Saturday/ 44 years ago 🌋

Today marks the 44th anniversary of the 1980 Mt St Helens eruption.

‘We know that Mount St. Helens is the volcano in the Cascades most likely to erupt again in our lifetimes. It is likely that the types, frequencies, and magnitudes of past activity will be repeated in the future. However, neither a large debris avalanche nor a major lateral blast like those of May 18, 1980 is likely now that a deep crater has formed’.
– Cascades Volcano Observatory, Mount St. Helens, Nov. 3, 2023 (from the usgs.gov website)

Mount St. Helens prior to the catastrophic eruption of May 18, 1980. Streams and lava flows also visible. View is looking southerly from oblique aerial view. Mount Hood in distance.
[Photo and description from usgs.gov website]
Plinian eruption column from May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens. Aerial view from the Southwest.
[Photo and description from usgs.gov website]

Friday/ here’s Dow 40,000 📈

Happy Friday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 40,000 for the first time today.
Is the US stock market overvalued? I asked the AI chat bot Chat GPT.
Yes— by a lot, was the answer (with some caveats, see below).

Thursday/ mail from Great Britain 🇬🇧

Mail from Great Britain with Sherlock Holmes stamps on the outside, and South African stamps inside, arrived yesterday.

I am hounding down the last ones I need to complete my Union of South Africa (1910-1961) collection.

Sherlock Holmes: Centenary of the Publication of The Final Problem.
Issued 1993, Oct. 12
Perf. 14×14½ Phosphorized paper
Colors: blue, greenish yellow, magenta, black & gold
1785 1112 24p The Hound of the Baskervilles
1786 1113 24p The Six Napoleons
[Source: Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue Part I British Commonwealth Volume 1]

Wednesday/ look Ma, (almost) no hands 👐

Tesla enabled a 30-day trial for me on my Model 3, of the car’s Full Self-Driving (Supervised) ability.

FSD (Supervised) means the car can drive itself to almost any address with lane changes, fork selections, navigate around other vehicles and objects, and make left and right turns at traffic lights and four-way stops. The driver is still responsible for all driving and need to be able to intervene at all times, though.

Driving with FSD turned on is very impressive— and a little hair-raising at times. FSD is instantly disengaged if the driver taps the brakes or hold the steering wheel to override what the car does.

Here’s 15th Avenue East on Capitol Hill (in Seattle), across from Volunteer Park.
I have my hand on the steering wheel, but the car is driving itself at 23 mph towards an address on Roosevelt Way in U-District, sticking to the 25 mph speed limit and reading all the road signs and steering clear of obstacles and other cars. The car’s cameras picked up the pedestrian on the sidewalk up ahead in the shadows (shown as a speck on the left on the screen). If there were pedestrians in the cross-walk or about to enter the crosswalk, it would have stopped in good time. As I passed the white car parked up ahead on the right, a careless driver flung open his door into the street to get out of his car. My car gave him a wide berth, going into the open lane as there was no oncoming traffic. (It would have stopped or completely slowed down if there were oncoming traffic).
There are three general settings for the FSD function: Chill, Average or Aggressive. Average is probably were one wants to be. Chill might frustrate drivers behind you, or at intersections (the car will react with more caution, and wider margins of safety).
I am not sure how aggressive ‘Aggressive’ is, and I don’t particularly want to find out by driving the car with an aggressive FSD attitude! 😱

Tuesday/ planet Mars 🛰️

Here is a new image of the Martian surface, taken by the Perseverance rover.
The atmosphere of Mars is much thinner than Earth’s.
The Red Planet’s atmosphere contains more than 95% carbon dioxide and much less than 1% oxygen.
Gravity on Mars is about 38% of the gravity of Earth, due to its smaller mass.

Picture posted by Curiosity @MAstronomers on X

Monday/ the magic is back 🪄

Packets of zeroes and ones* started coming in through the fiber optic modem into my house again this morning (a technical way to say my internet service has been restored).

I can again watch TV & tennis & Netflix on the big screen downstairs (instead of on my phone).
I could download and install iOS 17.5 for my iPhone and iPad,  and watchOS 10.4.
I regained remote control of the thermostat, the garage door, and the car in the garage.
It’s also sooo much nicer to use the 24-in. computer monitor upstairs to search for stuff on Amazon— or for stamps on Ebay.

*IPv4 was the first internet protocol deployed for production on SATNET in 1982, and on the ARPANET in January 1983.
It is still used to route most internet traffic today, even with the ongoing deployment of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), its successor.

Saturday/ the northern lights

We were treated to a rare display of the northern lights here from Seattle on Friday night.
I took the first two pictures from my back porch around midnight on Friday.
The third picture was taken by my friend Thomas from Kitsap Peninsula. Look for the grouping of stars called the Big Dipper (a big ladle, left-of-middle, top of picture).

Friday/ lost in cyberspace 👨‍🚀

Happy Friday.
Joe Biden arrived in Seattle late in the afternoon.
I hope he raises lots of money for his campaign because he might (will?) need it.

