Saturday/ fun with Kakuro

Kakuro – derived from the Japanese kasan kurosu (加算クロス, ‘addition cross’) is my new favorite puzzle game, for now. (Sooner or later I always go back to playing Scrabble against ‘Expert Computer’ as my favorite).

I find Kakuro games in online newspapers, and print them out larger, so that I can write clues for myself into the tops of the boxes.  I see there are free puzzles available online as well.

Here’s a completed game. Read the rules at the bottom, and then you’re ready to go! Remember, 1 to 9 only, and no duplicates in a string down, or across. Here’s an example of how to figure it out. We know the 7 DOWN (at top left) can only be a combination of 1,2 & 4 (combinations of 3+2+2 are not allowed, nor 5+1+1). That means the 12 ACROSS can only be 4+8, since 1+11 and 2+10 will not work.

Black Friday/ I saved 100%

Men’s Amore E Psiche Print Short-Sleeve Shirt by Versace. If money were no object, would I buy this shirt? It’s marked down 25% from $850 to $637.00. One would think it’s made of rare silk, but no: viscose, a cheap fabric. Has to be dry-cleaned. But hey: it was made in Italy. [Picture from Bergdorf Goodman]
I did not run out to a store or a mall today to go and shop. The United States’ consumer economy had better not look at people like me for keeping it going, I thought.  I will look for something and buy it when I really need it, and not just because it’s out there on Black Friday.

Just for fun, I clicked around on luxury purveyor Bergdorf Goodman’s website (see left).

A long time ago, I was in New York City, and I stepped into the revolving door at the Bergdorf Goodman store on Fifth Avenue, to go inside and check out the merchandise. It was then that I saw the inside, and realized that the store was stratospherically out of my league. Keep going, keep going, I thought, pushing the revolving door to escape onto the sidewalk again.

Wednesday/ car key fobs: for the birds

I see I will have to get a Faraday pouch for my Toyota Camry’s key fob. (A pouch with radio signal shielding in the lining, so that it forms a barrier for emitting or receiving radio signals). There has been reports in Seattle of car thieves using signal amplifier kits to steal cars that use key fobs.

Reports of these shenanigans by thieves are also on YouTube, going as far back as 2013. It makes me wonder if the fancy 2019 models I see in the car commercials on TV, are any less vulnerable. And what about driverless cars? They will be no good if they can be hacked into.

Here’s how the signal-grabbing-and-amplify kit is used to steal cars. Thief A picks up the signal through the front door. The signal is relayed and captured on the device Thief B has. Thief B opens the car, and his device allows him to start the car, and to drive away (presumably after Thief A had hopped in as well).

Tuesday/ a red one with animals on

One more South African bank note arrived in the mail, that I had bought from an Ebay seller in Canada. My little collection of South African bank notes is complete – for now.
I now have all the ones that I have memories of, or that I used to have in my wallet, back in the 80’s and 90’s!

This is ZAR 50 note was the highest denomination of the Third Series of Rand banknotes, first issued in 1984, and only until 1990. I did not carry this bad boy in my wallet much! .. it was a lot of money at the time. Obverse: Jan van Riebeeck portrait (first administrator of the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1662); head of a lion. Reverse: Natural environment and fauna of South Africa: giraffe, impala, black wildebeest, zebra, palms, aloe, mountain cliffs (Afrikaans ‘bergkranse’) & setting African sun in the sky. [Pictures from Ebay].

Monday/ Trump’s visit to California

Sigh* .. at least Trump visited California (on Saturday), and saw the devastation firsthand.  He seemed to get along swimmingly with the new Governor-elect of California, Gavin Newsom. This after he had been pretty rude to him in Tweets in the past. (Gossip: Could it be because Newsom’s ex-wife Kimberly Guilfoyle now dates Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr.?).

