Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Smart Cooks and Cookies

SOMEONE'S IN THE KITCHEN: The kids' culinary adventures continue. On a recent night, they put a new-to-us chef's torch to use. It worked like a charm for indoor S'mores!

We've wanted a torch forever, it feels like. We watch a lot of "Chopped" and similar competition in the kitchen shows, and they're forever using these little things. I suppose we need to make creme brulee or something soon. I'm not even sure what that is. ... 

TOUGH COOKIE: This week, Monday through Friday, we're helping with a series of many special events at a local learning center as part of a Reading Week celebration.

Yesterday's main attraction was Detective "Cookie" from the Seattle Police Department.

Annabelle was waiting for the officer out in the parking lot, to make sure she got a parking spot, and to escort her into the school.
I've actually known of Detective Cookie for years. I've seen her name associated with a weekly chess club in Seattle. It meets every Saturday at the Rainier Beach Community Center, from noon to 2 p.m. It's super popular and positive, as told in a Seattle Times article last June.

We thought Detective Cookie was going to read a book but the detective (her real name is Denise Bouldin) had other ideas.

She did share a quick poem (as the day's theme was "Poem in my Pocket"), but she opted not to read a book. Instead, she shared her life story, and an interesting one it is. (She should probably WRITE a book!)

Bouldin grew up in the projects in Chicago, and had many harrowing stories to share about living there with her six siblings and single parent mother. She navigated through countless scary scenarios and worked hard to her possibilities open. As a high schooler, she met a police officer who worked at her high school, and admired him and his work. That set her on a trajectory where she could picture herself in a similar role. 

Fast forward more than 35 years ... that's how long she's been with the Seattle Police Department!

Some of the highlights from Detective Cookie's life story include her work as a model, days spent as a "Soul Train" dancer, and she was honored to be invited to work security for President Barack Obama's first inauguration. She said that was the coldest she's ever been in her life, but she was also clearly very proud of that distinction.

Bouldin is being honored in Seattle with a city park named after her. The Detective Cookie Chess Park is in Rainier Beach, a neighborhood where the detective has worked for years. The park features a public art sculpture titled "The King and Queen of Rainier Beach." The sculpture, two large metal chess pieces that glow with a soft purple light at night. It was designed by local artist Peter Reiquam.
Photo: Seattle Office of Arts & Culture

Oh, in case you're wondering, Detective "Cookie" earned her nickname as a kid, due to her penchant for snatching cookies at every opportunity.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Fun and Games

WHAT'S THAT RACQUET?:  We're still getting to know our new-ish neighborhood, and one thing we did this weekend was visit the Tukwila Community Center. 

It's a really beautiful facility, with a nice weight room, a big gym, classrooms, and a racquetball court!

Last Thursday, the kids and I scored four new racquetball racquets for less than $5 apiece, and Sunday morning we booked the court online for a one hour midday spot. It only cost $5 for the hour for the four of us. What a deal!

It's the first time Christian or I have played racquetball since the 1980s, and the first time ever for CJ and Annabelle. It was a little rough at first, but we got lots better as the hour wore on.

I do have to report that I won the award for being nailed by the ball the most times. By FAR. Over and over and over, seemingly every body part. Oh well, comes with the territory. We're looking to going back and getting better.

CLASS FLASHBACK: A week ago Sunday, Annabelle participated in yet another great Amelia's Club event at The Museum of Flight. 

