Easter 2021

April 4, 2021 2:36 pm

I spent just about all day Saturday trying to get the exterior of the house spruced up and looking decent. Mowed the lawn, washed off the dirt and cobwebs, cleaned the back yard, edged the grass, pulled weeds, etc. It looked pretty nice for the five minutes before the wind blew more leaves off the neighbors tree all over the backyard. This tree loses leaves all year long, so it never stays cleaned up.

The wisteria's blooming landed just about perfectly on this weekend. It blooms before it leaves, which makes it look a bit weird, but you get to see more of the blossoms since they're not blocked by any other growth.

The Easter Bunny visited the house mid-morning while the girls were watching TV. Corinne had been planning for at least a week that we would all sit together and read Humbug Rabbit on Easter morning. So we did that and then the girls realized there were eggs outside and the game was afoot.

And a mere 15 minutes later the eggs had been collected.

Now I'm making a triple-batch of rolls to have with dinner. Jess was working on deviled eggs, but became annoyed that the guaranteed-to-work Instant Pot recipe for hard-boiled eggs failed to live up to its guarantee. And everyone has had too much candy already.

COVID-19: Part 56

March 27, 2021 9:38 am
  • Quarantine Day 376
  • Livermore cases: 4,107
  • Alameda County cases: 79,488; deaths: 1,359
  • U.S. cases: 29,903,000+; deaths: 543,000+

The girls went back to in-person school this week. First time at school in just a bit over a year. Their options were to stay remote, go in person, or stay with their teacher regardless of which style that meant. We opted for them to both stay with their teachers which resulted in them both going back in person.

They're only on campus for 2.75 hours M, T, Th, F (at-home only on Wednesdays). Everyone wearing masks, and maintaining 6-feet of separation. No food served, so no communal dining setting. They can eat a small snack during recess if they want, but have to sit apart and still be outside. The rest of the day is at-home assignments.

Heather has class in the morning, Corinne has class in the afternoon. This makes lunch time a bit cramped as there's only 50 minutes between Heather's pick-up time and Corinne's drop-off time. But it also means that Jess can focus on them one at a time to complete their at-home assignments.

They both said they liked being in school. Corinne, in particular, was excited to see the classroom and meet the class guinea pig, Tigger.

Corinne's 6th Birthday

March 20, 2021 11:02 am

Corinne celebrated her second pandemic birthday this week.

She had a treasure hunt at lunch time to find her presents.

I had to go on site to work for the afternoon. While I was gone Jess helped Corinne construct that Lego set. When I got home Corinne and I played with it all the way until dinner time.

Corinne's requested dinner, the best dinner she could ever imagine, was spaghetti with alfredo sauce and mashed potatoes. We offered to include toast (one of her most loved foods), but she turned it down because when she has two things on her plate that she really loves (toast and spaghetti) she'll only eat one of them and then be full without getting to enjoy the other. We suggested having less of each to be able to enjoy both, but she turned that down too; too risky.

After dinner was cake. Corinne was very excited about the nightlight ladybug thing she received, so it needed to pose with her.

Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a vanilla (but pink colored) mousse filling. Decorated with Hershey kisses around the edge, one of her favorite candies.

On Friday we took the afternoon off for a trip to the zoo. We were all pretty wiped out though. Not sure if it was from the time change or a year of incredibly sedentary lifestyle or both, but we only covered about 1/3 of the zoo before coming home. Corinne's favorite part was riding the gondola to the top where the bears, bison, wolves, and eagles are. Those animals weren't her favorite, the gondola ride itself was her favorite.

COVID-19: Part 55

March 12, 2021 2:46 pm
  • Quarantine Day 361
  • Livermore cases: 4,064
  • Alameda County cases: 78,514; deaths: 1,291
  • U.S. cases: 29,113,000+; deaths: 529,000+

I got vaccinated on Thursday. On Monday, the vice principal of the school I volunteer at for Mathcounts contacted me and said they had an opportunity to include school volunteers in a vaccination clinic this week. So I went to the community center on Thursday afternoon. After over an hour standing in line, I received the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) replication-incompetent adenovirus type 26 expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein vaccine at 4:00pm.

That night at about 9pm I started feeling chills which fairly rapidly turned into uncontrollable shivering. I eventually fell asleep after shivering in bed for some unknown amount of time.

At 2am Friday I woke up heavily, though briefly, disoriented feeling weak and incredibly hot and with a fever of ~102F, but no longer shivering. Jess escorted me to the family room as I didn't think my muscles would get me there on my own. I felt very much like I had the flu. After eating some dry Cheerios I took some Ibuprofen. I can't even remember now whether it helped or not.

After being awake for about an hour I lumbered back to bed. Some time later I awoke drenched in sweat and had to take off my pajamas because I was uncomfortably hot (and my clothes were now soaked in cold sweat).

I woke up again around 9am with my muscle strength having returned mostly, but still had a fever and a severe headache now with muscle & joint aches. Had some cereal for breakfast, then took some more Ibuprofen, but it didn't seem to make any difference. I eventually fell asleep on the couch and slept for a couple of hours.

Waking up again around noon my headache had subsided (though not gone). Fever was still present.

It's now 2:40pm. I managed to take a shower. It has not been fun, so this vaccine better work.

This is how pandemics end. This or by filling up cemeteries.

