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 53

January 20, 2021 7:52 pm
  • Quarantine Day 310
  • Livermore cases: 3,524
  • Alameda County cases: 66,219; deaths: 766
  • U.S. cases: 24,135,000+; deaths: 400,000+

Inauguration Day. I am pleasantly surprised to say that we got through the day without any violence. I did not expect that was likely to happen. Also, apparently many of the disconnected-from-reality conspiracy theorists are starting to wonder if their delusions are actually real since Trump slunk away this morning (the coward didn't even attend the inauguration) and Biden was actually sworn in as president (they had been convincing themselves the inauguration was an elaborate set up by Trump to seize power [why they thought _that_ would be a good idea, I don't know]).

But here's Trump's legacy: Over 400,000 Americans dead from a preventable disease because he failed to act and intentionally did the opposite of the best available medical advice. Impeached twice. Incited an insurrection and attack on the legislative branch of the federal government. No doubt a strong contender for the title of "worst president in U.S. history."

But he's gone, for the moment, and we can at least get back to a time when government is boring again.

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The first weekend of the year we went on a hike at Brushy Peak Regional Preserve. The clouds were still hanging low over the hills which made it kind of fun (especially more fun than being in the sun).

We stopped for a rest at the top of a hill. Corinne came prepared with a book and asked me to read some while she rested. So here I am reading to Heather and Corinne.

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I went for a bike ride on the 16th and rode along part of the arroyo. I took my camera and spent some time practicing "seeing" and I managed to capture this feather floating on the water which I rather like. There were two feathers floating around--spinning and swirling across the water in the wind. So I just kept snapping pictures as they went. This one came out best.

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On the 17th we went on another family hike. This time we went up to Morgan Territory (regional preserve) which we've never been to before. There was one section of our short hike that I really liked. Trees and rocks and moss! It felt almost a little like New England. If there's more like it up there I'll probably want to go there more often, but the drive is pretty bad. 10 miles or so of one-lane road winding up into the hills. Pretty dicey passing at times if there are two wide vehicles.

Mount Diablo framed by trees in Morgan Territory

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Our friends, and former social bubble buddies, have had confirmed COVID-19 for the last week or so. We haven't seen them since the beginning of December when the health orders were tightened up and social gatherings were banned. They seem to be doing okay, so that's good.

Other than that, not much happening. We pretty much don't go anywhere, and we pretty much don't do anything. Our county is still on "purple" tier and the region is still on "lockdown" orders due to low available ICU capacity.

A Stain Upon our Democracy

January 6, 2021 4:42 pm

Today will forever be seen as stain upon our democracy.

After two months of refusing to admit his complete and utter defeat in the election and multiple attempts to overturn the results without any basis, supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building today, broke into the Senate chambers, and were held out of the House chambers by a makeshift barricade and armed guards with weapons leveled at the attackers. One person was shot and killed, but the circumstances of the death have not been released. The photos and videos, like this one, from inside the capitol building will be burned into our countries minds for a generation.

Police with guns drawn watch as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) - obtained from NPR website.

Unfortunately, instead of a tragic failure of our nation's ability to accept disagreement, many will likely see these images as a rallying cry to escalate further--to claim that these attackers are heroes rather than traitors.

I worked from my closet this morning (as usual) and then came out to the kitchen to exercise and then make lunch. I put a pan on the stove to make a grilled-cheese sandwich and then opened my tablet to check Reddit to see that the topmost was a rapidly evolving thread about these terrorists having invaded the Capitol building after breaking past barricades and then breaking inside while skirmishing with the Capitol Police. It was unreal.

Both chambers were in session at the time certifying the results of the election. Many politicians evacuated to safe locations. People trapped inside the House chambers were issued gas masks and told to hide behind any available cover while the guards barricaded the door.

NPR, accurately, referred to them as "insurrectionists" in their coverage: "The insurrectionists interrupted proceedings in the House and Senate, as members of Congress were tallying President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory." - https://www.npr.org/sections/congress-electoral-college-tally-live-updates/2021/01/06/954028436/u-s-capitol-locked-down-amid-escalating-far-right-protests

At least one suspected explosive device was discovered within the Capitol building. (That was apparently a false report amidst the confusion of the day.) Another at the Republican National Committee headquarters. And another at the Democratic National Comittee headquarters.

Throughout all this Georgia's special runoff elections were both called in favor of the Democrats ending the Republican's control of the Senate over the last 6 years. Both races were incredibly close and this will almost certainly be used to add even more fuel to the inferno of a dumpster fire that is raging within the Republican party right now.

