Wednesday/ blue sky, white clouds

The woodpeckers were back this morning. Only a few of the mahonia’s berries remain.
There was a beautiful blue sky and white clouds overhead at 5 this afternoon.
We’ve been lucky thus far this summer here in Seattle: no smoky air from the wildfires.

The northern flicker (Colaptes auratus).

Saturday/ navigating Capitol Hill’s streets at 2 a.m.

Tesla’s highly anticipated beta* version 9 of its Full Self-Driving software is out. This is the version of the software that is called Tesla Vision (camera) only; so it is not using the radar sensor’s input. (I don’t have FSD. I opted out of the FSD functions when I bought my car).

*A version of a piece of software that is made available for testing, typically by a limited number of users outside the company that is developing it, before its general release.

Gali @Gfilche on Twitter took his Model Y for a test drive through the streets on Capitol Hill here in Seattle at 2 a.m. this morning. Here are a few screen shots of a video (on YouTube channel HyperChange) that he posted shortly thereafter.

I know this intersection at East John St & Broadway well. It is always very busy, and even at this time of night there are some cars & pedestrians. The Tesla is about to turn left, and it waited for pedestrians to cross & for the oncoming traffic to turn. Then the light turned yellow, and it was not clear if the Tesla was going to stop or go. The driver intervened and pushed the brake.
[Still from video on HyperChange channel on YouTube, posted on Jul 10]
A closer look at the new look of the FSD Beta v9 interface. The edges of the road are marked in red, the median in yellow and the path of the car in blue. This is the black background for the night view; the day view would be white.
[Still from video on HyperChange channel on YouTube, posted on Jul 10]
It’s 2 a.m. in the morning, and drunk pedestrians are running across the street at this intersection, against the red stop light. The car has the green, but detected them, and slowed down; sped up again when the street was clear.
[Still from video on HyperChange channel on YouTube, posted on Jul 10]
Here are the monorail pillars that divide the two lanes on 5th Ave. This made for a scary moment: the beta version of the software seemed to NOT DETECT the pillars; they were not shown as obstacles in the interface the way they should have been. The car turned on the turn signal to initiate a lane change, at which point the driver intervened and overruled the car. So yes, looks like there are still a few SERIOUS flaws that have to be ironed out in the software.
[Still from video on HyperChange channel on YouTube, posted on Jul 10]

Wednesday/ Washington State ‘reopens’

After 16 months, Washingtonians can again go to a bustling restaurant, sit at the bar, imbibe until as long as liquor licenses allow (usually 2 a.m.) and gather in large groups. If you are vaccinated, you can ditch the mask.

For now, masks are still required in healthcare settings, and on public transit. Employers are allowed to let fully vaccinated employees come to work without a mask— but they are also allowed to require masks for all employees regardless of vaccination status. Masks are still required in schools, childcare and day camps: the vaccine isn’t available to children under age 12, yet.

In King county, more than 70% of residents age 12+ have been vaccinated, but many other counties lag far behind, shockingly so. Despite being two of the four most-populous counties, Pierce and Spokane hover around 45%.

This banner was shown at a celebration rally in Wright Park, Tacoma where Governor Inslee said it was time for businesses to fully reopen. A flag that look like this was added to the flagpole on the Tacoma Dome today, below the big The Stars and Stripes flag.
[Graphic from coronavirus.wa.gov]

Monday/ the climax of the heat wave

A visualization of the heat dome over Pacific Northwest on Monday. The thin white lines are isobars at 250 hPa (isobars are lines that connect points of equal atmospheric pressure). The warm colors represent carbon dioxide surface concentration.
[Image generated with earth.nullschool.net]
‘The most severe heat wave in the history of the Pacific Northwest is near its climax. The National Weather Service had predicted it would be “historic, dangerous, prolonged and unprecedented,” and it is living up to its billing as it rewrites the record books.

On Monday, Portland, Ore., soared to at least 115 degrees (46 °C), the highest temperature in more than 80 years of record-keeping. It marked the third straight day the city had climbed to an all-time high. On Sunday, it hit 112 (44 °C) Sunday after reaching 108 (42 °C) Saturday, both of which broke the previous all-time record of 107 (41.6 °C) .

