Tuesday/ Our Planet: can we save it?

The spectacular – and spectacularly upsetting, it looks like to me – Our Planet series of episodes from renowned filmmaker Sir David Attenborough (he’s 92) is set to debut on Friday on Netflix in 190 countries. It may draw a total audience of one billion viewers.

The material has been four years in the making, with filming done in 50 countries and with the collaboration of the World Wildlife Fund. No bones are made about the impact that human activity has had on the planet. Humans are accelerating what is called the Sixth Extinction, of plant and animal species across the globe.

Below is a preview and a few photos from the series, that the Irish Times had published over the weekend. The octopus in the last picture is off the coast of South Africa.


Monday/ here’s April

Well, March is behind us. We had only 36% of the normal month of March rainfall, here in the Seattle area: 1.37 in. vs the average of 3.72 in.

Cloud cover but still no rain. Here’s a late afternoon view looking into the sunset, from where I’m standing at 14th Ave and John. Those are the Olympic Mountains, on the Olympic Peninsula, behind the Space Needle.

Sunday/ iTunes tune-up: completed

Alright .. I’m done for now with my iTunes tune-up. It was a lot of fun. In some cases I broke the ‘rules’: uploaded a singles album cover from online,  if I had only imported the hit song from a full CD, and I did not like the CD cover much. In other cases where I had multiple CDs for one artist or group (ABBA), I could upload several cool old vinyl covers or CD covers.

Check it out! All the little squares are filled now .. (top left) the first two pics are from the original ABBA’s Greatest Hits. That was on vinyl and I had the record for many years. On the right, Bennie is kissing Anni-frid on the park bench, and on the left Agnetha is hoping (I think!) that Björn will notice her. (They were in fact married at the time. Bennie and Anni-frid would marry each other many years later). Further to the right are two vintage ABBA covers, one for People Need Love and one for I do, I do, I do, I do, I do. In the second row, I like the two Albert Hammond covers that I found online, and uploaded. And I especially like the Barry Ryan cover for Eloise, far right on the third row! 

Saturday/ tuning up my iTunes

The Sony Walkman cassette player was a sensation when it came out in 1979, and I got one just a year or two later. It was a lot of money to spend at the time, but I loved it.

I’m still doggedly maintaining my iTunes library of music, even though music purveyors like Apple and Amazon are trying hard to make me let go and subscribe to their online music. For about $10 a month, one can get access to a vast library of old and new music (50 million songs), as well as curated playlists from music buffs.

But if one has listened to recorded music for several decades (me), and have bought music CDs in places all over the world*, it’s really hard to let go of all that. Why not keep the music on CDs AND upload it into a searchable collection of 2,000 songs to carry on your smartphone? It

*I left my vinyl collection behind in South Africa in 1995; gave it all to a friend .. but have replaced some of them with CDs, since.

There are heavy metal, rock, pop, Afrikaans, K-pop, classical music and many more albums in my collection. iTunes does not always pick up the artwork automatically when one imports it, but there is a way to upload artwork into iTunes. I found that ‘Jessica Jones’ picture on the far right online, and popped it in. The search for filling out the other gray boxes is ongoing.

Friday March 29 2019 has come and gone

Cartoon by Peter Brookes of The Times.

What happens now — now that the apocalyptic Brexit deadline of March 29 has come and gone?

Will British PM Theresa May resign?
Will there be a second referendum?

The Daily Mail newspaper was having none of it (not moving forward with Brexiting, that is). In a full-page editorial they called the Members of Parliament ‘utterly beneath contempt‘. (Shout-out to the MP looking up from his phone and waving at the camera in that last picture! He looks like a friendly guy, even though I don’t know his politics).

Thursday/ the cherry blossoms at UW

The large cherry trees on the Quad of the University of Washington’s campus in Seattle’s University District are reaching their peak bloom, and I went out to take a look today.

The blossoms are 65% in bloom today, reports the UW website. The trees already look splendid to me, but maybe I will go back next week to experience them at full bloom! The 29 large cherry trees in the Quad are about 86 yrs old and in good shape.
‘Thanks to precious Earth and Mother Nature for cherry trees’, says this banner around the tree.
This administration building called Denny Hall is nearby the Quad. It is named after Arthur Denny, one of the founders of Seattle. It is the oldest building on the main UW campus, and was completed in 1895. It is looking great after a $56m renovation inside and out, that was completed in 2016.
A closer look at the main facade and its clock.
And I always stop on Red Square to take a picture of Suzzallo Library (Collegiate Gothic architecture, 1926). Side note: My alma mater in Stellenbosch, South Africa, also has a plaza called Red Square (die ‘Rooi Plein’) right by its main library.

Wednesday/ the bad, the worse, and the absolute worst

We don’t even know exactly what’s in the Mueller Report yet (we only know the Barr Summary of the Mueller Report), but Trump and his supporters have been taking a victory lap all week.

There Trump was on TV, in all his fake news & lying glory, gesturing while saying ‘the report is a complete and total exoneration‘ – while the report took great pains to specifically say its findings are not an exoneration.

