Friday/ a gargantuan chunk of freshwater

Friday night saw almost 3 inches of rainfall in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town.  Still, the Cape Town City Council is said to be entertaining the possibility of towing an iceberg from Antarctica to Cape Town, to further help boost the city’s low water inventory.  Say what? Can that possibly work? was my first reaction.

Well, here are the numbers*. Some 200 billion tons of ice from Antarctica slide into the sea in a typical year – the equivalent of more freshwater than the world uses in a year. Some icebergs float for 5 years in the ocean, and some make it to Gough Island. Such an iceberg could be towed from there, for the roughly 2,700 km (1,700 mi) distance to Cape Town.  The iceberg will be stationed off the coast (Cape Columbine on the west coast is mentioned), and could conceivably deliver 100 megaliter of water every day for a year as it melts.  (About 20% of the city of Cape Town’s needs).  If such a project is can be pulled off successfully, its cost is projected to be less than half the cost of desalinating an equivalent amount of seawater.

*From an article in the Sat Jun 2 issue of ‘Die Burger’ newspaper.

[Maps and information from Wikipedia] Gough Island has a temperate climate between 11 °C (52 °F) and 17 °C (63 °F). It’s about 91 sq km (35 sq mi). In 1995, the island was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to many species of birds, subantarctic fur seals and (unfortunately) house mice, an invasive species brought there by humans. A project underway by the United Kingdom aims to exterminate all of the mice by 2021, though. They kill as many as 600,000 chicks a year on the island.

Thursday/ a high-stakes game of pardon poker

Not a day goes by, with no scandal or bad news, from the Trump administration. Today, President ‘Bring-Back-Law-and-Order’ Trump pardoned Dinesh D’Souza, a right-wing Twitter troll, that pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions in 2014. It’s pardon No 6. Rumored to be next, are Martha Stewart, and a commutation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s jail sentence he is serving.  Why them? Former FBI director James Comey (fired by Trump) led Stewart’s prosecution, and Comey’s friend Patrick Fitzgerald, led Blagojevich’s.

Observation from David Roberts (blogger for news site Using the pardoning power excessively, or to obstruct justice, is not going to fly, though.

So Trump is using the presidential pardon power for revenge. Or even to signal to the criminals associated with him (think Micheal Flynn, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort) that he will pardon them as well, in the event the Russia investigation finds them guilty. (Flynn has already pleaded guilty, as a matter of fact).

Some analysts note though, that it is not out of the question that these pardons – and what they signal – could become part of the obstruction of justice evidence, collected by the Russia investigation.

Wednesday/ smart meter installation

My smart meter* showed a reading of 3 kW-h at 8 pm, after starting at 0 at lunch time, 12.30 pm. *I blanked out all the serial numbers and barcodes.

A contractor for Seattle City Light stopped by my house today, to install my ‘smart’ meter (for metering electricity usage).  I see the device is from a Swiss vendor Landis+Gyr.

‘The meter will last you 20 years or more’, said the technician. (OK. But if vastly better technology becomes available, I’m sure it will be replaced).

Why a smart meter? The meter beams its readings to a collector tower nearby, and to the utility from there. So no more driving around by meter readers (that get bitten by the dog, or cannot get to the meter).  The meter will automatically notify Seattle City Light of outages. Finally, once all the back-end systems are in place, customers (me) would be able to monitor their electricity usage remotely and in real time.

Tuesday/ birds of a feather

Birds of a feather flock together.  – English proverb in use since the mid-16th century.

My LEGO birds keeping each other company. (I’m going to have to add a few more to make it a flock. Two is not a flock. Three, maybe. Four – I would say that’s a flock).

Memorial Day 2018

It is Memorial Day, when we honor the service and memory of soldiers that gave their lives in wars fought for the United States.

May of 1968, 50 years ago, would turn out to be the bloodiest month, of the bloodiest year, for American soldiers in Vietnam. As 1968 drew to a close, public opinion in the United States turned against the war.

An original sketch by the designer of the proposed Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Maya Lin, 21-year-old Yale architecture student, in 1981. (Photo of the artwork by Victor R. Boswell Jr./National Geographic/Getty Images). From the instructions for the design competition: ‘Finally, we wish to repeat that the memorial is not to be a political statement, and that its purpose is to honor the service and memory of the war’s dead, its missing, and its veterans—not the war itself. The memorial should be conciliatory, transcending the tragedy of the war’.

Saturday/ flowering ‘maple’

Abutilons (flowering maples) are part of a large genus of some 200 flowering plant species in the mallow family, Malvaceae.

The little lantern flowers on my flowering maple* (genus Abutilon) in my back yard, have started to appear.  If it stays happy, it should produce flowers throughout summer.     *The leaves look like small maple leaves, but it is not a true maple at all.

Friday/ a summery May

We have had summery weather this May. It has been drier and hotter than normal all month here in the Pacific Northwest.

