Monday/ a little walk in the woods

We did another little walk in the woods today – just through a woodsy area near Paul’s house here in the Hansville area.

The trail is dry this time of year, but can get squishy and muddy in some places, in the rainy season. So the planks covered with chicken wire are a nice addition.
This is a parasitic bracket fungus. It grows on fir tree bark. The genus is probably Fomitopsis (I found similar pictures online). Ötzi the Iceman (5,000 yr-old mummy found in the Alps in 1991), had similar kinds of fungi with him. The fungus could be used for food, but also as tinder (to start a fire with).
I don’t know what kind of spider this is, but I love the geometry of its web, and the rainbow tints that some strands get as the sunlight strikes it.
Here is a belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyonis) with its jaunty head feathers. I was not quite close enough to the little bird for a sharp picture, but the camera’s 135 mm zoom helped a lot.
I had better luck with this osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sitting closer to me in a tree on the high bank. I had to wait for it to take off to get a clear shot at it, though.
Here’s the Agate Pass Bridge (constructed 1950) on our way back to the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal.
And here comes Seattle downtown, as we approach it from Bainbridge Island. That’s the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship on the left, in from Vancouver, and setting sail on Tuesday morning for Astoria, Oregon (final destination San Diego). The ship was launched in 2001, and can accommodate 2,500 passengers.

Monday/ a woodpecker

This brown woodpecker is called a ‘northern flicker’ (Colaptes auratus). It spent a little time foraging for insects on my front lawn this morning. (Yes, the poor lawn is yellowed out from the three dry months of summer, but it will slowly start to green up, now that the rain is returning).

Northern flickers are unusual among North American woodpeckers in that their general coloration is brown, rather than black and white. They are ground feeders that live principally on ants, but also eat other insects and some fruit, seeds, and berries. [Source:]

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.

Monday/ pleased to eat you

The popcorn movie ‘The Meg*’ is out on the circuit. Even though I have not seen it yet, it’s fun to check the movie’s trailer online, and the posters for it. The movie is a co-production with China, and features actress Li Bingbing alongside Jason Statham.

*Short for Carcharodon megalodon, a really, really big shark (60 ft/ 20m) that roamed the oceans until about 2.6 million years ago.

Carcharodon megalodon was bigger than a school bus, and could swim twice as fast as today’s great white sharks [Infographic from]
Fossilized teeth of Carcharodon megalodon are still found, but not much else (the shark had a cartilage skeleton). We also do not know why they went extinct .. probably because they ran out of food to eat!  [Infographic from]

Movie posters in different languages. Let’s see: Opening Wide is a movie reference (the movie opens in a large number of theaters) | Spanish ‘Te dejará con la boca abierta‘ – It will leave you with your mouth open | German ‘Biss bald‘ – ‘Bite’ you soon; a word play on ‘Bis bald’ – See you soon | Russian КуШАТь ПОДАНО! – Dinner is served!
An alternative movie poster with the tagline ‘Pleased To Eat You’ and two beautiful beach Homo sapienses as shark food, complete with an American food label. I am very sure the megashark will not peruse the food label beforehand !

Wednesday/ got the wandering porcupine

The African crested porcupine that I mentioned in a post in May, has been caught, in the Spanaway area (south of the city of Tacoma).
His new home will be the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon.

Here is the Spanaway porcupine enjoying a banana shortly after being caught. The African crested porcupine is the largest species of porcupine in the world and one of the largest rodents in the world.

Tuesday/ the Neanderthals

Here’s an article from Discover magazine, with the latest research about the Neanderthals: an extinct species of humans, that roamed around in ice-age Europe from 120,000 years, up to 35,000 years ago.

Will Homo sapiens still be around even a 1,000 years from now? Homo sapiens means ‘wise human’ .. a misnomer, it seems. Can modern-day humans should stop their wars, and stop destroying Earth?

