Friday/ ‘a prisoner, released back into society’

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’.

My sentiments exactly, I’m afraid.

Here’s my December 2019 picture of the old Harajuku train station building, on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo. I went there to take a last look at it. It was the oldest wooden train station building in Tokyo, and was scheduled for demolition just a few months later.
Even with no pandemic, four of the 27 people in the picture are wearing masks.
Here’s the new Harajuku station building, all glass and steel, of course. It opened on March 21, 2020, amidst the chaos of a worldwide pandemic. When will I get to ride on the Yamanote Line again, and hop off at this station to check it out? Only time will tell.
Everyone is wearing a mask, except the dude in the middle with his Michael Kors tracksuit.
[Picture from Wikipedia]

Thursday/ the Ever Given is not giving

Welp! I’m checking in on the Ever Given every morning (the ultra-large containership that ran aground in the Suez Canal on Tuesday).  So far, it is not budging.

There is a full moon and a high tide on the way this weekend, though. That will lift the water level in the canal and may help to dislodge the Ever Given. (The Suez canal is not like the Panama canal, with its locks that elevate ships above sea level.  The Suez has no locks — the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea’s Gulf of Suez have approximately the same water level).

More than 150 ships are waiting to pass through the 120 mile canal. [Graphic by Refinitiv, a global provider of financial market data and infrastructure].
Amazing detail in this satellite picture. The 400-meter, 224,000-tonne Ever Given container ship, leased by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, blocks Egypt’s Suez Canal in a BlackSky satellite image taken at 15:30 local time March 25, 2021. 
[BlackSky/Handout via REUTERS]
Stranded container ship Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, is seen after it ran aground, in Suez Canal, Egypt March 25, 2021, in this still image taken from a video.  [Reuters TV via REUTERS]

Wednesday/ everyone, first of May

Now we are tall and Christmas trees are small
And you don’t ask the time of day
But you and I our love will never die
but guess we’ll cry come first of May
– lyrics from First of May, recorded by the Bee Gees in 1969


People sit at a mass coronavirus vaccination site at Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle on March 13. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

All Washington State residents older than 16 will qualify to get the COVID-19 vaccine, come May 1.
I will be one of the last group*, 1.2 million of the State’s 6 million adults, to get my shot (or two shots).

*I’m not complaining. I’m very lucky to be able to get the vaccine this early, compared to people in most other places around the globe.

I guess it’s time for me to start plotting the moves that I will be willing to make once I am vaccinated. Maybe I will ride the bus again — alongside some wet-nosed ‘passengers’ such as this adorable pooch. His name is Banana and the bus is on Route 62.
[Picture posted on Twitter by Kev @kaveniii].

Tuesday/ tea flowers, pink & white

The camellias* are starting to bloom here in the city. The pink one is mine, and the white one from a street nearby.

*Camellias are famous throughout East Asia; they are known as cháhuā (‘tea flower’) in Chinese, tsubaki in Japanese, dongbaek-kkot in Korean, and as hoa trà or hoa chè in Vietnamese. [From Wikipedia]
The tea plant with its little tea leaves, is in fact, a camellia: Camellia sinensis.

Monday/ another massacre

mas·sa·cre
/ˈmasəkər/
noun

an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of people


Reporting from the New York Times. Picture by Eliza Earle for the NYT.

The deadly shooting in Boulder today,  was the second massacre here in the United States in less than a week. So let me exercise my First Amendment rights, to address all Second Amendment gun fanatics.

The National Rifle Association is a domestic terrorist organization.
Of that I’m 99% sure.
(That the NRA is a domestic terrorism enabler, is borne out 100% by facts).

The domestic terrorist is almost always a white male.
More often than not, he is apprehended ‘without incident’.
(If he were black or brown, he would be shot dead).
The real ‘incident’ would usually be, what — 6, 8 .. or 10? people murdered in cold blood.
.. with an AR15 or something similar, a military-grade weapon that should have been outlawed decades ago,
.. and that the terrorist might have purchased just hours ago, over the counter (as in the case of Atlanta last week).

Is all of this the ‘well-regulated militia’ referred to in the (should-be-repealed) Second Amendment? Not even close. It’s a guns-for-all Wild West, that enables crazy people to go on killing sprees.

