Friday, September 26, 2008

Playing Chess


My mother at her weekly meeting with her gentlemen chess friends at De Hullen, a senior citizen center.
Neither Tic Douloureux nor four spontaneous fractures of the spine could keep Nita away from the board.

One of my earliest memories is of her, my father and a young couple they had encountered while vacationing in a Dutch forest, bent over a chess board in our woodsy cabin. She and my father often played a game together. They taught me all their moves, and yet I never became an avid player.

When I moved out of my mother's home, and visited her with my boy-friend, she and he got along famously. They would first discuss politics and the environment, and next pull out the chess board.

She would have loved How to Fool Fritz.

Roundabout

A Place d'√Čtoile aerial image from the 1940s or 50s showing the lack of lanes, and a small percentage of the traffic you'd encounter there now. Imagine how many cars you can fit into that circle, leading to or fro 12 avenues, and you get the idea.

In July of 2007, The Seattle Times reported that the neighborhood upper Rainier Beach would be getting 2 roundabouts at the intersection of 51st South, Renton- and Roxbury Avenues. The traffic was and still is controlled by stop signs. According to the article in The Times the City Council voted 7-1 despite Council member Richard McIver's view that they are "about the most ridiculous expenditure I've ever seen." This while the city counted 60 collisions in that triangle in 2000. And I'm sure it hasn't got any better. We pass by there every day and it is impressive that we've never encountered a pile-up at a spot where three busy streets meet, showing a total of 6 stop signs.
The projected time of completion of the double roundabout is 2010.

In order to educate citizens the City of Olympia and the City of Lacey have created an excellent film on how to approach and drive on a roundabout.

To my great surprise (experienced) cyclists are permitted to use the same roundabout as the cars and trucks. In the Netherlands, you'd find a bicycle path around the pavement for automated traffic. To allow cyclists inside the roundabout is asking for trouble.

Watching the film made me think of the first time that I had to navigate roundabout of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in 1983 or so. At the Place d'√Čtoile roundabout, which circles the Arc de Triomphe, twelve avenues meet! I recall going around three times before I was prepared to take the correct exit. The second time I almost made it, but a "gendarme" a French police officer who braved the traffic and stood in the middle of (not existing) "lanes" blew his whistle at me. Knitting his eyebrows and waving his "batton" in the air, threatening to bang on the hood of my vehicle, he ordered me to go around once more! I remember this happened right before lunch time, and that my blood sugar dropped like a brick from the Eiffel Tower.

So the prospect of a double roundabout in upper Rainier Beach won't faze me, but I do worry about the cyclists in Lacey and Olympia.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Testing the Dike

Sluice in Veelerveen, Groningen

Today Stichting IJkdijk (the Dike Gauge Foundation) simulated a breaking of a test dike under duress near the small town of Bellingwedde in the northern province Groningen.

The Netherlands, famously situated under the water level, is protected from the sea by 3700 kilometers (2,299 miles) of sea walls or dikes. It's unknown whether these are able to keep out strong flood tides. The test should show how the dike of 100 meters length and 6 meters height will respond to the assault of strong force of water.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Swimming Cows

A friend from the Netherlands responded to my post Galveston, oh Galveston by email (why people don't leave comments on the blog itself remains a mystery). He'd been reluctant to respond at all, he wrote, because of the storm and what it meant to us, with relatives evacuated and all that.
A girlfriend, also from my motherland returned from her summer vacation to find my storm post. She dropped everything, her floor covered with the contents of her luggage, to write about her earliest memories of the Flood of 1953. A small child when the dikes in Zeeland, the most southwestern province of the Netherlands, broke, she still remembers the photographs showing devastation, people straddling the roof top, a single cow on a float. She remembers the tension, sorrow and stress in her family for farms lost to the water. She recalls the hundreds of people coming to the Noordoostpolder, where her parents were pioneer farmers on re-gained land, trying to find work. My blog post about Ike hitting Galveston brought all those memories to the surface.

And here we are, in the northwestern state of the U.S., going to a party —after a restless night worrying about the welfare of our loved ones— attending a celebration, eating tidbits, listening to music, cheering to the future of Libraries for All.

And here it's Monday and I'm writing about music, and dinner shows, food and entertainment, while my father-in-law and brother-in-law are hunting for a generator and my mother-in-law is worried sick about her business on the Seawall Boulevard, worried about her cats, still locked inside the house —on higher ground, yes, but still, in walking distance from the beach.

