Tuesday/ the voice of reason

Dr Fauci testified before Congress today, via videolink. He urged caution (as always), and said there would be no vaccine by the start of the school year in September.

Just today California State University, the nation’s largest four-year public university system, announced the cancellation of in-person classes for the fall semester. That system comprises 23 campuses, with more than 480,000 students!

Dr Anthony S. Fauci (79) is a physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He has lived through the start of the terrible HIV/ AIDS pandemic (first cases in 1981, and not over by a long shot: 770,000 deaths world-wide in 2018), the 2003 SARS outbreak, the 2009 Swine Flu, the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and now Covid-19. It was refreshing to see him testify without Trump (literally) breathing down his neck at Coronavirus Task Force briefings.

Monday/ the season’s first rose

When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose
– first recorded by Bette Midler for the soundtrack of the 1979 film The Rose, lyrics by Amanda McBroom

The first rose from my garden this year

Saturday/ the roof tiles have arrived

A package for me arrived yesterday, from Norway, and another today, from Germany: the LEGO bricks I had ordered for my Doon Drive house.

It’s great to know that the transatlantic supply chain for LEGO bricks is intact!
It did take about five weeks for the packages to arrive (normally one week to 10 days).

Hmm .. here are the ‘Slope 33’ 3×2, 3×3 and 3×4 tiles that will go into building the roof of my Doon Drive house. The red is the go-to color, but I ordered a few magenta, dark red and reddish brown bricks as well, to add touches of these colors into the roofs.

Friday/ 14.7% – and going up

The April jobs report pegged the US unemployment rate at 14.7%, a cataclysmically bad figure* .. and one that will almost certain be even worse for May.
*The only figure on record that’s worse, was the 25% unemployment recorded during the Great Depression in 1933.

One can argue that some – most, hopefully? – of these jobs will come back in a few months, but absolutely not all of them. There is a small business die-out in progress in the United States. Stores, restaurants, bars and entertainment businesses are taking a severe hit.

Thursday/ the flower moon is out

The last supermoon of 2020 is out tonight, and its color was a rich cheesy yellow, from my vantage point here.

Here is a pair of pictures that I found on Twitter, of the International Space Station transiting against the Sun, and against the Moon.
The scales of the pictures are the same!  .. our Sun is gargantuan, of course — its diameter roughly 400 times that of the moon —but it is also 400 times further away from Earth, than the moon.

Wednesday/ Pike & Pine street art

Many more works of art have appeared in the last month or so, on the boarded-up storefronts that line Pike and Pine St here in Capitol Hill, Seattle.
Here are a few.

Tuesday/ a little bike ride

My friends and I celebrated the nice spring weather (70 °F/ 21 °C) with a little bike ride today.
Some restrictions on outdoor activities here in Washington State have also been lifted, as of today. Golf courses are now open, and some State parks for day use.

My get-up for the ride: shades & old camouflage-hat. There’s a black skull & crossbones printed on the side of the hat, signaling ‘Stay Away From Me, 6 feet!’. (And no, that’s not a wheelbarrow, it’s my Jump electric-assisted bicycle from Uber).
Arrived at the Seattle Waterfront, at Ivar’s ‘Acres of Clams’ seafood restaurant. The restaurant is still closed, of course, but we had fish & chips take-out for lunch.

Monday/ poppy flowers

I found these beautiful poppy flowers in a scruffy back alley here on Capitol Hill.
From Wikipedia:  Ancient Egyptian doctors would have their patients eat seeds from a poppy to relieve pain. Poppy seeds contain small quantities of both morphine and codeine, which are pain-relieving drugs that are still used today.

Sunday/ a plump little thrush

This little pot-bellied thrush came and sit on my garage roof last night at dusk. It sang a song or two before leaving. I believe it is a hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus). In French: grive solitaire, the lone thrush.

Friday/ here’s May, as the pandemic churns

Welp. Washington State stays home for now, until May 31. Some restrictions are expected to be lifted by mid-May, though (go to Phase 2 of 4 phases).

Phase 2 allows –
• All outdoor recreation involving fewer than 5 people outside one’s household (camping, beaches, hiking trails and so on);
• Gather with no more than 5 people outside one’s household per week;
• Limited non-essential travel within proximity of one’s home;
• Non-essential businesses can open, such as manufacturing, construction, domestic services, in-store purchases allowed with restrictions, professional services (but teleworking is encouraged), hair and nail salons, restaurants < 50% capacity & table sizes < 5.

What should happen as States open up, is to go back to Square One.
Do lots of testing, especially of symptomatic people, and do contact tracing for persons testing positive.
It looks like testing remains an insurmountable challenge in America, though. The Senate will resume business in Washington DC this coming week .. but the Capitol Hill physician says there are not enough kits to test each Senator. How in the living daylights, in the month of May, is this possible?

Thursday/ the ‘magic’ in South Korea

‘So no, the Koreans are not ‘magic’, and are not dealing with a loaded deck. They saw the problem, and confronted it rationally and deliberately, and the U.S. can certainly do the same, once rational people rise up and start removing their irrational leaders‘, concludes Kelly Mac in an article on Medium.

