Tuesday/ Trump, at his ugliest (so far)

I like this tweet ..  (Hurry up with that investigation into the collusion with Russia, Mr Mueller. There are so many reasons to impeach this President, but Russia is at the top of the list).

.. and this one. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela

It was really extraordinary today, to see the President of the United States shouting ‘Excuse me, excuse me!’ repeatedly, every time as the press corps erupted with questions, while he went on and on with outrageous statements, challenges and insults (‘i like to have the facts’, ‘fake news’, ‘dishonest’).

He reiterated what he said on Saturday, blaming ‘both sides’ for the violence in Charlottesville (after he cleaned up some of it on Monday).

From today’s on-line edition of the New York Times.

Sunday/ what’s that flower?

What’s this pretty little flower’s name? It’s an aster, the genus is Kalimeris, from the sunflower family. It was first described in 1825 by the French botanist Alexandre Henri Gabriel de Cassini.

Some of the new additions to my garden are finally blooming: my reward for keeping them watered during the dry spell we had this summer.

I used a picture of one of the pretty new flowers, to test one of the visual recognition smart phone apps that helps identify plants by their flowers. This one is called myGardenAnswers, but there are several others such as Plantnet, LeafSnap, NatureGate and iPflanzen.

This app’s name is myGardenAnswers. From left to right – 1. I selected the photo option. 2. The picture top right is from my garden. Yes! The image matching engine found a match. 3. More information about the aster (kalimeris). Hmm, yes. Better keep the soil watered, it’s needs moisture in the ground!

 

Saturday/ a bad day for the United States

A procession of young white men carrying tiki torches, staged a demonstration on Friday night in Charlottesville, Virginia (117 miles south west of Washington, DC).  They were protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in a park.  (Robert E. Lee was a Confederate General in the Civil War).  There were more demonstrations and counter-demonstrations on Saturday, and skirmishes between the two groups got out of hand quickly.  A 20-yr old white nationalist rammed his Dodge Charger into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing a woman and hurting 19 people. Not much later, a police helicopter crashed in the area, killing two state police helicopter pilots.

President Trump was remarkably bland in his comments about the events that he read from a script (‘we condemn the violence and bigotry on many sides, on many sides’). This from a president that never seems to hesitate to attack, and call out, anyone from Kim Jong-un, politicians and cabinet members, including Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and his own Attorney General Jeff Sessions – hey, anyone that offends him.  Conclusion: he is not offended by white nationalists.

No, it’s not Nazi Germany in the 1930s. White nationalist demonstrators with their tiki torches, reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan, with its long and infamous history of violence,  on Friday night in Charlottesville, Va.

 

Thursday/ would I qualify for immigration?

I took the quiz that shows the Trump administration’s proposed new points system for legal immigration.  I wound back the clock to the time when I had first arrived in the USA, in 1995.   It would have been tough: I had no money to invest, no Nobel Prize, and no Olympic Medal. Zero points for all those!

Aw .. I would have needed a boost of 3 points to qualify.  Those last three categories are killers (Nobel Prize/ Olympic Medal/ serious money to invest); I scored 0 on all of them.  HOWEVER – I may have been a little tough on myself in the Job Offer category.  If those dollars for the salary brackets are 2017 dollars (not 1995 dollars), I would have scored 5 points for my 1995 job offer, and would have make it to a score of 32.

Wednesday/ Google: you’re fired

Bloomberg’s Emily Change interviewing James Damore after he had been fired from Google.

I am fascinated by the Google engineer that published a ‘manifesto’ stating that biological differences between men and women ‘explain’ the gender imbalance in Google’s workforce (70% of Google coders are male).  Now fired, he says he feels betrayed by Google, and that they seemingly do not support diversity of opinions.  Well. So let’s say he has a point (re: diversity of opinions).  But why risk your (dream) job by circulating a memo going against your company’s stated diversity culture, with debatable scientific evidence, with trigger words that automatically link baggage to your statements, that you have no control over?  Why step into that minefield at this time – when the US Dept of Labor is challenging Google in court for not being fair to women?  Why invite infamy for your company’s reputation and brand, and as for one’s personal brand, risk being seen as so selfish and so arrogant, that no manager will ever put you onto his or her team?  Did he not see that coming?    

Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s e-mail memo to the staff about James Damore’s inflammatory memo.

Tuesday/ ‘fire and fury’

Yes, this is a real picture: of a French nuclear test in 1970 in French Polynesia in the Pacific. It really does look like the end of the world.

Stamps issued by North Korea to celebrate their missile launches. All propaganda, of course, but makes me wonder if they are hard to get a hold of (and if it would be wrong to buy them for my collection!).

Well .. forget “shock and awe”. (That ill-conceived war in Iraq really did not end well – and has it really ended?)  Today we were told we may have “fire and fury, like the world has never seen” by the President of the United States.  The scary thing is that of the nine nuclear powers (mentioned in Monday’s post), the US is the only country without a system of checks and balances at the top of its launch process. The President of the United States is the only person in the world with the sole authority to launch a nuclear strike.  Seems to me it’s time that the generals, leaders in Congress and every sane person in power redouble their efforts to ratchet things down.

Friday/ Trumpwatch update

Newsweek: “Donald Trump is bored and tired,” the cover reads. “Imagine how bad he’d feel if he did any work.”

Another week packed with political news. Monday saw the firing of White House Director of Communications Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci (after his savage expletive-filled rant to a journalist became public). Scaramucci was fired by new Chief of Staff John Kelly that replaced Reince Priebus.  For now, Trump stopped disparaging Attorney General Jeff Sessions (for recusing himself from the Russia investigation).  Trump reluctantly signed into law new sanctions against Russia.  He had no choice: Congress approved the law by veto-proof majorities.

Special investigator Robert Mueller impaneled a grand jury, the next step in his investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia connections.  Trump and his defenders continue to say it’s a witch hunt; his lawyer even saying ‘we have no reason to believe he (Trump) is under investigation’.  Well, time will tell.  Mueller has assembled an all-star team of 16 lawyers with extensive experience in financial fraud and money laundering.  He has issued subpoenas to the White House for documentation on disgraced ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  (Flynn was on the Turkish government’s payroll, and failed to disclose he was a foreign agent).  What else? Oh, transcripts of the embarrassing phone calls Trump had with the Mexican President and Australia’s Prime Minister were published.  (Telling the Mexican President that New Hampshire is ‘a drug-infested den’. But yes, the calls should not have been leaked). Then in public, Trump called the White House ‘a dump’ – only to flatly deny that he said any such thing, later in a tweet.   The President of the United States.

Thursday/ flying like a Boeing

Who says one cannot have fun, planning an 18 hour test flight? Boeing mapped out a giant 787 route across 22 states for an overnight test flight.

Flight tracking site FlightAware tracked the round-trip test flight for a new 787 from Boeing field that landed there on Thursday morning. The nose of the airplane points to Washington State, and the tail to South Carolina, where Boeing also has a manufacturing plant.

Monday/ custom Toyota truck

I took my Toyota Camry in for an oil change today, in Seattle’s SODO district.  It’s always fun to check out the new cars at the Toyota garage, even though I’m not in the market for one.

Can you make out the silver artwork on the truck? (It’s an angry Seattle Seahawk, of course – mascot of the city’s NFL team). The truck is a Toyota Tacoma TRD 4×4 Off-Road truck, with a 5.7l V8 engine (prices start at $32,000). For every Toyota truck, though, Ford and Chevrolet each sells 5 or 6, though.

Friday/ ‘minimal use of finger’

A new distracted driving law is now in force in Washington State, and it’s all a little complicated, with a distinction between primary and secondary offenses.  Basically, manual cell phone use is banned, but eating or drinking (water, not beer!) in a safe manner is still OK.  I found this set of Q&A’s from the Seattle Times helpful.

Q. What is banned?
The law forbids handheld uses of devices. Not just phone calls, but composing or reading any kind of message, social media post, photograph or data.
Drivers may not use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal.
All video watching is illegal, even in a dashboard or dash-mounted device.

