Thursday/ time in high places

These clocks indicating the time at some rugged landmarks in the world are at the Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) store, a store that sells gear and equipment for the Great Outdoors.

  • Lava Falls, Colorado River, Grand Canyon, USA
  • North Face of Eiger, Jungfrau Region, Swiss Alps, Elev. 3970m
  • Denali, Alaska, USA, Elev. 6194 m
  • Mt. Everest, Nepal, Elev. 8848m
  • Mt. Rainier, Washington, USA, Elev. 4392 m
  • Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia, Coral Sea
  • Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, East Africa, Elev. 5895m
  • Vinson Massif, Antarctica, Elev. 5140m
  • China Bowl, Vail Mountain, Vail, Colorado USA

It was a beautiful blue sky day with perfect temperatures, as the second picture shows.   That’s the Space Needle in the distance, between the office buildings outside the REI store in Seattle’s South Lake Union area.

Wednesday/ NO to new taxes!

Our Democratic Senator in Washington State will survive this election, it looks like.   Washington State voters said no no NO to State Income Tax Initiative 1098 (about 65% to 35%).    We said no to private stores selling hard liquor (state-owned stores will continue selling it).   We repealed a tax on certain grocery items such as soda.   We approved a measure that requires a 2/3 majority in the State legislature to increase taxes.  Soo .. how to close the $5 billion shortfall during the remainder of the 2009-11 budget period? Washington state will spend about $74.8 billion in this time to provide programs and services to citizens.   Looks like there will be fewer policemen, higher tuition fees, less health care for state employees, higher public transport fares.    Something’s got to give.

Here are the sources of the State’s money –


.. and here is how the money is spent.


What happened elsewhere?  Too many results to list but here are some others ..  Meg Whitman ex-CEO of Ebay lost the California Governor’s race against Jerry Brown along with $160 million of her own money spent on her campaign. (Yes, it’s a record amount).  Californians nixed Proposition 19 that would have legalized marijuana.  Harry Reid, Senate majority leader won against a Tea Party upstart.

Saturday/ All Saints Spitalfields

What on earth are those things in that storefront window?, I thought- and discovered it was a huge collection of vintage sewing machines for the new AllSaints Spitalfields clothing store in downtown Seattle – a British ‘High Street’ retailer which produces clothing aimed towards a younger clientele. (I didn’t go into the store tonight but I want to go back and take a look).  AllSaints name refers in part to 60’s TV icon Simon Templar, aka The Saint – and in part to All Saints Road, in Nottinghill, notorious for its artistic and musical associations.

Friday/ leaves and lizards

The three pictures were all taken within a few blocks around my house around 5 pm today.  The interlocking lizard pavement is at the St Joseph School close by.  It is no doubt inspired by the drawing called ‘Reptiles (1943)’ of the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher.  (It’s a coincidence that I had to post more of his artwork, so soon after the one called ‘Three Worlds’ from a few days ago).

Wednesday/ downtown Seattle

I went out for a walk-about over lunch, walked over to the King County Administration building to make a property tax payment (ouch! it dented my bank account).  The next picture is the Seattle Library, and then the Columbia tower from the corner of Cherry St and 5th Ave.   ‘A Christmas Story’ is showing at 5th Avenue Theatre (is not a little early?).

The last picture was taken from the 19th floor of my office building just before I left, showing the ferry from Bainbridge Island steaming in.


Sunday/ remodeled Starbucks

The remodeled Starbucks on Olive Way opens at 5 am Monday morning.  I like the red-brick and black color scheme.   I will not be there at 5am! (yikes), but I will go there later.  It was another clear and cool day and the night temperature will dip down to 42 F (5 C).

Saturday/ ready to vote

I have my mail-in ballot, my voters’ pamphlet and my post card urging me to vote.  Here in Washington state we have a record number of initiatives on the ballot and I will dedicate another post to what they are.     One of our incumbent senators is up against a Republican in a close race, too.

