Wednesday/ Happy St Patrick’s Day

The White House was lit up in green on Wednesday night to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and the rich bond between the United States and Ireland.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheál Martin presented a bowl of shamrocks to President Biden today (a real bowl, but they conversed via video link) — a tradition that dates back to 1952 with President Truman.
Picture from @WhiteHouse on Twitter.

Friday/ Anton Goosen turns 75

South African folk singer Anton Goosen turned 75 today.

He sings mostly in Afrikaans, but also in English.
I love his song called Magalies, O Magaliesberg — a song that (somewhat) romanticises the hardships of the 1830s Great Trek of the Voortrekkers (pioneers).
Some of these pioneers ended up in what would become the Transvaal Colony, and is today called Gauteng Province.

The Magaliesberg is a modest but well-defined mountain range north of Pretoria, with ancient origins. It was formed some 2 billion years ago.
The area around the range has seen occupation by humans dating back at least 2 million years, to the earliest hominin species (such as Mrs Ples). The Sterkfontein Caves, which lie at the World Heritage Site called the Cradle of Humankind, are close by. [From Wikipedia].

Ox wagons during the Great Trek in South Africa (1835-1838).
[Picture from Wikimedia Commons, from p209 of the book ‘The Voortrekkers’ by J.S. Skelton, 1909].
Voor op die wa sit my hoepelbeenpa,
agter op die wa sit my vaalhaarma
Waai die wind, waai my jas,
knoop my Sannie haar sydoek vas
Veertien rooies voor aan die wa,
sewe van my en sewe van my pa
Die hotagter, die Afrikaan,
hy en sy maat moet die disselboom dra

(Front of the wa1 sits my hoop-legged pa,
back of the wa sits my drab-haired ma
Blows the wind, blow our coats,
ties my Tammy her silk cloth close
Fourteen red ones front of the wa,
seven of mine & seven of my pa’s
The left back, the Afrikaan2,
he and his mate, must bear the bar)

1Short for wagon, we say v-ahh in Afrikaans
2A breed of cattle indigenous to South Africa

Lyrics from ‘Magalies, O Magaliesberg‘ from the Anton Goosen album ‘Liedjieboer Innie Stad’ (1986), with my own rough translation into English.

Wednesday/ Holocaust Memorial Day

It is Holocaust Memorial Day. I took this picture when I was in Berlin in the summer of 2015.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (German: Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), also known as the Holocaust Memorial is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 19,000-square-metre (200,000 sq ft) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. An attached underground “Place of Information” (German: Ort der Information) holds the names of approx. 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem. [Source: Wikipedia]

Wednesday/ The Biden has landed

‘The new dawn blooms as we free it,
There is always light.
Only if we are brave enough to see it.
There is always light –
Only if we are brave enough to be it.’

— National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman (22), delivering a poem at President Biden’s inauguration

It’s been a wonderful day here in the United States.
We now have President Joe Biden and Madam Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Before they were both sworn in, Lady Gaga sang The Star-Spangled Banner in her Schiaparelli scarlet & black couture, and wearing the largest golden peace dove brooch I had ever seen.
She made me cry (but Garth Brooks did not).

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, holds the Bible. Harris’ purple coat was designed by rising-star designer Christopher John Rogers. [Photo by Andrew Harnik / Pool via Getty Images]
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., just before noon Eastern Standard Time.  His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is holding a hefty Bible, accented with a Celtic cross, that has been in his family since 1893. [Picture by REUTERS/ Kevin Lamarque]
President Obama looked impeccable as always. As a Twitter fan noted, about ‘Forever First Lady’ Michele Obama: she did not come to play. She came to slay, with a burgundy-shaded jacket & matching turtleneck sweater and wide-leg trousers. The designer is Sergio Hudson, a Black designer from South Carolina. She completed her chic outfit with an oversized gold belt buckle, black leather gloves, simple black mask; her hair down in bouncy curls. [Picture by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post]

Tuesday/ more than 400,000 lives lost

Exactly one year ago on Jan. 19, 2020, a 35-year-old man checked into an urgent-care clinic in Snohomish County, Washington, with a 4-day history of cough & fever. He had arrived at Seattle-Tacoma airport on Jan. 15, after traveling back from visiting family in Wuhan, China, for three months.

The next day, the CDC confirmed that the patient’s nose and throat swabs had tested positive for 2019-nCoV, in a PCR test. He was the first known case of Covid-19 in the States. The patient got worse before he got better, but by Feb. 3, he was well enough to go home.

