Month: April 2014

Cappuccino, a modern work of art

The thing I remember best about Italia? Cappuccino, every morning. Normally I do not drink coffee. I am a tea person. But in Italy, there was no choice but to render unto Caesar. And every cup is treated and prepared with care. Beautiful. (Click on the photo for a larger image on a separate picture page.)


Market and Leary

I set up my GoPro on the busy corner of Market and Leary tonight, in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, and just chilled for about 20 minutes. Here’s how life slipped by on Willie Nelson’s 81st birthday, the same day the old master earned a fifth degree black belt. There is no connection between this place and Willie, except perhaps in my imagination. And I have been listening to and playing Willie the past few days.

Oil trains picking up steam in Seattle

The expansion of oil production in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields is also pushing petroleum to Northwest refineries and planned refineries, including in Anacortes and further north in Whatcom County at Cherry Point. Seattle, a major rail hub of the BNSF Railway Co., already has long lines of trains carrying petroleum and other products like ethanol. Some Washington state politicians and activists have expressed concern, in light of oil train derailments and fatal explosions in  the last two years in Lac Megantic, Quebec, and Casselton, N.D. BNSF reports that about 1.5 trains carrying more than 90 cars, each capable of carrying 30,000 gallons of unrefined, light crude oil, pass through the Pacific Northwest every day. I have seen them in a rail yard about 1.5 miles from my house, in a spot called Interbay. One thing I also know, this country and this region’s appetite for petroleum shows no sign of slowing down, and the state is looking to expand its refining capacity. Expect big fights in the months and years ahead among the competing interest groups. (Click on the images for a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Ash Grove Cement, a Seattle landmark

Every work day I pass by the enormous cement factory and kilns of the Ash Grove Cement Co., just west of Highway 99. You can’t miss the factory and its two enormous kilns. The facility, owned by a Kansas-based firm of the same name, is as much a Seattle landmark in my eyes as the more famous Space Needle. I finally took a bike trip there this weekend and snapped a few pictures. I love the designs of industrial facilities and how function dictates form.

Port of Seattle shipping, it never, ever stops


About 70 percent of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer spending. That really means, because we shop, our economic boat stays afloat. But what does that mean outside of the discount and electronics goods shopping stores? It means large ports processing containers filled with goods manufactured in Asia for the North American and U.S. market. This particular Maersk Line cargo ship, the Axel Maersk, stacks containers eight high, and its control room stands even higher. Here are different angles on the Axel Maersk, unloading its cargo today at the Port of Seattle (April 26, 2014). The ship can reportedly carry up to 9,000 containers at one time. (Click on each photo to be taken to a separate photo page with a larger image.)

Kent, one of Washington’s most diverse communities

Kent is one of several mid-sized cities in King County. It’s entirely dependent on the automobile, and it is where many cheaper apartments are found, attracting many lower-income residents and immigrants. Today, more than 130 languages—from Afrikaans to Yoruba—are spoken in the Kent School District, the fourth largest in Washington State. Kent has become a prototypical “melting pot suburb.” (Nationally, minorities now represent 35% of all U.S. suburban residents.) And many new suburbanites come from abroad. Today, one in five King County residents identify as “foreign born,” and many are choosing to locate in South King County communities like Kent. Here are a few  samplers of how diverse Kent is.

Raindrops keep falling, and falling, and falling

We have had a lot of rain lately in Seattle. Nothing unusual, but just about everyday now for a couple of weeks. So water is on my mind, and how water responds to surfaces, from metal to plants to the body. So, naturally, I dug up a couple of water and rain photos I shot about a year and a half ago. I particularly love the effect of surface tension when water droplets form on surfaces when it rains. (Click on each photo for a larger image on a separate picture page.)

Happy 450th birthday, Bard … we love you

As I get older, I think I fall more deeply in love with the works of William Shakespeare. It is his 450th birthday today. Happy birthday, oh great master of the human condition. I took this picture at a wonderful production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in Seattle’s Discovery Park. The play was performed by Seattle’s inimitable GreenStage theatre company, who perform the Bard’s plays every summer at many amazing outdoor venues throughout Seattle and beyond. These plays are one of my favorite things about living in Seattle. (Click on the photo for a larger image on a separate picture page.)

Morning Tea in Hoi An, Vietnam

I included this photo of two men I met for morning tea in Hoi An, Vietnam, in my series called Being Themselves. Nothing earth-shattering here other than a nice moment with some guys who welcomed a visitor to their town and wore very large smiles. My kinda people. See more of my photos from Vietnam on my web site.

The Pebble Mine area, what ground zero of a resource war looks like

During my six years in Alaska from 2004 through 2010, by far the most protracted and controversial of many simmering resource development battles was the fight over the so-called Pebble Mine. This area is upriver from Lake Iliamna, a short plane ride west of Anchorage. The proposed copper and molybdenum mine is touted as holding some of the world’s largest deposits of copper. But building it would also create a massive open pit operation in the headwaters to one of the world’s most productive sockeye fish hatcheries, and were a spill to occur, the consequences would likely be devastating to the fishery. The battle was heated, dividing even mostly resource-friendly Republicans like former Sen. Ted Stevens (who spoke out against it during my time there), mainly because of the incredibly rich fishing resources downstream that provided good jobs to many Native communities with a renewable resource (tasty sockeye salmon).

I will not get into the debate, which embraced the vitriol and emotion I associated with the “War on Terror” and the “with us or against us” mentality that coincided during my years in Alaska. Regardless of what I say, this project has seen two of the world’s largest mining companies, Anglo American and Rio Tinto, walk away from their stakes during the last year, leaving the remaining company called Pebble Partnership high and dry, without the major financial backing it needs to pull this off. I think the science strongly shows this is not the place to build such a huge mine. Regardless of my opinion, without big money, big mines cannot be developed. And the U.S. EPA is against it. These pictures were taken during my site visit there in 2005, when I worked in Anchorage. I hope these pictures provide a window into one of the hottest battles ever seen in the 49th state. (Note, all pictures were taken with my consumer-grade Canon digital camera–not bad for the tough little workhorse.)