Friday/ the new shingles vaccine

I got my first of two shots, of a new shingles vaccine called Shingrix, yesterday.  My left shoulder was sore for a good day or so. I thought o-ouch! every time I lifted up my arm, but I am much better today.

The vaccine is effective, and strongly recommended for everyone over 50. Shingles can be a debilitating affliction with long-term consequences. This new vaccine has an adjuvant (agent) that will boost the body’s response to it, and it does not contain the live virus – just parts of the dead virus.

Canadian poster explaining shingles and its complications. Some resources say an estimated 1 million Americans get shingles every year, although my doctor says that estimate may be somewhat overstated.

Thursday/ Space Needle ‘spacelift’: almost done

The Space Needle’s $100 million renovation project is coming to a close. Crews have started to remove the covers on the top. The paneling that is obscuring the rotating glass floor will be removed over the next four weeks as well.

The top of the Space Needle on Thursday night at dusk. The new glass panel installation at the top is visible now, but the side scaffolding and bottom panels are still obscuring the rest.

Update Fri 5/18:  All the construction wrap was removed by Friday morning.

All the construction wrap was removed during Thursday night, revealing parts of the remodeled structure. [Picture tweeted by ‘Do206’].

Tuesday/ lots of daylight

We hit 85°F (29°C) on Sunday – but now we are back to normal May temperatures of around 68°F (20°C).  It’s great to have daylight left after dinner (sunset is at 8.40 pm).  That way I can escape from my house and the relentlessly bad Trump Administration news on cable TV. (Yes, I know: I should just turn it off).

I found this spectacular purple bearded iris a few blocks from my house, on my after-dinner walk today. Irises take their name from the Greek word for a rainbow, which is also the name for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris.

Monday/ Seattle’s new ‘head’ tax

The Seattle City Council passed a controversial ‘head’ tax on large businesses in the city today (a tax per employee, instead of a payroll tax).  The tax is about half of the original proposed amount, and will sunset in 2024. It is meant to address homelessness and affordable housing.

The Downtown Seattle Association (business association) does not support it, though*, and Amazon is still not happy about it, either.  However, Amazon will resume construction on a building that it had halted, to protest the much larger head tax that was originally proposed.

*Nor do residents, with only 38% in support of the tax, per a poll by a local TV station.  Critics – and Amazon – point out that the City of Seattle revenues have grown dramatically from $2.8 billion in 2010 to $4.2 billion in 2017, and will be even higher in 2018. Why is this not enough?

Here’s the scene at the Amazon biospheres when I walked by there late on Sunday. On the left is the tower called ‘Block 20’, part of the downtown Amazon headquarters complex. Its construction now up to about 20 floors. It will be 37 floors tall when done. (This is not the building on which construction was stopped because of the head tax).

Wednesday night beers

We went down to sports bar Rookies in Columbia City for beers tonight. It is one of our regular watering holes.

We drove by Kim’s Tae Kwon Do training studio on Rainier Avenue. Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art, with an emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks. Check out the chameleon-and-doggie bike rack in the foreground.  P.S. Good news from North Korea is that three detained Korean Americans have been released by North Korea just as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived there to plan the summit of Kim Jong Un with President Trump.

Sunday/ construction in South Lake Union

My walkabout today was in South Lake Union, the area next to Seattle’s downtown that is a booming hub for Amazon, Google and the biotech industry.  The new Denny Substation and duct banks under the streets (for power distribution) are scheduled for completion in late summer.

Main picture: An artistic rendition of the completed Denny Substation. (The glass panels and facets on the perimeter will make it look like a museum – or a Frank Gehry creation – from the outside). Inset: I took this picture of main entrance gate at the back, today.
The colorful Chroma SLU apartments on Harrison St are brand new. A small one bedroom goes for $1,700 a month, and the two bedrooms for $3,300. Yes, the real estate is expensive, and the developer wants his money back – and then some.
Here is one of two new Google office blocks taking shape, on Mercer St. The six floors of seagreen will be the offices, and the additional eight floors on top will be apartments. (Live there and work downstairs at Google? Hmm -no. Definitely too close for comfort/ why not just sleep under your Google desk, then?). That’s Lake Union in the background.
The Saint Spiridon church building on Yale Ave is holding its own among all the construction. It was built in 1941 in the traditional Russian Church style, and resembles churches in northern Russia.

Friday/ back to the city

We made our way back to the city on Friday morning.  It was cooler and cloudy again today (64°F18°C), but there is no rain in the forecast for the weekend.

