Monday/ homemade soup: the best

The onion and carrots that I had bought for making red lentil soup with, were not going to last forever. So I finally got going today, and got it all in the pot. Voila! It’s a welcome change from the same old grocery store soup I have had for many weeks now.

Getting all the prep work done is the hardest! A big onion, chopped up, and two cloves of chopped garlic go into the pot first, with olive oil, until caramelized & golden. Add red lentils, carrot, salt, pepper, cumin and tomato paste, and go 2 more minutes. Add water & vegetable broth, and let simmer for 30 mins.
Here’s the end result with parsley for the garnish, and a little lemon juice added. I put half of the pot of soup through the food blender, and added it back into the pot, to make the overall consistency a little thicker and smoother.

Sunday/ Rudy joins a long list

Rudy Giuliani (76) finds himself in hospital today after testing positive for Covid-19. Giuliani is Trump’s lawyer. I don’t believe he has ever worn a mask in public.

Already a national laughing stock for his embarrassing cameo in the ‘Borat Subsequent Movie’ film, he has not let that stop him from making evermore outlandish, baseless claims about election fraud.

It’s hard to keep track of the hordes of Trump administration officials and staffers that have contracted Covid-19, but the New York Times comes to the rescue (see below).

Saturday/ the new stations on Berlin’s U5

Here’s another reason for me to go to Berlin again some time (first reason is the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport): the expansion of the U5 U-bahn* line that had started in 2010, is now complete.

*Short for Untergrundbahn, ‘underground railway’.

I took this picture of the Rotes Rathaus (‘red town hall’, opened in 1869) on Rathaus-straße near Alexanderplatz in 2015. Construction of the U-5 line extension and stations were already well underway.
Here is the ‘Bärlinde’ tunnel boring machine they deployed. It is somewhat similar to the Bertha boring machine (dia. 57.5 ft/ 17.5 m) that was used in Seattle for the SR-99 tunnel, but this one is not nearly as big (dia. 22 ft/ 6.7 m).
The new part of the U5 line dips down from the Brandenburg gate to the station called Museum Insel (museum island, an island in the Spree River), and then goes up again to Alexanderplatz.
Inside the brand new Rotes Rathaus station on the U5 extension. [Picture credit: Der Tagesspiegel/ Annette Riegel]
“The U-5 crackles with History”  Come in! With 50,000 people that will be able to change between lines 5 and 6 in the new Unter Den Linden station, according to BVG, the city’s mayor hopes for a revitalization aboveground. He imagines concerts on Museum Island with fewer cars that are driven, and people can converse undisturbed.
Here is the history of the U5 line that now stretches back almost a century, to 1927. [Graphic from Der Tagesspiegel]

Friday/ scenes along Denny Way

It was sunny and 54°F (12 °C) today. I walked down to Denny Way, to check on the construction across from the Denny Substation.

Hey! Giant round mirror for sale by Pretty Parlor in the 1925 Biltmore Annex building on Summit Ave off of Olive Way. On the right is the 1924 Biltmore Apartments, built by Norwegian home-builder Stephen Berg in the Tudor-Gothic style. Berg built hundreds of homes in north Seattle between 1909 and 1922.
The Reef Cannabis Store, on the corner of E Olive Way & E Denny Way, seems to be still going strong. It opened in August 2018. It used to be a pizza parlor, and a pub & grub joint before that.
Alright. Now I’m making my way down Denny Way to where it crosses over Interstate 5. This red building has been ‘living on the edge’ for at least 20 years. The graffiti that stays on for months on end always makes me think the building is about to be demolished. The doggy day-care center is no longer there. Right now it has a vaping products store, a tobacco shop and a couple of restaurants for tenants. I’m sure the restaurants are struggling.
Here’s what I wanted to see: the construction at the corner of Denny Way & Stewart Street. I am standing on the elevated viewing corner of the Denny Substation (to my right). On the left is 1200 Stewart St, with its twin 45-story towers (apartment units) starting to go up on a 3-story podium (retail stores). The 42-story tower (apartments) in the middle with the round corners is 2014 Fairview Ave.
P.S. Amazing that there is NOT A CAR IN SIGHT. It is 4 pm on a Friday afternoon. Normally, Denny Way would be PACKED with rush-hour traffic trying to make it to Interstate 5.
There’s a break in the 3-story podium. Hopefully the residents of the 41-story Nexus condominium tower (completed 2019, in the middle) have settled in, and can tolerate the construction activity on their doorstep. (Hey, a few cars showed up for this picture!).

Thursday/ way back, in the vaccine line

I took the little quiz in the New York Times that produces an estimate of where I will fall in the Washington State line for getting my vaccine. (I’m in the ‘Everyone Else’ category; the equivalent of Group 5 or Group E for boarding an airplane).

The result:
Based on your risk profile, we believe you’re in line behind 268.7 million people across the United States.
When it comes to Washington, we think you’re behind 5.8 million others who are at higher risk in your state.
And in King County, you’re behind 1.6 million others.


Wednesday/ golden mushrooms

I did have a few of the large fly agaric mushrooms in my backyard in October (red with white spots), but they were not as big as last year’s.

