Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Walking in Seattle

The heat is moderating somewhat.  I took this picture of Jim on his birthday, when he officially became older than he was.  We did the three mile walk early enough that it wasn't stifling.  Yesterday we hiked in the woods and it was just unbearable.  Today we totally flaked on aerobic exercise and went downtown to see what we would see.  It was actually pleasant near the water.

This is Westlake.  It used to be a car free pedestrian area, but Nordstrom blackmailed the city into putting the cars back.  I think it was a stupid thing to do.  There is nowhere to park on that street and traffic is terrible.  It was pleasant to walk in the middle of the road, but no more.  We had lunch at Dog in the Park hotdogs, they are now our favorite place for the treat of hotdogs.  They grill cabbage and onions and put them on the dogs, and it was surprisingly good.  It would never occur to me to do that.

A wall of water.  It makes a nice noise to sort of drown out the city.

We walked down to the market.  Look behind the Public Market sign.  That is the Arleigh-Burke destroyer, USS Momsen.  They are here for Seafair weekend.  If you have a lot of patience for lines, you can tour the boats.

There she is, moving north in the bay, with a fire boat behind, spraying water in welcome.

We walked down the road at Pike Place Market, wondering as we always do, why do people drive here and why do people queue for Piroshky?  The hot dog stand three doors down would be better.

We headed down the water front to see how the sea wall replacement was doing.  We were last there in October of 2015 and construction was in full cry.  You can read about it here.  They're done!  It's unreal, a project has been completed.  Next the state plans to re-do the ferry terminal and the docks, which should totally paralyze the ferry system for years.

This is the Alaskan Way Viaduct.  Soon it will be gone.  The tunnel that replaces it is nearing completion.  I will be sorry to see it go.  There was nothing finer than driving north bound (the top deck) on a clear winter day, seeing the snow on the distant mountain tops, and the ferries moving across the water.  It really was special. 

We walked through the ferry terminal to see what was happening.  This is the walk on line for Bainbridge Island.  As a native, I don't get this.  You take the ferry to Bainbridge, get off, walk up to Winslow which has become a complete tourist trap and then walk back and take a return ferry.  It's kind of sad about Winslow, it used to be a functioning town with a barber, drug store, department store and stuff you needed for daily life.  No more - art galleries and tee shirt shops.

More waiting for Bainbridge.

Seattle as seen from the ferry terminal.

The other boat we saw was the USS Somerset.  There is a lot of zoom with this picture.  Look to the right of the cruise ship, you can see her docked at Pier 91.

Here is a picture from the internet.  The USS Somerset is an amphibious transport.  Wikipedia tells us:
An amphibious transport dock, also called a landing platform/dock (LPD), is an amphibious warfare ship, a warship that embarks, transports, and lands elements of a landing force for expeditionary warfare missions. Several navies currently operate this kind of ship. The ships are generally designed to transport troops into a war zone by sea, primarily using landing craft, although invariably they also have the capability to operate transport helicopters.

The two vertical structures are advanced enclosed mast/sensors.  They're 93 feet high are constructed of a multi layer frequency selective composite material.  So now you know.    

Here is a cutaway drawing of the boat.  It's pretty amazing how much it can carry.  Another wiki is here which discusses it further.

Interestingly enough, the skippers of both ships were recently removed of duty for loss of confidence in their ability to command.  For the captain of the USS Momsen, it was worse than that, he was convicted of rape and assault and was sent to jail as well as forfeiting his pension.  You have to wonder after all those years of working so hard to make captain, why would you screw up so spectacularly.

We still wonder what is that industrial looking thing in the middle of the downtown condos.  It's in use and releasing vapor in to the air.  One wonders if it impacts the people living around it.

We wandered in to the market on the way back to the truck.  Over there on the left is the fish seller who throws the fish.  The tourists love it.  We didn't stay, too many people.

It was a nice walk.  We saw much and there were hotdogs!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Hot, Dogs and Seattle

We’re still in Issaquah and still not liking it so much this year.  It’s hot.  The reason we come up here is to escape the heat in Tucson, and while it’s not as hot as it is there, it’s more humid.  My biggest whinge is that the front RV air conditioner is not keeping up in the afternoons, and the driver's side of the bus (where my chair is) is really hot.  But it always comes back to the question; if not here, then where.  At least we are not getting wild fire smoke like last year.

