Sunday/ 2nd Avenue construction

I made like the tourists in the city today, and walked around 2nd Avenue and the Seattle Waterfront.

It’s about 6 pm, but the sun is still blazing down from the west. The Alaskan Viaduct along the waterfront has been around since 1953, but its days are really numbered now. There is a replacement tunnel running underneath it with two decks of completed roadways that is undergoing a few months of testing. Towards the end of the year, the destruction of this viaduct will start.
Here’s the 2+U (or 2&U) tower taking shape at 2nd Avenue and University Street. On the right is an artist’s impression of the completed tower complex with its V-shaped columns. There will be 38 floors of office space, with some retail, and with public spaces at the ground level. The venerable 4-story Diller Hotel on the corner, is holding its own. It has a cozy bar inside. As a luxury hotel constructed in 1890, it was one of the first new buildings in the city after the destruction of the Great Seattle Fire of 1889.

Saturday/ trainspotting in SODO

I went to the SODO (SOuth of DOwntown) industrial district today, to the Toyota service center there. While they worked on my car, I walked around a bit, and spotted two trains.

Here’s the Amtrak Cascades passenger train, heading south. It runs all the way from Vancouver BC down to Eugene, Oregon. It’s going at a good clip here, maybe 60 mph. The stadium roof with the arches in the background, is that of Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.
And the Link Light Rail passenger train, also heading south. It is currently running only from the University of Washington, down to Angle Lake south of Seattle-Tacoma airport. There is a northbound and an eastbound extension in progress, though, and more extensions on the drawing board that are part of the $53.8 billion Sound Transit 3 plan.

Friday/ it’s hot

We had 90°F (32°C) here in the city today, and we will reach 93°F (34°C) on Sunday before it will finally start to cool down.

The blue leadwood (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) on my back deck has started to flower. There is no true blue pigment in flowers, but the anthocyanins (water-soluble flavonoid pigments) in this flower makes it come very close to looking blue.

Thursday/ сюжет сгущается

(The plot thickens). Just tonight, it was reported by CNN and NBC that President ‘No Collusion’ Trump knew ahead of time (and presumably approved) the meeting that Don Trump Jr had had with the Russians, in June 2016 in Trump Tower. This was the infamous meeting to get ‘dirt’ from Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. The meeting first became public knowledge in the spring of 2017.  Trump Sr repeatedly denied he knew about the meeting beforehand. Don Jr told Congress under oath, that his dad did not know.

Did Presidential Candidate Trump know that the Russians had hacked Clinton’s e-mail? Or tried to hack it, or planned to hack it? – and secretly sent his son to meet with them?  If so – boom! that would surely be conspiring with the Russians against the United States,  as well as seal the case for obstruction of justice.

Michael Cohen is Trump’s ex-fixer. Cohen’s office was raided and the FBI now has millions of records and about 100 voice recordings (from Cohen) to pore over. Here is Michael Cohen’s attorney saying that the Cohen camp did not leak the information that President Trump knew about the Clinton ‘Dirt’ meeting.  So who leaked it? Someone on the Trump side? The plot thickens.

Wednesday/ got the wandering porcupine

The African crested porcupine that I mentioned in a post in May, has been caught, in the Spanaway area (south of the city of Tacoma).
His new home will be the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon.

Here is the Spanaway porcupine enjoying a banana shortly after being caught. The African crested porcupine is the largest species of porcupine in the world and one of the largest rodents in the world.

Tuesday/ the Neanderthals

Here’s an article from Discover magazine, with the latest research about the Neanderthals: an extinct species of humans, that roamed around in ice-age Europe from 120,000 years, up to 35,000 years ago.

Will Homo sapiens still be around even a 1,000 years from now? Homo sapiens means ‘wise human’ .. a misnomer, it seems. Can modern-day humans should stop their wars, and stop destroying Earth?

Monday/ Mount Rainier

I had not been to Mt Rainier ever since I had made Seattle my home, and so Bryan and I made a day trip out there today. We first stopped at the Sunrise Viewpoint to the northeast, and then drove around to the Paradise Viewpoint to the south. From there we hiked up the mountainside for an hour or so, to take a closer look at the mountain.