Sunday/ Miami’s vices

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

A man danced on top of a police car on Saturday night despite the 8 p.m. curfew in Miami Beach. [Photo Credit- Marco Bello/Reuters]
(Dude. 1. I would not dance on a police car, even if I were smashed-up drunk/ correction: especially not, if I were smashed-up drunk.
2. You have no friends, looking out for you, to pull you off from that car? Looks to me like you’re about to get shot dead.)
Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami Beach, has recently endured one of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. The state is also thought to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the more contagious and possibly more lethal virus variant first identified in Britain.

Saturday/ spring is here, very early

Spring arrived this morning at 2:37 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the earliest on the calendar in 124 years. (Reason: the leap year of 2000,  and the observation of daylight saving time in the United States).

Here in the Emerald City it was cold (46 °F / 7 °C) and rainy.

Friday/ the Ellenbert apartments

The Ellenbert Apartments building at 915 East Harrison St on Capitol Hill. It was built in 1928 in the the Jacobethan style, during the neighborhood’s pre-Depression apartment building boom.
Architect Max A. Van House (1877-1966).

I have walked by the Ellenbert Apartments many times, on the way to Broadway market’s grocery store, and finally looked up its history today.

The architect is Max A. Van House, a Minnesota native (born in Moscow, MN). He spent time on Vashon Island as a youth, and picked up on-the-job experience by working for a variety of architectural firms, including a stint at one in Tacoma.

Invitation in the Seattle Times of Sept. 23, 1928 for viewing of the new Ellenbert apartments. Frigidaire refrigerators, hardwood floors, central heating by Ray fuel oil burner, Muralvox radio in every room. One block from the street car line. Downtown is 10 mins away. Sounds good to me!

Thursday/ I want my Marmite

All three of my regular grocery stores were out of Marmite.
Well, I want my Marmite, and so they ‘forced’ me to search for it on Amazon, where it was available in tubs.
Whoah. Sign me up, got to get some of that! I thought.

Check it out .. the little jar on the left is 125g. The grocery store fleeces me for it: 8 bucks. (When it’s almost empty, I run my index finger around inside it, to sweep out every last bit). The tub (it’s made in Ireland, bless them), is 600g, and I paid $22.50 for it. That is 40% cheaper than the grocery store price — admittedly for a bulk purchase (the equivalent of almost 5 little jars).

Wednesday/ Happy St Patrick’s Day

The White House was lit up in green on Wednesday night to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and the rich bond between the United States and Ireland.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheál Martin presented a bowl of shamrocks to President Biden today (a real bowl, but they conversed via video link) — a tradition that dates back to 1952 with President Truman.
Picture from @WhiteHouse on Twitter.

Tuesday/ the art of deception

‘You need only two rich people to want to buy something they can exclusively own for it to become very expensive’.
– Sebastian Smee, art critic for Washington Post


Here’s the instantly infamous digital work of art ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’ by an artist from North Carolina called Beeple (Mike Winkelmann). It’s a collage of 5,000 digital images. Each one took one day to create. The buyer was a Singapore-based founder and financer of the cryptofund Metapurse who goes by the name Metakovan. That says it all right there, in my humble opinion.
An image from ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, by Beeple. (Christie’s Images Limited 2020)

The recent sale of the digital thing (it’s a .jpg file) called ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days‘ with its non-fungible token* attached, has caused a stir in the art world. It went for $69.3 million.

*Essentially a digital certificate of authenticity that is a string of characters connected to a blockchain: the same concept that powers cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. (The blockchain means the characters sit in different physical places around the internet, and have to be combined to verify authenticity).

Is it art? I don’t know, I guess so — but it cannot possibly be worth $69.3 million. Just as the Rabbit, the Pool with Two Figures, or that duct-taped banana, cannot possibly be worth $91.1 million, $90.3 million or $125,000, respectively.

(Just for the record, Guinness World Records lists Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as having the highest-ever insurance value for a painting. On permanent display at the Louvre in Paris, the Mona Lisa was assessed at US $100 million on Dec. 14, 1962. Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value would be around US $870 million today).

Here is David Hockney’s ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)‘ that went for $90.3 million in Nov. 2018.
Rabbit by Jeff Koons was sold for more than $91 million at Christie’s in New York in May 2019. It set a new record for the most expensive work by a living artist to be sold at auction after the Pool with Two Figures.
The ‘Art Basel Banana’ was a stunt, and not a work of art (my opinion). It was created by Maurizio Cattelan, and he titled the ‘art work’ Comedian. Mr. Cattelan’s bananas were offered in a limited edition of three with one artist’s proof, sold at a cost of $120,000 apiece at the Art Basel show in Miami Beach in Dec. 2019. Maybe the bananas were special? No. At least one of the bananas reportedly came from a local Miami supermarket.