Here is a beautiful pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) that made a stop on a dead tree right by Paul’s house in Hansville. These are among the largest woodpeckers in North America – about as large as a crow – with black and white stripes on the face, and bright red, pointy crests.  We did not spot this one’s mate (they are usually found in pairs).
Looking back, after we had left Bainbridge Island about 10 minutes earlier. The other ferry for the Seattle-Bainbridge Island crossing is already well on its way there (in the background).
And here is the downtown Seattle skyline, coming into view as we approach it. Amazon has stopped construction on one of its new downtown towers – protesting a new business tax (a ‘head tax’) that the Seattle City Council has proposed.

Thursday/ Fort Flagler State Park

We drove out to  Fort Flagler State Park today. We walked from the lighthouse at Marrowstone Point a mile or two all along the beach, and made our way back on a trail through the woods.

It’s about an hour’s drive from Hansville to Marrowstone Point. The picture shows the lighthouse buildings and beach.
These are  one of several remnants of World War I bunkers dotted around Fort Flagler. The round pads used to have air defense cannons when it was an Coast Artillery Fort. The started operating in 1899, and was closed in 1953.  It is a 750-acre park today.
This is a Great Blue Heron that we spotted in the water, the largest of the North American herons. It has long legs, a sinuous neck, and a thick, dagger-like bill.
Back at Hansville, there was a ballistic missile submarine with its escort ships (with cannons on) making its way into the Naval Base Kitsap at Bremerton. I don’t know which one of the dozen or so submarines at the Base, this one is. Those sailors on the sub must be happy to be out in the fresh air and sun!

Wednesday/ tracking the North Star

Bryan and I took the ferry to Bainbridge Island today, to visit our friend Paul on the Kitsap Peninsula to the north.  The ferry passed by a container ship called the North Star, from the TOTE Maritime Alaska company.  The ship provides twice weekly shipments to Alaska, from the Port of Tacoma.

Here is the view as we approached Bainbridge Island, with the big container ship North Star passing in front of us. The containers are just visible, and are not stacked on top of each other. They are on trucks that were then driven onto the ship.
We spotted the North Star just across from the bubble on the map that says ‘Seattle’. The details and route of the North Star are from It showed that the vessel arrived in Tacoma at 1.24 pm today. She was built in 2003 can do a maximum of 24 knots.

Sunday/ ‘Clipper Round the World’ bids Seattle good-bye

Cruise ship season is starting up here in Seattle. We saw the Norwegian Pearl from Norwegian Cruise Lines at the pier today.  She was scheduled to leave at 4 pm.

Also departing Seattle, were a line-up of yachts taking part in the Clipper Round the World race.  The yachts are heading out to Panama, and will make their way up the East Coast to New York.  It will take an estimated 26 days to reach Panama, and another 12 to get to New York City from there. Bon voyage!

The Clipper Round the World route: Leg 1 (33 days)– Liverpool, UK > Punta Del Este, Uruguay | Leg 2 (18 days) Punta Del Este> Cape Town, South Africa | Leg 3 (23 days) Cape Town > Fremantle, Australia | Leg 4 (28 Days) Fremantle > Hobart > Sydney > Whitsundays (Australia) | Leg 5 (37 days) Whitsundays > Sanya, China > Qingdao, China | Leg 6 (33 days) Qingdao > Seattle, USA | Leg 7 (38 days) Seattle > Panama Canal > New York City
Here are the yachts in the ‘Parade of Sail’, leaving the Port of Seattle’s Bell Harbor Marina. After a week in its home city, the Visit Seattle team had the honor of leading the Parade, with the boats showing off their team colours. This farewell celebration included a water cannon guard of honour by the Seattle Fire Department, just visible in the distance on the left with its water cannons spraying water.

Monday/ it’s warming up

It was a beautiful Monday here in Seattle, and there is more sunshine ahead in the next few days, say the meteorologists.

This picture is from Sunday afternoon (quiet in downtown). New bike lanes are still getting added; this one runs along 7th Ave. The new white building that is reflected off the glass of the US District Court Building, is the new Hyatt Regency Seattle. It will have 45 floors and 1,260 rooms, making it the city’s largest hotel.

It’s Friday 4/20

Today marked the annual, unofficial international pot smoking day. (April 20 is written as 4/20 here in the States. 420 in all its forms, is code for smoking pot).

And where did the use of 420 (say ‘four-twenty’) come from? The term was coined in 1971 by a group of five San Rafael High School friends known as the Waldos, by virtue of their meeting time of 4:20 pm to smoke pot.  Not long after that, 420 became a general code word for smoking pot.

Recreational pot is legal on the West Coast and a handful of other states (9 total).  In 30 more states, it is only legal for medical use, and in 16 more states only the marijuana-derived compound cannabidiol (CBD) is legal. CBD appears to be helpful for many health conditions, including epilepsy, anxiety, chronic pain, and more. [Source: CNN Money]
This is the Uncle Ike’s (cannabis store) here on Capitol Hill, just two blocks from my house. ‘Score at the front door’ says the sign at the top left. They do a good job of keeping it tidy around the store, nice bike racks and all. (No, I have not been in there to sample their products!).