Mount Rainier is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, and the highest mountain in the state of Washington. Elevation: 14,411′ (4,393 m). Last eruption: 1894.
Glaciers are slowly moving masses or rivers of ice formed by the accumulation and compaction of snow on mountains (or near the poles). The Sunrise Viewpoint is northeast of the mountain, and Paradise Viewpoint to the south.
This is the view of Mt Rainier and its summit, after walking up just a few hundred feet from one of the trails starting at the Sunrise Visitor Center.   This is at 6,400 ft (1,950 m) elevation, the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mt Rainier National Park.
The Alpine style day lodge at Sunrise Visitor Center.
Here is the view of the mountain from the south, from the new Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center (at the Paradise Viewpoint). Elevation here is about 5,400 ft (1,645 m). The trail on the right goes up, up, up to where the brilliant green ends. The trail is very, very steep at its start, even though it does not look like it is. Further up, we found large patches of snow to step onto. With a lot of summer weather remaining, maybe a lot of it will still melt.
A waterfall of melting snow on the rock face on the south side of the mountain. To the north face of the mountain, the Whitewater river springs from Emmons glacier – a milky white river, running very low at this time of year.
This ‘paint by numbers’ view is found looking south, after we had walked up for an hour or so from Paradise Viewpoint. Look for the faint outline of Mount Adams in the distance, top right.
A yellow sub-alpine flower that I don’t know the name of, with a happy bug on it.
Mr Chipmunk saying hello. Chipmunks are small, striped rodents of the family Sciuridae, same as the one that tree squirrels and ground squirrels belong to.  They hibernate in winter, but wake up every few days to feed on stored food (rather than fat reserves).
Another wildflower from the Paradise Viewpoint.  I will have to look for its name online!
Here is the scary part of beautiful Mt Rainier, stratovolcano mountain that it is. A large eruption will result in debris flows (the red), and destructive mudflows called lahar further down (the yellow). It is amazing how far away from the mountain, communities alongside the rivers, and in the valleys, are at risk. The city of Seattle at the very top of the picture will come out OK, it seems (but Seattle has tectonic plates in the Pacific, and the economic fortunes of Amazon to contend with). 

Sunday/ hot summer weather

There’s a heat wave in Tokyo (102°F/ 39°C); it’s hot and dry in Northern Europe, and in the southern United States as well. Even here in Seattle the forecast says we are in for a seven-day stretch of day temperatures exceeding 88°F (31°C).

These black-eyed Susans (genus Rudbeckia) in a Seattle University’s garden seem to thrive in the hot weather. I’m sure they are getting watered regularly, though.

Saturday/ two out of three LEGO classics

Hey – I could complete two of three little LEGO classic models with my bricks from Germany: the 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Windmill and the Limited Edition House.  The Truck will have to wait a little while!

Little kits for each of these three models went for about $20 at Walmart (pricey), and are now sold out.

This little windmill and a little house celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first kits sold by the LEGO company. Collectors and opportunists alike, buy sets like these up and hoard them, and then try to sell them for a profit some years later.

Friday/ special package from Germany

The €3.70 stamp on my package honors Elisabeth Mann Borgese, marine ecologist and tireless advocate for the world’s oceans. ‘We have to save the oceans, if we want to save ourselves’.

If you need some really specific LEGO bricks, neither Amazon nor, will be of much help. Go to, the vast international marketplace for bricks, from very old to brand new ones, all that had ever been produced by LEGO.

My order from a bricklink seller in Baden-Württemberg, Germany arrived today: 184 bricks neatly tucked into a small Deutsche Post box.

Bricks from my package. LEGO have long stopped making those windows with the lips at the bottom, and the yellow and red doors, and I wanted some. Those little suckers by the yellow doors are double convex-double concave 45° slope bricks (roof tiles), and also no longer in production. I am going to try to build some fancy roof shapes with them.

Thursday/ new Uniqlo shirt

I saw the new version of my favorite Uniqlo polo shirt on their website today*. Instead of ordering it online, I thought it best to run out to the store to go check it out and fit it on.   I liked it – and now I have a new shirt.