I have had no internet all day, and it is still out. (There is an outage in my neighborhood).
Plan B is to use my mobile phone as a hotspot, which I did, until AT&T texted me late morning and said I had used 75% of my hotspot data for the month.
I guess I will go read  a book now and go to bed early.

YouTube letting me know that I am offline. Yes, that’s how it feels.

Thursday/ a jaunt to downtown 🏙

I had lunch at the Washington Athletic Club on Sixth Avenue today, and then stopped by the Seattle Public Library.

Beautiful blue skies and 74°F (23 °C) is what we had today here in the city.
Fifteenth Ave E where I had planned to depart from is in rough shape, and the No 10 bus stop by Republican St is non-existent for now. (I walked down to the corner of 15th and John to the next stop).
Now entering downtown on the No 10 bus, and here is the new part of the expanded Seattle Convention Center.
This lovely lounge is on the second floor in the US Bank Building, part of the whole Cedar Hall public space renovation there. (Not many people around, and the vendor spaces for espresso and pastry shops downstairs are still mostly empty).
Done with lunch and now I’m making my way to the Seattle Central Library.
This is the IBM Building at 1200 Fifth Avenue, designed by renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki in 1964. The 20-story building features twelve stone arches, an elegant spiral staircase and a glass-enclosed and newly renovated, modern lobby.
Another view of the arches of the IBM Building. That’s Fifth Avenue ahead.
Seattle Public Library building with its 11 floors, and glass and steel ‘diamonds’ exterior, opened to the public 20 years ago, on May 23, 2004.
I always feel compelled to take a picture when I take the escalator upstairs with the neon lighting and neon-yellow paint.
I spent a little time going back in time (to the 50s, 60s and 70s) by checking out a few vintage magazines on Level 6 of the Books Spiral (a walkway that spirals from one floor to the next at almost imperceptible incline, with access to rows of bookshelves).

Wednesday/ snack time

From today’s Seattle Times
Photographer: Robert Denney
Photo taken: March 30, 2024, at the Center for Urban Horticulture wetlands, near Husky Stadium.
Photographer’s description: “Herons are great. I came upon this heron at the Center for Urban Horticulture. He/she let me get pretty close, and we bonded. It fished while I photographed. In the span of about an hour, it got a pretty good meal of three or four little fish. The center is a lovely place to roam and see birdlife.”

Tuesday/ Loeloeraai 🛸

Hey! Amazon opened its online doors in South Africa today.
The Books section has a language filter— necessary for a country with 11 official languages.
I searched for Afrikaans books, and specifically for the beloved Afrikaans poet and author C.J. Langenhoven (1873-1932).
I did find the book Loeloeraai, but right now it is out of stock on amazon.co.za.

Loeloeraai (say ‘lu-lu-rye’) was published in 1923. (This the cover of a modern reprint of the book).
It is believed to be the very first Afrikaans science fiction novel. Most of the colorful characters in the book are from Langenhoven’s other books: Kerneels, Vroutjie (‘wifey’), their daughter Engela, his uncle Stoffel, his brother-in-law Watwo, Herrie (Kerneels’s tame elephant) and Jakhals (Kerneels’s dog).
The other main character is Loeloeraai— an unexpected visitor from Venus that lands at Kerneels’s homestead on his farm.
At first, Kerneels is very leery of the alien, but realizes over time that Loeloeraai has no ill intentions. (Other humans that learn of Loeloeraai wants the alien locked up in jail).
Loeloeraai’s visit is ostensibly to learn more of Earth, but the alien’s interaction with humans educate them about their greed, self-interest and cruelty.
The novel illustrates what was known of the universe at the time, and also what was still unknown.

Monday/ another day in court 👨🏽‍⚖️

Reporting from Jonathan Alter, Contributing Opinion Writer for the New York Times:
At the end of the day, the judge asked Josh Steinglass of the prosecution team how much longer he expected the D.A.’s case to take.
When Steinglass said “very roughly” two weeks — to May 21 — I saw Trump raise and lower his arms in exasperation, like a 6-year-old told to clean up his Legos.
Then he went into the hallway and whined to reporters, “I thought they were finished today.”
Trump never thought anything of the kind.
He’s a caged animal (to use his word for immigrants) and wants out ASAP.
Good luck with that.

Donald Trump’s son Eric watches his father speak to the media at Manhattan criminal court on Monday.
[Picture by Brendan McDermid/Pool/Reuters/AP]
From the Washington Post: New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan made it clear to Trump that his 10th gag order violation — which he ruled on at the start of Monday’s court session — was going to be the last that would result in only a fine. “Going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sentence. The last thing I want to do is put you in jail.”

Saturday/ Mystik Dan by a nose 🏇

Congrats to the owner and team for Mystik Dan, the winner of the 150th Kentucky Derby, by a nose.

