Friday/ where the iPhones are

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.

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].

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 this 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.

Sunday/ the Point No Point lighthouse

We went for a little hike along the beach to the lighthouse at Point No Point today.

Here’s the little lighthouse at Point No Point. First operated in 1879 with a kerosene lamp, it got its classic Fresnel lens in 1898 (the black cylinder), but when the bulb inside went out many years ago, a smaller rotating light with an electric motor was installed (the little device to the right of the glass windows in the lighthouse tower.
Here’s a nuclear submarine from nearby Naval Base Kitsap and its escorts going out to sea. There are three sailors on the deck of the sub. The Olympic Mountains in the background are still shrouded in a little smokey air.
This ‘brown squirrel’ – a Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) – checked us out along the path to the beach at Point No Point.

Saturday/ ferry to Kitsap peninsula

A few of us went out to Paul’s on the Kitsap Peninsula on Saturday night, to stay over for a quick visit.

Here’s the ever-changing Seattle skyline, as we are waiting at the ferry terminal to head out to Bainbridge Island. This is 8.10 pm, just as the sun was setting. It’s not long now, a few months, when the demolition of the brown double-decker Alaskan Way viaduct running all along the waterfront, will start. (Its replacement tunnel is complete and undergoing final testing).

Friday/ last call for summer

It’s Labor Day weekend – the unofficial end of summer here in the States.
The days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are getting milder (72 °F/ 22° F today).

This morning, the Euphorbia on my back deck had raindrop pearls on its leaves from a little bit of rain overnight.
Here’s the view up along Marion Street at the No 12 bus stop today. I was at at the Seattle Central Library close by. That’s the new-ish Madison Center (office tower) in the middle of the picture, an almost-skyscraper at 37 floors, blending in with the sky. All the way up overhead, there’s a Delta Airways airplane – white with a blue belly- coming in to Sea-Tac airport.

Thursday/ Bumbershoot’s posters

Labor Day weekend is approaching, with the Bumbershoot music festival at Seattle Center. I feel am not a big enough live music fan to go to the festival*, but I like to check out the promotional posters every year.

*Single day ticket: $130, so one has to stay awhile – or most of the day – to make it worth the money. For the money-is-no-object aficionados there is a 3-day Emerald Pass for $750 with exclusive access to lounges and viewing areas, and complimentary cocktails.

Here’s this year’s banner poster from Bumbershoot’s Facebook page.
One of my all-time favorites was this one, from 2006.

Tuesday/ a Seattle Storm game

It was a beautiful late-summer day here in Seattle (78 °F/ 26 °C).
Friends and I attended a WNBA* women’s basketball game in the Key Arena by the Space Needle.

*Women’s National Basketball Association, founded in 1996. There are 12 teams that play in the league.

The Key Arena is in Seattle Center, and started out as Washington State Pavilion, at the 1962 World’s Fair (with the Space Needle). It is currently the home of the Seattle Storm, the women’s basketball team. It’s hard to see in the picture, but the American flag is at half-mast to honor Senator McCain.
Here is the scene inside the arena, at the end of tonight’s exciting game. The game went into extra time with Seattle Storm besting Phoenix Mercury 91-87, to go up 2-0 in the Western Conference play-off series.

Monday/ a woodpecker

This brown woodpecker is called a ‘northern flicker’ (Colaptes auratus). It spent a little time foraging for insects on my front lawn this morning. (Yes, the poor lawn is yellowed out from the three dry months of summer, but it will slowly start to green up, now that the rain is returning).

Northern flickers are unusual among North American woodpeckers in that their general coloration is brown, rather than black and white. They are ground feeders that live principally on ants, but also eat other insects and some fruit, seeds, and berries. [Source:]

Thursday/ ahh .. clean air

The smoky, unhealthy air that had blanketed the city since Sunday night, finally cleared up today.
There was a sprinkle of rain this morning, but I watered the garden later on in the day, as well.