*Trump felt the need to repeat his ‘assessment’ of California’s forest management: ‘In Finland they rake the forest floors’. (This baffles the Finns, and prompted a denial from the Finnish president that he had ever told Trump that).  Then Trump got the devastated town’s name wrong, calling Paradise ‘Pleasure’, instead. When he did it a second time, FEMA administrator Brock Long (and Governor Jerry Brown) could no longer stand it and corrected him loudly.

From left to right Gavin Newsom, new Governor-elect of California, Trump, Jerry Brown, California Governor, Paradise Mayor Jody Jones, and Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  [Picture from Sacramento Bee].

Sunday and blue skies

It was a beautiful day here in the city but definitely not warm: 53 °F /11 °C!
I put on my scarf and went down to Pike Place market to take another look at the Alaskan Way Viaduct, before it is retired (at age 65, incidentally).  Its replacement tunnel is just about ready, and demolition of the Viaduct will commence in January.

The mountain* is out. Follow the Viaduct road surface back up to the horizon, where the silver arches of CenturyLink field (the Seahawks’ stadium) are, to see the mountain. The Alaskan Way Viaduct will close permanently in eight weeks (Jan 11), and its replacement tunnel will open for traffic three weeks later.  *Mt Rainier.

Saturday/ the chickens need to scurry

Check out the cool packaging for eggs that I got, from Vital Farms .. and to boot it has the ‘Certified Humane’ label on it. (That’s the labeling that matters here in the USA, say my friends that know. Ignore ‘natural’ and ‘cage-free’). So these eggs are from truly free-range hens. The Dutch call these chickens scharrelkip –‘chickens that scurry’.

Friday/ Brexit’s never-ending drama (that has to end March 29)

Cartoon from the Dutch newspaper ‘NRC Handelsblad’, titled ‘Eritreans in the Netherlands’. Says the Eritrean guy: ‘Brexit is especially difficult’. I think the joke is that the Eritrean guy has 100 other bigger things to worry about (as an immigrant), than Brexit. Brexit will be both good and bad for the Netherlands. Dutch people feel they will lose an ally in the Brits and will be ‘left alone’ with the German and the French, and trade relations with the UK will become more complicated. On the other hand, the port of Rotterdam, businesses and the economy might benefit from the UK leaving the EU.

It was a rough week for British Prime Minister Theresa May. She finally has a Brexit deal with the EU27 (European Union minus the UK), but now the hard-line Brexiteers in her own Conservative Party are revolting.  The deal has the UK stay in the European Union Customs Union, and parts of the single market. This way an international border and customs would not be needed between Ireland (Europe) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK).

The UK Parliament still has to approve the deal. Instead, the hard-liners are pushing for a no-deal Brexit. This ‘jumping over the cliff’ type of exit will have all kinds of economic and other repercussions.    Consumers, businesses and public bodies would have to respond immediately to changes as result of leaving the EU, and it’s unsure what controls will be put in place a the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.

What if Parliament does not approve the deal? Some say there may be a second referendum, then, already called the People’s Vote. (Pollsters say the Remain vote has shifted from 48% to 54% over the last 18 months).

Thursday/ a visit to the U-District

The No 48 bus makes for an easy run up to the University (of Washington) District for me, and I did that today. (The main draw there for me is the big university bookstore, and the smaller second-hand bookstores, as well).

In another two years or so, the new Light Rail train station right there will be completed, and then I can take the train instead. That would be great!

Even though these apartments on University Way are painted in pastel colors, they are still a little wild (I think). Cool ginkgo tree in front of it, leaves in yellow fall color. Ginkgo trees are living fossil plants: they are found in fossils dating back 270 million years. So they were dinosaur food.
Oh man .. I hope the author is wrong about the thesis of his book. Yes, we want another great president. How about a decent one, at least? (The author basically says being President of the United States has become too arduous a job, and that our expectations are too high. He also wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post in 2014 titled ‘Barack Obama, disappointer in chief’. Mr Miller! Distinguished scholar that you are, we would like your opinion of President Donald Trump, please. My opinion: catastrophic disaster in chief).
This dog-eared picture is in Magus Bookstore. The guy is Russian, I’m sure, I thought, and famous, but I did not know who he is. Google Images to the rescue: it’s playwright Anton Chekhov (born 1860-died 1904, much too young, at 44, from tuberculosis).
The beautiful entrance on 15th Ave NE, to the University Temple United Methodist Church. The building was completed in 1927.

