California, overall, is doing really well right now. Almost like several months of actual leadership with clear plans and requirements is worth something. Looking at the CDC metric of "cases in the past 7 days per 100k" puts California at 12th in the nation at 17 (out of 60 jurisdictions reported). The other end of that chart is North Dakota at 169, South Dakota at 155, and Iowa at 135. The nationwide rate is 41.
Skipping the weekends (which always have lower deaths reported due to reporting mechanisms) we've been hitting over 1,000 deaths per day across the country for almost two weeks now--trending upwards.
Case rates are ticking up here too. Exactly as the medical professionals tried to warn everyone--with colder weather the virus is surging.
Alameda County issued recommendations on holiday gatherings this week (which overall is, "please don't, but we know you'll ignore that, so please do these things instead"). I liked this section:
Avoid singing, chanting, and shouting. If you cannot avoid these activities, keep your face covering on, your volume low, and at least a 6-foot distance from others. More distance and being outdoors are safer.
I'm amused by the idea of being unable to avoid a situation involving singing, chanting, or shouting.
It started getting colder around here a few weeks ago which was when we discovered our heat didn't work. The furnace's control board needed to be replaced as it was no longer sending power to the gas regulator. I ordered the new control board (a non-identical model that superseded about a dozen old models) and spent an evening replacing it myself which went well. Not too bad if you have enough room to put the new board next to the old board and then one-by-one check the label where each wire is connected and match it up on the new board. So that was a nice way to save a few hundred dollars.
Last week we finally got our kitchen lights replaced (just a short 7 or 8 months we've been without lighting in the kitchen). I don't have any pictures yet because I still have work to do painting the ceiling. We also had two new ceiling fans installed. And six days later I broke one of them by swinging the comforter on our bed up to put it on and it caught the edge of a blade and snapped it off. So that was awesome. The manufacturer is taking pity on me and is sending replacement blades.
Our solar install is finally progressing as well. The service panel was replaced this week in order to get a panel with a larger bus bar that can carry the load of batteries, solar, and (at some future point in time) an electric vehicle charger. Our solar installation date is now supposed to be Dec 17. So just in time for the solstice and the least amount of sun all year.
Halloween was on Saturday this year, which was a good thing because we didn't get around to carving our Pumpkins until the day of. Heather designed a pumpkin to represent the flag of the Fur and Freedom Fighters (a group from the book series she's been reading, "Redwall"), which is a spear breaking a chain. Corinne's design is a goofy face, and my design is the Sheikah Slate symbol from the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild video game.
As usual, I did all the pumpkin work myself because everyone else thinks it's gross.
Corinne insisted on being in some of the pumpkin pictures and dragged Jess in too:
The girls wanted to be Elsa and Anna from Frozen 2 this year.
We didn't participate in trick-or-treating this year due to the ongoing pandemic. But instead, we got together with our social-bubble buddies. I made a Halloween trifle of brownies, chocolate cream, orange-dyed Cool Whip, crumbled Oreos, gummy eyeballs, gummy worms, and Reese's Pieces. If you ate around the gummy things (which were really only there for ambiance) it was quite good.
We did leave a bowl of lollipops out on our front step when we left, but it was basically untouched, so it would seem most of the neighborhood was also skipping the trick-or-treating. Which is good. Our county's numbers have been steadily improving for the last couple of months while much of the country has been experiencing full-blown outbreaks that are threatening to overwhelm hospitals.
The kids ran around and played until they were exhausted. And that was Halloween this year. Hopefully next year things will be back to normal.
With Heather's birthday we've now celebrated the entire family's birthdays for 2020 in quarantine.
Her birthday was a work & school day. Much of the day was spent trying to get Heather to complete her school work so we could move on to fun activities. We eventually got on with things and the requisite treasure hunt was a big hit. This year's hunt involved playing a custom-coded guessing game on the computer, decoding a message encrypted using a substitution cipher, some math word problems, and completing some electronic circuitry.
Birthday dinner was McDonald's cheeseburgers (because what could be better than that?). Then she opened presents before having cake. Corinne thought up and picked out a Toothless stuffed animal (the dragon from "How to Train your Dragon") to give her and Heather is enamored of it. She puts one of her old nightgowns on it at night to keep it warm and it travels with her throughout the house during the day.
This year's cake was a white cake with vanilla-cream filling, chocolate frosting, and decorated with Andes mints. Unfortunately, like last year, she wasn't particularly thrilled with it. So she'll have to pick another new cake next year.
While we were eating cake she seemed a bit down. After some probing she admitted to having been a bit let down by her gifts. She liked them all, but was hoping for some Je-ne-sais-quoi delight that didn't materialize. And I know the feeling. I've had that experience too. It's not that there's some particular thing that you're hoping for (otherwise you could say so and increase your chances). You're just hoping for some unexpected surprise and it doesn't always happen (nor is it always specifically hoped for either). Some language probably has a word for it.
We'll see if we can land a hit at Christmas. I spent some time looking for ideas and think I found something that will fit the bill.
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.