Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction

December 30, 2020 3:27 pm

I guess because news stations were desperate to talk about something that wasn't the ongoing plague, the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction around Dec 20 was hyped up to be some incredible event. What it really meant was two dots of light in the sky were closer together than they have been in a few hundred years. I mean, astronomically interesting, but not exactly world changing.

Anyway, we got out our dinky binoculars and took a look and I managed to catch some of Jupiter's moons on my camera with my 200mm lens. And then I turned my camera to the moon since I was out there already.

Not particularly sharp, but you can make out some craters pretty well.

Thanksgiving 2020

3:23 pm

We, of course, spent Thanksgiving at home with no visitors. I made rolls. I also tried making cream puffs, but I took them out of the oven too early and they collapsed. Jess made chocolate-cream pie, sweet-potato casserole, and green-bean casserole.

I apparently don't have any pictures, but imagine us spending most of the day cooking and then eating dinner with more food than we need. I also spent some time video-chatting with my family while preparing food.

The day before Thanksgiving we piled into the van with our social-bubble buddies and went on a dinosaur safari. This also involved eating fair-food like funnel cake, cotton candy, kettle corn, and hot pretzels.

That was back before the hospitals were overrun and before the lock-downs tightened. Those were the good days, when we could still have social-bubble buddies.

COVID-19: Part 51

December 14, 2020 3:48 pm
  • Quarantine Day 273
  • Livermore cases: 1,850
  • Alameda County cases: 36,684; deaths: 537
  • U.S. cases: 16,113,000+; deaths: 298,000+

The two-dose vaccine developed in Germany by Pfizer has begun being administered in the U.S. today. It started rolling out in the U.K. last week. It will be months before there are enough doses available to really start making a dent in the population, but it's a start.

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/12/14/946232462/incredibly-hopeful-u-s-starts-vaccinating-people-against-covid-19

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Meanwhile the Electoral College has met and cast their votes for Biden for president. Some states went so far as to meet in secret to avoid potential disruption or violence from Trump supporters. Also, Trump supporters are apparently now going to make up their own electoral college that will declare Trump the winner and will ask Congress to accept that instead of the actual, legitimate Electoral College vote. Which looks exactly like an attempted coup. If they're going this far I'm getting even more concerned about the potential that his followers will engage in a campaign of violence on or after Inauguration Day.

https://www.npr.org/sections/biden-transition-updates/2020/12/14/946365392/electoral-college-affirms-biden-victory-as-trump-continues-baseless-challenges

https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/530092-stephen-miller-alternate-electors-will-keep-trump-challenge-alive-post

COVID-19: Part 50

December 4, 2020 4:08 pm
  • Quarantine Day 263
  • Livermore cases: 1,433
  • Alameda County cases: 29,990; deaths: 513
  • U.S. cases: 14,041,000+; deaths: 275,000+

Well, sadly as expected, things are rapidly deteriorating around the country as people still refuse to follow basic medical advice. We'll only now be seeing the beginning of the surge from reckless Thanksgiving travel and congregating, but the public health situation across much of the country is already becoming quite alarming.

California just issued new, more restrictive shelter-at-home orders tied to regional ICU capacity (restrictions tighten when available ICU capacity falls below 15%). The SF Bay Area is projecting to hit that capacity within two weeks, but decided to act now and implement the new restrictions immediately.

So, beginning Monday, Alameda county will have new restrictions in place until Jan 4, 2021.

  • All gatherings with other households are prohibited.
  • All retailers operating indoors are restricted to 20% max capacity, must meter access and no food or beverage consumption allowed inside.
  • Campgrounds are closed.
  • No out-of-state, non-essential travelers allowed at hotels unless long enough to allow necessary quarantine and quarantine is followed.
  • All residents must remain at home unless engaged in "critical infrastructure" activities.