Monday/ Mount Rainier

I had not been to Mt Rainier ever since I had made Seattle my home, and so Bryan and I made a day trip out there today. We first stopped at the Sunrise Viewpoint to the northeast, and then drove around to the Paradise Viewpoint to the south. From there we hiked up the mountainside for an hour or so, to take a closer look at the mountain.

Mount Rainier is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, and the highest mountain in the state of Washington. Elevation: 14,411′ (4,393 m). Last eruption: 1894.
Glaciers are slowly moving masses or rivers of ice formed by the accumulation and compaction of snow on mountains (or near the poles). The Sunrise Viewpoint is northeast of the mountain, and Paradise Viewpoint to the south.
This is the view of Mt Rainier and its summit, after walking up just a few hundred feet from one of the trails starting at the Sunrise Visitor Center.   This is at 6,400 ft (1,950 m) elevation, the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mt Rainier National Park.
The Alpine style day lodge at Sunrise Visitor Center.
Here is the view of the mountain from the south, from the new Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center (at the Paradise Viewpoint). Elevation here is about 5,400 ft (1,645 m). The trail on the right goes up, up, up to where the brilliant green ends. The trail is very, very steep at its start, even though it does not look like it is. Further up, we found large patches of snow to step onto. With a lot of summer weather remaining, maybe a lot of it will still melt.
A waterfall of melting snow on the rock face on the south side of the mountain. To the north face of the mountain, the Whitewater river springs from Emmons glacier – a milky white river, running very low at this time of year.
This ‘paint by numbers’ view is found looking south, after we had walked up for an hour or so from Paradise Viewpoint. Look for the faint outline of Mount Adams in the distance, top right.
A yellow sub-alpine flower that I don’t know the name of, with a happy bug on it.
Mr Chipmunk saying hello. Chipmunks are small, striped rodents of the family Sciuridae, same as the one that tree squirrels and ground squirrels belong to.  They hibernate in winter, but wake up every few days to feed on stored food (rather than fat reserves).
Another wildflower from the Paradise Viewpoint.  I will have to look for its name online!
Here is the scary part of beautiful Mt Rainier, stratovolcano mountain that it is. A large eruption will result in debris flows (the red), and destructive mudflows called lahar further down (the yellow). It is amazing how far away from the mountain, communities alongside the rivers, and in the valleys, are at risk. The city of Seattle at the very top of the picture will come out OK, it seems (but Seattle has tectonic plates in the Pacific, and the economic fortunes of Amazon to contend with). 

Friday/ squirreling

First thing on summer mornings, I open the kitchen door to let the cool morning air in.
I keep a leery eye on the squirrels that are usually out and about, or on the backyard fence. I doubt they will sneak into the house when I’m not looking .. but you never know.

Mr Squirrel on the fence, all innocent, keeping his eye on me, and contemplating his next move ..
.. which is to hop onto the post, and take a flying leap onto the next section of the fence, and then jump up onto the neighbor’s roof.

Friday/ a T-Rex in the store

I love this near-life size Tyrannosaurus Rex cut-out in the Target department store. The beast with its beady eye is used to flog Jurassic Park DVDs and toy models – as well as the opening of the new Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom movie, today.

The T-Rex was one of the largest land carnivores of all time. The largest complete skeleton (nicknamed ‘Sue‘) was discovered in 1990 in South Dakota, and is now in the Field Museum in Chicago. Sue was 28 yrs old at her death, and roamed around 67-65 million years ago.

Sunday night/ a chubby penguin

I think this is a (chubby) young king penguin. I am sure he is smelling the fish in the bowl, and about to gobble all of it up, just as soon as his handler allows it! [I don’t have the publisher of the picture, or the name of the photographer].
Here is the latest picture I have added to my ‘2018 Animals’ folder for my iPad.

Animals that qualify, have to be ‘cute’ or otherwise ‘interesting’. (Yes, I know: not very scientific, my criteria).

Friday/ a gargantuan chunk of freshwater

Friday night saw almost 3 inches of rainfall in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town.  Still, the Cape Town City Council is said to be entertaining the possibility of towing an iceberg from Antarctica to Cape Town, to further help boost the city’s low water inventory.  Say what? Can that possibly work? was my first reaction.