Speaking of hot, WAPO has a depressing article on why it’s so hot.  Weather, meet climate change.
The proximate cause of the Northern Hemisphere bake-off is the unusual behavior of the jet stream, a wavy track of west-to-east-prevailing wind at high altitude. The jet stream controls broad weather patterns, such as high-pressure and low-pressure systems. The extent of climate change’s influence on the jet stream is an intense subject of research.
This summer, the jet stream has undulated in extreme waves that have tended to block weather systems from migrating. The result has been stagnant high-pressure and low-pressure systems with dire results, such as heat waves in some places and flooding elsewhere.
Gone are the days when scientists drew a bright line dividing weather and climate. Now researchers can examine a weather event and estimate how much climate change had to do with causing or exacerbating it.

Britain is baking, there are massive forest fires above the Arctic Circle and the US is really hot.  This is likely to be the new normal unless we get hit by an asteroid. 

So, the weather is annoying me.  I am also annoyed at a small sub-set of dog owners.  Let me be clear, I am not casting aspersions at all dog owners, just the ones like the woman we encountered on the trail today.  When I hike, I’m walking really fast, looking down so I don’t trip over rocks or roots.  There’s sort of an “in the zone” thing, trying to move as fast as possible.  This morning, I was startled by what sounded like the Hound of the Baskerville, producing a deep baying bark.  Looking up, I saw a 90 pound dog running at me, jowls flapping.  It scared the living snot out of me.  I shrieked (involuntarily).  I got my poles out in front of me, Jim adopted a stance that would allow him to fend off the dog.  There are signs everywhere that dogs must be leashed.  The owner started calling the dog who did not return to her, but did slow down.  She started in with a not really an apology about “this is what he does when he’s startled.”  Really?  I replied with “perhaps this is why trail users are required to leash their dogs.”  She got hostile!  Said it wouldn’t have happened if she had been closer to the dog, or maybe if I was making more noise.  Well she wasn’t close to the dog, and how is this my fault for being too quiet?  This cheeses me off more than I can tell you. 
We took a short spur off the trail to visit a “scenic overlook” called out on the trail guide.  Colorado this is not!


There have been some interesting tweets on Twitter about Seattle lately.  I will show you two.  The first photo was taken on the grassy knoll near Pike Place Market.  In the background are very expensive condos with views of Elliot Bay.  Really, city living at its finest.  in the grass we have some of the 12,500 homeless people in Seattle.  What really struck me about the photo is the yellow bike is one of the recently acquired fleet of bike share bikes and the sleeping man’s head is in an Amazon box. 

seattle homeless

This was put up by a local doctor.  He’s not kidding.  A local restaurant in Issaquah had to take down an old dying tree, and they had people coming in yelling at them for about a year because they murdered the tree.

seattle memorial for tree

So that’s what’s happening here.  Wednesday we’re supposed to revert to the weather pattern that brings low clouds off the coast, and I for one am looking forward to seeing them back!

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Tent Owners Have German Plates

I took this through the RV window.  We watched the packing up process for awhile this morning.  It is non-trivial.  I would really hate to to this multiple times a week.  If you didn’t read the previous post, go there for more pictures of the tent.


He had reached this stage of folding when we left for a walk.  I would have hung around for a bit to see what it looked like when they left, but it was getting hot – so we had to go.


If you’re interested in these, go to youtube and search on Tepui.

Check out this car.  It’s a 1957 Cadillac El Dorado Brougham.  That’s one of the best restorations we have seen, ever. 


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Corn and Tents

Today we rode in the Carnation Valley again.  It’s a low traffic area and it’s less stressful than riding near the crazy Issaquah drivers.  Awhile ago, Bill mentioned corn sweat coming from the neighboring fields.  It’s a thing!  WAPO was discussing it a couple of years ago.

“Corn sweat” is an extremely simple way of referring to evapotranspiration, the process by which moisture in plant leaves evaporates into the air. Plants draw water out of the ground through their roots for photosynthesis, and the water in the plant cells is exposed to the air once it gets above the ground. It evaporates off the leaves just as sweat evaporates off our skin — although it doesn’t take place to keep the plant cool, like it does for us.

So evapotranspiration is not making things hotter. But it is making things more humid — which can certainly be just as bad.

There is a lot of corn out there.  This used to be a golf course, now it’s corn.  It’s also humid.


We saw this in the RV park this afternoon.  It’s being towed by a VW Golf with EU plates.  I couldn’t tell what the country code was.  These people are way tougher than I am.  They’re in full sun, facing west and it has warmed up considerably.


The side view.  They’re not really level.  People and their rigs are so interesting.


