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.

Wednesday

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.

Black Friday/ I saved 100%

Men’s Amore E Psiche Print Short-Sleeve Shirt by Versace. If money were no object, would I buy this shirt? It’s marked down 25% from $850 to $637.00. One would think it’s made of rare silk, but no: viscose, a cheap fabric. Has to be dry-cleaned. But hey: it was made in Italy. [Picture from Bergdorf Goodman]
I did not run out to a store or a mall today to go and shop. The United States’ consumer economy had better not look at people like me for keeping it going, I thought.  I will look for something and buy it when I really need it, and not just because it’s out there on Black Friday.

Just for fun, I clicked around on luxury purveyor Bergdorf Goodman’s website (see left).

A long time ago, I was in New York City, and I stepped into the revolving door at the Bergdorf Goodman store on Fifth Avenue, to go inside and check out the merchandise. It was then that I saw the inside, and realized that the store was stratospherically out of my league. Keep going, keep going, I thought, pushing the revolving door to escape onto the sidewalk again.

Monday/ Trump’s visit to California

Sigh* .. at least Trump visited California (on Saturday), and saw the devastation firsthand.  He seemed to get along swimmingly with the new Governor-elect of California, Gavin Newsom. This after he had been pretty rude to him in Tweets in the past. (Gossip: Could it be because Newsom’s ex-wife Kimberly Guilfoyle now dates Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr.?).

*Trump felt the need to repeat his ‘assessment’ of California’s forest management: ‘In Finland they rake the forest floors’. (This baffles the Finns, and prompted a denial from the Finnish president that he had ever told Trump that).  Then Trump got the devastated town’s name wrong, calling Paradise ‘Pleasure’, instead. When he did it a second time, FEMA administrator Brock Long (and Governor Jerry Brown) could no longer stand it and corrected him loudly.

From left to right Gavin Newsom, new Governor-elect of California, Trump, Jerry Brown, California Governor, Paradise Mayor Jody Jones, and Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  [Picture from Sacramento Bee].

Thursday/ please be shocked

At least 12 people were killed in a shooting late Wednesday at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif.  Borderline Bar and Grill was holding its weekly event for college students.   The gunman (28) was a troubled Marine Corps veteran that turned his gun on himself.

Here is Roxane Gay writing under a heading ‘Please Be Shocked at the Thousand Oaks Shooting’ in the New York Times:

According to statistics from the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 307 mass shootings in the 312 days of 2018. They are a commonplace occurrence. This is a horrifying thing to say, but it is the truth. We need to say this truth over and over. We need to face this horror without looking away. We live in a country where there are relatively few restrictions on gun ownership and where our cultural tolerance for mass murder appears to be infinite.

It is a peculiarly American affliction that this epidemic of gun violence doesn’t move us to take any real steps toward curbing gun violence and access to guns.

It is painfully obvious that there is no shooting appalling enough to make American politicians stand up to the National Rifle Association and gunmakers. A congressman was shot and critically wounded. Children at Sandy Hook Elementary were murdered. Revelers at the Pulse nightclub were murdered. Concertgoers in Las Vegas were murdered.

A man outside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where a gunman killed 12 other people Wednesday night. [Mike Nelson/EPA, via Shutterstock]

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.