COVID-19: Part 37

July 9, 2020 6:53 pm
  • Quarantine Day 115
  • Livermore cases: 256
  • Alameda County cases: 7,193; deaths: 145
  • U.S. cases: 3,047,000+; deaths: 132,000+

This XKCD comic came out this week. I feel it.

I actually went to work on site today for the first time since March 6. It was weird.

A lot of post-apocalyptic vibes. Guards with their rifles and side arms, now wearing masks. Signs on every building saying you must have pre-authorization before entering. Signs at every door reminding you that you must wear a mask and to wash your hands immediately after touching shared surfaces. Signs on every conference room declaring the reduced occupancy limits. The place is a ghost town because they're only allowing ~25% of employees on site on any given day. Everyone you do see is wearing masks. The cafeterias are still closed.

I got to my office and there was a thin layer of dust on everything and my calendar still says March.

Just so weird.

There was one huge bright spot in my day though. To understand why requires some context. In 2007 a videogame was released called "Portal." In this game your character is stuck in a quirky science lab and has to solve various puzzles involving a "portal gun" (a device which lets you open a portal from one location to another). At the entrance to each puzzle room is a sign indicating which hazards or components are present. Here are some examples:

Additionally, in the game you'll see various corporate posters like these:

So with that context in mind, I was greatly amused to see this sign posted on one of the security booths (or "portal") that I pass by between the parking lot and my office:

Whether it was intentional or not it looks like something very much inspired by the game. The apparent energy rays, the person appearing to levitate--it all just comes together nicely.

I contacted the Facilities department to ask if I could get one of the signs or the artwork at least and they provided it to me, which is why I have it here to share. I also ordered a metal sign of it for my own personal amusement.

I hope that the graphic artist tasked with designing the signs is a Portal fan and saw this as their opportunity to have a little fun. It made me happy at least.

COVID-19: Part 36

July 2, 2020 11:05 am
  • Quarantine Day 108
  • Livermore cases: 196
  • Alameda County cases: 6,223; deaths: 137
  • U.S. cases: 2,679,000+; deaths: 128,000+

Several states now have reimplemented restrictions due to spiking case loads. Texas re-closed bars. 19 counties in California were ordered to stop a bunch of indoor business activities that had started. Arizona re-shut-down bars, theaters, gyms, and water parks. A bunch of states have enacted mandatory face-mask wearing (I have not seen any reporting on what compliance levels look like). Alameda County has postponed further relaxations, but has not re-implemented any restrictions.

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have announced mandatory quarantines on people traveling in from 16 states.

Dr. Fauci warned Congress that "[he] would not be surprised" to see the U.S. hit 100,000 new cases per day if more isn't done to curb the spread. The head of the WHO, Ghebreyesus, warned in a briefing that, globally, the worst is still ahead.

So things are going well [sigh].

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Last weekend we didn't play any Dragon Strike. I didn't have another adventure prepared and Heather never brought it up. But I'm planning to have one ready to go this weekend.

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On Sunday we did go walk around downtown a little because the weather was really nice and it was a chance to get out of the house. We wore masks and most other people were also wearing masks, but not all.

People seemed to feel that because a mask isn't mandatory when eating that as soon as they sat down at a restaurant (outdoor seating only) that it made sense to take off their masks. So I saw many people reading menus and waiting for food without masks on. Which, of course, makes no sense.

I made pizza with my new, fancy, imported flour. It did get more browning than my other bread flour, not a lot, but some. I'll have to play with the oven conditions. Aside from the browning, the texture was noticeably different than with the bread flour I've been using. "Fluffier" or "smoother" or something might describe it. I guess that's the point of "00" flour (which is more finely ground). I liked it.

--

We're exploring getting solar panels installed on the house. We have other, higher-priority projects we'd like to get done (like the lighting in the kitchen), but a photovoltaic system could be installed without workers coming into the house (which they're not supposed to be doing for non-essential work).

