First Day of School 2020

August 25, 2020 5:36 pm

School started today for the girls. From home via computers. They both had a morning check-in meeting starting at 8am and then a break.

Heather then had more class time of some kind, I'm not sure since I was working. She says they were learning about the stuff in their supplies box (they went and picked up materials from their teachers yesterday) and the teacher read a story and watched a video about kindness.

We set up a desk under Heather's lofted bed. I zip-tied some Ikea LED strip lights to the underside of her bed to light up her space and she's using a Chromebook we bought last month. So far so good.

Corinne was very excited about everything. Her teacher is doing one-on-one assessments throughout the week so she had some independent (meaning Jess-led) activities but was otherwise done for the day after the morning meeting.

But being excited also means burning through a lot of energy. 90 minutes after her morning meeting she was exhausted.

COVID-19: Part 43

August 22, 2020 6:49 pm
  • Quarantine Day 159
  • Livermore cases: 720
  • Alameda County cases: 16,212; deaths: 228
  • U.S. cases: 5,598,000+; deaths: 174,000+

I've been extremely busy the past two weeks trying to catch up with my new job duties. Let's see if I can remember what's been happening. I've been holding get-to-know-you meetings with all the people in my group and beginning to write up their annual performance appraisals. That's going to be a big part of my work for the next month or so.


I applied to be a poll worker for the election in November because I think it's important that everyone be able to vote and most poll workers are retirees who should not being spending large amounts of time in public right now if it can be avoided. Since I haven't had any use for my vacation time I'll take the day off to do that.


Our mortgage refinance went through. We cut 2 years off the loan and lowered our interest rate from 3.625% to 2.75%. Which will save us around $45,000 over the life of the loan. Since we shortened the loan, our monthly payment will only go down about $10, which is fine.


I've been working on site pretty much every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday--usually for half days. I have a handful of tasks that have to be completed on systems that can't be accessed off site. I've just about got them wrapped up. So probably a few more visits next week and then maybe a few shorter trips to tweak things and then I'll be working fully from home again.


Two weekends ago Ivy and Beryl infiltrated the enemy base in the Wromblen Mountains and defeated the Manscorpion and his wizard. But the Queen was not there. They had given her to the dragon, Darkfyre. They must now climb to Darkfyre's lair to rescue her.

This past week my friends' group completed their quest into the mausoleum in Emrin to apprehend Reginald's murderer. Next they'll be off to Mt. Atheros to seek the Mountain Spirit.


Heather got to meet her teacher yesterday via video chat. And Corinne has the same teacher Heather did for Kindergarten. School starts on Tuesday. I'm still waiting on some lights to put up under Heather's bed and some speakers to connect to the Chromebook to significantly improve the audio quality (which makes a big difference when trying to listen for extended periods of time).


Last weekend we had a massive heat wave that lasted through Wednesday. On Sunday morning we were awakened at about 5:00am by a massive thunderclap. And a really impressive lightning storm slowly marched its way across the Bay Area for the next several hours.

We've never seen a storm like this in the time we've lived out here. We will, very rarely, hear some light thunder, but it's gone almost immediately. This was an assault.

The girls came bounding into our room seeking comfort. We eventually got them calmed down. Heather seemed to calm down quickest after showing her how to count the time between lightning and thunder to approximate the distance.

Unfortunately, the something-like 11,000 lightning strikes with almost no rain created a dozen or so wildfires all throughout the Bay Area. And now everything's on fire. A recent news article indicated it the active fire was at least the size of Rhode Island. Of course the several days after having temperatures over 100F didn't help any. Even now the highs have only "cooled down" to the mid 90s.

A lot of areas had repeated and extended power outages due to equipment failures in the high heat, or generation & transmission issues. We lost power very briefly on a few occasions, but otherwise were fine. We'll have our solar and battery installation complete by next year so grid issues shouldn't even affect us then.

The 2 largest fire complexes (which keep switching places for 1st and 2nd in size) are fairly nearby.

The LNU complex (which is the [L]ake County & [N]apa County [U]nits of CalFire) is north of us, across the innermost parts of the SF Bay, about 45 miles away. It has burned over 300,000 acres and is only at 15% containment; they've managed to keep it from entering Fairfield proper, but the entire rest of the front is unconstrained (burning to the north, west, and east).

The SCU complex (which is the [S]anta [C]lara [U]nit of CalFire) is kind of all around us. There was one section about 7 miles north of us, but I think it may have been contained since the map boundaries haven't seemed to change in several days (but I can't find anything definitive). The major sections of this fire are south of us (as close as ~10 miles). It's burned over 291,000 acres and is listed at 10% containment. I haven't been able to find where those containment lines are though. Presumably near San Jose where it's been closest to burning down into the residential areas.

Livermore is pretty defensible since the city isn't built all the way up into the hills. From the hills and canyons where the fire is burning there are wide stretches of grassy hills or vineyards that should provide good access for fire crews to set up firebreaks. So I'm not toooooo worried, but just the same I made sure the van is gassed up and spent 20 minutes loading the back up with supplies. 20 minutes wasted now is a trivial cost should those 20 minutes be needed later.

Consequently, the air is filled with smoke. We've had the air purifier running all week to try and keep our indoor air breathable. Outside is disgusting. You can see the smoke in the air just looking across the street and the scattering causes the light color to stay yellowish-orange all day. The air quality has consistently been in the either "unhealthy" or "very unhealthy" zones. Though we haven't had it hit "hazardous" yet.

Oh, and the forecast has more thunderstorms as a possibility for both nights this weekend.


On a lighter note, I've done some more painting of miniatures. Here are the six more that I've done.

I'm quite happy with how they're coming out.

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: