Sunday/ trying to peer into the future

‘Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.’—Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher


To help keep my sense of time and seasons intact, I drew up a little timeline of the 9 months that still stretch ahead of Seattle and the world in 2020.
Major sport events in the world have now been cancelled through July (including Wimbledon tennis at the famous ‘All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club’, and the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics).

After that – well, we just don’t know right now.

Sure looks like it’s going to be remote learning for Seattle schools through June, and NO proms, NO high school graduation ceremonies. Confirmed: NO 2020 Opening Day for Seattle Yacht Club. I don’t think there will be a 2020 Seattle Pride Parade (late June), nor 4th of July fireworks gatherings. Seafair Weekend is the end of July .. not yet cancelled. Will kids go back to school on Sep. 2? Don’t know yet. The 2020 NFL season is slated to start Sept. 10, and insiders are said to be ‘skeptical’ of that start date. And by then Thanksgiving and Christmas loom.

Saturday Night Out: Cancelled

The streets were very quiet, late afternoon around Capitol Hill’s so-called Pike & Pine corridor — where all the bars and restaurants are. None of these establishments are open, of course.

Doors are closed; none of the usual crowding outside the Comet Tavern at 922 East Pike, and no cars on the streets.
The Oddfellows Café + Bar on 10th Ave in Capitol Hill, not only closed, but all boarded up, as for a hurricane.  ‘Can’t Wait to See You Again!’ and ‘Stand Six Steps Back And Promise You Love Me’, says the artwork on the boards. The Oddfellows Hall building was completed in 1908.

Friday/ tulips and the Dutch Golden Age

Tulips were coveted in the late 1500s in Europe, for their saturated, intense petal color — that no other cultivated plant had at the time.

At the height of Tulip Mania in the Dutch Golden Age (February of 1637),  tulip bulbs sold for some 10,000 guilders: enough money to buy a mansion on the Amsterdam Grand Canal.
The market for tulip bulbs collapsed soon after that.

There is no Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley north of Seattle this year, but a few can be seen here & there in gardens in my neighborhood. I found this beauty a block down from my house.

Friday/ sheltering in place

It has been beautiful outside this week, so I went for a few walks around the block a few times — but definitely avoiding people on the sidewalk. Yes, I’m steering clear of you. Don’t care if you are offended .. it’s good for both of us.

I find going to the grocery store harrowing*, and maybe I will get supplies for a whole month with my next trip.
Of course: I can always order from Amazon or even online, from the grocery store, as well.

*The last time I went, there was a woman with a persistent, bad cough in the store. So you absolutely had to come into the store? I thought.

It’s early days, but the number of positive tests on this dashboard from the University of Washington, looks promising. (The number of positive cases is stable and not increasing rapidly).

It’s only Wednesday

• WHO declares COVID-19 disease a pandemic (at last)
• Seattle district schools closed for two weeks, as are gatherings of 250+ people, or smaller – if people are going to be ‘packed in like sardines’
• Italy closed for business (except drug stores & grocery stores)
• Stock market falls further; Boeing stock slumps a stunning 18% just today
• NBA league games cancelled, nationwide
• St Patrick Day’s parades cancelled in Boston & NYC
• Crowds at political rallies cancelled
• Stock market falls further; Boeing stock slumps a stunning 18% just today
• Late Wednesday, Trump read something from the teleprompter in the Oval Office that bans foreigners arriving from Europe for 30 days, excluding the UK

My friends and I debated if we should go out for our Wednesday night beers. In the end we said: let’s go eat, drink and be merry.
Who knows what tomorrow, next week and next month will bring?

Tuesday/ numbers that grow exponentially

‘If you do the math, it gets very disturbing’, said Inslee. ‘In 7 to 8 weeks, there could be 64,000 people infected in the State of Washington if we don’t somehow slow down this epidemic. And the next week, it’s 120,000 — and the next week, it’d be a quarter of a million’.
– Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, Tue. Mar 10, 2020.


Washington State Governor Jay Inslee will announce tomorrow that all gatherings of more than 250 people, are banned in the Seattle metro area. The current coronavirus numbers may seem small: a total of 267 infections in Washington State (24 deaths).