Q. What’s legal?
Common built-in electronics, including hands-free phones, satellite music and maps, are legal.
Drivers may even turn on a smartphone that’s mounted in a dashboard cradle, for limited purposes such as navigation apps, a voice-activated call, or music streaming. The new law allows the “minimal use of a finger.”
Handheld phone calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal, as are urgent calls between transit employees and dispatchers. Amateur radio equipment and citizens-band radio remain legal.
To legally use a handheld device for non-emergencies, the driver must pull away from traffic lanes, to where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”

Q. What does “minimal use of a finger” mean?
Police will use their judgment. State Patrol Trooper Rick Johnson, a spokesman based in Bellevue, sees it this way: “The idea is for you to activate your phone with one touch, so you don’t have to look away from your windshield to dial 10 numbers, to make a phone call.” Typing a map address while in traffic, now common behavior, will be treated by many troopers as a violation, he said.

Q. Is driving under the influence of electronics (DUI-E) a primary offense?
Yes. A police officer can pull someone over, merely based on seeing a motorist use a handheld device, type, or watch video.

Q. How much does a ticket cost?
The fine is $136 for the first offense. For additional violations within five years, the fine increases to $234 per citation.

Q. Will a ticket raise my insurance rates?
Probably, if you‘ve been found guilty of other traffic violations.
Distracted-driving citations will be reported in state driving records, unlike the previous law. Insurance companies will track them.

Q. What about other distractions?
Miscellaneous distractions such as grooming or eating are a secondary offense, meaning a ticket may be issued if a law-enforcement officer pulls you over for some other offense, such as speeding or a dangerous lane change.
The standard fine is $99 — which is more than the $30 mentioned in the legislation, and past news reports. The higher total, like the electronic-distraction penalty, includes fees for state government and trauma care.
“Embracing another while driving” has been illegal since 1927. If a cop sees your arm around someone so both hands can’t reach the wheel, that’s a reckless-driving offense.

Q. I raise my cellphone near my hearing aid. Is that OK?
This was legal under an exemption in the 2007 distraction law — which the new law has eliminated. Bluetooth devices have been developed for hearing-impaired people, while the Washington Traffic Safety Commission sought fewer exceptions, so police can effectively apply DUI-E rules. “There is no right to use a phone while driving,” said Shelly Baldwin, WTSC government liaison.

Q. Is the law really enforceable?
Washington state is home to 5.7 million licensed drivers and 165 million miles of travel miles daily. Roadway observations find 10 percent of drivers on the road are handling a phone. There’s no way for police to watch everyone.
Early this year, as few as a half-dozen State Patrol troopers covered some shifts in the entire Eastside detachment, from the floating bridges to Snoqualmie Pass. Statewide there were 89 vacancies of 671 trooper positions, though that should improve with two academy classes and pay raises this year.
Seattle’s traffic division of 58 officers already can’t meet public demand to clear gridlocked intersections and bus lanes, or enforce 20-mph school zones, or maintain bikeways or sidewalks.
So cultural change is required, plus technology to replaceor block hazardous behavior. Sponsors point to Washington’s 95 percent seat-belt use rate as hope smartphone laws can take root.

Thursday/ Republicans: Go home! (and don’t come back)

The latest incarnation of the poisonous Senate healthcare bill, courtesy of Mitch McConnell, was called the Healthcare Freedom Act (frees one up to die with no healthcare).  Slapped together in a day or two, all of eight pages.  Published only on Thursday.  Not a single hearing.  Per the Congressional Budget Office it would force 16 million people off health insurance coverage, increase premiums 20% for people with insurance. Yet Mitch McConnell has the nerve to bring it up in the dead of night, with VP Mike Pence on hand, to cast a potential tie-breaking vote, if the Senate had voted 50-50.

In a scene of high drama, after impassioned pleas from Democrats to vote ‘No’, the roll-call vote finally comes. 49 of 52 Republican senators vote ‘Yes’ (just not John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins). The bill fails by the narrowest of margins: 49-51

So: the Senate Republicans demonstrated vividly how careless, how rotten to the core they are, as policymakers and as legislators. Go home, and never come back!

Buzzfeed’s mark-up of the dramatic scene in the Senate.  It’s 1.29 am on Friday morning in the Senate. McConell, arms folded, looks on as John McCain makes sure the Senate clerk sees him doing a thumbs-down, signaling his no vote.

Wednesday/ President Trump : stop tweeting ‘policy’

Read from the bottom up. That ‘Thank you’ in the third tweet was the last straw for late night talk show host Stephen Colbert as he read the tweets.  “Thank you?,” Colbert asked, perplexed. “F— you.”

