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.

Wednesday/ gas pipeline explosion

There was a big gas transmission pipeline explosion in Prince George, BC, Canada, on Tuesday.  Even though it is 500 miles away, it is impacting us here in Seattle as well, since we get some of our natural gas from Canada.

Our local gas utility company is requesting that everyone to turn down their thermostats, and limit the use of hot water and electricity for a day or two. (Natural gas is used for some electricity generation).

Here’s the results of a few online searches I did .. these gas transmission pipelines are typically 36 in (0.92 m) in diameter, and pressurized to 50 times atmospheric pressure.
Interesting map of gas transmission pipelines in the United States. Check out the Gulf of Mexico coastline in Texas & Louisiana – whoah. That’s where all the refineries are, that produce natural gas and other products from crude oil.

Sunday/ the fantasy worlds of LEGO

We went down to the annual ‘BrickCon’ LEGO exhibition, at Seattle Center today. This is where LEGO master builders show off their work, and fans come to admire it.  Here are some of my favorites.

Got to have a LEGO Space Needle, of course. This one was built by Wayne Hussey in 2012, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the real Needle. It took 800 hrs, over 6 months, and has more than 50,000 bricks. (And I love the totem pole in the background).
Elaborate model of the ferry Issaquah, with bridge and deck equipment, minifigures and filled up with all kinds of vehicles, to boot.
Alaska Airlines hangar with landing strip, complete with skid marks. Lots of airplanes, and a wildly colorful flying machine taking off! Seattle waterfront Ferris wheel in the foreground.
This ‘Matt’s Rollercoaster’ model was the pièce de résistance of the exhibition, in a way, featuring a fully functional roller coaster rail and car. It was built from 20,000 standard LEGO pieces after two years of design work. Check out the top right of the coaster: the car is about to plunge down on the rails and into the loop (!), to end up back at the start.
Whoah .. and how about this 15-storey medieval megacastle, with its dragon (on its landing pad), moat, drawbridges & knights. I am sure enemies from the ends of the earth can be spotted by the guards in the turret at the top.
Another castle, styled with terraces and lots of minifigures on the attack. (The still have to deal with the castle walls and the moat, though).
Here is a Halloween house. I love the roof with its reds and pinks, and the other details.
The dinosaurs/ ‘dino wars’ is another LEGO theme, some sets licensed from the Jurassic Park movie franchise.
Finally, a style of LEGO that is called ‘microbuilding’, challenges the builder to create a miniature model of something, such as this Washington State ferry. Nicely done. (The trick is to have a large superset of bricks to tinker with and select from, to put together).

Thursday/ naming Seattle’s NHL team

It is almost a done deal, that Seattle will be granted a franchise for a team to join the National Hockey League (NHL).  The team actually playing is still two years away. The Key Arena stadium still has to be upgraded, and a team put together – and all that goes with it.

In the meantime, the Seattle Times is running an informal survey of its readers to determine a name and a moniker for the team. It’s now down to the final two: the Totems, or the Sockeyes – after eliminating names such as Seattle Freeze, Seattle Sasquatches and Seattle Emeralds.

A rendering of Key Arena’s inside after its proposed upgrade, for when the NHL comes to Seattle. (Courtesy of / Oak View Group)
Hmm, I don’t know about either of these two. I like Seattle Totems, but would that still be acceptable today, to appropriate Native culture into a nickname & mascot? Seattle Sockeyes sounds good, but man! that makes it a FISH for a mascot. Not the best. Can we not have a snarling Mountain Lion, or an Osprey or an Eagle or a Bear? [Graphic & Text by the Seattle Times]

Friday/ feierabend

A little bit of Germany here in South Lake Union: ‘Feierabend’ opened in 2006.
Here’s the ‘trouble’: those big steins of beer. The restaurant website says while some menu items are traditional (pork shank on the right), others have been adjusted for the Northwestern palate. All 18 beers are imported from Germany, though.

I’m sure as soon as feierabend* had arrived on Friday in Washington DC, politicians & their staff rejoiced more than they usually do.

*Feierabend literally translates to ‘celebrate-the-evening’ (the end of the work day).

Meanwhile, the 185th Oktoberfest is in full swing in Munich, Germany.  I’d still like to make it out there one year – just not sure I could handle even just one of those one-liter steins filled with potent beer! It would be really embarrassing to keel over and fall off one’s chair while the umpa band plays.

Sunday/ a nice start to Fall

It was a beautiful first day of fall here in Seattle, with puffy white clouds in a blue sky and mild temperatures (65 °F/ 18 °C).  I went down to South Lake Union for just a bit, and took the streetcar and No 8 bus back up to Capitol Hill.

