Saturday night

The hurricane is still a threat, but now it looks as if it might crawl up along the Florida panhandle instead of crossing it.

Another mass shooting. It started at a traffic stop, in Odessa, Texas. 5 dead, 21 wounded. I suspect we have one every other day, and not all of them even make the national news anymore.

There was spectacular US Open tennis on TV all day — broadcast from the courts at Flushing Meadows in the northern part of Queens, New York City.

I plan to go to Perth, Australia again for Christmas, and booked a fare on the new non-stop to Perth from Tokyo, on the All Nippon Airlines Boeing 787-8. So no Hong Kong for me this year — not even a stop at the airport.

Monday/ on scuba line duty

Kudos to French astronaut Thomas Pesquet for tweeting this picture from the Adventures of Tintin (it’s from Red Rackham’s Treasure, to be exact) alongside his own picture. The cartoon shows the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson* doing lifeline duty on the deck of the ship, while Tintin is scuba diving in the water.

*In the French translation they are Dupond and Dupont; in Dutch: Jansen and Janssen; in Afrikaans: Uys and Buys.

Translation of the French text in the cartoon: ‘A fortnight later .. Thomson: Here we are,  pumping as usual … Thompson: As usual …’.

Saturday/ celebrating another birthday

Another birthday is rushing up to me, and we celebrated it on Saturday night at my house.
It did not take long to lose the helium balloon I was given for my birthday, though. (Aw. It became unmoored from where it was tied to the porch rail and floated up, up and away).
While we were outside on the deck, we spent a little time tracking the overhead incoming flights to Seattle-Tacoma airport (just 12 miles to the south of my house as the crow flies).
The nicest of them all was the new Airbus A350-900 (with its quiet twin jet engines) from Cathay Pacific Airlines, directly from Hong Kong, that flew over shortly after 8 pm.

Picture from Sunday morning: flowers & cards from my friends for my birthday .. looking great in my kitchen.

Saturday/ Sandy Hook 2012, now already long gone

The massacres continue unabated here in the United States.
Saturday at an El Paso Walmart: 20 dead, dozens wounded. 
Early Sunday in Dayton, Ohio: 9 dead, 27 wounded.
Both are acts of domestic terrorism, committed by home-grown white nationalist Americans.

The Republicans and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell have repeatedly blocked laws passed by the House in the Senate.

The New York Times notes: “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twitter two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut. “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

It should be noted, though, that in 2013, Connecticut State lawmakers did make sweeping changes to the state’s gun laws. It did not impact gun sales very much, but today Connecticut has one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation. (‘Lowest gun death rates’ is still a problem).

The United States of America with its lax gun laws: Awash in guns, awash in mass murderers. P.S. 2019 figures: 393 million guns in America, population 327 million.

Tuesday/ at the carwash

I learned not to park my car under the trees when I go play tennis at the Woodland Park tennis courts. Little spots of pine gum end up all over the car. Luckily, there is Uncle Ike’s Car Wash to take care of that.

The car wash used to be the ‘Brown Bear’ Car Wash, but it was bought out and taken over by Uncle Ike’s, the local marijuana products franchise.
Business must be booming for Uncle Ike’s!

My car wash routine is very simple. STEP 1: Rinse the car with the high-pressure rinser. STEP 2: Use the soapy broom with the soft bristles to go over the whole car & all windows. GO FOR IT and be THOROUGH but QUICK! You pay for every minute that you use the equipment! STEP 3: Final rinse with the high-pressure rinser (shown in picture), to get the soap off. All of this takes 5 or 6 minutes, and costs $6. And voila! you have a clean car.

Friday/ photo album conversion

I have completed the conversion of the best photos from my (physical) albums from yesteryear, into digital albums for my iPhone and iPad. It was a lot of work, but I am pleased with the results.

I had to scan in photos, adjust their image quality, research and add metadata such as Date Taken and Geotag coordinates.   I also created an ‘infographic’ starter image for each album – not essential, but I liked doing it.

I found out that syncing from a Windows PC to an iPhone or iPad has its limits, especially if more pictures are added later to the album, or if the metadata is changed in Windows.
The sync program does not pick up all metadata changes, and then one has to rename the file (ugh!) to get it to sync everything again to the iPhone or iPad.