The trouble is —
1. the real number might be a lot bigger, and
2. if left unchecked, infected persons can each infect between 2 and 3 others, making for exponential growth in the number of infections.

Check out the graph below: my own rough calculation starting with the 267, and repeatedly multiplying by 2.5 each week.  We know know that an infected person will typically start to show symptoms some 5-6 days after exposure.

For this graph I assumed a starting number of 267, and that the number grows by 2.5x every week. It shows that 267 becomes 670 after a week, then 1,700. It takes a shockingly short time to get to 10,000 from there, and then only 3 weeks to 100,000+.

Monday/ ‘No Bears Allowed’

I walked by the newly completed The Point apartments at 1320 University Street in the First Hill neighborhood today.

‘No Bears Allowed’, says the website of their pet policy. May we add: no bears allowed into the US stock market, as well. (Dow Jones down 3.6% today).

The architect had to squeeze the building into a triangular ‘flatiron’ shape. Those apartments on the narrow end have a great 270° view onto the streets below. Upper floor residents should be able to see a lot of the First Hill and Seattle downtown surroundings.
A poured concrete beam at the base of the apartments. The building has 11 one bed-one bath apartments, and 6 two bed-two bath apartments. These apartments are pricey: a one bedroom goes for $2,550/ month.  In late January, the parliament of the Berlin city-state in Germany, approved a five-year freeze on rents and a price cap of €9.80 per square meter — or about $1 per square foot. Seattle’s metro area is way, way (2x, 3x) beyond that kind of rate with these new apartments that come online.

Sunday/ billionaires under siege

The US still has by far the most billionaires in the world (585, compared to China: 373, Germany: 123, Denmark: 6, South Africa: 6, if Elon Musk is counted in that 6).

So are billionaires to blame for income inequality? Are they, indirectly so? How does one stop a country’s economy from producing billionaires? (Probably something like a marginal tax rate of 90% above $5 million of annual income).

Anand Giridharadas (political commentator, TIME Editor at large), says this 2020 Presidential election in the United States will be a referendum on wealth and capitalism, that has gotten a little out of control/ completely out of control, in the United States of America.

My first reaction to the street sign graffiti sticker of Jeff Bezos (sticker from here in Capitol Hill in Seattle), asking ‘How many homeless people does it take to make a billionaire?’ (ugly Old English font, BTW) was .. um, that sounds like an extreme stretch of logic; a gross oversimplification of the problem of homelessness. But then I saw this statement made about San Francisco: “There are 101 homeless people per billionaire. The idea that such a problem could persist in a city with 74 billionaires is astonishing.” – Andrew Yang & Anand Giridharadas in a discussion posted by @UBI Rising on Twitter. They may have a point there.

Friday/ signs of spring

These little crocus flowers are harbingers of spring, now around the corner here in the North.

Crocus is a genus of flowering plants in the iris family of some 90 species. They grow out in early spring from corms: short, vertical, swollen underground plant stems, somewhat similar to bulbs.

Wednesday/ the Volunteer Park Water Tower

It was another beautiful day here in Seattle.
I wanted to get a clear view of Mt Rainier, and the observation deck of the Water Tower here in Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill was a good place to go to get that. And hey, no entry fee: it’s free of charge.

The Water Tower in Volunteer Park was built in 1906 and is 75 ft (23 m) tall.
A Maurits Escher-esque illusion: does this staircase inside the Tower go up, or down? (It goes down).
The observation deck inside allows for 360 degree views. The sun was low on the horizon right by the Space Needle, though, and so I will have to go back in the morning some time, to take a nice Space Needle picture.

 

Ta-da! The Mountain* is completely out, a cloudless blue sky above it.
*Mt Rainier, a Strato-volcano mountain in the Cascade Range | Elevation 14,411 ft (4,392 m) | Last eruption: 1894.
This is the entrance/ exit facing Prospect St. MCMVI, says the Roman numerals: 1906. The brown signpost on the right says ‘Climbing Prohibited’. So that must mean that rock climbers have tried to scale the uneven outer brick wall with its toeholds and finger holds!

Tuesday/ lots of sunshine

There was sun and blue sky all day here in the Emerald City.
Even so, it was only 47 °F (8° C).

As I walked down to the Capitol Hill Library today, though, bright sunlight would bounce off windows from the buildings nearby and onto me, and I instantly felt the radiated heat on my face.