On Monday night’s Late Show, Stephen Colbert crossed off ‘colluded with Russia’ from this list (since Mueller’s Report apparently says he did not do that – even though Trump Jr did). The title of this list is way too kind to Trump. He is not just bad. He has to be the absolute worst president the United States of America has had. [Source: CBS Television, YouTube]
Just look at this list of open investigations. It’s a real list. Seventeen. Other presidents (think: Obama) had NONE, or maybe one. Or two. So yes, looks like we can cross No 1 off the list. Trump did not collude with Russia. But he broke campaign finance laws in 2016 and lied about it; probably has not paid his taxes the last 10 years, or ever; employed undocumented workers; overruled the FBI to get security clearances for Jared and Ivanka .. on and on and on. [Source: CBS Television, YouTube]


Here’s 16th Avenue at 7.08 pm today. (Sunset is at 7.32 pm).
Green leaf and flower buds are starting to sprout everywhere. These big gnarly trees that have seen many winters, are a little slower to wake up from their slumber.

Monday/ stroopwafels!

The last of my stash of Daelmans stroopwafels (‘syrup waffles’) that I had brought back from the Netherlands. They come in caramel (shown), honey and chocolate. I can buy them online or even in the Cost Plus World Market store here in Seattle, but I will hold off as long as I can before I do that. Lots of sugar in them, and it is almost impossible to eat just one.

It is International Waffle Day.
Money cannot buy happiness, they say .. but money can buy stroopwafels, and is that not the same as happiness?

Sunday/ Denny substation update

I went down to check on the construction of Seattle’s sleek new $209 million substation in South Lake Union today. Its construction has been three years in the making – and its planning much longer than that. Seattle City Light purchased the site from the Greyhound bus company in October 2008.

The work inside the substation is basically done, and the equipment has been energized. The walkways on its perimeter and the little public park are not yet open, though. There is also ongoing work done for building out an underground distribution network, scheduled to be completed in 2020.

Here’s a diagram that shows the incoming transmission lines (green), as well as the power distribution lines (lime green and orange). As substations go, this one is a decent size in terms of capacity, but not as big as a national grid substation. For now its capacity is 50 MVA (Megavolt-Ampere), but this could be increased up to 405 MVA to meet future power demands. The gas-insulated switchgear allowed for a smaller footprint for the substation.
Here’s the ground view from John St, looking toward Denny Way. I believe there is still some artwork that will be installed in the little public park: a 110 ft tall transmission tower-morphed-into-a-tree!
‘Seattle City Light Denny Substation’ says the lettering. This is looking west along John St. Space Needle on the right edge of the picture. The two trucks are parked in front of garage doors that allow maintenance vehicles to go into the substation.
And this will be the entrance to the information kiosk on Denny Way.

Saturday/ bollocks* to Brexit

*bollocks: a word of Middle English origin, in this context meaning blatant lies or unfathomable rubbish

There was a big anti-Brexit protest in London today. Protesters are demanding a second referendum, something that Prime Minister Theresa May has resisted until now.

The original March 29 deadline for Brexit is now on the doorstep, and here is the latest. A short delay for Brexit until May 22 is available if lawmakers in the House of Commons approve May’s overall withdrawal deal next week. If May loses that vote, the UK must make a decision by Apr 12 to take part in the European parliamentary elections in May to seek a delay to Brexit, or leave on Apr 12 without any deal.

Throw us a bone here. [Picture: AP, posted on The Independent online]

Friday/ the Mueller Report is in

Headlines from the New York Times online tonight.

Word broke at 5 pm Eastern Time that Robert Mueller had just submitted his long-awaited report about his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 elections to Attorney-General William Barr.  No further indictments are recommended or to be made by Mueller himself, we are told, but we don’t know much more than that right now. It is nevertheless quite possible that information damaging Trump, or pointing to collusion with the Russians, or obstruction of justice, may be described in the report.

It is worth remembering that Mueller have already secured guilty pleas or convictions of Trump’s campaign manager, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, Trump’s campaign foreign policy adviser, Trump’s national security adviser and Trump’s longtime lawyer.

AG Barr will provide the principal conclusions of the report to Congress as soon as this weekend.
How much of the report will the public see? Will Trump fight releasing its contents, and precipitate a constitutional crisis?
We will soon find out.

Mon 3/25: Here are the surprising conclusions of the Mueller Report, with what could be gleaned from AG Barr’s letter sent to Congress on Sunday.  Barr only quoted fragments of sentences from the full Mueller Report.

1. Russia meddled with the 2016 elections (we knew that already).
2. Russia tried to get Trump & company to collude but did not succeed/ succeed completely (hey: the Trump campaign & Trump Jr did meet with them in June 2016 .. and did Trump not call out to Russia on camera, to ‘see if they can find’ Hillary Clinton’s e-mails?).
3. Mueller could not/ did not want to decide if Trump obstructed justice. So it was left up to AG William Barr & Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who decided not to prosecute. Was it because there was no underlying crime? Was it because Trump displayed his obstruction on national television? (He admitted why he fired FBI Director James Comey, lied about Trump Jr meeting the Russians, lied about his payment to Stormy Daniels, vilified the DOJ, the FBI and the media, for two years).

