Thursday/ Republicans: Go home! (and don’t come back)

The latest incarnation of the poisonous Senate healthcare bill, courtesy of Mitch McConnell, was called the Healthcare Freedom Act (frees one up to die with no healthcare).  Slapped together in a day or two, all of eight pages.  Published only on Thursday.  Not a single hearing.  Per the Congressional Budget Office it would force 16 million people off health insurance coverage, increase premiums 20% for people with insurance. Yet Mitch McConnell has the nerve to bring it up in the dead of night, with VP Mike Pence on hand, to cast a potential tie-breaking vote, if the Senate had voted 50-50.

In a scene of high drama, after impassioned pleas from Democrats to vote ‘No’, the roll-call vote finally comes. 49 of 52 Republican senators vote ‘Yes’ (just not John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins). The bill fails by the narrowest of margins: 49-51

So: the Senate Republicans demonstrated vividly how careless, how rotten to the core they are, as policymakers and as legislators. Go home, and never come back!

Buzzfeed’s mark-up of the dramatic scene in the Senate.  It’s 1.29 am on Friday morning in the Senate. McConell, arms folded, looks on as John McCain makes sure the Senate clerk sees him doing a thumbs-down, signaling his no vote.

Wednesday/ President Trump : stop tweeting ‘policy’

Read from the bottom up. That ‘Thank you’ in the third tweet was the last straw for late night talk show host Stephen Colbert as he read the tweets.  “Thank you?,” Colbert asked, perplexed. “F— you.”

Here is George Takei’s reaction. (From Wikipedia: Takei is an American actor, director, author, and activist of Japanese descent, best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek).

Two of Trump’s morning tweets on Wednesday morning about a new administration ‘policy’ (really? the President of the United States now tweets policy? no news conference, no nothing?) about transgender people no longer ‘accepted’ in the military set off a firestorm of criticism.

Check out the reactions from Stephen Colbert, and from George Takei.   I guess you fight fire with fire, and disrespect with disrespect.

Tuesday/ 38 dry days (so far)

It’s been a great summer so far here in Seattle, with temperatures in the 70’s to low 80’s (20 to 28°C).  It’s been drier than usual though, with the blue skies now closing in on a record stretch of days with no measurable rain.

Seattle’s University District on Sunday (black Tesla Model X in the foreground). As of Tuesday July 25, the count was 38 days with no rain. There is none forecast for the next several days, either. The longest stretch on record with no rain was 1951 with 51 days.

Another ugly Monday in US politics

President Obama and a Boy Scout, posted by Pete Souza on Instagram on Monday.

Six months in, there is no let up in the insanity in the White House and Republican politics. John McCain (80) is returning to Capitol Hill prematurely from his operation (he has brain cancer) to vote on Mitch McConnell’s health care bill.  No one knows what the final content will end up to be (what? is that any way to legislate?) – but rest assured, it will take away affordable health care and rescind taxes on very wealthy people. Trump staged a news conference aimed at the Republican Senator hold-outs. Does not care. Just wants a ‘win’.

Later in the day, Trump’s speech to tens of thousands of Boy Scouts kids at their Jamboree included his usual boast about his win in 2016 (pathetic), and have them boo a living American President (disgraceful). Trump continues to tweet out disparaging statements about the Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, ostensibly to get him to quit.

I like the London Evening Standard’s paraphrasing of Kushner’s statement!

Finally: Jared Kushner read a lawyer-written statement, with the White House as the backdrop, that stretched credibility to the breaking point (beyond it, for me: ‘did not collude with Russia’, ‘no improper contacts’, ‘no prior knowledge of the contents of the June 2016 meeting with the Russians’).

Sunday/ disasters that start with M

King 5 (local TV station here in Seattle) is running a campaign to make residents aware of the need to be prepared for a disaster.  It could be .. a Meteor | a Missile from North Korea | a Magnitude 9.0 earthquake & tsunami.  I think the quake is most likely, given that we are way overdue, now 317 years into an estimated 243-year cycle (gulp) for the region’s recorded 9.0 earthquakes over the last 10,000 years. (The last 9.0 quake was in 1700 and there should have been another one by 1943!).