I have not seen these golden ones before in my backyard, though. Looks like they are golden Pholiota (Pholiota aurivella).  They are supposedly edible; some people report that they taste like marshmallows without the sugar.
(That does not sound tempting .. and as I’ve said before, the only mushrooms I eat are ones from the grocery store!).

A clump of golden Pholiota (Pholiota aurivella). These are gilled mushrooms that reproduce with spores. The bamboo stick in the ground is about ½ in. thick.
These are a little more mature, with their brown scales that contrast with the golden cap color.

Monday/ better late than never

Two items in the ‘Better Late Than Never’ category, in the fight against the pandemic, were in the news today.
1.  Dr. Scott Atlas, Trump’s coronavirus adviser resigned.  (His ‘expert advice’ appalled public health experts).
2.  Washingtonians can finally activate or download the Coronavirus Exposure Notification app.  (In Western Washington, the number of new daily cases jumped six-fold just from September to November). The diagram below shows how this works.

Here’s how the Exposure Notification smartphone app, developed by Apple & Google, works. (Technical question: Bluetooth signals work up to 30 ft/ 10 m away. Does that mean I will get a notification if I had been as much as 30 ft away from a person that had tested positive for COVID-19 the last 14 days? I guess so! The fourth panel does say it needs to be ‘a significant amount of time’ – 15 mins, I would guess – that the phones had been in close proximity). [Graphic from the Washington State Dept. of Health website]

Sunday/ it all worked out, in the end

Here’s how my Sunday afternoon went.
1.30 pm Are you free for tennis? texted Harris. Yes, sure, I said. It was a sunny day (but not warm! 49 °F /9.5 °C), and now we had three; still needed a fourth.
Ardee was at Costco. Jesse was a no, as was Chuck. Jackson might be available .. checking. No, his girlfriend says no, he texted. What?! How dare she? was our reaction :-).
2.00 pm Still no luck finding someone. Alright. Let me go and scout out the courts, I offered. We were not even sure if the courts were, in fact, dry.
2.15 pm I arrive at Amy Yee Tennis Center. (Inside is closed, of course). The six outside courts are dry, kind of (big damp spots) – but already filled with players. We had no reservation. The courts can be reserved the day before with non-refundable deposits, but nobody really does that this time of year. The weather is too unpredictable.
2.30 pm Just come on out to the courts, I texted Harris & Cam: Worst case, the three of us can hit a few balls on a semi-dry court.
3.00 pm I’m still camping out by Court 5 & 6, waiting for one to open up. Alan from my social tennis club happens to play on 5. Maybe he will stay on and play with us, I thought.
3.05 pm Harris & Cam arrives.
3.10 pm Court 5 opens up. Yay! We can go on, and Alan agrees to be our fourth.
3.40 pm The thin sunlight disappears for good, behind swirling low-land fog that’s rolling in. We keep on playing.
4.20 pm Yikes. It’s becoming difficult to see the ball in the twilight and fog! Almost done, though. It’s 6-6 in the second set and we’re into a 7-point tiebreaker. Alan and I lose it 5-7.
No matter, it was just great to be able to play!

Getting into my car to leave the courts at Amy Yee Tennis Center. This is 4.40 pm, with the sun long gone behind the fog, and now below the horizon as well.

Black Friday/ shopping at the mall? count me out

The official Black Friday is here .. but it’s been ‘Black Friday’ online, every day since at least last week!
One has to wonder how busy the malls were, given their decline even with no pandemic. These days, I don’t even go into the grocery store as a rule. I buy the groceries online and go pick it up. So shopping at the mall was absolutely not going to happen.

Wednesday/ Mousse was on the loose

Here’s a picture that New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson had posted on Twitter on Monday, after being reunited with his cat Mousse.
Mousse had escaped from an apartment in Williamsburg (the neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York), but was found a few hours later.

Tuesday/ wow: Dow 30,000

The venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average stock market index closed above 30,000 for the first time today. (Trump can eat his words now— the ones where he had said the stock market would crash if Biden won).

These slides are from the online Wall Street Journal. The annotations are mine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average debuted on May 26, 1896, the brainchild of Charles Dow and his statistics-minded business partner Edward Jones. Back then its components were 12 smoke-stack companies: American Cotton Oil, American Sugar, American Tobacco, Chicago Gas, Distilling & Cattle Feeding, General Electric, Laclede Gas, National Lead, North American, Tennessee Coal and Iron, U.S. Leather, and U.S. Rubber.
In 1928, the Dow was expanded to include 30 companies. Companies from older industries are replaced from time to time by newer ones. (This slide is old, actually. ExxonMobil & United Technologies are out of the Dow). The current 30 components are: 3M, American Express, Amgen, Apple, Boeing, Caterpillar, Chevron, Cisco Systems, Coca-Cola, Disney, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, Honeywell, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, McDonald’s, Merck, Microsoft, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Salesforce, Travelers, UnitedHealth, Visa, Walgreens, and Walmart.
Check out this steep drop in Feb & March when the reality of the pandemic set in .. but then the Federal Reserve’s massive, multi-trillion-dollar economic stimulus, and optimism due to the Covid-19 vaccine announcements overcame all of that, in just 9 months. Make no mistake, though. This optimistic stock market index does not reflect the general state of the national economy. There is still a loonng road ahead to repair the widespread damage the pandemic had done.
This slide shows how the spectacular growth of the tech giants offset the poor performance of the industrial companies. (Not sure why GE & XOM are shown. GE was removed from the DJIA in 2018, after which none of the original components of the DJIA remained. Exxon Mobil was removed in August this year).

