Saturday/ the Pioneer Building

I posted about the Pioneer Building before, but today I could get a nice picture of the front side – with all the leaves on the trees gone.

Several months after the Great Seattle Fire leveled 32 blocks of downtown in 1889, Henry Yesler proceeded with the construction of the Pioneer Building. The newly constructed building quickly became an important business location for downtown Seattle. During the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897, there were 48 different mining companies that had offices in it. [Source: Wikipedia]
The totem pole in front of the building is part of the property’s entry into the National Register of Historic Places. This totem pole is a replica of an original pole carved around 1790 by the Tlingit indigenous people. (The original one was seriously damaged by an arsonist in 1938).


The days are slowly getting longer here in the Pacific Northwest.
It has not been ‘too cold’ (always a relative term: 50 °F/10 °C) and we have had a nice stretch of six days of dry weather.
The rain is coming back tomorrow, though, and will bring more snow to the mountains as well.
P.S. The traffic adjustments and volumes with the Alaskan Viaduct now closed, has not been too terrible at all.

It’s 5.15 pm and I’m heading out towards 15th Ave for our Wednesday night beer & bite. It’s nice that some houses on my block, like this one, still have their holiday lights on. It brightens up the winter darkness a little bit.

Sunday/ the sun sets on the Alaskan Way Viaduct

The Alaskan Way Viaduct (opened 1953) that runs along the Seattle waterfront, was closed at 10 pm on Friday night. It took traffic officials until well after 11 pm to get the revelers and the final vehicle off of it.
On Saturday, pedestrians had to be shooed off of what has now become a construction/ demolition site.

It will take three weeks to finalize the opening of the State Route 99 Tunnel below the Viaduct. We will know by Monday night how disruptive this period will be to commuters to downtown Seattle. Transport officials’ advice to the 250,000 commuters: shift your schedule/ walk/ bike/ take the bus/ train/ carpool / try the water taxi. Just do not drive in by yourself.

Sunset on Sunday (4.44 pm), on the empty Alaskan Way Viaduct. This view is from Victor Steinbrueck Park just north of Pike Place Market. That’s Mount Rainier bathed in pink in the distance (4,392 m/ 14,411′, last eruption 1894). 

Friday afternoon/ now in Seattle

I’m home! .. but it’s going to become a stretched-out Friday for me!
That’s what happens when one flies east across the international dateline. Let’s see: 18 hrs in Japan on Friday + 9 hrs flying + 14 hrs in Seattle until Friday midnight. That’s a 41 hr day. Whoah.

Here is our All Nippon Airlines 787 bird sitting at the gate at Narita airport. It left well after the sun had sunk below the horizon (Friday in Japan at 6.15 pm), and then flew almost due east for about 9 hours ..
.. to meet the sun on the early side of the night we had left. Here we are starting the descent for Seattle airport, to arrive there at 10 am Friday morning Seattle time.

Sunday/ rain day

The rain is back after a dry week, and we did not see the sun all day.
It’s not all bad, though: the cloud cover and rain keep the day temperatures well above freezing. Today it was 46°F (8°C) here in the city.

Here’s 15th Ave at 4.30pm today – the sun had set at 4.18 pm already. My iPhone Xs should do a lot better than my old 6s in low light. The Xs has a camera sensor (made by Sony, by the way) that is double the size of the 6s, and that has larger pixels as well. Larger pixels catch more light photons per pixel for a sharper, truer picture. 

Thursday/ my new camera, uh – phone

I ran out to the Apple store today to upgrade my iPhone 6s camera to an iPhone Xs camera. (It’s a little joke. Of course the iPhone Xs functions as a phone as well! .. and has a bigger, brighter screen; more powerful processor; and more storage).

Here are some first pictures that I took in Volunteer Park here in Seattle. (Note: The last two pictures will take longer than usual to load over slow connections. I did not reduce their pixel count).

I reduced the pixel sizes of these photos of the duck pond (male and female mallards). These are just to show the 2x optical zoom (top picture), and then setting back to the 1x regular zoom. It’s nice to have choice, and there is a big difference!
Mr Squirrel is nibbling on something, not very perturbed – used to photographers, it seems. This is 2x zoom; original 4,032 x 3,024 pixel size, but cropped somewhat to show just the squirrel.
This is an original size 3,024 x 3,024 square picture. (This is the park’s iconic Black Sun sculpture by Isamu Noguchi, with the Space Needle in the distance). The camera sensor & software does a good job of balancing the intense colors close to the setting sun with the pastels in the sky and the clouds.

Wednesday/ Christmas light enchantments

The Seattle Mariners baseball field – south of downtown – is set up as a Christmas light maze (the Seattle ‘Enchant’ Christmas market and festival). So that’s where we went after beers & dinner tonight. There were forests of light trees, a scavenger hunt for Santa’s reindeer in the maze, and a little ice rink as well.

In a forest of light trees ..
A giant snowflake ..
.. and here’s Rudolph (the Red-nosed Reindeer), one of nine of Santa’s reindeer, hidden in the maze. Some of them are lying down, and it took us a little while to find the last one, called Cupid.

These skaters look very comfortable on the ice of the little ice rink. We did not set foot on there! [Photo credit: thanks to Bryan for the picture].
And here’s a selfie of the friends – from left to right Ken, Steve, Willem, Bryan & Gary. Yes, it was a little chilly! 43 °F/ 6 °C. [Photo credit: thanks to Gary for the picture]. 

Sunday/ a first look at First Light

We went down to the sales office for an elegant new condominium tower called First Light today, just to see what’s going on there.

The development will be done by Westbank, a Vancouver, B.C.-based firm.
It is still early days, though: the tower’s completion is only scheduled for some time in 2022.

The proposed First Light condominium tower (459 units, 48 floors) was designed by architect James KM Cheng. The design is somewhat minimalist, but features balconies for all the units, and check out that floating roof-top swimming pool (the beige-colored platform complete with tiny lounge chairs).
This is a sample of the steel-wire-and-glass-disk ‘curtains’ (designed by artist John Hogan), that will be strung outside the tower’s podium (lower five floors). It should add texture from afar, and reflect different colors of sunlight, depending on the viewing angle.

Wednesday/ Rainier Square Tower’s newfangled steel core

The Rainier Square Tower (59-story, 850 ft/ 259 m tall) in downtown Seattle, is getting off the ground, with its completion scheduled for early 2020.

Traditionally, a rebar-reinforced concrete core has been the preferred method of construction for Seattle’s towers. These cores are very good at bracing against wind and seismic loads. The construction process is slow, though: three to four days per floor, with the steel framing for each floor dependent on completion of the concrete work.

For Rainier Square Tower, a new steel plate & concrete composite fill design for its high-rise core is used. It has been developed by Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) over many years. The system uses two steel plates connected by steel spacing ties, and then the cavity between the plates is filled with high-strength concrete.  An added boon is that this method is expected to reduce traditional construction time by 30% or more.

Here’s the current snapshot of the Rainier Square Tower construction cam, showing the carefully excavated hole and the first steel plates for the tower’s foundation and core. At the top right is the 1970s 40-story Rainier Tower, holding its own on its 12-story pedestal. Measurements show that that so far so good: everything on that side is solid.
I took this picture on Tuesday, showing another U-shaped, hollow section of two sets of connected steel plates, being put into place. The new Rainier Square Tower (59 floors) will be right next to the existing Rainier Tower (40 floors).
Left: A rendering of the completed Rainier Square Tower, designed by NBBJ – an American architecture, planning and design firm that was founded in Seattle in 1943, and today has offices around the world. The curve towards its top allows it to be built next to architect Minoru Yamasaki’s 1970’s Rainier Tower, without completely obscuring it. Right: The filled steel plate core will go up all the way to the top, making for a very resilient structure. [Rainier Square Tower rendering courtesy of Wright Runstad & Company; conceptual graphic of steel core courtesy of Magnusson Klemencic Associates].

Monday/ ‘two out of three ain’t bad’

(That’s a classic Meatloaf song title). I attempted three errands this morning, and was successful with two.
1. To the dentist for my 6-monthly ‘chomper check-up’ & cleaning: success.
2. To the bank to deposit a big check (yes, I know I can take a picture with my smartphone & deposit it, but I had a question about the check). The bank people are always very nice to me (because they have a lot of my money): success.
3. To Seattle Central Library to download my international newspapers onto my iPad: fail. It was only 9.25 am, they only open at 10.00 am, and I wanted to go home to have my oatmeal, blueberry & yogurt breakfast.

I love the jaguar and the bellboy in this Cartier window display in downtown Seattle. The watches are the legendary Cartier Tank watches. Their square design is 101 years old. These are called Tank Solos; it’s $2,550 for the leather strap watch and $2,780 for the one with the stainless steel strap.

Sunday/ here comes the Nexus tower

I went down Denny Way to go check on the construction of a condominium tower called the Nexus today, just north and east of downtown. The construction boom is still going full-steam with dozens of downtown and South Lake Union projects only now getting off the ground.

This is the base of the Nexus condominium tower with two of the four stacked ‘cubes’ it will eventually have, that are each offset by 8° from the one below it. Some 29 of the 389 units in the 41-story building are still available, priced from $1.2 million to the high $2 millions.
It’s all glass and steel one block away. This view from the corner of Stewart St and Boren Ave; corporate offices left and the AMLI Arc apartment tower on the right.
And one more block down, the $400 million Hyatt Regency (the Pacific Northwest’s largest hotel with 1,260 rooms) is about to open its doors to guests.

Sunday and blue skies

It was a beautiful day here in the city but definitely not warm: 53 °F /11 °C!
I put on my scarf and went down to Pike Place market to take another look at the Alaskan Way Viaduct, before it is retired (at age 65, incidentally).  Its replacement tunnel is just about ready, and demolition of the Viaduct will commence in January.

The mountain* is out. Follow the Viaduct road surface back up to the horizon, where the silver arches of CenturyLink field (the Seahawks’ stadium) are, to see the mountain. The Alaskan Way Viaduct will close permanently in eight weeks (Jan 11), and its replacement tunnel will open for traffic three weeks later.  *Mt Rainier.

Thursday/ a visit to the U-District

The No 48 bus makes for an easy run up to the University (of Washington) District for me, and I did that today. (The main draw there for me is the big university bookstore, and the smaller second-hand bookstores, as well).

In another two years or so, the new Light Rail train station right there will be completed, and then I can take the train instead. That would be great!

Even though these apartments on University Way are painted in pastel colors, they are still a little wild (I think). Cool ginkgo tree in front of it, leaves in yellow fall color. Ginkgo trees are living fossil plants: they are found in fossils dating back 270 million years. So they were dinosaur food.
Oh man .. I hope the author is wrong about the thesis of his book. Yes, we want another great president. How about a decent one, at least? (The author basically says being President of the United States has become too arduous a job, and that our expectations are too high. He also wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post in 2014 titled ‘Barack Obama, disappointer in chief’. Mr Miller! Distinguished scholar that you are, we would like your opinion of President Donald Trump, please. My opinion: catastrophic disaster in chief).
This dog-eared picture is in Magus Bookstore. The guy is Russian, I’m sure, I thought, and famous, but I did not know who he is. Google Images to the rescue: it’s playwright Anton Chekhov (born 1860-died 1904, much too young, at 44, from tuberculosis).
The beautiful entrance on 15th Ave NE, to the University Temple United Methodist Church. The building was completed in 1927.

Tuesday/ the Seattle Tower

I guess Seattle has many gleaming glass and steel towers nowadays, but the Seattle Tower is one of the city’s original art deco gems.
Its construction was completed in 1929, and at the time it was called the Northern Life Building.

I just took a quick picture this afternoon, but looking at online pictures, I see I made the mistake of not going into the Tower’s lobby. Architect A.H. Albertson’s art deco design is featured inside and out, and the warm brown brickface of the Tower had held up well against the ravages of time.
Here is the Northern Life Tower (Seattle Tower), featured on an antique postcard, possibly from the 1930s or 1940s (no date was given for it). It tapers to the top in a pyramid, in progressively lighter shades of brown bricks.
And here is today: Google Streetview with the Seattle Tower (completed 1929, 27 storeys) in the middle, at the southeast corner of 3rd Ave. and University St. That’s the US Bank Centre building (completed 1989) in front of it, itself only the 8th tallest in the city at 44 storeys.