Thursday/ far-right a force in Dutch elections

The Dutch provincial elections of Wednesday yielded unexpected, strong results for Thierry Baudet’s far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) party.
The Green Left party did very well too, though, but their support is strongest in the urban areas and among highly educated voters. (A familiar theme in western liberal democracies, not?).

Front page of the NRC Handelsblad newspaper of Thursday. ‘Monster victory for Baudet. In a fractured political landscape, his Forum for Democracy (FvD) party with 12 seats in the House of Representatives is now a force to be reckoned with’. Top Right: Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD-People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, in blue, also have 12 seats. He will have to form a new governing coalition and look to the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA, light green, 6 seats), GreenLeft (GL, purple, 9 seats), and Democrats 66 (D66, green, 6 seats).

Wednesday/ the super worm equinox moon

Spring has arrived here in the North.
We experienced freakishly warm spring temperatures here in the city yesterday and today: 79 °F (26 °C).

A supermoon tonight coincided with the start of spring, the third and final supermoon for the year. (A supermoon is called a perigean full moon by astronomers. It occurs when a full moon reaches its closest point to the Earth in its elliptical orbit, making it appear unusually bright and large).

The ‘worm’ in the moon’s description refers to little creatures like worms that resume squirming out of the ground, along with the leaves and flowers that start budding in spring.

Here’s the early evening’s full moon from my upstairs window tonight.  The full moon occurred only 4 hours after the spring equinox, the shortest time between the two events since March 1981.
Gorgeous picture of the supermoon, as seen from the International Space Station [Source: @NASA on Twitter]

Tuesday/ how will Trump’s presidency end?

There is increasing chatter on cable news here in the US, and among watchers of the Mueller Investigation, that the investigation is wrapping up and that its report is imminent. Several high-profile Mueller team members have departed from the investigation. Trump’s weekend tweet storms seem to become increasingly unhinged.

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has taken a Trump impeachment (with what we know now), off the table. She’s right that it’s no use that the House vote to impeach him, only for impeachment to die in the Senate (2/3 majority needed).

Senate Republicans used to stand for decency, for law and order, and for upholding the Constitution. Now they are all Trumpsters, and they belong to the Trump Party.

I made a pie chart of the results of an informal 100-person poll, conducted by New York magazine on the streets of New York.  (So some 2/3 of those polled, think Trump will lose or not even make it to 2020 to run again. Well. Count me among the 9 that said ‘I have no idea’).

Monday/ books galore

I went out to the annual book sale of the Seattle Public Library on Saturday. Part of the attraction for me to the sale, is just the browsing through all the books – not so much the cheap prices.

There was a long line to get in to the cavernous hall at Seattle Center, and all the while people were leaving with armsful and roller bags full of books. Will there be any left? wondered those of us in line. But once we got in, there were still plenty to choose from.

I (think) I have somewhat unusual preferences when it comes to books: foreign languages, dictionaries, technical/ math books, and children’s books with nice pictures in. Here is what I ended up taking away, all for just $12. (And yes, now I will have to go visit Ireland and Estonia).
‘The Buck Book’ did not make the final cut of books that I bought .. but it shows some very unusual origami projects for a dollar bill. This one is for folding one into an elephant!
Nor did the Goldilocks and the Three Bears children’s book make the final cut .. and now I kind of regret that I did not take the book. Baby bear, Papa bear and Mama bear are all very cutely drawn.

St Patrick’s Day

Sunday was St Patrick’s Day, all over the Western world.
From Wikipedia: Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”), is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland.

I took this picture on St Patrick’s day in Chicago in 2005. The tradition of dyeing the Chicago river green with vegetable dye started in 1962.

Saturday/ pink ice cream truck

A cotton-candy colored hoodie from the RIPNDIP Spring ’19 collection.


We spotted this ‘RIPNDIP’ ice cream truck on Madison Ave & 14th on Saturday night.

The truck was next to a pop-up store space (in the black building next to it), used for selling clothing merchandise.

The RIPNDIP brand is originally from Los Angeles, where their flagship store is.


Friday/ breaking down the Viaduct

I made it down to Belltown and Pike Place Market on Thursday to check out some of the Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition, from up close.
It’s going to be another 6 months before all the demolition work is done.

Here’s what it looked like in Jul 2018, standing at 55 Bell St and looking south. The north end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct runs overhead. Keep the rounded curb and manhole cover on the left in mind as a reference.  [Picture: Google Street View].
Fast forward to Mar 2019/ today: all gone! It’s hard to believe the picture is taken from the same spot, but that’s the same manhole cover on the far left. I’m standing behind a fence and lifted up my phone to get a clear picture. Restoration and filling efforts are underway.
Here’s a look from Pike Place Market, looking south. Another section of the old southbound Viaduct is now gone. What a different picture this is going to be in 6 months’ time!

Thursday 3.14 (159265359 ..)

It’s Thursday March 14 !
Happy Pi Day!

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

Check it out: PIE is 3.14 in the mirror (is that another universe?) .. yes, I cheated a little with the period in there and all, but it’s still fun to do.