Monday morning/ it’s free

‘The effort to move the giant ship was assisted by forces more powerful than any machine rushed to the scene: the moon and the tides’
– the New York Times


Word came on Monday morning that the Ever Given has been freed.  It was towed to the Great Bitter Lake for a final inspection. The last thing authorities would want to happen, is for the ship to break down on the way to Port Said at the northern end of the Canal.

What a sight: the Ever Given in the middle of the Canal, getting towed to the Great Bitter Lake.
[Still from a video by Associated Press, posted on the online New York Times]

Sunday/ update: still stuck

“This is a very big ship. This is a very big problem.”
– Richard Meade, the editor in chief of Lloyd’s List, a maritime intelligence publication based in London.


So! that whale of a container ship is still stuck in the Canal.
The dozen or so tugboats and the dredgers have managed to move it by some 100ft, though.
The water level will raise by another 18 inches on Monday, and that might be all that is needed.

Here’s a depiction of what the Ever Given would look like from above, if it would ever make it to the Seattle Waterfront. (It’s hard to say what exact class of Washington State ferry is shown on the image, but let’s assume it’s a Jumbo class ferry such as the Walla Walla. The ferry would be of length 440′ & beam 87′. The Ever Given has a length of 1,312 ft and a beam of 193′. So if it’s 3x as long, 2x as wide, and 2x as high as the ferry, it’s a vessel that is 12 times larger than the ferry!) 
[Thanks to Garrett Dash Nelson @en_dash on Twitter for providing a tool to put the Ever Given anywhere on Earth]

Thursday/ the Ever Given is not giving

Welp! I’m checking in on the Ever Given every morning (the ultra-large containership that ran aground in the Suez Canal on Tuesday).  So far, it is not budging.

There is a full moon and a high tide on the way this weekend, though. That will lift the water level in the canal and may help to dislodge the Ever Given. (The Suez canal is not like the Panama canal, with its locks that elevate ships above sea level.  The Suez has no locks — the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea’s Gulf of Suez have approximately the same water level).

More than 150 ships are waiting to pass through the 120 mile canal. [Graphic by Refinitiv, a global provider of financial market data and infrastructure].
Amazing detail in this satellite picture. The 400-meter, 224,000-tonne Ever Given container ship, leased by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, blocks Egypt’s Suez Canal in a BlackSky satellite image taken at 15:30 local time March 25, 2021. 
[BlackSky/Handout via REUTERS]
Stranded container ship Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, is seen after it ran aground, in Suez Canal, Egypt March 25, 2021, in this still image taken from a video.  [Reuters TV via REUTERS]

Tuesday/ my new iPad: a few notes

I have had my new iPad Air 4 for a few weeks now, and I like it. (Of course I like it). It is not a replacement for my Lenovo notebook computer (Windows), and so I do not have a little keyboard for it.  The iPad holds my iTunes music collection, my photo albums, my Scrabble games and my newspapers & magazines from Pressreader. I did get the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil — to see what cool things I can do with it, more than anything else.

I’m still getting used to the harder edges that Apple has reintroduced to their iPhones and iPads of late. There is definitely no air in the Air (it feels heavy), and the edges hurt my fingers a little bit, after I have held it too long while I lie on my back in bed, watching Netflix. (I know. I should watch Netflix on the big TV screen downstairs, and not in bed).

I got the blue finish, which is really a bluish gray, and not really ‘Sky Blue’, as Apple calls it. The cover is Apple’s magnetic cover, the navy blue color. That thin light gray button on the corner has Touch ID integrated into it, and it is quick and reliable. (Psst. I want it for my iPhone, Apple! The face recognition function to unlock my iPhone Xs no longer works in public, now that we wear masks). The 2nd-gen. pencil now latches onto the iPad’s side, magnetically, to charge —a vast improvement from the 1st-gen. one that had to be stuck into the thunderbolt port at the bottom. (The Air 4 has a USB-C port and not a thunderbolt port).
I’m not Vincent van Gogh, nor Andy Warhol, but it was fun to add some color to this self-portrait. I took the picture with the iPad’s camera inside the Notes app, and then embellished it with the Pencil.
Here’s something else I’m trying with the pencil and its electronic ‘ink’: filling out the giant crossword puzzles from the Irish Daily Mail. It’s a very different experience than printing out the crossword on a large sheet of paper, and using a graphite pencil and eraser. Maybe I will get to like doing it on the iPad, and maybe not.