Below are some of the albums as they appear on my iPhone.

Thursday/ shirt by Banana Republic

This beautiful orange polo shirt that I had ordered online from Banana Republic, arrived on my doorstep today. I love it – and it was only $24 (that’s a 40% discounted sale price).

Monday/ a shoe box light box

Necessity is the mother of invention, goes the saying, and I needed a light box to look at a shoe box full of old 35mm film negatives that I have. So I made a light box with a shoe box and a glass plate.

The other little problem: it is no longer possible to run down to the pharmacy on the corner, and get prints made in an hour from 35mm film*. Besides, one would want to have scans made directly from the film, instead of prints that would have to be scanned. It seems to me the options are to use an online service for film scanning, or to invest in a film scanner that will do the trick.

*Digital photography took over film some 15 years ago (in 2003, digital cameras outsold film cameras for the first time). So I’d have to ponder whether I want to buy a film scanner to bring some of these pictures back to life.

My shoe box light box. Hmm. How many of these are worth scanning or printing?, is what I am pondering. I see thedarkroom. com offers a service that runs $1 per frame for a Standard 1024×1536 (4.5 Mb) scan; $2 per frame for an Enhanced 2048×3072 (18.1 Mb) scan; $4 per frame for a Super 4492×6774 (87.1 Mb) scan. So I’d say if one is going to want any more than say, 100 frames scanned, a $200 scanner or even a more expensive $600 one, one might be worthwhile investing in.

Friday/ Easter

Easter is late this year, but here it is. (It is also Passover).
In Western Christianity, Easter Sunday must always follow the first full moon after the spring equinox.
Here in Seattle there has been a drizzle all day.
We call it motreën in Afrikaans: a ‘moth rain’.

Wednesday/ the bad, the worse, and the absolute worst

We don’t even know exactly what’s in the Mueller Report yet (we only know the Barr Summary of the Mueller Report), but Trump and his supporters have been taking a victory lap all week.

There Trump was on TV, in all his fake news & lying glory, gesturing while saying ‘the report is a complete and total exoneration‘ – while the report took great pains to specifically say its findings are not an exoneration.

On Monday night’s Late Show, Stephen Colbert crossed off ‘colluded with Russia’ from this list (since Mueller’s Report apparently says he did not do that – even though Trump Jr did). The title of this list is way too kind to Trump. He is not just bad. He has to be the absolute worst president the United States of America has had. [Source: CBS Television, YouTube]
Just look at this list of open investigations. It’s a real list. Seventeen. Other presidents (think: Obama) had NONE, or maybe one. Or two. So yes, looks like we can cross No 1 off the list. Trump did not collude with Russia. But he broke campaign finance laws in 2016 and lied about it; probably has not paid his taxes the last 10 years, or ever; employed undocumented workers; overruled the FBI to get security clearances for Jared and Ivanka .. on and on and on. [Source: CBS Television, YouTube]

Monday/ books galore

I went out to the annual book sale of the Seattle Public Library on Saturday. Part of the attraction for me to the sale, is just the browsing through all the books – not so much the cheap prices.

There was a long line to get in to the cavernous hall at Seattle Center, and all the while people were leaving with armsful and roller bags full of books. Will there be any left? wondered those of us in line. But once we got in, there were still plenty to choose from.

I (think) I have somewhat unusual preferences when it comes to books: foreign languages, dictionaries, technical/ math books, and children’s books with nice pictures in. Here is what I ended up taking away, all for just $12. (And yes, now I will have to go visit Ireland and Estonia).
‘The Buck Book’ did not make the final cut of books that I bought .. but it shows some very unusual origami projects for a dollar bill. This one is for folding one into an elephant!
Nor did the Goldilocks and the Three Bears children’s book make the final cut .. and now I kind of regret that I did not take the book. Baby bear, Papa bear and Mama bear are all very cutely drawn.

St Patrick’s Day

Sunday was St Patrick’s Day, all over the Western world.
From Wikipedia: Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”), is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland.

I took this picture on St Patrick’s day in Chicago in 2005. The tradition of dyeing the Chicago river green with vegetable dye started in 1962.

Thursday 3.14 (159265359 ..)

It’s Thursday March 14 !
Happy Pi Day!

