Saturday/ all quiet on the Pacific Northwestern front

I walked down to Cal Anderson Park today. It is open again after some 6 months. The illegal shelters and tents have now been removed. Crews have done overdue ground maintenance, building repairs, graffiti removal, and litter pick-up.

When and how to address the multiple other locations with homeless encampments around the city, is still an on-going and intractable challenge, though.

The entrance on the northeastern corner of the park, at Denny Way & 11th Avenue.
The new apartment buildings along Broadway and by the Capitol Hill light rail station are nearing completion.
The reflection pool and the reservoir pump house.
Looking back at the pump house from a position near the playground on the south end.
The tennis courts were converted to a more general purpose space several years ago. A guy was making turns around the court on his electric unicycle.
Powerful and tall flood lights, viewed from the southeastern corner of the playing field. I wish we had lights like these on more tennis courts around the city in winter time! The back of the batting cage has Christmas stockings, with the names of black people killed by the police. It says ‘I won’t be home for Christmas … Black Lives Still Matter’.

Friday/ Christmas Day

Here is a giraffe from the annual Johannesburg (South Africa) Zoo’s Festival of Lights exhibit.
I bet putting one in my front yard would impress the neighbors!

Source: The Star newspaper. Photographer: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency.

Christmas Eve

There was still a little snow on the ground, in the shady areas, here in the city today.
Does that count as a White Christmas?
Merry Christmas. Geseënde Kersfees.

A nicely decorated house here on Capitol Hill’s 15th Avenue.


Wednesday/ a Frenchman’s dessert

I had the P and the E for a dessert (5,5) in my latest giant crossword puzzle, and so I needed to solve P_E_ _ |_ _ _ _ _ .

Hmm .. might it be PEACH MELBA? I thought ..
.. but then I had to do a lot of legwork to verify that it fit with the cryptic clue.
I only knew about peach melba (peaches and raspberry sauce with vanilla ice cream – I had to look this up, as well), but nothing of its history.

I needed a dessert (5, 5). ‘Cheap’ was a clue for P-E-A-C-H. Italian island was a clue for ‘E-L-B-A’. Frenchman was a reference to the inventor of peach melba: Auguste Escoffier. (He created it for Australian soprano Nellie Melba). Voila!
It also turned out, I had an Australian bank note (AUS $100) that featured Nellie Melba (born Helen Porter Mitchell; 19 May 1861 – 23 Feb. 1931). She was one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era & early 20th century. She took the pseudonym “Melba” from Melbourne, her home town. [Wikipedia]

Tuesday/ the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter

Galileo started to turn his telescope to the heavens in 1609.
He soon discovered Jupiter’s four biggest moons, and that Saturn had a ‘strange oval surrounding’. Right around that time, there was the Great Conjunction of 1623 – but it is almost certain that Galileo did not see it.
Astronomers and historians have not found the event mentioned anywhere in the records of that time.

Check out this incredible picture posted on Sunday night by J. Rehling on Twitter (@JRehling). 

In his Twitter thread notes below, he says that he used a 9.25″ (that means wide) Celestron telescope with a 2350 mm focal length and an ASI 1600 mm monochrome camera, with separate filters for clear, red, green, and blue.

And when is the next super-close pairing of the two planets? March 15, 2080.

The Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, posted on Sunday night by J. Rehling on Twitter (@JRehling).

Monday night/ snow report

Here’s my ‘snow report’ from last night.
There was just an inch or so on the ground, not enough to stick to the streets and pavements for too long.

This 7.40 pm, as big, soft snowflakes were coming down, at 15th Ave East and Republican St. That’s Uncle Ike’s entrance (pot shop) with its ‘electric trees’,  and the Hopvine pub next to it.
A little while later the snow had stopped. This is looking north, standing at the corner of 16th Ave East and Roy St.

Monday/ winter is here, and a little snow

It’s winter here in the North, officially.
The city has had plenty of rainy, windy weather yesterday and today (1.58 in. measured in 48 hrs at Seatac Airport’s gauge).
.. and hey! the snowflakes coming down in the mix tonight, formed a thin layer on my back deck.

