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!   : )

Wednesday/ put your thinking cap on

Actually, your thinking hat – and pick a color.

The training course I attended at work today, meant to sharpen up our thinking, mentioned Edward de Bono’s six hats.  Six different ways to think about a problem, that is.   Which one is your favorite way of thinking?

White hat – Facts & Information
Red hat – Feelings & Emotions
Black hat – Negatives
Yellow hat – Positives
Green hat – New Ideas
Blue hat – The Big Picture .. P.S. and click the picture below to make it bigger !

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).

Sunday/ change in plans

My travel back to China has been pushed out by a week, so that I can attend corporate training here in Seattle.   I see United Airlines and Continental Airlines will merge towards the end of 2010.  It’s a ‘merger of equals’.   But what will the new planes look like?  Well, below is an artist’s rendition. (It wasn’t me spending two hours Photoshopping!)    The Continental gold and blue graphics will be kept and be replaced with the word United – so the new airline will be called United Airlines.

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.

Wednesday/ wow, the milk man

I looked out my window on the front of the house to see what was making a noise (it was a generator used across the street for painting or cleaning a house outside). Then I spotted this truck in the street.  Grabbed my camera just in time to snap the milk man jumping back into his white-and-black cow truck (and of course it would be a cow truck! we expect it to be a cow truck! – right? : ).    But I really did not know milk is still available for delivery this way.

Their web site is www.smithbrothersfarms.com

(Yes, the sidewalk lawn in front of my house is dried out, the way it usually is in summer.   I don’t have a sprinkler system like my neighbor on the right!  And I am not home every week to water it!)

Tuesday/ downtown Seattle

I made the second of my three trips to the passport office and took a few pictures of the buildings downtown.  The picture shows the region’s tallest building, the Columbia Center, in the middle ‘below’ the street lamp.  It has 76 stories and is almost 1,000 ft tall .. and is reportedly 40% empty.  Which is actually a lot better than some condo buildings downtown.

From The Stranger, a Seattle alternative weekly newspaper :

In March, the present owners of the Columbia Center tower, a Boston-based group called the Beacon Capital Partners, decided not to fork over its $1.6 million mortgage payment. This rattled not only downtown Seattle but the whole commercial real-estate market…  For the Columbia Center all the trouble began in 2007, the year the future refused to reveal anything to developers and financiers but a golden escalator to a brilliant cloud of profits. Beacon Capital bought the building for an astounding 621 million bucks—more than triple what it cost developer Martin Selig to build the tower two decades before. The purchase was a part of the group’s money-mad, frenzied, intoxicated spending spree of glamorous office properties in Seattle and Bellevue. The region had never seen anything like it. Millions upon millions were poured into amazed pockets.

Looking back, we now wonder how in the world anyone (and particularly those in the business of making loads of money) had such blind faith in an economy that was to crash only the following year. How could these professionals miss the signs? These same men and women bought the Columbia Center with the complete belief that today, in 2010, there would be even more money to be made than in 2007, the year the stock market passed the dizzying 14,000 mark. A year after the economy collapsed, the mighty Columbia Center has instead lost roughly 40 percent of its value, and the income from the building is now “less than needed to service its debt” (Puget Sound Business Journal, March 24).

Monday/ more passport pages (please)

I work on a project that I call Mission Impossible, and therefore I run into mission impossible situations in the week I am at home as well.

For example : get more blank visa pages added to your passport in ONE WEEK.  It’s harder than one would think.  The city agencies dealing with passport applications offer a THREE WEEK expedited service.  When you finally find out you’re lucky enough to have a federal agency right here in your home city, it may take three visits there as it will for me.   The first one was to fill out a form (after committing the mortal sin of showing up there this morning without an appointment). Also needed is proof of one’s travel plans in the next two weeks on paper.  Yes : got to print out that electronic airline reservation.  But no printer for US citizens’ use in the passport office.  I had to try my luck at the Seattle library (picture below from the inside – pretty! but one printer for 200 people, didn’t work) and then at Fedex-Kinko’s (you pay $6 but it’s so quick).

So there I was, sweaty from running/ walking a dozen blocks back and forth across Seattle downtown, through the security check point, back at the appointment window in the federal building.   No luck, too late to help me at 2.45pm.  Got to dial that 877 number, it’s the only way to get an appointment.  (Did that. Got an appointment for tomorrow at 8 am).

Saturday/ the State Route 520 bridge

Here is a picture from late Saturday afternoon, driving due west across Lake Washington on the State Route 520 Floating Bridge  into the sun.   It was a beautiful day, with blue sky and 83 F (28 C) temperatures.    (Yes, yes – I shouldn’t take pictures while driving with my cell phone, and I really do NOT touch my phone as a rule while driving).

I’m on the far left in this panoramic picture from Wikipedia (search for Evergreen Point Floating Bridge).  In 1989, an electrical fault caused the draw span to open during rush hour, causing one death and five injuries. In 2000, a gravel barge struck the bridge, closing it for eleven days and causing $500,000 worth of damage.  The bridge is actually nearing the end of its useful life and is scheduled for replacement by 2014 after a lot of political wrangling over how to go about it, and Microsoft weighing in as well.   (The Microsoft campus is on the east side of the bridge in a town called Redmond).

Friday/ hydrangea

I came back yesterday to find the hydrangea on my front lawn in full bloom.  We call them krismisrose (Eng. Christmas roses) in South Africa – I’m not sure why.  I slept OK last night; took a 3mg melatonin tablet before going to bed.  Sometimes jet lag really sets in only on the 2nd and 3rd day after arriving, though – so I will only then know if it helped.

Thursday/ arrived

I made it in around 2 pm Seattle time.  The picture is from San Francisco airport, and my plane looked the same as the one through the window.

The flight from Hong Kong got in a little late, so I had to hustle to make the connection to Seattle in San Francisco.   USA regulations make international arrivals pick up their arriving luggage and go through security again.   And the later you are, the longer the line is, and the slower it moves – Murphy’s Law applied to airports?

Thursday/ at Hong Kong airport

I am at Hong Kong airport in the United Airlines lounge.   Looks like it is all systems go for an on-time departure.  The cryptic report below is what pilots use – it’s available from the Hong Kong Observatory’s website.    The website also provides a decoded version in plain language, shown below (click to make the picture bigger).   I learned a new unit of measure today : an okta, the international unit of measure for the amount of clouds in the sky.

The latest aviation weather report at the Hong Kong International Airport issued by the Hong Kong Observatory at 09:30 HKT on 22 Jul 10

METAR VHHH 220130Z 12014KT 9999 FEW015 SCT025 29/26 Q1006 TEMPO 14025G35KT 2000 +SHRA=


Wednesday/ tropical storm Chantu

So barely has typhoon Conson dissipated, when tropical storm Chantu comes up (the magenta blob on the map below).   I’m not sure why we have two consecutive storms with names starting with ‘C’.   But the bigger concern is that the storm might interfere with Hong Kong International Airport’s ability to dispatch me home on Thursday.

The Hong Kong Observatory says it will be ‘rather windy’ tomorrow.   Got to love that British word rather.  How much is rather?  I guess I will find out tomorrow!

Tuesday/ iced coffee please

I cannot drink warm coffee or tea now that it’s high summer .. too darn hot outside, and sometimes inside when we get here and the air conditioning had not been left on overnight in the office.   Nescafe make a nice little gulp-size iced coffee, so I keep some of those in the refrigerator at home.

Monday’s gone

It’s a long day if after 11 hrs at work, you still have to go to a 2 hr dinner.    The dinner was OK and we had some good conversation that was not about work, though.    NO SHOP TALK! as we say.   And hey,  I’m going home on Thursday,  so one of the t-shirts from a Hong Kong street market is what I will wear in Seattle.    Shorts and t-shirt, just right for Seattle’s summer.

Sunday/ Big Buddha

The mission of the day was to go to see Big Buddha, on Lantau island (that’s also where Hong Kong International Airport is situated).    Since the storm had passed, it was a beautiful day and the line to the tramway that goes up to the site where the Buddha is perched, was very long — we waited for an hour to get onto the car.   The tramway is fairly new, started operating in 2006, goes for 5.7 kms and is supported by 8 towers.  It goes up very high at one point as the first picture shows, but the other segments are lower.   We picked a cabin with a glass floor (it was OK sitting down but eerie standing up).

There is a village with all kinds of souvenir and food stores, and then one has to climb a series of steps to get to the statue of Buddha.

The statue is named Tian Tan Buddha because its base is a model of the Altar of Heaven or Earthly Mount of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.   It is one of the five large Buddha statues in China.   The Buddha statue sits on a lotus throne on top of a three-platform altar.   It is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues known as “The Offering of the Six Devas” and are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha.   These offerings symbolize charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary to enter into nirvana (see last picture).

The Buddha is 34 metres (112 ft) tall, weighs 250 metric tons (280 short tons), and was the world’s tallest outdoor bronze seated Buddha prior to 2007.    It reputedly can even be seen from as far away as  Macau on a clear day. Visitors have to climb 268 steps in order to reach the Buddha (we climbed it, yes! oof!) , though the site also features a small winding road to the Buddha for vehicles to accommodate the handicapped.

Friday night/ Sat in Hong Kong

So the two Wills -Willem and Will – (he’s a colleague I worked with before, just joined our project) came to Hong Kong on Friday night.   The typhoon passed well south of Hong Kong, so we were fine except that cats-and-dogs rain would come down on to the city at times.

Pictures from the top :

Junk spotted in Hong Kong harbor on Friday night from the Kowloon side.   Hibiscus at the Flower Market on Saturday morning.   A fluffy kitty kat with one brown eye and one blue (since I was speaking of cats and dogs), also in the flower market area.   Traffic in the Mong Kok area on the Kowloon side; at this time on Saturday afternoon the sun was blazing down and one thought the rain was gone permanently, but no! absolutely not.     Saturday night we went to Lan Kwai Fong in the central district, where we happened to find a beer fest that was going on, only to be caught in another downpour.   Yikes.   The locals tell us in summer it could rain like this for days at a time.