The writer dispels some of the myths around the amazing success that South Korea has had at mitigating the impact of the corona virus. (They worked hard at it, and it should also be noted that they operate at ‘half-normal’, says the writer).

Screen shots below are from the Medium article.
Korean tracing app: It has GPS permissions, phone number verification, and Passport number (verified in person by immigration)- the traveler can delete after 2 weeks. If you fail to self-report during the 2 weeks, a health official may call you to find out why; the QR code can be used for fast entry to hospitals. (Dyspnea means difficult or labored breathing).






Wednesday/ gaslighting us, every day

gerund or present participle: gas·lighting
1. manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
2. Trump & his White House staff, talking about the corona virus pandemic.

Jared Kushner had the ba*** to say today that the federal government’s response to the corona virus outbreak is ‘a great success story’. That is a vile and infame lie.

Anyone that knows anything, knows the response can only be described as an abysmal failure. Obama’s team (that had sent 10,000 troops to contain the Ebola pandemic in Africa in 2014), briefed them in 2017 at the hand-over. What did Trump do? He dismantled the pandemic agencies in the federal government.

Trump was briefed extensively in January & February 2020 by the intelligence agencies about the coming pandemic. He dismissed their concerns. At least – what? 50%? of the 60,000 deaths that have now been recorded, could have been prevented. More Americans have now died of the virus in three months, than the casualties of the Vietnam War. That war ended after three decades on Apr. 30, 1975.

From the New York Times. Does this look like, as a whole, that the United States is ready to let people flood into the streets and public places? Not by a long shot.

Tuesday/ a broken tulip?


Here’s a tulip from my walk around the block tonight.
It might be a broken tulip: one infected with a plant virus called a potyvirus. The virus infects the bulb and breaks the single color in the petals. Bars, stripes, streaks, flames or feathers of different colors can be the result.

Unfortunately the virus is not benign — it eventually kills the bulb. The Semper Augustus with its fine red and white stripes was a broken tulip, famous for being the most expensive tulip sold during tulip mania. It is now long gone, and growing broken tulips (except under supervision) is illegal in the Netherlands.

Monday/ leave the Clorox alone


a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. act naturally, deafening silence, bittersweet, President Trump).

a figure of speech, suggesting that the injection of bleach into humans can cure Covid-19, and that it therefore warrants medical research.

Sunday/ robin egg blue

We had gusty winds on Saturday. The wind blew a robin’s nest out of the tree in front of my house – at least I think it’s a robin’s nest. Other birds lay blue eggs as well. As far as I can tell, there were no chicks that came down with the nest.

The startling blue color of robin eggs is the result of a pigment in the eggshell, called biliverdin. The first recorded use of robin egg blue as a color name in English was in 1873, but nowadays is considered to be a shade of cyan.  

Saturday/ how Trump became President

I saw this YouTube clip from a 2018 Jimmy Kimmel Live show for the first time today. Several people are shown a big world map with the countries outlined.

Were they going to be asked to point out an obscure country such as Nepal, on the map? Maybe a more obvious one such as – uh – Australia? China? Canada? No. Four or five people were asked to choose and correctly point out any one country whatsoever on the world map.  Couldn’t do it.

To save Kimmel’s audience from utter despair, the clip ends with a young boy ticking off the countries in South America, on to Mexico, USA, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand and .. correctly pointing out Papua New Guinea.

Is this South Africa? asks the woman. ‘No, that’s South America, and that’s a continent’, says the interviewer. Three or four more guesses yielded no country that she could correctly point to. ‘I’ve actually been to college’, says the woman at the end. ‘That’s the sad part’.

Friday/ my replacement dinner plate

I broke one of my Noritake (Japanese porcelain) dinner plates last week in spectacular fashion: I made it explode on my gas cooktop with a loud bang!
(I accidentally turned on the gas burner underneath the plate for a few minutes).

Lucky for me, there were no flying pieces of porcelain, just the broken pieces on the cooktop to clean up.

This pattern is Royal Orchard by Noritake. Beautiful, not? Its production has stopped long ago (1989- 2002), but the Replacements.com warehouse in North Carolina still has these brand new ones in stock. Porcelain is said to be at the top of the list of heirlooms that millennials really do not want, and I am completely OK with that. That way there will be so much more left for me.

Thursday/ bricks, to add to the Doon Drive House

I’m still waiting for my LEGO bricks from overseas to complete my Doon Drive House, but that did not stop me from ordering one more batch of bricks.

This batch was from Wisconsin (a seller on the bricklink store), and arrived at my door today.

These are bricks for a swimming pool and a tennis court for the Doon Drive house, as well as paving for the driveway. I spent some time laying out the tennis court on gridded paper, so that I can order exactly what I need.  (Search through the enormous database on bricklink.com, and pick the brick type, the color and the quantity. A lot of work, but not really: it’s part of the fun that goes into building a custom LEGO model).