*Funny how it goes: Roger Federer played in Uniqlo at Wimbledon this year. Let’s check out the website, I thought, and whoah! – what have we here? a nice new shirt for me.

The top shirt is the old one. I bought it in Tokyo a few years ago, in size XL (Asian XL). The new one is the same size but marked M here in the USA. The fabric is not cotton or linen, but that’s OK. It’s a special mystery moisture-wicking fabric, and only $20 for such a nice red white and blue shirt.  I really hope I can wear it next 4th of July, and feel better about the State of our Union in the United States of America.

Wednesday/ Nelson Mandela’s 100th Birthday

Nelson Mandela was born 100 years ago today.

This picture is from German daily Tagesspiegel. President Mandela visiting a school near Johannesburg in 1993. The other headings say ‘A Life for Humanity’ and Freedom Fighter, Peacemaker and Role Model.
This cartoon from South African newspaper Business Day, by cartoonist Brandan Reynolds.

Tuesday/ ferry to Kingston

I hopped on the ferry on short notice this afternoon, to go out to my friend Paul’s in Hansville.

The Spokane is a Jumbo-class ferry. She was built in 1972 by the Todd Shipyards in Seattle, Washington, and refurbished in 1990.

Wed morning 7/18: A few more pictures, from my return trip to the city.

Mr Seagull* .. maybe his name is Nelson (from a South African song from the 70s ‘The Seagull’s Name was Nelson’). Seagulls have palmate (webbed) feet. Cormorants are even better equipped for paddling and diving, with totipalmate feet (four fully webbed toes). *Western Gull (Larus occidentalis). 
I’m on the Puyallup ferry, Wed. morning, and we’re just pushing away from the terminal at Kingston. The little skybridge on the left is for foot passengers.
A sighting of the Spokane ferry that I was on, on Tuesday, going out the the Kitsap Peninsula.

Monday/ the fiasco in Helsinki

First of all, Trump should have canceled the meeting with Putin (after the FBI’s indictment on Friday, of 12 Russian agents, for hacking the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee’s computers).  That was too much to hope for, of course. So there he was: perfectly happy to stand next to Putin – the former KGB agent and a lying thug – and take his side, and throw the United States under the bus. (Tweeted this morning: Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!).

It really is hard to wrap one’s mind around: a President of the United States that grovels to Vladimir Putin.

Sunday/ South Lake Union walkabout

The mercury hit 90°F (32°C) here in the city today, and I waited for the fireball in the sky to sit a little lower, before I ventured out on my usual South Lake Union walkabout.  Here are some pictures.

Amazon’s third downtown tower on 7th Ave & Lenora, is now built up almost to its top. That top floor (in the core by the yellow crane) is floor 38, and the plan posted on says there will be 39 floors.
I caught the South Lake Union streetcar a little further down on Westlake Avenue. I’m sure The Hulk says ‘Puny humans make Hulk mad!’.
Moxy* is Marriott International’s new millennial-focused boutique hotel chain. I see this new one in SLU goes for $381 a night, right now in high season.  It is shockingly more expensive than the one I almost stayed at, at Frankfurt Airport last year, at $87 a night (in the dead of winter, though).  *A play on the word moxie? Moxie: a force of character, determination, or nerve.
Cute entrance sign at The Fox & The Finch apartments nearby. The building has 24 small one-bedroom apartments (600 sq ft). These will run the renter about $2,000 a month.  Yes, it’s new, great location, but it’s twice as much what one would pay in many other cities in the United States.
Here’s the nicely outfitted ATM at Umpqua Bank on Westlake Avenue. The first Umpqua Bank opened in Canyonville, Oregon, a timber town on the South Umpqua River, in 1953. There are also several distinct groups of Native Americans in Oregon named Umpqua.

Saturday/ townhouse triple

My ‘Townhouse Triple’ used up the last of my windows and white brick stock.
This illustrates the LEGO builder’s dilemma: which creations should one keep on permanent display, and which should one break down (to free the bricks for something else)?