Well, here are the numbers*. Some 200 billion tons of ice from Antarctica slide into the sea in a typical year – the equivalent of more freshwater than the world uses in a year. Some icebergs float for 5 years in the ocean, and some make it to Gough Island. Such an iceberg could be towed from there, for the roughly 2,700 km (1,700 mi) distance to Cape Town.  The iceberg will be stationed off the coast (Cape Columbine on the west coast is mentioned), and could conceivably deliver 100 megaliter of water every day for a year as it melts.  (About 20% of the city of Cape Town’s needs).  If such a project is can be pulled off successfully, its cost is projected to be less than half the cost of desalinating an equivalent amount of seawater.

*From an article in the Sat Jun 2 issue of ‘Die Burger’ newspaper.

[Maps and information from Wikipedia] Gough Island has a temperate climate between 11 °C (52 °F) and 17 °C (63 °F). It’s about 91 sq km (35 sq mi). In 1995, the island was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to many species of birds, subantarctic fur seals and (unfortunately) house mice, an invasive species brought there by humans. A project underway by the United Kingdom aims to exterminate all of the mice by 2021, though. They kill as many as 600,000 chicks a year on the island.

Tuesday/ mountain lion attack

There was a mountain lion (cougar) attack on two mountain bikers on Saturday morning. Isaac Sederbaum (31) was injured but is OK, but his friend S.J. Brooks (32), tragically, did not survive. Brooks was an avid biker that had moved here from Boston. Before Saturday, 16 cougar attacks, one of which was fatal, had been reported in Washington state during the past century.

These Washington State animal stories made were in the news the last few weeks. 1: The mountain lion attack happened near North Bend. Dept of Fish & Wildlife officials later tracked the mountain lion down and killed it. It tested negative for rabies. 2: A rabid bat bit someone on the finger, at the University of Washington stadium. (If bitten, try to catch the bat & seek medical help immediately). 3: Picture of large crested porcupine on the loose, spotted in Spanaway. No porcupines in North America, so likely a pet no longer wanted & let loose. Still not found. 4: Bald eagle steals rabbit from baby red fox on San Juan Island. Fox was OK after dropping back to the ground. [Picture by Kevin Ebi/]

Sunday/ stop and smell the roses

I walked to Trader Joe’s grocery store late afternoon, the way I do once a month.  I trade dollars at Trader Joe’s (well, electronic units of it) for frozen blueberries that I put in my hot oatmeal in the morning, and for unsweetened vanilla-flavored soy milk, that also goes with it.  Good stuff !

A rose here on 18th Avenue, on my way back from the Trader Joe’s grocery store to my house. It smelled every bit as beautiful as it looks: fragrant and rosy.

Wednesday/ Stellar’s jay

Infographic from  Year-round range map by

I saw this jay sitting on my garage roof this morning, so I ran upstairs and snapped the Mr Jay Bird from my bedroom window. This one is called a Stellar’s jay, named after German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller. (Blue jays are close relatives, but a different species. Their feathers are mid-blues and they have a ‘black necklace’ on their off-white throats).

Saturday/ on Kilauea volcano watch

Kilauea volcano is on the south east of the Big Island.

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted last week, causing lava at 2,200 °F (1,204 °C) to burst through cracks, and into people’s backyards in the Leilani Estates neighborhood on the Big Island.  So far 36 structures, including 26 homes, have been destroyed.

Residents and the Hawaii National Guard are now on standby for a possible evacuation of 2,000 people. The lava level inside the volcano could drop below sea level. Once that happens, water will pour onto the lava, and  generate steam that will likely explode from the summit in a shower or rocks, ash and sulfur dioxide gases.

This photo was taken from a helicopter. A giant fissure eruption releases lava and gas in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on May 6, 2018. [Photo: Bruce Omori—Paradise Helicopters/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock]

Thursday/ that was the high, for now

The day temperature got up to 82 °F (28°C) on Thursday, tying the calendar day record for Seattle set back in 1947.  But now our little Indian summer is over, and we will drop back to 66°F (18°C) on Friday, and even lower over the weekend.