On Sunday morning we saw images of boulders, that were part of the Seawall, deposited by the sheer force of water onto the boulevard that runs along the Seawall. The road completely covered with boulders that looked like props from Universal Studios, only we know they're real, not light weight, easy to lift, painted styrofoam!

I heard on NPR that a herd of cows survived, "they swam around all night," the spokesperson said. Eventually they were "swam" (read corralled) by people to higher ground. Now that's an amazing story.

People have lost their homes, their boats, but feel fortunate enough to say: "I'm alive."
And then there's the train crash in Los Angeles, and The Crash in Wall Street and, and …

Here, on high ground in Seattle, I feel somewhat ashamed when I see my post about frivolous things such as music, food and drink. But then I think about the Obama-rama at The Pink Door and realize that the show goes on, that the show must go on …

The Pink Door in Seattle

Last Saturday, during a celebration at the Seattle Public Central Library we greatly enjoyed listening to the Hot Club Sandwich Band. We liked them so much, I ordered one of their CDs online. Today I received a personal acknowledgment from guitarist Greg Ruby, and discovered that this talented swing guitarist has a regular gig at The Pink Door. At first I mistook Pink for Triple, I'd never heard of the former, but really like both programming and food at the latter.

After having enjoyed a dinner show at Teatro Zinzanni last week (oh, what a show), our appetite for dining and entertainment has been whetted. And now that we've already heard Greg Ruby play, and know that he's Good, we'll have to go to The Pink Door on a Thursday to listen to the Rubymeister and his Musetto Trio, while trying the chef's Italian American cuisine.

The Pink Door has it's own web site of course, and what did I find under events?
Oh, it's too good to be true, a cocktail with —believe it or not, Oregon vodka— concocted especially for Obama!
We've got to go and try an OBAMA-RAMA at The Pink Door in Seattle One buck of each drink goes to Obama's campaign.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Galveston, oh Galveston

Aftermath 1900 storm, courtesy Rosenburg Library, Galveston, Texas.

Haven't slept a wink, well a wink, yes, but let's say I was up most of the night checking the news, reading the Dutch newspaper NRC online, checking back with Yahoo, watching slide shows and videos. A combination of being Dutch, with an innate fear of breaking dikes and flooding, and being married to a guy from Galveston (second generation BOI (born on island) didn't allow me to sleep soundly while the island was being tormented by IKE.

My in-laws were evacuated. My mother-in-law who already had a ticket, left by plane for Austin, early on Thursday, dropped off at the airport by my father-in-law, who drove timely to the home of my husband's sister and brother-in-law who live in the north end of Houston. My other sister-in-law left for Dallas with her son, but by 7 p.m., while FIL was already high and dry, watching the ball game with BIL, she and our nephew were stuck in traffic near Conroe, also in north Houston. But with Texas distances that doesn't mean much. And anyway It's not like you can say, oh, I'll go to my sister's when there's a deadlock on a freeway.

Last night a woman on camera on the Sea Wall in Galveston reporting about the waves, was clearly energized by the storm, her face radiant with excitement. Wondering what all those people caught on camera were still doing there, while they ought to have been looking for higher ground, if not leaving the island all together, I thought of the storm chasers, who live to be close to a storm.

Today it's unclear how many people, who decided to wait out the storm in their homes, may have perished.
JUAN A. LOZANO and CHRIS DUNCAN, Associated Press Writers report the response of Andrew Barlow, spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry:
"The unfortunate truth is we're going to have to go in ... and put our people in the tough situation to save people who did not choose wisely. We'll probably do the largest search-and-rescue operation that's ever been conducted in the state of Texas."

Having read Isaac's Storm by Gary Larson, it's inconceivable that anybody in their right mind, especially those who live "on the beach", would stay when a hurricane the size of IKE had been more than predicted.

Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS,
and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.


And as inconceivable to me as a Dutch person, is that the Government would choose to build a wall between Texas and Mexico, but won't invest in dikes that can protect residential areas from flooding. The knowledge is available, I know for a fact that Dutch specialists visited Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, to share their expertise. What is done with that information, I wonder, filed for future reference, until there's Peace, perhaps?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Libraries for All

Former Seattle Public Library City Librarian Deborah Jacobs speaks about the place of the library in society, and quotes Howard Schultz "Libraries are beacons of hope in every neighborhood."

As for me, the library is always my home away from home, no matter where I am.

Tomorrow, Saturday 13, 2008, SPL celebrates the successful conclusion of the 10-year building (and renovation) program Libraries for All.