A simple LEGO Townhouse. It’s a MOC*.   *LEGO parlance for ‘My Own Creation’ .. not built from a LEGO set, nor from someone else’s build instructions.

Update 7/22: Here’s an updated model with an improved rooftop.

I added some red trim on the first and second floors, black fencing on the rooftop, and upgraded the roof tiles.

Friday/ a very titanic tennis match

Brian ‘Babe’ Norton in 1920. [Source: WIkipedia]. He lost against ‘Big Bill’ Tilden in the 1921 Wimbledon Final.
Wow! Kevin Anderson is the first South African in almost 100 years to make it to the Wimbledon Men’s Final (Brian Norton made it in 1921).

The match ran for 6 hrs and 36 minutes, Anderson finally prevailing over American John Isner, with a monster score of 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4 and 26-24. There is no ‘tiebreaker’ (played at 6-6) in the final set. To win, a player have to lead by two games (called an advantage set).

So far, the US Open is the only major tournament that dictates that a tiebreaker be played even in the final set .. but I bet other tournament committees are now going to look into doing it as well. Long matches such as these wreak havoc on the tournament schedule, and on the eventual winner’s ability to be ready for the next match.   The other semi-final between Djokovic and Nadal had to be suspended, and will only be completed on Saturday.

Kevin Anderson on the front page of ‘Die Burger’ in South Africa. Thriller King! says the headline.

Thursday/ the ego has landed

‘The ego has landed’ says Friday’s Daily Mirror of Trump’s visit to the UK (and the Trump baby blimp is ready for take-off).

Can the visit from the United States President-That-Is-A-Traveling-International-Embarrassment, be anything more than an exercise in damage control? (No). Trump’s visit coincides with turmoil in the UK around the proposed details of Brexit .. which (of course?) Trump criticized. President Stable Genius always knows best.

Trump wanted a ‘hard’ Brexit. (Does not care about NATO & European unity. Putin must be very happy). The deal that The Sun refers to is a new trade deal that would be needed post-Brexit between the US and the UK. Those other bullets on the bottom of the page are all Trump: make Boris Johnson PM (Johnson resigned as May’s Foreign Minister just on Monday, over May’s Brexit proposal); no immigration (does Trump know the word asylum?); all UK terrorism is London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s fault. Meanwhile, the USA has what I would call domestic terrorism – mass shootings – every other week: in high schools, in newsrooms, at concerts, in shopping malls.

Wednesday/ July is dry

A hummingbird interested in my fir tree. Maybe it mistook the lighter pine needles for flowers?They are known to drink tree sap, and maybe there was a little tree sap on the pine needles.

The weatherman says we’re going to hit 86°F (30°C) on Sunday.

July & August are dry months in Seattle with ¾ in. of rain each, on average. (As much as 5 or 6 in. of rain may fall each month from November through January).

The little patch of lawn in front of my house is already dry and mostly yellow. I only water the beds and potted plants in the backyard; not the lawn.

Tuesday/ clash of the Wimbledon & World Cup titans

The Wimbledon Men’s Final and the World Cup Final are both set for Sunday.  (England plays Croatia on Wednesday for a place in the World Cup Final against France).  So far, Wimbledon’s management has refused to budge, and will not reschedule the traditional 2 pm (1300GMT) start time.  The World Cup does start two hours later, at 4 pm (1500GMT), but there is no way the tennis final will have been completed by that time.

I guess I will have to toggle back and forth – but if Roger Federer plays on Sunday, I will have to miss some of the soccer.

It might be the last Wimbledon hurrah for Federer, one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He turns 37 in August.  Are there any praises still left to sing? asks

Update Wed 7/11: South Africa’s Kevin Anderson beat Federer today in a tough 5-set match (13-11 in the final set). Yay! for Kevin. Aww .. Roger is out after all. And England fell to Croatia, 1-2. So it’s Croatia and France on Sunday.

Soccer legend Sir Bobby Charlton (80) greets Australian tennis legend Rod Laver (79). Charlton is regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time, and was a key member of the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. [Picture from].