The measured 0.12 in of rain for May ties the record low from 1992. (The number will barely budge, with almost no rain expected through the end of the month). Metric Conversion: 56 °F is 13 °C, 61.5 °F is 16.5 °C.  Yes, not very warm, but warmer than normal. (Mr Squirrel on the fence has his home in my backyard fir tree. Eastern grey squirrels are crepuscular, meaning they are active in the early and late hours of the day, so as to avoid the heat in summer.  They do not hibernate the way ground squirrels do, so I see them year-round).

Thursday/ dear Kim Jong-un ..

I like my coins & medallions, and I see this one is still for sale on the White House Gift Shop site for $24.95. Comes in a black velvet case. The site was so popular this morning, that it crashed. Now back up, sans picture of the coin, it notes: ‘If the summit does not occur, you can request a refund’. Good to know – but I’ll pass.

‘Dear Kim Jong Un: It’s just not working out between us. Sorry. Hope we don’t have to nuke you. Please call’. .. – the way the Los Angeles Times paraphrased the letter sent by Trump to Kim to cancel the planned meeting of June 12.

The timing of the announcement was terrible: American journalists were still in North Korea, witnessing the (apparent?) destruction of one of the nuclear test sites. The last part of the journey to the site was a two-hour walk.

It’s easy to look back now and realize: it never really was going to happen.

Wednesday/ how will it all end for Trump?

We’re into our second year of the Russia investigation into a. the ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, and b. the question if Trump obstructed the investigation.

Meanwhile, Trump and his supporters (co-conspirators?) spout outright lies & conspiracy theories on Twitter, and to the media, almost every day.  On Sunday, Trump ‘demanded’ by tweet that the FBI be investigated. (So the subject of the investigation, demands that the investigators be investigated).

Just today, Trump repeated allegations that federal investigators had used spies against his presidential campaign (‘Spygate’. OK .. evidence, please?).

Anyway, let’s focus. Below is a great comparison of special investigations since 1973. Take-away: Mueller has found a lot of wrongdoing already, but probably has a year – or more – to go.


Then today, the New York Times, laid out the main possible outcomes when Special Counsel Mueller eventually completes his investigation.

Outcome 1: Trump did nothing wrong.
Outcome 2: Trump broke the law (many possibilities here).
> 2.1: Mueller’s Least Aggressive Option: Mueller submits a report (to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein).
> 2.2: The ‘Nixon Option’: A grand jury from Mueller’s investigation deems Trump an un-indicted co-conspirator & sends a report to Congress.
> 2.3: Mueller’s Most Aggressive Option (unlikely): Mueller indicts Trump.

Additional Notes:
Note a. Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein is the gatekeeper for Outcome 2, and Mueller’s report goes to him first .. but if Mueller tries to indict (2.3), and Rosenstein says ‘No’, that triggers an automatic report to Congress.
Note b. The Nov 2018 Mid-term Elections will likely happen before Mueller’s investigation is done.
> If Republicans then control the House: Impeachment proceedings will start only if the report has damning evidence of wrongdoing, or of breaking the law.
> If Democrats then control the House: They will face tremendous pressure to do something. They are likely to consider impeachment.

Reporter Michael Schmidt and a graphic behind him, of the main possible outcomes of the Mueller investigation and the next steps. [Source: New York Times].

Tuesday/ mountain lion attack

There was a mountain lion (cougar) attack on two mountain bikers on Saturday morning. Isaac Sederbaum (31) was injured but is OK, but his friend S.J. Brooks (32), tragically, did not survive. Brooks was an avid biker that had moved here from Boston. Before Saturday, 16 cougar attacks, one of which was fatal, had been reported in Washington state during the past century.

These Washington State animal stories made were in the news the last few weeks. 1: The mountain lion attack happened near North Bend. Dept of Fish & Wildlife officials later tracked the mountain lion down and killed it. It tested negative for rabies. 2: A rabid bat bit someone on the finger, at the University of Washington stadium. (If bitten, try to catch the bat & seek medical help immediately). 3: Picture of large crested porcupine on the loose, spotted in Spanaway. No porcupines in North America, so likely a pet no longer wanted & let loose. Still not found. 4: Bald eagle steals rabbit from baby red fox on San Juan Island. Fox was OK after dropping back to the ground. [Picture by Kevin Ebi/]

Monday/ the ‘Dead Wake’ of the Lusitania

Erik Larson is an American journalist and author of nonfiction books. He has stated that he does all of his own research for his books, asking, “Why should I let anybody else have that fun?”.


The used copy of ‘Dead Wake’ that I had ordered from a third-party seller on Amazon for $6, arrived in the mail today. 

It is a retelling of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, by a German U-boat.  I glanced at the detailed Wikipedia entry, but did not really read it. I will read of all the dramatic events in the book.

RMS Lusitania at the end of the first leg of her maiden voyage, New York City, September 1907. She was briefly the world’s largest passenger ship in her day. [N. W. Penfield – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-64956]

Sunday/ stop and smell the roses

I walked to Trader Joe’s grocery store late afternoon, the way I do once a month.  I trade dollars at Trader Joe’s (well, electronic units of it) for frozen blueberries that I put in my hot oatmeal in the morning, and for unsweetened vanilla-flavored soy milk, that also goes with it.  Good stuff !