Wednesday/ Big K is going away

The original International Prototype Kilogram (Big K), safe within three vacuum-sealed bell jars. Credit: BIPM

The kilogram is currently defined as the mass of a chunk of platinum-iridium alloy created in 1889, that is housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France. (Le Grand kilogram, or Big K, as it is affectionately known).

But what if Big K gets stolen, or damaged? And it has already (mysteriously) lost some 50 micrograms since 1889. So this state of affairs will not do for the 21st century.

This Friday in Versailles, a gathering of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, is expected to vote to redefine the kilogram by its existence as a unit in the Planck constant.  This new definition is very complicated to explain (see here).  For it to work, the Planck constant also had to be precisely defined and fixed to 9 significant digits, with the aid of a Kibble balance.

And voila!

Tuesday/ the Seattle Tower

I guess Seattle has many gleaming glass and steel towers nowadays, but the Seattle Tower is one of the city’s original art deco gems.
Its construction was completed in 1929, and at the time it was called the Northern Life Building.

I just took a quick picture this afternoon, but looking at online pictures, I see I made the mistake of not going into the Tower’s lobby. Architect A.H. Albertson’s art deco design is featured inside and out, and the warm brown brickface of the Tower had held up well against the ravages of time.
Here is the Northern Life Tower (Seattle Tower), featured on an antique postcard, possibly from the 1930s or 1940s (no date was given for it). It tapers to the top in a pyramid, in progressively lighter shades of brown bricks.
And here is today: Google Streetview with the Seattle Tower (completed 1929, 27 storeys) in the middle, at the southeast corner of 3rd Ave. and University St. That’s the US Bank Centre building (completed 1989) in front of it, itself only the 8th tallest in the city at 44 storeys.

Monday/ Amazon’s new HQ2 times 2

Amazon says it will eventually employ 25,000 workers at each of its two new locations, and the impact on the surrounding areas might be big. (Raise rents and property prices & add to traffic congestion). [Picture from New York Times].
Word had leaked out by Monday night (before an official announcement from Amazon), that the two sites of the much anticipated Amazon HQ2 (second headquarters) will be Long Island City (in New York City) and Crystal City (in northern Virginia, just south of Washington DC downtown).

I think – I’m not sure – that it’s good news for Seattle that HQ2 will be split in two. Seattleites were fretting that HQ2 might eventually become bigger than Seattle, and this seems to make that less of a possibility.

Sunday/ Veterans Day

‘American soldiers, with a sprinkling of French infantry soldiers, parading the streets of Paris in an American Army truck to express their joy over the war’s end.’   Dec. 8, 1918. [Picture from the New York Times. Credit: Émile Barrière/Photo Press Service].  
It’s a very special Veterans Day: we can celebrate the 100 year mark since the end of World War I.

Says the New York Times, though: After more than four years of fighting, 8.5 million soldiers had been killed, including more than 100,000 Americans, and 7 million civilians were dead. In that time, modern warfare was born, and the trenches of Western Europe became a charnel house*.  Just 20 years later World War II would start, bringing vastly greater destruction, and numbers of casualties.

*A building or vault in which corpses or bones are piled.

Saturday/ California’s infernos

Active fires in California on Nov. 10. [From the LA Times]
I was sadly mistaken, assuming that the summer wildfires in California had been under control.

The Camp Fire is now the most destructive fire in the state’s history. 23 people have died with 100 more still reported missing.  The fire has destroyed nearly 6,500 structures.

Further south, the Woolsey Fire has scorched 70,000 acres (130 sq mi), and forced 250,000 people to evacuate in the Malibu area.

Friday/ hey little bird, what’s your name?