Other than this paltry offering about sweating corn and tent trailers, I have zippity doo dah all to report. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Acquisition, Hiking and Ground Water

When we sold the house and went full time, we ejected most of our stuff.  There were many “free come get it, owner will not help you” ads placed on Craig’s List.  These are the dishes we’d had since forever.  My Mom gave them to me because she was sick of them.  They were Corning Centura; heavy as lead and they would blow up in the microwave.  Over the side they went!


Now we will need dishes.  There was a 50% off sale at the Northbend outlet mall in the Corning store.  We bought a bunch of Corelle.  This is the Mystic Gray pattern.  We got a eight of the dinner plates, some small plates, bowls and a big melamine bowl that looks like wood.  Half off!  I like Corelle, when I empty the dishwasher I can grab four plates at a time, mash their edges together and not chip them.  Now we have plates, plates are good.  There is a nice article about Corelle in the WAPO which was pleasant reading.


My bike shoes have been torturing the middle toe on my left foot.  It’s a mystery to me how it can hurt that bad since the sensory nerves on both sides of the toe were removed in 2013.  The old shoes did have a smaller toe box, with a pointier toe.  They were cute shoes.  These are the new shoes, they sort of look like hot dog buns.  However, they have enough room in the toe box that I can freely wiggle my toes, and the pain is diminished considerably.  They’re mountain shoes, but we ride them with the road bikes.  My feet will not tolerate a road cleat.


There has been hiking.  This is a fungus growing on the end of a log.


This is the top of a tree.  We have not had any strong winds lately, and yet the top of the tree is now on the ground.  It wasn’t there a week ago.  One wonders if there is a beetle problem locally.


NYT put an interesting and sad article up in the magazine about ground water usage in Arizona.  It deals with industrial farming, lack of regulations governing pumping water from aquifers, and the fact that peoples’ wells are going dry.  Apparently Saudi Arabia sucked their aquifers dry and are now in Sulphur Springs Valley planting alfalfa which they ship home to feed their cows.  One of the worst land use decisions was to plant nut trees.  They require a lot of water. As the aquifer retreats, there is ground subsidence and large fissures in the roads.  Meetings have been held, tempers are frayed, but there is no coherent management strategy for the remaining water.

In the midst of the tensions in Willcox, the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, announced the creation of a water-conservation committee, aimed at groundwater security and reform. Even so, this year only two rural groundwater bills have been introduced in the State House. Each proposed, among other things, to lift regulations, in order to make way for a 7,000-home and a 28,000-home development, respectively, just outside the Sulphur Springs Valley. In a promotional video for one, which boasts vineyards and at least one golf course, the developer calls southeastern Arizona “the best kept secret in the country.”

This is just crazy to me.  Southeast Arizona is dependent on ground water.  Tucson gets CAP water which is from the Colorado river.  Why on earth would there be development of giant housing developments, golf courses and vineyards in an area where the aquifer is about done?  It’s a lot of words, but it’s interesting reading.

We’re watching the Alpe d’huez stage of TdF.  Chris Froome is being booed and heckled on the climb.  We can hear them on the television.

Monday, July 16, 2018


I have been barking mad, foaming at the mouth all day over the press conference in Helsinki.  Rather than posting the gigantic screed rolling around in my head, I will quote Senator john McCain.  Frequently I disagree with him, but not today.
No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.
The full text of Senator McCain’s remarks can be found here.

Update to post 7/19/18.

Did you EVER think you would see a US president actually consider turning over twelve US citizens to Putin for interrogation?   One of the things discussed with Putin in the Helsinki summit was Putin's offer to send the twelve GRU agents that were indicted by Mueller to the US in exchange for Michael McFaul (former ambassador to Russia) and eleven other citizens who were involved in applying the sanctions called out by the Magnitsky legislation.  Apparently the president considered it.  Today he backed off and said it wouldn't be done - after a unanimous vote by the Senate to protect McFaul.  WAPO wrote an article about it.

An additional bombshell has been delivered by the NYT.  On January 6, 2017, the newly elected president was given a very detail briefing about Russia's interference in the election.
Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.
The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.
Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.
 So, he's known all along that Russia did it.  Russia did do it.  The only question now, is how much did the campaign know, and when did they know it.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Political Landscape

While we were incommunicado on our cross country dash, our president further heaped glory upon himself.  After totally dissing NATO and the EU, he went on to weaken Prime Minister May’s position on Brexit and praised her rival, Boris Johnson.  He and the missus were late to have tea with the Queen of England, he walked in front of her while inspecting the troops and failed to modulate his pace to that of a 92 year old woman – thus demonstrating his complete disregard for her.  Next he’s off to Finland to continue his bromance with Vlad.  Today, when asked who he considers a great foe of the US, he said it would be the EU.  I can’t stand it.  But enough about him.

dump and queen

Who has been keep an eye on the FCC?  Their fearless leader, Ajit Pai, is continuing his efforts to kill the Lifeline program.  It’s a program that subsidizes internet access for poor people.  It particularly benefits Native Americans.  He’s cutting direct subsidies to the tribes, and he’s requiring that those people who do receive subsidies must use the major carriers instead of resellers.  Resellers do not charge as much as the majors.  It’s a two-fer of badness!

Pai is also busy trying to circumvent a court challenge to Sinclair’s take over of the Tribune network of stations.  If that goes through, Sinclair will be in 77% of markets.  This flies in the face of rules put in place in the 1970s that limited how many markets a single owner could be in.

Update to post 7/16/18:  This is from the NYT
The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plan to create a broadcasting behemoth that could rival Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News was dealt a potentially crippling blow on Monday by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
Sinclair, already the largest owner of local television stations in the United States, is seeking to buy rival Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The F.C.C.’s chairman, Ajit Pai, said Monday that he had “serious concerns” with the acquisition and was seeking to have a judge review aspects of the deal.
Apparently, Pai is being investigated for his tireless work on behalf of the Sinclair company.  So he's recommending that the purchase of Tribune be referred to an administrative law judge. Maybe this will be derailed, that would be a good thing.  End update to post.

Meanwhile, HHS is taking down a data base containing 20 years worth of medical guidelines.  It costs $1.2M a year to keep the database up.  HHS is claiming that due to budget cuts, they just can’t afford to keep it going.  This is stupid.  Doctors use this when they have a question about treatment options.  For the cost of one golf outing for the president, they could keep the database up.  They’re not even going to archive it!  It’s going to be flat out gone tomorrow.


So there you go!

If you spend a lot of time talking on your cell phone, read this.  Apparently some studies which were paid for by the industry, might not have been telling the complete truth about the dangers of the radiation cell phones emit.  Jim sent me this – it’s very informative.

Update to post 7/21/18:
NYT did an opinion piece on the AHRQ.  I think there was lobbying by manufacturers of drugs, surgeons and etc. when their drugs/procedures/and etc. were shown to be useless.   So, the evidence based guidelines had to go.

Update to post 7/22/2018:
The Guardian has posted a rebuttal to the cell phones give you cancer article, referenced above.  I guess we can all start talking again.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Road Trip to South Dakota and Back

Greetings Earthlings!  Have you missed me?  We were forced by the SD drivers' licensing department to actually go to SD to renew our licenses instead of using the online system.  I was so pissed about this that I was unable to post before our departure; snakes and poisonous spiders would have erupted from my fingertips while typing, I was that mad about the whole thing.  We debated flying, but I hate flying out of Seatac due to the crowds.  We debated taking the RV, but it would have added several days to the trip.  So Sunday we just up and drove to Butte, Montana (579 miles, 931 km).  It was a long day.  The second day was Butte to Rapid City which was also long (542 miles, 872 km).  Coming back we added a day of driving, so it wasn't so painful.

Parts of the drive are bucolic.  Here we have trees, hay bales and water.  Unfortunately, I have no idea where this was taken.  But it was pretty.

On the way east we saw many parts of wind turbines being transported.  There were blades and bases on many trucks.

Much of  I90 through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are under construction.  I think every bridge deck in Montana is being reworked east bound.  Apparently they've finished them west bound.  When we did this drive in 2013, I was complaining about the amount of freeway that had been taken down to dirt.  They're not done, five years later!  Traffic gets shunted onto the other side of the freeway, and it's single file for miles.  Getting behind an oversized load or a big truck really slowed progress.

This is the Wyodak facility in Wyoming.  It converts coal into electricity.  As we all know, our current president is a big fan of coal, it's a national security issue for him.

On the other side of the freeway is where they mine the coal.  It's placed on a conveyor belt to take it to the electrical plant.  They're mining right up to the side of the freeway.

Near the Black Hills in SD there is a lot of red dirt.  It's eroding sand stone formed a gazillion years by an inland sea.

It's really pretty out there.

They grow a lot of yellow stuff.

The western side of Montana is just gorgeous.  Lots of trees and rock formations.