Thursday/ the Perseverence has landed

Congratulations to the hundreds of collaborators at NASA, for the successful landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars. The mission was eight years in the making.

[From CNN online] The path Perseverance will traverse on Mars is about 15 miles long, an ‘epic journey’ that will take years. What scientists could discover about Mars, though, is worth the journey. To accomplish its goals, Perseverance will drive a little less than 0.1 mile per hour, three times faster than previous rovers.

A rendering of the Perseverance rover on Mars, NASA’s fifth. The rover landed in Jezero* crater, thought to have once been flooded with water. The crater contains a fan-delta deposit rich in clays, and the rover will look for evidence of life that might have existed on Mars. The rover will collect information about Mars’ climate and geology, and collect soil and rock samples that will make it back to Earth by the 2030s.
*Jezero means ‘lake’ in many Slavic languages. [Source of picture: NASA]

Sunday/ the 1920’s and the electric home

There were no cars in front of The Parkhurst apartment building on 14th Avenue, as I walked by, just before dark.
So I snapped a picture, to check up on its history at home.
Here is what I found.

The Parkhurst apartment building on 14th Ave. It was built in 1929 by builder & developer Gardner J. Gwinn (inset picture). A native from Nova Scotia, Canada, he moved to Seattle in 1909 at the age of 21. At the time the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition (a world’s fair) was underway (on the site now occupied by the University of Washington), and the city was booming.
Gwinn was a prolific home builder, and was selected by the Electric Club of Seattle to promote and market ‘Electric Homes’. In the very beginning, homes were wired with only the basics for electric lighting. ‘Electric homes’ had electric outlets & more extensive wiring for electric appliances in the kitchen and elsewhere in the house. [From the Seattle Times Archives, Sept. 24, 1922].
It’s 97 years later, but both of the homes pictured above in the 1924 Seattle Times, are still standing. This picture of the top one is from Google Streetview.
From the same Seattle Times supplement from 1924, an article that promotes the ‘modern home’ that has electricity. Vacuum cleaner, washing machine, 6-pound flat iron, toaster, percolator, stove, sewing machine .. who could resist? The nationwide electrical grid was still under construction, though. In 1925, only about half of homes in the US had access to electricity at all.

Saturday/ the new stations on Berlin’s U5

Here’s another reason for me to go to Berlin again some time (first reason is the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport): the expansion of the U5 U-bahn* line that had started in 2010, is now complete.

*Short for Untergrundbahn, ‘underground railway’.

I took this picture of the Rotes Rathaus (‘red town hall’, opened in 1869) on Rathaus-straße near Alexanderplatz in 2015. Construction of the U-5 line extension and stations were already well underway.
Here is the ‘Bärlinde’ tunnel boring machine they deployed. It is somewhat similar to the Bertha boring machine (dia. 57.5 ft/ 17.5 m) that was used in Seattle for the SR-99 tunnel, but this one is not nearly as big (dia. 22 ft/ 6.7 m).
The new part of the U5 line dips down from the Brandenburg gate to the station called Museum Insel (museum island, an island in the Spree River), and then goes up again to Alexanderplatz.
Inside the brand new Rotes Rathaus station on the U5 extension. [Picture credit: Der Tagesspiegel/ Annette Riegel]
“The U-5 crackles with History”  Come in! With 50,000 people that will be able to change between lines 5 and 6 in the new Unter Den Linden station, according to BVG, the city’s mayor hopes for a revitalization aboveground. He imagines concerts on Museum Island with fewer cars that are driven, and people can converse undisturbed.
Here is the history of the U5 line that now stretches back almost a century, to 1927. [Graphic from Der Tagesspiegel]

