COVID-19: Part 26

April 27, 2020 7:51 pm
  • Quarantine Day 42 (A true "quarantine"!)
  • S.F. Bay Area Health Departments issued a press release that the shelter-at-home order will be extended through May with some easing, which is what I expected we'd hear. Details to come later in week.
  • The Congressional Budget Office released a report last week with economic projections:
    • Federal deficit for 2020 fiscal year: $3.7 trillion.
    • Federal debt will exceed 100% GDP by end of year.
    • Unemployment expected to exceed 9% until 2022.
    • 10-year Treasury bond yields expected to remain below 1% until 2022.
  • Livermore cases: 35
  • Alameda County: cases: 1,451; deaths: 51
  • U.S. cases: 957,000+; deaths: 53,900+

On Saturday we played through my first custom quest of a continuing campaign in Dragon Strike. I made some rule modifications that will allow Heather and Jess to have characters that level up at the end of each quest. So it's a little more continuous and interesting. But it also means I have to come up with quests. Which is a fair bit of work.

I don't pretend to be any master story teller, so I'm shamelessly borrowing heavily from any source I can come up with. The first quest was "The Plague of Bree" (yes, "Bree" is from LoTR). In the prologue our heroes awaken at home in Bree and need to get bread from the bakery. On their way through town they find villagers fallen ill and in need of help. The apothecary asks for their help in obtaining the herb Athelas (yes, from LoTR) from the forest to heal the townspeople. The baker gives them bread which heals 2 HP when eaten.

The main quest takes place in the forest where the heroes have to search for Athelas while avoiding or defeating enemies. A friendly Ranger explains to them where to look for the herb and helps protect them.

Our heroes Ivy (Heather) and Beryl (Jess) found a Ring of Protection in a chest at the bottom of the river, defeated 3 monsters, retrieved the Athelas and saved the townspeople. Where will they go next week?


On Sunday I repaired the TV/Receiver remote by taking it apart and, after cleaning, applying some conductive paint to the backs of the buttons that weren't working properly. Good as new now.

I made another batch of pizza dough. Two for the freezer and 1 for dinner.

Tonight I used up my last packet of Taco Bell fire sauce. Sad day.

Some states have started easing suppression measures. With no federal leadership everyone is pretty much making it up as they go along. So there's a ton of variety in rules and processes. It will be interesting to see over the next 6 weeks how things start to shake out from place to place.

COVID-19: Part 25

April 24, 2020 3:27 pm
  • Quarantine Day 39
  • Another 4.4 million first-time unemployment claims last week. Which means the overall unemployment rate right now is probably above 20%.
  • Congress adds another ~$500 billion in relief/stimulus spending. Plans expected for another, larger round in the coming weeks.
  • In a nice contrast to the stupidity of the protests, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll reports that ~80% of Americans support the shelter-at-home orders.
  • Livermore cases: 34
  • Alameda County cases: 1,354; deaths: 47
  • U.S. cases: 865,000+; deaths: 48,800+

Scrolling through Reddit yesterday I saw a headline that the FDA was warning people not to inject themselves with disinfectant. I thought that was a bit strange, but it must have been prompted by some idiot on YouTube. And I was right, except instead of "YouTube" it was "White House Press Room" and instead of "some idiot" it was "President of the United States" (not that those two things are mutually exclusive). I can't even begin to comprehend the level of Dunning-Kruger-powered ignorance it takes to say this:

And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning.

Donald Trump, April 24, 2020

He also suggested that we should bathe people in ultraviolet light and also get it inside their bodies (somehow) to kill the virus:

So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too.

Donald Trump, April 24, 2020

Honestly, I can't even react to this level of stupid. Surely this is the kind of stuff kids learn by like 12? That taking disinfectant internally is a bad idea because it kills your cells just as well as anything else? That UV light kills cells too, hence sun burns? Sure, lets put a light down into the lungs and blast everything with UV. Maybe we kill the virus, but it won't matter because you'll be dead too.

Would an adult please stop letting him say this stuff? Someone is going to kill themselves or their family members following his advice.

So now every organization out there that produces or sells disinfectant, bleach, or UV lights is putting out press releases saying, "DO NOT DO WHAT TRUMP SAID. YOU WILL DIE."