Below is King 5’s suggested check list. I highlighted the main topics in bold for myself. It’s very important for the supply kit to contain critical medicines, some bills of money, some food, and identification! Presumably it would be difficult or impossible to use one’s car to drive somewhere (traffic jams, road blocks). Some people would say what about needing guns or knives for self-defense? Oh my. That kind of thinking is very survivalist/ apocalyptic, not so? I don’t have a gun in the house. Maybe grab a sharp kitchen knife on the way out?

This is King 5’s suggested check list, reformatted and with highlighted keywords.

King 5’s starter list for a disaster kit.

 

 

Saturday/ Seattle Skyline

Here’s the Seattle skyline as seen from the Bainbridge ferry on Friday afternoon.  I stitched together three photos, and marked it up with some of the tallest and most iconic buildings.

The Seattle skyline as seen from the Bainbridge ferry on Friday.  The 76-story Columbia Center, 937 feet (286 m) tall, and completed in 1985, is still the tallest of them all.  The cruise ship in the foreground is the MS Regatta (1998), operated by Oceania Cruises.

Friday/ Point No Point

We stopped by Point No Point in Hansville on Friday morning, before catching the Bainbridge ferry back to Seattle.  Point No Point was named as such by Charles Wilkes during the United States Exploring Expedition of Puget Sound in 1841.  (It does not appear to stick out from the surrounding land mass from a distance).

Clockwise: 1. There was a very low tide in Hood Canal on Friday morning, exposing the eel grass* (I think?) in the shallow sub-tidal waters.  *Eel grass is not a seaweed; it is a blooming underwater grass which spreads by rhizomes or roots.  2. The Point No Point lighthouse contains a low-maintenance, post-mounted, rotating beacon.  3. Point ‘No Point’ is on the northern tip of Kitsap Peninsula.  4. The Hood Canal bridge close by, is a long floating bridge. The original bridge sank in 1979 during a wind storm, but was replaced by a new one by 1982.

We spotted these American Indian rowers coming around Point No Point on Friday morning. In summertime, youths use traditional canoes and oars to row across parts of Puget Sound from one Indian reservation to another. The dinghy (bottom picture) provides support and assistance in case they need help. The tribe in the bottom picture is the Nisqually Tribe; I could not find the name of the tribe in the top picture, in spite of the lettering on the canoe.

I think this is a Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii)  – also called a ‘brown squirrel’ – by Paul’s house in Hansville.  I like their brown color and golden bellies. The ones we have in the city are Western gray squirrels (Sciurus griseus): bigger, and more aggressive.

Wednesday/ osprey and Seahawk

Three ways to get to Kitsap Peninsula: take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry, take the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry, drive around on south of Puget Sound.

Bryan and went out to Hansville on the Kitsap Peninsula on Wednesday (to our friend Paul). Instead of taking the ferry, we drove around the Sound.  The time is about the same as with taking the ferry provided there is no rush-hour traffic to deal with.    

Here’s an on-line picture of an osprey, the feather that I picked up, and the atlas that shows it is a wing feather, toward the tip of the wing.

Out in Hansville, I picked up an osprey* feather.  I found a handy feather atlas online that says it is a wing feather.

*Two side notes on the osprey:
1. Ospreys are sometimes called sea hawks but that is not really its correct name.   2. The Seattle Seahawks’ “Seahawk” is not actually a sea hawk. The 10-year-old bird that the football team’s name is lent from, is an augur hawk.  Let’s just say then, that ‘Seahawk’ is short for Seattle hawk!

 

Tuesday/ career milestone

In the elevator lobby at my firm’s Seattle office today. I had just handed in my company-issued computer, and my badge.

My long sabbatical from work had came to an end by last week, and it was finally time to decide: to go back to full-time work, or not.  I decided not to.

So 8½ years with my firm, and its many adventures in the world of SAP* projects, have come to an end. I am still working on what the future holds.

*Enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations.

Monday/ on Northern Lights watch

Seattle is on North America’s west coast, slightly below that speck that is Vancouver Island.

There were reports on Sunday night that Seattleites may see the Northern Lights*, and indeed, it was visible from here.  (For the record: I did make an effort to get a clear look at the northern skies look at around 11, but did not see anything!).

*The Northern Lights (‘aurora borealis’) are generated during geomagnetic storms in Earth’s atmosphere. During solar flares, clouds of electrons, ions, and atoms are expelled through the corona of the sun into space. When these clouds of particles reach Earth a day or two later, they interact with gas molecules in the atmosphere, resulting in the greenish color displays.