There was a break in the rain this morning, and I spotted this Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) outside, attracted by the budding yellow flowers on the mahonia behind it. The rain and wind picked up again soon, though, and the little bird was gone.

Sunday/ birds in my Christmas tree

I’m not traveling anywhere for Christmas this year.
So: no excuse for not putting up a tree.
I retrieved the one I have from the basement, and put up some of my bird figures in it, along with a few other decorations.

In the tree from the top down: bald eagle; mute swan (white swan); a sloth hiding behind some foliage, to its right; snowy owlgriffon (Cape vulture); toucan; blue-and-yellow macaw.
Bottom: African beaded art giraffereindeerllama art made with Peruvian llama wool; African wire-and-beads art reindeer.

Saturday/ Bruce

Here is Candice Bergen (74) and her dog Bruce — the picture from a recent article about her in the New York Times.

Candice Bergen with her rescue dog Bruce, who is half-Saint Bernard and half-poodle. [Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times]

Friday/ Italian tomato sauce

I ran into a super-simple recipe for pasta sauce in the New York Times. Canned peeled tomatoes, butter, onion, a pinch or two of salt. That’s it.

The recipe mentioned San Marzano tomatoes. Would these be available on Amazon? I wondered.
Yes .. the original product from Italy! and so I ordered some.
Below is what I did to cook the sauce tonight.





















There is a little basil with the tomato in the can.
I used Kerrygold Irish butter and white onion.
The onion is taken out afterwards.
I tossed the sauce with the pasta, and that was it.
No parmesan, so that I could savor the sunny, earthy tomato flavor better.

Thursday/ blue sky & dry tennis courts

Well,  the rain stopped long enough today for the sky to clear .. and for the tennis courts at Jefferson Park to dry out.
So when the text messages from my tennis group came in asking who could play, I jumped at it. We had 52 °F/ 11 °C, which is still OK to play in. Temperatures down to around 45 °F/ 7 °C are increasingly dicey, and 40 °F/ 4 °C is a hard no for me.

The tennis courts at Jefferson Park in the Beacon Hill neighborhood are in good shape, and have flood lights to boot. Look for the little piece of rainbow on the lower left of the picture.

Wednesday/ it’s December, so it rains

A major winter storm is bringing heavy snow into the Northeast of the country. Here in the Pacific Northwest we just have rain. (There is snow in the mountains, of course, but it’s not cold enough for snow on the city streets, yet.) November’s total came to 5.6 in, somewhat below the average of 6.6 in.

Here’s the soggy corner of 15th Ave & Republican at 4.15 pm. The decorated trees are at the entrance of Uncle Ike’s, purveyor of marijuana products. There’s a speck in the middle of the picture, up in the blue-gray sky: a surveillance helicopter. Seattle Parks and Recreation agents have tried for most of the day to clear the homeless campers from Cal Anderson Park, and they have only met with limited success so far.

Tuesday/ Christmas lights

By sunset (4.18 pm), my neighbors’ Christmas lights across the street are already switched on.
Each of these Tuesdays, I sweep up the last bit of the leaves on my front lawn (to put in the yard waste bin for pickup).

P.S. There’s a ‘Biden for President’ sign on the white picket fence on the right.
All 538 electors voted Monday in the Electoral College*, and it’s now official: Joe Biden 306, Trump 232.

*From CBS news: Electors are not necessarily bound by law to vote according to the state’s results, and there were 10 “faithless electors” in 2016. But most states have laws that nullify the votes of “faithless electors,” and the Supreme Court ruled in July that states can punish them. FairVote found that since the founding of the Electoral College, there have been 167 faithless electors.

Monday/ success, with a sweater

I ordered another Banana Republic sweater online.
This one fits me very well, and it’s a keeper.

Sweater in fine merino wool, with pockets and hidden full-length zipper. I could choose between grey and black. Grey is neutral and versatile. Black is much more formal and powerful and (to me), just does not go as well with earthy colors.