There must already have been many other unknown carriers of the virus in the Seattle area, though. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, was the first Covid-19 hotspot in the US. In February and March, 46 people lost their lives there.

By Jan. 19, 2021, the virus had made it into every county in the entire United States, and had killed 400,000 people.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. with his wife, Jill Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Today, Mr. Biden paid tribute to the victims of the pandemic, the same day that the death toll in the United States topped a staggering 400,000.

[caption from the New York Times/ Photo by Doug Mills/ NYT]

Monday/ it’s Martin Luther King Day

[Photo credit: Agence France-Presse — Getty Images]
Here is Dr Martin Luther King Jr, speaking on the Mall in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, after a civil rights march. This is where he delivered his famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.

Fast forward some 57 years, and in that time the United States had  inaugurated its first black president — twice.

In 2016, though, the archaic electoral college system, and vast social media disinformation campaigns, resulted in the first white supremacist president to be elected.

In 2021, that Capitol building in the distance would be overrun by violent white supremacists, seeking to overturn the free & fair* election results of 2020.
So now there is a vast amount of work to do, to eradicate a pandemic of lies about the election, along with the pandemic of the Covid-19 virus.

*A generous characterization? .. given the voter suppression, the non-stop gaslighting of voters by the sitting president and his allies, and the damage done to the US Postal service, in order to interfere with mail-in ballots and mail-in votes.

Sunday/ the Mall is closed

The long, grassy National Mall in Washington DC is home to the Lincoln Memorial and the equally iconic Washington Monument. It fills up with people during the inauguration of a newly elected American president. That will not happen this year with Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

The Capitol building, and a large area around it, is patrolled and filled to the hilt with National Guardsmen, US Capitol Police, Washington DC police, the Secret Service – you name it.

I guess it is all a fitting end to the unmitigated disaster that was the Trump presidency.  The FBI published dozens of ‘FBI Seeking Information’ posters with pictures of the Jan 6. attackers. Several characters been marked ‘ARRESTED’ (dude with feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk; dude with horns & furs, and megaphone; ‘Baked Alaska’, a right-wing social media personality that live-streamed the scene from inside the Capitol with more than 5,100 viewers watching).

Trump is said to entertain the pardoning of at least 100 more criminals, in the final hours of his presidency. One wonders if any of those already arrested by the FBI, will get a pardon. I would hazard a guess and say they will not.    

That non-scalable fence is 8 ft high, but even so, razor wire is also being installed along its top. [Picture from Sunday taken by Evelyn Hockstein/for The Washington Post]

Sunday/ scenes from Gas Works Park

I felt like a change of scenery today for my walk, and went down to the Gas Works Park area on Lake Union.

Looking south here. That’s Interstate 5 and the Ship Canal Bridge with its double-deck truss (opened Dec. 1962). On the left edge is the fishing vessel Peggy Jo, built in Tacoma in 1966. This may be a fueling dock. I believe that orange ‘float’ line is to keep accidental oil or gas spills from spreading out further on the water. Look for the Space-Needle-in-a-haystack elsewhere in the picture.
A view across Lake Union to the southeast. Merrymakers on the water and a lone sailboat. That prominent square building on the horizon, towards the right, is St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. Its intended architecture was never completed. The reason is the fateful date of its groundbreaking for construction: Sept. 1928, a year before the start of the Great Depression. Construction was incomplete when the cathedral was dedicated on April 25, 1931, and the parish was in default on its mortgage throughout the 1930s. The cathedral was foreclosed upon in 1941 and shut for the next two years. From 1943 -44, the US Army used the cathedral as an anti-aircraft training facility. The mortgage was finally paid off in 1947. [Source: Wikipedia].
This raft of waterfowl is a group of American coots (Fulica americana). They are not ducks: they belong to the rail family, Rallidae.
I finally arrived at Gas Works Park: a 19.1-acre public park on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, located on the north shore of Lake Union at the south end of the Wallingford neighborhood. [Wikipedia]
Just some interesting geometric lines to look at. Maybe a cylinder or some other structure had rested on these as a foundation.
Needles, all the way down?*. A view from the little promenade that overlooks Lake Union.
*It’s my picture – but I’m borrowing the title from a similar picture that I had seen a while ago on Reddit.
And the clear view, almost due south, of the ever-changing city skyline. That’s Queen Anne Hill on the right, one of the highest spots in the city at an elevation of 456 feet (139 m).

