Friday/ a king-sized rebranding is underway

The Wall Street Journal reports that the wheels have been set in motion in the United Kingdom for a vast effort to (eventually) replace the 29 billion coins and 4.7 billion bank notes in circulation that are carrying the likeness of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The same will be true for stamps. The current definitive series first class mail stamps for the Royal Mail in the United Kingdom all feature the queen.
The Royal Mail has been around forever— well, almost. It was founded 506 years ago in 1516.
Stamps are a more recent invention: the first ones were printed in 1840.

A young Queen Elizabeth II features on the definitive stamps used in the United Kingdom. By 31 January 2023, all definitive stamps will require the barcode strip that it was sold with as well, to be valid. It’s an anti-counterfeiting measure, and the barcode will connect a piece of mail with features on the Royal Mail app (such as indicating to the sender if the mail had been delivered).
[Image from]
A little history: here is the famous Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued in the United Kingdom on May 1, 1840, and featured Queen Victoria. The letters in the bottom corners indicate the stamp’s row and column in a printed sheet of stamps. The sheets had 20 rows of 12 columns. One full sheet cost 240 pence (one pound); one row of 12 stamps cost a shilling.


Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)

Buckingham Palace said the queen, who was 96, died peacefully Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle, her estate in the Scottish Highlands.
Her son became Britain’s new monarch, King Charles III.
– From the New York Times

A rainbow emerged as the Union Jack flag was lowered at Windsor Castle, following the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday.
[Photo by Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson Collection, via Getty Images]

Saturday/ Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre historic and urban, cultural park in San Diego.
The park was originally called ‘City Park’, but was renamed after Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, in honor of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, held in the park that year.

The architecture of the buildings in Balboa Park are a mix of Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival style.

My brother and I have been to the San Diego Zoo (next to Balboa Park) many, many times, and we decided it was time to take a look inside the Natural History Museum instead. This is the main entrance.
The original ‘Jaws’ .. a megalodon model on display in the main exhibition hall. The model is very accurate, and shows the electroreceptors on the shark’s nose between the nostrils. These receptors are filled with a jelly-like substance which help the shark to pick up electrical fields in the surrounding water. They can detect even the slightest of electrical pulses from the muscle movement of potential prey. Megalodons lived approximately 23 to 3.6 million years ago, and are relatives of today’s great white sharks.
Another view of the main exhibition hall, with a Steller’s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) top left. These slow-moving sea creatures grew to 9 m (30 ft) and 8-10 tons and had relatively few predators, but were easy prey for humans. Within 27 years of its discovery by Europeans in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, the slow-moving and easily-caught mammal was hunted into extinction for its meat, fat, and hide. The year was 1768.
The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is a New World vulture and the largest North American land bird. They became extinct in the wild in 1987, at which point only 22 birds in captivity remained. Breeding programs at San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles Zoo were launched, and as of December 2020 there were 504 California condors living wild or in captivity.
The Balboa Park Botanical Building. Built for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, along with the adjacent Lily Pond and Lagoon, the historic building is one of the largest lath structures in the world.
The beautiful façade at the entrance of the San Diego Museum of Art has detailed full-body sculptures of artists Velázquez, Murillo, and Zurbarán.
The nearly 200-foot-tall Tower and Dome of the California Building are covered with intricate carvings, colorful tile, and glass beads.

Thursday/ throwing down the gauntlet 🤺


a medieval glove, made of leather or metal plates, worn by a knight in armor to protect the hand.

throw down the gauntlet
issue a challenge to an opponent

Attorney-general Merrick Garland is calling Trump’s bluff. It turns out Trump was subpoenaed in June for classified documents and that he handed over some documents. More documents— that Trump had also stolen and had held onto after the subpoena— are related to nuclear secrets and could be a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.

From the New York Times:
Speaking from a podium at the Justice Department, the attorney general said he had personally approved the request for a search warrant. He denounced the “unfounded attacks on the professionalism” and integrity of the F.B.I. and prosecutors.
And — most importantly — he announced that the Justice Department had filed a motion to unseal the warrant used in the search, as well as the inventory of what the F.B.I. took away, so that the government could make them public.

Update, Fri 8/12: The FBI found 11 sets of classified documents, several of them top secret (‘Sensitive Compartmented Information’) at Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s lawyer was given receipts. Will Trump pay a price for his crimes?—that is the perennial question.