It's finally Friday again. My replacement pieces for Dragon Strike have arrived (the figurines and instruction booklet, but the dice are still in transit). Heather has been asking to play again all week, so I'll have to prep another adventure.

I might try taking the game to the next level and plan out a multi-session campaign through which she can take a character that "levels up" over time. I have some ideas, so we'll see.

COVID-19: Part 24

April 22, 2020 3:44 pm
  • Quarantine Day 37
  • Trump declares, via Tweet, that all immigration is halted. No one in the administration knows what he's talking about. Which is to say, business as usual.
  • Attorney General Barr threatens states with legal action for continuing suppression measures. This despite Trump having told governors that they're on their own to figure everything out.
  • The National Institutes of Health recommend against using the drug that Trump has been touting as a miracle cure.
  • The National Security Advisor is now pushing the completely unsupported claims that the WHO is a Chinese propaganda puppet. Trump paid no attention when the WHO warned us in January, so his failure to act must be their fault.
  • Livermore cases: 33
  • Alameda County cases: 1,235; deaths: 44
  • U.S. Cases: 802,000+; deaths: 44,500+

I mentioned in previous posts about the protests against the shelter-at-home orders. One might think that these protestors are upset because of things like, "I need to work to put food on the table." I'd be entirely sympathetic to people who are trying to make it known that their families are starving and that they need help.

That's not who's protesting.

These are people protesting because they can't go play golf or get a haircut or a massage--insisting that temporary inconvenience is oppression. They're selfish, self centered, and willfully ignorant. And the messaging is all being pushed through intentional disinformation/astroturfing campaigns and encouraged by Trump. It disgusts me.

Yesterday I came across this concerning article from last week: (Title: In Pursuit of PPE, Date: April 17, 2020, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2010025). It describes the extreme lengths some hospitals are resorting to in order to obtain PPE. In this case moving equipment in trucks labeled as food supplies and then needing Congressional involvement to stop the FBI from seizing the shipment and giving it to DHS.

Normally I wouldn't put much stock in an internet anecdote like this, but it's through the New England Journal of Medicine so it gets a huge credibility boost. Presumably they have some vetting on at least the authors if not the information they're providing. And that makes it quite concerning. If the federal government has been actively hijacking equipment purchased by hospitals there are serious problems afoot.

COVID-19: Part 23

April 20, 2020 10:21 pm
  • Quarantine Day 35
  • Crude Oil WTI futures are trading around $-25 today ($-37 when the market closed). NEGATIVE! That's insane. It was ~$60 in January. The entire oil market has just completely imploded.
  • More protests around the country by people demanding that shelter-at-home orders be lifted.
  • Late last week several S.F. Bay Area counties announced mandatory mask-wearing protocols when out in public, starting Wednesday.
  • Livermore cases: 30
  • Alameda County cases: 1,149; deaths: 41
  • U.S. cases: 746,000+; deaths: 39,000+

Oil futures have never gone negative before. There is apparently so much oil sitting around that no one has anywhere to put it, so now they'll pay someone to take it off their hands. I fully expect this will completely destroy the U.S. shale-oil industry which is relatively expensive process compared to other methods of oil production (obviously, no one can make money at negative pricing regardless of production costs, but it hurts even more when your costs are higher).

The rhetoric around the anti-shelter-at-home protests also appears to likely be a coordinated disinformation campaign or, at best, a thorough astroturfing job by some entity. Groups in several states all had websites up within hours of each other spouting the same narrative about "the cure is worse than disease" and urging people to go out and protest by blocking roads around hospitals and waving guns around. No legitimate sourcing is provided to support their claims, just opinions by random self-proclaimed experts. No disclosures are made about where the funding to create and run the websites are coming from. And hundreds of people are falling for it. It drives me crazy. Oh and with such insane signs as "social distancing = communism." I won't even begin to dissect that level of fear and ignorance.

I went digging around in the garage on Friday to excavate old games and toys from my childhood.

Limber Louie is still alive and kicking!

I also thought, and thought right, that an old board game "Dragon Strike" was out there. It's an adventure game, a simplified form of Dungeons and Dragons. I thought Heather might enjoy going on an fantasy adventure.

