COVID-19: Part 42

August 7, 2020 5:05 pm
  • Quarantine Day 144
  • Livermore cases: 558
  • Alameda County cases: 12,369; deaths: 200
  • U.S. cases: 4,858,000+; deaths: 158,000+

Alameda County rolled out a new website with the tracking data. It took me a while but I eventually found what appears to be the same data I've been reporting presented in a different format:

Well, the U.S. has given up. SARS-CoV-2 is spreading essentially unchecked across the country. The modeling I've been watching is predicting accelerating growth in daily-death rates all the way into December. It's predicting the U.S. hitting 5,000 daily deaths in December (from the current of ~1,000) if nothing changes to mitigate the spread. It's incredibly depressing considering there's no reason for this failure other than national will. We're just not interested in addressing it, so it's not being addressed and hundreds of thousands of people will die. as of 8/7/2020 as of 8/7/2020

Maybe when the people refusing to modify their behavior all know someone personally who has died from it we'll start taking it seriously as a country. Nothing else seems to be getting through to people.

Dr. Fauci's family is receiving death threats. The disinformation campaigns have been a huge success. People have convinced themselves that this professional doctor who has devoted his life to the study and prevention of disease is somehow the mastermind of an elaborate conspiracy to spread a disease for vaguely defined nefarious purposes. AND THE ENTIRE WORLD'S MEDICAL COMMUNITY IS IN ON IT! It makes no sense!

They've also convinced themselves that Bill Gates is trying to implant them with a tracking microchip with the vaccines that are being researched. Of course, these same people are walking around with a phone in their pocket and a dozen devices in their house with speakers and cameras in them which already can track their every movement, word, facial expression, email, text, etc. But it's the non-existent microchip they're worried about for some reason.

Research polling is reporting that only about 50% of the U.S. population even plans to receive a vaccine once they become available; which isn't going to be enough even if the vaccine is 100% effective--which is highly unlikely. So this medical nightmare is going to continue long past a viable vaccine being manufactured.

And Trump is spending his time trying to shut down Chinese-made social media apps for some reason. Claiming that somehow teenagers sharing videos on an app is a national security problem. Which is entirely asinine. While an app as a vehicle for foreign surveillance is real, banning them from use on government phones and within the military would resolve that issue.

It's hard to see it as anything other than him being mad that supposedly kids using these apps ordered a bunch of tickets to his Tulsa rally intending to not show up so that the numbers got really inflated. Whether or not they had any measurable impact is unclear, but the campaign was certainly touting a massive crowd that never materialized. And now, suddenly, they're a national security threat.



In other news, Mom sent the girls a ladybug kit and a butterfly kit. So over the past couple of weeks we watched the larvae turn in to ladybugs and the caterpillars turn into butterflies. We released them all into the wild this week.

One of the butterflies didn't make it. It was the last to hatch and its chrysalis had fallen off the cap it was connected to. When it tried to emerge it came out on the bottom against the floor and tried to push the chrysalis off itself, but it couldn't get all the way out. When I "came home from work" a few hours later I performed surgery with some toothpicks to help it get out of the chrysalis, but it never recovered. It was dead the next day.

The girls had a blast watching them grow. Also, when they are chrysalides they'll shake to scare off predators if disturbed. It's super creepy and I don't understand what structure even exists inside that would allow them to do that.

We also grew some bacteria and fungi in petri dishes as part of a Magic School Bus science kit. It's pretty gross. On the right, we used a wooden scraper against the indicated body part and then rubbed it on the agar. Surprisingly the tongue sample had the least amount of growth overall, though it was unique in color and texture.


I started a promotion this week. I'm now a Group Leader which means I'm responsible for performance management and career development for a group of ~15 software developers. This is in addition to my normal, technical job where I'm responsible for the technical work of my team of 5. The Group Leader position is only funded at ~8% of my time, so just a few hours a week. But the bulk of the work is during annual performance appraisals which are starting now, so it's going to be a very busy couple of months learning the new job while doing its most time-intensive tasks.


We didn't play Dragon Strike last weekend, but I do have the next adventure mostly ready for this weekend. The weekend before I rewrote the previous adventure (we had only done the prologue and I wasn't happy with it). So we played the revamped version which I liked much better. Ivy and Beryl helped repel an attack in the castle, but the Queen was kidnapped and they are now on a rescue mission in the Wromblen Mountains in the southern part of the kingdom.

Last night my friends played part way through the "Crime and Punishment" mission. They identified the murder suspect and chased him to the cemetery and managed to fight their way through the undead and enter the mausoleum. That's where they'll pick it up for next time.


Heather was amazingly willing to part with the piles of junk accumulated in her room and we were able to get her room cleaned up and ready for school. She has a desk under her loft bed where she can be out of the living space during class times. The Chromebook we ordered has arrived and is ready to go. So, we're as ready as we're going to be for online school starting in just a few of weeks.

The school district sent out the 42 page guidebook of what to expect from the online and hybrid systems they've developed over the summer. We'll be online-only for the foreseeable future. Jess and I are both quite pleased with the plan. They seem to have spent the summer working really hard to figure out a realistic approach that addresses as many of the pain points as possible. Given what we're hearing about school districts in other parts of the country, we're feeling pretty comfortable with it.