We're also looking at including a battery backup so we can run independently when the grid is down. However, battery installs are wait-listed until next Spring. There's also apparently some concern about our main feed and whether we can run a solar and battery system. We're waiting on further details from the company's electricians.

COVID-19: Part 35

June 27, 2020 12:03 am
  • Quarantine Day 102
  • Livermore cases: 145
  • Alameda County cases: 5,354; deaths: 129
  • U.S. cases: 2,414,000+; deaths: 124,000+

The latest modeling suggests that with widespread mask use we could basically get on with our lives with minimal interruption. Unfortunately, widespread mask use is not happening. One segment of the population continues to attempt to equate temporary, mandatory mask regulations with tyranny and refuses to cooperate. Predictably, in areas with widespread belief in this insanity the caseloads are setting new records on a daily basis.

I've been reading "What we Owe to Each Other" by T. M. Scanlon, a moral philosopher at Harvard. I'm just over 100 pages in--just about to begin section three of the premises section. His work borrows elements from John Rawls' political philosophy of "Justice as Fairness" and applies it to morality along with other thoughts and ideas. I finished reading Rawls' book earlier this year and I liked his approach. I'm also liking Scanlon's application of the concepts.

On page 106, Scanlon is wrapping up his basis of defining what a "value" is when he turns his attention to what it means to respect the value of human life. He has this to say:

Respecting the value of human life requires us to treat [people] only in ways that would be allowed by principles that they could not reasonably reject insofar as they, too, were seeking principles of mutual governance which other [people] could not reasonably reject.

It takes couple of rounds to parse it out fully, but it's really quite nice (and very Rawls-ian).

Is wearing a piece of cloth across one's mouth and nose in order to mitigate the spread of a deadly virus really a principle that can be reasonably rejected in a world where we presuppose that everyone wants to live peacefully together? I don't see how it could be. Great benefit is had at almost zero cost and trivial inconvenience. Surely compromising a little pride for saving thousands of lives is an acceptable trade off.

Professional philosophy writing is a bit of a slog to get through, but I find it interesting. I'm looking forward to reading more about how Scanlon answers the question of what we owe to each other. But I feel pretty confident that we at least owe each other the level of respect inherent in agreeing to wear a mask during a pandemic the same way we owe each other the level of respect inherent in staying attentive to the road while driving.

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Last Sunday was Fathers' Day. We spent the day at home, like every other day for the previous 4 months. We may have gone for a walk in the evening, I can't remember now. Jess and the girls gave me a 55-pound bag of flour imported from Italy. It's supposed to be a specially-selected blend of wheat that will let you get nice, brown, pizza crusts in a residential oven. The temperature is supposed to dip down a little bit this weekend, so I'll have to try it out and see if it's true.

After the girls went to bed I watched "They Shall not Grow Old", which was....gruesome. I can't say it was "enjoyable" because it really shouldn't be for anyone. It is very well made and worth watching though. It did leave me feeling frustrated with how incredible quantities of resources can always be found when nations decide to destroy each other, but outside of that we just write off difficult problems as unsolvable.

We can figure out how to keep 68 million people fighting for over four years, but when it comes time to addressing homelessness or hunger or access to medical care we wring our hands about it being too expensive. It's frustrating.

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Tuesday was our 11th anniversary. We spent the day at home (surprise!). We did get takeout for dinner though. Jess wanted a potato-and-bacon pizza that one of the local restaurants makes, so she got one of those and I had a calzone. I made crème brûlée for dessert.

To celebrate, we upgraded our cookware. We bought some fancy All-Clad stainless-steel-with-aluminum-core pots and pans. We bought 8-inch, 10-inch non-stick, and 12-inch frying pans as well as 2-quart and 3-quart sauce pans. In theory they should last pretty much forever.

We also watched "The Dish" which is a loosely-based-on-a-true-story movie describing the role in the Apollo 11 mission of one radio-telescope in Australia. I did appreciate the reminder that there have been times where great national resources were directed to incredible challenges that weren't about killing people. But also saddened that it still seems to require being linked to contests of international dominance.