A rose here on 18th Avenue, on my way back from the Trader Joe’s grocery store to my house. It smelled every bit as beautiful as it looks: fragrant and rosy.

Saturday/ the Royal Wedding

Confession: I did not set my alarm to 5 am Seattle time to catch the TV coverage of the royal wedding.  No matter – it was replayed later, with no detail too minute to mention.

Oprah feared her original dress would photograph ‘too white’, so British designer Stella McCartney and her team worked through the night to make a new one. The wedding cake had elderflower cordial in. Meghan Markle’s wedding band was made of Welsh gold, donated by the Queen.  The prince and his bride had modern vows with no ‘honor and obey’ in.

Picture from the Sunday Times in London.

Friday/ the new shingles vaccine

I got my first of two shots, of a new shingles vaccine called Shingrix, yesterday.  My left shoulder was sore for a good day or so. I thought o-ouch! every time I lifted up my arm, but I am much better today.

The vaccine is effective, and strongly recommended for everyone over 50. Shingles can be a debilitating affliction with long-term consequences. This new vaccine has an adjuvant (agent) that will boost the body’s response to it, and it does not contain the live virus – just parts of the dead virus.

Canadian poster explaining shingles and its complications. Some resources say an estimated 1 million Americans get shingles every year, although my doctor says that estimate may be somewhat overstated.

Thursday/ Space Needle ‘spacelift’: almost done

The Space Needle’s $100 million renovation project is coming to a close. Crews have started to remove the covers on the top. The paneling that is obscuring the rotating glass floor will be removed over the next four weeks as well.

The top of the Space Needle on Thursday night at dusk. The new glass panel installation at the top is visible now, but the side scaffolding and bottom panels are still obscuring the rest.

Update Fri 5/18:  All the construction wrap was removed by Friday morning.

All the construction wrap was removed during Thursday night, revealing parts of the remodeled structure. [Picture tweeted by ‘Do206’].

Wednesday/ Stellar’s jay

Infographic from  Year-round range map by

I saw this jay sitting on my garage roof this morning, so I ran upstairs and snapped the Mr Jay Bird from my bedroom window. This one is called a Stellar’s jay, named after German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller. (Blue jays are close relatives, but a different species. Their feathers are mid-blues and they have a ‘black necklace’ on their off-white throats).

Tuesday/ lots of daylight

We hit 85°F (29°C) on Sunday – but now we are back to normal May temperatures of around 68°F (20°C).  It’s great to have daylight left after dinner (sunset is at 8.40 pm).  That way I can escape from my house and the relentlessly bad Trump Administration news on cable TV. (Yes, I know: I should just turn it off).

I found this spectacular purple bearded iris a few blocks from my house, on my after-dinner walk today. Irises take their name from the Greek word for a rainbow, which is also the name for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris.

Monday/ Seattle’s new ‘head’ tax

The Seattle City Council passed a controversial ‘head’ tax on large businesses in the city today (a tax per employee, instead of a payroll tax).  The tax is about half of the original proposed amount, and will sunset in 2024. It is meant to address homelessness and affordable housing.

The Downtown Seattle Association (business association) does not support it, though*, and Amazon is still not happy about it, either.  However, Amazon will resume construction on a building that it had halted, to protest the much larger head tax that was originally proposed.

*Nor do residents, with only 38% in support of the tax, per a poll by a local TV station.  Critics – and Amazon – point out that the City of Seattle revenues have grown dramatically from $2.8 billion in 2010 to $4.2 billion in 2017, and will be even higher in 2018. Why is this not enough?

Here’s the scene at the Amazon biospheres when I walked by there late on Sunday. On the left is the tower called ‘Block 20’, part of the downtown Amazon headquarters complex. Its construction now up to about 20 floors. It will be 37 floors tall when done. (This is not the building on which construction was stopped because of the head tax).

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

A photo from some 50 years ago: I am on the far right (playing with a pair of scissors, it appears), brother Chris on the left, and baby brother Piet is in my mom’s arms. 

Saturday/ on Kilauea volcano watch

Kilauea volcano is on the south east of the Big Island.

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted last week, causing lava at 2,200 °F (1,204 °C) to burst through cracks, and into people’s backyards in the Leilani Estates neighborhood on the Big Island.  So far 36 structures, including 26 homes, have been destroyed.

Residents and the Hawaii National Guard are now on standby for a possible evacuation of 2,000 people. The lava level inside the volcano could drop below sea level. Once that happens, water will pour onto the lava, and  generate steam that will likely explode from the summit in a shower or rocks, ash and sulfur dioxide gases.

This photo was taken from a helicopter. A giant fissure eruption releases lava and gas in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on May 6, 2018. [Photo: Bruce Omori—Paradise Helicopters/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock]