Wednesday/ a pit stop in the Cape

(This is very early Thu morning in my hotel in Johannesburg!).   I arrived Wed at 11.30am at Cape Town airport, got picked up by my mom and dad for a quick trip to Stellenbosch to go have lunch and repack my bags, and then back to the airport at 4pm.  The shortest visit they have ever had from someone from as far away as the USA, quipped my dad.  (I will come back to Stellenbosch Friday night).   It was 2 hr flight up to Johannesburg to go and do some work – for a possible project where Pricewaterhouse* will be the system integrator.

*PwC as we now call ourselves

Tuesday/ Frankfurt airport

I arrived this morning at 9.30am here in Frankfurt on the Airbus A330-300.    Due to my lengthy layover,  I left the airport to check into the Airport Holiday Inn to get some sleep.    It was totally worth it;  at first I thought I could take the train to the city for a few hours of sightseeing, but this way I dodged the rain, and hey, the hotel was free of the bedbugs shown on the Yahoo Deutschland homepage).    It’s now 8.30pm and my flight leaves in a few hours.

Monday/ X-rays at the airport

I’m at Seattle airport.  The hardest thing to do when I travel is to get out of the house.   This morning I had to consult the internet on how to pack a suit in a suitcase*.  (Turn the one arm and half inside out, fold in half, stuff the shoulders with a sock or two, put some t-shirts in the middle and roll it up in a tight bundle).

* Never had to pack a suit for my trips to China, but I will need one in South Africa. 

At the check-in counter Lufthanza swiped my carry-on bag (limit is only 8 kg!) which I was not happy with.   Airport security spared us having to walk through the full body scanner even though there were ones installed.  Maybe they’re still gearing up to full use.    ‘It’s for your Safety’ it says.  Yes, but the latest research shows the cumulative effect of exposure to X-rays is bad.   There’s really no safe dosage.  By the way – it’s the 115th anniversay of the discovery of X-rays per Google’s homepage (an odd anniversary for Google to feature on their homepage, is it not?) 

Sunday/ Seattle-Frankfurt-CapeTown

I’m leaving in the morning for South Africa.  I’m traveling on a Lufthanza flight to Frankfurt, then due south to Cape Town.  (I changed my flight from KLM to Lufthanza).  There is a long layover in Frankfurt – 10 hours.   There are ‘day hotels’ for travelers at the airport that open for check-in at 9am, with a 6pm check-out.  I may try that out !

Saturday/ rain

Lots of rain !  My neighbor put the lights up in the tree on the sidewalk, the way he always does this time of year, and it brings some nice cheer to the darkness that descends on us already by 5 pm.  I’m starting to put my clothes out for my upcoming trip to South Africa on Monday.

Friday/ CDs and DVDs .. where to?

I finally got this nice filing cabinet from Pottery Barn for my study – it was delivered last week.  The bottom drawer is filled with file folders (not visible on the picture).  Just to get all my DVDs in one place, I packed them into the top drawer on the left, and all my CDs went to the top drawer on the right.  But should I really keep them? And if I do, should they occupy this prime storage space?

Option 1 : Throw them out – not throw them away, of course.   I can take them to Half Price Books .. they might bring in $1 apiece.   If I had the time and patience I could sell them on Ebay I suppose, but that seems hardly worth it for all the trouble.

Option 2 : Keep them .. at least keep the DVDs and CDs I’m still somewhat attached to.   But I’m thinking I could make sure all the nice CDs are on my iPod, and then take them out of their jewel boxes and pack them into a spindle container like the one on top of the filing cabinet.    (And make the CD covers into a booklet?)  DVDs I could do the same with.

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.

Tuesday/ Republican St, Republican Party

The first picture shows the Art Deco detail of the Tower Building on 7th Ave in Seattle.   It’s close to the dentists’s office where I went today for a check-up.  (Got to check those chompers!)  The next picture is from the corner of Republican Street and 16th Ave, 1/2 block from my house.   And the last picture is CNN announcing that the Republicans are taking the House.   Not too big a surprise, right? .. but what makes me scratch my head is that in a major recession with 10% unemployment, and the majority of voters needing affordable health care, Social Security payouts, Medicare and Medicaid support, that so many vote Republican or Tea Party.   (For my readers outside the USA : the Republican party stands for limited government, repealing the expanded health-care bill passed this year, and abolishing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.)

Monday/ Vanilla in your Coffee?

Starbucks now offers their Via Ready Brew coffee (ground coffee bean) with vanilla flavoring, which I thought I’d try.  (It’s not bad, but I think I will stick with their instant coffee sans vanilla).  Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla native to Mexico. The majority of the world’s vanilla is the Vanilla planifolia variety, more commonly known as “Madagascar-Bourbon” vanilla, which is produced in a small region of Madagascar and in Indonesia.  The ‘bean’ is part of the stem ending in the flower.  According to Wikipedia vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, due to the extensive labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods.