These little birds like to hop around in my backyard sometimes, looking for fallen seeds.
This morning, one was finally ready to pose for his close-up. (It’s time to get a 500 mm telephoto lens, if I’m going to be serious about shooting pictures of little birdies like these!).
It took a little searching to find it online, but now I know: it’s a dark-eyed junco.

Dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) belong to a genus of American sparrows. This one is a male with the so-called Oregon coloring: black head & chest, brown back, white belly.

Thursday/ please be shocked

At least 12 people were killed in a shooting late Wednesday at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif.  Borderline Bar and Grill was holding its weekly event for college students.   The gunman (28) was a troubled Marine Corps veteran that turned his gun on himself.

Here is Roxane Gay writing under a heading ‘Please Be Shocked at the Thousand Oaks Shooting’ in the New York Times:

According to statistics from the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 307 mass shootings in the 312 days of 2018. They are a commonplace occurrence. This is a horrifying thing to say, but it is the truth. We need to say this truth over and over. We need to face this horror without looking away. We live in a country where there are relatively few restrictions on gun ownership and where our cultural tolerance for mass murder appears to be infinite.

It is a peculiarly American affliction that this epidemic of gun violence doesn’t move us to take any real steps toward curbing gun violence and access to guns.

It is painfully obvious that there is no shooting appalling enough to make American politicians stand up to the National Rifle Association and gunmakers. A congressman was shot and critically wounded. Children at Sandy Hook Elementary were murdered. Revelers at the Pulse nightclub were murdered. Concertgoers in Las Vegas were murdered.

A man outside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where a gunman killed 12 other people Wednesday night. [Mike Nelson/EPA, via Shutterstock]

Wednesday/ it’s Novem-brrr

It was sunny today, but we only got up to 52°F/ 11°C.
The sunlight we got, was gone by 4.41 pm – the time the sun now sets in the Pacific Northwest. Yikes. (On Saturday night, across the United States, we set our clocks back from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time*).

*California voters approved Prop. 7 on Tuesday, a proposal to permanently stay on Daylight Saving Time. The measure still requires a two-thirds vote from the California legislature and a change in federal law before it can take effect, though.

The squirrels in my backyard were out and about in the sun, and hey! munching on the honey mushrooms under the laurel hedge. I have the big fly agaric (red with white spots) mushrooms this year as well, but they just nibble on those and then leave them alone. The fly agaric is not deadly toxic, but it does contain psychoactive substances that produce hallucinations in humans (and squirrels?).

Tuesday night/ got the House

The Democrats have taken back the House! Yes!
This is of monumental importance. The Speaker and the House Committee chairs are going to be Democrats. There will be a real check on Trump’s excesses and the appalling Republican legislation that have come out of Congress.  For the first time, there will be more than 100 women among the 435 House of Representatives.

The Republicans will retain the Senate. A bitter disappointment for Democrats in the Senate races, was that Texas star and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke’s inspiring campaign against incumbent Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz, came up short.

Monday/ tomorrow is almost here

Alright.  If 2016 was the Year of the Angry Older White Male in American politics, maybe 2018 is the Year of the Female College Graduate, says Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report. These suburban and younger women take a very dim view of our 45th president. (As do I).

The Democrats really need to win the House. Hopefully they will not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, like they did in 2016.
It is unlikely they will win the Senate.

There are also some very interesting gubernatorial (state governors) races. For my fellow citizens in red states (Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin): some free advice.
DO NOT vote for a Republican governor.
Republicans DO NOT CARE FOR PEOPLE, not even for you. 

Update Wed 11/7: The Dems got the house, but not the Senate. Michigan, Pennsylvania & Wisconsin voted in Democratic governors.

Katy Tur interviewing a die-hard Trump supporter. She says nothing has changed at these Trump rallies since 2016. Trump supporters don’t follow the news, or simply say: ‘Why is all the coverage so negative? We don’t believe it’. (Psst. The reporting on Trump is negative because what Trump does flies in the face of American values, democracy and decency).