Seattle was up to at least 107 degrees (41.6 °C) on Monday afternoon, surpassing the all-time record of 104 degrees (40 °C) set Sunday, which had topped the previous mark of 103 (39.4 °C)’.
– Jason Samenow and Ian Livingston, reporting for the online Washington Post on June 28, 2021 at 5:50 p.m. PDT

Day of the Sun/ 104 °F | 40 °C in Seattle

Sunday comes from Old English Sunnandæg, which is derived from a Germanic interpretation of the Latin dies solis (“sun’s day”). Germanic and Norse mythology personify the sun as a goddess named Sunna or Sól.
– From livescience.com


Today’s high of 104 °F | 40 °C at 5.29 pm was the highest ever recorded for Seattle.
Monday will bring an even higher temperature.

Earth’s sun is an ordinary star, one among hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is, however, the only star we can observe ‘up close’. This image of the sun was taken in 2015, captured with NASA’s space-based telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Friday/ it’s Gay Pride weekend

It’s Gay Pride weekend, but there will again be no Pride in downtown Seattle. (The organizers did not know at the outset of 2021 where Washington State and the city of Seattle would find itself come June, in the Covid-19 pandemic).

Honoring Pride Month at the White House on today, President Biden signed a law to designate the site of Pulse, a gay nightclub in Florida where a gunman killed 49 people and wounded dozens in 2016, as the National Pulse Memorial.

Pete Buttigieg, transportation secretary in the Biden administration, was the first openly gay cabinet secretary confirmed by the Senate, earlier this year.

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, joined the Capital Pride parade in Washington on Saturday, June 12. (So how come Washington DC could have a parade, but Seattle could not get it together? I’m not sure why). 
[Photo credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images]

Tuesday/ the heat is coming

This weekend is going to be a scorcher for the Pacific Northwest.
I am among the 40% of Seattle households that do not have air conditioning installed. I do have a unit on wheels, that I will set up again in my bedroom.

Let’s see: that 76 is 24 °C, 79 is 26 °C, 86 is 30 °C, 96 & 97 are 36 °C and 94 is 34 °C. It’s weird how I know how hot a Fahrenheit temperature is, and also, a Celsius temperature*— but I still cannot switch from one to the other in my head, after all these years in the US.
*South Africa switched to the decimal system and to SI Units of measure when I was in elementary school.
[Graphic by the National Weather Service]

Monday/ and now it’s summer

It was the first full day of the astronomical summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
We are just shy of 16 hours of daylight here in Seattle (sunset at 9.11 pm).
It was warm today (89 °F/ 32 °C), but there will be a little respite tomorrow & Wednesday, before the day temperatures go up again.

Daisies that I found on 12th Ave, here on Capitol Hill.

Thursday/ tennis weather

Here in Seattle it was a very pleasant 76 °F (24 °C) today, perfect for our social tennis group’s Thursday night at Lower Woodland Park.

Mild weather was not the case for the southwest of the US, though.
There’s a high-pressure heat dome hovering over southern California, Nevada and Arizona— with scorching day temperatures as a consequence:
125 °F (52 °C) for Death Valley, CA,
114 °F (46 °C) for Las Vegas, NV, and
117 °F (47 °C) for Phoenix, AZ.

The white hot sun of our solar system and the Space Needle, seen from my seat on the RapidRide E Line bus today at 6.00 pm. The bus is on 7th Ave North, and about to merge onto northbound State Route 99 that run by the Woodland Park tennis courts.
The yellow chimneys in the first picture are part of a ventilation structure that allows exhaust fumes from traffic in the SR-99 tunnel to escape high above ground. (Fumes that are no longer in the tunnel, but still polluting the atmosphere, of course). The tunnel opened to traffic on Feb. 4, 2019.

Thursday/ tennis at Amy Yee

I made my way to Amy Yee tennis center again tonight by bus.
It was 5.10 pm and the No 8 bus is notorious for being late, or ‘full’ (half-full, actually: half the seats are still blocked out, in order to create social distance between the passengers).
Plan B was to call for an UberX (cost: $20, quite a bit more than it used to be) if the bus (fare: $2.75) had not worked out.
The bus showed up in good time, though, and had a few open seats left.