Monday/ better late than never

Two items in the ‘Better Late Than Never’ category, in the fight against the pandemic, were in the news today.
1.  Dr. Scott Atlas, Trump’s coronavirus adviser resigned.  (His ‘expert advice’ appalled public health experts).
2.  Washingtonians can finally activate or download the Coronavirus Exposure Notification app.  (In Western Washington, the number of new daily cases jumped six-fold just from September to November). The diagram below shows how this works.

Here’s how the Exposure Notification smartphone app, developed by Apple & Google, works. (Technical question: Bluetooth signals work up to 30 ft/ 10 m away. Does that mean I will get a notification if I had been as much as 30 ft away from a person that had tested positive for COVID-19 the last 14 days? I guess so! The fourth panel does say it needs to be ‘a significant amount of time’ – 15 mins, I would guess – that the phones had been in close proximity). [Graphic from the Washington State Dept. of Health website]

Saturday/ ‘your mesh connection is great’

‘A mesh network is a group of devices that act as a single Wi-Fi network; so there are multiple sources of Wi-Fi around your house, instead of just a single router. These additional Wi-Fi sources are called points or nodes’.
– definition from support.google.com


My Wi-Fi signal downstairs was too weak for my new smart TV, so I opted for a mesh network to get a better signal downstairs — instead of adding a Wi-Fi extender to my existing network. Per my limited understanding, Wi-Fi extenders repeat the signal and thereby slows down its speed. Many times extenders broadcast a new network name, which could be a hassle for a user moving around a lot in the space.

I went with Google Nest Wi-Fi. For a small apartment, one node will do, but for a bigger space two nodes or more can be used.

Once I had the issues with my old Wi-Fi-enabled modem-router resolved (aka throwing it out and replacing it altogether with just a simple cable modem!), the set-up of the Google Nest Wifi mesh network was straightforward.

These little orbs (officially ‘Google Nest Wifi routers’) are the nodes in the mesh network. One of them is connected to the modem via an Ethernet cable (connector plugs are hidden on the bottom). All the other identical nodes are simply plugged in to a power outlet (not further apart than two rooms or so from any other). My node by the modem is upstairs in the study, with one more node downstairs in the living room.
Here’s what the walkthrough on the Google Home app looks like.
‘Your mesh connection is great’ .. music to the ears after the slog I had to replace the modem (50 mins on the phone with the ISP’s tech support only to conclude the old modem was not cutting it, and that I needed a new one!).

Wednesday/ my TV is now smart

My Samsung TV was 10 years old, and at long last it was time to upgrade to a smart 4K* TV.  I picked a Samsung again, and was planning to replace my 55″ screen with a similar size .. and then at the last minute in the store, opted for one with a 65″ screen.

I paid  $1,899 in 2010 dollars for the old TV (that’s $2,264 in 2020 dollars). The new one was all of $529, practically given away for free. (Alright, so not completely free).

*Smart= the TV can connect to the internet and offer all kinds of online content from providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and others.
4K= the screen resolution is 3840 x 2160; a fourfold increase over Full HD (1920×1080 pixels).

The 2020 French Open is underway in Paris. The silly American networks are VERY STINGY with their coverage. I should sign up for Tennis Channel’s content (it’s $100 per year).
YouTube posts highlights of the matches every day. My wifi signal is poor in the corner of my living room where the TV is, so what I did here is connect my laptop computer to the TV with an HDMI cable to get the tennis on the big screen. I’m still trying to find out why the laptop can pick up the wifi signal OK but the TV cannot! Anyway, here is the King of Clay (Spaniard Rafael Nadal, 34 yrs, nearside in the turquoise and pink!) in the second round against American Mackenzie McDonald, 25). Nadal won easily, but it was a triumph for McDonald just to be able to play. He tore his hamstring tendon last year in May and could not walk for two months after the operation to mend it.