‘Dark Merrick Garland’, tweeted out today by the The Lincoln Project*.  It is a play on the meme of Joe Biden called Dark Brandon.
*The Lincoln Project is an American political action committee (PAC) formed in late 2019 by former and current Republicans.

Tuesday/ the Mar-a-Lago raid 🚨

On Monday morning at 10 a.m. EST, two dozen FBI agents and technicians executed a raid at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence (with a search warrant signed off by a federal judge for probable cause)— a first for an ex-President.
There is an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, titled ‘The FBI’s Dangerous Trump Search: Merrick Garland is taking the U.S. down a perilous path’.

Here is Prof. Yascha Mounk from Johns Hopkins University (@Yascha_Mounk on Twitter):

A few thoughts and principles about the FBI raid in Miami:
1 The rule of law applies to everyone. If Trump committed a crime, he should be punished for it.
2 Prosecutions against possible political candidates always deserve special scrutiny to ensure they are above the board.
3 The best way to beat an authoritarian populist is at the ballot box, not by disqualifying him from running.
4 If Trump is to be prosecuted, it would ideally be for a morally highly significant crime (like 1/6), not a procedural one (like mishandling classified documents).
5 One overlooked political risk is Trump getting acquitted, allowing him to claim he was exonerated.
6 We know very little about the FBI’s case against Trump so far. Anyone declaring with certainty that it is either appropriate or inappropriate is getting ahead of themselves.

Law enforcement officials stationed at the entrance to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday.
[Photo Credit: Josh Ritchie for The New York Times]
Trump supporter (extra large-ridiculous hat), saying ‘The Democrats are weaponizing the FBI, and it has to stop’.
1. You confuse the Department of Justice with the Democrats.
2. Did your lawless President not say ‘Law and Order’?
[Still from a video by Blair Guild/The Washington Post]

Thursday/ the red dragon 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

I picked up my notebook computer today in Redmond— and stopped by the British Pantry store to replenish the South African marmalade and chutney in my own pantry.

The Welsh flag outside the British Pantry store, with the Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch), passant (standing with one foot raised). The current flag was officially adopted in 1959, and is based on an old royal badge used by British kings and queens since Tudor times. The Red Dragon itself has been associated with Wales for centuries, though, steeped in folklore and myth.

Tuesday/ tell us more, tell us more 💬

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies during a Jan. 6 committee hearing on national television on June 28, 2022.
[Photo by Getty Images]
The American public learned shocking new details today, of the frenzied days in the White House in the run-up to Jan. 6, and on the day itself. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson was the only live witness at today’s Jan. 6 hearing, but boy— did she have things to tell.

Trump was aware that his supporters had deadly weapons, and he still encouraged them to march on the Capitol. He tried to go, too, but the Secret Service would not let him. (In the days before the attack, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was frantically warning staff that if anyone from the White House, let alone the president, went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, they’d be charged ‘with every crime imaginable’).
Trump wrestled with a Secret Security agent in ‘The Beast’ (the heavily armored vehicle), wanting to go to the Capitol after his speech at The Ellipse, and not back to the West Wing.
Trump threw dishes against the wall in the White House dining room, and would pull off the tablecloth with dinnerware and food and all onto the floor —regularly.
Trump really, really did not want to call off the rioters.
From inside the White House, the President can go on national TV on a moment’s notice. Trump never did.
2.24 pm: Sent the now-infamous tweet condemning Mike Pence.
2.38 pm: Tweeted that ‘protestors should stay peaceful’, as the violent break-in into the Capitol with the loss of life unfolded.
4.17 pm: Tweeted the ‘we love you, go home’ recording to the rioters.

Thursday/ conspiracy against the United States 💀

Screen shot of reporting from the New York Times online

It was Day 5 of the Jan. 6 Committee’s hearings, and man! – brazen, shameless, and flagrant are all words that come to mind, when one hears the testimony of what Trump was attempting to do, in the run-up to the Jan. 6 certification of the votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

On Jan. 3, 2021, with 17 days to go in his disastrous presidency, he pushed as hard as he can to replace former Acting Attorney General Rosen with a guy called Jeff Clark (so that Clark can contend the election was stolen).
Now: the AG oversees 115,000 people, including the FBI. Clark was utterly unqualified for the position.