Tuesday/ blue sky and .. ‘U SUCK’

An electronic signboard here on highway I-5 showed displayed a cheeky (rude?) ‘U SUCK’ message for some time today. Was it real? Yes, because Washington State DOT later tweeted ‘This was an inappropriate message and we apologize if anyone was offended. This was due to a training error and clearly a mistake. We are taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again’.

People did not seem too offended. Here are some snarky comments posted on Reddit –

  • It’s part of WSDOT’s new initiative to reduce traffic. The idea is to insult people who drive so they are more likely to take other forms of transportation.
  • It’s kind of like congestion pricing, but with emotions instead of money.
  • No, you are right WSDOT, I do suck and I am sorry for that.
  • Amateur hour. You have to try harder to insult me .. no really, try harder. Please.
A Reddit user called BruceInc posted this dashcam picture of the electronic signboard by the Sea-Tac Airport exit today. (And yes: there was that much blue sky today, after many days of clouds and rain).

Sunday/ this mall is not dead

It was the last day of spring break for public schools here, and the Westfield Southcenter mall here in the Seattle area was packed with visitors today.  It’s a great mall, and I’m sure it will survive the mall armageddon that all the experts predict, with Amazon and all.
I bought some clothes, and while I was there I checked in on the Toys-R-Us store, to see if their Lego blocks were on sale.  Not really: the stock was still only marked down 5%. So they are trying hard to get as much as they can from liquidating the inventory.

Look! I made a friend at the Toys-R-Us store. (Watch out for those teeth, though. He goes by T. Rex and his live ancestors roamed on Earth some 80 million – 66 million years ago).

Sunday/ cherry blossoms

Spring is in full bloom here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the cherry blossoms are all out – here in the United States, and also in Japan and China.

Here is the University of Washington campus today, with some of its cherry trees and their blossoms ..
.. and I picked up this Camellia flower (I think it’s a Camellia) with its pink tints and flecks, on the sidewalk today. It still amazes me, the detail that smartphone cameras can capture these days.

Rainy Saturday

It rained steadily this morning, but cleared up enough later so that I could make my way down to the Capitol Hill public library.  At the corner of Broadway and Thomas, I spotted this guy: big 3-0 balloons in one hand, and a cake box in the other. He was surely on his way to the party for the birthday boy or gal that was turning 30.  I remember how I had thought my life was over, when I turned 30. Well, live and learn. I now say: it’s not over until it is over.  

Wednesday/ chieftains and Kings

It was Wednesday, and so my friends and I went for a beer and a bite at one of our regular watering holes, The Chieftain.
Also: today marked the 50th anniversary of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Irish pub ‘The Chieftain’ on 12th Avenue. A chieftain is the leader of a people or a clan.
Dr Martin Luther King mural near 15th Ave and Madison. In 2005 King County (home to Seattle), was named after Dr King. From way back in 1852 up to 2005, King County was named for a different King: Alabama resident William Rufus King that was subsequently elected Vice President in 1853. Only 6 weeks after later, though, he passed away.

Monday/ all clear after the storm

It was a brisk 44°F/ 6 °C in the University District this morning at 10 am, where I was this morning.  The storm we had on Sunday night was gone. It brought down a little hail at my house, and a thunderbolt so loud, and so close, that it rattled the windows and the glasses up in my kitchen cabinet.

Here’s the colorful facade of the University of Washington’s new 6-storey ‘Comotion’ building at 4545 Roosevelt Way. It is a ‘startup incubation space’, one that enables collaboration with UW’s partners in industry. UW also invites in companies, even if they don’t yet have an explicit connection to the university.

Saturday/ spring weather

March ended with a lovely, sunny spring day (60 °F/ 15 °C) here in the city of Seattle.

Daffodils (genus: Narcissus) on the sidewalk just around the corner of my house, late this afternoon. Daffodils have been cultivated from the earliest times, and are mentioned in ancient Greek literature.

Saturday/ St Patrick’s Day

Left: The finish line of the St Patrick’s Day Dash. | Right:The Monorail and the new Hyatt House hotel with its vanishing edge. The Space Needle’s $100 million restoration and glass floor installation should be complete some time this summer. | Bottom: The Seattle Public Library’s Book Sale in an exhibition hall at the Seattle Center. | Inset: Four-leaf clover Waterford crystal paperweight, that I had bought in Dublin in 2013.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!  Here in Seattle we had the annual 1K and 5K St Patrick’s Day Dash, ending at the Seattle Center.  My mission for Saturday was to dash down to the Seattle Public Library’s Book Sale which was right there, as well.

I did pick up a few books at the huge book sale ($1 and $2 a book! Yay!) : a thick Archie Comics cartoon book; travel guides for Washington DC and Switzerland, and a few others.