We’ve not had nearly the average monthly rainfall totals since May of this year. Almost none in July and August. [Source:]
The garden phlox with its pretty-in-pink flowers from my front yard is still in full bloom as summer is winding down. 

Monday/ Mr Blue Sky is gone

Mister Blue Sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?
– Lyrics from ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ (1977), by Electric Light Orchestra

The air quality for today (and expected for tomorrow), for the Puget Sound region, is pretty much the worst on record*.  Winds from the north and from the east have carried vast plumes of smoke and PM2.5 particles from the raging wildfires in Canada and Eastern Washington, to the region.

*An air quality value of 218 is reported tonight in my neck of the woods, which is in the ‘Very Unhealthy’ category.

[Source:] The Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) value, is a scale that is a little stricter than the national Air Quality Index (AQI). A reading of 218 means stay indoors, keep windows & doors closed, and do only light indoor activities. Yikes. The air should start to clear by Wednesday night, say the weather people.
From the Space Needle Cam. Top: August 19, 2017 was a clear blue sky day. The Mountain is out (Mt Rainier is faintly visible). Bottom: Today looked like a scene out of Mad Max Thunderdome or Blade Runner. The future has arrived, and it is ugly.

Wednesday/ a student protest in 1969

The 6th floor in Seattle Central Library houses large collections of bound magazines, some more than 100 years old.

Oops! I realized today, my library books are overdue, better take them back. I hopped on the bus to the Seattle Central Library downtown. Mission accomplished as far as returning the books, I meandered through the treasure trove of magazine racks on the 6th floor. Hmm, here’s Weyerhaeuser World magazine. I worked there for four years, when I first came to the Seattle area, so let’s see what happened in 1969.

Check it out below: a report of a student protest at the University of Washington here in Seattle. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) protested against American imperialism – in the time of the Vietnam war and all that, after all. This protest was specifically against  Weyerhaeuser’s ‘exploitation of 12 million black South Africans’.  I’m not sure if the workers deemed not to be paid fair wages, or if it was about their working conditions. It could have been both. For a long time in those years, wage earners in South Africa, especially in the mining industry, were treated very unfairly.

Anyway: the SDS splintered up and disbanded at the end of 1969, but was an important influence on student activist groups in the decades that followed. A new incarnation of SDS was founded in 2006. My advice to young people: protesting is fine and well, but the nature of the beast is : you really have to vote.  Only 40% of eligible voters typically vote in midterm elections. For young people, it could be as low as half that again: 20%.


Sunday/ the saga of the stolen plane

Here is the plane that was stolen. The amateur ‘pilot’ could start up the plane, and showed considerable skill piloting it. It seems he acquired piloting skills through playing a flight simulator video game. He is not known to have had any formal pilot training. [Graphic from The Seattle Times]
By Saturday morning the fire of Friday night’s plane crash on Ketron Island had been put out. It was hard to get to the wreckage and the fire, but a little rain fell on Friday and the fire did not spread.

By Sunday evening the remains of the young man (Richard Russell, 29 years old), as well as the flight recorder, had been retrieved from the crash site.

The early take is that depression over financial troubles, was a major factor in the tragedy.

Here is the airport layout, and the location of Ketron Island.  One of the F15 jet pilots tried to persuade Russell to land at McChord Air Force Base, but to no avail. [Source: The Seattle Times]

Saturday/ the Volunteer Park Conservatory

Here is one more picture from Volunteer Park on Friday, of the Conservatory building.  The Victorian-style structure is said to be modeled loosely on The Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park. It was one of the first buildings to be erected on the young City of Seattle’s Volunteer Park grounds, and completed in 1912.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory was nicely lit up on Friday night. There was a function with a live band and a bar inside.  I cheated a little bit with my picture, by boosting the pastel colors with a digital filter.

Friday/ the Space Needle is ready

The Space Needle’s five year, $100 million project is complete.  The original structure is still very sound, and not a lot of structural work was needed.

Instead, new floor-to-ceiling glass panels were installed, staircases were widened, and on the observation deck, floor-to-sky structural glass was added. The erstwhile solid steel floor is now ten layers of glass, designed so that the top layer can be replaced, once it gets a little worn out and scratched.