It's missing a few figurines, the dice, and the instruction manual (but had the adventures guide and maps). I found a scan of the instruction manual online, and it's easy to work around missing dice and figurines. However with a little poking around online I found someone selling the original figurines and instruction manual for reasonable prices. So I ordered replacements. And I ordered a set of dice from a dice company.

For the weekend we made do without the replacement parts though and on Saturday we all went on an adventure to slay the evil giant (well, Jess, Heather, and Corinne did, I was playing the Dungeon Master). And on Sunday we escorted the king through the valley, protecting him from an ambush. Heather is really enjoying it. Corinne is less able to maintain interest through the length of a game. And I'm finding it to be a fair bit of work to run the game, keep it balanced, have fun with the characters, and make up narratives to go along with things.

The Warrior and Wizard enter the cavern and are attacked by a pair of orcs, Dingle and Dongle.

I went to Safeway again tonight. The fridge is becoming noticeably bare and we needed a restock beyond what Contreras Market has to offer.

I wore one of the masks Mom sent. I augmented it with a strip of aluminum to form it around my nose and try to keep it from completely fogging up my glasses with every breath. It actually worked pretty well. (I used a needle and thread to wrap the aluminum against the fabric.)

I was hoping things would be looking a little better at Safeway, but overall they're about the same as my last trip. Some improvements though. There are no longer any limits on milk and bread, so I stocked up on both (we were pretty much empty on both). Eggs are in stock from a new supplier, but a little pricier and still limit 1 per transaction.

There was a very limited selection of pasta, but rice was in stock. Butter was in short supply, but there was cheese and yogurt.

They even had plenty of frozen hamburgers, which I wasn't expecting to find since the slaughterhouses are mostly shutdown.

The store aisles are now marked as one-way to help encourage social distancing.

More people were wearing masks now than last time, but not all. They'll be mandatory in Alameda County starting on Wednesday. Not everyone was paying attention to the one way signs, but most were.

I had a totally dystopian shopping experience walking down the baking goods aisle. I said to myself, "Oh, cocoa powder is in stock. Haven't seen that in a while, I better grab a carton, we're running low." Then I paused and thought, "Whoa, I totally just thought that."

Seeing the grocery store like that the first time was weird, but I think it feels much more disconcerting and weird now that it's been over a month and it's still like that. Your shopping list is more of a set of guidelines that you see how well you can meet. "Oh, still no brownie mix; maybe next month." So you regularly complete your shopping with a hodge podge of "well they didn't have X so I grabbed Y instead" and "I wasn't planning on getting Z, but they had a bunch of it in stock so I grabbed one."

Jess was kind of freaking out through the afternoon today. We're not running out of food by any means, but the fridge was looking pretty bare and we're making noticeable dents in our other supplies. The complete collapse of the oil market apparently piled on to that for no particular reason other than "what does it mean?!"

Then she spent some time reading a doctor's account of how some patients with COVID-19 experience silent hypoxemia. Which is basically when your blood-oxygen levels are low, but you don't even know it. Apparently some patients' lungs get compromised in such a way that they can still expel carbon dioxide, but aren't uptaking oxygen well enough. The sensation that we need to breath is due to CO2 build up rather than oxygen deprivation. So you don't feel out-of-breath, but you're actually in quite serious condition and deteriorating. By the time you end up in the hospital your body is basically shutting down due to oxygen deprivation. So, you know, more things to stress about!

I think she's doing better now that our supplies are restocked and she stopped reading about ways we might be dying without knowing.

Easter 2020

April 18, 2020 10:27 am

I spent Saturday cleaning up the yard. Everyone knows the Easter Bunny likes a cleaned up yard. I made rolls and at some point the Easter Bunny sneaked through the yard without anyone noticing. Not even a pandemic can stop the Easter Bunny.

Some of our flowers in the backyard are looking pretty good:

After accidentally adding 50% too much flour to my double-batch of rolls I had to turn it into an emergency triple batch. The flour was already mixed into a dense mass, so I had to slowly work in the extra liquids by kneading it on the countertop. I was pleased with how well it still came out. And I came up with a new TV show: "Recipe Rescue" where professional chefs are given a recipe that has gone wrong and they have to salvage it. For the early episodes they're told what's wrong and in the later episodes they have to figure it out themselves.