Inside the Amy Yee Tennis Center. That’s Court No 5 in the distance, then there’s 5 more indoors, for a total of 10. Outside there are 6 more courts. The tarp ‘door’ pieces for the courts are still removed— so that people don’t accidentally bump into each other. Now and then the tennis balls escape through the opening, of course. And check out the silly little piece of blue tape on the floor warning of a ‘Bump’ (in the floor). Um. It needs to be a LOT bigger!

Wednesday/ beers .. cheers!

It’s Wednesday, and the amigos went to Thai restaurant Jamjuree on 15th Avenue for our beers and a bite.
The restaurant was still empty at 6 pm, but some people did came in for take-outs. A few more tables had diners by the time we left an hour later.

There is new artwork on the wall of the Neumos music & bar venue at 925 East Pike Street. Yes, the restaurants and bars are reopening .. it’s just that in general, the menus offer fewer items, and prices have gone up by a good 20% or so.

Thursday/ vaccine pop-up centers

King county now has 75% of eligible residents (12 yrs & older) vaccinated with at least their first shot, and 63% who have completed their vaccination.  Officials will soon shut down the mass vaccination sites here in Seattle (Lumen Field Event Center, North Seattle College and in West Seattle and Rainier Beach).

The smaller locations, pop-up clinics and even mobile units, will have to get people to come in, and find those that still have not been vaccinated (and convince them to get their shots).

Hmm .. if I had played hardball and waited to get my vaccine, I could have scored a Franz goodie bag with bread and doughnuts! Or even a $100 gift card. (Just kidding. I count my blessings, thankful that I have been able to get my two vaccine shots so easily at the Harborview clinic).

Wednesday/ toasty weather

We had 85 °F (29.5 °C) here in the city today— very warm for early June.
Cooler weather is moving in from the coast, though.

A little artwork across from the sports bar Rookies in Columbia City, where we had our beers tonight. I had to look up who Lindy West. She is a Seattle-born writer, comedian and activist, perhaps best known for her essay collection ‘Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman’ (2016).  She advocates for women to ignore the unrealistic burdens that society can place on them (criticizing their bodies, their appearances, and telling them what to do).

Sunday/ stay away from crowds

Well. Surprise (or not): crowds of people are still trouble, even with Covid-19 now receding in many communities.

There was a large crowd on Alki Beach on Saturday night (there was a meetup invite on TikTok). It did not take long for fights to break out, and a drunk man was seen brandishing a weapon. No one was hurt too seriously, though.
‘All parties declined medical attention and declined to participate in an investigation’, noted a report on the Seattle Police Dept. blotter website.

Alki Beach at sunset on Saturday night, at about 9 pm. The beach was closed soon after, and beachgoers were told to leave the area. [Picture from Seattle Police Dept. Blotter website]

Friday/ a walk along Pine Street

Four weeks had gone by, and this morning it was again time for my little rental car to go back to Hertz, on 8th Avenue in downtown Seattle.
The pictures are from my walk back, along Pine Street, and up to Capitol Hill.

The construction of the Washington State Convention Center expansion can probably pick up its pace, now that the weather is better. Hopefully most of the workers have been vaccinated. The Paramount Theater bill board says ‘May you rest in power -George Floyd- May 25th 2020’.
Today in ‘Model 3 spotting’: a matt black one. The matt black is not paint, but an after-market film wrapped onto the car (cost: about $5,000). This car has chrome trim on the door handles & windows. (Looks like the owner put some black on the door handles). The 2021 Model 3’s have ‘chrome delete’ trim (black trim, no chrome).
The stainless steel cladding on the convention center extension’s east side is coming along. Hopefully, its shine will not be tarnished by the Pacific Northwest weather.
There is new artwork on the Sugar Hill bar’s wall on East Pine Street: a Black Lives Matter organizer’s check list, of sorts. (Cute little doggie at the corner of the building).
The Porter apartment building at 1630 Boylston Avenue was built in 1917. Its style is called ‘Vernacular’: architecture characterized by the use of local materials & knowledge, usually without the supervision of architects (source: Wikipedia). The brick building has an open center bay and terra cotta lintels on the main windows.
The oak trees by Seattle Central College on Broadway have their new leaves. On the left, across the street, is 1812 Broadway, a new 7-story, 133-unit apartment building.
A streetcar on the First Hill line, at the end-of-the-line stop called Broadway & Denny. These are Czech-made, model name Inekon121-Trio. This car has a battery, for ‘off-wire’ operation (a section of the First Hill line has no overhead electrical cables). 