I'll let her tell you about it. ... 
On Sunday at the Museum of Flight, I took a class on what it would be like to take a flight from Boeing Field to Paine Field. We started by looking at the weather conditions today and seeing if the heat would create updrafts or the fog would make sight impossible. My group’s calculations determined that due to the low-pressure air that usually results in wind and rain, that day wouldn’t have been a good day to fly.
After that, we moved on to a mock plane in a small hangar where we did some safety checks to make sure it was ready to fly. This included testing for loose screws, checking for oil leaks, and making sure controls in the cabin were all operational. A few tests the plane didn’t pass were having drips of oil behind 2 of the 3 wheels, a bird’s nest blocking the air intake, and a fuel sample that wasn’t the correct color.
Finally, we went to the simulators to attempt to fly our calculated route to Paine Field and back. Each simulator held 2 people and we traded spots as the “pilot” when we turned around to head back to Boeing. The simulator was a little difficult to control, and by the time I got the hang of it time was almost up, which made it position the plane for landing. Other than that, we hit all of our landmarks and didn’t crash the simulated plane, so it was pretty successful. The class was interesting, and I learned a lot about how much planning goes into a flight. You really can’t just get in the plane and fly!
TOY STORY: Sunday afternoon, we took a field trip to Everett (and Mukilteo - hi G&G!). One of our stops was at the greatest toy store in the Pacific Northwest, Bobakhan

I would like to own 80 percent of what's in the store. Or live there. Or both.
We browsed and found a couple things to add to our collection. And we appreciated the store's collection, and clever ways of displaying it.
That said, we weren't big fans of *everything* they have on site. 

Yes, Jar Jar, We're talking about you.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Playing Catch Up

FERRY NICE: On Sunday, we made a quick, last minute trip over to Bremerton to pick up an item. We drove around the south end of Puget Sound and up its southwest end on the way there, which took about an hour and 10 minutes. On the way back, timing worked out so that we could catch the ferry at Bremerton and ride back to Seattle, a trip that's just under an hour. It was a night time crossing for us, and while we didn't have the pretty Sound/water views we would during a day trip, we had some nice night time views, and sparkling city lights.

BAKERS: Recently we had a problem with too many bananas going brown. CJ and Annabelle to the rescue! Without any adult intervention, they made some tasty banana bread! 

GAMERS:  We've been playing a number of tabletop games lately, and I'm on a nice little winning streak. 

Games have included Munchkin, Exploding Kittens, and a new-to-us one, Blueprints.
It's a fun game where you use dice to construct structures. The difference colors of the dice represent different building materials. You earn points based on how well you use the materials.
We liked the game. It was quick to learn and play, and we'll definitely play it again.

WORK: A couple of days ago, we caught an interview on NPR with Gray Brechin, geographer and founder of the online archive The Living New Deal, a wonderful resource all about Work Progress Administration projects. 

The WPA "did just about everything," Brechlin said during the interview on the program Here & Now, hosted by Jeremy Hobson. "It built roads, sewers, water systems, airports, zoos, libraries, city halls. It's all over the country. It's just that you don't really notice it," Brechin noted.  (You can listen to the archived interview on the WBUR's website: http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/01/16/wpa-us-infrastructure).

According to the Living New Deal website, The Works Progress Administration (WPA)  produced 651,000 miles of highway, 124,000 bridges, 8,000 parks, 18,000 playgrounds and athletic fields, 84,000 miles of drainage pipes, 69,000 highway light standards, and 125,000 public buildings (built, rebuilt, or expanded), including 41,300 schools.

Here's what CJ had to say about listening to the interview. ... 
Today, I listened to an NPR program about the New Deal, an important piece of American history. The New Deal was an elaborate program implemented by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, designed to fix a moribund economy.During the New Deal, two agencies were created: The Work Progress Administration (WPA), and the Public Works Administration (PWA). From 1933-43, there were over 13,000 New Deal projects all across the country, including, but not limited to, freeways, the Statue of Liberty ​Visitor Center, the San Antonio River Walk, and much more.
The New Deal is estimated to have created about 8½ million jobs, while, according to Forbes, ~$50 billion was spent by the federal government on the New Deal itself.
During the NPR broadcast, they actually played a tape from 1937 of Franklin Roosevelt speaking at the dedication of the Timberline Lodge, in Clackamas County, Oregon.
One New Deal project I found interesting was the Statue of Liberty Visitor Center. The Statue of Liberty Visitor Center was designed to improve the experience of guests travelling to the Statue of Liberty.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the New Deal was unpopular among the wealthy. For example, longtime media mogul William Randolph Hearst was a vocal critic of the New Deal, as it posed a challenge to his wealth (the New Deal had a progressive income tax).