Former DOJ officials Rosen, Donoghue, & Engel testified before the Jan. 6 committee that they had told Trump many DOJ officials would resign if Trump were to replace Rosen with Clark.

As Teri Kanefield notes on Twitter: What finally got through to Trump wasn’t the threats of resignation (and the damage it would do to the Dept of Justice), but persuading Trump that the con wouldn’t work.

It’s all very Title 18 U.S.Code § 371 a case of conspiracy against the United States.

Monday/ commemorating Juneteenth ⓳

This year’s Juneteenth* (June 19th) is the first one as a designated federal holiday. Since June 19th fell on a Sunday this year, today was a public holiday.

*Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

Following the Union Army victory at Antietam, Maryland on September 17, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation proclamation. This document gave the states of the Confederacy until January 1, 1863 to lay down their arms and peaceably reenter the Union; if these states continued their rebellion all slaves in those seceding states were declared free.

Fearing the secession of neutral border slaveholding states such as Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation excluded those states, which left almost one fifth of the four million slaves in bondage. Their freedom would come with the 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865.

An embellished version of the Emancipation Proclamation (the original handwritten version of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, is in the National Archives in Washington, DC).

Thursday/ ‘your dishonor will remain’

The Jan. 6 committee of Congress held its first prime-time (televised) hearing tonight, about the attack on the Capitol and the events leading up to it.
There were clips of pre-taped testimony from Bill Barr (Trump’s former Attorney General that had interfered with the first impeachment trial), and even from Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Viewers were also shown new footage of the attack from the blood-thirsty mob that had been egged on by President Trump.

The Jan 6. insurrection at the U.S. Capitol now lies 18 months behind us, and more than 800 people across the U.S. have been charged.
Of these, 189 had been sentenced, with sentences ranging from probation to five years in jail. High-profile trials involving the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys are expected to start in the fall.
Several of their members are charged with seditious conspiracy (a serious but lesser counterpart to treason).

Will any of the really big fish, or the Mob Boss himself, pay a serious price? Nobody knows— and ultimately that will be up to US Attorney General Merrick Garland and his Dept. of Justice, not the Jan. 6 committee.

Memorial Day

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
– For the Fallen, a poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Flag (1954-55) by artist Jasper Johns, from Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
In 1951, Johns was drafted into the army and spent two years in service during the Korean War at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and in Sendai, Japan.
The forty-eight stars and red-and-white stripes depicted here picture an American flag from the year this work was made (Alaska and Hawaii had not yet become part of the union).
Medium: Encaustic (using pigments mixed with hot wax that are burned in as an inlay), oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels.
Dimensions: 42 1/4 x 60 5/8″ (107.3 x 153.8 cm)
[Picture Credit:]

Monday/ about that Russian convoy

The extended 40-mile parade of Russian armored vehicles, tanks and towed artillery headed from the north on a path toward Kyiv has both alarmed and befuddled watchers of this expanding war. It’s not just its sheer size. It’s also because that for days, it has not appreciably been moving.

U.S. officials attribute the apparent stall in part to logistical failures on the Russian side, including as a result of food and fuel shortages, that have slowed Moscow’s advance through various parts of the country. They have also credited Ukrainian efforts to attack selected parts of the convoy with contributing to its slowdown. Still, officials warn that the Russians could regroup at any moment and continue to press forward.
-Reported by the Washington Post

..the convoy’s progress — or lack thereof — continues to capture popular fascination, thanks to a steady stream of satellite images and video recorded and disseminated by Maxar Technologies, a space technology and intelligence company, says the Washington Post. (Looking at the map, it sure looks like the convoy made its way through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Some areas in there still contain dangerous amounts of radiation). 

Saturday/ Ukraine’s nuclear power plants

Russian attacks on nuclear sites could destabilize Ukraine’s energy supply
Russian forces attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on March 3 and are now reportedly pushing toward the South Ukraine nuclear power plant. These are Ukraine’s two largest nuclear power plants, together responsible for one-third of Ukraine’s electricity generation.
Ukraine has a total of four nuclear power plants consisting of 15 reactors that generate roughly 50 percent of the country’s electricity. After nuclear power, coal is the largest source of electricity generated in the country. Many of Ukraine’s coal-fired power plants lie in the Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
-From the New York Times, as reported by Lazaro Gamio and Eleanor Lutz

Monday/ the refugees

About half a million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began last week, according to the United Nations refugee agency. About half of them crossed Ukraine’s western border to Poland. Others have gone to Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia. Ukraine enacted martial law at the beginning of the conflict that requires men ages 18 to 60 to remain in the country.
-Reported by the New York Times

It’s heart-breaking to see the footage on TV of families getting into the trains and buses to leave Ukraine – the mothers and their children, that is. The men have to go to war. Is this just the start? Ukraine has some 44 million people. Thousands of citizens from African countries, many of them medical and science students at Ukrainian universities, are still trapped in places around the country, and some 15,000 citizens from India, reports the New York Times.

Thursday/ it’s not just about Ukraine

Columnist David Ignatius writes in the Washington Post, in an opinion piece called ‘Putin’s assault on Ukraine will shape a new world order’:
Now that Russian troops have surged into Ukraine, how does Putin plan to extricate himself? It’s likely that he hopes to keep Russian ground troops out of Kyiv and other big cities, instead using Spetsnaz special forces and FSB operatives to neutralize these targets. He will probably seek to install a puppet government. But here’s where U.S. officials believe Putin’s planning breaks down.

Map of tracking the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, from The New York Times on Thursday.

What Putin doesn’t appear to realize, with his vision of Russian-Ukrainian oneness, is that his bullying has deeply alienated Ukrainians. I saw that anti-Putin sentiment when I visited Kyiv in late January, and it’s undoubtedly even stronger now that Russian tanks are on the streets and jets are in the sky. Putin obviously believed his own rhetoric that Ukraine wasn’t a real country. That level of self-absorption so often leads to mistakes.

With his unprovoked invasion, Putin has shattered the international legal rules established after World War II, along with the European order that followed the Cold War. That old architecture was getting shaky, and it was destined to be replaced eventually.

The Ukraine assault, pitting a messianic Russian autocrat against the wishes of every other major nation, perhaps including China, will determine the shape of the new order to come. If Putin loses his battle to subjugate Ukraine, the new order will have a solid and promising foundation. If Putin wins, the new era will be very dangerous indeed.

Monday/ Washington’s Birthday

Gravure of George Washington on the front of the one dollar banknote.

Presidents’ Day, officially Washington’s Birthday, is a holiday in the United States, celebrated on the third Monday of February. Its intent is to honor all persons who served in the office of president of the United States. (Tomorrow the 22nd, is Washington’s actual birthday*).

I would exclude some presidents—especially one recent one— from this honor.
Then again, Washington himself was a slave owner, and mistreated them.
‘Too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station and reputation’ said fellow Founding Father John Adams, of George Washington’s eight years as the nation’s first commander-in-chief.
That sounds awfully familiar.

*It’s actually vastly more complicated than just saying it’s the 22nd.
England was still using the Julian calendar in 1731 when Washington was born.
Then, when England (and its colonies) switched to the Gregorian calendar in Sept. 1752, the date Sep 2, 1752 (Julian) was followed by Sept 14, 1752 (Gregorian). There were 11 ‘lost days’.
Another thing: when England and its colonies switched, they also moved New Year’s Day from late March to Jan. 1 (except for Scotland, which was already using Jan. 1 for the new year).
So the calendar year 1751 (with Julian dates) was only about nine months long, going from March 25 to Dec. 31. This meant that anyone born between Jan. 1 and March 25 (Julian) had to start using a different birthday (Gregorian) and a different birth year (Gregorian), or continue using an ‘inaccurate’ birthday and birth year — even though the number of days they had spent on planet Earth was unchanged.
So depending on which calendar you are using for Washington’s birthday, he was born on both Feb. 11, 1731 (Julian) and on Feb 22, 1732 (Gregorian). They are the exact same day.

Martin Luther King Day

It’s Martin Luther King Day, the day when Republican politicians trumpet their hypocrisy on Twitter. They would have us believe they support civil rights and voting rights for all Americans. (They do not).

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (born Jan 15, 1929; assassinated Apr. 4, 1968).
[Artwork is from a blog page on Levi Strauss & Co.’s web site, called ‘Reflecting on the Significance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day’].