Here is George Takei’s reaction. (From Wikipedia: Takei is an American actor, director, author, and activist of Japanese descent, best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek).

Two of Trump’s morning tweets on Wednesday morning about a new administration ‘policy’ (really? the President of the United States now tweets policy? no news conference, no nothing?) about transgender people no longer ‘accepted’ in the military set off a firestorm of criticism.

Check out the reactions from Stephen Colbert, and from George Takei.   I guess you fight fire with fire, and disrespect with disrespect.

Another ugly Monday in US politics

President Obama and a Boy Scout, posted by Pete Souza on Instagram on Monday.

Six months in, there is no let up in the insanity in the White House and Republican politics. John McCain (80) is returning to Capitol Hill prematurely from his operation (he has brain cancer) to vote on Mitch McConnell’s health care bill.  No one knows what the final content will end up to be (what? is that any way to legislate?) – but rest assured, it will take away affordable health care and rescind taxes on very wealthy people. Trump staged a news conference aimed at the Republican Senator hold-outs. Does not care. Just wants a ‘win’.

Later in the day, Trump’s speech to tens of thousands of Boy Scouts kids at their Jamboree included his usual boast about his win in 2016 (pathetic), and have them boo a living American President (disgraceful). Trump continues to tweet out disparaging statements about the Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, ostensibly to get him to quit.

I like the London Evening Standard’s paraphrasing of Kushner’s statement!

Finally: Jared Kushner read a lawyer-written statement, with the White House as the backdrop, that stretched credibility to the breaking point (beyond it, for me: ‘did not collude with Russia’, ‘no improper contacts’, ‘no prior knowledge of the contents of the June 2016 meeting with the Russians’).

Tuesday/ the Master Charge| Interbank Card

This card was issued in 1971 or so (expired in Feb 1972). Master Charge/ Interbank cards were issued from 1966 to 1979.  And Seattle-First National Bank? It existed from 1935 to 1974, merged into a larger bank at that time.

Here’s a ‘Master Charge’ card from up in the rafters in my home’s garage here in Seattle, found during a clean-up effort. This is the forerunner to what later became the ubiquitous Mastercard.

The original Interbank/ Master Charge card was created by several California banks as a competitor to the BankAmericard issued by Bank of America (later to became the Visa credit card issued by Visa Inc.).

So how many Mastercards are in peoples’ wallets all around the world? It’s actually very hard to pin the number down.  Banks issue and manage their individually branded cards while using the MasterCard company only as a “switch” to process transactions. Also : depending on the country, MasterCard might not ‘see’ any transactions on a MasterCard branded card.  Quite a few countries require that national credit card network (not MasterCard) process domestic transactions, leaving only international transactions to be processed by MasterCard.

Monday/ more shoes drop

The lies from the Trump White House have been piling up, but the shoes are starting to drop.   It definitely appears there was collusion between the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign and the Russians.  And so now we can ask .. what will happen next?  What did Trump know about it? And what possible defense can the White House offer for all this?

From cable news channel MSNBC. These current and former White House officials (Flynn was fired) all failed to disclose that they met with the Russians. Wow.

And check out this reporting from the New York Times tonight, by By Matt Apuzzo, Jo Becker, Adam Goldman and Maggie Haberman, tonight July 10, 2017. This is not Watergate. Is this not way BEYOND Watergate?  What did Trump Sr. know about this?  This meeting that the NYT reports about, happened in June 2016.  Trump had won the Republican nomination, and was starting to campaign against Clinton.

Saturday/ my new ‘flowering maple’

I have a new flowering maple*  with a number of beautiful red and yellow bell flowers on my back patio. My previous one was making a very slow recovery after it had almost died during winter.  Towards the end of this year, I will keep an eye on the temperatures and cover this one up a little bit to shield it from severe cold.

*Its other names are abutilon and Indian mallow. It’s not a true maple; the leaves just look a little like those of a maple tree.  It is related closer to plants such as the hibiscus.

Friday/ who’s who at the G20

Alright .. I confess I could name no more than a dozen or so, of the leaders in the Group of Twenty (G20) conference ‘class photo’.  I have work to do to get my world politics knowledge current!  Check out the handy guide from CNN.  G20 does not mean exactly 20 countries.  Some additional countries are invited; and Europe counts only as one ‘county’, sort of.   It’s complicated !