P.S. A bizarre event started to unfold at 7.32 pm tonight at Sea-Tac airport. A suicidal 29-year old man (ground service agent) took off in an empty Bombardier Q-400 from Horizon Air (a turboprop plane that can carry 76 passengers). It scared the daylights out of everyone; two F-15 jets were scrambled from Oregon, and tried to get him to land. He died when he crashed the airplane on Ketron island in south Puget Sound, some 30 miles from the airport. Miraculously, no buildings were damaged, and no one else was hurt.

I took this picture of the Needle and a whirlybird tonight from Volunteer Park. The Needle is 1.7 miles (2.7 km) away as the crow flies. The flag on top says Pearl Jam -Seattle’s rock band formed in 1990. Pearl Jam put on a big charity concert tonight in the city’s baseball park, part of an initiative to fight homelessness in the city.

Sunday/ the Monorail is fun

Bryan and I hopped on the monorail today, at the Space Needle. It’s all of a two minute, one mile ride (for $2.50) .. but it’s a fun ride, floating above the street traffic in mid-air!

The sign at the entrance of the monorail. What does Alweg refer to? I wondered. This from Wikipedia: Alweg-Forschung, GmbH (Alweg Research Corporation) was founded by Swedish industrial magnate Dr. Axel Lennart Wenner-Gren in January 1953, based in Cologne, Germany. Alweg built the original Disneyland Monorail System of Disneyland (opened 1959), and the Seattle Center Monorail (opened 1962 for the Century 21 Expo). In 1963, Alweg put forward a proposal to the city of Los Angeles for a monorail system to be designed, built, operated and maintained by Alweg – but it was rejected.
We’re about to board the Alweg train, at the Space Needle station. We got those red seats right at the big fly-eye window in the front (so at the rear as we departed).
Taking a turn through the kooky Frank Gehry-designed structures of the MoPOP, the Museum of Pop Culture, at the base of the Space Needle ..
.. running along 5th Ave North, with the Ride the Duck operator on the right, and the Gates Foundation buildings behind it ..
.. finally, arriving at Westlake Center. The Space Needle is a mile away in the distance. The round buildings is the Westin Hotel, with an Amazon Tower to its right, and an orange speck in the low right corner that is the South Lake Union streetcar on Westlake Avenue.

Sunday/ 2nd Avenue construction

I made like the tourists in the city today, and walked around 2nd Avenue and the Seattle Waterfront.

It’s about 6 pm, but the sun is still blazing down from the west. The Alaskan Viaduct along the waterfront has been around since 1953, but its days are really numbered now. There is a replacement tunnel running underneath it with two decks of completed roadways that is undergoing a few months of testing. Towards the end of the year, the destruction of this viaduct will start.
Here’s the 2+U (or 2&U) tower taking shape at 2nd Avenue and University Street. On the right is an artist’s impression of the completed tower complex with its V-shaped columns. There will be 38 floors of office space, with some retail, and with public spaces at the ground level. The venerable 4-story Diller Hotel on the corner, is holding its own. It has a cozy bar inside. As a luxury hotel constructed in 1890, it was one of the first new buildings in the city after the destruction of the Great Seattle Fire of 1889.

Saturday/ trainspotting in SODO

I went to the SODO (SOuth of DOwntown) industrial district today, to the Toyota service center there. While they worked on my car, I walked around a bit, and spotted two trains.

Here’s the Amtrak Cascades passenger train, heading south. It runs all the way from Vancouver BC down to Eugene, Oregon. It’s going at a good clip here, maybe 60 mph. The stadium roof with the arches in the background, is that of Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.
And the Link Light Rail passenger train, also heading south. It is currently running only from the University of Washington, down to Angle Lake south of Seattle-Tacoma airport. There is a northbound and an eastbound extension in progress, though, and more extensions on the drawing board that are part of the $53.8 billion Sound Transit 3 plan.