Wednesday/ the trashing of American democracy

‘It was like an attempted coup wrapped inside a violent riot wrapped inside some cosmetic protests on the outside’.
– Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, several days after the events of Jan 6.

It was a hell of a news day here in the United States.
It started out well enough, with news that the Democratic contenders for Senator were projected to win their races in Georgia.

At the same time, in Washington DC, hundreds of rioters had gathered by the US Capitol, and then many broke into the hallowed US Capitol building while Congress was counting the certified electoral votes.

Members of Congress had to be rushed away to safety, and could only come back several hours later to proceed with the counting. (They were still at it by midnight DC time).

The rioters took the nameplate off of Pelosi’s office door, shattered a mirror in her office and left a threatening note, and just trashed the US Capitol in general.

A female Trump supporter was shot dead in the Capitol. (Late tonight it was reported that four people had died in and around the Capitol).

So far, only 52 arrests have been made (there were many more than 52 invaders in the Capitol & many crimes committed today).
Three suspicious devices with pipe components and wires were found and were removed.

Trump issued a pathetic video (his staff had to prod him), reiterating his lie ‘the election was stolen’ and to the rioters that ‘we love you’ and that they need to go home.
Three of his violence-inciting tweets were removed and his Twitter account was locked for 12 hours on Wednesday night.

We have 14 days to go to January 20. Is Trump plotting his next attack? asked cable news anchor Rachel Maddow.

The cover of the latest Bloomberg Businessweek. Mid-day Wednesday: a hodge-podge of militia men, Confederate flaggers, Trumpers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, Covid-iots (no masks) and just vanilla idiots that call  themselves patriots, on the steps of the US Capitol building. These people think that they own the country, that they own democracy, and that they own all of us. Well: you do not get to do what you want. We still have ‘law and order’, to quote your ‘President’.

Wednesday/ a Frenchman’s dessert

I had the P and the E for a dessert (5,5) in my latest giant crossword puzzle, and so I needed to solve P_E_ _ |_ _ _ _ _ .

Hmm .. might it be PEACH MELBA? I thought ..
.. but then I had to do a lot of legwork to verify that it fit with the cryptic clue.
I only knew about peach melba (peaches and raspberry sauce with vanilla ice cream – I had to look this up, as well), but nothing of its history.

I needed a dessert (5, 5). ‘Cheap’ was a clue for P-E-A-C-H. Italian island was a clue for ‘E-L-B-A’. Frenchman was a reference to the inventor of peach melba: Auguste Escoffier. (He created it for Australian soprano Nellie Melba). Voila!
It also turned out, I had an Australian bank note (AUS $100) that featured Nellie Melba (born Helen Porter Mitchell; 19 May 1861 – 23 Feb. 1931). She was one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era & early 20th century. She took the pseudonym “Melba” from Melbourne, her home town. [Wikipedia]

Sunday/ President Obama’s memoir

I see President Obama’s memoir ‘A Promised Land’ is available at the Red Balloon toy store here on 15th Ave.  Even though it runs 800 pages, it is only the first volume. The second volume is in the works, apparently.

Obama had aides that assisted him with research, but he wrote the manuscript himself, by hand, so that ‘half-baked thoughts’ could be exposed and highlighted in a first draft. (That’s certainly his prerogative — but surely phrases and sections can be very efficiently highlighted and annotated in digital text?).

Obama’s book in a store window on 15th Ave here on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Jennifer Szalai writing for the New York Times, says: ‘The most audacious thing about Barack Obama’s new memoir, “A Promised Land,” is the beaming portrait on its cover: There he is, the 44th president, looking so serenely confident that it’s as if the book weren’t arriving on the heels of a bitter election, amid a cratering economy and a raging pandemic’.

Wednesday/ Veterans Day

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill Biden, attended a Veterans Day observance at the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

I took this picture in Mar. 2012 at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul, South Korea. The memorial complex opened in 1994 on the former site of the army headquarters there. The Korean Conflict, 1950-1953, the United States’ only undeclared war, claimed more than 36,000 American lives. Some 7,600 service personnel remain unaccounted for. Hostilities ceased in 1953, but there has been no formal end to the war (with North Korea).

Tuesday/ the time to concede is now

The election has been over for a few days now. President-elect Biden had his first press conference today. I just can’t wait for this criminal administration to be removed from the White House.