And Annabelle had this to offer. ...
Before using his famous “drip” method of painting, Jackson Pollock worked for the WPA as part of their Federal Art Project in 1938-42. At the very end of this time period, he painted Male and Female, an abstract painting depicting two very stylized people and a colorful patterned background. This painting seems very similar to the style of artists like Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso. Pollock was under psychoanalysis when it was made, and it is believed that his therapists encouraged him to use painting as a means of treatment. In 1943, Male and Female was displayed in Jackson Pollock’s solo exhibit “Art of this Century” in the New York art gallery. The painting is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Pictured: Male and Female 1942 Oil on CanvasPhiladelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA73.1 x 49 in, 186.1 x 124.3 cm

The Library of Congress has a great collection of WPA Art Project posters on it website. Check them out here: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?st=grid&co=wpapos
Here are a couple ...

MEANWHILE, ON THE SPACE COAST: We'll be watching this afternoon to see if a scheduled launch takes place. I'll let CJ tell you about the mission we're tracking.
Today, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) is scheduled to launch SBIRS Geo Flight 4 for the Air Force, using an Atlas V rocket. The rocket is scheduled to launch at 7:28 P.M. EST (4:28 P.M. PST) tonight, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
SBIRS is described on the ULA's website as follows:
A PDF on the ULA's website includes multiple interesting and informative images. For example, on page 2, there is a map of the United States, in which states that any of the mission's equipment came from are highlighted in blue.
SBIRS, considered one of the nation's highest priority space programs, is designed to provide global, persistent, infrared surveillance capabilities to meet 21st century demands in four national security mission areas: missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness. The SBIRS team is led by the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman as the payload integrator. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Walk This Way

STREAM STROLL: Yesterday was super sunny and downright warm, and we took advantage of the lovely weather to check out a spot we've been wanting to visit.

We often travel Oakesdale Avenue down from our hill, and have seen pathways on both sides. On the west, is the Black River Riparian Forest and Wetland. Per the city of Renton's website, the land "is home to more than 50 species of birds, including one of the largest great blue heron colonies in the region. The site is a complex ecosystem with an abundant wildlife habitat. The Black River Riparian Forest and Wetland is a year-round bird watcher's paradise and provides an oasis and a unique view of nature within Renton's city limits."

On the east side of the same roadway is Waterworks Gardens, a public park next to King County's South Treatment Plant. That doesn't sound too lovely, but it's actually quite pretty, and super serene. Per the King County website, "This is a place where art, technology and nature join in a unique way. Along with trails, public art, native plants and wildlife, the ponds and marshes of Waterworks Gardens filter and clean stormwater from the treatment plant's 50 acres of roads, parking lots and hard surfaces."
So, we walked the ripariantrail on the way south, and the waterworks on the way north.

Likely given the time of year, we didn't see anywhere near 50 different kinds of birds, nor did we see a single heron. We did see a number of mallards, and a couple of other waterbirds, along with a chickadee or two.

The east side of the trek proved more interesting on our visit. Waterworks Gardens was really quite lovely, including this pretty mosaic oasis, the Grotto.
 Not quite Stonehenge, these monoliths were part of the art installation.
During our nice stroll, this sign (below) was a random diversion. 

We were walking along the quiet waterway, which was also bordered by King County's South (sewer) Treatment Plant, when we encountered the sign below. 
What, pray tell, is Pokeman? Is it a game involving thrusting a stick at some poor guy?

Oh wait, no, I'm guessing it's 
You know, that fun game you play via an app on your phone. 

I'm sorry, but this sign ... in such an out of the way and nondescript place. It was just INVITING people who weren't otherwise doing so to fire up their apps. 


Did I mention we only saw two other people on the trail?

I have to guess it's a warning to their employees, perhaps?

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Every Day

A TALE OF TWO KINGS: We spent part of our Martin Luther King Jr. Day taking a stroll in the sun in a park at the foot of our hill. There, we came across some signs with the words "King County" on them, and it got us to talking about the origin of our county's name.