Monday/ here comes the Colosseum

The completed LEGO® Creator Colosseum set. The structure is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir, Titus. It could hold some 60,000 spectators.

Move over 2017’s LEGO Millennium Falcon (7,541 pieces) and LEGO Taj Mahal (5,923 pieces)!
The up-and-coming LEGO Colosseum (on sale this Friday) clocks in at a colossal 9,036 pieces, making it far-and-away the largest official Lego set ever.
And yes, it comes at a high price for that many bricks:  US$ 550.

Am I tempted to go for it? Well, I would rather spend that kind of money to buy bricks like I did for my Doon Drive House creation.
Maybe I can design and build a LEGO Castle of Good Hope  – the one in Cape Town, with its brick walls and five-pointed footprint. Now that would be a challenge.

The Colosseum appearing in the 1975 movie Mahogany, as seen by Diana Ross’s character Tracy Chambers, fashion designer in Rome ..
.. and here is my own encounter with the Colosseum. It was in the summer of 1981, during my very first overseas trip. I’m on the left; my mom & dad in the middle.

Sunday/ President Obama’s memoir

I see President Obama’s memoir ‘A Promised Land’ is available at the Red Balloon toy store here on 15th Ave.  Even though it runs 800 pages, it is only the first volume. The second volume is in the works, apparently.

Obama had aides that assisted him with research, but he wrote the manuscript himself, by hand, so that ‘half-baked thoughts’ could be exposed and highlighted in a first draft. (That’s certainly his prerogative — but surely phrases and sections can be very efficiently highlighted and annotated in digital text?).

Obama’s book in a store window on 15th Ave here on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Jennifer Szalai writing for the New York Times, says: ‘The most audacious thing about Barack Obama’s new memoir, “A Promised Land,” is the beaming portrait on its cover: There he is, the 44th president, looking so serenely confident that it’s as if the book weren’t arriving on the heels of a bitter election, amid a cratering economy and a raging pandemic’.

Saturday/ bittersweet, the way life is

I like my confections bittersweet (marmalade, dark chocolate).
My kitchen cupboard had been out of marmalade for a while, and it was time to order some online.

The marmalade has landed. This is the good stuff: Seville oranges and cane sugar (not high-fructose corn syrup). I love it plain with butter on toast, or with peanut butter, or with a hard cheese, such as cheddar.
Crosse & Blackwell is a British brand, but this jar was made under license in Wisconsin, USA.

Friday/ grays and yellows

Looking south from Galer St & 19th Ave, tonight at 4.17 pm. Sunset was at 4.26 pm.

P.S. In the town of Utqiaġvik (UUT-kee-AH-vik, formerly known as Barrow) north of the Arctic circle, and near the northernmost point of Alaska, the sun came up on Thursday at 12.54 pm, and disappeared 34 mins later. The sun will not appear again for two months; the polar night has started there. There will still be a number of hours of so-called civil twilight, every day, though.

Thursday/ looking at 2021

We now know most of the answers to the questions we had pondered in March, about the pandemic.

Looking back, some of them are really shocking. We had to forego most of the public celebrations of summer. Kids could not go to school. Even so, the country is now in worse shape than in March. We have to give up this year’s traditional Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year celebrations as well.

The patchwork of approaches to mitigate the pandemic, and the communications failures from the White House down, did little to stop the virus.
We have now crossed 250,000 fatalities here in the States, and logged some 170,000 new infections just today.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. The milestones that I look forward to are –
1. The Pfizer-Biontech/ Moderna vaccine gets its Emergency Use Authorization (by Dec. 31);
2. President-elect Biden takes office (Jan 20).

Wednesday/ the Tillerman, reimagined

tillerman (plural tillermen)

(US) A person who steers the rear wheels of a fire truck (a tiller truck) or controls its ladder

I first heard ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ by British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens from a vinyl record in 1980. A friend of mine in Stellenbosch, South Africa, played it for us in his dorm room. The record was made in 1970, and the artist changed his name to Yusuf Islam in 1977.

Fast forward 50 years from 1970, and now there is a ‘reimagined’ Tea for the Tillerman, issued on CD. There is a clarinet to accompany the piano in ‘Wild World’. In the ‘Father And Son’ remake, the young Yusuf’s voice for the son’s lyrics was left intact, but the today-Yusuf (72) sings the lines of the father. It’s very touching.

The original Tea for the Tillerman, issued in Nov. 1970, with its whimsical vinyl record cover.
And here is the 2020 Tea for the Tillerman 2. Rumor has it that Yusuf’s son convinced him to do the remake, and it was arranged and done in a farmhouse-turned-studio in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France. I see on YouTube that the new interpretation is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea – but I like it.