Friday/ special package from Germany

The €3.70 stamp on my package honors Elisabeth Mann Borgese, marine ecologist and tireless advocate for the world’s oceans. ‘We have to save the oceans, if we want to save ourselves’.

If you need some really specific LEGO bricks, neither Amazon nor LEGO.com, will be of much help. Go to bricklink.com, the vast international marketplace for bricks, from very old to brand new ones, all that had ever been produced by LEGO.

My order from a bricklink seller in Baden-Württemberg, Germany arrived today: 184 bricks neatly tucked into a small Deutsche Post box.

Bricks from my package. LEGO have long stopped making those windows with the lips at the bottom, and the yellow and red doors, and I wanted some. Those little suckers by the yellow doors are double convex-double concave 45° slope bricks (roof tiles), and also no longer in production. I am going to try to build some fancy roof shapes with them.

Thursday/ new Uniqlo shirt

I saw the new version of my favorite Uniqlo polo shirt on their website today*. Instead of ordering it online, I thought it best to run out to the store to go check it out and fit it on.   I liked it – and now I have a new shirt.

*Funny how it goes: Roger Federer played in Uniqlo at Wimbledon this year. Let’s check out the website, I thought, and whoah! – what have we here? a nice new shirt for me.

The top shirt is the old one. I bought it in Tokyo a few years ago, in size XL (Asian XL). The new one is the same size but marked M here in the USA. The fabric is not cotton or linen, but that’s OK. It’s a special mystery moisture-wicking fabric, and only $20 for such a nice red white and blue shirt.  I really hope I can wear it next 4th of July, and feel better about the State of our Union in the United States of America.

Thursday/ fireworks make a lot of smoke

Not to be a party pooper, but it may be time to look for high-tech options* to replace the massive fireworks displays for events such as Fourth of July. Prof. Cliff Mass reports on his weather blog that Puget Sound Clean Air Agency measured a huge spike of the dangerous PM2.5 particle in the aftermath of Thursday night’s show. From levels under 20 µg/m³, the readings increased to over 100 µg/m³, which is in the ‘unhealthy’ air quality index range.

*Using drones, like the ones deployed at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, is a possibility.  But yes, I readily concede that drones do not explode with loud bangs.

Seattle Space Needle panocam views, looking south & slightly east. It shows Mt Rainier on the left of the top frame on the afternoon of July 4. The haze on Friday morning was from the fireworks display in the city on Thursday night – not from forest fires. The mountain is no longer visible.

Fourth of July

I had sad eyes and angry eyes in my LEGO box for my minimalist Statue of Liberty model – and I chose angry.

It’s Fourth of July here in the United States, the country’s 242nd birthday .. but in my book, not a happy one.

It’s time for a reboot – by booting the immoral and corrupt Trump Administration and all their Trump Republicans in the House and Senate (that’s pretty much all of them), out of office.

..  at least there is this, on a positive note.

Is it the mid-term elections yet? No, but November is coming.

Saturday/ LEGO Jurassic Park

Here’s the LEGO set of assorted building plates. (‘I don’t need no education!’, to quote Pink Floyd .. it’s purely for me to play with).
The details on the new Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase set (360 parts, $39.99) are amazing. The LEGO set designers stopped at nothing – created a velociraptor, custom prints for the computer monitors, old-fashioned desk-top phone, and of course the mini-figures of the movie characters Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler.

My Amazon order of LEGO building plates landed on the porch on Saturday morning: nice.

I see there is a new LEGO Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase set out, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the original Jurassic Park movie.  Hmm. I am tempted.

 

Saturday/ flowering ‘maple’

Abutilons (flowering maples) are part of a large genus of some 200 flowering plant species in the mallow family, Malvaceae.

The little lantern flowers on my flowering maple* (genus Abutilon) in my back yard, have started to appear.  If it stays happy, it should produce flowers throughout summer.     *The leaves look like small maple leaves, but it is not a true maple at all.

Saturday/ the Royal Wedding

Confession: I did not set my alarm to 5 am Seattle time to catch the TV coverage of the royal wedding.  No matter – it was replayed later, with no detail too minute to mention.

Oprah feared her original dress would photograph ‘too white’, so British designer Stella McCartney and her team worked through the night to make a new one. The wedding cake had elderflower cordial in. Meghan Markle’s wedding band was made of Welsh gold, donated by the Queen.  The prince and his bride had modern vows with no ‘honor and obey’ in.

Picture from the Sunday Times in London.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

A photo from some 50 years ago: I am on the far right (playing with a pair of scissors, it appears), brother Chris on the left, and baby brother Piet is in my mom’s arms. 