The following must close:

  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Personal care services
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums
  • Movie theaters
  • Wineries
  • Bars, breweries, and distilleries
  • Family entertainment centers
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering
  • Limited services (services that operate without close customer contact such as laundromats, dry cleaners, landscapers, dog walkers, electricians, appliance repair, plumbers.) I believe/presume there is a continued exemption for emergency work necessary to maintain the habitability of a residence.
  • Live audience sports
  • Amusement parks

The Lab just started this week a pilot program of on-site COVID-19 testing for employees. It has also extended expected telecommuting through March.

COVID-19: Part 49

November 20, 2020 4:08 pm
  • Quarantine Day 249
  • Livermore cases: 1,184
  • Alameda County cases: 26,164; deaths: 490
  • U.S. cases: 11,650,000+; deaths: 251,000+

California moved most of its counties (including Alameda) back to the purple (strictest) tier this week and a 10pm-5am curfew goes into effect starting tomorrow night. This despite our cases-in-last-7-days-per-100k only increasing to 24 (up from 17). The goal, of course, is to stay ahead of the exponential curve because if you react once it starts spiking you're already too late.

Heather and Corinne had just restarted in-person gymnastics classes 3 weeks ago. Heather got to go twice, Corinne went once (she had a badly skinned knee the first week), and now they're shut down again. So the girls are pretty bummed out about that.

North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, and Utah are all above 100 cases-in-last-7-days-per-100k.

The CDC recorded 2,045 deaths for yesterday. The highest since April. And as a nation we surpassed 250,000 deaths this week.

We're seeing news reports, again, about states setting up emergency treatment facilities in sports arenas and parking garages. El Paso county in Texas is now using at least 10 refrigerator trucks as temporary morgues while paying prisoners $2/hr to move bodies.

There's been promising news from the vaccine researchers over the past couple of weeks. Some are hopeful that emergency use authorization and administration to the highest-priority populations could happen before the end of the year (this would be front-line medical personnel).

I am quite concerned about what's going to happen to case rates with Thanksgiving less than a week away with already serious surges happening throughout the country. Thanksgiving is historically the busiest travel week of the year and that travel begins today.

Public health departments and medical advisory groups are practically begging people to stay home and not gather in large groups. The CDC issued an advisory statement recommending people to stay home and not travel for Thanksgiving:

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Meanwhile, as the country melts down around us due to lack of any national leadership on the pandemic, Trump continues to deny reality that he lost the election. He's currently attempting to convince Republican-held legislatures in states he lost to instruct their electors in the Electoral College to vote for Trump instead of who the voters in that state voted for. This is just the latest tactic in his so-far completely failed attempt to "prove" that he actually won despite all available evidence.

It has me concerned because apparently more than half of self-identified Republicans believe him. They're convinced that Trump won and will do anything to overturn the actual will of the people. And Trump is fueling this fantasy with a constant fire hose of disinformation. I'm becoming increasingly concerned about what these rabid followers might do come Inauguration Day when Biden is sworn in as president. We've already seen one group arrested in Michigan for plotting to kidnap their governor, seize control of the state-capitol building, and air a week of executions of democratically elected officials. This was their plan that they were actively pursuing. They think they're patriots and the disinformation campaigns they've glued themselves to convince them they're right.

When I was taking the graduate course on terrorism and counter-terrorism at Texas A&M in 2014 I had not thought that just a few years later we'd need to adapt the principles of radicalization intervention to be applied to right-wing terrorist groups within the United States. But here we are and it won't actually happen so long as the guy in charge of implementing such an intervention is instead actively fueling the radicalization efforts.

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I discovered that I'm probably not at fault for the broken fan blade mentioned in my previous post. I watched another one fall off the fan yesterday with nothing happening to it. I then inspected the remaining blades and found that all of them had been cracked in the same way due to improper installation and were all just waiting to fail.

I then inspected the 2nd fan we had installed and found those blades had also been incorrectly installed, however in a different way that did not damage them. We'll see what the company I paid to install them has to say about it. I'm hoping they are appropriately embarrassed and offer at least a partial refund for the work.

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Our tree is a really nice orange this year. Though it looks more brown in the picture.