Trump repeated just this week the insane claims that he didn't actually lose because the election was stolen from him, despite all available evidence after two months of turning over every possible stone. He continues to fan the flames and feed conspiracy theories and his followers are no longer part of reality. I am incredibly concerned for what may happen on Inauguration Day when Trump's position of power evaporates and Biden is sworn in as president. Many of these insurrectionists are already nose-deep in delusions of grandeur that they're true patriots defending democracy (by attempting to overturn democratic elections). Assuredly some of them will engage in campaigns of violence to try and get their way.

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Watching the Senate reconvene tonight to finish certifying the election results. McConnell called the attackers "insurrectionists" in his remarks. Schumer called out Trump for enflaming the situation and encouraging the insurrectionists to gather in DC and demand the election be overturned.

Twitter locked Trump's account for 12 hours for inciting violence.

VP Pence was the one to authorize deployment of the National Guard more than two hours into the invasion.

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I missed earlier that shortly before the insurrection, Trump addressed a rally down the road and told his followers to go to the Capitol and stop them from stealing the election from him. He is proximately responsible for this and not just generally responsible.

Christmas 2020

December 30, 2020 4:36 pm

Leading into Christmas the epidemiological situation escalated continually. This was expected since a lot of travel happened for Thanksgiving despite warnings and public-health orders. We got this emergency alert notification on the 18th:

Jess went out for a final grocery trip on either the 21st or 22nd and then we hunkered down. The new lock-down orders cancelled social-bubble buddies so we didn't hang out with friends. They also closed pretty much any entertainment centers (including zoos) and reduced store-occupancy limits. However, I don't know if anyone was enforcing any of these requirements. And if they weren't then it was really only so much hot air.

On the day of final-outings, Jess made a trip to the pharmacy to pick up one of her medications and said that the outlet-mall parking lot (which she could see on her way) was packed. Which just boggles my mind. Maybe because it's an "open air" mall people thought that made it safe? I don't know, but unsurprisingly the situation continues to deteriorate.

But, on to happier things.

I suppose this is a bit of gallows humor given that our family has remained unaffected by Covid-19 (other than inconvenience), but we got these ornaments to commemorate the year that we won't likely ever forget.

Mom sent us this one:

And this cartoon sums things up for our family pretty well:

We wanted to try and really make things feel different than the 9 months we've spent cooped up at home so this year we put the Christmas tree in the family room and bought some garland to put up around the house and Jess made bows out of ribbon to put up. This really spread out the Christmas cheer which previously had been pretty isolated to the living room.

We bought artificial wreaths to put on the interior doors throughout the house. I bought a poinsettia, which I don't normally do. And we even got out Jess' "Christmas Mouse" night-light thing (see picture of fireplace below). We've never set that up before. It has two, small 10-watt incandescent bulbs in the base which then glow through translucent bits of plastic. But because the lights are in the base and quite weak only the bottom part would glow and it was still quite dim. I decided to upgrade it to the 21st century. I bought a length of cuttable LED lighting with a dimmer switch and replaced the incandescent bulbs with the LED strip wrapped all around the wreath. Now the whole things glows quite nicely, is dimmable, and probably uses 1/10th the electricity.

On the 23rd my siblings and parents played Trivial Pursuit via video conference while I worked on my bûche de Noël. On Christmas Eve I spent most of the day baking baguettes, rolls, and cinnamon rolls and Jess made another chocolate-cream pie and sweet-potato casserole. For dinner we had cheese fondue (with the baguettes, crackers, and fruits). I read The Polar Express and Heather read The Night Before Christmas. And the girls opened presents from each other: lightfuries for both of them!

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day involved long-lived, casual video conferences with many of my family members to try and help make people feel connected to what's happening when most of us weren't going to travel and congregate.

On Christmas morning the girls woke up at their usual 5 o'clock time. Since this is a normal time for them we felt it would be cruel to tell them to wait and let us sleep longer. So up we got--very, very tiredly.

Santa puts up streamers at the end of the hallway to remind the girls the need to wait before diving into new, exciting things they see. So they very excitedly peer into the room to evaluate the situation.

I've had a hammock in a box for at least 13 years. Never used because I never had anywhere to put it. Jess said she wanted a hammock stand for Christmas and that's just what she got (thanks Mom & Dad). So now we have a place to put the hammock, and now we just need a (real) place to put the hammock stand. For now it moves between the kitchen and the family room.

I found these customizable mugs at Uncommon Goods and designed a set for Jess. I think they're neat. Jess has a stack of books, I'm holding a camera, Heather is painting on an easel, and Corinne is wearing reindeer horns.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit uses a small R/C car to bring the racing action into our own home. You set up a course and then drive it using the Switch which produces an augmented reality race via a camera on the car. It's a clever set up.

It was a good day, if exhausting. And every day since then has been more playing.

Nowhere to go, no one to see.

Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction

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.