Sunday/ the Model Y

Here’s a black Tesla Model Y that I found here on 17th Ave. It has a range of 315 miles, and sports a very sleek look.

‘While the introduction of the Model Y wasn’t as groundbreaking as the hoopla around Models 3, S, and X, it’s clear it is going to be big. SUV and crossover sales continue to dwarf sedan sales in the United States, and the Model X is probably a bit too radical and expensive for most potential EV* buyers, so the Model Y appears to hit the sweet spot buyers are looking for: an EV with plenty of cargo space and a high sitting position’.
– From a review on caranddriver.com

*Electrical vehicle

Black is beautiful, but man! it shows dirt very quickly. If one gets the black paint, one should probably spring for the black wheels as well, instead of the silver.

Saturday/ go Slow

 

The Slow Mo 02 with its Apple-esque square face, all silver stainless steel, with a black dial, $300.
How to read the time. Love that last one .. would it be drama if ‘12.23’ is actually 12.24?

 

 

Is this the perfect watch for the pandemic? It’s a Swiss-made watch with one hand that rolls around the dial once every 24 hours. 12 noon at the top, of course, and midnight at the bottom.

 

Sunday 2 a.m./ a very witching time of night

‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on.
-From William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ (written 1599-1601), Act 3, Scene 2.


At 2 a.m. Sunday morning local time here in the United States, it was that silly moment of the year again. Clocks were made to ‘spring forward’ by one hour (adjusted to Daylight Saving Time).

Of course, only some clocks spring forward by themselves.
The others all have to be adjusted manually.

Clockwise from top left: my Dream Machine alarm clock, bathroom clock, wrist watch, kitchen clock, iPhone clock, coffee machine clock, landline phone clock, desktop PC clock, digital camera clock, TV clock, microwave oven clock, oven clock, Toyota Camry car clock. Only the iPhone, TV and PC have smart clocks.

Monday/ tally-ing up the inventory

I ran into Tally the inventory robot in the grocery store last night. I think it’s a good thing — letting a robot do the labor-intensive and repetitive process of physical inventory checking.

‘Yes, but does the store not have a count of the SKUs* on the shelf in its database, anyway? one might ask.  The store does, but human shoppers take items off the shelf and misplace it when putting it back, or – rarely, I hope – steal it. Or employees could unpack items in the wrong location, or forget to remove sale prices, and so on.  So there are always discrepancies between the SKU count in the database and the physical count on the shelf.

*Stock keeping unit

Tally the robot can read RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, and she can also use AI-powered image recognition to identify different products on the shelf.

Sunday/ my big film scanning project

Two weeks ago, I discovered an entire shoe box of my old ’80s and ’90s film negatives (35 mm) and slides in my brother’s house.

We promptly went out and bought a cheap flatbed scanner (Epson perfection v370) that can scan slides and film, and I have been patiently feeding the scanner reams of 35 mm film.

The plan is to upload all the pictures to Google Photos, but only after I had date-stamped and geo-tagged them as well.

That way the Google photo engine will be able to search for, and group all the faces for me, put them on a timeline sequence, and also on a world map by location: very nice.

‘Nothing escapes Agfa’ was a tagline long used for Agfa’s 35 mm film. This colorful print envelope from 1998 could accommodate panoramic prints and must have been a high point in the consumer film development and printing age. Alas, digital cameras made its film obsolete, and 2004, Agfa-Gevaert withdrew its products from the consumer market, including photographic film, cameras and other photographic equipment.
Check it out: no squinting at your 35 mm negatives, there is an index printed on the inside of the envelope. And that date printed at the top of the printed index could prove to be very valuable later. I have to engage in some serious sleuthing to put even a accurate YEAR on some of my 35 mm negatives that are undated.