From Wikipedia: The number π (/paɪ/) is a mathematical constant.
Originally defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, it now has various equivalent definitions and appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics. It is approximately equal to 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, though it is also sometimes spelled out as “pi”. It is also called Archimedes’ constant.

Check it out: PIE is 3.14 in the mirror (is that another universe?) .. yes, I cheated a little with the period in there and all, but it’s still fun to do.

Tuesday/ arrival in Cape Town

I made it in to Cape Town.
The flight out of Schiphol airport was 10 ½ hrs, on a Boeing 777 from KLM.
It was midnight by the time I had checked in to the airport hotel with my rental car.

Life-size LEGO figures of  Dutch colonialists at Schiphol airport, outside the airport’s mini-Rijksmuseum.
Over the Namib desert, with 2 hrs to go.
Our Boeing 777, at the gate at Cape Town International Airport. A lot of Dutch people were on board, looking to catch the back end of the summer weather in Cape Town.

Tuesday/ it’s the Year of the Pig!

Tuesday marked the start of the Chinese lunar year.
2019 is the Year of the Pig (Boar).

This Year of the Pig (Boar) display was in the foyer of the Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza, Tokyo, when I was there in December. The boar depicts what the Japanese call ‘chototsumoushin’ (ちょとつもうしん): to run and push forward (to the future) powerfully and headlong. P.S. Check out the little piggies down below on the table. Maybe they are little hedgehogs :).
Here is another piggie. I found this display of a Year of the Pig stamp in the window of the Hong Kong Post Office when I was there in December.


The days are slowly getting longer here in the Pacific Northwest.
It has not been ‘too cold’ (always a relative term: 50 °F/10 °C) and we have had a nice stretch of six days of dry weather.
The rain is coming back tomorrow, though, and will bring more snow to the mountains as well.
P.S. The traffic adjustments and volumes with the Alaskan Viaduct now closed, has not been too terrible at all.

It’s 5.15 pm and I’m heading out towards 15th Ave for our Wednesday night beer & bite. It’s nice that some houses on my block, like this one, still have their holiday lights on. It brightens up the winter darkness a little bit.

Saturday/ ready for the red-eye to Hong Kong

I’m taking a red-eye flight to Hong Kong tonight, to stay there over New Years Eve, and for another day or two.

Here’s a new A$50 that landed in my wallet; it features David Unaipon, indigenous Australian of the Ngarrindjeri people, a preacher, inventor and author. The polymer note has all kinds of security features, and four birds of which only three are visible. Green swan, white swan, flying bird above it, and the fourth one is only visible under UV light. How come the USA has such blah banknotes?
I love this cartoon that appeared in today’s The Australian’s Weekend Edition. The cartoonist is Jon Kudelka.
This Instagram picture was taken in March by Tom Cannon, but was also printed in the newspapers as one of the top tourist pictures of the year. Coral Bay is some 1,100 km/ 700 mi up north the coast of Western Australia from Perth. (It’s an optical illusion; the fish did not ram the boat).

Wednesday/ who is the monster?

The big pink monster living inside the vacation villa, almost stepped on the little brown monster basking outside on the brick paving.

A bobtail skink/ western shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa) scuttling out of my way, grumpily. It has a heavily armored body and a stumpy tail, and a bright blue tongue. The creatures are omnivores, eating herbs and seedlings, snails and insects. Fat in the tail helps it survive lean times.

Saturday/ fun with Kakuro

Kakuro – derived from the Japanese kasan kurosu (加算クロス, ‘addition cross’) is my new favorite puzzle game, for now. (Sooner or later I always go back to playing Scrabble against ‘Expert Computer’ as my favorite).

I find Kakuro games in online newspapers, and print them out larger, so that I can write clues for myself into the tops of the boxes.  I see there are free puzzles available online as well.

Here’s a completed game. Read the rules at the bottom, and then you’re ready to go! Remember, 1 to 9 only, and no duplicates in a string down, or across. Here’s an example of how to figure it out. We know the 7 DOWN (at top left) can only be a combination of 1,2 & 4 (combinations of 3+2+2 are not allowed, nor 5+1+1). That means the 12 ACROSS can only be 4+8, since 1+11 and 2+10 will not work.