A ying and yang week

Haven’t blogged yet even though the last couple of weeks have been pretty eventful. My personal website is currently bollixed and I’ve spent my little free time trying to fix it without success. My last post disappeared in the process, and I don’t even remember what it was about. Oh well.

The good news this week. The Mate and I watched the successful arrival of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on Mars Wednesday. Seems to have worked perfectly. The totemic image will be this one, taken by a camera on the descent stage at 2m altitude above a bit of Jezero crater. There will be video of the final phase of the descent next week–maybe tomorrow.

NASA/JPL-Caltech image PIA24428.

MRO got its shot too. Still amazes me that this is possible.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona image PIA24270

In the good news/bad news category, there’s the pandemic. Today’s the day the US hits a half-million dead. It’s state failure of an extraordinary kind–at least, it is if you believe the state has any role in maintaining public health, which apparently many Americans do not. They are scary. But the New York Times gives an extraordinary event an excellent image.

New York Times print edition cover for 21 February 2021.

I said this was a good news/bad news thing and put the bad first. The good is that the infection rate is plummeting. Lots of thoughts about why here.

LA Times Coronavirus tracking page. Data for LA County.

California has administered a little over 7 million vaccine doses, reaching about 13% of the population. It’s also ahead of the the other large states in vaccination rate, though not by a huge amount. The state claims its capacity to administer vaccines exceeds its allocation, though it’s only actually administering 78-80% of what it receives each week. Some of the smaller states and territories are ~20% vaccinated now. Snippet of stats:

NY Times vaccination tracking page. First column is % having received first shot, 2nd is % having received 2nd shot.

My parents received their first shots (in New Hampshire) on Feb. 5. Second is scheduled for March 5th. Apparently the Kid Brother is already fully vaccinated due to being a State Dept visa processing contractor. No sign of the Mate and I getting it, though. State doesn’t expect to reach the 50+ age group for another month. For us it will be a race between getting it from JPL, which is now authorized but has no allocation of vaccines yet, or from the county or CVS. . .or even our primary care doctors.

The unalloyed bad news this week was from Texas. There was a big ice and snow storm that crushed ERCOT, leaving millions of people in the dark. Power is still out for people after 6 days. The right-wing press immediately blamed wind turbines for the failure but it was actually natural gas pipelines freezing, shutting down all the gas plants. Their water facilities also failed. Oops!

Their unregulated power market is passing the cost onto consumers already, with people paying thousands of dollars for a week of electricity (if they have it.) I’d say it’s crazy, but of course it’s what you get in an unregulated market. The utility owners didn’t winterize the system because that would reduce their profits; when the system “fails”, they pass that cost onto consumers too.

What I’m trying to say is that their system actually is working as designed.

On the new house front, we’re going to revisit septic analysis and try a couple of more sites. We met up on the lot with architect Josh and builder Bud on Friday to talk siting and digging. I need to start a new house blog. Right now I need to get on with the book writing. The end is in sight for both of them.