 

Monday/ the many meanings of corona

co·ro·na
/kəˈrōnə/

From the Latin word corona, mid-16th century, meaning ‘wreath, crown’.
Architecture: a circular chandelier in a church, or a part of a cornice having a broad vertical face.
Astronomy: the rarefied gaseous envelope of the sun and other stars.
Biology: the cup-shaped or trumpet-shaped outgrowth at the center of a daffodil or narcissus flower.
Medical: coronavirus is any of a family (Coronaviridae) of large single-stranded RNA viruses that have a lipid envelope studded with club-shaped spike proteins.
Physics: the glow around a conductor at high potential.
Smoking: a long, straight-sided cigar.


It was only 45 °F (7 °C) for my late-afternoon stroll around the block today, but hey, now there is an hour more of sunshine.

Daffodils (genus Narcissus) at the corner of 18th Avenue & Republican St. The cup-shaped structure at the center of the flower is called the corona. Yes, the term has come to have decidedly negative connotations, I guess. Maybe it’s best to just shrug it off. We even have apartment buildings in the city called Corona Apartments and Corona Lofts.

Sunday/ Happy Pi(e) Day

Here’s a ‘Pi Day’ picture from Twitter. (We write March 14 as 3.14 here in the United States).

From Wikipedia:
The number π (/paɪ/) is a mathematical constant. It is defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and it also has various equivalent definitions. It appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics. The earliest known use of the Greek letter π to represent the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter was by Welsh mathematician William Jones in 1706. It is approximately equal to 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, and is spelled out as “pi”. It is also referred to as Archimedes’ constant.

Hmm. A berry pie with a very pi crust: pi to 13 decimal places. This is a very fine approximation of pi. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory uses pi to 15 places in its computer programs that calculate space flight distances and trajectories to say, land a over on Mars.

Saturday/ saving the daylight

We had sunny afternoons all week and the high touched 60 (15.5 °C) today.

Daylight Saving Time starts tonight in the United States. (‘Saving’ means shifting the day’s hour markers forward, so that the sun ‘rises’ an hour later, and ‘sets’ an hour later).
Pacific Daylight Time = Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) minus 7 hrs.

The bright sunlight (electromagnetic radiation visible to the human eye) propels the vanes of the radiometer on my kitchen counter top.

Friday/ a thousand-and-one nights

My used book with Arabian fairy tales arrived at last, shipped from Germany with snail mail.
I could not find the Afrikaans edition online — the one that had I read in bed fifty years ago as a youngster! — but I found the German translation that offers the same gorgeous water paint illustrations, on Abebooks.com.

The tales inside are as follows:
How the Story of the Thousand-and-one Nights Started
Little Kadi
Sinbad the Sailor
Prince Sayn Al Asnam and the King of Spirits
Aladdin and the Wonder Lamp
Ali Baba and the Forty Robbers
The Magic Horse
The Envious Sisters
How the Story of the Thousand-and-one Nights Ends

Sinbad the Sailor This is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Big trouble for Sinbad and his mates on their third voyage, ship-wrecked on an island with one-eyed man-eating giants. The captain was eaten first because he was the fattest! I bet he could not run as fast as his crew. Yikes. (I don’t believe these are technically Cyclopes. The Cyclopes come from Greek mythology. Arabians were students of Greek literature, and Homer’s epic poem Odyssey probably inspired this fairy tale). [Illustration by Janusz Grabianski].
The Magic Horse Ah yes: the prince undoubtedly proposing to the princess with some servants looking on. (I confess that I don’t recall the details of this fairy tale. I will have to read the German, and report back). Got to love those lovely light blue veils worn by the servants, looking exactly like 2021 pandemic surgical masks! [Illustration by Janusz Grabianski].

Thursday/ ‘we all lost something’

‘While it was different for everyone, we all lost something, a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice. A year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living for all of us’.
– President Joe Biden, in a nation-wide address today, on the one-year anniversary of the outbreak of the pandemic

Wednesday/ here are my beers

These are the beers I had picked up on Sunday, at the enormous store called Total Wine & More, on Armory Way. They only had one six-pack of the Beck’s left, but I got more at the Whole Foods grocery store nearby.

