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]

Sunday/ 30 years after 1994

2019 The 25th Anniversary of Democracy
Issued 26 April, 2019
Minisheet (105 x 65mm) Perf. 12¼ No watermark
Design: Rachel-Mari Ackermann

Here is a summary of what is going on in South Africa and its politics in the final few weeks before the election there on May 29.

From the Washington Post Editorial Board, written for the newspaper’s Opinion column on April 17, 2024:
South Africa’s ANC is headed for a reckoning at the ballot box. That’s good.

There’s a lot of good news coming out of Africa. Eleven of the world’s 20 fastest-growing economies are African, and the continent’s overall gross domestic product growth is expected to outpace the global average this year and next.

Unfortunately, the good news doesn’t extend to South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized economy and its leading democracy. Growth is flat, and the country barely avoided a recession last year. Officially, nearly one-third of working-age South Africans are unemployed, but the real rate is likely higher. Crime is staggering. South Africa has the highest income inequality in the world. Its productivity is hampered by a nationwide electricity shortage leading to daily rolling blackouts. Last month, the country’s largest city, Johannesburg, was hit by an unprecedented water shortage partly because of crumbling infrastructure.

The African National Congress bears most of the blame. South Africa’s ruling party for the past 30 years, since the country’s first all-race elections, the ANC was once unassailable as the party of the country’s first Black president, Nelson Mandela, and the vanguard of the liberation movement that ended the abhorrent apartheid regime.

But after three decades of unchallenged power, the ANC has become ossified, unresponsive, and tainted by corruption and failure to deliver basic services. Kickbacks for state contracts have become rampant, especially during the disastrous administration of Jacob Zuma, who faced multiple indictments and allegations of corrupt dealings and who was briefly imprisoned before being questionably paroled. Last month, the powerful speaker of the national assembly and ANC member, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, was accused by prosecutors of taking $135,000 in bribes when she served as defense minister. She resigned Wednesday.

Now many young South Africans appear to be turning against the ANC. National elections are due May 29, and most signs and surveys suggest the ANC might for the first time lose its absolute majority in Parliament. That would be a good thing.

What happens after the election will be a crucial test for the country’s young democracy and will have implications across the continent for other struggling democracies. South Africa has no experience with a coalition government. How the various parties navigate the uncertainty — and even if the ANC would accept a loss of its complete control — point to a fraught post-election period.

To be sure, the ANC is still a massive voter turnout machine that commands loyalty among the older generation. Its leaders, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, like to remind voters that many of the country’s problems stem from the inequalities of the repugnant apartheid regime. But among younger voters, that message falls short.

If the ANC lands just a few seats shy of a majority, it could assemble a coalition with independents and tiny parties. But if its losses are bigger — and some projections put its support as low as 40 percent — then the ANC will need to join forces with one of the larger established parties to maintain its hold on government. Which way the ANC turns will determine its economic direction as well as its future foreign policy, including relations with the United States.

The current main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, is expected to come in second. An ANC-DA alliance would likely ensure a centrist-liberal economic policy scaling back the state’s heavy role in the economy. The DA has also been more critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine than the ANC, which has adopted a neutral position. The DA runs the provincial government in Western Cape, considered in public opinion surveys to be South Africa’s best-run province. But the Democratic Alliance suffers from the stigma of being seen as the party favored by the country’s White minority.

Another party poised to do well is an ANC offshoot, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which advocates a blend of Marxist economic policies and land confiscation. Its fiery, charismatic leader, Julius Malema, is also given to harsh, violence-tinged rhetoric. An ANC alliance with the EFF would mean a sharp turn to a far-left, socialist and anti-Western agenda.

The wild card is Mr. Zuma, who has formed a new party, uMkhonto weSizwe, which is expected to peel away votes from the ANC in Mr. Zuma’s native KwaZulu-Natal province. Mr. Zuma retains a significant base. His supporters have also shown a penchant for violence, as in 2021 when Zuma supporters rioted against his arrest. There are fears of a repeat of violence if his new party fares poorly.

Some within the ANC are sanguine about the party losing its majority, calling it the natural evolution of a vibrant democracy. If South Africa’s leaders cultivate this sort of perspective, the country is likely to weather the uncertainty, emerge stronger and — once again — serve as a democratic model for others to emulate.

Saturday/ the new 2 Line 🚄

Eight new light rail stations opened today, on the Eastside. I went out to ride the train and take a few pictures.

The new 2 Line will connect to the existing 1 Line by end 2025. The extension of the new 2 Line to Redmond will come on line by early 2025.
I started at the South Bellevue station. The festivities and crowds of the morning had died down somewhat, but the train was still very crowded as we left Bellevue Station.
Here comes the train! This is South Bellevue station. The trains had only two cars today (I’m sure the platforms can all handle four cars).
Here’s Bellevue Downtown station— close to downtown, but not right in downtown. Bellevue Square shopping mall is a good distance away. There is a Microsoft office tower visible on the left side of the picture.
After leaving Bellevue Downtown station we are now crossing Interstate 405.
Hey look! A reflection of the train in a mirrored pillar. This is somewhere in the Bel-Red district between Bellevue and Redmond.
Part of a large mural art installation called “Dragon and Phoenix,” by Seattle artist Louie Gong, located above the light rail tracks at the new Spring District station.
Passing the other two-car train at the Overlake station.
There are several level crossings, and places where passengers have to cross the tracks to get to the other platform— never the best solution safety-wise, but as long as people don’t clamber over the gates and fences and ignore the giant red lights, it should be fine, right?
A level crossing at a street intersection.
Here’s the end of the 2 Line that opened today, at the Redmond Technology Center station.

Friday/ a thick black coat 🐶

Happy Friday.
Here’s a Newfoundland dog (‘newfie’) that I had spotted at a coffee shop in West Seattle.
Unfortunately I did not have an opportunity to inquire about the name of the big pooch with his double coat of black hair.

Thursday/ about presidential immunity 😇

[Picture: apnews.com]
The long-awaited hearing about Trump’s claim to ‘presidential immunity’ was held before the Not-So-Supreme-Anymore US Supreme Court today.
(Trump’s lawyers are arguing— implausibly— that the federal charges accusing him of plotting to overturn the 2020 election must be thrown out.
There is no mention of immunity in the US Constitution.
The country had been doing just fine for 248 years).

Here are excerpts of a report from Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer in the New York Times:
Several justices seemed to want to define some level of official act as immune.
The arguments signaled further delay and complications for a Trump trial.
The hearing revolved around two very different ways of looking at the issue, one from the conservative justices (some immunity may be needed) and another from the liberal justices (no absolute immunity).
What happens next?
There did not seem to be a lot of urgency among the justices — especially the conservative ones — to ensure that the immunity question was resolved quickly.
That left open the possibility that Mr. Trump could avoid being tried on charges of plotting to overturn the last election until well after voters went to the polls to decide whether to choose him as president in this election.
And if he is elected, any trial could be put off while he is in office, or he could order the charges against him dropped.

Tuesday/ a warm summer predicted ☀️

It was a warm spring day topping out at 69 °F (21°C), but high temperatures will drop down to a more seasonal 58°F (14°C) tomorrow.

The National Weather Service is predicting a toasty last half of summer, due to an expected La Niña climate pattern.
We will get more upper-level ridges of high pressure (heat domes) than usual. These are common in summer but tend to be most persistent during La Niña.

The rhododendrons are out in full bloom. These are from 14th Avenue East here in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
The Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum) is is a large-leaved species of Rhododendron native to the Pacific Coast of North America. It is the state flower of Washington State.

Monday/ Earth Day 🌎

Happy Earth Day.

There is reason for a little optimism that we can save our planet.
Experts say that global carbon dioxide emissions will probably peak next year and certainly by 2030, using a scenario based on current policy settings.
The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable.
The reason is that using renewable resources (such as solar, wind) are now the cheapest ways to capture or generate energy.

Sunday/ robins 🐦

Sometimes when I water my lawn, there is a robin nearby.
They must be looking for earthworms crawling out of the wet soil.

This stamp and the one below (from mail in my mailbox) were issued for Christmas, but we’ll ignore that. Winter is over and the robins are enjoying spring.

Christmas Robins
Iss. 1995, 30 Oct. Perf. 15×14 Two phosphor bands
1897 1222 25p Silver, greenish yellow, vermilion, orange vermilion, bistre & black
[Source: 2003 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue Vol.3]

Robins in Bird Bath
Iss. 2001, 6 Nov. Die Cut Perf. 14½x14½ Self-adhesive Photo.
2004 A516 E Multi-coloured
*E means the stamp is valid for mail to anywhere in the European Union. At the time, the stamp was sold for 37p.
[Source: 2003 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue Vol.3]

Caturday 🙀

It has been nine days since my lawn got a fresh start with topsoil and grass seed mix.
I keep the soil damp, watering it up to three times per day with a watering wand and nozzle.
(It’s been mostly dry, with just a little bit of rain today).

A little bit of green is starting to show. 
Hey squirrels!—digging holes in the soil, and little birds! —pecking at the mulch— watch out for the Black Cat sentry that I have deployed.
(It’s the neighbors’ cat, actually, and he shows up at random times).

