Our air has finally cleared (though plenty of fires still burn throughout the state). We had actually blue skies this week for the first time in what feels like months.
I decided it really need to be fall around here so I bought some fall-themed t-shirts to wear and ordered an 8-foot tall, artificial maple tree and set it up in the living room. It also lights up. I didn't really care about it lighting up, but that's what I found and it actually creates a nice ambiance at night. I can turn the tree lights on and my fake fireplace lights and it makes the living room a bit cozier. Jess ordered some new curtains and hung up her fall, crocheted things garland. So it feels a little more like fall around here and not perpetual March.
We went and got flu shots yesterday. The drive-in clinic took an hour and a half and Heather had a full-fledged freak out when it came time to get her shot, but we made it through.
I've gone to work on site a few more times recently to get some more things done. But I've mostly been continuing to work from my closet.
Two weekends ago (Sunday the 13th) Corinne had a fever after complaining of joint pain the day before. The advice nurse told us to keep treating her symptoms and to call back if she got worse. Her fever continued through Monday, but she seemed to be fine by Tuesday and she's completely fine now. No one else has exhibited any similar symptoms.
My friends group tried to play more Dragon Strike on Thursday but the technology was not cooperating so we couldn't do it.
Since last weekend was Jess' birthday we didn't play the final Dragon Strike adventure, maybe we'll do that tomorrow.
Jess wanted to go to the beach for her birthday. So we packed into the van with our social-bubble buddies and headed out to Half Moon Bay. We pre-ordered some sandwiches from Subway and ate lunch next to the ocean.
The girls had a blast playing in the water and people were generally pretty good about distancing and mask wearing. The parking lot was full, but it didn't feel really crowded. Maybe that's because it was foggy and you couldn't see very far down the length of the beach.
Corinne eventually got cold and fell asleep hunched over on the sand.
Then she decided that on me was the only acceptable place to rest.
Once we'd had our fill of the beach we went to get gelato. This was a tactical mistake. The gelato shop was up the road away from the route home. And the way back was bumper-to-bumper traffic of people trying to head home from the coast.
So a short gelato trip added over an hour of additional drive time to get home (which is only about 1 hour anyway). But we eventually got home at which point it was dinner time. We had to parallelize our remaining celebrations in order to get things done in time for the girls' bedtime. Jess got the girls bathed while I heated up some chicken strips for them to eat. Then Jess blew out candles (all 40 of them!) on the cake I made and opened presents. By that time our dinner order was ready so I went to pick that up while Jess got the girls in bed.
Jess decided that my birthday cake is so good that she should have it for her birthday too. So that's the cake I made--chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, complete with Kyle's special, vanilla-cream filling.
And that's 3 of 4 family birthdays this year celebrated under the ongoing stay-at-home order and it looks like Heather's will be the same.
The fires immediately near Livermore are all out at this point. But many are burning throughout California, Oregon, and Washington. A massive amount of smoke is suspended in the atmosphere over the entire West Coast. Today, our light levels didn't exceed twilight except briefly around 4PM we peaked at ~160 watts/m2 solar irradiance (a normal day at this time of year would be ~775 w/m2). It was incredibly dim and the light was very orange. I tried to get some pictures with my phone, but it didn't capture the color and I was too busy working to spend more time with the real camera.
The air is also full of ash. So much so that you could actually see in the air while standing outside. Also the world had the quiet of a light snowfall when the particles in the air dampen sound. It was all around a very weird day. Here's the ash on my car this morning:
Oddly, the air quality at ground level actually was pretty good. And since the sky was blotted out it was also quite cool. So today we had the windows open for the first time in 2 months.
Over the weekend it was really hot, about 110F on Sat, Sun, and Mon. Megan wanted us to try to fry an egg outside. So I put my baking steel out in the sun and after an hour it was up to 154F. I cracked on egg on it around 3pm and let it "cook" for about 2 hours. It never really cooked so much as dried up enough to hold its shape.
I still haven't finished preparing the final Dragon Strike adventure, so that hasn't occurred yet. I'm getting there, but there's still more to do.
School's been going pretty well. Heather has been doing a great job of being responsible for her class time. She gets logged in for all of her meetings throughout the day without any muss or fuss which has been incredibly helpful. Corinne hasn't been super excited about her class meetings, but luckily the school schedule recognizes that kindergartners will struggle with online classes so her morning meeting is 20 minutes and each day she has a small-group meeting of 35 minutes. She works on individual work throughout the remaining time. So Jess has gotten to step into the role of teacher, especially for Corinne, but for Heather as well.
It's not ideal, but it's working, and it's a better solution than having a bunch of people get ill and either end up in the hospital or die just for the convenience of doing schooling in person.
I don't see how trick-or-treating will be a good idea for Halloween this year. It may be time for the Halloween Witch to join the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. She'll travel the country "trick-or-treating" by leaving a bag of treats for kids who wear costumes and tricks for those who don't. I guess we'll see. Maybe we'll miraculously get the infection rate down and it won't be an issue, but the latest modeling suggests things will only continue to get worse for the length of the modeling window (out to Jan 1st at this point).
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.
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.