Trump & his Trumpublicans have not conceded the election.
They need to — and NOW WOULD BE A GOOD TIME.

Professor of History at Yale, Timothy Snyder @TimothyDSnyder on Twitter, writes in a series of tweets:
1/20.   Democracy is precious and exceptional.
2/20.   Democracy is undone from within rather than from without.
3/20.   The occasion to undo democracy is often an election.
4/20.   The mechanism to undo democracy is usually a fake emergency, a claim that internal enemies have done something outrageous.
5/20.   A tyrant cares about his person, not the Republic.
6/20.   A tyrant fears prosecution and poverty after leaving office.
7/20.   Donald Trump faces criminal investigations and owes a billion dollars to creditors.
8/20.   Donald Trump has said all along that he would ignore the vote count.
9/20.   What Donald Trump is attempting to do has a name: coup d’état. Poorly organized though it might seem, it is not bound to fail. It must be made to fail.
10/20.   Coups are defeated quickly or not at all. While they take place we are meant to look away, as many of us are doing. When they are complete we are powerless.
11/20.   American exceptionalism prevents us from seeing basic truths.
12/20.   Biden voters are wrong to see a Biden administration as inevitable. Take responsibility, Democrats.
13/20.   In an authoritarian situation, the election is only round one. You don’t win by winning round one.
14/20.   Peaceful demonstrations after elections are necessary for transitions away from authoritarianism, as in Poland in 1989, Serbia in 1999, or Belarus right now.
15/20.   It is up to civil society, organized citizens, to defend the vote and to peacefully defend democracy.
16/20.   Dance after the wedding, not before. Take responsibility, Americans.
17/20.   Republicans endorsing the claim of fraud endanger the Republic.
18/20.   Calling an opponent’s victory fraudulent risks assassination, as in Poland in 1922.
19/20.   Creating a myth of a “stab in the back” by internal enemies, as Republicans are helping Trump to do, justifies violence against other citizens, as in interwar Germany.
20/20.   Persuading your voters that the other side cheated starts a downward spiral. Your voters will expect you to cheat next time. Take responsibility, Republicans.

Monday/ Indigenous Peoples’ Day

It was Indigenous Peoples’ Day today here in the United States, and I wondered how long ago the first humans had reached the North American continent.

The answer: We don’t know for sure! Some 10,000 to 25,000 yrs ago. Indigenous Americans, who include Alaska Natives, Canadian First Nations, and Native Americans, descend from humans who crossed an ancient land bridge called Beringia, connecting Siberia in Russia to Alaska.

P.S. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens evolved by at least 130,000 years ago from ancestors who had remained in Africa. As far back as 2.5 million years ago, our ancestors – apelike creatures in Africa that began to walk habitually on two legs – were flaking crude stone tools.

Different groups have mixed and migrated throughout Siberia in Russia and into North America over the past 40,000 years. [Map by MARTIN SIKORA, from an article at]

Thursday/ Tintin, in Welsh

I have Welsh ancestors, and so a Welsh translation to add to my collection of translations of Tintin adventure called ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’ was definitely required.

Quick Quiz (answers below): In which country is Welsh is spoken? Which city is the country’s capital?
Welsh is the only language that is de jure* official in any part of the United Kingdom, with English being de facto official.
*de jure- by law; de facto- in fact/ the reality

Welsh has been spoken continuously in Wales throughout recorded history, but by 1911 it had already become a minority language. Today Welsh is spoken by some 850,000 people in Wales. The Welsh government plan to have one million Welsh language speakers by 2050. [Information from Wikipedia]

(Answers to the Quiz: Wales, in the southwest of Great Britain, capital Cardiff).

King Ottokar’s Sceptre, translated into Welsh by publisher Dalen (2019). ‘Braint y brenin’ translates as ‘The King’s Privilege’ in Google translate. Welsh is a Celtic language, and does not come out of the Germanic branch of the world’s language tree.
Here is the panel that I have looked at in other languages, this time in Welsh. (It’s weird that some words have no vowels at all, and the phrases are hard to translate, even with translation engines such as Google Translate).
The panel seems to be a play on the word ‘fur’ (referring to Tintin’s white pooch Snowy, called Milyn in Welsh):
Detective Parry-Williams: We are holding tight, to fur with you!
Detective Williams-Parry: In fact, we’re holding the fur, tight with you!
Tintin: All right!
Here’s the English translation, just for reference.