Skunk Bay is near Hansville out on the Kitsap Peninsula. Yes, this sighting is not nearly as spectacular as the ones one would get further up north in Alaska, but hey, there it is. Pretty cool.

Sunday/ number 8!

[@Wimbledon on Twitter]. There’s an 8 in there, for the eight Wimbledon championships that Roger had won, the most of any player, ever since the tournament was first held in 1877.

I got up at 6 am this morning to watch Roger Feder (Swiss, he turns 36 on Aug 8!) and Marin Čilić (Croatian, 28) play in the 2017 Wimbledon final. Federer won in what was a one-sided match with Čilić saddled with a painful blister on his toe.   The best part for me to watch, was Federer’s little tour afterwards through the VIP lounge, here. His family was there, of course, and Prince William and Kate, and Rod Laver, Stefan Edberg, and many other well-wishers, saying ‘well played’.

I hope in a London that had recently suffered a spate of terrorist attacks, and the terrible Grenfell fire, the tennis brought some sense of normalcy back.  I sorely appreciate Roger’s grace – in his speech on the court, and in his tour of the lounge afterwards.

Friday/ the X1 Carbon has landed

My new notebook computer landed on my doorstep on Friday, and my first impressions are very favorable.  It’s light, and very similar to my Lenovo notebooks from work that I had used for 8, 10 hours a day for a very long time.  I did consider a MacBook and others, but my fingers are so, so used to the Lenovo keyboard.  A new notebook with a different keyboard layout and feel can bring a lot of frustration, and be hard to get used to again (sort of like a rental car with the levers for the wipers and turn signal switched from one’s own car).

It did take a little patience to get the machine set up.  There was a massive 4 Gigabyte Windows 10 update needed to what was already loaded on the machine.

Then, when I downloaded and attempted to install Google Chrome (as browser instead of Microsoft’s Edge), the infamous blue screen of death came up. Aargh.  Microsoft calls it a ‘stop screen’ – and these days the blue screen is not a dead stop requiring a hard reboot.  Electing to re-install the very large OS update did the trick.

Such a clean ma-chine! (as Queen would sing in ‘I’m in love with my car’), on my somewhat cluttered desk. The Lenovo X1 Carbon* (5th Gen), 16 Gb memory, 512 Gb SSD, Intel Core i7 7th gen., full HD res, 2.5lbs.   *Carbon fiber in the outer shell, and a magnesium frame.

Thursday/ take a treasure, leave a treasure

Here’s a basket with a ‘Take a treasure, leave a treasure sign’, that I saw on the steps to a house during my neighborhood walk last night.  I wanted to contribute something, but had nothing in my pockets (other than my house key and phone).    I love the idea behind the basket: that small and serendipitous items can be very interesting.

 

Wednesday/ my elements collection (so far)

Check out my elements collection, mostly metals.  The little cylinder of pure Tungsten (W), and the mini-ingot of Zinc (Zn) are new additions.  I’m trying not to buy everything all at once from the wonderful website for Metallium Inc. based in Watertown, Massachusetts!

Admittedly, my collection has a long way to go.  I don’t even have pieces of iron or chrome in there, for example.  The hunt for those is on!

My elements collection counts only 14 elements so far. It has coins made from pure nickel, aluminum, silver, copper and gold. The yellow metal cone is brass (alloy of copper and zinc, so not an element).  That drill bit does not count as an element either: it is stainless steel with tungsten carbide cutting edges.

Tuesday/ the Master Charge| Interbank Card

This card was issued in 1971 or so (expired in Feb 1972). Master Charge/ Interbank cards were issued from 1966 to 1979.  And Seattle-First National Bank? It existed from 1935 to 1974, merged into a larger bank at that time.

Here’s a ‘Master Charge’ card from up in the rafters in my home’s garage here in Seattle, found during a clean-up effort. This is the forerunner to what later became the ubiquitous Mastercard.

The original Interbank/ Master Charge card was created by several California banks as a competitor to the BankAmericard issued by Bank of America (later to became the Visa credit card issued by Visa Inc.).