Monday/ Amazon’s new HQ2 times 2

Amazon says it will eventually employ 25,000 workers at each of its two new locations, and the impact on the surrounding areas might be big. (Raise rents and property prices & add to traffic congestion). [Picture from New York Times].
Word had leaked out by Monday night (before an official announcement from Amazon), that the two sites of the much anticipated Amazon HQ2 (second headquarters) will be Long Island City (in New York City) and Crystal City (in northern Virginia, just south of Washington DC downtown).

I think – I’m not sure – that it’s good news for Seattle that HQ2 will be split in two. Seattleites were fretting that HQ2 might eventually become bigger than Seattle, and this seems to make that less of a possibility.

Saturday/ the fungus among us

This is the time of year for some mushrooms to sprout in urban gardens here in the Pacific Northwest, and I discovered a new type under my laurel fence this year.  Maybe they’ve been coming out every year, and I just haven’t noticed before!

These are honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea) .. there are several distinct Armillaria species within the group formerly called honey mushrooms (or honey fungus). The ‘honey’ is a reference to the smooth appearance of the caps, and not their flavor, which is anything but sweet. (I am not about to try these suckers by cooking them, thank you very much. I’ll stick to buying my mushrooms in the grocery store!).
A view from the side that shows the little collar on the stem, and the adnate gills (gills fully attached to the stem). The cap is about 3 in. in diameter.

Sunday/ a glimpse of Morticia

I made my way down to the Amazon biospheres today to catch a glimpse of Morticia*, the name given to the giant corpse flower that is blooming there.  (Report by local TV station King5 here).

I had to be content to just check the flower out from the sidewalk. It was too late to book a time slot (all were taken), and I don’t have a friend employed by Amazon that could take me in as a guest! Aw.

*I suspect this is a reference to Morticia Addams, a fictional character from The Addams Family television and film series. A memorable quote (Morticia to her husband): ‘Don’t torture yourself Gomez, that’s my job.’

These flags are above the main entrance of the new Hyatt Regency hotel at 8th & Howell (scheduled to open at the end of the year; 45 floors and 1,260 rooms). From left to right The Stars and Stripes (of course), then the Washington State flag, and then the 12th Man flag (it shows support for the Seattle Seahawks).
Look for Morticia the corpse flower, in the lower right of the picture. She will be moved out of the spheres by the end of the week, said the guide at the spheres.
The cladding on the third Amazon tower across the street from the spheres is progressing nicely. I’m sure there is still a lot of work on the inside to be done. The new Shake Shack around the corner is open now. There was a long line of eager customers waiting patiently to place their order, on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday/ gorgeous weather

We have had a streak of beautiful blue-sky days here in the city, reaching all of 72 °F (22 °C) on Tuesday.  A high pressure system parked above the Pacific Northwest will give us even more clear weather days, all through the weekend, say the meteorologists.

Here’s the corner of Madison St & 5th Ave, as I left the Seattle Central Library on Monday. Just to the top right of the triangular walkway I see a little bit of the City Centre Building where I used to work, then the IBM Building, the red brick vintage Kimpton Hotel, the tall Crowne Plaza Hotel behind it, and finally a little bit of the Union Square building to its right.

Monday/ Paul Allen (1953-2018)

I was a little shocked today when the message ‘Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen passed away’ appeared on my phone. Allen disclosed earlier this month that he was receiving treatment (again) for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but I did not know that his health was deteriorating rapidly.

Born in Seattle, he wielded his enormous fortune to transform South Lake Union into office buildings and apartments, to help the Seattle Seahawks to stay in the city (he owned the team since 1997) and to make contributions to a large number of causes and charities.

A few items from Allen’s Twitter feed: A bit of nostalgic, original Microsoft code; helping with elephant conservation in Africa; artists at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture; at a Seahawks game; the aircraft for the Stratolaunch space transportation venture.