Sunday/ halfway there

I went down to Denny Way and Stewart St to check up on the construction there, this afternoon.
I counted 22 floor slabs for the two apartment towers at 1200 Stewart St. That is just about half of the 45 storeys they will each have at their completion.

The two apartment towers at 1200 Stewart Street sit on a three-story podium. Red Tesla Model 3 on the street below. Nice car :). The tower on the right is 2014 Fairview Avenue, another apartment tower.
Here’s a closer look at the 2014 Fairview Avenue building with the Denny Substation behind me. It will have 42 storeys, and by my count this is it. Its construction has topped out.
Here’s a view after I had walked up along the Denny Way overpass over Interstate 5, from the elevation provided by Bellevue Avenue. It’s amazing that those two towers on the left will still get built up with another 20 floors. Added together, these new buildings will add 3,000 new apartments along Denny Way.

Wednesday/ beers & grub at The Elysian

Yay! We made it back into The Elysian tonight, for the first time in some 15 months. (We had ordered take-out meals from it several times during this period, though).

Ordering beers and food is done by each individual, using a smartphone. The diner zaps the QR code on the card with the phone’s camera (card visible in the middle of the table), pick items from the menu, and pay for it on the phone by credit card, tip included. The wait staff shows up with the items a little bit later.

Will restaurants like The Elysian go back to physical menus in say, 6 months or so? Time will tell. One would assume that they do take orders from patrons that do not have even one smart phone in the group, to place an order with. (Aliens from Mars?).

Cheers! Three amigos at The Elysian. My beer is an Elysian Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale (6.4% ABV). Indoor dining in King County is allowed at 50% capacity, but it seemed to me that not even 25% of the seats were occupied.

Monday/ around South Lake Union

Here are pictures from Sunday, from my walk around South Lake Union.

Out of the big hole that there once had been, a big building is rising. I was snapping the Washington State Convention Center’s expansion, seen here from the corner of Howell St and 9th Ave, when this Tesla Model 3 drove into my picture.
Walking by Spruce Street School‘s brick building on Virgina Avenue, on the way to South Lake Union. The private school educates kids from kindergarten, through fifth grade ($28,650 per year per student).
Here’s the Cornish College of the Arts (brown building), getting squeezed by new 44-storey glass-and-steel apartment towers on two sides, but still holding its own. The building was designed by architect Sonke Englehart Sonnichsen in the traditional Norwegian style. Constructed in 1915, it was used for Seattle’s Norwegian cultural and fraternal organizations until 1948. It hosted the City Beat disco club from 1974, which became Boren Street Disco. In the late 80’s it became the home of The Timberline: a country western & mainly gay dance club, renowned for its 25c beers, free peanuts (with shells thrown on the floor), Wednesday lube wrestling tournaments, country line dancing, and its Sunday Tea Dance. Sadly, the Timberline closed in 2003. (Information from seattlebars.org).
A sign at the corner of Denny Way and Fairview Avenue. There is construction all around, and it will go on for at least two more years.
Here is the 2014 Fairview Avenue apartment tower, a 42-story structure with its languid ‘S’ corner line, offering 437 apartment units and retail space at ground level. It’s a far cry from the little Denny Square strip mall and dry-cleaning joint that had been demolished to make room for it.
I spliced together two pictures to catch all of the S E A T T L E   T I M E S lettering. This used to be a 3-story building, occupied by the Seattle Times newspaper from 1931 to 2011. All that remains is the façade. Two office towers (16-story and 18-story) are to be constructed here, but the work has not yet started in earnest.
A cluster of parking instructions. You have to pay, and the assumption is that you have a smartphone to do it with. There are no parking meters! Better to just catch public transport, or your Uber or Lyft ride right here.
Here’s another brick building with a long history. Now called Amazon Van Vorst (it’s at 426 Terry Ave N), it was built in 1909 for the Club Stables, and had room for 250 horses. The building was then a furniture outlet, a transfer & storage facility, and from 1941-74, it housed the C. B. Van Vorst mattress factory. Then it sat empty for two decades, before it was declared a City of Seattle Landmark. (Information from HistoryLink).
Here’s the minimalist lobby of the Moxy Seattle Downtown budget hotel. ‘Nice to See You’ says the floormat, and ‘There is Nowhere to Go but Everywhere’, proclaims the artwork on the wall. (Well. Maybe in 2023, but not just yet).
All right. Finally I arrive at my intended destination, the new-ish building called Google Valley, the tech giant’s new Seattle offices, on the shore of Lake Union.
The view from Terry Avenue. Look for a reflection of the Space Needle in one of the window panes, and for a white image of The Bugdroid, also called Andy, the mascot of the Google Android smartphone operating system.
The entire lobby wall of the Helm apartment complex in the same building is decked out with traffic mirrors.
And another one, put to real use to see oncoming traffic on Mercer Ave, at a construction site. (And put to use by me for a selfie picture).
Making my way back now to where I parked my car, and walking by the Tesla dealership on Westlake Avenue. This all-black Model Y is getting a trickle charge from a regular 110 V wall outlet. It’s only getting 3 or 4 miles per hour added to its battery, but that’s OK. It might be all it needs for the test drives it is used for by potential buyers.
Once upon a time some 15 years ago, I had Firestone tires put on my Toyota Camry in this old Firestone Auto Supply and Service Building from 1929. The 2-story building’s outer walls, with their distinctive Art Deco style, are kept, but not much else. A 15-story office building will be constructed on the inside.
Here’s the courtyard between the Amazon Houdini North and Houdini South buildings. There’s an Amazon Go store tucked into the corner (the store where you check in with your Amazon app, walk around and put what you want in your basket, and walk out the door. You still pay 🙂 – the store knows what you had taken.
Looking up, in the courtyard.
The Houdini buildings are located on the site of the 1929 Troy Laundry Building. The brick façade of the old building is still there, showcasing a few items in the entrance lobby off Fairview Ave North.
A peek into a ground floor meeting room from the lobby. I guess those chairs around the table are waiting patiently for squabbling, animated humans to come back. A Zoom meeting is a poor substitute for a rowdy in-the-flesh conference room meeting, no?
Nice turquoise colors on the outdoor seating area for El Grito Taqueria. Hopefully the restaurants and eateries can hang on for just a little longer.
And here are the two apartment towers at 1120 Denny Way (41 stories each) that are now nearing completion. It is the city’s largest-ever apartment building, with a total of 1,179 apartments.