Thursday/ ‘Die Antwoord’ in Seattle

I stumbled on a print ad for ‘Die Antwoord’ (Afr. for ‘The Answer’) in the newspaper here .. oh! what do you know, I thought – a South African band.  Well, it’s more of a hip-hop crew.  They did pick Seattle as the first city for their North American tour.   But 1. I hardly ever go to musical performances (yes, I should try harder to go), and 2. it appears to me their white trash “zef” aesthetic, crudeness and gimmickry will NOT appeal to me.   But maybe I am not open-minded enough, because here is what Jonathan Zwickel wrote in the Seattle Times : Gimmickry is only one facet of the group’s art-school conceptualism and culturally-plundering spectacle. Husband-and-wife duo Ninja and Yo-landi Vi$$er — backed last night by tour DJ Fishsticks — are one of the most nuanced developments in hip-hop this year. Their videos demonstrate a jarringly grotesque visual aesthetic; their major label debut “$O$,” released earlier this week, obsesses about miscegenation and deviant sexuality.   And Wednesday night’s 50-minute performance revealed undeniable star power.


The skyline is of our twin city Bellevue on the ‘east side’ of Lake Washington.  We in the city of Seattle just say ‘on the east side’ for any city or neighborhood that is east of Lake Washington.   I took the picture from Bellevue Square, a nice shopping mall.    Hard to day if mall traffic is light or not given that I don’t go there regularly and it was a week night.  A new Microsoft store is about to open there – almost right next to the Apple store, no less.     And I’m posting a picture of the old logo for The Gap (on the left), a casual wear clothing store, and the new logo (on the right).   Management unveiled the new logo to such a storm of protest from customers that they ditched it and stuck with the old one.

P.S. Very heartwarming to see the Chilean miners coming out from 700m below ground, one by one.

Saturday/ our own little Oktoberfest

I attended a little Oktoberfest party at my friends Ken and Steve’s tonight.  The stein below is one of Steve’s collection of some 30 steins and was mine for the evening, and I got to take it home.   I will post a picture of me when I get it .. but rest assured we did not put any Germans to shame with our meagre consumption of beer !    The town of Leavenworth in Seattle hosts a three-weekend Oktoberfest as well.   Of course, the real Oktoberfest is in Munich this time of year – and is the largest folk festival in the world, drawing about 6 million visitors (granted, many of them from Bavaria itself).   2010 actually marks the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest, the original one held by Crown Prince Ludwig on Oct 12, 1810 to celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, five days earlier.

Monday/ the big-screen TV has landed

I bought a new TV at Best Buy on Saturday and it was delivered at 7.30am.  Part of the deal was a free pick-up for recycling of the 36″ 185lb Sony monster circa 2002, replaced by the Samsung 55″ 1080p / 120Hz / LED-LCD HDTV that is 1″ thick and weighs 55lbs.  I love the Touch of Color glass bezel and it’s amazing, all the connections that have been built in.    What did it cost?  Do I have to tell?  OK – I thought it was a steal at $1,800 .. a price that would have been three times as much just 5 years ago, and down from $2,200 just a few months ago.   Best Buy’s geek squad will come by on Wednesday to connect the cable company’s HD TV box .. all part of my strategy to get myself to spend more time in front of the TV to relax.   I think I watch all of 5 hrs of TV a week right now.

P.S. I see the new TV needs to move slightly to the left so that it is lined up with the window above it.

Saturday/ raking leaves

It’s fall, and so they are falling – those leaves from the maple tree next door.  Rake them up!  I found the beautiful crimson rose* a few blocks from my house.    *Strange that the rose picture now makes me recall a phrase from some book (of a force or emotion so powerful that) ‘it makes horses rear, roses wilt, and the very stars cool in the dark’.  Whoah. : )

Wednesday/ pick-up day

Apologies for the tardiness of this ‘Wednesday’ post.  (It is already late on Thursday).

The garbage truck shows up on Wednesdays in my neighborhood, and on alternate Wednesdays the recycle truck and the yard waste truck comes by.  This is the yard waste truck. I was shocked that I was able to fill my big yard waste bin with leaves, weeds (from the front yard!) and pine needles – given that the leaves are only just starting to fall. So when DOES fall start here in western Washington, I wondered?  The chart I found shows the peak periods .. and ours is later than in northern states by the Great Lakes, and the Rocky Mountain area.

Tuesday/ the Ballard locks

I went to dinner tonight with my friends Bill and Dave in Ballard northwest of the city.  Afterwards we went to the ‘Locks’, marked A on the map.  The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (also called the Ballard locks) are a complex of locks that sit at the west end of Salmon Bay, part of Seattle’s Lake Washington Ship Canal.

The locks and associated facilities serve three purposes –
* To maintain the water level of the fresh water Lake Washington and Lake Union at 20–22 feet above sea level (Puget Sound’s mean low tide).
* To prevent the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with the fresh water of the lakes (saltwater intrusion).
* To move boats from the water level of the lakes to the water level of Puget Sound, and vice versa.