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Last weekend Ivy and Beryl completed their investigation of Hinderstap Manor and learned of the tragedy that befell the family resulting in the mansion being haunted. They helped bring peace to the home and are now on their way south through the Forgotten Lands.

I took the week off from preparing another adventure so this weekend we'll do a non-story-related side game of some kind.

Last night I played through the Spirit Valley adventure with my work friends so their characters are now on their way north towards Englewood and Gambler's Pass.

Painting Miniatures

June 24, 2020 7:17 pm

Now that I have a bunch of miniature creatures for use in our Dragon Strike adventures, I thought I'd give a try to painting them. I was really on the fence, because it could easily devolve into a lot of not fun (I live in a CTRL+Z world). But I figured if I kept my expectations appropriately low then I could probably be happy with the result.

Here are the first 2 that I completed:

Far from perfect, but I'm pretty happy with how they came out. So I'll paint some more and provide a little more fun and detail to our games.

COVID-19: Part 34

June 19, 2020 3:53 pm
  • Quarantine Day 95
  • Livermore cases: 93
  • Alameda County cases: 4,585; deaths: 117
  • U.S. cases: 2,178,000+; deaths: 118,000+

Comparing with my post from last week, Livermore's case load almost doubled. That's not good. Restrictions are starting to relax a little, but too many people think that means they don't have to take any precautions anymore. I don't know what people are thinking. I know many are tired of dealing with it. Unfortunately, viruses don't really care whether you're done dealing with them or not.

California issued a state-wide mandatory mask regulation. As currently written, there's no exemption for children (except under 2 years old); whereas Alameda County's rule recommends them on children but doesn't require them for under 13 years old.

Alameda County issued updated guidelines this week that slightly loosen restrictions again. Outdoor dining will be allowed for restaurants (with strict requirements). Retail is allowed to reopen, but must limit customers to maintain 6-ft distancing. Religious meetings may resume with groups no larger than 100 (no more than 25% building capacity, whichever is fewer) and the county heavily recommends no more than 25 (food and beverage distribution is "discouraged").

We are still otherwise required to limit travel to essential purposes only. Which seems a bit at odds with allowing dining and shopping. So it's not 100% clear what it means since shopping for, say, antiques is now allowed, but clearly not essential in any form. So I guess technically we're still in "quarantine." I guess I'll stop counting it when the "travel limited to essential purposes only" rule is dropped.

Tomorrow, Trump is holding an indoors, large-scale campaign rally. Despite pushing a narrative minimizing the risks of COVID-19, attendees must sign agreement not to sue the campaign for contracting the disease at the event. So that will surely go well.

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Last weekend Ivy and Beryl arrived in Addleston after a long trek from Mt. Atheros. They settled in for a rest at the Slash & Burn Tavern and heard a bard sing a song about two mysterious heroes, named Ivy and Beryl, who have been seen around the kingdom helping people, but were struck down by the dragon at Gambler's Pass. I wrote lyrics and meter and performed it. I even wrote modifications so the song will work for my other group when they get there.

After their lunch and entertainment, based on information from the tavern keeper, they moseyed out to Hinderstap Manor to investigate the mysterious tragedy that befell the family living there some 20 years ago.

I had a lot of prep work to do (and still some left) for their adventure into the mansion so last week's adventure ended after they met "Fox" the thief in the gardens and opened the secret passage into the manor house. I'm hoping to finish my preparations tonight so we'll be ready to go tomorrow. It's probably my most ambitious quest yet. And I'll have to top it for the big finale showdown with the dragon in a few more weeks.

My other group was supposed to have another game session last night, but we had to postpone due to scheduling conflicts.

--

I had to spend some time last night fixing by HomeBoard display. Someone at the National Weather Service pushed out a software change that they probably weren't supposed to because it broke stuff and provided invalid data for some things. I managed to work around the issues and get my display working again in a way that it will still work if they change the data back to the previous form.