In other news, a school in Georgia suspended a student for sharing a picture of the shoulder-to-shoulder packed hallway full of kids without masks in their opening week. The excuse for the suspension was that it "made the school look bad." Which, well, they seem to be doing a pretty good job of that themselves. After nation-wide pushback the suspension was lifted, but being told you aren't allowed in their petri dish may have been the better option.


I don't think I've mentioned it yet, the girls restarted swim classes a few weeks ago. Each class has only 2 kids in it. The instructors wear face shields and in between classes the entire facility is sanitized. I'm not sure they're technically supposed to be operating under the current guidelines, but they're at least behaving cautiously.


Last week I ran the fourth annual Developer Day event at work (via video conference). It went pretty well, though it's designed to be an in-person event to allow for casual networking throughout the day. So that limits its impact. Hopefully we'll get to do a real event next year.

I had commemorative stickers made of our logo to give out to people along with some books:

COVID-19: Part 41

July 28, 2020 10:56 am
  • Quarantine Day 134
  • Livermore cases: 443
  • Alameda County cases: 10,259; deaths: 178
  • U.S. cases: 4,280,000+; deaths: 147,000+

"Right now we are experiencing a national forest fire of COVID that is readily consuming any human wood that's available to burn," says
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Now, Nuzzo doesn't think all hope is lost. If enough people finally start wearing masks, and get vigilant about staying at least 6 feet away from other people, especially indoors, there may still be hope in at least some places of avoiding new shutdowns, she says.

Meanwhile our neighbors hosted a street party over the weekend with about 20 people attending. They were, at least, outside; but I saw no masks and no appropriate distancing. I truly do not get it.

And places that didn't learn from NYC are now becoming NYC. Like NYC had to do, counties across the country are now loading up refrigerator trucks with bodies because they've run out of space in morgues and funeral homes.

"Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones," Starr County Judge Eloy Vera wrote on the county's Facebook page on Thursday morning. "This is what we did not want our community to experience. … We must be responsible for ourselves and our loved ones."

Based on this data, of counties reporting, Florida has 18 counties with ICUs at or above 90% capacity.

The eight counties making up California's Central Valley have pushed their hospitals to the edge and response teams and resources from state and federal governments are being sent in to help.

So many news sources are reporting so many ICUs reaching critical capacity, but I have yet to find any single source providing aggregate data across counties.

It is just so frustratingly stupid that we're in this position. We KNEW this would happen when we watched it happen in NYC in April! We've had 3 MONTHS to come up with a real plan to prevent it. But we have a president who claimed it wasn't real for months and months. We have governors who refused to take it seriously. We have citizens who proudly refuse to wear a mask; patting themselves on the back for "standing up to tyranny."

They think masks are tyranny, meanwhile this is happening in other parts of the country:

The red jumpsuits are prison guards. Federal prison guards working with other militarized forces to subdue protests about police brutality on American streets.

But temporarily wearing a piece of cloth over your mouth and nose is oppression.


COVID-19: Part 40

July 24, 2020 6:51 pm
  • Quarantine Day 130
  • Livermore cases: 427
  • Alameda County cases: 9,864; deaths: 175
  • U.S. cases: 4,024,000+; deaths: 143,000+

I filled up the Civic with gas on Thursday. The first time since March 5. In almost 5 months I drove only 250 miles.

Updated modeling this week looks terrible for states that still aren't taking this seriously. California is expected to hit a new peak of daily deaths at ~130/day in a couple of weeks, which is about 0.3 deaths per 100,000 people. Arizona is projected to hit ~75/day (1.0 deaths per 100,000 people) about the same time. Florida: ~150/day (0.7 deaths per 100,000 people). Texas is predicted to monotonically increase into November with a brief plateau at ~240/day (0.8 deaths per 100,000 people).

The U.S. overall is seeing over 1,100 deaths a day. Trump finally even held a press conference and suggested people should wear masks. But he's still threatening to withhold federal funding if states don't reopen schools in person.

And things are about to get catastrophically worse for millions of people. Extended unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums are expiring at the end of July. Congress doesn't appear to be even close to addressing the issue. The House (meaning Democrats) passed a $3.2 trillion aid package back in May. The Senate is going nowhere. Republicans can't even figure out amongst themselves what they want to do, much less negotiate with Democrats to pass something.

This is with 18 straight weeks of over 1 million first-time unemployment claims being filed weekly.


The girls started swim classes again a couple of weeks ago. They each have 2 kids in their class and the instructors wear face shields. In between classes the whole facility gets sanitized. I'm not entirely sure if technically they're supposed to be open at the moment, but they seem to be trying really hard to do things safely.


The Oakland Zoo got permission to reopen. They also received a $500,000 donation to help cover their operating costs.

Alameda County issued updated shelter-at-home regulations at the beginning of the week. I read through them but I didn't see any obvious differences from the previous rules.


Because of state rules, Livermore schools will open as online only for the beginning of the school year. Heather's new desk has arrived. She's working on cleaning her room and making space for it before we assemble it. The Chromebook I ordered for her to use should arrive next week. So I guess we're pretty much as ready as we're going to be.


I went on site to my office on Tuesday and Thursday this week. I'll be back a few more times over the next few weeks trying to get some deliverables completed on the air-gapped networks. I usually see and interact with no one except the guard at the gate. Which is fine by me.


Oh yah, some other things. Trump bragged about passing a dementia test. Also, unidentified federal officers in military gear have been in Portland, OR beating, gassing, and shooting with rubber bullets protesters. They've also been arresting people by just grabbing them off the street and stuffing them into unmarked vehicles and driving away with them.

The Department of Homeland security eventually admitted they were from Customs and Border Patrol. The administration has vowed to continue to send in these teoop


July 23, 2020 7:40 pm

Comet NEOWISE is making its closest approach to Earth today. Last night I drove up into the hills southeast of Livermore to try and get a look. Visibility was apparently better earlier in the month when the comet was closer to the Sun, but it was also only visible just before sunrise and that just wasn't going to happen.

I used online maps to scout out what I thought would be a good vantage point and I drove out just after sunset. I got to the dirt road and across the cattle guard then I had to wait for the cattle to get off the road. Once they moseyed on their way I climbed up the hills until I had a pretty good view over Livermore. Then I got my camera set up and played around with the moon while I waited for it to get darker.

Dusk over Livermore

I still couldn't see the comet with my eyes and it looked like the main problem was light pollution. But I figured I could use my camera to find it. So I pointed it in the general direction, zoomed out to 50mm, and took a 20-second exposure. I did that a few times before I found it. Here's the first shot I got with the comet in it straight off the camera:

It's right near the bottom, about a third of the way from the right. So I carefully adjusted the tripod to center the comet and then zoomed in to 200mm. The light pollution made it really hard to pull out the details of the comet. Here are my best two shots:

Comet NEOWISE. Pentax K-7, 200mm, 6400 ISO, f/5.6, 6s
Comet NEOWISE. Pentax K-7, 200mm, 6400 ISO, f/5.6, 5s

Then the moon was setting and became a tiny sliver of deep red:

And since I was already out there I turned my camera around away from town and go the stars behind a utility pole:

The K-7 struggles in low-light conditions. It's 11 years old and sensor technology has improved dramatically in that time. I'm planning on upgrading in the near future. Pentax is releasing a new APS-C flagship later this year which I'm keeping an eye on. If reviews are positive I'll probably pick one up. It should be a considerable leap in image quality, auto focusing, and low-light performance.

COVID-19: Part 39

July 17, 2020 3:12 pm
  • Quarantine Day 123
  • Livermore cases: 349
  • Alameda County cases: 8,556; deaths: 160
  • U.S. cases: 3,555,000+; deaths: 137,000+

A triple quarantine. Ugh.

The school system sent out a notice that school will be either fully remote or as a hybrid model with limited on-campus time each week in smaller groups with the option to dynamically switch between modes depending on conditions. Given the data trends, I'm expecting things will start fully remote at this point, unless things really turn around in the next four weeks.

So Jess ordered a desk and chair we can put in Heather's room under her loft-bed so she has a dedicated school-work station. I'm setting up deal alerts on Chromebooks so we have a dedicated computer available for her (the school system has Chromebooks available, but I'm guessing we can get something better and also ease the demand on their supply for others who can't afford to just go buy one right now). I'm expecting we'll see a run on Chromebooks as the school year approaches (since many district use them) so I'm hoping to grab one before that happens.

How remote Kindergarten will work for Corinne is a mystery. She really needs the hands-on, in-person experience. So it's sad she won't get to have that. But we are fully in support of following the best available medical advice on how to do schooling safely.


I interviewed for a "Group Leader" position at the Lab today. It's basically the bottom rung of the management ladder. It's only funded at 5% so you still do a regular technical job 95% of the time. Mostly it's handling performance appraisals and career development type activities for a group of 10-20 people.


Last night my friends played the Gambler's Pass adventure in our campaign. One of them used a flying spell to fly across the Red River and avoid falling in when the bridge was destroyed. So that was unexpected. I'll have to do a little re-writing for the next adventure to account for that.


More and more states are enacting mandatory mask regulations. But then you have Georgia whose governor passed an executive order banning mask mandates in the state that had been enacted at the city level.


I finally got my hands on "Ring Fit Adventure" a fitness game for the Nintendo Switch. They've been completely sold out since March and any time they are in stock they sell out again within minutes.

We've all been playing that this week (except Corinne who isn't strong enough to squeeze or stretch the resistance band). It's pretty fun.

It's a great evolution on the Wii Fit concept. In Wii Fit they created a bunch of minigames where you exercise to play the games. But they had no overarching narrative so it was interesting but you still had to have the base motivation to do exercise since the minigames lost their novelty fairly quickly.

In Ring Fit Adventure they built the overarching narrative and exercise is the medium of fighting enemies and advancing the story. So while the actual exercise is still repetitive (repetition is rather the point) there is a developing story line and your character's strength and abilities level up so it's much more engaging.

Consequently we've all had sore muscles all week.