The first picture shows the canal with a sailboat lifted almost to the fresh water level (there is one set of locks for small vessels, and another for large ones), the second picture is the view out to the lakes.  The third picture from Wikipedia shows a ship going out from the freshwater lakes to Puget Sound.  The final picture shows some artwork right there.  I will have to go back on a sunny day and take better pictures but it’s a little late.  (Aw).  The salmon has made their run through the ladders at the Locks, the boat traffic is now winding down, and winter is slowly approaching.

Saturday in Seattle

I was on a sunset walk-about last night and this is at the top of Capitol Hill looking west from 14th Ave.   I was trying to take a peek-a-boo picture of the Space Needle (see it in the distance?), but I had a wide-angle instead of a zoom lens on my camera.    Then this vintage car pulled up next to me, and it just sat there.   What is going on? I wondered, then noticed that the driver had his little digital camera perched on the steering wheel, also taking a picture.   And so the 1957 Chevrolet Belair Nomad (I think that’s the model of the car) upstaged the Space Needle and became the topic of the picture instead : ).

The TV snap shot from this morning shows a much nicer view of the Needle .. and a temperature of 56° F (13° C).  So it looks like summer is on its way out.  (I promise not to make a habit of taking pictures of the TV.  I sometimes take pictures of billboards in Hong Kong and my colleagues with me would say ‘You’re taking a picture of a picture’.  And I would say ‘So?’).

Thursday/ you can still get your Starbucks

.. on Olive Way, that is.    The Starbucks coffee shop is being remodeled (it looked perfectly fine inside to me – it’s the wooden structure to the left of the van in the background), and now they are serving coffee from a Starbucks van.    It was getting dark and the van was closing down by the time I got there to take the picture so the van was closing up shop.   First time I have seen a Starbucks van, though.   And check out the makeshift deck in the foreground where you can sit and have your coffee while you watch the world go by!   : )

Tuesday night/ more of Capitol Hill

Pictures from tonight’s walkabout .. a black kitty kat that must have stepped in white paint : ),  an update on the artwork on John and 11th, want to join the Revolutionary Communist Party of the USA? Sign up! and the neon sign on the Broadway Rite Aid pharmacy.

I have to get up early to go to the office for a long day of training.

Monday/ new Capitol Hill light rail station

Here are some pictures from the Capitol Hill light rail station that is under construction.  I took it on my Sunday afternoon stroll in my neighborhood. The artwork was commissionedby Sound Transit and the artist is Baso Fibonacci (is he also a mathematician?*).  There’s the Ethiopian Restaurant that I have never been to (time to go?), a picture of the red fence around the construction and a peek inside.   A loong way to go still.

*The famous Fibonacci numbers are 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233 .. see how it works? Start with 0 and 1, and add the two previous numbers to get the next one.   The higher up in the sequence, the closer two consecutive Fibonacci numbers of the sequence divided by each other will approach the golden ratio (approximately 1 : 1.618 or 0.618 : 1).

Saturday/ vote by mail

My ballot arrived in the mail today.  Yes, we love to have elections!  And so in the states the primaries for the 2010 Mid-term Elections (middle of the president’s term) have already started – essentially narrowing down the candidates for November.

In Washington State we can now vote for both Democrats and Republicans regardless of our registered party.  I see in the voters’ pamphlet the candidates now coyly say prefers Democratic Party or prefers Republican Party instead of stating their affiliation outright.  (I’d love to play with words and say I prefer to not to vote for Republicans, but that is not true.  I absolutely will not.)

The Seattle Weekly reports that two Propositions will make the ballot as well : related to whether the State should give up its control over selling liquor.  (Currently hard liquor can only be bought at state-owned stores.  Beer and wine one can buy at the grocery store).   Oh boy.  Leave well enough alone.  It’s the big grocery store Costco that’s trying to wrest the booze business away from the state.

Friday/ ladybug

We are lucky not to have to deal with many bugs in Seattle.  Here’s one I caught in my so-called garden yesterday, though.   I don’t have a close-up lens for my camera so it was hard to take a sharp picture of the tiny bug.   Ladybugs belong to Coccinellidae, a family of beetles.   In other parts of the world they are called ladybirds and in Afrikaans they go by liewenheersbesie which more or less translates back into English as ‘the dear lord’s little bug’.   There you have it.