So how many Mastercards are in peoples’ wallets all around the world? It’s actually very hard to pin the number down.  Banks issue and manage their individually branded cards while using the MasterCard company only as a “switch” to process transactions. Also : depending on the country, MasterCard might not ‘see’ any transactions on a MasterCard branded card.  Quite a few countries require that national credit card network (not MasterCard) process domestic transactions, leaving only international transactions to be processed by MasterCard.

Monday/ more shoes drop

The lies from the Trump White House have been piling up, but the shoes are starting to drop.   It definitely appears there was collusion between the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign and the Russians.  And so now we can ask .. what will happen next?  What did Trump know about it? And what possible defense can the White House offer for all this?

From cable news channel MSNBC. These current and former White House officials (Flynn was fired) all failed to disclose that they met with the Russians. Wow.

And check out this reporting from the New York Times tonight, by By Matt Apuzzo, Jo Becker, Adam Goldman and Maggie Haberman, tonight July 10, 2017. This is not Watergate. Is this not way BEYOND Watergate?  What did Trump Sr. know about this?  This meeting that the NYT reports about, happened in June 2016.  Trump had won the Republican nomination, and was starting to campaign against Clinton.

Sunday/ Yesler Way bridge

Seattle’s Yesler Way bridge was built in 1910, making it one of the oldest permanent steel roadway bridges in the city.  Its new rehabilitation project is well underway and scheduled for completion in fall of this year.   The $20 million project was funded by a ‘Bridging the Gap’ transportation levy (a property tax increase) passed by voters in 2006, together with a grant from the Federal Highway Bridge Program.

From seattle.gov: In addition to providing a major east/west arterial connection across I-5, the Yesler Way Bridge displays unique and historic design elements which include decorative pedestrian railings, parabolic and circular features of the exterior “fascia” girders, and ornamental capitals and casings on the “fascia” girder columns, all of which will be preserved with the bridge rehabilitation.

This is at the International District train station. I like the new blue ‘Hello Washington’ train cars on the Light Rail (it’s for Kaiser Permanente healthcare, new to Washington State).

Saturday/ my new ‘flowering maple’

I have a new flowering maple*  with a number of beautiful red and yellow bell flowers on my back patio. My previous one was making a very slow recovery after it had almost died during winter.  Towards the end of this year, I will keep an eye on the temperatures and cover this one up a little bit to shield it from severe cold.

*Its other names are abutilon and Indian mallow. It’s not a true maple; the leaves just look a little like those of a maple tree.  It is related closer to plants such as the hibiscus.

Friday/ who’s who at the G20

Alright .. I confess I could name no more than a dozen or so, of the leaders in the Group of Twenty (G20) conference ‘class photo’.  I have work to do to get my world politics knowledge current!  Check out the handy guide from CNN.  G20 does not mean exactly 20 countries.  Some additional countries are invited; and Europe counts only as one ‘county’, sort of.   It’s complicated !

(CNN) G20 leaders posed for a class photo as they kicked off their summit in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday. Here’s who’s who in this year’s group portrait:

1. Emmanuel Macron, President of France
2. Donald Trump, President of the United States
3. Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia
4. Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico
5. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa
6. Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina
7. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
8. Xi Jinping, President of China
9. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia
10. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey
11. Michel Temer, President of Brazil
12. Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea
13. Alpha Condé, President of Guinea
14. Paolo Gentiloni, Prime Minister of Italy
15. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
16. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
17. Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
18. Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia
19. Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
20. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
21. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
22. Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
23. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
24. Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization
25. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway
26. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization
27. Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
28. Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund chief
29. Macky Sall, President of Senegal
30. Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization
31. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore
32. Jim Yong Kim, President of World Bank
33. Mariano Rajoy Brey, Prime Minister of Spain
34. Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Prime Minister of Vietnam
35. Mark Carney, Chairman of the G20’s Financial Stability Board
36. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, State Minister of Saudi Arabia

There are 20 members of G20: 19 countries and the European Union. Spain is considered a permanent guest at G20 summits, and extra guests are frequently invited to attend. This year, Germany invited three partner countries — Norway, the Netherlands and Singapore — as well as the African Union (represented by Guinea), the Asia‑Pacific Economic Cooperation (represented by Vietnam) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (represented by Senegal).
Also invited: the International Labour Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Financial Stability Board, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

This map is from the official G20 brochure. The orange countries are G20 countries, and the blue ones are guest countries that had been invited to this year’s conference.