Sunday/ Happy Halloween

It’s Halloween and I’m posting Google’s home page pictures .. it’s a whole cartoon strip featuring Scooby Doo.   From Wikipedia : Scooby-Doo is a media franchise based around several animated television series which were produced from 1969 to the present.  All versions of the show feature a talking dog named Scooby Doo; the original series included four teenagers or young adults: Fred “Freddie” Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, and Norville “Shaggy” Rogers. These five characters (officially collectively known as “Mystery, Inc.”, but never referred to as such in the original series) drive around in the Mystery Machine van solving mysteries by exposing seemingly otherworldly ghosts and monsters as flesh and blood crooks.

P.S.  Gelukkige Verjaarsdag, Pa!  Ek sien geweldig daarna uit om almal te sien.

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).

Thursday/ Rebecca (1940)

Yes, a movie that I stumbled on to tonight the way I sometimes do on TV, and I had to watch it to the end : about a woman who marries a widower but fears she lives in the shadow of her predecessor.  It is one of the first Alfred Hitchcock masterpieces with two very handsome romantic leads in Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, and it garnered the Best Picture statue at the 1941 Academy Awards.  It’s black and white and I’d consider buying it for my fledgling Blu-ray collection of movies, but it’s not yet out on Blu-ray.     I saw Blu-ray movies for $10 at the grocery store on Tuesday.  A young woman checking them out as well asked ‘What is Blu-ray?’ It’s a new format and you need a special player for them, I said.  (And thought : you evidently never ever go to the video store to rent movies).

Wednesday/ new furniture

This is a library cabinet from a store called Crate& Barrel that I bought and that was delivered today.  It’s solid walnut (read : not cheap) with traditional Chinese joinery – interlocking joinery without any screws or nails.  The two glass-paned doors open to three fixed shelves, with glass paned sides opening up the view.  No sooner had it landed, when I stuffed it full of items!.. I will rearrange them in good time.  The uploaded picture is actually very large.  Click on it once, and then one more time to take a closer look at the items inside the cabinet : ).

Tuesday/ Honest Tea and honesty

I stopped at the gas station last night after going to the gym. The Honest Tea iced tea-lemonade drink was the one I picked from the 300+ drinks on offer.  Some time ago on TV there was a business profile of the entrepreneur that started up Honest Tea.  At that point Snapple and Lipton manufactured iced tea with tea ‘dust’ – the inferior left-overs from the leaves.  Hence, Honest Tea that was brewed from tea leaves.  (Snapple and Lipton now offer full leaf iced teas).   And since I mentioned television, at this point there is no escape from all the political ads for the election on Tue Nov 2.  Now that’s I’ve taken the time to brush up on the propositions on the Washington State ballot, all the ads look like half-truths, partial truths or twisted ‘truths’ presented to favor the sponsor’s viewpoint.   Yes, the truth is hard to find – and maybe hardest of all in TV ads and TV commercials.

Monday/ Greek yogurt is it

I read about Greek yogurt being all the rage, so I thought I would try it.  Very nice! Thick and smoooth.  ‘Ridiculously thick’ says the Fage (say ‘fa-yeh’) yogurt brand’s website (  It is basically yogurt that has been strained in a cloth or filter to remove some of the whey.  So the protein content is higher than that of normal yogurt.   In addition this yogurt has no added sugar or the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup that shows up in so many sweet products here in the USA.

Sunday/ Halloween is coming

Is Frankenstein afraid of the spider, or is he too big to stand up straight on the porch?   The picture is of a house a few blocks from mine that I took on a walk tonight when there was a break in the rain.   It was chilly enough for me to wear my scarf!  Soon I will have to dig up my gloves as well.

Saturday/ Three Worlds

(The picture was taken Sunday morning.  Saturday morning the deck was dry and clean as a whistle).   I will have to scrub the deck soon .. there’s black moss on it that makes it slippery when it’s wet.  And as I looked at the deck this morning, it reminded me of the Three Worlds lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher (see which was first printed in December, 1955.  Of course, the three worlds are the one for the fish in the water, the one that is the surface on which the leaves float, and the one outside with the trees.

Friday/ Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel is the name of the beer I had last night at The Elysian Brewhouse.  It is of course a Brothers Grimm fairy tale as well, with Hansel and Gretel left in the woods by their parents that could not care for them, after which they arrive at the witch’s house built from bread and with a cake roof.

Knupper, knapper, kneischen, wer knuppert an meinem Häuschen? (who is knocking on my house?) asks the witch.

The pictures are from a German version of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale book I bought in Vienna two years ago.   I had to buy it : I still remember many of the watercolor pictures (done by Janusz Grabianski – is that a Polish name?)  vividly from when I started reading !