Friday/ the pass is open 🏔

Happy Friday.
State Route 20 opened today, a little earlier in the year than usual.

Snow clearing on State Route 20, during spring of 2024.
[Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation]
From washingtonstatestandard.com:
The road closes each winter on both sides of Washington Pass due to heavy snowfall and avalanche hazards. Most years it reopens in April or May after crews clear snow and make repairs. This winter was light on snow, and east and west side clearing crews reached each other about a week ago. Last year, the pass opened on May 11. Highway 20 is the northernmost route in Washington across the North Cascades. Traveling from the west, the road runs out of the Puget Sound region, over Washington Pass, topping out at around 5,400 feet, and then dropping down into the Methow Valley before continuing east.

Thursday/ the jury is seated 🧑‍⚖️

The jury is seated, in the first-ever criminal trial for a US president (or former president).

Headlines from The Washington Post.
Someone pointed out that the media loves to call it the ‘Hush Money Case’ but it’s really about so much more than that— the payments were made to enable Trump to salvage enough of his tattered reputation in order to win the 2016 election.
So it is really an ‘Election  Fraud Case’: breaking federal election laws in the state of New York. (And only the first of FOUR criminal cases against Trump). 
This 77-year old man, the Republican party’s candidate for US president— that should have been barred from being a candidate— is finally in court, and facing very serious and very credible accusations of campaign contribution crimes.  
It is already 6 years after Trump’s right-hand man Michael Cohen had pleaded guilty in August 2018 to the two relevant campaign finance charges.
In 2016, Cohen orchestrated a payment from American Media Inc. to Playboy model Karen McDougal, and made an excessive ‘campaign contribution’ for a $140k payment to Stormy Daniels.

Wednesday/ the red clay of Barcelona 🎾

Rafael Nadal (37, 🇪🇸) was back on the court again today at the Barcelona Open.
His comeback from hip and abdominal injuries after three months was ended by Alex de Minaur (25, 🇦🇺), though.
The 12-time champion got a standing ovation as he waved goodbye to the Barcelona Open— for possibly the final time.

Here’s Jonathan Jurejko reporting for BBC Sport:
Nadal is hoping to be fit enough to make a return to the French Open, where he won a record 14 men’s singles titles, next month, and suggested he was preserving his energy for Roland Garros during the latter stages of the De Minaur match.
“On a personal level, for what is to come, the 6-1 in the second set is what had to happen today,” he said.
“It wasn’t today that I had to give everything and die. I have to give myself the chance to do that [at the French Open] in a few weeks, or at least try to.”

Nadal (near side) rips a shot cross-court, and Alex de Minaur could not get this one.
De Minaur is known for his athleticism, though. He held his own and then some, and caught Nadal with several drop shots.
Final Score: De Minaur wins 7-5 6-1.
[Still shot from Tennis TV streaming service]

Tuesday/ mail from Spain 🇪🇸

Cancellation mark:
POSTAL EXPRESS
Siempre a tiempo (Always on time)
Mailed on Apr. 3 in Sant Cugat del Vallès— a town and municipality in Catalonia, Spain, located north of Barcelona.
Let’s see what the stamps tell us about España.

Flowers
Iss. 2002, Feb.20    Die Cut   Perf. 13    Litho.
3145 A1129 € 0.25 Orchid
Clocks from Royal Palaces in Spain
Iss. 2004, Mar.31   Perf. 13¼x12¾   Litho. & Engr.
3284 A1246c   € 0.77 Clock w. Empress Maria Luisa, child & harp, 19th Century
3284 A1246a   € 0.27 Clock w. Muse Calliope, 19th Century
3284 A1246b   € 0.52 Clock w. Cupid, 18th Century
[Source: Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog Vol. 6A, 2021 Edition]
King Felipe VI
Iss. 2015, Jan.19
Perf. 13¼x12¾
Litho. & Embossed
4019 A1796
1c orange-brown
[Source: Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog Vol. 6A, 2021 Edition]

Monday/ the sky as a canvas 🖼

Check out this amazing picture taken last Monday during the solar eclipse (seen as a partial eclipse from Montreal).
Chloe Rose Stuart-Ulin explains in the New York Times:
The plane passing over Montreal during the partial phase of the eclipse left a typical contrail in its wake. When this happens in full sunlight, the shadows cast by contrails on clouds are usually too diffuse to see. In this case, the sharpness of the shadows was explained by the eclipse.
Though the shadows of the contrails appeared to be on a layer of clouds above the aircraft, as though cast from reflected light from the Earth, this was an illusion. The shadows were made by the light of the sun, cast downward onto clouds below it.

Picture by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin on Mon. Apr. 8, and published in The New York Times’s Trilobites section.