The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope has produced the highest resolution image of the sun’s surface ever taken. In this picture, taken at 789 nanometers (nm) wavelength, we can see features as small as 30 km (18 mi) in size for the first time ever. The image shows a pattern of turbulent, “boiling” gas that covers the entire sun. The cell-like structures — each about the size of Texas — are the signature of violent motions that transport heat from the inside of the sun to its surface. Hot solar material (plasma) rises in the bright centers of “cells,” cools off and then sinks below the surface in dark lanes in a process known as convection. In these dark lanes we can also see the tiny, bright markers of magnetic fields. Never before seen to this clarity, these bright specks are thought to channel energy up into the outer layers of the solar atmosphere called the corona. These bright spots may be at the core of why the solar corona is more than a million degrees. [Photograph: Highest resolution photo of Sun (NSF) as of January 20, 2020 NSO/AURA/NSF]

Monday/ Bernie in Washington State

I followed some of Bernie Sanders’s stump speech that he gave in the Tacoma Dome tonight. A seasoned campaigner, he has it down pat, of course: denouncing income and wealth inequality, the corporate owners of the media, and advocating for free healthcare, college education, and so on. 

‘And by now, the Democratic establishment should be getting nervous as well’, he also said. (I think they are very nervous. I like most of what he says, but I’m kind of nervous as well). As he left the stage, Neil Young’s ‘Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World (1989)‘ played.

The Wikipedia entry for the song explains its background: ‘The lyrics negatively reference the George H. W. Bush administration, then in its first month, quoting Bush’s famous ‘thousand points of light’ remark from his 1989 inaugural address and his 1988 presidential campaign promise for America to become a ‘kinder, gentler nation.’ The song also refers to Ayatollah Khomeini’s proclamation that the United States was the ‘Great Satan’ and Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign slogan, ‘Keep hope alive’. The song was first performed live on February 21, 1989, in Seattle with The Restless, without the band having rehearsed it’.

Saturday/ Macy’s storied run in Seattle ends

Department store Macy’s will close some 125 of its 600 stores over the next three years, and the one in downtown Seattle is among those.
I went there just to check it out the store one last time last week, and lucked out. They sold my favorite type of Levi’s jeans for a 40% discount, and still had one in my size.

Plaque inside the Seattle downtown Macy’s. Josephine Patricia Brennan was born in Chicago in 1871 and married Edward L. Nordhoff in 1888, at age 16. The couple moved to Seattle and opened the dry goods store that became The Bon Marche (French for ‘The good market’). Their store survived the economic depression of the early 1890s and boomed with the gold rush at the end of the decade. Mrs. Nordhoff remarried and remained active in the management of the store after the death of her first husband. The Bon Marche later became Bon-Macy’s and then just Macy’s. Josephine McDermott passed away 100 years ago this month.
This is a liquidation sale: everything must go, and at whatever they can sell it for. Many items were 60% off, and another 10% on top of that, in some cases.
Even the mannequins and shelves are for sale. Mannequin is of course a French word, but the origin of the word is Flemish, from ‘manneken’, meaning ‘little man’, or ‘figurine’.

Sunday/ Denny Way’s new apartment towers

I went down to check out the construction at 1120 Denny Way this afternoon – a complex with a large footprint, and two apartment towers.

At its completion it will be the biggest apartment building in the history of the city with 1,179 apartments.

I was standing at the corner of Denny Way and Boren Ave N when I took this picture. That’s a 12-story luxury hotel in the middle, with the two 41-story towers on its sides.
Here’s a picture from a nearby crane cam, that shows the proximity of Lake Union. Apartments in those top floors will have killer views, but it could come at a price. I suspect that elevator rides up and down from the top floors could easily take 10 to 15 minutes during busy times in the day. Hopefully the elevator design called for dedicated elevators for say, each section of 10 floors. [Picture found on skyscapercity.com, originally posted on Flickr on Jan31 by an anonymous user called Test_Name].

Friday/ wash your hands, frequently

Wow .. the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is making a lot of trouble in mainland China, and especially in Hubei province. The whistleblower doctor that sounded the alarm originally, Li Wenliang, has passed away in Wuhan. He was only 34.