COVID-19: Part 54

March 7, 2021 11:06 am
  • Quarantine Day 356
  • Livermore cases: 4,042
  • Alameda County cases: 77,941; deaths: 1,254
  • U.S. cases: 28,771,000+; deaths: 522,000+

February just kind of rushed by. The regional public health orders were lifted in early-to-mid February after the massive wave of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the contraindicated gatherings held during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years subsided. Unfortunately, many people are hearing "things are so much better now" and relaxing their posture despite the fact that things are still worse now than they were in October.

However, with the lifting of the regional public health orders, the county public health orders went back into effect which allows for very small gatherings, outdoors, wearing masks. So Heather, Corinne, and Jess at least get to see one friend each week.

The vaccines continue to roll out, though rather slowly. A third one was approved, which should help as well. It's not clear to me why it's taking so long, since supposedly one of the main thrusts of the accelerated process was to ramp up manufacturing before FDA approval was complete so that if/when each vaccine was approved there were tens of millions of doses waiting to be distributed. As far as I can tell, that just didn't happen, so now we're all waiting for manufacturing to ramp up. In theory, there will be enough doses available in the U.S. by the end of May for anyone willing to be vaccinated to do so. I guess we'll see.

Still significant concern over emerging variants and long-term vaccine efficacy in the face of a rapidly mutating virus. Also concerns over what percentage of the population will refuse to be vaccinated.

An NPR article from the end of January had this quote:

And thus, now we have a game of "cat and mouse," said virus expert Ravi Gupta, between the virus and the vaccine. The virus finds ways around the vaccine (and our immune system), said Gupta, and so the manufacturers have to reformulate the vaccines (or else we run the risk of getting infected twice).

"We've been here before with the flu. We're having to live with influenza and figure out a way of staying ahead of the virus by making vaccines on a yearly basis," said Gupta at the University of Cambridge.

"So I can imagine that we'll be doing something similar with [the] coronavirus. Eventually we'll need to design different vaccines that are targeting different parts of the virus — ones that the virus finds harder to change."

This process is going to cost the world a great deal of money — and take time, Gupta added. "I don't think there's going to be a single solution that just comes along in 2021 that says, 'That's it, we're done.'

"The coronavirus is going to cause a long-term disruption."

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/01/27/961108577/why-scientists-are-very-worried-about-the-variant-from-brazil

We've now passed the 1-year mark from when the Lab began advising people to work from home if possible (Thursday, March 5, 2020). I began working from home that following Monday, March 9. So this week will mark a full year of working from home out of my closet (well, I didn't start working from my closet until another week later when the schools closed).

At the end of my Part 1 blog post, I wrote, "It's been 10 days and it feels like it's been 6 months. 2020 is going to be a very long year." Boy how accurate that statement was. This past year has felt so very, very long. Yet, at the same time, in retrospect it feels short because we didn't do anything. There were no trips to break up the time. School & work, a couple of days off. School & work, a couple of days off. Rarely leaving the house. Rarely seeing friends. Never seeing extended family.

We're all tired of it. But, our family has remained healthy while hundreds of thousands have died and millions more are facing long-term, and possibly life-long, effects. Hopefully, dawn is on the horizon.

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The school district is finally caving to pressure and will re-open the schools in two weeks. We signed the girls up to stay with their teachers whether that meant staying home or going in person. It looks like they'll both be going in person, but we don't have final confirmation on that yet. In-person classes will meet in the morning for ~3 hours. Everyone must wear masks and maintain 6-foot separation. No food will be allowed. If these protocols are actually followed, it should be minimal risk.

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The Lab has received approval to administer vaccines to employees, however they have not received any actual vaccines to distribute at this point.

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This week, my friends completed the final adventure in the Dragon Strike campaign I created. Don't know what we'll do next, but so long as I'm not in charge of generating and running the whole thing I'll be happy with it. It was fun putting together the whole thing, but also a huge amount of work and drain on my creative energy. It was also an additional ton of work running the whole thing via video call. Every session I had to set everything up for both the game and the video equipment--then, after we finished, take it all down again.

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The family has been playing the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle game, specifically the Creatures expansion which Jess received for Christmas (she also received the Potions expansion, which we haven't tried yet). Starting last month we also started playing Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. It's an adventure, ongoing campaign RPG (role-playing game) in the general vein as Dragon Strike and Dungeons & Dragons, however it's a cooperative game and no one has to be a Dungeon Master. So I get to play the game with the rest of the family together as a team instead of playing the enemies and having to be careful about which members of the family get attacked by the monsters.

It's complicated though, so it's a good thing we played Dragon Strike before so we can build on the mechanics rather than trying to learn it all from scratch. And that's taking into account that Jaws of the Lion is a prequel to the original game for which the designers did a lot of play-testing work to streamline the game, reduce complexity, and make it easier to learn the rules and get playing. It uses the first 5 adventures to introduce the concepts. We've only played the first two, so I can only imagine how complex the original game is. Hopefully by the time we've played through all 25 adventures in Jaws of the Lion we'll have a solid handle of the mechanics and jumping into the original isn't too daunting.

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On February 18 we watched the NASA video stream of the new rover, Perseverance, landing on Mars. I'm always awed by the incredible things the human species can accomplish when we set our minds and resources to the task. I try to enjoy them and not get too down about the number of worthy tasks we could tackle if we just showed the will to do so.

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I guess I'll continue these posts under the COVID heading until all the public health orders have been lifted. Hopefully that happens sometime in June or July (if vaccination rates are high enough and mutation rates are low enough).