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.
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.
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.
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. https://www.npr.org/2020/07/10/889037310/anatomy-of-a-covid-19-conspiracy-theory
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:
"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.