Friday/ State Route 20 now open

SR 20 is the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington State.

 

State Route 20, commonly referred to as the North Cascades Highway, opened for traffic on Wednesday.

Crews removing the last stretches of remaining snow on the road surface. [Pictures tweeted on Tuesday by WSDOT East @WSDOT_East on Twitter]. 

Thursday/ the Xanadu 2.0 palace

Huis,
Paleis,
Pondok,
Varkhok.
(‘House, Palace, Cottage, Pigsty’).
– Afrikaans children’s rhyme, used to determine the ‘elegance’ of the house that your family lived in. Point to the top button of your shirt, and say ‘House’; the next button down is ‘Palace’; the next one down is ‘Cottage’, and so on, until you reach the bottom button. (Start again with ‘House’ if your shirt has more than four buttons). The bottom button says what your house is.


Now that the Gateses are divorcing, commentators are wondering what will happen to their sprawling $130 million estate on the shore of Lake Washington.  Back in the mid-90’s when construction started, it was dubbed Xanadu 2.0.  Xanadu is a reference to the lavish property that belongs to the tycoon character in the 1941 film ‘Citizen Kane’. The 2.0 refers to a next version iteration, such as Windows 3.0.

An intern was allowed to blog about the property in 2007, here. (Quote: ‘Going down Bill’s driveway is like arriving at Jurassic Park’).

Melinda Gates has reportedly bought a property of $1.2 million here in Capitol Hill, just three weeks ago. The reporter called it a ‘cottage’.

The Gates family home, on the banks of Seattle’s Lake Washington, in a photo from 2001. The floorspace comes to 66,000 sq ft and nowadays, racks up a yearly property tax bill of more than US$1 million. [Credit: Dan Callister/Newsmakers, via Getty Images]
I did a Google Earth flyover of the Lake Washington shoreline, and here is what an aerial view looks like today (middle of the picture). The trees and shrubs have gotten much bigger — obscuring the property from curious eyes, peering at it from Lake Washington, even more.