Here we have a giant mine, that is no longer being worked.  I believe it was for copper, or maybe silver.  Anyway, look at the size of that thing.

The Anaconda Smelter Stack has been preserved as a state park.  You can't get close to the stack because of ground contamination.
The old Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack, completed in 1919, is one of the tallest free-standing brick structures in the world at 585 feet. The inside diameter is 75 feet at the bottom, tapering to 60 feet at the top. In comparison, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall.
That's the old mine off to the left.  The smelter closed in 1981.

Jim's Dad was a Vice President of the Pacific Division of the Milwaukee Railroad.  Jim spent much time on trains when he was young, which I wrote about here.  When we are near train displays, we must go and see them.  Our first stop was in Deer Lodge, Montana.  They have two old engines on display.  It's well done.  They're on tracks, with ballast applied around the rails and the power poles are up.  The question I have is when rail lines are dug up, what happens to all the ballast?  Does it get shoveled up?  Do they leave it?  What?

Here we have one of two surviving Little Joe engines.  They're called that because originally they were built for Russia, when it was ruled by Joseph Stalin.  President Truman embargoed the engines as strategic assets due to the beginning of the Cold War.  The Milwaukee bought 12 of them.  They had to go into the shop and have their wheels put closer together, as the Russian track gauge is wider than that of the US. The engines were immensely powerful.  In the early 1960s, controls were added to the Little Joes so that diesel helper engines could be added to the consist to pull heavy freight loads over the mountains.

This engine was more comfortable for the engineers, as the box was mounted on bushings.  Older engines beat the staff unmercifully.

They also have an E9, which is a 2,400-horsepower (1,790 kW) diesel engine.  It was used for freight and passenger service.

The electrified railroad had a lot of moving parts.  Besides the dammed water turning turbines creating electricity and transmitting down the wires to transformers kept in oil baths, there were substations.  These were spaced between 30 and 40 miles apart. The substations converted power to 3000 Volt DC by means of motor generator (MG) sets before passing the power on to the overhead trolley.  DC power can't be transmitted over long distances, so there were 22 substations to support the route.

The Gold Creek substation is now privately owned and is in use, probably for storage.  It looks good.  The windows are intact and there is no graffiti.

This is what happens when a substation is not protected.  There are trees growing up through the roof, the glass is gone and it's been spray painted.  It's sad to see.  The Milwaukee Line was such an epic construction project and to see it just ripped up and abandoned is sad.  The substation's name is Ravenna.

Next we went by the Primrose Substation, which is near Missoula.  There is a very interesting article here, that was written in 2014. If you're running an ad blocker, you'll have to turn it off for just that page.  (Edit 8/8/22: It's now behind a paywall, so I guess we're out of luck.)  The substation is owned by a married couple.  He's a linguistics expert in the National Guard, and she works with families of deployed personnel.  They bought the substation right after they got married.  The plan was to have a garden and grow small livestock (think rabbits and ducks) for a farm to table restaurant.  There were also plans to host weddings and community events.  It does not appear that their business plan has worked out.  The substation is missing glass and seems to be used for storage.  They did leave some of the electrical connections on the roof, which is cool.  In 2014 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  There are "no trespassing" signs everywhere, which I suspect is to keep the train people from wanting to walk around Primrose and ask questions.  The size of the fan groups of the Milwaukee Line on the internet is just astonishing.  Here is an excellent example of fandom.  The Lost Rail blog is also a good read.

After leaving Deer Lodge we drove by an abandoned lumber mill.  This is the kind of stuff you see when you get off the freeway, which I have to admit we don't do very often.  It's an enormous thing, occupying space on both sides of the road.  Further west was an abandoned aluminum smelter, also huge. 

We drove through Alberton, MT to check on an old depot.  You can see the old signal out in front.  The building is now an antique store.  Alberton is off the freeway and is very tiny, population was 420 in the 2010 census. 

They do have a tavern - Sporty's.  They have a sign on the door that says "no sniveling."  They also have an impressively large bookstore.  There are billboards along the freeway advertising it.  Hopefully that brings some money into the town.

The mountain was out.  That's Mt. Rainier in the far distance. I took this at a rest stop in Washington.

Construction continues on I90 westbound.  I have said it before and I'll say it again, I doubt that Jim and I will live long enough to see it completed.

The Cascades are still lovely, however.

This concludes my trip report.  It was a gruesome drive.  When we bought the pickup we went with a lower trim level to save money.  Our reasoning was that we would not be doing epic drives in it, so we could tolerate less comfort.  It was good logic until this past week!