(CNN) G20 leaders posed for a class photo as they kicked off their summit in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday. Here’s who’s who in this year’s group portrait:

1. Emmanuel Macron, President of France
2. Donald Trump, President of the United States
3. Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia
4. Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico
5. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa
6. Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina
7. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
8. Xi Jinping, President of China
9. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia
10. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey
11. Michel Temer, President of Brazil
12. Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea
13. Alpha Condé, President of Guinea
14. Paolo Gentiloni, Prime Minister of Italy
15. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
16. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
17. Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
18. Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia
19. Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
20. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
21. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
22. Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
23. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
24. Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization
25. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway
26. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization
27. Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
28. Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund chief
29. Macky Sall, President of Senegal
30. Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization
31. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore
32. Jim Yong Kim, President of World Bank
33. Mariano Rajoy Brey, Prime Minister of Spain
34. Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Prime Minister of Vietnam
35. Mark Carney, Chairman of the G20’s Financial Stability Board
36. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, State Minister of Saudi Arabia

There are 20 members of G20: 19 countries and the European Union. Spain is considered a permanent guest at G20 summits, and extra guests are frequently invited to attend. This year, Germany invited three partner countries — Norway, the Netherlands and Singapore — as well as the African Union (represented by Guinea), the Asia‑Pacific Economic Cooperation (represented by Vietnam) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (represented by Senegal).
Also invited: the International Labour Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Financial Stability Board, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

This map is from the official G20 brochure. The orange countries are G20 countries, and the blue ones are guest countries that had been invited to this year’s conference.

Thursday/ Google Drive & Google Photos

I’m finally making a serious attempt to sort out the chaos on my Google Drive and Google Photos cloud applications.  Much of the chaos was due to thousands of my junk pictures ending up in the cloud through the automatic back-up function setting (I turned that off for now).  Check out the diagram and the notes I made for myself. I’m sure it’s all subject to change as I learn more, and as Google make adjustments to their cloud offerings as well!

Google Drive and Google Photos have settings to make them overlap a little, but I turned that off. FOR NOW, I have also turned off the auto back-up settings. (I take too many temporary and junk pictures on my phone and screen shots from my iPad). MAYBE LATER, I will turn it on again. One can edit & delete Google Drive folder files and Google Pictures in the cloud, and manage the cloud data that way. I still have a local back-up drive connected to my desktop computer as well.

Some of the Google Photos folders on my iPad view of the Google cloud application. Those folder names are ones I entered: Year & Month, and Location or Topic. There is an automated album generator function that groups photos by their recorded geo-location, date & time or even type of objects in the photo, but I still like to create my own folder names as well.

 

Saturday/ Queen + Adam Lambert

It’s the 40-year anniversary of ‘News of the World’ and the giant robot (from was a painting by American sci-fi artist Frank Kelly Freas) was featured in the concert.

We went to a Queen* concert on Saturday night here in Seattle’s Key Arena.  Adam Lambert (he’s from Indianapolis) stands in for Freddie Mercury these days – not an easy task by any means, but he did just fine. If anything, he brings a little George Micheal ‘look’ and persona to the stage.  I really liked Lambert’s glamorous and glittering outfits!

*Of the four original band members, 60-somethings Brian May (lead guitar, vocals) and Roger Taylor (drums) remain.  In the original band, Freddie Mercury did lead vocals and piano, and John Deacon bass guitar.

As for the songs, of course the crowd-pleasers were there: We Will Rock You, Somebody to Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, Under Pressure, as well as a few songs that I did not know.   My favorite song was actually the closing one, played at the end of the encore: God Save the Queen.  A lot of glitter from the rafters filled the arena, and that was the signal to go home.

[Picture from the Seattle Times]. Here’s Adam Lambert, with Brian May on the guitar.

The view from where we were sitting, with the mirror ball being put to great effect. That’s Adam Lambert on the far right, and Brian May playing guitar.  There were many spectacular variations of the stage and the lighting.  A few times footage of Freddie Mercury was shown. one blended with Brian May playing guitar, live.

The concert is closing, and toward the end of the rendition of God Save the Queen the glitter came down. The song has long been played at the close of Queen concerts, and Brian May performed it on the roof of Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s golden jubilee in 2002.