I used the convex traffic mirror on the corner of Roy St and Westlake Ave N to take this ‘selfie’ of the South Lake Union streetcar. ‘South Lake Union to downtown Vancouver BC in about an hour’, says the Kenmore Air seaplane advertising painted on the streetcar. That’s not bad – much quicker than flying commercial out of Sea-Tac!

Saturday/ cruise ships

Fall has started, and the cruise ship season is winding down. (The last sailing from Seattle is Oct 10). Friends of ours left on a cruise this afternoon from the Smith Cove cruise terminal. Bryan and I went there to wave them goodbye – but we could not get quite close enough to the pier!  We settled for views of the cruise ship departures from the Elliott Bay marina.

Our friends are on the Ruby Princess on the left (built 2008 for $400m; capacity 3,600 passengers). She was setting sail for San Diego. On the right is the MS Eurodam (built 2007; capacity 2,100 passengers). She was setting sail for Alaska.
Here is the Ruby Princess shortly after she had set sail at 4 pm. She is heading north towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to get into the Pacific Ocean.

Friday/ where the iPhones are

Checking out the newest iPhone Xs in the store. The phone is about as wide, and a half-inch longer, than my iPhone 6s, which is acceptable. The enormous Xs Max is too big for me.

I finally went down to University Village mall to go check out Apple’s new store (and new iPhones*). There used to be a perfectly fine Apple store inside the mall, but I guess it was just not cool enough, and so they built a new stand-alone store, just steps away from where the old one was.

*I should probably upgrade my 2015 iPhone 6s at some point soon! The new camera lenses on the iPhone Xs, and the bezel-to-bezel OLED screen would be very welcome.

The style of Apple’s new store in University Village is minimalist with large glass panels and 14-ft high ceilings inside. (I took the picture in panorama mode; the roof is flat with a straight edge).
Work tables and seating near the large screen form the center focus point of the store. The large screen is used for art, and for product displays (of course), but also for coding classes for kids. (Picture by Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

Wednesday/ Building Cure’s progress

Here’s what the completed building will look like. [Source: Aedas, Flad & Associates]
I walked by the construction site of the ‘Building Cure’ today.

It’s here in downtown Seattle near Denny Way. It is the new building for Seattle Children’s Research Institute to expand into. The Institute’s scientists develop cures and therapies for childhood diseases such as cancers, sickle cell anemia and type 1 diabetes.

The Institute has grown from just 40 employees in 2006 to more than 1,500 today.

The 13 floors are done, and now the glass and steel cladding (aluminum?) goes on.  Those round pillars stand at angles to each other to form the facets of the building’s sides. I hope the construction was not too much of a nightmare.
Colorful artwork on an electrical box on the pavement, by the existing Seattle Children’s Research Institute building.

Friday/ Sasquatch on Smith Tower

I made my way to the Seattle Central Library again today, as I do several times a week. I used to walk down to a smaller branch seven blocks from my house to get my book and newspaper fix for the day, but the Central Library has so much more material. I feel like Alice in Wonderland there.

Old and new all in one picture, seen as I left the library. From left to right: 901 Fifth Avenue (constr. 1973, 42 floors), the F5 Tower (2017, 44 floors), Rainier Clubhouse (1904, Tudor Revival style, 4 floors), Columbia Center (1985, 76 floors, still the tallest building in the city).
This just for fun, from an old 70s Seattle magazine: Sasquatch* on Smith Tower, fending off the pestering airplanes (a play on King Kong on the Empire State Building in New York, of course).  *Sasquatch, also called Bigfoot, (from Salish se’sxac: “wild men”) a large, hairy, humanlike creature believed by some people to exist in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada.

Thursday/ beers at Fadó Irish Pub

The entrance to Fado has great Art Deco framing. The pub has been there since 2000; I suspect the Art Deco much longer.

We had beers and a bite at Fadó (say f’doe*) Irish Pub tonight. It is located in the historic Colman Building on 1st Avenue.  Since it is First Thursday of the month, we could also stop in and admire art at a few of the galleries nearby, afterwards.

*An Irish term meaning ‘long ago’. It is used in Ireland to start a story -the equivalent of ‘once upon a time’.

I love this circa 1909 picture of the Colman Building. Check out the horse-drawn buggies lined up in front of it. Automobiles were only just starting to make it onto the streets. [Picture obtained from http://www.historylink.org/File/8708].

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 an 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.