These tulips around the corner of my house make for bright splashes of color. We should all plant more flowers in our gardens, the scientists say: it will help honey bees everywhere to survive. There is still no single proposal for the cause of the collapse of bee colonies, that has gained widespread acceptance in the scientific community.

Wednesday/ Devil’s Tower

The restaurant where my friends and I had our Wednesday beers & a bite, has old car licence plates for the covers of the menus. I was not sure what the rock image on the Wyoming plate was called, and had to look it up.
It’s Devil’s Tower, located in the north-eastern corner of Wyoming.  Geologists still debate exactly how the structure was formed, described as a laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock.  In plain English: an isolated hill with steep sides and a small, relatively flat top, formed by magma pressed into sedimentary layers and then pushed upwards.

Tuesday/ Estero del Yugo

Estero del Yugo is an estuary in the far northern outskirts of the city of Mazatlán.  There is a trail around it that we traversed today. The foliage around the estuary is dry this time of year, and the water level was low.

Even so, we spotted herons, ibises, pelicans and a beautiful pileated woodpecker with its red-crested head.  A single deer across the water made an appearance as well, but we did not see it again, even after we had made it to the other side.

This is a green heron that we spotted today at the estuary – a small heron found in North America and Central America.
This is an American white ibis, found from Virginia via the Gulf Coast of the United States south through most of the coastal New World tropics. Behind the ibis is a black-necked stilt.
Here’s what a large part of the trail around the estuary looks like. That’s a young Mexican giant cardon (elephant cactus) on the right.
A beautiful tree flower that we found on the ground. It may be a from a tree called ‘palo cruz’, but I’m not sure.

3.14 Pi Day/ celebrate Tau, not Pi

These are ‘exhibits’ from Michael Hartl’s Tau manifesto, making the case that Tau is a better constant than Pi. Bottom: One full rotation is one Tau radians (right circle) and 2 Pi radians (left circle)-so Tau is simpler to use. Top Left: Euler’s identity is written more elegantly with Tau (the bottom equation). Top Right: If Tau is used for circular area, the formula looks the same as several other expressions used in physics.

March 14 is Pi* Day, celebrated by math geeks.  But Michael Hartl says we should celebrate ‘Tau Day’ instead, in his Tau manifesto. Tau is an alternative circle constant referred to by the Greek letter τ that equals 2π, or approximately 6.28. (So Tau Day would be June 28).

*Pi is the Greek letter used in math for the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. No matter the size of the circle, this is always the same value (approx. 3.14): a mathematical constant.

One big thing that Tau fixes, is radian angles (see diagram).  It also makes sine and cosine functions simpler, and higher math like integrals in polar coordinates, the Fourier transform, and Cauchy’s integral, simpler.

Postscript: I found this great cartoon tribute to theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking that had passed away on Mar 14.

He once said ‘The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge’.


Monday/ go big or go home

As computing power increases, ever larger prime numbers can be found. [Graphic by the WSJ].
The 50th Mersenne prime* was discovered in December, by Jonathan Pace in Tennessee.  Yay! The gargantuan number is 277,232,917-1 (multiply together 77,232,917 twos and subtract one). The number has more than 23 million digits, and is also written as M77232917.

Alright – as of now, there is no real use for these monster numbers, but modestly large primes are put to good use in computer encryption.

The Great Internet Prime Search foundation will award $150,000 for the discovery of the first prime number with 100 million digits, and $250,000 for the first prime with at least a billion digits.  The search is on!

*Prime numbers are whole numbers that can be divided only by themselves, and by 1.  The number 1 is not considered a prime, but then the primes are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 and so on. Mersenne primes are named for the French monk that studied them some 350 years ago.  They are written in the form 2n -1.  (So 3 is the first Mersenne prime, since it can be expressed as 22 -1). Euclid’s proof shows that there are infinitely many regular primes. We do not know if that is the case for Mersenne primes.