Tuesday/ the internet was almost the ‘cat-enet’

It was 50 years ago, to the day, that the first remote login from one terminal to another was done, on what was then called Arpanet. And so the internet was born, say the pundits.

Just in time for Halloween: Meihejia Funny Cowboy Jacket Suit, available on Amazon for US$16.

Research papers into the late 70’s referred to these linked terminals as the ‘catenet model’ (concatenated terminals). It was only in the early 80’s with the arrival of the Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) protocol that the term ‘internet’ was settled on.

And it would be until the mid-90’s, before the public-at-large would get drawn into the internet — by the likes of America Online and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Amazon (1997*), Netflix (2002), Google (2004), Facebook (2012) and Twitter (2013) would follow.

*The years the companies went public.

Friday/ dogs & cats, on Tik Tok

Young people are now flocking to the social media app called Tik Tok. (It is used to create video clips set to snappy music: clowning for the camera, falling down on your skateboard, shooting hoops, driving golf carts, stuff like that).

Trouble is, the servers are based in China, and regulators fear that the app could pose a national security risk (used to spy on American citizens, used in political influence campaigns, or even used by ISIS terrorists for propaganda).

Anyway – let’s see what the fuss is about, I thought.  My initial take: yes, as easy as YouTube to waste a lot of time on it. I stumbled onto a few cute animal videos (stills below), and I like those the best.

Cutie pie doggos. They evidently have a HUGE following, with 375,000 likes (the little heart icon on the right).
Stryker The Cat is a serval (Afr. tierboskat), a wild cat native to sub-Saharan Africa. In the video, Stryker appeared in the doorway, and spotted the chicken on the carpet (carpet with leopard spots, and on the balloon! LOL). It hissed loudly, and pounced on the chicken, growling as it sank its fangs into it. I trust Stryker is more than 50% domesticated!
Here’s one more. If looks could kill: Puma the mountain lion, facing off with the poor Sphynx cat, that does not even have a coat to protect itself from scratches and bites. 
Hiss-ss! Fang-gss for you! And then the Puma turned and walked away around the sofa.

 

Sunday/ take me to the Space ‘Neevle’

I spotted the Apple Maps car on Sunday here on Capitol Hill, presumably upgrading its survey of my neighborhood.

I see (online) that Apple Maps has improved vastly in recent years, and is ready to challenge Google Maps. Hmm. I have them both on my phone, so maybe if one leads me into a dead end somewhere in a new country or city, I can switch to the other app, and give it another try.

Just for fun, I asked for directions to the Space Needle on Apple Maps, and it really, really sounds as if the voice says Starting Route to Space Neevle. Proceed to .. ‘. That’s OK, though. Space Neevle/ Space Needle – close enough.

Here is the little Apple Maps car with its high-definition 360° cameras in the white dome, and that must be the LIDAR equipment (Light Detection and Ranging), in the gray cylinders below. The radars scan a terrain up to 80m all around, and collect a detailed cloud of points at some 700 000 points per second.

Tuesday/ reviving my iPhone

My iPhone (not even a year old, Xs) died all of a sudden today, even though it was about 75% charged.
I finally revived it by trying the Device Firmware Update button sequence several times:
Press & release Volume Up button;
Press & release Volume Down button;
Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button ..
.. and then the Apple logo came on and it came back to life.

Who knows what constellation of firmware, software and hardware settings was to blame for the system ‘s black-out .. but from now on, I’m going to close all open screens and turn the phone completely off & on again, at least once a week.

Maybe I take too many pictures with my phone, more than it can handle. This picture is the downtown Barnes & Noble Bookstore dinosaur figurine display. They were all jumbled up, and I straightened out the two Carnotauruses (orange, foreground) and Velociraptors at the back. These both roamed around on Earth some 72 million years ago.