While MLK's face is the official logo for our county now ...
CJ was aware that not too long ago, King County was named after an entirely different King.

When we got home, Annabelle researched the topic and came up with the following brief report:
While King County’s name didn’t change in 2007, the county’s namesake did. King County, originally established as such in 1852, was named after Vice President William Rufus de Vane King, a slave owner and supporter of the Fugitive Slave Act. King County Councilman Bruce Laing decided in 1986 that the namesake should be changed to better reflect the diversity and acceptance of the county. A 20-year bi-partisan campaign was started to change the logo and namesake to famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Instead of wasting loads of money and disposing of current materials with the old logo (a golden crown) and instead using them up before fully integrating the new one in 2006.
Honestly, I don't think I'd ever heard of William King before today. Interesting story there. Turns out he was only V.P. for thirteen weeks before he died. And that he was actually sworn in while in Cuba. He was there trying to convalesce, but succumbed to tuberculosis. 

Annabelle's information, which she says she gleaned from a King County website, painted William King in an entirely negative light. His Wikipedia article is considerably less damning. It says King "was a Unionist and his contemporaries considered him to be a moderate on the issues of sectionalism, slavery and westward expansion, which contributed to the American Civil War. He helped draft the Compromise of 1850."

Earlier in his life, he was elected as a U.S. Representative from North Carolina and a Senator from AlabamaCurious that a county in Washington State would up named after him, given that geography, but I learned that King was Vice President when the Washington Territory was created in 1853.

I also learned today that William King and James Buchanan had a long-term, extremely close relationship, and that there is much speculation that it was romantic in nature. The two lived together for 13 years, in fact, and Buchanan referred to their relationship as a "communion",[and the two attended all parties together.

When Washington's King County voted to change its namesake, the vote was close:  It was passed by King County councilors five votes to four. 

For MLK Day, I asked CJ to research some facts about MLK that aren't so widely known. This is what he came up with (and I do wish he had cited his resources).

Martin Luther King Jr. was originally named Michael King Jr. In 1934, Martin Luther King Sr. (then Michael King Sr.) visited Germany, and, while there, was inspired by Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation. Following this, Michael King Sr. changed his, and his son's name, to Martin Luther King.
Dr. King's first speech at the Lincoln Memorial was "Give Us the Ballot" in 1957, during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on May 17 of that year. In the speech, Dr. King urged the federal government to give African-Americans voting rights.
During his lifetime, Dr. King had been arrested nearly 30 times. Said arrests were presumably targeted at him in a racist manner. For example, in 1956, Dr. King was arrested in Montgomery for driving at 30 MPH on a 25 MPH road.
Dr. King had entered college at the age of 15, having skipped grades 9 and 12. King began attending Morehouse College in 1944.
in October 1991, a panel at Boston University found that portions of Dr. King's doctoral assertion were plagiarized from a paper written in 1952 by Jack Boozer, then a student at Boston University.
NPR: We recently reprogrammed all of our radio station preset buttons in our daily driver. In the process, I added National Public Radio to the line up. 

Good decision.

I'd say we have now NPR on about 40 percent of the time in the car. We have learned lots about current events, history, culture ... you name it. The reporting seems thorough, and the topics important - and eclectic. You can listen to it on their website: https://www.revealnews.org/tag/mountain-jane-doe/

Today, we happened upon a one-hour program called "Reveal," which is a project of The Center for Investigative Reporting. "Fortunately" we got stuck in a big traffic jam, so it kept our attention during what would have otherwise been a super frustrating time. 

The story was about Mountain Jane Doe - an unsolved murder in Kentucky dating back to . A petite female body was found stabbed to death, abandoned on a mountain road in Kentucky. For 47 years, no ID was ever made on the body, and no killer was identified. 
I don't want to spoil the story for you in case you care to listen, but let's just say that some answers have finally come, but they raise more questions. 

Friday, January 12, 2018


UGLY ALL OVER: Today's news was dominated by remarks made by the President of the United States on Thursday.

When the present day news is how you teach history to your kids in a large way, there's really no avoiding it. So we had to take it head on.