Clockwise: Radeberger, 4.8% alc/vol, a light golden pilsner; Erdinger, non-alcoholic wheat beer (back in 2010 in China we would go to the Sheraton Hotel for burgers, and I would always order an Erdinger, the real one, to go with it); Beck’s, my go-to non-alcoholic beer with a malty hoppy taste; Paulaner Weizen-Radler, a non-alcoholic heffeweizen with a taste of lemon (first time I tried it, very good). I still enjoy the potent 8.2% alc/ vol Space Dust IPA from our local Elysian Brewing Company (not shown in the picture), just not every day.

Tuesday/ trillions of dollars of help

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan bill is about to be voted on for the final time (tomorrow, in the House). Then it will be signed into law by President Biden.

Direct payments will be sent to 150 million households ($1,400 per person), $300/ month unemployment benefits will be extended through September, additional monthly assistance will be paid to families with children, and it will provide funding for vaccine distribution & for state and local governments, and also boost subsidies for healthcare.

In the Senate, Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan through a procedure known as ‘reconciliation’, which enables certain budget bills to pass with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes necessary for a regular bill. (The Senate can only pass three bills a year through this process, and there are strict limits as to what can be in them).

If I have it right, not a single Republican has voted for the bill so far. Their anti-democratic, anti-everything, Party of Perceived Grievances should dissolve. You’re fired, all of you.

This eye-opening graphic from the Washington Post, tallies up the massive assistance that has had to be doled out from the federal government to counter the devastation from the pandemic. ‘Was this going to be the last?’ asked a reporter of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi today. ‘We will have to see’ was her reply (I’m paraphrasing).

 

Monday/ Roger is ba-aack

There are three Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tournaments on the calendar this week: in Marseille, France, in Doha, Qatar and in Santiago, Chile.

Roger Federer, he of 20 Grand Slam titles fame, is making his long-awaited comeback in Doha, at the age of 39½. He last played on the tour 14 months ago (in the 2020 Australian Open), and had two knee operations after that. He said today that he is now free of pain and injury — and has no plans to retire (!).

Update Wed 3/11: Federer ousted Dan Evans (30, Great Britain) in his first match, but then stumbled and lost against Nikoloz Basilashvili (29, Georgia) in the quarter-final.

Here’s the scene in Marseille, France. Bouches-du-Rhône (lettering on the hard court’s surface) is a department (region) in Southern France named after the mouth of the river Rhône. Those are cardboard cut-outs as the ‘spectators’ – ugh. In this match, the Italian Jannik Sinner (19) overcame Frenchman Grégoire Barrère (27) by 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (5-7), 7-5.
Here’s the red clay of the Chile Open in Santiago. Nobody in the stands, just camera crew and coaches. This was another nail-biter. Frances Tiafoe (23, USA) beat Nicolás Jarry (25, Chile) by the narrowest of margins: 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (9-7).
Here’s Doha, Qatar. A few spectators here and there. (ExxonMobil is a sponsor – boo! BOO! for denying for DECADES that your oil products are destroying the planet, and for lying about climate change. Hey ATP, please find someone else). That is one of the tallest guys in the tour serving, Reilly Opelka (23, USA). He stands 6’11” in his socks. He lost this match in the end, though, against ‘veteran’ Roberto Bautista Agut (32, Spain) : 6-4, 3-6, 4-6.

Sunday/ Denny Way & 5th Ave

I went on a beer run today to track down some of my favorite German beer. (The grocery store was out of stock, and my own supplies were running dangerously low).
On the way back there was a break in the rain, and so I stopped at Denny Way and 5th Avenue to take a few pictures.

Nice to see that Fat City, the ‘German car clinic’ is still there, at Denny Way and 5th Avenue. (They’ve been there since 1972). The Space Needle is not far away (on the right).
There goes the Seattle Center Monorail train, doing its 0.9 mile run from the Space Needle, and running along 5th Ave to Westlake Center in downtown.
The new Seattle Spire condominiums on Denny Way, officially at 600 Wall Street, has 41 storeys. (The building does not taper to the top; the vertical lines are just bent by the wide-angle panorama shot).  The two light gray towers on the left are those of the Insignia Towers condominiums (also 41 storeys), completed in 2016.
Here’s a little skyline of Amazon’s buildings, seen from the corner of Battery St & 6th Ave. The big square building with the ‘key slot’ in the middle is Amazon Nitro North, the black one in the back, to its right, Amazon re: Invent, and the tall rectangular towers on the right are Amazon Day 1 and Amazon Doppler behind it. There’s a whole lot of Amazon buildings downtown, and I don’t know the ones in the middle, such as that light blue one. I  will have to find out, so that I can annotate my picture. The blue Porsche is a 911, I think. (I’m no Porsche expert).