Sunday/ vial, tray, carton, box with dry ice

Dry ice was poured into a box containing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as it was prepared to be shipped from Kalamazoo on Sunday. [From the New York Times/ Pool photo by Morry Gash]
Here come the vaccines. UPS and FedEx started shipping the first of the initial  3 million doses of vaccine from the Pfizer facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to sites around the United States, today.
Worldwide, dry ice production and making ultra-cold freezers, are being ramped up. I read somewhere that airlines are now allowed 15,000 lbs of dry ice in their cargo, up from 3,000 lbs. The stuff sublimates, which means it evaporates into CO2 gas directly from its solid form. The crew have to keep an eye on the COlevels.

Ordinary people will have to be patient. I hope I can roll up my sleeve for my first shot (of two) by say, April.

How Pfizer will ship its vaccine and keep the temperature very low. Graphic by Washington Post.

Saturday/ glühwein to go?

The traditional Christmas markets and the stalls with toys, snacks and glühwein are closed, and sorely missed, in Germany.

Glühwein to go .. with a shot?  (Aw. And the two peeps behind the one in front: good that you are social distancing, but should you not also wear a mask, until you get to the front of the line?)   [Cartoon by Mario Lars, on website]

Friday night news dump

  • The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) grants emergency use authorization for the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.
  • The pandemic is far from over (more than 3,000 deaths just on Thursday).
  • Texas attorney general’s ‘lawsuit’ (stunt), to try to overturn the certified election results (certifying Trump is a LOSER) in four battleground states, is smacked down 9-0 by the US Supreme Court. The AGs of seventeen red states, and 2/3 of House Republicans had joined the lawsuit. (Hey Republicans, newsflash for you: the United States is still a democracy. Your attempt at a coup is now dead.)
  • The Space Needle is lit up in green, in support of the Seattle Sounders, that will take on Columbus Crew in the 2020 Major League Soccer Cup Final on Saturday.
  • Update Sat 12/13: Sounders lost 0-3 to Columbus. Congrats to Columbus.
The Space Needle, bathed in green, and looking even more alien than usual. The reflection is on the nearby Museum of Pop Culture.

Thursday/ and .. what is that thing?

I drove down to the Beacon Hill branch of the Seattle Public Library today, to return a very overdue book.
(For some reason the Capitol Hill branch of the Seattle Public Library near me, does not accept books in its book depository).

Let’s see .. a thin column that punches through the overhang of the roof, and has a — what is that, on top? A sail boat? A flying fish? An abstraction? No. The elements do not come together, and the whole design of the building and its façade just does not appeal to me. (The construction of the $5.3 million Beacon Hill library was completed in 2004. It was designed by Carlson Architects, a firm that went under during the Great Recession of 2008).

Wednesday/ the days are still shrinking

Three o’clock is still good for a walk outside, as the last of the sunlight catches the homes across the street. Four is now too late.

The trees lining 19th Ave are all bare now (looking south from Highland Drive).
Here’s a 1964 Lincoln Continental that I found on 19th Ave (official color: Arctic White). The car’s length is almost 18 ft (5.4m). The rear doors are rear-hinged, and to alert drivers of open doors, Lincoln fitted the dashboard with a “Door Ajar” warning light (as seen on many modern automobiles). [Source: Wikipedia]
.. which reminds me of the little pun ‘When is a door not a door? When it is ajar’.

Tuesday/ William Shakespeare gets his shot

William Shakespeare (81), became the second person to officially receive the Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine, at University Hospital Coventry, England.
(My apologies to the current day-William Shakespeare that had appeared in the original picture, for replacing his visage with one of The Bard. I could not resist).

In 1593, a year or so before Shakespeare wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’, a powerful wave of the bubonic plague struck London. Theatres closed for 14 months and some 10,000 Londoners died. People died in all kinds of ways in Shakespeare’s plays, but nobody ever died of the plague. Thoughts of the plague was terrifying, and references to it in plays, almost completely taboo.