I have a pair of photos from May of 2000, taken when I had made the trip up from Houston to Seattle in my 1996 Toyota Camry.
I had long wondered at which rest area the one picture is taken, and now I know.
Here is how it went.
Today marked the opening of the 4.3-mile extension of the Seattle area’s Link light rail system towards the north, with three new stations: U District, Roosevelt and Northgate. These are the final stations in the system that was proposed to voters in 1996. So it took twenty-five years to get it all planned and built, a lot longer and much more expensive than planned, but it’s here at last. The price tag for this last phase was $1.9 billion.
Central Line is now called Line 1 with its 19 stations. Line 2 to Bellevue is under construction and will open in two years in 2023.
It was time for the Will-o-Watt Wagon (my car’s name on the Tesla app) to get out of the city and take the long road for a trip to Ellensburg today.
I used my car’s standard Autopilot functions extensively for the first time, on today’s drive. Standard Autopilot means letting the car steer, accelerate, and brake within its lane. It was a good learning experience —and definitely a little hair-raising at times, such as trusting the car to stay in the lane on a curve in the road, with vehicles in the lanes next to you, and oncoming traffic as well.
The primary skill to master with standard Autopilot is to allow the car to steer itself, while still having one’s hands on the wheel. If the driver holds the wheel too firmly, the car interprets it as an override, and cancels the Autopilot steering. If, on the other hand, the car cannot detect that the driver is holding the wheel, it issues a message— a series of messages, actually, ending with an alarm and a screen with red hands on the wheel that says ‘Autosteer Unavailable For The Rest Of This Drive’. I managed to avoid ending up in that dog box and state! Success!
P.S. News broke today that Tesla has officially launched its Full Self-Driving subscription package for $199 per month. Full Self-Driving is really ‘Almost Full Self-Driving’, since the driver really still needs to hold the wheel. However, it is a really big step up from standard Autopilot, in that the car will stop, start and navigate by itself. So it will stop at intersections and traffic lights, wait for traffic or the green light, and go by itself, and turn on the turn signal for turns and lane changes where needed.
Apple announced today that iOS 15 will enable the iPhone wallet to store ID cards and driver’s licenses (and maybe vaccination records?).
That’s good news for people like me and Willie Geist of NBC. (See below. He lost his wallet today).
Here’s a little Chevy Bolt from Oregon getting charged at an Electrify America charging station here on East Madison Street on Capitol Hill.
It’s early days for building out the charging network. There are 612 of these EA stations across the country with 125 more coming online soon. (There are 168,000 gas stations in the United States).
These charging stations are for out-of-town or out-of-state travelers. In general, it’s much, much more expensive (up to 3x, 4x more) to charge one’s car at these stations, instead of at home.
On top of that, we have the cheapest electricity in the country here in Washington State at 8.53¢/ kWh (source: electricitylocal.com). At this station, the charging cost is $0.43/ kWh, or $0.31/ kWh plus a $4 monthly fee.
Tesla cars can be charged here, but Tesla has its own charging station network (cost is about $0.28/ kWh).
P.S. I see that Associated Press reports there are roughly 42,000 public charging stations in the United States, but only about 5,000 are considered direct-current fast chargers. The Biden administration is looking at incentives to encourage companies and governments to build 500,000 charging stations nationwide by 2030.
If I don’t get a personalized license plate from my new car, a plate number will be drawn for me from the current series.
Washington State started issuing 7-character license plates in 2011.
At that time the 6-character series of 001-AAA to 999-ZZZ had been exhausted.
The current format is AAA0000 to ZZZ9999.
It takes 5 to 6 years for one letter in the first position to be exhausted. So at this point, all Washington State cars 10 years or younger, have plates starting with A or B. We’re nearing the end of the B numbers, though. As far as I can tell, the latest plate numbers issued are in the BYT7000 range.
So that makes it possible to play a guessing game, to see what plate number might be drawn for me (see the table below).
BYT (byte) is cool, but I will be too late for one of those. (My car will be delivered around mid-June).
I do not want BYU. People might think I am associated with Brigham Young University in Utah.
Maybe I will catch a BZA number. ZA is the old international country abbreviation for South Africa. Long ago, drivers touring southern Africa would add a separate oval plate or sticker, with ZA on, to their vehicle’s standard number plate. Some still do, to this day.
It’s official: my Toyota Camry is going to be written off, and not be repaired.
I’ve told everyone I know for four years that my next car is an electric car, or no car at all*.
*Use Uber and the train or bus here in the city.
Since we’re still in a pandemic, and it would be so much more convenient to have a car, I am about to pull the trigger and put in my order for an electric car. (It’s from a company that is named after the last name of Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist Nikola Tesla).
Dottie from San Francisco, commenting on a New York Times article that mentions a few countries in Europe that Americans may be able to travel to, this summer:
‘After over a year of lockdown, I thought I’d be itching to travel but actually I feel the opposite. I’ve been working from home in practically solitary confinement, only broken up by daily walks in the park and weekly grocery trips, and it has made me anxious and stressed to be in crowds. I doubt I’d want to go anywhere after getting vaccinated.
Often I feel like a prisoner who’s been released back into society taking baby steps to do things that were once normal, routine. I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant in over a year. I can’t imagine getting on a plane and being surrounded by people. Let’s all hold off and wait until 2022, when most of the population at our destinations are vaccinated and we ourselves have acclimated back to normal daily living’.
It’s spring break. In these times there should not even be a party, but this weekend young people travelled to Miami in the thousands, anyway. They crowded close together on the beaches, and in the streets on Ocean Drive, and then they brawled in the streets, and trashed some of the bars & restaurants.
‘Seemingly undeterred by the police presence on Sunday night in South Beach, two maskless men in their 20s, who were wearing board shorts and clutching hard seltzers, took turns snorting white lines from a postcard. Around the corner, a group of police officers stood calmly, talking with one another and shouting for people to go home.
A man who was part of a maskless throng of people walking toward Ocean Drive sipped from an almost empty bottle of cognac and nodded at the officers.
“I’m throwing it away,” he said, pointing into the distance. “It’s my birthday.” “Hurry up, man,” one of the officers said, cautioning about a police detail nearby. The officers stayed in place and continued their conversation as the group headed toward the bars that were now shuttered’.
– reported by Neil Vigdor, Michael Majchrowicz and Azi Paybarah in the New York Times
We still have airplane passengers here in the States that get away with wearing no mask on the airplane. Why is that? They need to be removed and added to the no-fly list for 10 years, with the rest of the FBI’s domestic terrorists.
Here are a few excerpts from photojournalist Justin Jin’s recent visit to Shanghai (to visit his cancer-stricken dad in the hospital), as described in the South China Morning Post:
To get on one of the few exorbitantly priced flights, I have to pass two Covid-19 tests. One will draw a sample from my nose and the other from my blood, with both needed to be taken within 48 hours before departure at a lab approved by the local Chinese consulate. When I get my results, I have to upload them together with a long list of personal data via a phone app to the consulate, which then activates a QR “health” code on my phone required for boarding my plane in Amsterdam.
Many of the mostly Chinese passengers come fully protected, too. Since each of us carries double-negative results to get on the flight, this cabin must be one of the safest places in Europe. The Chinese passengers also follow instructions to stay in their seats as much as possible, even avoiding the toilet during the 12-hour flight. I also avoid the bathroom, my confidence shaken by the behavior of those around me.
Upon landing, customs officers comb through the plane to see if anyone has fallen ill. Our flight gets the all-clear to disembark, and we file into a Covid-19 testing station, getting another QR code and passport check along the way. Almost everything is shielded and contactless, a precise choreography of anticipated human movement.
Even though I have by now three certified negative test results, I am still a suspect in China’s eyes. There’s always a chance of catching something on the way. And since the tests I have had are not perfect, I shall endure a 14-day strict quarantine at my own cost. (At the hotel, Justin describes the severe cleaning procedures at the hotel. The hallway is disinfected every time a person had entered it, for example).
. . .
In free and democratic Europe, people live under the repressive shadow of Covid-19. In China, the system is restrictive, but people are almost completely safe from the virus imprisoning much of the world. They are free to hug, to party and to prosper.
The same night my brother takes me to a crowded wine bar in Shanghai with friends. There are no masks, no talk of vaccines and, for a moment, no worries. It feels so 2023.
Move over 2017’s LEGO Millennium Falcon (7,541 pieces) and LEGO Taj Mahal (5,923 pieces)!
The up-and-coming LEGO Colosseum (on sale this Friday) clocks in at a colossal 9,036 pieces, making it far-and-away the largest official Lego set ever.
And yes, it comes at a high price for that many bricks: US$ 550.
Am I tempted to go for it? Well, I would rather spend that kind of money to buy bricks like I did for my Doon Drive House creation.
Maybe I can design and build a LEGO Castle of Good Hope – the one in Cape Town, with its brick walls and five-pointed footprint. Now that would be a challenge.
Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt airport (code: BER) is finally, at last, open for business. Its opening this Saturday is 9 years late. Numerous scandals had devoured huge sums of money and ruined many a reputation.
I am eager to go and check it out, and I will definitely put the airport BER on my list of destinations to fly into, once this pandemic has subsided.
.. partygoers packed the Wuhan Maya Beach Water Park this weekend. Wuhan ended its 76-day lockdown in early April, and no new domestically-transmitted cases have been officially reported there since mid-May [Bloomberg Business News Quicktake on Twitter].
Kaunas is a city in south-central Lithuania at the confluence of the Neris and Nemunas rivers, with a population of about 300,000 people. Lithuania is one of the Baltic states, situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the southeast of Sweden and Denmark.
I discovered this bird’s eye view picture of the Pete Dye Challenge golf course (north of Rancho Mirage, in the greater Palm Springs area), in my scanned archives.
I took it from my seat in a propeller plane, during my very first visit to the United States, in March 1990.
My brother lived in nearby Palm Desert at the time. ‘Just so you know‘, he said, ‘Palm Springs and its golf courses are not what the real America looks like’.
March 1990: The Pete Dye Challenge golf course at Mission Hills Country Club north of Rancho Mirage, was completed in 1988.
The curved road at the bottom of picture is Dinah Shore Drive.
At the very top edge of the picture runs highway Interstate 10, going to Phoenix, AZ, and all the way east across the country to Jacksonville, FL.
The tracks of real estate in between the greens of the golf course would be developed soon enough ..
July 2020: Fast forward 30 years later to today, and we find the Pete Dye Challenge golf course temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Mission Hills North/ Gary Player Signature golf course was added in 1992.
The tracks of land have been filled up with houses/ golf course condominiums.
Rancho Mirage High School at the top left of the picture was founded in 2013.
Here’s another 4×6 ‘escape’ photo that I found on a lamp post, of the Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland. It’s about 50 miles (80 km) as the crow flies from the capital of Reykjavik, and 75 miles (120 km) to drive out there with a car.
I found this picture of Prague on a lamp post here on 13th Ave.
Regrettably, I have not been the beautiful capital of the Czech Republic — at least not yet.
I had a chance to go there while I was working in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 2008. Bratislava is a 4 hour train ride away.