Monday/ Karl Marx and the zero euro

Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in the southern German town of Trier (at the time Trier was in the Kingdom of Prussia).  To celebrate the bicentennial of his birthday, the town issued a souvenir zero euro bill, that proved to be very popular.  (I am tempted to buy one on E-bay).

I also need to brush up on my understanding of Marxism.  The Wikipedia entry is probably a good start:  Marxism holds that human societies develop through class struggle. In capitalism, this manifests itself in the conflict between the ruling classes (known as the bourgeoisie) that control the means of production and the working classes (known as the proletariat) that enable these means by selling their labor power in return for wages.  .. Marx predicted that, like previous socio-economic systems, capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system: socialism.

Here in the United States socialism is a toxic word, but man! since the 1980s, the forces of capitalism have resulted in a very unequal sharing of prosperity (no real wage increases for middle class worker, and spectacular riches for the one-percenters at the top). Something will have to give.

The ‘Zero Euro’ is a souvenir banknote with authorized printing by the European Central Bank (ECB). The first zero euros were issued in 2015 in France, to promote tourism, and several other countries and cities have followed suit. Karl Marx appears on the one to commemorate the bicentennial of his birth in Germany. The front of the notes are all the same, featuring the Brandenburg Gate, Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, Sagrada Familia, Manneken Pis and the Mona Lisa.

Thursday/ Trump and Kim Jong-un to meet. Huh?

Nuclear war? Trade war? Maybe just a trade war.

The State Dept stated just this morning that talks between the US and North Korea were ‘a long way off’. This evening, a delegation of South Korean envoys announced on the White House driveway that President Trump and Kim Jong-un will meet before the end of May.  This will be the first time ever that a US President meet with North Korea since the Korean War Armistice of 1953. (Oh, and never mind that annual US-South Korea military exercises are to take place in April – and that U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun resigned just two weeks ago).

Why did the South Koreans announce the talks (and not the White House)?
Can Kim Jong-un be trusted?
What is even on the table?

Update Fri 3/9: By Friday night Press Secretary Sanders had walked back Trump’s commitment to meet with Kim Jong-un. (‘No meeting without concrete steps and action’). And then her walk-back was walked back by the White House – sort of.

German newspaper ‘Heuberger Bote’ illustrating on which products tariffs could be slapped, as retaliation to Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum. (Hmm. Bourbon comes from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin).

Wednesday/ February’s gone

Feb 28 is the last day on my garbage collection calendar. I have the new 2018/19 one, and will put it up. (That hippo is a fridge magnet).

Well, that was February. 2018 is moving along!
I say: it’s going to be a fascinating year.

Will son-in-law Jared Kushner still be in the White House by December? No. His security clearance has finally been revoked, and there is a fresh scandal in the news of him mixing business and White House access.
Will Trump still be in the White House? Maybe, as a lame-duck President. Oh – he announced his 2020 campaign manager this week. What a joke.
Will new Fed chairman Powell have raised interest rates 3 times, or 4? I say 3, maybe only 2. Nobody knows yet if inflation is going to pick up significantly, or why wages are so slow to increase with almost full employment.
Will we finally have new gun control laws on the books, now that Walmart, Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods no longer sell the AR-15 assault weapon? Who knows. Trump staged a classic con-man ‘listening and discuss’ session at the White House today, reminiscent of his immigration discussion session (that was just for show). He offered that people that are deemed threats, should have their guns taken away immediately, and then afterwards have their due process in the court if they wanted them back. I cannot imagine the uproar from Republicans if Obama mentioned such a thing.

Good-bye 2017. Hello 2018!

And there it goes, the year that was 2017.

Happy New Year, everyone.

How does one become a better person (‘mensch’)? asks the Süddeutsche Zeiting newspaper. Many people want to, but do not know exactly how to.  Well, it does take conscious effort, but it’s not complicated. ‘You just have to start’, says the author.

Saturday/ Veterans Day

It’s Veterans Day in the United States, and we honor our veterans that had served in the armed forces, some 20 million of them.

Today marks the 99th anniversary of the end of World War I, also called the ‘Great War’, and the ‘War to End all Wars’ (if only that could become true).  Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

I am not a combat veteran – but I did serve in the South African Air Force, for two years. (The SA Air Force was active in WWII, the Korean War, as well as the South African Border War in Angola, 1966 – 1989). This 1986 picture is from my candidate officers’ training course, a four-day field exercise that we called ‘Operasie Gogga’ (loose translation: ‘Operation Nasty & Ugly Bug’). Look for me in the middle of the picture, to the right, and below the blue ‘Castle of Good Hope’ star on the helicopter. The helicopter is a French-made Alouette III, and was taken out of service in the South Africa in 2006, after 44 years.