Forgive the president's language, but he dismissed an entire continent, along with some other economically disadvantaged nations, as being "shithole countries." This has been corroborated by several sources. 

It's not a term I thought we'd ever hear reported (over and over and over) again on national news, attributed to a U.S. president, but there it was. ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, all of them. Using those words - his words. 

CNN's Anderson Cooper, who has strong, personal ties, to Haiti, had this to say about that. 

And then there was Don Lemon, on CNN. He opened with this on his broadcast Thursday night:
 ‘This is CNN Tonight. I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist.’

Then, Lemon blasted those who’ve attacked the president’s critics for pointing out his racist comments, asked, “You know what you can go do?” But rather than go low, he went high. 
"I can’t say that,” Lemon said. “But you can go read a book, a history book. Because you might learn that some of the people from those 'shithole' countries were slaves who were brought here by force to help build this country, and then start your learning process from there.” 
Lemon also called on people who are still Trump supporters to do some self-examination. “What does it say about you that no matter what ― no matter what ― you continue to make excuses for this man, for his vile behavior?” he asked. 
Excellent question. 

It's common to dismiss journalists as biased, these days, so set those two aside and let's turn to United States," spokesperson Rupert Coleville. Today, he said Donald Trump's reported remarks branding Haiti, El Salvador and unspecified African nations as "s***hole countries"  ... "are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States. ... There is no other word you can use but 'racist'."

It's not like yesterday's comment was an isolated incident. Newsweek has an abbreviated list of things Trump is on full record as having said during his campaign and as president.


Gems include that Haitians "all have AIDS," and that Nigerians wouldn't ever "go back in their huts" after seeing America. 

It's 'easier' to say nothing, and to pretend all is OK.

But it's not. It's very NOT OK.

To be silent is to be complicit. 

It's NOT OK.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Checking in on the Neighbors

   Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/USGS

ICE, ICE BABY: We definitely check in on what's going on on Mars from time to time, and recently, some photos from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) offered some caught our attention.  

What's shown in the photo above is a cross-section of underground ice. It is exposed at the steep slope. The scale's hard to gauge in the shot, but in the real (Mars) world, it's about 550 yards wide, and the wall drops down and away about 140 yards from the level ground shown in the top band of the photo. The blue is a color enhancement.

So far, MRO has found eight sites where thick deposits of ice beneath Mars' surface can be seen in the faces of eroding slopes. NASA scientists say the ice "was likely deposited as snow long ago. The deposits are exposed in cross section as relatively pure water ice, capped by a layer one to two yards (or meters) thick of ice-cemented rock and dust. They hold clues about Mars' climate history. They also may make frozen water more accessible than previously thought to future robotic or human exploration missions."

Obviously, having accessible ice on Mars could be a game changer for visiting astronauts. Fortunately, the sites are in both northern and southern hemispheres of Mars, at latitudes from about 55 to 58 degrees, which is equivalent to Scotland or the tip of South America, if they were here on Earth. In fact, "There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars," said the study's lead author, Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. "What we've seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3-D view with more detail than ever before."
The rendition is preliminary. A revised version might be provided in the first quarter of 2018.

In some of the ice masses, the exposed deposit of water ice is more than 100 yards thick. That's a lot of potential water. In fact, "Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need," said Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Tucson, a co-author on the new report regarding the findings. 

In other words, potentially a game changer!

MEANWHILE, ON JUPITER: A friend recently shared a stunning video of Jupiter via NASA's Juno probe. 

The footage was from December 16 of 2017, over about a three hour time span. In the video, the orbiter approaches Jupiter down to an altitude of between 3,000 and 4,000 km near the equator.

The gentleman who composed the video, Gerald Eichstädt, explains, "In natural colors, Jupiter looks pretty pale. Therefore, the still images are approximately illumination-adusted, i.e. almost flattened, and consecutively gamma-stretched to the 4th power of radiometric values, in order to enhance contrast and color."

Video credit: NASA / JPL / SwRI / MSSS / SPICE / Gerald Eichstädt
JunoCam was built and is operated by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego / California / USA.