Run, horsies, run!
These are wildebeest, actually: large African antelopes of the family Bovidae.
From an updated issue of the 1926-27 London Pictorial definitive series (the first series of stamps were printed in London, thereafter by South Africa government printers in Pretoria) 
Issued Jan. 1950
Perf. 15×14 | Screened rotogravure | Afr. & Eng. inscriptions for South Africa | Wmk Multiple Springbok heads
SG120 13 | 1 shilling | Brown & chalky blue | Black and blue wildebeest
[Source: 2016 Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue- Commonwealth & British Empire Stamps]

Friday/ a zebra on the lam🦓

A zebra primer
Zebras are African equines with distinctive black-and-white striped coats.
There are three living species: Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), the plains zebra (Equus quagga), and the mountain zebra (Equus zebra).
Zebras share the genus Equus with horses and asses, the three groups being the only living members of the family Equidae.
[Source: Wikipedia]


Happy Friday.
We have a zebra (named Z, a mare) on the lam here in western Washington State. Hopefully Z is not too far from where she was last spotted in the North Bend area.
How did this happen?
Owner Kristine Keltgen recently bought Z and three other zebras and was transporting them from Lewis County to Montana, where she runs a petting zoo.
At about 2 p.m. last Sunday, the trailer driver hauling the four zebras stopped near Exit 32 & I-90 (in the North Bend area), to better secure the trailer doors at the back.
In the process the four animals got out of the trailer.
By Sunday night, three of the four had been recovered.

Update (late Friday night):
The last of four zebras that escaped from a trailer in North Bend, Wash., was safely corralled on Friday with the help of a former rodeo bullfighter, a lookout on a mountain bike and a package of white bread.
-Reported by Emmett Lindner for the New York Times

One of the four zebras* zebra that got loose Sunday when the driver stopped at the I-90 exit to North Bend to secure the trailer in which they were being carried.
*This is a mountain zebra. Plains zebras have thin brown stripes in between the black stripes, and Grévy’s zebra has a narrow striping pattern.
[Photo by Rick Johnson/Washington State Patrol via AP]

Thursday/ caveat emptor 🙇‍♂️

Caveat emptor
– Latin for ‘buyer beware’: the buyer’s responsibility to do due diligence before purchasing a good or service.


I’m happy to report that the inflation rate (over the last quarter) for my favorite breakfast cereals is 0%.

I buy these online, though.
The difference between the online and in-store price can be enormous, at least here in my neck of the woods (neck of the city).

Kellogg’s All Bran: $4.98 online vs. $8.49 in-store (+70%).
McCann’s Steel Cut Oatmeal: $6.98 vs. $13 in-store (+86%).

Wednesday/ here’s May 😉

The Federal Reserve has signalled that a series of disappointing inflation readings are likely to mean US borrowing costs remain higher for longer.
The Federal Reserve bank held interest rates at 5.25 per cent to 5.5 per cent, a 23-year high that has been in place since the summer of 2023.
– Reporting from the Financial Times


So – six months to go to the 2024 general election here in the United States.
Will a convicted felon be on the ballot for President of the United States?
Will the Fed have started to cut interest rates by then?
Will the Israeli hostages be free— and the war in Gaza be over?
What about the war in Ukraine? (I don’t think so).
Will the highly pathogenic bird flu virus A(H5N1) have mutated and become a threat to humans?

Tuesday/ stamps with tulips 🇧🇪

Hey, and the envelope with my latest order of stamps (from a seller in Belgium) has stamps with tulips on.

Booklet Stamps
Issued 2003 in booklet panes Perf. Die Cut 9¾ on 2 or sides
1991 A858 0.59€ Multi-colored Yellow Tulips

Windmills
Issued 2002, Jul. 15
Perf. 11½ Photolithogr.
1925 A824 0.42€ Multi-colored Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Lombeek windmill, Azores
[Source: Scott 2018 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, Vol. 1B]

Leffe Abbey
Issued 2002, Jun. 10
Perf. 11 ½ Photolithogr.
1917 A820 0.42€ Multi-colored Leffe Abbey, 850th Anniversary

Belgian Castles
Issued 2002, Jun. 10
Perf. 11 ½ Photolithogr. Mini-sheet of 10
1918a A821 0.42€ Multi-colored Ecaussinnes-Lalaing
1918c A821 0.42€ Multi-colored Corroy-le-Chateau
1918d A821 0.42€ Multi-colored Alden Biesen
1918e A821 0.42€ Multi-colored Modave
1918f A821 0.42€ Multi-colored Horst
1918j A821 0.42€ Multi-colored Wissekerke
[Source: Scott 2018 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, Vol. 1B]

Birds
Issued 2005 (types of 1985 with Euro denominations)
Perf. 11 ½ Photolithogr.
2072 A524 0.05€ Multi-colored Bruant zizi (Belgium Cirl bunting bird)

Issued 2023, Jan.23
Perf. Die Cut 11½ Litho. Self-adhesive
Registered Mail   Multi-colored Red-Knot Sandpiper
[Source: Scott 2018 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, Vol. 1B]