Friday/ Ruth Bader Ginsberg (1933-2020)

The children’s book ‘Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality’ by Jonah Winter, Stacy Innerst (Illustrator).
Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s and ’40s, Ginsburg was discouraged from working by her father, who thought a woman’s place was in the home. Regardless, she went to Cornell University, where men outnumbered women four to one. There, she met her husband, Martin Ginsburg, and found her calling as a lawyer. Despite discrimination against Jews, females, and working mothers, Ginsburg went on to become Columbia Law School’s first tenured female professor, a judge for the US Court of Appeals, and finally, a Supreme Court Justice. [Description of the book from]
Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (87) passed away today (pancreatic cancer).
She was a trailblazer and a champion of gender equality. Now that she is gone, there may be profound consequences for the Court, and for the country.
Only 3 of the remaining 8 justices are now considered progressive or liberal, with 5 conservative.

A growing crowd gathered on Friday night at the grounds at the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. for an impromptu vigil for Justice Ginsberg. [Picture posted by Kelsey Reichmann @KelseyReichmann on Twitter]

Tuesday/ Luby’s may be going out of business

I dined at Luby’s a few times while I lived in Houston in 1999.
The restaurant chain is now headed for liquidation.

Writes Jill Smits in Texas Highways Magazine:
‘If you grew up in Texas, you’ve probably eaten at Luby’s. And if you’ve eaten at Luby’s, your feelings about the restaurant may run surprisingly deep. While it’s been decades since I stepped inside one, my nostalgia for square fish, church clothes, and green Jell-O has been in overdrive since hearing the 73-year-old Houston-based cafeteria chain is closing multiple locations and heading toward liquidation’.

Luby’s circa 1955. Check out the cool cars. [Picture from Texas Highway Magazine; photograph by Dewey G. Mears; courtesy the Austin History Center, Austin Public Library].

Friday/ 19 years since 9.11

2,974 victims were confirmed to have died in the initial attacks. It has been reported that over 1,400 9/11 rescue workers who responded to the scene in the days and months after the attacks have since died. (Figures from Wikipedia).

Here is a list of dates and events that followed the 9/11 attacks ..

2001Tue–Sept11The 9/11 attacks
2001Sun–Oct07Taliban driven from power/
War in Afghanistan starts
2003Thu–Mar20War in Iraq starts
2006Thu–Apr27One World Tower construction starts
2011Mon–May02Osama bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan
2011Sun–Dec18War in Iraq ends
2015Fri–May29One World Tower observation deck opens
2020Sat–Feb29Conditional peace deal signed with Taliban in Doha, Qatar
.. and here is 1 World Trade Center shortly after its completion in 2015. The building and spire stand 1,776 ft / 514 m tall, and has some of the heaviest I-beams in the world, manufactured in Luxembourg. At its busiest, the construction site had 10,000 workers.

Tuesday/ the explosion in Beirut

‘This is like Hiroshima
– Mayor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, while appearing to be in tears while addressing reporters a few hours after the massive explosion that rocked the city on Monday evening

As someone said on Twitter: in a city that still bears the scars of a civil war of 15 years (1975-1990), the people of Beirut deserve better than this.
Early indications are that the explosion was the accidental ignition of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate used in fertilisers and bombs had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.

It looks like a war zone in Beirut. France has promised to send help. Trump expressed sympathy and said the USA would help, but said ‘Looks like a terrible attack’ and ‘It was a bomb of some kind’ .. offering no evidence or that intelligence was gathered or obtained, of course.  [Picture was reposted on Twitter, original source unknown]

Thursday/ John Lewis laid to rest

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
– John Lewis (80), in an essay he wrote shortly before his death on July 17.

Civil rights icon and former congressman John Lewis was laid to rest today after three former presidents (Clinton, Bush, Obama) had delivered eulogies for him at a service in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Sunday March 7, 1965: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Chairman John Lewis (far right) and Hosea Williams of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) lead peaceful voting rights demonstrators across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. | © Alabama Department of Archives and History.  Photo by Tom Lankford, Birmingham News.
Minutes later, with white onlookers cheering them on, Alabama State troopers in riot gear brutalized and trampled unarmed men, women and children, beating them with clubs and unleashing tear gas. Lewis was hit on the head and fell to the ground and when he tried to get up, was struck again, leaving him unconscious.