The local authorities in Wuhan have bumped up the number of new makeshift hospital beds from 26,000 to 36,000. More people have also tested positive in that cruise ship under quarantine in Yokohama, Japan. There is a severe shortage of facemasks in China (the cheap ones are not very effective, but I guess it gives the wearer a psychological boost).

So far – outside of China – the spread of the virus seems to be contained, though. Even so, courtesy of the Port of Seattle website .. 

  • Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick, and stay home when sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid non-essential travel to China.
  • Check-in with your airline if you have questions about your travel itinerary.
  • While not protective against the coronavirus, it’s not too late to get an influenza vaccine, since flu season can last into spring.
Guidelines from the CDC from Americans coming home from China (14 days of self quarantine). Non-citizens will be quarantined for 14 days. Seattle-Tacoma airport has identified a site (a firefighter training center in North Bend, far from any neighborhoods) for asymptomatic foreigners that might still arrive from China. The travel industry and hospitality industry along with all economic activity in China is taking a serious hit from the virus.

Saturday/ pink and blue street cars

The rain let up a little today, but some cold air moved in from the Pacific, pushing temperatures down again into the mid-40s (6° C).

Thank heavens for the rainbow crosswalks, and the blue and pink street cars, I thought, as I walked along Broadway today. They bring some color — to counter the gray skies and sidewalks.

Thursday/ the river in the sky

A break in the rain in January here in Seattle, means you have to jump at it, and go for a walk. We had an even rainier-than-usual start to the year here, with 8.04 in so far at Seatac Airport. The average for Jan. is 5.2 in.

It’s not over yet, for January rain! Another inch or two will get added to the rain totals for some places with an ‘atmospheric river’ moving in. (A little dramatic, that description, no?).  I guess it will help to alert people in flood-prone places to be on the lookout. There is a lot of snow on higher elevations that can melt with the rain and make trouble. [Meteorologist Jordan Steele on King5 TV].

Sunday/ raindrops keep falling on my head

I cut my walkabout in downtown Seattle short today when big raindrops started to come down again.
It was 52 °F/ 11 °C with blue skies when I started out, but grey rain clouds soon swept in from the Pacific.

It was still clear by the time I had walked down to the Capitol Hill train station, with its brand new apartment buildings ..
.. but by 4.20 pm the rain had arrived. This is the view looking towards West Seattle across Elliott Bay, from the top deck at Pike Place market. That’s the MV Kitsap ferry on the left (built in 1980), setting out for Bremerton. The one approaching in the distance is probably coming in from Bainbridge Island. (Ferry traffic was down for the first time in 7 years in 2019, by 3% from 2018. Officials note that the severe winter weather in Feb. 2018, as well as the construction of the new terminal at Colman dock, are probably the main reasons for the decline).

Wednesday/ gangsters in downtown Seattle

A gangster-style shooting altercation in downtown Seattle, just at the close of the working day, left one dead and 7 people wounded — and the perpetrators are still on the loose. Terrible.

My friends and I did not let that deter us from venturing out for our Wednesday night beer and bite, though.

My friends and I were about to walk down to 12th Ave to our Wednesday night watering hole for a beer and a bite when news of the shooting broke. We watched the TV reporting for 15 minutes or so, and decided it was safe to go. The Irish pub ‘The Chieftain’ had beer for us, but no food! The kitchen’s cook had not made it in for some reason. So after a beer, we went to a wood-fired pizza parlor called Southpaw, nearby.

Sunday/ more Convention Center space

Here’s a peek over the fence at the construction site for the Washington State Convention Center expansion, on the edge of Seattle downtown.

The steel columns and rafters that will create the cavernous spaces for the $1.8 billion Washington State Convention Center addition are starting to rise. The extension will be called ‘The Summit’ and open in 2022 for business. It is expected to bring in some $200 million a year from out of state, and is said to already have bookings for events as far out as 2026.
Here is what the completed city block on Olive Way will look like. The structure will be 6 stories tall, with retail on the ground floor, a ball room, and an exhibition hall of 150,000 sq ft. The structure was designed by LMN Architects. They did the design of the University of Washington light rail station, as well as the Museum of History and Industry in South Lake Union. [Image: Courtesy of LMN Architects].